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Letter to the Editor, East Hampton Press, Sept. 16, 2009

Appeared in East Hampton Press 9/16/09

Dear Editor,

I began calling the Noise Complaint Hotline as a result of unsafe operations of helicopters flying in fog and low cloud conditions at tree-top-levels. On Friday before Memorial Day, 2008 I came home from work on Industrial Road. I came upon the airport, noticed it was fogged in so I could not see the end of the runway. I ducked as a helicopter took off and flew above my vehicle. I saw another helicopter taking off and shook my head. I drove up my driveway, parked, got out and heard a deafening sound. I looked up and saw the belly of a helicopter. My immediate thought was the helicopter was coming down. I jumped and hit the ground.

I lived for twenty five years 1.3 miles north of East Hampton Airport along Daniel’s Hole Road or Wainscott Northwest Road. At that time the airport was a private airport used primarily by private aircraft owners. The use expanded into a commercial enterprise of helicopters and seaplanes ferrying passengers to and from the Hamptons. The expansion of use is greater than what is permitted by code. It may become impossible for the town to enforce its ordinances without other businesses crying foul for discriminatory practices or hypocritical enforcement.

The FAA is unwilling to enforce regulations in East Hampton airspace. The airport manager and the Town are powerless to enforce aircraft regulations in East Hampton airspace. Helicopters are not required to follow minimum altitude regulations that fixed wing aircraft must. There is anarchy and chaos in the airspace over East Hampton. Imagine no police force or DMV laws on the roads in East Hampton.

In the noise law, the Town excluded aircraft. This preempts the Town from enforcing noise requirements on aircraft. The Town must remove the aircraft exclusion from the law since it is self serving, and a conflict of interest to allow operations ferrying passengers to generate noise pollution and not allow restaurants that only play music. Noise levels cannot exceed 65dB from 7am-7pm and 50dB from 7pm-7am in residential districts. The data I will present to the Town records almost 400 entries of sound levels from 75dB-90dB only when I am home.

Zoning laws separate uses horizontally. Zoning laws separate commercial properties from residential properties due to the impacts of commercial use. Zoning laws do not take into consideration vertical zoning. In the airspace above the Town commercial operations of aircraft are allowed to impact residential neighborhoods with persistent percussive noise at sound levels of 75-90dB. It occurs during all hours of the night and early morning. Ferrying people to and from East Hampton did not receive approvals or scrutiny. What is worse the Town is allowing them to operate on Town property. This is discriminatory zoning.

My report can be found on www.ehhelicopternoise.com after Thursday’s meeting. I made thirty four calls regarding unsafe operations of helicopters. It is indisputable that flying tree-top-level is unsafe. The Town Board has the power to shut down the airport due to unsafe conditions. The safety of aircraft and airspace is in the jurisdiction of the FAA.  The airport should be closed until the FAA takes on the responsibility to keep the airspace above East Hampton safe.

It is impossible to bring helicopters into the airport without impacting residential properties. A solution is to route helicopters and seaplanes 1-2 miles offshore to Montauk airport. The helicopters will not fly over residential properties and a twenty minute car ride for the passengers is acceptable. The Airport can return to its original state as a private airport for private aircraft owners.

Frank

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