Councilman Dominick Stanzione defended his and East Hampton Town’s record on recent changes to aircraft routes into and out of East Hampton Airport during a heated meeting in Town Hall last Thursday.
“I’ve given it my all, and I stand on my record on this,” he said.
Mr. Stanzione’s response followed statements by a number of people who spoke at an East Hampton Town Board meeting about what they viewed as the failure of officials to control noise, particularly from helicopters and jets.
Some of those who took a turn at the Town Hall podium had traveled to East Hampton from the North Fork, including Teresa McCaskie, who showed board members a handwritten log she kept of aircraft noise incidents.
“Basically these pilots are doing what they want, when they want, whenever they want,” she said. “They are flying over our homes, they are flying over our schools.”
Mr. Stanzione had become the focus of anti-noise activists since he came under attack last summer for telling air traffic controllers at East Hampton Airport to direct more helicopters over Noyac and the North Fork. Though shortly thereafter members of the town board objected to not being informed about the change in advance, they so far have not asked the controllers to shift the aircraft to another route.
Several people at the meeting asked whether there was a short-term plan to reduce aircraft noise. James Ding, a Noyac resident, told the board, “It’s your noise. Take some responsibility.”
Demonstrations seen last summer at East Hampton Airport could resume and possibly become disruptive, Charles Neumann of Noyac said, hinting at 1960s-style civil disobedience. “Things might get ugly, for us, for you guys, if we cannot have some relief in the short term.” Mr. Neumann is a past president of the Noyac Civic Council.
Janice LoRousso, who lives in Jamesport and owns a house in Noyac, said aircraft noise was a quality-of-life issue. “I have an elderly mother. She’s 90. She needs this? Nobody needs this,” she said.
Another Noyac resident, Patricia Currie, who along with several others who spoke at Thursday’s meeting is a member of the Quiet Skies Coalition, faulted the town’s outside aviation attorney, Peter Kirsch, for perpetuating the noise crisis. “Mr. Kirsch misled the board by calling diverting traffic to other towns an accomplishment,” she said.
She said that Mr. Stanzione had engaged in an “ongoing deception” over who was responsible for the route change.
Pat Trunzo, a former East Hampton Town councilman, said that Mr. Kirsch’s view that the town should undertake a Federal Aviation Administration study of air traffic was risky. “I think you might be on the brink of being sold another bill of goods by your advisers,” he said. He said the work would lead to a “very comfortable retirement” for Mr. Kirsch.
Instead, Mr. Trunzo and others argued, the town should seek to increase its leverage with the F.A.A. by working to get free of “grant assurances” that apparently obligate the airport to be operated with only minimal restrictions.
The town has appeared poised to accept F.A.A. money for a deer-fence project at the airport, which noise activists fear would tie East Hampton to additional years of grant assurances. A set of these assurances is to expire next year.
“You are on the brink of giving away the only negotiating leverage you have if you sign up for another 20 years prematurely,” he said.
Mr. Trunzo told the board he believed that the remaining assurances were very limited in scope and would not hamper the town’s options if it chose to impose new rules designed to limit noise.
At Mr. Kirsch’s urging, the town is preparing to undertake a Part 161 study, which could cost up to $2 million and take as much as two years to complete. Its goal would be to describe noise conditions in affected areas as a prerequisite to solutions that are acceptable to the F.A.A.
During an East Hampton Town Board meeting on Feb. 5, Mr. Kirsch said that such a study could help form a legal defense if the town were sued for any new restrictions on, for example, the days of the week the airport was open.
When the public comment ended, Mr. Stanzione said that the current East Hampton Town leadership had “done more to address airport noise than any other board in the last decade,” citing the completion of an airport master plan and an airport layout plan.
He said the town had “opened up a dialog with the F.A.A.”
For her part, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said she was sympathetic to the views of many in the Town Hall audience. “I don’t consider the impact on neighboring municipalities any different than I consider its impact on East Hampton.”
“I apologize to all of you,” she said. However, she said, she was “not ready to talk about what we will or will not do.”