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.