A Northwest Woods resident is circulating a petition opposing the use of Federal Aviation Administration grants to fund capital improvements at East Hampton Airport.
Susan McGraw Keber said she started the petition shortly after the East Hampton Town Board held a public hearing on December 1 on its proposal to seek an FAA grant to fund the design of a new perimeter fence around the airport. The Town Board voted to seek the grant on December 6.
As of Tuesday, 177 people had signed the online petition.
Ms. Keber and other residents who have spoken out against noise say the contractual obligations that come with FAA grants prevent the town from regulating air traffic. Town Board members and the board’s aviation attorney have said FAA grants do not significantly affect the town’s ability to mitigate noise, and have begun seeking ways of reducing noise while under contract with the FAA.
Ms. Keber, a realtor and illustrator, said she became interested in advocating for stricter airport regulations two years ago, after a seaplane flew extremely low over her property. “I was literally running like Cary Grant in ‘North by Northwest,’” she said, adding that her house shakes when helicopters pass overhead. She said she joined the Quiet Skies Coalition, an advocacy group that shares her position on FAA grants, after starting the petition.
The Quiet Skies Coalition supported the petition in a press release on Monday. The group says the town will be able to impose local restrictions on flights, like curfews and bans on certain aircraft, in 2014, as long as it doesn’t accept any new FAA grants. The Town Board says federal regulations preventing flight restrictions will remain in place after 2014.
“The Town Board should rescind its decision last Tuesday to take FAA funding,” Charles Ehren, a member of the Quiet Skies Coalition’s executive board, said in the press release. “Let the three years until local control resumes expire and then see if the noise is truly mitigated. The FAA will always be there to expand and improve this and other airports. There simply is no need to rush.”
Ms. Keber said she decided to circulate a petition after she was not able to speak at the public hearing because the Town Hall meeting room was too crowded, with pilots and other supporters of FAA grants taking up much of the seating. She said she was trying to fight the perception that there was overwhelming support for FAA funds, which she said is untrue.
“That cannot be,” she said. “If you pack the room with pilots, who do you think is going to respond? Out of town pilots who are self-serving.” She also said she has taken flying lessons at the airport and has no desire to close it down, as some pilots have claimed of anti-noise activists.