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May 25, 2015 1:28 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Zeldin Blasts FAA For Supporting Airport TRO

May 25, 2015 2:50 PM

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin has criticized the Federal Aviation Administration for supporting a temporary restraining order blocking East Hampton Town’s newly adopted airport restrictions from taking effect.

The new laws, adopted by the board in April, were designed to try to alleviate noise after years of complaints from residents on both forks.

On Friday, Mr. Zeldin said the FAA is not honoring its prior commitment to the town when it requested the injunction, which was sought in a lawsuit filed by a contingent of aviation businesses who say the laws will harm them financially.

In 2012, the FAA sent a letter to former U.S. Representative Tim Bishop that stated it would not take negative action against the town if it imposed reasonable restrictions at the airport.

“I am extremely disappointed by the seeming reversal of the FAA’s long-standing position that they would not oppose the Town of East Hampton’s effort to protect quality of life and reduce noise,” Mr. Zeldin said in a statement last week. “Though they have not officially taken a position on the merits of East Hampton’s proposals, the FAA’s support for a temporary restraining order speaks volumes as the residents of the East End, once again, brace for another travel season.”

According to Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, during a May 18 federal court hearing regarding the injunction, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert W. Schumacher II, on behalf of the FAA, said that the FAA disagrees with the legal significance of the letter to Mr. Bishop in which the federal agency said it would not intervene if the town set flight restrictions at the airport.

He added that the letter does not waive the FAA’s ability to seek an injunction or to enforce anything under the appropriate regulation. “It is simply a response to a hypothetical posed by Congressman Bishop,” Mr. Schumacher said.

In 2005, the FAA waived some grant obligations that were set to expire in 2021, settling a lawsuit filed by the Committee To Stop Airport Expansion, which focused on noise impacts resulting from operations at the airport. Federal grants obligated the town to abide by FAA rules at the airport, but the FAA agreed to allow key assurances to expire at the end of December 2014. This cleared the way for the Town Board to move forward with setting curfews on takeoffs and landings at the airport, and limiting access by certain types of aircraft considered the worst noise generators, like helicopters.

The town’s newly adopted regulations implement a curfew banning all flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., year-round. Aircraft classified as “noisy” are not permitted to take off or land between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m., year-round. Furthermore, aircraft classified as “noisy” are allowed only one takeoff and landing per week between May and September. These rules would affect most helicopters and some older jets.

Following the passage of the restrictions in April, the contingent of aviation business, which call themselves “Friends of the East Hampton Airport,” sued the town in opposition and requested a TRO and preliminary injunction, which could last until the court makes a ruling on the case. The hearing on the injunction will continue on Monday, June 8. Until then, the town has agreed to hold off on implementing the rules.

The FAA, during the first day of the hearing on May 18, supported the TRO but did not explain why.

“It appears that the FAA was looking for additional time to decide where it will be on the merits of the East Hampton [rules],” Mr. Zeldin said last week. “If so, I would point out that the proposals have been public for months, so there is no excuse to need more time to decide on the merits of the [rules] as if they have been released for the first time. Furthermore, the FAA had indicated in writing in the past that they would not take negative action against East Hampton Town for proposing reasonable restrictions.”

On Wednesday, May 20, Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell sent a letter to Senator Charles Schumer asking for his help in encouraging the FAA to respect the assurances it gave Mr. Bishop in 2012—that it would not take action against the town if it were to implement airport regulations.

“These recent statements to the court … are troubling,” Mr. Cantwell said in his letter referring to the FAA.

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Well done, Mr. Zeldin.

Hopefully on June 8th Judge Seybert will see through the FAA's smoke and mirrors delay tactics, and will permit the Town's recent ordinances to be enforced.

Local fixed-wing pilots would be well-advised to off-load their "excess baggage" alliance with out-of-town commercial helicopter interests. Your interests (in having maintenance performed, waivers for local small planes to fly at alternate times, and so forth) will be dragged down if you insist on supporting ...more
By PBR (4777), Southampton on May 26, 15 9:13 AM
2 members liked this comment
Local pilots have thought about it and siding with those who will fight to keep the airport open and safe is the only option. PBR you are typically smart enough to see the end game. In this case the end game of the town board is to close the airport to sell it to the same developers who happen to be the ones pushing the town board for the restrictions. Harbor is the perfect example of those who are advising the town. Why would we side with them when they want to close the airport? Why would we sit ...more
By localEH (168), East Hampton on May 26, 15 11:18 AM
You are delusional, in my personal opinion, about the airport ever being closed. Previous attempts to have an adult conversation with you over the years have been fruitless. Thus endeth this conversation.
By PBR (4777), Southampton on May 26, 15 12:45 PM
I agree with above. If reasonable noise restrictions aren't accepted then the aviation community runs the risk of the town closing the airport which would be sad. Remember, all it takes is three board members.
By harbor (252), East Hampton on May 26, 15 9:27 AM
Zeldin is just blowing smoke. The net net is neither party is going to get everything they want and they need to work together and come up with a solution.
By razza5350 (1807), East Hampton on May 26, 15 9:55 AM
I still hope that once the TRO goes into effect that will be the wake up call to the intransigent town board to finally come to the table to work WITH local aviation interests and the majority of this community that supports the presence of the airport to come up with reasonable regulation that will ease the noise concerns of the small handful of people who are legitimately affected by aircraft noise. Unfortunately it appears that only the TRO will be strong enough to get the town board to see ...more
By localEH (168), East Hampton on May 26, 15 11:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
I agree with pretty much everything you say except the concern with noise is more than just a small handful. I am a strong proponent for keeping the airport open and feel its vital to our local economy however the noise is bad. The board won't please everyone but they need to come up with a plan that is somewhere in the middle.
As for Harbor's comment below who provides the tax revenue to keep locals tax revenues relatively low and fund such projects as affordable housing? Dont'cut off the hand ...more
By razza5350 (1807), East Hampton on May 26, 15 12:31 PM
Isn't that exactly what the board did? The original proposal was a complete ban on helicopters. That was modified to allow helicopters during certain periods. The definition of "noisy" aircraft was also modified to allow smaller planes to escape the restrictions. Those "modified" restrictions are still rejected by certain members of the pilot community. Where does that leave people looking for middle ground? What restrictions could the private plane and helicopter community live with and why ...more
By Slightmadness (14), East hampton on May 26, 15 4:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Actually no. The anti-airport advisory committee proposed a set of restrictions to the town board, which included a ban on flight training, a ban of all helicopters, a ban on aircraft they subjectively wanted gone but didn't qualify as noisy (seaplanes), a three tiered noise rating system that was based on incorrect (made up) data, and two of the remaining restrictions. The board's attorney advised that only two would pass the FAA's non-arbitrary, non-discriminatory, reasonable relationship test ...more
By localEH (168), East Hampton on May 26, 15 7:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
The town needs land to build affordable housing. The airport would be a prime location. A helipad could remain for medical emergencies. The town is ready to play hardball if the aviation community wants to litigate rather than accept reasonable regulations.
By harbor (252), East Hampton on May 26, 15 10:15 AM
Hamptons Kirtan, Brenda McMorrow, John de Kadt