Copters Along Atlantic?

Officials seek to add a southern route to airport

    Elected officials representing the towns, villages, and districts of the East End have once again asked the Federal Aviation Administration to add a southern route for helicopter traffic along the Atlantic coastline to the recently enacted northern route, a mile off the north shore.
    A letter to Michael P. Huerta, the acting administrator of the F.A.A., repeated a recommendation submitted in 2010 that there be two mandatory helicopter routes to and from the East End airports, both northerly and southerly, “to equitably distribute the volume of helicopter traffic.”
    “Despite significant efforts to mitigate helicopter noise,” says the most recent letter, dated Oct. 12, “helicopter noise on the East End remains a major, unresolved ‘quality of life’ issue for our region, which also adversely impacts a regional economy dependent on tourism and the second-home industry.”
    The letter references an increase in helicopter traffic this summer over Bridgehampton, North Sea, and Sag Harbor, after air traffic controllers at the East Hampton Airport began sending the craft over those areas to access the northern route.
    “The focus of community complaints has centered on helicopter traffic utilizing East Hampton Town airport,” the letter says. “Federal intervention must be part of the solution.”
    “We do not need to wait for the end of a two-year test period for the North Shore Route to know that we also need a South Shore Route to mitigate East End noise.”
    “The establishment of the mandatory North Shore Route mitigated the impacts of helicopter noise in Nassau County and Western Suffolk by keeping helicopters one mile offshore in the Long Island Sound, but did nothing to alleviate the problem on the East End,” the letter asserts. “This goal can only be accomplished by the establishment of both an Atlantic Route and a North Shore Route.”
    The concept was endorsed this week by the East Hampton Aviation Association, which said the southern route “is a good plan to reduce helicopter noise in our neighborhoods.”
    “As small plane owners at the airport, we have no safety problem flying near Islip or Kennedy airport after filing a plan to do so,” Gerard Boleis, a board member of the Aviation Association, said in a press release.
    Among the 19 elected officials who signed the letter were Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, and Representative Tim Bishop, who led the effort, along with Assemblyman Dan Losquadro.
    East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the liaison to the airport, signed for East Hampton. Other signers included the supervisors of the other four East End towns and the mayors of East End villages.
    At a town board work session on Tuesday, Mr. Stanzione found himself under fire for signing the letter without vetting it with the rest of the board. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said Mr. Thiele had asked him to sign it but he had refused to do so, because, he said, he believed that as written all traffic on the southern route to the airport would be directed over Wainscott. He said he also told Mr. Thiele that he would first have to discuss the letter with the full town board.
    On Monday, he said, he received a copy of the letter containing his suggested revision, but that it had already been sent out, with Mr. Stanzione’s signature.
    “Everything you’ve done on the airport, quite frankly, has been not vetted by the town,” Councilwoman Theresa Quigley told Mr. Stanzione.
    Last summer, board members and members of the public asserted that Mr. Stanzione directed the helicopter route change that prompted an outcry from residents of those areas that subsequently saw increased air traffic, though the councilman denied it.
    “So now we get in a position where we require vetting with the board, and you just ignore it,” Mr. Wilkinson said to him.
    “After what happened with the changing of the routes, after the dismay of the public . . . how could we possibly do something about the airport without vetting it publicly?” Ms. Quigley asked.
    Councilman Stanzione was unapologetic.  “I am an elected official in this town,” he said. The letter, he said, reflected “town policy, as was stated in the 2010 letter . . . a clear determination that we supported the Atlantic route.”
    “That policy is clear,” he said. “It doesn’t require additional vetting.” Mr. Stanzione said he “didn’t hesitate when asked to join a coalition of elected officials who supported the town’s position.”
    Ms. Quigley asked John Jilnicki, the town attorney, if any board member should act alone. If the letter asserts that it represents the opinion of the town board, Mr. Jilnicki said, it should have been vetted by the board.
    “I take your point, and I disagree with it, and I don’t apologize for signing that letter,” Mr. Stanzione told them both. “I don’t think I outdistanced this board’s position,” he added later.
    But, Ms. Quigley said, a policy arrived at in 2010 is “subject to being changed or rearticulated.” She became increasingly emotive, citing the stresses of a family situation. She has been caring for her daughter, Doris, who is in rehabilitation following a neck injury in August. “The only reason that keeps me from walking away from this crap — and it is crap,” she said, was to support Mr. Wilkinson.