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Oct 16, 2012 4:59 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East End Legislators Renew Call For South Shore Helicopter Route, But Without Wilkinson's Name On The List

Oct 16, 2012 6:25 PM

East End lawmakers are reviving a call to create an Atlantic route for helicopter traffic after numerous complaints about noise came from communities in Southampton Town near East Hampton Airport last summer.

Nineteen elected officials have signed off on a petition to the Federal Aviation Administration asking the agency to create the route, according to a statement issued by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.’s office. The route would complement a North Shore route that was approved by the FAA last summer.

The request is not new—it follows up on one submitted by the supervisors in East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island and Southold in June 2010 to the FAA.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson’s signature was noticeably absent from the list of 19 lawmakers, which included East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione. Mr. Stanzione is the Town Board’s liaison to the airport.

“I was so shocked by it that I placed an immediate call to Dominick and an immediate call to Fred Thiele,” said Mr. Wilkinson this week.

Mr. Thiele and Mr. Wilkinson offered different versions of what happened. Mr. Wilkinson said he got the request to sign the letter earlier this month, but found an error in the document that needed to be corrected and requested that it be made via email to Mr. Thiele. He also said he told Mr. Thiele in the email exchange that he ultimately needed to speak to the Town Board about it at a work session before signing off.

After the correction was made, Mr. Thiele said the letter was recirculated to East End lawmakers. But Mr. Wilkinson said he never received a final copy of it until Friday, and that Mr. Thiele was aware that the Town Board was going to discuss the matter at its work session on Tuesday. On Monday, the statement was released by Mr. Thiele’s office without Mr. Wilkinson’s signature.

Mr. Thiele, in turn, said he believed Mr. Wilkinson had, in fact, received the letter but had “played politics” with it because of a recent divide with Mr. Stanzione over the future of the East Hampton Town scavenger waste plant. He also pointed out that the East Hampton Town Board approved the idea of two routes—a North Shore and South Shore route—two years ago in a letter signed by Mr. Wilkinson at that time.

“Quite frankly it became rather obvious that none of this had anything to do with public discussion of this or talking with the Town Board,” said Mr. Thiele. “It has to do with the ongoing dispute on the Town Board between Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Stanzione … I think Councilman Stanzione acted responsibly in reiterating town policy. And I think Supervisor Wilkinson just played politics,” he said.

In response to Mr. Thiele’s accusations, Mr. Wilkinson said “I don’t know what he’s talking about.” He also asked what the rush was, and why Mr. Thiele allowed the letter to be released with Mr. Stanzione’s signature when he knew the Town Board was going to discuss it in a couple of days.

“I am totally surprised because I think it would be wiser for him to review the emails that he was [copied] on,” said Mr. Wilkinson. “…It would be wiser for him to understand that Dominick had no authority to sign that, based on the principles of the Town of East Hampton, which wanted a full board vetting before the supervisor signed it. How does any of that equate to a quid pro quo for scavenger waste? Makes no sense.”

In the letter, the officials urge Michael P. Huerta, the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, to approve the Atlantic route.

“Helicopter noise can only be substantially mitigated by reducing the number of north/south helicopter transits,” according to a joint statement by the officials. “The establishment of the mandatory North Shore Route mitigated the impacts of helicopter noise in Nassau County and Western Suffolk by keeping helicopters one mile offshore in the Long Island Sound, but did nothing to alleviate the problem on the East End. This goal can only be accomplished by the establishment of both an Atlantic Route and a North Shore Route. We urge the FAA to act immediately to approve the Atlantic Route proposed in our June 24, 2010 letter.”

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I took a look at Town Law - it's on the internet. It is clear that a Town Board member cannot unilaterally sign a letter like this on behalf of the Town. In fact a Supervisor can't sign such a letter representing the Town without running it past the Town Board. I am shocked that Mr. Theile, who is a former Supervisor and is currently a Village Attorney, does not know this. The other thing that exposes Theile lack of logic or deception is that Wilkinson caught a problem with the first draft of ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Oct 16, 12 6:02 PM
Hohum - are you really surprised by Thiele's actions? I have been observing Southampton politics for 25 years. Thiele's action is not surprising at all. I'm sure he believes Bill Wilkinson is not running for re-election so why not throw him under the bus and make nice with Stanzione, who is probably running for re-election, and his big money supporters? It is par for Fred. What's good for Fred is good for Fred.
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Oct 16, 12 6:27 PM
Hohum, can anything be done since you are saying some kind of law was violated. Who might be liable? the signer of the letter, the people who issued the letter? Does East Hampton have to do it over if the board approves with Bill Wilkinson's signature on the letter? Isn't it simple to prove if Thiele's office contacted Wilkinson's office? E-mails go through servers so you can't erase them or change dates. if it was mailed, which I doubt, who is to say if it arrived in East Hampton. It could ...more
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Oct 16, 12 8:01 PM