A standing-room-only crowd of 385 showed up at meeting held by the East Hampton Town Board on Wednesday night to listen to residents of the East End who are affected by noise from aircraft using the East Hampton Airport.
The attendees included the East End's state and county representatives, Assemblymen Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Anthony Palumbo, Senator Kenneth J. LaValle, and County Legislators Jay Schneiderman and Al Krupski, as well as officials from the towns of Southold, Shelter Island, and Southampton, and the villages of North Haven, East Hampton, and Sagaponack.
Residents of all of those areas were about equally represented in the audience, and described the ways in which their peace and tranquility and quality of life have been affected by perpetual and increasing air traffic -- particularly helicopters -- heading into and away from the airport. The problem is longstanding, they said, but many said there is hope that East Hampton's elected officials, under Supervisor Larry Cantwell's administration, will take the matter in hand.
The speakers, virtually to a person, urged the East Hampton board members to work to gain control over the airport so that use restrictions, such as a curfew or limits to the number of helicopters and other aircraft using the facility, could be enacted.
Many said that the board should reject future Federal Aviation Administration grants, which tie the town, as airport owner, to agreements with the F.A.A. as to operation of the airport. The expiration of several of those agreements at the end of this year, provided no new grants are accepted, will give the town an opportunity to make changes, they said. The boards representing a number of the municipalities surrounding East Hampton have recently passed resolutions to that effect.
In opening comments, East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who has been taking the lead on addressing airport matters, said that the board is "carefully considering the consequences of taking grants on our ability to control the problem of airport noise, and on our ability to serve the needs of the East End communities."
"No one has to tell us that there is a noise problem -- we know that," she said. "But before we can direct a solution, we have to collect data about where and when the problem is worst, and what actions we can take within the limits of the law."
"In the coming weeks," she said, "we will outline in great detail the process we will use and our timetable for adopting appropriate rules to address the noise problem."
A number of speakers, both residents and officials, vowed to lend support to the board for a regional solution, including backing East Hampton in a fight against a lawsuit that a group called Friends of the East Hampton Airport has promised to file. The group's goal, it said in a recent newsletter, is "for East Hampton Airport to remain open to all of the flying public."