A group of airport hawks are urging East Hampton Town to purchase the Montauk Airport property in hopes of keeping a lid on the growth of airport traffic there in the coming decades.
The group, which calls itself the Airport Noise Citizens Advisory Committee, penned a letter to the town in December recommending, among other things, that the Montauk Airport be targeted for acquisition by the town.
The group’s chairman, David Gruber, a vocal critic of East Hampton Airport’s scale of operations, said that if the town doesn’t buy the Montauk Airport, residents in the easternmost hamlet could someday face the same thunderous rumble of helicopters and large jets that Wainscott, Noyac and North Fork residents now endure on summer weekends.
“The town is a bystander here and it seems to us that before anything turns worse we would want to get control of how it’s handled in the future,” Mr. Gruber said this week. “Ultimately, they would be able to exercise the same control over Montauk that they do over East Hampton [Airport]—whatever the scope of that may be, that’s being litigated.”
While the town’s ability to impose any sort of limits on aircraft traffic at East Hampton Airport hinges on the possibly thin hope that the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review whether curfews imposed in 2015 are allowable, the group makes the case that if the town owned the Montauk strip as well it at least could assure that more grants from the FAA are not accepted there, as the town has pledged to avoid at its own property.
“It is possible that a private owner could apply for FAA funding, and would then be tied to grant assurances for 20 years,” Mr. Gruber warned. “We know there is already growing demand in Montauk.”
Mr. Gruber suggested the town could potentially buy the property with Community Preservation Fund money, viewing the airport as a “recreational facility.”
Several charter flight operations started running weekend flights to Montauk from New York City in 2015 and 2016, though most landed seaplanes near Navy Beach in Fort Pond Bay rather than at the Montauk Airport.
Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the town was unlikely to be interested in owning and operating a second airport and he doubted that the town could purchase the airport using CPF money if it is to remain as an functioning airport.
“This would put the town in the same situation it is in at East Hampton Airport, which I don’t think the town is going to spend whatever it would cost to buy, to take that on,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Ultimately, the only option might be to close it at some point. I don’t think buying it, borrowing however many millions of dollars, with that in mind makes a lot of sense.”