New York State Supreme Court has upheld East Hampton Town’s Airport Master Plan, dismissing a challenge from a group of neighbors who claimed that the planning document didn’t adequately address aircraft noise when the board updated it in September 2010.
The decision, which upheld both the master plan and the Airport Layout Plan that was adopted in September 2010, was lauded by the East Hampton Aviation Association in a press release last week. It comes after two decades of controversy and public hearings, according to the group’s statement. It also clears the way for the town to make runway repairs at the site.
“The Airport Master Plan and Layout Plan are now in full force and effect,” said Tom Twomey, a director of the East Hampton Aviation Association and a voluntary member of its legal committee. “It provides for the repair of the runway. Now, we urge the town to proceed with the repair of the runway without further delay.”
The lawsuit was filed by the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion and six residents in November 2010. The plaintiffs in the suit include David Gruber, Barbara Miller, Frank Dalene, Robert Wolfram, Barbara Wolfram and Stephen Levine. Their lawsuit claimed that when the town studied the environmental impacts of its updated master plan, it skirted over the issue of noise. The environmental impact study, they claimed, ignored thousands of noise complaints and used faulty standards in concluding there was no significant noise issue at the airport.
Jeffrey Bragman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division Second Judicial Department.
“A fight’s not over in the first round,” he said. “We always anticipated that we were going to have further judicial review here.”
East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who has spearheaded airport issues, praised the legal win.
“I’m just so happy about it,” he said. “I’m delighted. I’m proud of the work that the town and its team of advisors have done. They’ve just performed so professionally … The judge’s decision settles all the legal issues. I look forward to moving on the airport comprehensive plan and the Airport Master Plan and bringing a safe, secure and quieter airport for all of East Hampton.”
The East Hampton Airport Aviation Association also issued a statement last week on a poll it commissioned to take the public’s pulse on whether the town should accept Federal Aviation Administration funding for airport projects. Antinoise activists have argued that taking FAA funds come with grant assurances that restricts the town’s ability to regulate aircraft like noisy helicopters.
Three hundred people were polled by The Potholm Group of Maine in April, and 88 percent said they believe FAA funds should be used to repair existing runways and taxiways, according to the statement. Seventy-seven percent of people surveyed said they believe FAA funding should be used for noise abatement measures.
“I’m gratified that the results of the poll confirm my belief that a viable airport is in the public interest,” said Mr. Stanzione.
Kathy Cunningham, the chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition, said she hadn’t seen the results of the poll, but suggested that its answers might have depended on the way questions were asked.
“I would be interested to see the polling questions because I think that’s really relevant to how people answer these kinds of questions,” she said.