Court Upholds Curfew for Noisy Aircraft in East Hampton (New York)

JUNE 27, 2015

On Friday federal judge Joanna L. Seybert of the Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip granted a preliminary injunction that allows the East Hampton Airport to implement some limitations on helicopter and jet traffic in and out of the airport. However, the injunction will allow much of the heavy air traffic to East Hampton Airport to continue through this summer despite an effort to limit it.

In April the East Hampton town board passed resolutions restricting what it defines as noisy aircraft, including almost all helicopters and many jets, to two uses a week, or one takeoff and one landing, during the summe. That restriction would hobble the charter services that operate like taxis for the rich. The board also prohibited all flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and noisy flights between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.

East Hampton officials argued that because the town stopped accepting federal grants from the Federal Aviation Administration this year, it could set whatever regulations it wanted for the airport without adhering to federal airport guidelines.

A group called the Friends of East Hampton Airport, which includes air-charter companies, pilots, and fuel companies, sued the town, saying it had violated federal aviation law and “transgressed the bounds of its extremely limited authority.” That group argued that the aircraft help the town by paying takeoff and landing fees, and that small businesses would suffer if wealthy weekenders could no longer fly in.

Judge Seybert ruled that the group had demonstrated that the restriction on the number of flights per week would cause irreparable harm to their businesses and thus enjoined the town from implementing the restriction. However, her order upholds the town’s limits on when noisy planes could fly in, as well as when all traffic could fly in.

Alternatives for getting to the Hamptons include the Long Island Railroad ($27) and a $50 Sea Jitney ride. Of course, all those take time — about two and a half hours, give or take, from Midtown Manhattan. Those who are “time poor,” as one helicopter-charter site puts it, look skyward for 43-minute helicopter flights like the $575 Midtown-to-East Hampton trip offered by Blade, an Uber-like app that coordinates charter flights.

Air traffic has increased at East Hampton Airport, though by how much depends on who is counting. From 2013 to 2014, town officials say, it rose 23 percent and helicopter traffic jumped 47 percent. The Friends of East Hampton Airport says that all air traffic rose just 2 percent. (The discrepancy, the industry group says, is a product of East Hampton at some point installing a wider camera at the airport that led it to count more flights than it had previously had; it says its own figures come from airport logbooks.)

Jane Gill, a real-estate broker who lives in Sagaponack, near the airport, was girding on Friday for another summer weekend streaked with noise as she hurried to meet a client. “It’s so loud and so low that my house actually shakes,” she said. On Thursdays, when the weekend travelers start coming in, she said, she makes sure to skip dinner at home because of the noise. The disruption, she said, lasts all weekend. Last Friday she spent the afternoon with a friend who was renting a $45 million house on Georgica Pond, and they counted about 20 helicopters in the span of an hour or two. “Who’s going to buy that property for $45 million if they sat there on a summer day, a Friday, and listened to that?” Ms. Gill said.

Source: New York Times

See also: Related lawsuit in federal court, Friends of the East Hampton Airport, Inc. et al. v. F.A.A., et al., No. 15-CV-0441 (Eastern District for New York).