Grumbles Over Copters

Complaint by angry caller prompts F.B.I. visit

    A meeting of the minds about helicopter traffic and the routes used on approach and departure from East Hampton Airport, bringing together federal, state, and municipal elected officials, along with representatives of citizens’ advocates for noise control, was being planned for Monday, but because of participants’ schedules, the exact date and time remained unconfirmed yesterday.
    The longstanding issue heated up this summer after air traffic controllers, new this season to the airport, and pilots agreed to reinstate a route sending traffic over areas in Southampton Town, such as Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Noyac, and Jessup’s Neck.
    The increase in traffic prompted complaints from residents of those areas, and the meeting tentatively scheduled for Monday is the result of initial discussions of the matter.
    East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said at a town board work session on Tuesday that he had met with his Southampton counterpart, Anna Throne-Holst, as well as Southampton Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera, who expressed their concerns that “the people of Southampton were being targeted by our new route. And I informed them that that wasn’t the intent of the board.”
    At the meeting next week, he said, participants will “talk about what they consider a ‘fair share.’ Which I think is fair,” he added.
    Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc asked if there is any data about the end destination for various airport users — whether they are headed to places in East Hampton, Southampton, or elsewhere.
    “East Hampton Airport has really become a regional airport for the East End,” he said. “Do we really even know what would be a fair distribution of our traffic, based on users? Should that be part of the discussion about being equitable?”
    “Who does our airport serve? Does it serve residents? Does it serve visitors?” Mr. Van Scoyoc continued. Mr. Wilkinson and Councilman Dominick Stanzione said Mr. Van Scoyoc had “a good point,” but that that information is not being collected, although it could be.
    However, said Councilman Stanzione, the board’s liaison to the airport, as far as aviation matters, the primary basis for decisions is “what is safe. And what is fair may not be safe.”
    Anger over airport noise was apparently the motivation for a caller to the airport noise hotline late last week, which prompted representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigations to visit the caller.
    “A person, in an angry moment, said some things that he shouldn’t have, that did get the attention of the F.B.I.,” Jim Brundige, the airport manager, said yesterday. “He said some things that he should not say,” about disrupting air traffic at the facility, Mr. Brundige said. An F.B.I. agent visited the caller, who had left his name.
    The investigation had “nothing to do” with a recent series of peaceful demonstrations outside the airport by members of the Quiet Skies Coalition, who are advocating noise-control efforts, Mr. Brundige said, adding that the caller was not a member of the group. The coalition has mounted only “peaceful protests,” he said. “None of their activities have crossed the line to that level, to my knowledge.”
    However, the incident, about which the details were initially unknown, instigated another round of salvos between the Quiet Skies Coalition and the East Hampton Aviation Association, a pilots’ group that sees the anti-noise advocates as pursuing an agenda to shut the airport down, though the protestors have said that is not their goal.
    In a press release issued Friday, Kathleen Cunningham, the chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition, said that there had been a report to the F.B.I. that the protestors had planned to block the roads in an act of civil disobedience. No such effort was planned, she said. Ms. Cunningham said in the release that she was told that members of the East Hampton Aviation Association had called the federal agency.
    But Irving Paler, the group’s president, denounced that claim. “The East Hampton Aviation Association certainly did not call the F.B.I. or any other law enforcement agency,” he said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. “That is preposterous. We did not know anything about it. Peaceful protest is part of our American heritage.” The Quiet Skies Coalition’s protest at the airport on Friday took place without incident.
    East Hampton Town Police Chief Edward Ecker said yesterday that he had been contacted by an F.B.I agent assigned to an aviation unit at J.F.K. Airport, who had been given information that the protestors “were going to take it up a notch and try to get onto the airport tarmac and try to stop the helicopters from coming in.” After contacting Ms. Cunningham as well as a representative of a Noyac civic group recently formed to address airport matters, he said he was assured that was not the case, and informed the F.B.I. of such. Chief Ecker said he was unaware of any further F.B.I. involvement.
    Ms. Cunningham’s assertion, in the press release, that he had told her the aviation association had contacted the federal agency must be based on a misunderstanding, he said.


Comments

It would help if the copter issue included the impact on the North Fork hamlet of Peconic in Southold Town. We get the brunt of the traffic heading north and south over Jessups Neck. This has been an ongoing problem since 2006 with no relief. It's not simply a problem for the Southampton area. Please include our area in the search for a solution. Bill and Kathy Fibkins
For clarity and truth, pilots DID NOT have any say in nor agree to any routes, new or old. That decision was NOT dictated by pilots in any way at any time, ever. To report "...air traffic controllers...and pilots agreed to reinstate a route..." is absolutely FALSE. Further, the East Hampton Aviation Association was told by a Quiet Skies Coalition chairman that shutting down the airport WAS and IS the Coalition's ultimate intent. Furthermore, the East Hampton Aviation Association historically has been demanding safety and proper maintenance. Unfortunately, Ms. Cunningham falsely accused the aviation association and feels that such lies are "funny." Where's Ms. Cunningham's retraction and apology to the aviation association regardless of the "misunderstanding" between Chief Ecker and herself?
The East Hampton Aviation Association has circulated plenty of falsehoods about me, some of which are slanderous and actionable: that I own developable property near the airport (never), that I went to live for a time in France to escape securities law violations here (never -- I told them where the FBI can find me if they are looking), and false claims about things I have supposedly said that I never uttered. I am still awaiting multiple apologies. Believe me, I am not holding my breath. I am quite sure that neither Kathy Cunningham nor any other chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition has ever said that closing the airport is its goal (it is not), let alone communicated that to the East Hampton Aviation association. One more falsehood in an endless list. But falsehoods are pretty much a way of life for the East Hampton Aviation Association. David Gruber
The aviation association has never released a press or news release or press statement that couldn’t be 100% verified. It’s obvious, but not surprising, you, Mr. Gurber, FAIL to understand the difference between an official statement made to the press for the sole purpose in developing a news story with basic information as opposed to what others may opine or say about you on the streets. Reporters with due diligence and very little effort proved Ms. Cunningham a liar. Regardless of whether the information she provided was due to a “misunderstanding” between herself and Chief Ecker, the fact that Ms. Cunningham, as Chairperson of the Quiet Skies Coalition, attempted to put forth such an egregious and serious offense accusing the aviation association of calling the FBI when in fact it was done so by a person who not only left his name, phone number AND address leaves one and all to seriously question everything the Quiet Skies Coalition utters. It’s inexcusable and certainly warrants an apology to the community and aviation association especially. It’s one thing to complain about legitimate noise events, but it’s disingenuous to make such unfounded claims officially in press or news releases or press statements and then cry foul upon getting caught in a lie.
East Hampton's own study concluded that the route that would annoy the least number of people (and of course, principally those who actually use the helicopters) would be well out over the Atlantic Ocean and then straight in to the airport over Georgica Pond and then industrial land. It's quite absurd that the "northern routes" not only inflict noise on far more people than would this Atlantic route, but specifically on those who would never dream of taking a helicopter to Manhattan. Yes, safety is an important issue, and if this Atlantic route cannot alone safely support the current heavy volume of traffic, then the volume should be cut back - Paul Adams, Riverhead
@ANTI.bs: The EHAA continues spin, distort and distract any time a new development occurs. These people are protesting a taking of the right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes as well as the continued destruction of the environment by a selfish few. It's as simple as that. My guess is that each time the EHAA ignores that fact and attacks those who only want peace and quiet back in their lives a few more Quiet Skies folks DO decide we'd be better off without an airport. If it closes you can thank the hard -liners who want only to profit from this morass. Small pilots should align themselves with Quiet Skies. The big boys are manipulating you.
Mr. Gruber’s “facts” have been deemed “meritless in entirety” by the NYS Supreme Court FOUR times and TWICE over by the NYS Appellate division costing the East Hampton taxpayers millions of dollars. So much for Mr. Gruber’s “facts.” There is no justification for releasing an official statement to the press with a serious and completely unfounded claim against the aviation association. A lie is a lie no matter how bitter the “1% feels about the other 1%.” If the “big-boys” are the ones making the noise, then complain accordingly, but to attack an aviation association that represents small aircraft and hangar owners on the field that have historically been insisting on safety and proper maintenance belies logic. To deny millions in FAA funding is just plane stupid. To call proper maintenance “expansion” is pure ignorance. To continuously file meritless lawsuits costing every taxpayer of East Hampton is not just fiscally damaging but is done so out of pure spite. The aviation association has endorsed every logical solution within their means to abate noise. Your experts were hired. Now you want them fired. Your control tower idea was implemented. Now you want it torn down. Some built houses in known flight paths. Now some want to ban all aircraft. I fully support equitable and varying approaches/departures. To blame failed town leadership and denied viable solutions on an aviation association for a motorized civilized society is beyond description.
oh well
Thank you for your answer anti.bs. Now here is mine. It is about NOISE. "Small" pilots should realize that they don't make much and get on the right side of this issue. But wait! The organization speaking for these "little guys" has as its "officers" two partners of the largest law firm in the county. The "president" makes nearly one million dollars per year simply renting his oceanfront houses to folks who fly into the airport. And other members with addresses like Lily Pond Lane and Windmill Lane south of Further. Who do you think you are fooling? Here is a fact for you (but of course you already know this): Those local homeowners who fly into the airport could easily maintain it. They are among the wealthiest people in the world. Ronald Perleman? Ira Rennert? Randy Lerner? C'mon man!
It's no wonder that airport noise lovers would rather talk about David Gruber than real issues like how much noise they generate or how much fuel emission they spew over our acquiifer. And how about that Deer Fence? Google FAA Airport Construction Standards. Scroll down to Part VIII: Fencing. then check out the specs for Wildlife Deterrent Fencing. If we keep FAA funding our airport will soon look like GITMO.
I've stated before and it bears repeating, I’m sympathetic to all of us that have legitimate complaints about noise in general, but when I read that HALF the complaints made in July came from 2 people, one of whom made an average of 14 calls a day, that’s when I seriously question the veracity of those that supposedly represent legitimate complainers. (Just like Mr. Gruber’s multiple frivolous lawsuits) It makes us all look like we have nothing better to do all day but sit around and complain about something. I’m a taxpayer who is fed up with the amount of money and time wasted. There are reasonable solutions to every problem, but I for one, will not participate with or join in with any group that roadblocks public facilities of federal funding and the facilities’ ability to produce income for the Town, PERIOD.