We Need A Commitment - 27 East

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Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1739983

We Need A Commitment

Every airport in America is assigned a three-letter identification/designator code by the Federal Aviation Administration. Some, like JFK or LAX, are well-known and, indeed, have become part of the modern lexicon.

Our airport at Gabreski has the designator-code of FOK.

Yes, that’s correct — it’s our airport-designator code, not a collective expression of community dismay at hearing that Amazon.com could, conceivably, start airfreight operations to supplement their proposed mega-trucking operation at Gabreski [“County Offers Amazon Tax Breaks For Giant Westhampton Warehouse,” 27east.com, November 4].

So, it was gratifying to see the airport manager testifying in front of Suffolk County legislators recently, answering questions about this proposed project. In addition to the pablum that regularly is served up at committee hearings like this, there was, surprisingly, one penetrating question: “What barriers would there be to Amazon effecting a start-up airfreight operation?”

Interesting question. According to the airport manager, there purports to be four barriers: the FAA, the ground handler, a Southampton Town local zoning law, and Suffolk County’s lease (or sublease) with respect to the airport properties.

But any cursory analysis can quickly eliminate the first two. Despite FOK being currently designated as a “general” airport, FAA approval could easily be gotten for cargo “charter” flights by using Part 135 of the FAA code. Even converting Gabreski into an airport capable of accepting large, scheduled cargo aircraft (under Part 139 of the FAA code) involves few barriers and little cost, because Gabreski is already a sophisticated airport operation due to the Air Force’s presence and the large FAA tower operation. (Remember, the FAA is in the business of promoting aviation activity, not restricting it, in the interest of interstate commerce.)

The ground handling question is trivial. Sheltair, the only ground handler at FOK, would probably love to have Amazon as a customer. And if they didn’t, somebody else would quickly raise their hand.

That leaves the town and the county. Southampton Town apparently has a local zoning law that would prohibit airfreight operations at the airport, but we know from our legal friends that local zoning laws can be overridden in New York State by counties bent on effecting public works that involve what the state courts have come to define as a “balancing of public interests.”

So, dear readers, we are left with the magnanimity of Suffolk County. Even if there are covenants in the existing lease (county with the developer) or in the sublease (developer with Amazon), those could easily be amended with the consent of both parties.

Accordingly, what our communities need — and by that we mean Westhampton Beach, Quogue and East Quogue — is a commitment from Suffolk County not to agree to any airfreight operations by Amazon at Gabreski.

Will the county give us those assurances? And, if so, when?

Mark J. Schulte

Quogue

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