Anti-noise activists failed in their first attempt to prevent East Hampton Town from seeking a Federal Aviation Administration grant, falling short of convincing a judge to block the action during a hearing in New York State Supreme Court last Wednesday, December 7.
The activists, some of whom are members of the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, claim that the contractual obligations that come attached to FAA grants prevent the town from regulating air traffic and noise at East Hampton Airport.
The East Hampton Town Board unanimously agreed to seek a grant for the design of a perimeter fence around the airport last Tuesday, December 6, with members saying they would explore new ways of mitigating noise while under contract with the FAA.
Jeff Bragman, an attorney for the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, argued during the two-hour court hearing for a temporary restraining order to prevent the town from seeking the grant, but Justice John J.J. Jones Jr. rejected the request.
On Thursday, Mr. Bragman said a temporary restraining order is “very hard to get against anybody, much less a town,” and that the Coalition to Stop Airport Expansion will continue to try to get a preliminary injunction preventing the town from seeking the grant.
The Committee to Stop Airport Expansion is currently locked in a lawsuit with the town over the town’s Airport Master Plan, a document that is necessary for the municipality to apply for FAA grants. The committee filed the lawsuit last year, claiming the town did not conduct a proper environmental review before approving the plan.
Town Board members hailed the court’s decision on Thursday.
“The court’s support for our bipartisan, unanimous Town Board decision advances the prospects for comprehensive management strategies that place a high value on safety, fiscal responsibility and a much quieter airport,” Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the Town Board’s liaison to the airport, said in a press release. “We are a step closer to really reducing the impact of aviation noise.”
The FAA received the town’s grant application last Tuesday afternoon, according to the press release, shortly after the Town Board agreed to seek it.
The East Hampton Aviation Association, an advocacy group made up of pilots and airport users, also applauded the court’s decision in a press release the day after the hearing.
“The East Hampton Aviation Association hailed the court’s decision as confirmation that the town had lawfully rendered its decision on the issue of the deer fencing and the policy of using FAA funds at the East Hampton Town Airport,” said Harold Levy, president of the Aviation Association.
The Aviation Association and the town both argued in court against the restraining order.
Mr. Bragman dismissed the opposite side’s celebration, saying there’s still a chance the court could block the grant.
“For them to say the court has embraced their project is an exaggeration,” he said. “This is too serious for PR treatment, sound bite treatment.”
David Gruber, a member of the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, acknowledged last week that it is difficult to obtain an injunction against a municipality, but said his group could still block the FAA grant if it wins its lawsuit and the court invalidates the town’s Airport Master Plan.