On Friday morning as Labor Day weekend began, we were unfortunately — in Penn Station. Why had we done something so foolish, you may ask? We had a date in New York the night before and had somehow messed up the Jitney reservation for the trip back. By the time we called, all the morning buses were full, and so, anxious to get home as soon as possible, we decided to take the train.
Getting to Penn Station is never really a problem, but, oh, those lines once we were there. You might already be aware that these days the Long Island Rail Road no longer divulges the track numbers in advance. Passengers have no choice but to stand amid a mass of hundreds of fellow travelers, all jammed together to get the best look at the overhead information boards, jockeying for position so as to be the first to sprint to the gate.
Once the track was posted for the Montauk branch, the surge of people racing toward the gate was an all-out stampede, with elbows and duffel bags in full swing. Any summer-Friday rush at Penn Station is a survival-of-the-fittest situation, but this was almost frightening. We were lucky to get seats at Penn Station and again after we changed trains in Jamaica.
I couldn’t imagine braving that maelstrom every week, as so many do.
I also couldn’t help but think about all the South Forkers who are upset about the helicopters and jets coming and going at East Hampton Airport. After my brief sortie at Penn Station, I was able to sympathize a little more with the increasingly strident and, yes, resentful voices about noise emanating from the airport. There are lots of ways to distinguish between the haves and have-nots in a community such as ours, and how we travel here is one of them.
Is there any way we could turn back the clock? To re-create East Hampton Airport as the small-town facility we once were proud of? Or is it too late?
It’s been a long time since I found myself flying in and out of East Hampton. I did it a bit in the late 1980s, and it was really fun. Seeing the headwaters of the Peconic from a small plane, or the North and South Forks dividing below, was a thrill. So was the sight of Manhattan as the plane approached from one direction or another. (It’s possible to feel similar elation in a big commercial plane; if, for example, you can view the long white line of the south shore of Long Island, from Montauk to Brooklyn, as you head to J.F.K. For the most part, though, big planes and big airports aren’t fun at all anymore, even when the place you are going to is an occasion for joy.)
I love the idea of short hops in small planes, and wish I could take more of them. But I really do sympathize with those whose heads are rattled and whose peace is destroyed by aircraft noise. Over the past few years I’ve done my own share of complaining, as more and more jets — lined up for a long, low approach to the runway — seem to skim the roof of my house. And I live in the heart of the village, miles from the airport.
We have been reading letters in The East Hampton Star for many years about this subject. Battle lines have become entrenched, and those who have the good fortune not to live along one of the potential approaches probably have become sick of the airport controversy by now. But I ask you to read a few more: In the last two weeks we’ve published interesting letters from Peter M. Wolf, which recommend regulations for getting out of this morass. Read them and see what you think.