Airport: Noise Above, ‘Torment’ Below

The town is seeking bids on several projects

The effects of airplane and helicopter noise on those living under flight paths was a subject at an East Hampton Town Board meeting last Thursday night, just as a busy summer holiday weekend got under way.

“We are enduring another season of aviation torment,” Patricia Currie of Sag Harbor told the board. She said it should put local residents’ interests “before those with aviation interests, and a few wealthy visitors.”

The ongoing noise issue “is kind of like being stuck in a ‘Wizard of Oz’ rerun,” said Tom MacNiven of East Hampton. But, he told board members, thanking them for convening several airport data-collection committees that have helped decision-making procedures move forward, “You guys are lifting the curtain.”

Mr. MacNiven, a real estate broker, said he gets calls several times a week from brokers inquiring about the impact of aircraft noise on particular properties. “Entire areas are being stigmatized.” Some homeowners, he said, are seeking to have their property taxes lowered, based on the negative effect of overhead flights. “That’s the economic effect of the airport right now,” said Mr. MacNiven, after noting that airport supporters often cite a positive economic impact from the facility.

The town is seeking bids on several projects at the airport: the reconstruction of a portion of runway 4-22, now being used in part as a taxiway, and repairs and installation of taxiway lighting. In addition, proposals are being sought for engineering services.

Board members voted to issue a $353,600 bond for the lighting project and a $270,000 bond for the taxiway repair. The board also voted to hire Young Environmental Sciences to conduct a study of airport noise.

Land purchases using the community preservation fund were also a topic at the meeting. After a hearing, the board voted to add 166 parcels in the Lake Montauk watershed area to the preservation fund project plan, for potential future purchase. A unanimous vote approved the purchase of three parcels in that area totaling just over two acres, for a total of $1.4 million.

An additional land purchase, of 18 acres on Mile Hill Road in East Hampton, was put on hold following a hearing at which questions were raised about ethics considerations, and if proper procedure was followed. A part-owner of the land is John Whelan, who chairs the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals; its former owner was his late father, Duane Whelan. The town board is seeking advice of the town attorney before moving ahead with the purchase.

David Buda, a Springs resident, said that “additional information should be given, and additional scrutiny . . . when the owners are the heirs of a former town official.” Duane Whelan was a former town attorney.

Mr. MacNiven said he “strongly supports this purchase,” noting that the property had been listed for sale in 2007, when he was the listing broker, at $8.5 million. It will provide another access to the adjacent 430-acre Grace Estate preserve, he said. Though existing structures on the land are proposed to be removed, Mr. MacNiven suggested that it might be nice to leave one there to be used as a museum or camp.

The property is also adjacent to 44 acres of protected town, county, and state lands, said Scott Wilson, the town’s director of land acquisition and management. It provides a link to the Northwest County Park and Northwest Creek, he said, and contains topography and plant species that are listed for protection.

Like Mr. Buda, Tom Knobel, chairman of the town Republican Committee, questioned the purchase. “If it’s five-acre zoning, why are we buying this for $4.8 million?” he asked. “Why are we purchasing the entire item when at most three houses could be built on this property?”

Also last week, the board approved the addition of approximately 463 acres of public land to the areas where bow or shotgun hunting may take place. One speaker had asked for the vote to be delayed so that property owners in adjacent areas would have another opportunity to weigh in. Allowing the use of firearms on 174 acres in the Culloden area of Montauk is of particular concern, he said.


Of course the torment extends way beyond East Hampton, and so does the impact on property values. Because the routes change constantly, essentially all property on the North Fork, from Riverhead east, is impacted. The lowered values must total in the billions of dollars. Changing routes is not a solution: it's just bait and switch. Until all aircraft are routed at least one mile offshore all the way round Orient and Montauk Points until the very final approach into EH airport (over Georgica Pond). If this route is "saturated", as apparently now happens, then no more air traffic should be permitted.