Letter to Editor, East Hampton Star, July 25, 2010

A new airport plan being generated by East Hampton, soon to be released and offered for comment, approval and, probably, adoption, proposes improvements, changes and other things to promote greater efficiency, safety and, supposedly, noise abatement. Helicopter noise has taken a prominent position in the discussion. However, a larger issue is that all aircraft make noise. Some make more noise than others. All traffic to and from the airport disturbs the peace and quiet of residents of East Hampton, Southampton and other townships in the paths of these aircraft. Most discussion of the airport and the problems associated with it are put in present tense – never addressing future consequences of growth. The improvements contemplated by the new plan will have the unintended potential of increasing airport capacity. Therefore, any improvement via “noise abatement” achieved will be mocked by increased traffic guaranteed by an improved economy. 

The proposals have cost implications and will have to be funded. East Hampton Town is bankrupt from years of fiscal irresponsibility. It is clear that the town cannot pay for whatever proposals are offered, however modest. The sole funding source remains the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has funded airport “improvements” in the past and has stripped citizens of local control for years by requiring adherence to their “regulations.” My understanding is that the restrictions imposed by previous acceptance of FAA funds are soon to expire. It is important that these kinds of restrictions not be renewed. 

If any improvements contemplated by this latest plan are adopted, they must be funded locally without the limiting regulations of the FAA. (I am guessing that the East Hampton Republican administration would not dare to propose new taxes to fund airport improvements.) If improvements are going to be made, funding should come from airport users. Let the privileged few and commercial entities (some non-local) who profit from their activities pay for the amenities that enable their degradation to our environment. The noise is an external cost for which users pay nothing. It is, in fact, a tax on all. 

East Hampton Town has to be warned that any decision that further disenfranchises the citizens of East Hampton and Southampton will be contested. Southampton must enjoy at least equal political and legal responsibility in decision making about any investment (federal or local) in the airport. Allocating all airport legal and contractual power to East Hampton Town is inherently unjust and undemocratic. The airport is on the western edge of the East Hampton. The prevailing winds come from the west. Winged aircraft take off into the wind. Taking off requires maximum power with the greatest noise generated. Consequently, Southampton suffers the most negative noise impact. Any future plans if adopted, should include limitations on maximum ultimate size, maximum allowable noise, hours of operation and authority to impose fines, landing fees and anything else necessary to control negative impact on our environment. And the discussion should be specific with measurable criteria and means of holding people and government accountable. Control has to be returned to the citizens affected. To date, for many years, talk has promised progress. The result has been smoke and more noise.

Enough taxation without representation

Stephen Levine, Sagaponack, NY

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