Hamptons town limits aircraft noise amid growing complaints

AP News
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Posted: Apr 17, 2015 1:23 PM

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — After receiving tens of thousands of complaints about noise from planes and helicopters shuttling the rich and famous into the Hamptons, an eastern Long Island town has passed new laws aimed at curtailing the cacophony.

"This is about addressing noise and providing some relief to residents," East Hampton town supervisor Larry Cantwell said Friday, a day after the town board voted to enact three new laws that go into effect Memorial Day weekend.

The town received 24,591complaints about airport-related noise last year; a year earlier there were 6,776 complaints, Cantwell said. He expects the new laws to reduce complaints considerably.

Teresa McCaskie, a year-round Mattituck resident and longtime critic of the noise, told The Associated Press earlier this year the noise was incessant.

"There's no ignoring it, no letting it go," she said. "And it's not just one or two; it's the constant pounding of the sound. You can't think clearly, you can't function. It's impossible."

A group supporting the helicopter industry decried the board's action and said it is considering a legal challenge.

One law creates an 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. year-round curfew on all takeoffs and landings. A second creates an extended curfew of 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. year round for aircraft considered noisy. The town also is limiting aircraft deemed noisy to landings and takeoffs once a week from May to September. "Noisy" aircraft definitions are classified by FAA sound standards.

Cantwell said another proposal, which would have restricted all helicopter flights into and out of the town-run airport from Thursday to Monday during the summer was withdrawn after officials became concerned the flights would move to nearby airports. "The last thing we wanted to do was move the problem somewhere else," Cantwell said.

The town says it has the ability to establish the restrictions because it is has stopped receiving FAA grant funding in recent years; Cantwell claims that gives local officials final word on airport operations.

Loren Riegelhaupt, spokesman for Friends of East Hampton Airport, which supports aircraft operators, called the town actions severe and illegal.

"Rather than working together to find a balanced, reasonable approach, as they promised, the town has passed restrictions that violate the law and result in dramatic loss in revenue for the airport and town," he said in a statement. "We are now forced to consider legal action to remedy this unfortunate situation."

The coalition previously filed lawsuits arguing the Federal Aviation Administration has an obligation to block the town's proposals and that the agency has yet to resolve pending safety issues at the airport. An FAA spokesman declined comment on Friday.

Cantwell said he understood that the industry needs to protect its interests, but added: "We have a broader responsibility than simply protecting the helicopter industry."