A general aviation airport in the Hamptons that has drawn fire from neighbors for its helicopter and jet noise will soon be only for private use, with cuts looming for commercial traffic.
East Hampton Airport, the center of a longstanding debate over the increasing rumble of choppers and jets swooping in on the exclusive enclave, will transition to private use — with all pilots required to get permission in advance to land, according to the East Hampton Star.
The so-called “prior-permission-required” model unveiled by East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc would mean that helicopter and other aircraft operators must obtain authorization ahead of time to “have full operational use” of the public airport.
The move could signal restrictions at the Wainscott facility owned and operated by the Town of East Hampton that could ban commercial aircraft, restrict aircraft from helicopters to jets, limit the frequency of flights, or even close the airport altogether. The terminal and runways, once overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration, reverted to town control in September.
“The important point is that we will be looking to specifically target these measures to improve residents’ quality of life,” Van Scoyoc said during a state-of-the-town address, the Star reported.
It is the latest twist in a battle over the 600-acre airport, which some say has outgrown its surroundings. Opponents want it closed and turned into a public park, while users and the businesses that serve them prefer that it remain open to all comers.
Underlying the more than decade-long debate has been increasing noise and pollution by rotary wing and jet traffic. It is a fight between those with access to helicopters and jets and those without.
Noise from aircraft depresses surrounding property values, not to mention quality of life. One owner of a home in the airport’s flight path likened it to “living near JFK.”
Others see a commercial ban as a ploy by the super-rich to deny airport use to people who can’t afford their own jet and give themselves exclusive access to the facility. “The 2 percent versus the 1 percent,” one local politician dubbed it.
One stakeholder described people who can’t afford their own jets, but can afford a nice house in the Hamptons, as “unmonied” and “disgruntled.”
A ban on commercial flights could cost East Hampton $3 million to $7 million a year in tax revenue. With the airport off limits, jet setters would be forced to land at Montauk Airport, a privately owned strip 26 miles away (as the whirlybird flies) at the tip of Long Island.
Van Scoyoc insisted that any regulations implemented by East Hampton will be on a trial basis, intimating that he does not want to shift his town’s noise problem to Montauk.
The prior-permission policy for East Hampton Airport is expected to begin this winter so that restrictions will be in place before a summer surge in air traffic.
[The East Hampton Star] — Dana Bartholomew