East Hampton Town will impose nighttime curfews on all aircraft flying in and out of East Hampton Airport as of 12:01 a.m. on Thursday morning, July 2.
The curfews, which were enacted by the Town Board in April in reaction to years of noise complaints by residents, go into effect after a federal judge last week denied an injunction that would have blocked them, one sought by a coalition of aviation industry businesses and pilots that have sued the town over the new regulations.
The airport will be closed to all aircraft between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and to exceptionally loud aircraft, like helicopters and large private jets, from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. all year long. The fine for any aircraft violating the curfew will be up to $1,000 for the first offense, $4,000 for the second offense and $10,000 for a third offense, followed by a two-year ban of any use of the airport for any further violation.
The curfews and the use limit are the focus of a lawsuit filed by the aviation coalition, the Friends of East Hampton Airport, which is still before Judge Seybert.
“The balance of hardships tips in the town’s favor with respect to the mandatory curfew and extended curfew, as the town’s desire to protect its residents during sleeping hours clearly outweighs the inconvenience [the] plaintiffs may experience by having to minimize their flight schedules,” U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert wrote in her 45-page ruling on the injunctions.
However, she granted an injunction to the aviation advocates blocking another town regulation, one that barred any single helicopter or large jet from more than one landing and one takeoff at the airport per week.
“We are gratified that the court enjoined the one-trip limit, finding it to be drastic and unreasonable,” Friends of East Hampton Airport spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt said after the ruling last week. “We are carefully reviewing the decision and appellate options regarding the curfews.”
Mr. Riegelhaupt said that all of the airport’s various aviation users would immediately comply with the new regulations. Charter flight operators contacted this week declined to comment on how the new rules would affect their business.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that the town is gratified that the judge chose to allow the curfew to take effect for the coming summer.
“We’re pleased the judge has acknowledged that the town was justified in adopting restrictions to provide relief to the growing number of people who are negatively affected by aircraft noise,” Mr. Cantwell said in a statement released by the town last week. “Although we regret that one of the key laws cannot be enforced for the time being, we are gratified that the court recognized that the law allows the kind of restrictions that are essential to protect the residents of this town.”
The Town Board had considered banning helicopters from the airport altogether during the summer, but dropped the rule after concerns from other municipalities about heavy air traffic being pushed onto other area airport facilities.
In studies conducted by town consultants in the months before the new regulations were adopted, the curfews were seen as having a relatively low impact on the operation of the airport, since the busiest periods are in the late afternoons and early evenings prior to and at the end of weekends.
But those flights that do land and take off at the airport in the late evening and overnight hours spur a large percentage of the complaints by residents under flight paths, so the supervisor said that the curfews should address a significant part of the problem for residents.
“Noise tends to be more disturbing at night and early in the morning than in the middle of the day,” Mr. Cantwell said. “The curfews will not address the frequency of noise issues our residents experience on those busy afternoons—the one-trip-per-week restriction would have helped that—but it will at least provide some relief.”