The October 12 East Hampton Airport Re-Envisioning Report delivered by the consultants Dodson and Flinker to the East Hampton Town Board has produced potentially very misleading results. While presented as an objective assessment of the views of the East Hampton community arising out of the series of workshops, and with all good intentions to be objective, it is seriously flawed in terms of that objectivity. The report suffers from “sample bias,” and the result was a non-representative assessment of the general population.
What was held was much more akin to what are called “focus panels,” where a question is raised among a group and the group responds in a transparent, non-blinded manner. This sets up a bias where focus panels are very often driven by strong opinion attendees, and you need a skilled moderator to manage for that. The moderator did nothing of the sort.
The workshop panels could not and should not have been used to assess the unbiased opinions of a broad community, but would have been better used in a later stage for brainstorming re-envisioning alternatives. What should have been used is an online survey that goes out to all East Hampton Town residents, is done in a blinded manner, and is then adjusted for the population percentage of each hamlet/village based on who responded.
The result has been an over-representation of the valid concerns of Montauk residents on the risk of aircraft diversion (which, due to the structural limitations of that airport, is a red herring), since all of the workshops had a preponderance of Montauk residents.
Conversely, there was an under-representation of the broad number of East Hampton Town and Southampton Town residents’ valid concerns about current aircraft noise. One could say that those who were motivated came out. But we all know that elections with low turnout are non-representative … and so were the results of this effort.
I fear that the final actions by the East Hampton Town Board will be equally biased toward no real solution to the unbearable aircraft noise and pollution we are suffering.
Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee
One fine body…