Disappointed by what they thought was going to be an elixir to their years of woe and incensed by continuing noise from aircraft approaching and departing from East Hampton Airport, a small group of residents assailed the Town Board last week with their displeasure and hurled accusations of deception and official malfeasance over the way they say the airport’s new flight control tower was sold to the public.
On the day after Independence Day, the residents, members of the Quiet Skies Coalition, offered board members some harsh criticism and their own version of the Declaration of Independence: one urging the town to shed its ties to the Federal Aviation Administration and the requirements that agency imposes on airports, which the residents believe is perpetuating and, possibly, expanding the noise over their homes.
“The history of the FAA is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation, all having in direct object the establishment of a tyranny over our town, our skies and our good people,” Kathleen Cunningham said, borrowing some phraseology from Thomas Jefferson’s panning of King George III. “In every stage of these oppressions, we the people have petitioned this board for redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.”
The group’s patriotic protest was spurred by what it claimed was the continued noise from the airport, which members say has continued to thunder and roar unabated in the days since the town started operating an air traffic control tower at the airport. The residents said that town lawmakers, when pitching the control tower and its $1 million cost, had billed it as a solution to the noise complaints from residents living under flight paths. One even went so far as to flatly accuse board members of having a grander scheme in mind for the airport.
“Dominick Stanzione, Town Board member and airport liaison, promised the Town Board and the citizens of East Hampton that the new control tower would mitigate the noise,” said Susan McGraw, a Rose Hill Road resident who said she counted 28 helicopters flying over her house on one Friday afternoon in late June. “First he duped everyone, second he has wasted $1 million of town money and, third, I believe he is pursuing an agenda aimed at expanding the airport ... Under FAA control, this tower will surely support and encourage more air traffic, enabling the final part of Stanzione’s plan, which is to turn what was once a small rural airport into a regional hub.”
In the years since the tower was first proposed for the airport it has been billed by various members of the Town Board, past and present, as a potential way to reduce noise impacts. Air traffic controllers, as the pitch went, could insist aircraft approach at greater heights or follow specific flight paths to the runway, rather than coming in at whatever angle was most convenient, thus limiting the number of different homes that are subject to the noise of aircraft overhead.
But residents said that airport officials and Town Board members admitted at a recent meeting with residents at the airport, after the tower had been approved, that the controllers’ job was ensuring the safety of aircraft traffic, not to address noise concerns.
“Here we are years later and both the airport manager and the tower manager announce that the tower is not about noise abatement,” resident Pat Trunzo said. “The control tower’s mission is strictly safety. How can this be? It’s a complete tragedy that after all this time and all this indecision, we might finally have a way to abate noise and allow the airport to function and it rings hollow. Something is wrong and needs to change.”
Board members listened to the complaints but made no retort or defense of the tower status or the potential for expansion of the airport it or FAA funding agreements could allow. Mr. Stanzione could not be reached for comment this week.