A group of out-of-town residents descended on East Hampton Town Hall last Thursday demanding to know whether they’d see any relief this summer from a noisy helicopter route that directs East Hampton Airport traffic over their homes.
Residents from Noyac, Sag Harbor, Mattituck and Jamesport aired their concerns to the East Hampton Town Board. East Hampton Town residents also voiced their opinions.
A few who spoke were openly critical of Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who, as the board’s liaison to the airport, worked last summer to change the flight path of helicopters from one going over Northwest Woods in East Hampton to a route that flew over Jessup’s Neck and the power lines in Noyac in Southampton Town.
“To you, it’s out of sight, out of mind,” said James Ding, a Noyac resident, who said he’s heard helicopters over his home as early as 5 a.m. and as late as midnight. “… It’s your noise, and you slough it off on your neighbor to the west. Take some responsibility and own up to the problem.”
About a dozen people spoke on the issue—approximately half from East Hampton, the other half from out of town. Teresa McCaskie, of Mattituck, showed Town Board members a notebook in which she keeps a log of all the helicopters that fly over or near her home. Mattituck, she said, is the “crossover point” for helicopters heading to the East Hampton Airport. Flights over the North Fork are “not acceptable,” she said.
“I’m exhausted,” Ms. McCaskie added. “I’m mentally drained. I have anxiety. I work ’til midnight and I have a helicopter flying over my home at 6 a.m. in the morning?”
Janice LoRusso, a Jamesport resident, added to Ms. McCaskie’s comments. She said she used to live in Noyac.
“I remember sitting in my backyard in Noyac one day,” she said. “A helicopter came so low between my house and my neighbor’s. I looked up, I swear to God I could count that man’s nose hairs, he was so low. It’s frightening. You’re sitting in your backyard and all of a sudden, woop woop woop woop. I mean, I have an elderly mother. She’s 90. She needs this? Nobody needs this.” Frustration over last summer’s helicopter route change is not a new issue. Residents from Southampton Town have been making noise about the new route since it was implemented. East Hampton Airport officials have argued that the route isn’t new—it’s one that was used before 2005, and before the town had an air traffic control tower, which allows it to regulate aircraft within a 4.8-mile radius.
Patricia Currie of Noyac, a member of the Quiet Skies Coalition, an anti-noise group, said her home’s “being ruined” by helicopter traffic and blamed Mr. Stanzione. She said she’s “mad as hell.”
“You took an oath of office to represent the best values in this community,” Ms. Currie said, speaking directly to Mr. Stanzione. “I don’t think you’ve done that. In fact, I think you’ve besmirched the reputation of everyone on this board and half the town. You’ve lied, you’ve been deceitful. You’ve had other people come up, including [airport manager] Jim Brundige, as recently as Tuesday and according to Mr. Wilkinson, fall on his sword to protect you. I think that’s a very cowardly act. Very cowardly.”
Members of the Town Board offered their opinions on the issue and thanked residents for coming out to express their concerns. Mr. Wilkinson said the airport was an asset to the town and because it is the town’s airport, we should take our share of the traffic issues that go along with it.” He pointed out all the aircraft aren’t owned by East Hampton residents. Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said it’s becoming clear that simply changing routes “doesn’t solve a problem.” Councilwoman Theresa Quigley apologized to residents for actions that were taken by East Hampton Town officials that affected their neighborhoods without them being given a say in the matter.
Mr. Stanzione addressed the comments, pointing out that helicopter noise has been a problem for several years, while he has been on the Town Board for only three years. In those years, “this Town Board has done more to address airport activity than any other board that I’m aware of in the last decade,” he said
“Listen, I’ve worked very hard on the airport issues. I’ve had some successes, had some losses, made some changes, should have brought this issue to the Town Board, I’ve admitted that,” said Mr. Stanzione about the helicopter route change. “If the board wants to take this issue up, it certainly can. You know I can’t prevent them. I’m proud of East Hampton Airport. I think it‘s an asset to our community. Does it have problems? You bet it does. Is it a true asset to our community? I believe it is. So we can have the argument. I so much respect what you have presented the board with tonight. Certainly, I take to heart your criticism of me, but I also think that on balance this board has done a pretty good job with the airport. It has been a problem before we got here, before I got here. It may remain a problem after I leave. We’ll see how it turns out. We’ll see if someone does a better job than I have. But you know, I’ve given it my all, and I’ll stand on my record with that.”