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Dec 2, 2014 3:48 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Second Phase Of East Hampton Airport Noise Analysis Aired, Time Restrictions Recommended

Dec 2, 2014 3:55 PM

Following more than an hour of public commentary on airport noise, which included proposals on how the town should proceed once it is free of Federal Aviation Administration control next year, the East Hampton Town Board at its Tuesday work session presented the second phase of its airport noise analysis.

Much of the report confirmed what East End residents have been saying all along—that helicopters generate the most complaints of any aircraft during evening and early morning hours. The most reasonable and obvious solution to the problem? Time-based restrictions that would limit traffic, according to consultants at Harris, Miller, Miller and Hanson, or HMMH, and the attorneys at Kaplan, Kirsch & Rockwell, which represents the town.

In his presentation to the board, Ted Baldwin of HMMH said that his firm gathered 12 months of complaint data and identification data from the airport’s Vector system and compiled it with the information given during the first phase of the noise analysis and found that between November 1, 2013, and October 31 of this year, nearly 24,000 complaints were recorded, from 633 households.

“This is truly extraordinary,” Mr. Baldwin said. “There’s a very good reason that we’re meeting here. [Chicago] O’Hare International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, until October last year was collecting 1,200 to 1,300 complaints a month.”

According to Mr. Baldwin, the Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged the effectiveness of using substantial complaint data for decision-making in its ruling on the New York North Shore Helicopter Route.

Mr. Baldwin said during that time residents find helicopters more disturbing than any category of fixed-wing aircraft because the complaints increase at a faster rate than the rate of operations, meaning that there was more than one complaint per operation, where as the other aircraft typically received one per operation.

Approximately 25 percent of all annual operations at East Hampton Airport were done by 25 specific aircraft: 14 helicopters, five single turbopropeller seaplanes, five other propeller aircraft, and one jet. High season at the airport begins May 1 and runs through October 31.

Katie van Heuven, an attorney with Kaplan, Kirsch & Rockwell, said her firm and HMMH looked at eight different solutions the town could adopt to deal with the noise, but whatever they choose would have to be narrowly tailored to the specific problem and it cannot be unjust, discriminatory or overly responsive.

With those guidelines and a clear problem—that East End residents find helicopters more disturbing than any other aircraft, especially during busy times and in the evening and early morning hours—there is a clear solution, which is to restrict times in which aircraft can fly in and out of the airport.

She added, however, that it won’t be one option that solves the problem but a “menu of options” that should “work together as a collective whole.”

She mentioned that a possible ban on certain aircraft, a slot system to manage the flow of traffic, and voluntary measures on the part of pilots could all work, but she added that more analysis must be done before any of those solutions can be considered. Ms. van Heuven said that these options would have to be narrowly tailored so as not to be arbitrary and that to simply ban commercial flights would be difficult.

She said taking no action is not an option, given the large number of complaints, and that increasing fees during peak periods or for specific aircraft wouldn’t be a good approach either. She said the town would have to raise the fees high enough to change people’s behavior, but it might not be seen as reasonable under federal law and could put practical limits on who can use the airport.

Although Mr. Balwdin said that “altitude is noise abatement,” in his presentation, the town cannot make any decisions about flight. They can only decide on access to the airport.

Several residents supported a complete ban of helicopters, citing major disturbances they’ve had, especially within the last couple of years. Many said that the town should return the airport to recreational use only.

“I can see helicopters in line, following each other all day long,” said Sag Harbor resident James Ding. “I’m going to fight this thing every chance I get, because this is just ridiculous. Take control. Be a hero or be Nero.”

He said that on television he watched an executive of Blade, a new crowd-sourcing enterprise that offers helicopter seats between Manhattan and East Hampton for as low as $109, and he was perplexed. “It’s double the amount of a Hampton Ambassador seat,” he said. “What person is not going to get on and go? Now it is a high-priced taxi service, and we all know it.”

Some pilots said a ban or extreme restrictions would be detrimental.

“I’ve been called a wealthy old man, a cowboy, morally corrupt, a 1-percenter, and an outside interest,” said pilot Kathryn Slye. “I can assure you, I am none of those things.”

Ms. Slye, who said she is a local pilot who flies a Cessna, said she was told during campaign season in 2013 that such measures wouldn’t be taken. “I asked Kathee [Burke-Gonzalez] if she’d support putting extreme restrictions on the airport, and she said, ‘I would never take extreme actions relative to the airport’—yet here we are,” she said. “The Town Board needs to ensure it protects the interests of local pilots, those of us who take our little Cessnas and buzz around in the sky.”

The second phase of the noise analysis will be available on the town’s website.

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"Be a hero or be Nero."

Well said . . .

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle
By Nero (221), Sag Harbor on Dec 2, 14 8:29 PM
The helicopters need to be banned. Leave the small plane recreational pilots alone. The jets are in and out quickly. Set their hours of operation like all planes. Increase landing fees for non resident registered planes and close the airport between 8:30 am and 6:30 pm. NO HELICOPTERS! They are dangerous to me and my environment.
By Fishnut (6), East hampton on Dec 2, 14 9:45 PM
Given their noise profile, the only solution for the helicopters is to ban them. This is, as far as I can tell, a fairly universal observation. If the Town ignores it, it ignores the will of its citizens, at its peril.

Other aircraft, and especially jets and seaplanes, should also face restrictions - including time slotting - in relation to their noise generation.
By Ken Dorph (2), Sag Harbor on Dec 2, 14 9:51 PM
Just remember that if those bans are put in place they will be universally enforced - there will be NO exceptions. So when Hillary Clinton is supposed to show up at a fund raiser she's gonna have to take the Jitney, when Guild Hall has a problem with the film it is showing to a bunch of celebrity kids the backup film is going to have to be driven out from NYC, when Oscar winner/famous director/renowned author/popular artist XYZ wants to come to East Hampton they are gonna have to sit in 5 hours ...more
By localEH (188), East Hampton on Dec 4, 14 12:56 AM
Sounds just fine to me. Hard to worry much about the celebs or their kids.
By kbrushphd (1), Shelter Island on Jan 28, 15 7:28 PM
The aircraft noise issue not only affects quality of life; excessive aircraft traffic is destroying the property values of thousands of east end residents including the north fork.
By ThomasShelford (1), Huntington, New York on Dec 2, 14 11:38 PM
That's not showing up in real estate sales.
By But I'm a blank! (1271), Hampton Bays on Dec 3, 14 12:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
How do you know that's untrue? A house that sells for a million could otherwise sell for 1.2 million but for the fact that it's subjected to air traffic noise or at least prospective buyers think it is.
By harbor (256), East Hampton on Dec 3, 14 8:57 AM
How do you know it is true? You're just rampantly speculating. You have no data to support your position. That's only your biased and unsupported wish that it was true. I can just as easily claim home property values have gone up because the airport provides accessibility and that extreme restrictions on the airport will cause property values to plummet.
By localEH (188), East Hampton on Dec 3, 14 10:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
The article on this topic that appeared in The Independent included some information that was omitted by The Press, to wit, a proposal by Peter Wolf and Ken Lipper, in response to more than 500 mailed responses from East Hampton residents, and in consultation with the legal firm of Cravath, Swain & Moore, to bar helicopter and seaplane landing at the airport entirely and to limit the airport's operating hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to the Press article, the town has no control over ...more
By highhatsize (3135), East Quogue on Dec 3, 14 8:02 AM
That's because the town's own consultants shot down their absurd proposal to require every aircraft to buy a landing slot via auction as being unfeasible and unreasonable. Also the town's attorneys, who are much more experienced, have spent a lot more time with this issue, and were not paid by Lipper and Wolf to say what they wanted them to say, specifically disagreed about banning all commercial aircraft. By the way 500 signatures is embarrassingly low. Even the people opposed to extending deer ...more
By localEH (188), East Hampton on Dec 3, 14 10:17 AM
to localEH:

Here's what Cravath, Swain & Moore had to say about the Lipper and Wolf proposal:

"The Proposal reflects a reasonable and non-arbitrary approach to the reduction of noise pollution, and does so in a manner that does not improperly discriminate against aircraft or aircraft operators for reasons other than the amount and timing of the noise they generate, individually and in the aggregate."

If necessary, Cravath, Swain & Moore's legal opinion can be confirmed ...more
By highhatsize (3135), East Quogue on Dec 3, 14 11:31 PM
For the right price a legal opinion paper can be bought that confirms the moon is made of blue cheese. Why are a couple of billionaire real estate investors so hell bent on getting their way? I wonder if the airport land being valued at over $1 billion (pre-development) has anything to do with it...
By localEH (188), East Hampton on Dec 4, 14 12:45 AM
Lipper and Wolf's motive is irrelevant. (Although, since the proposal does NOT envision the airport's closure, one wonders how the value of the land on which it sits could be seen as causal.) Only a trial will test the validity of Cravath, Swain & Moore's legal opinion.

Moreover, the assumption, arguendo, of an underhanded agenda by Lipper and Wolf, does not invalidate the opinions of thousands of residents who agree with them and who cannot be so disparaged.
By highhatsize (3135), East Quogue on Dec 4, 14 6:05 AM
The Town Board will likely adopt the most aggressive helicopter restrictions it thinks the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will allow.
By PAW47 (7), East Hampton on Dec 3, 14 10:18 AM
Good reporting. Much appreciated.
By Mark M (3), Arlington on Dec 3, 14 12:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
The major economic impact of banning helos and jets will be to Sound Aviation. I wouldn't worry about the Town. A GA friendly airport catering to small singles can be successful. It's was that way in East Hampton not long ago. The Town needs to return to that model. Less commercial, high impact flights. More small, low impact users. Stop trying to make HTO like ACK.
By TomHansen (1), Uniondale, New York on Dec 5, 14 10:08 PM
Rarely has there been a case so definitive. The helicopter operators (and their agents [e.g. Bill Wilkinson]) want to continue to defecate on thousands of innocent residents to gratify their solipsistic avarice. The huge consensus of unvested town residents is that the helicopter compainies' wishes be denied.

What will the outcome be?

Odds? 85/15 - helicopter companies/un-"connected" residents.
By highhatsize (3135), East Quogue on Dec 6, 14 8:49 PM