Some Southampton Town residents are upset that a new East Hampton Airport control tower is rerouting helicopter traffic over their homes.
For several weeks, air traffic controllers have been sending helicopters over parts of Noyac in Southampton rather than over Northwest Woods in East Hampton, where they used to fly, according to residents.
East Hampton officials confirmed that the flight paths for helicopters have changed in recent weeks.
East Hampton purchased the control tower, in part, as an attempt to control noise from helicopters, which residents of Northwest Woods and other communities under the flight paths had been complaining about.
But some Southampton Town residents, who spoke at an East Hampton Town Board meeting last Thursday, said the control tower has only shifted the burden onto them.
Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who spearheaded the plan to install the control tower, has said recently that the tower was installed mainly to improve safety, with noise mitigation as an added benefit.
A handful of people spoke about airport issues at a Town Board meeting last week, including two who said they had learned from airport officials that Mr. Stanzione had requested the route change. But Mr. Stanzione denied that.
“I think the theory that I instructed anybody to do anything is really silly,” said Mr. Stanzione. “That would be the first time anyone would listen to me about anything. It would mark a moment in history.”
Other Town Board members said they were unaware of the route change. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said they hadn’t heard of the change until residents spoke about it at last Thursday’s week’s meeting.
Airport manager Jim Brundige and Mr. Stanzione both said the route isn’t actually new—it’s one that helicopters used five years ago. Because the town did not have air traffic controllers to regulate traffic, airport officials directed helicopter pilots to stop using that route for safety reasons, said Mr. Brundige. But now that the town has the tower, controllers are able to safely regulate the airspace, he said.
There were 114 distinct households outside of East Hampton Town that filed aircraft noise complaints through the town’s noise hotline in July, according to data compiled by PlaneNoise, a company the town uses to collect and analyze the data. A total of 1,498 complaints were logged. Of those, 52 Sag Harbor households filed a total of 1,120 complaints—the most from any one geographic area outside of East Hampton Town.
Ms. Quigley sponsored two resolutions relating to the airport last week. One of them would send the data that PlaneNoise has been compiling to an outside consultant to analyze and provide recommendations to the Town Board on whether the data can justify the town restricting helicopter flights, and if so, how.
Another resolution spoke to airport security. It would require that members of the public enter the airport only through the terminal building. It would also provide perimeter security to prevent unauthorized access to the airfield and controlled access through one or two points available only to authorized personnel.
The two resolutions passed, with Democrats Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby voting against them. They said that they wanted to discuss the measures further.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she and Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera met with airport officials at the East Hampton Airport on Monday to discuss what could be done to mitigate noise impacts to Southampton Town residents. FAA officials took part in the meeting via conference call, she said.
She said she was told that East Hampton Town was collecting noise data this summer, and that flight patterns may be altered based upon the data collected. She said she suggested altering the flight patterns before the study was completed to see if it made a difference in noise complaints. Officials agreed to do that in the second half of August, said Ms. Throne-Holst.
They also talked about coming up with three or four different helicopter routes, Ms. Throne-Holst said. That would ensure that not one particular community is burdened by all the helicopter noise.
Helicopter noise has been an issue for years in Southampton Town, Ms. Throne-Holst noted on Monday. “We’ve tried to work proactively on it,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “What’s hard here is the FAA doesn’t regulate helicopter traffic—they don’t—and it’s an uphill battle that way. But today felt productive.”