Yes to Bringing the ‘Tower’ Back

Quiet Skies Coalition wants it used for noise control, demands results of study

    A resolution offered by Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the East Hampton Town Board’s liaison for town airport affairs, prompted a discussion last Thursday of if, and how, efforts to address noise from aircraft using the airport are moving forward.
    In 2011, the board chose to continue to seek federal money for the airport from the Federal Aviation Administration, which would lead to the extension of agreements with that agency that limit what rules the town can enact restricting airport access.
    Instead, officials told airport noise-control advocates — whose position is that the only way the town can gain meaningful local control over the airport is to get free of obligations to the F.A.A. — that they would seek the F.A.A.’s permission to set noise-related restrictions by conducting a noise study that could prove to the agency that restrictions are needed.
    With the first season of operation of a new air traffic control tower at the airport over as of the end of last month, Mr. Stanzione asked the town board to vote on a request to the F.A.A. to approve operation of the tower in future summer seasons, and for permission to retain the “tower” — actually a trailer — on site during the off-season. The resolution was approved but not before some discussion ensued.
    Kathy Cunningham, an airport noise-control advocate who heads the Quiet Skies Coalition, asked the board to include noise control in the air traffic controllers’ mission. The installation of the tower had initially been discussed as a means of easing aircraft noise over particular neighborhoods, but, after it went up, Mr. Stanzione said that increased safety, and not noise control, was its primary goal.
    “There’s absolutely no reason why there can’t be a noise-abatement element to this control tower,” Ms. Cunningham told the board. Although the busy season at the airport is over, she said she is still receiving numerous inquiries from residents who were affected by a route change instituted by the air traffic controllers last summer, sending more traffic over areas of Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, and Noyac.
    Mr. Stanzione pointed out that the town board had hired a consulting firm, Harris, Miller, Miller, and Hanson, to collect data on aircraft noise, which could support a town bid to the F.A.A. for permission to institute airport regulations designed to reduce noise.
    “I’d like to know, what were the results?” Ms. Cunningham said. “When do we get [a report]?”
    Mr. Stanzione said he expects the company to provide a draft “of their study protocols,” regarding how they are going to collect data, within a week.
    The board voted on Aug. 2 to have the noise study begun, but the consultants at H.M.M.H. were not asked to begin data collection until the end of September, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said, questioning the delay. She said she has supported completion ofthe noise study after learning that the town, which is limited by Federal Aviation Administration oversight as to what regulations it can put in place at the airport, could implement some airport use limits if it can prove that they are warranted.
    Ms. Quigley, who has criticized Mr. Stanzione for not involving the board in airport-related decision making, including the procedure that resulted in the summertime aircraft route change that set off a wave of complaints, raised questions about a meeting she was told took place on Oct. 26 on “how to support a noise study.” She said she was under the impression that the study was already under way.
    “People want to know when something is going to move on this,” Ms. Cunningham said. She asked that the noise study include analysis of noise “events” from the entire summer season, not just beginning in July, when the traffic control tower began operation.
    Vector Airport Solutions, a company that tracks and identifies aircraft landing at the airport and bills them for landing fees, has been collecting information since June 15, Mr. Stanzione said. Presumably, the tracking could also provide information about which planes are creating a noise disturbance, and when. The board voted in March to hire the company for an annual fee of $98,975, for four years, after spending $61,015 for start-up equipment.
    The noise study will pull together information from numerous sources, Ms. Quigley said.