Ah, summer in the Hamptons — the smell of freshly manicured lawns, the mist from waves crashing against pristine beaches, and the buzz of helicopters zooming by.
Locals fed up with aircraft noise are on the verge of silencing much of it, but lawsuits could still ground their effort to privatize the East Hampton Airport, the New York Times reported.
Opponents of the airport’s closure have filed lawsuits to keep the strip a municipal facility. The airport is scheduled to close May 17 and reopen as a private facility two days later.
The new status would allow the town to impose curfews and restrict the number of flights as it responds to complaints about helicopter noise and the effect frequent flights have on property values.
The temporary closure was originally set to take place in February, but after East Hampton Town officials huddled with the Federal Aviation Administration, it was pushed to May.
“The airport has been here a long time, but it has changed, aircraft have changed, flight patterns have changed,” Town of Southampton supervisor Jay Schneiderman told the Times. Southampton is often buzzed by the helicopters.
Officials have signaled they could ban commercial aircraft and impose other restrictions on the airport. The terminal and runways, formerly overseen by the FAA, reverted to town control in September.
Complaints about flights coming in and out of the airport have soared in recent years. In 2015, there were about 19,000 complaints from July to September. Four years later, complaints more than doubled to 47,000, though they came from only 553 households. In 2020, two households complained a combined 4,638 times.
On the other side of the fight are those who enjoy the option of a quick escape to the Hamptons. Some local business owners believe keeping the airport open will help keep the area’s economy humming in the summer.
“People are going to get here one way or another,” Andy Sabin, owner of an international metals company (and notably, shares in three private jets), told the Times.
Another fear linked to the airport closure is that the 1 percent will land their helicopters elsewhere in the Hamptons. Blade, a helicopter charter company that filed one of the lawsuits against the closure, could look toward the Montauk Airport and Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach.
[NYT] — Holden Walter-Warner