Where We Stand
November 18, 2011
Hon. William Wilkinson, Supervisor
Hon. Peter Hammerle, Councilman
Hon. Julia Prince, Councilwoman
Hon. Theresa Quigley, Councilwoman
Hon. Dominick Stanzione, Councilman
Town of East Hampton
159 Pantigo Road
East Hampton, NY 11937
Dear Supervisor Wilkinson and Town Board Members:
Voices across East Hampton and beyond its borders insist that any consideration of the extension of federal control of our airport for another 20 years be stopped right now. We must do so in order to decide together how we wish to proceed in a way that reflects the entire community’s best interests.
If the town does not take any more FAA money, FAA control over airport access will expire on December 31, 2014. The town would than be able to impose curfews, limit the number of operations at the airport, and even exclude aircraft types, such as helicopters, based on how noisy they are. All of these measures have been approved by the federal Court of Appeals in our jurisdiction for airports that are not under FAA control.
The airport is no longer a small local one serving hobby pilots, but a major airport dominated by jets and helicopters. We must get at the strategic vision of how we see the airport fitting into the Town’s Comprehensive Plan before we continue with anything –including deer fences – as an excuse to re-engage federal control. There is an existing deer fence that can be repaired. Even if a new one is needed, the cost is a small fraction of the $1.5 million surplus now held by the airport fund. By law, that surplus can only be spent on the airport. So, with or without FAA money, the deer fence can be made fit at no cost to the East Hampton taxpayers.
One way the local affected population thinks of the increased, and increasing, presence of overhead aircraft at all hours of the day and night is that we’re “under attack” by helicopters and jets—two types of aircraft that just didn’t exist when the small, local airport we’re supposed to have was constructed.
However, what we now have is a major airport that serves only a few residents and visitors, less than 1% of the population, but disturbs a broad swathe of the population within East Hampton and beyond its borders. As we know, Wainscott, Georgica, and Northwest are particularly affected in East Hampton, and our neighboring communities north and to the west have consistently complained about our arrogance in having their lives disturbed for just a few passengers on the helicopters and jets. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of lives are bearing the brunt of noise and air pollution that is inimical to our semi-rural quality of life.
According to the information available from the Quiet Skies Coalition, “EHA has become a major metropolitan airport, with peak capacity comparable to Islip MacArthur Airport. Islip is designated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) as an Official Metropolitan Airport, in the same category as JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. Islip has an average of 499 operations (takeoffs and landings) per day. EHA has a summer average of 400 operations per day, based on figures available on the EH Town website.
This huge change in airport use and kind has occurred despite no formal update or approval of the airport description in our Town Plan. This is so despite the fact that less than 1% of the people in this town benefit in some way from this airport--and an increasing number of residents are calling for the airport to be scaled back, not expanded.”
In addition to the noise pollution, there are real concerns and effects on groundwater, air quality, and other environmental issues to consider. Again, according to the Quiet Skies Coalition, “… nearly 800,000 gallons of aircraft fuel were pumped at EHA in 2008. Emissions from aircraft are a proven contributor to global warming and overall air pollution.”
Moreover, again as Quiet Skies Coalition says, “EHA is the single greatest polluter of the environment of any facility or operation in the Town of East Hampton, or on the East End. In addition to the obvious noise pollution, aircraft emissions foul the air, harm the ozone layer, contribute mightily to global warming, waste fossil fuel, frighten some animal and bird populations, and potentially harm our sole source aquifer under preserved watershed lands.”
This is a major environmental and quality of life issue that affects a broad population, and we need to hear their voices before we proceed. In support of the Quiet Skies Coalition, we at East Hampton Conservators urge the Town Board to stop and consider the broader issues involved before any decision, small or large, is made about the airport.
Before the Town Board contravenes the concerns of large numbers of citizens who want to control noise, air and ground pollution from the airport, there has to be a citizens’ airport summit -- similar to the business summits that this present administration has been willing to gather together -- to air the issues before us, carefully and thoughtfully and consistently within the intentions of the Town Comprehensive Plan.
Given that we have recently had new elections, it seems fair and incumbent on the existing Town Board to give voice to those citizens who have voted for the newly elected board members—and wait for them to begin their terms before any decision is made. We do not doubt a strong outcry against any decision taken in haste, as it would be viewed as a political maneuver by the present Board to avoid considering the citizens’ recently expressed intentions to modify, among things, the present Board’s environmental and quality of life record.
David B. Doty, Treasurer