Heliport in East Hampton

Dear Mr. Wilkinson, et. al:

I have lived in East Hampton since 1957. My wife Susan and I built our first house ourselves (on Two Holes of Water Road) in 1979, and had our current house constructed in 1995, on Wainscott Northwest Road, approximately 1.5 miles from the town airport. Susan teaches kindergarten in Sag Harbor and I teach high school in Southampton. Our three grown daughters have all attended East Hampton public schools, and my first teaching job was at EHHS in 1978. My father, Charles Raebeck, and my stepmother, Audrey, founded the Amagansett Resident Association, and then the Group for the South Fork in the early 1970’s. It is largely as a result of their great efforts, and those of other like-minded, and forward-thinking individuals, that East Hampton Town has the character it does, and the remaining beaches and woodlands it holds.

As a long time resident, I was well aware of the airport, and its flight patterns, when we built the current home. We knew we were not anywhere near the airplane flight patterns, and helicopter traffic was virtually non-existent. Susan is a gardener and the girls and I love being outdoors as well, and for years we enjoyed a relatively peaceful summer respite from our busy lives. That is no longer the case–and our quality of life, as well as that of my hundreds of neighbors (and likely thousands of people beyond this immediate area) has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer pleasant, or even bearable, to be outside for large periods of time–and this on a daily basis.

Helicopters now ROUTINELY fly over our house in THREE MINUTE INTERVALS at an altitude low enough to distinguish their markings. It is most insufferable in the late afternoons from 4:00 to 7:00 PM (the precise time when one is most likely to be outside in the summer). Yet, the cacophony is hardly limited to those times. Helicopters seem to come and go at will, and as often as the riders wish–revving engines at 6:00 AM , 11:30 PM, anytime at all. For every chopper that lands, the same one takes off, and only a little farther from our house as when incoming.

Right now, we might as well be living next to a HELIPORT, not in the once-bucolic woods of East Hampton. HOW HAS THIS BEEN ALLOWED TO HAPPEN?

That is the primary question, for I contend that it would not have happened if you lived where my family and neighbors do.

Additional questions that I, as a resident and taxpayer, would like accurate and prompt responses to:

1) How is helicopter traffic regulated at our airport?
2) What exactly are the numbers of take-offs and landings, year-by-year, for the past ten years?
3) Why has this traffic been allowed to increase so dramatically?
4) Why was the flight path brought lower and closer to our homes in the past two years?
5) What is the “hearing radius” of a helicopter in flight? In other words, how close does it have to be before it is annoying? How close before the noise is ear-splitting?
6) How many homes and people are within “hearing radius” of the flight paths? (It must be thousands…)
7) How is the altitude of take-offs and landings monitored, and by whom?
8.) Is it not patently obvious that a landing or departing helicopter is generating more than enough decibels to be in violation of local sound restriction ordinances? Why is this being ignored?
9) How many individual East Hampton residents use the helicopters on a routine basis and for what purposes? (It is apparent that uber-wealthy summer people may be now commuting daily to work, or shopping, via helicopter–a new addition to “vulgar excess.”)
10) What is the “carbon footprint” of a helicopter flight round trip from Manhattan? How is that justified in an era of climate change and international calls for conservation?
11) Why can’t we tell the uber-wealthy people they will have to go all the way to Westhampton if they want a chopper ride? Or take the jitney or their limousines?
12) Is it true that people such as the Spielbergs actually jet into Westhampton, as their jet is too big for East Hampton, and then chopper into East Hampton? (Someone I know well who works for them claims this is a routine occurrence, and, if so, it should also be relegated to the “vulgar excess” category, above.)
13) Finally, and most importantly, who is benefiting financially from helicopter traffic at our airport, and to what degree? Normally, in cases of the common good being destroyed by the wealthy few, money is flowing in various directions.  (If no one is benefiting much financially, then turning our little airport into a heliport is equally wrong.)

After you research and answer all of these pertinent questions, you might ask yourselves how it is good for this community to support such excessive helicopter landings in rural and wooded surroundings? Or why a town would reintroduce wild turkeys into its woodlands, yet care so little for the human inhabitants of those same regions?

The absurdly excessive disturbance caused by helicopter traffic in once-peaceful areas of East Hampton cannot be justified, can it? I didn’t build my house in Wainscott woods so that I could wave to godforsaken helicopters every three minutes, thousands of times each summer. Please help the many people affected, and severely restrict (or, better still, eliminate) this transportation travesty being perpetrated on us against our will–with no benefit to us of any kind. This issue is central to our quality of life, and not something we are willing to accept.

Finally, please provide me with as much information as possible, as we will next be sending this letter to the East Hampton Star, and it would be good to have your views prior to that.


Barry Raebeck, Ph.D.
PO Box 663
9 Knoll Lane (in the flight path)
Wainscott NY 11937


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