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Nov 19, 2018 4:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

North Forkers Berate FAA Over East Hampton Helicopter Traffic

FAA official Mary McCarthy explained the agency's rule-making process to residents angered by helicopters flying over their homes on the North Fork. Michael Wright
Nov 20, 2018 9:43 AM

Residents of neighborhoods across the North Fork debated, argued and, at times, angrily berated officials from the Federal Aviation Administration last week in Riverhead over what they saw as the federal agency’s facilitation of their misery for the benefit of those who pay thousands to travel to the Hamptons in luxury.

Denizens of the South Fork, an increasing number of whom see flying to the South Fork instead of driving as a worthwhile use of more than $1,000 each weekend, were almost exclusively referred to as “the rich people in the Hamptons,” the “1-percenters” and “the millionaires.” It was largely assumed that those well-heeled fliers and the companies that make money off them are lobbying politicians to protect their convenience, while directing the noise impacts elsewhere.

“We get screwed so that they get relief,” said Doris McGreevy, a Mattituck resident who says her neighborhood is ground zero for helicopter traffic between New York City heliports and East Hampton Airport. “We came here because we thought our voices would be heard. Instead, we get insulted with this.”

Ms. McGreevy pointed at a poster board that had been erected by FAA officials in the cafeteria of Riverhead Middle School last Wednesday evening, November 14, that explained how the so-called North Shore Route had been developed. The poster board, and the two FAA staffers standing by it, showed the route that the agency has recommended helicopters use when flying along the northern shoreline of Long Island, with a reference to its guidelines being intended to minimize noise impacts.

The route has, in fact, directed a torrent of pulsing drumbeats directly onto her neighborhood, by Ms. McGreevy’s estimation.

“For 15 years, it’s been hell,” said her neighbor, Dorothy Raynor, as the two women wound their way through the crowd, stopping to challenge new FAA staffers at each post.

The focus of the women’s and dozens of others’ ire, the North Shore Route, was codified by the FAA for helicopter traffic traveling between the city and the Hamptons in 2004 on a voluntary basis; it was made “mandatory” in 2008 and reaffirmed in 2016.

On paper, it delineates a mile-wide path through the air from the East Side of Manhattan, over La Guardia Airport and neighborhoods in Queens and western Nassau County, and along the northern coastline of Long Island. The route is delineated to keep helicopters over water as much as possible, and at heights that will minimize the noise of their rotor blades for anyone below, on the ground.

But where the route itself fails, the residents say, is in allowing pilots to use their discretion as to when they need to turn south and head for East Hampton Airport to land.

Many pilots do so right about at Northville, where large oil storage tanks at the United Riverhead Terminal provide a clear visual waypoint, cutting across the North Fork and over the hamlets of Jamesport and Laurel. Some stay over the Long Island Sound a little farther east, transitioning south over Peconic and parts of Southold. From either route, the choppers then fly over parts of Noyac and Sag Harbor.

A few others, mostly large two-engine choppers that are particularly noisy and have been asked by aviation groups to avoid populated areas as much as possible, cut across over the Orient causeway.

The bulk of the residents who spoke of the torture the overflights inflict on them live in the inland neighborhoods. Most said that simply requiring aircraft to remain over Long Island Sound until they reach Orient Point, remaining over the waters of Plum Gut and Gardiners Bay down to East Hampton, rather than cutting across the North Fork in the most direct route, would alleviate much of their consternation.

Estimates by rattled residents of the inconvenience this would cause for fliers ranged from 5 to 17 extra minutes, and the cost of $150 in extra fuel. Both seemed to be accepted numbers, though the origin of their calculations was uncertain.

“It’s ridiculous. They can afford to fly to the Hamptons. They can afford to pay that much more,” said Mike Foley of Riverhead. “But they don’t give two shits about us. That’s the way things go in this country.”

But others saw the less direct route as no solution at all, since it would do nothing for residents who live along the coast and would mean a huge spike in traffic for Orient residents.

“All these different routes do is make enemies out of neighbors,” said Adam Irving, who lives in Orient. “The only real solution is to greatly reduce the amount of traffic, or make them fly out over the South Shore—which is what they should be doing already.”

The North Fork residents blamed the FAA for making the North Shore Route “mandatory” for helicopters flying from New York to East Hampton. Most seemed to interpret that to mean that the FAA was instructing pilots to fly along the north shore of Long Island, rather than along the much more lightly populated oceanfront, and then to swing into East Hampton over Georgica Pond.

But most also seemed to assume that wealthy Georgica Pond residents were using political influence to ensure that a South Shore Route never becomes popular.

“If that became the route, and helicopters flew over Georgica Pond for two weeks in the summer, all helicopter traffic would be halted,” Orient resident Mr. Irving said. “[Senator Chuck] Schumer’s ‘Batphone’ would be blowing up.”

FAA officials tried, seemingly in vain, to explain that calling the North Shore Route “mandatory” did not mean that pilots were required to use it, only that if they did choose to follow that route, they were to adhere to the flight guidelines about height and flight path for their east-west movements.

Beyond those guidelines, pilots are free to use the North Shore Route or not, and to leave it wherever they deem necessary.

“It is not controlled [air] space, so it is up to the pilots’ discretion,” FAA staffer Mary McCarthy told one group of residents.

Pilots are open to flying along the South Shore oceanfront as well, and FAA data from this past summer showed that many do. But the South Shore Route is much more commonly impacted by weather conditions and creates conflicts with airspace for JFK, MacArthur and Gabreski airports. That complicates the route for pilots when visibility is poor so the vast majority take the northern route.

More use of the southern route would be of little help in the eyes of South Fork residents already rattled by the aircraft traffic.

"The imposition of an all-water northern route, either alone or in conjunction with an all-water southern route, will inevitably inflict all traffic solely on the East Hampton community," former East Hampton Town Councilman Pat Trunzo told the Town Board last week. Mr. Trunzo was reading from a letter the Quiet Skies Coalition, a residents group opposed to the airport's traffic growth, will submit to the FAA as its comments on the North Shore Route. "Routes are not a real solution. Rather, they are the insidious Russian roulette of the skies. The trauma is inevitable, the only question is which residents will take the bullets."

The group asked the town to weigh in on the routes discussion as well, and inform the FAA that if changes are not made that reduce air traffic noise that the town will stop funding a control tower at the airport and would seek to close the airport in 2021.

The workshop on Wednesday, November 14, along with others like it in Queens and Nassau County, was made necessary by a bill passed by Congress earlier this year ordering the FAA to reconsider the North Shore Route.

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, who sponsored the bill, and Senator Schumer both issued statements on Friday saying that the workshops were not a sufficient public outreach, and on Friday officially demanded that the FAA hold formal public hearings for residents to put their concerns on the record.

Last week’s workshops included a component at which residents could formally log input on the route with the help of FAA staffers. That does not satisfy the demands of lawmakers, Mr. Zeldin said.

“The FAA must understand the gravity of this situation, the widespread adverse impact the North Shore Helicopter Route has had on so many Long Islanders’ everyday lives, and they will do so by hearing from everyone affected,” Mr. Zeldin said in a statement on Monday. “From the North Shore Helicopter Route’s planning to its continued use, the Federal Aviation Administration … has flat out ignored the residents directly affected by the persistent issue of helicopter noise.”

Many at Wednesday’s event said they expect the FAA’s reconsideration to be only that, and that the agency will ultimately decide that the status quo is still its preference.

“It’s just lip service,” Ms. Raynor said, with a shake of her head. “Nothing will change.”

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What about the South fork?? They might pass over the North Fork but then the assault on the South Fork begins. Specifically NORTH SEA! How come the South Fork people weren't notified of this Meeting??? Need more meetings and the South Fork Towns like Southampton and East Hampton need also be present in numbers...
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Nov 23, 18 7:41 AM
This is what the FAA has to deal with. A dozen screaming banshees who spout false facts they make up themselves and who have zero interest in compromise or resolution of anything. If the FAA offers to route traffic in multiple places across the north fork so it’s not just in one spot, McCaskie and McGreevy scream Nooooo. If the FAA proposes to route some of the traffic around Orient Point, Irving screams Noooo. If the FAA proposes to route traffic to the south, Trunzo screams Nooooo. They ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Nov 23, 18 9:16 AM
Your record still stuck in this groove?

Laughable!

When the airport is closed, you will only have to look in the mirror for one of the main factors.

Stall warning!

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 10:03 AM
2 members liked this comment
local, you still touting “a dozen people” line? You are being so disingenuous with that rant. I posted a story last time you said that. This nonsense of only people by the airport being affected is pure bs. The complaints start in Queens and end at EH airport.you are the one not willing to compromise.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 10:10 AM
Thanks for confirming everything I just said with your comment. At least you admit you have zero interest in finding a compromise or reasonable resolution and your sole intent and goal is to close the airport. You’re happy to screw the community, so long as you get what’s best for you. Unadulterated greed.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Nov 23, 18 11:30 AM
Hey Fred let’s talk facts. How many complaints were there again... Oh yeah only 300 households out of the entirety of Long Island from Queens to Montauk. Of those around 30% only complained ONCE in a whole year. The other 58% came from just TEN people and 35% came from just FIVE people. You can’t deny the facts that came straight from the town’s own consultants. Sorry that your massive anti-airport marketing campaign that you’ve spent over $100k on has not borne fruit. Also ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Nov 23, 18 11:47 AM
Local, there’s no greed involved. Loud obnoxious helicopters are a nitemare. I’d gladly go along with some kind of compromise. You can argue all you want, it’s still a noise issue that affects many , many people. Don’t act like it’s a handful of people.spate me the “screwing” the community comment. You and you alone are the only one for loud helicopters, I’m not.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 12:29 PM
Local, one more. I posted this last time. From Business Insider...The rise in traffic from private jets and helicopters traveling to the Hamptons is causing residents grief.

The introduction of new ride-sharing helicopter companies, most notably BLADE, has made air travel there more convenient. But that means noise many residents aren't happy about, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The service, which has been called "Uber for helicopters" costs as little as $695 for a one-way ...more
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 12:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
Local, from Suffolk Times 2014. Read the article.....Too low, too loud, too many.

That was the consensus from nearly 50 residents from East End communities who spoke at a packed public meeting Wednesday evening about a record number of aircraft — mostly helicopters — buzzing their homes this summer.

The East Hampton Town Board meeting held in Wainscott attracted more than 350 people, including a strong contingent of North Fork residents. Twenty-one elected officials ...more
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 2:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Your logic makes no sense. Kathleen Cunningham is one of the principal leaders of your anti-airport group. All you are doing is quoting one of the very 10 people who make nearly all the complaints. That’s like saying water is wet because it’s made of water.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Nov 23, 18 2:31 PM
Local, I’m posting published articles that show there is helicopter noise. I’m not sure what you are defending. You posted that you own, I assume, and fly out of Easthampton . I think that’s cool and great. No one cares about that. It’s helicopters. Plain and simple. If you want to keep defending the indefensible, be my guest. I’m against the constant barrage of noise, from helicopters. You can parse it anyway you’d like, the noise stinks.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 3:07 PM
We can all agree that the helicopters are very noisy and that having them approach on the same route over the same houses is unfair to the people who live under those routes. Ira Rennart’s S-92 is a monster that everyone hates (it literally will blow us small planes away). But if helicopter noise was really your concern then why would you demand that the whole airport be closed. No discussion, no problem solving, no middle ground. Why wouldn’t you want to work with our local aviation ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Nov 23, 18 9:03 PM
Local, I never said close the airport. Where would you fly from? I’m complaining about helicopters. They are all noisy. The cottage industry of fast travel from nyc to the east end , benefits a few and negatively impacts many. That’s my only point.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 9:19 PM
Local, from Curbed.....With traffic, it can take up to two-and-a-half hours to get to East Hampton from New York City. To remedy the inconvenient length of time—as well as sitting in traffic and having to decide between a Jitney or a train—helicopters have become the new way to travel out to the Hamptons.BLADE, one of the most popular brands to fly east in, costs between $495 and $1,250 for a seat. The ride takes about 40 minutes, but costs more than ten times as much money. Meanwhile, ...more
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 12:34 PM
Air Noise Report has long since been discredited as unreliable and is not considered by the towns consultants. It just displays a map of all aircraft flying in the vicinity of Long Island and lets people tap a plane to report a complaint. It did not require people to identify themselves or their location when they made the complaint. That led to certain people *cough* having their friends all over the country and world tap on every plane in the sky to file thousands of complaints even though they ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Nov 23, 18 2:40 PM
Local, you also said your a lawyer, licensed in 5 states. Could you post the published report about air noise report being discredited. Otherwise it’s just hearsay.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 3:16 PM
Hahaha! If you can’t tell the difference between a court of law and a small town’s internal evaluation of a local concern, then you need more help than I can provide you. But if you want a hint, go to htoplanning website and look at all of the reports by the town’s consultants and see how they disregard Air Noise Report’s data.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Nov 23, 18 8:47 PM
Local, I can tell the difference. Just thought you being a lawyer you’d put forth a little better argument to back up your point. That’s all, no biggie.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Nov 23, 18 9:21 PM
The airport should serve only small fixed wing airplane's, no jets and no helicopters except for medevac. Of course, this will be a major inconvenience for Daddy Gotbucks and all the other buckers.
By country joe (60), sag harbor on Nov 23, 18 12:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
Does anyone realize that there are new rotor-wing technologies that can allow helicopters to go in to a "Whisper" or "Stealth" mode that will ELIMINATE this problem entirely? Maybe we should concentrate on getting these technologies to the carriers instead of wasting monies on "Studies" and "Surveys" that go nowhere and offer recommendations rather than solutions. THIS is the solution!
This makes me wonder if the "noise" issue is in fact a distraction so that people who want to take the airports ...more
By DisgustedHamptons (58), Hampton Bays on Nov 25, 18 3:02 PM