May 7, 2013 5:44 PMBy Rohma Abbas
Elena Loreto turned to an audio aid last week in her latest attempt to get East Hampton Airport officials to do something about an increase in helicopter traffic over Southampton Town neighborhoods: a recent recording she made of helicopters flying over her home.
“We are not the doormat for this airport,” said a frustrated Ms. Loreto, who is also the president of the Noyac Civic Council.
More than 60 people turned out at the airport last Wednesday evening for a public hearing on an environmental assessment prepared by East Hampton Town consultants to obtain permanent status from the Federal Aviation Administration for an air traffic control tower installed at the site last year—a tower that some residents believed was installed largely to help mitigate noise.
Meanwhile, town officials have countered that the primary reason the tower was installed was to increase safety at the airport.
“We’ve had enough. Disperse the routes and raise the altitude. If you have that ability with the tower, make it a requirement. We don’t want anymore of this. And you know what?” Ms. Loreto paused to put on the recording again. “I don’t want to hear this ... I don’t want to spend my summer doing this. Enough.”
The audience burst into applause.
While the public hearing’s scope had only narrowly to do with noise issues, many who spoke came from out of town with that very concern in mind. They turned out to protest an onslaught of noise from helicopter traffic, a trend that was exacerbated after a route change last summer redirected traffic over Jessup’s Neck and the power lines in Noyac in Southampton Town instead of Northwest Woods in East Hampton.
About 22 people spoke, including elected officials such as Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and North Haven Village Board Trustee Jeff Sander. Members of the anti-noise group the Quiet Skies Coalition, including executive director Kathleen Cunningham and Patricia Currie, also spoke at the hearing. The majority of concerns were rooted in noise.
A few proponents of the airport also made their voices heard. Gerard Boleis, an East Hampton resident, airport user, aircraft owner and president of the East Hampton Aviation Association, pointed out that the purpose of the public hearing was to talk about the control tower. He defended the control tower, saying it acts as a safeguard against the possibility of an aircraft collision, which he added would make a lot of noise, not including the “figurative noise of how long we’re going to hear about it afterward.”
“It seems to me that many people have the impression that it’s either for safety or it’s for noise abatement,” Mr. Boleis said. “But those two proposals are not incompatible.”
The public hearing was part of a federal process under the National Environmental Policy Act to obtain permanent status on the air traffic control tower. The town is seeking permanent approval of the air traffic control tower because it was granted only temporary approval when it first opened the tower last year. That temporary approval was granted on the condition that the town would prepare an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act “for the permanent installation and operation of the seasonal air traffic control tower for future years,” according to the town’s draft environmental assessment.
Written comments on the matter will be accepted by Airport Manager Jim Brundige until Monday, May 13.