My Statement at Public Hearing Regarding EH Airport Proposed Restrictions, March 12, 2015

My name is Frank Dalene, I founded East Hampton Helicopter Noise Coalition, co-founded Quiet Skies Coalition. I serve on the Airport Planning, Airport Noise Sub-Committee and serve on the Budget Finance Advisory, Airport Sub-Committee. I am a pilot. I make this statement as an individual.

Noise abatement is a failed policy around the country. Naples airport spent over $6.5 Million on noise abatement with no relief in sight. Santa Monica Airport has the strictest noise abatement regulations, highest noise abatement fines in the country and the town is looking to close the airport when their grant assurances expire next year. Noise abatement utterly failed in East Hampton in the prior administrations.

The only effective way to reduce aircraft noise is to restrict and limit its use. It has been my goal for the past seven years to ban helicopter use at East Hampton Airport. I didn’t get what I wanted. However I wish to thank Supervisor Larry Cantwell, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, liaison to the airport and the entire Town Board for taking real, meaningful steps to restrict and limit aircraft use at East Hampton Airport. I consider these proposed four regulations to be important first steps in reducing aircraft noise. This allows us to further study its effectiveness, gives us real data to analyze impacts and make adjustments to fine tune these regulations once implemented.

The profiteers and carpetbaggers from New Jersey flying their magic carpets whose aircraft will be impacted by these regulations have pulled out all stops sending their attack dogs to fabricate personal attacks, invent conspiracy theories, promote baseless fear mongering and absurd doomsday scenarios about the real estate market, local economy and closure of the airport. This was predictable. No business wants their profits reduced by regulations.

I am in the construction business. No industry in East Hampton has faced more regulations and economic down turns that negatively impacted their businesses than the real estate and construction industry in the 35 years I have been in business in East Hampton. We faced outright moratoriums on development, moratoriums on building in the business corridor, regulations on licensing, building code regulations that increased the cost of building, up-zoning that reduced allowed density, clearing restrictions, adoption of the comprehensive plan causing widespread restrictions on development and construction and three major economic down turns that reduced our revenues 50%, vaporized a four year backlog with overnight cancellations of executed contracts on major construction projects and real estate values that plummeted 40-50%. Some of the restrictions we supported in opposition to our industry organizations because we believed they were best for our community and best for our environment which we personally cherish here on the east end. I recall vividly when Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office called me to support the 2% transfer tax known as the Community Preservation Fund to preserve open space. I immediately said, yes and was ostracized for many years by the Long Island builders organization who was opposed to it. I am being ostracized and attacked now for my position on this issue by my fellow pilots.

When regulations and the economy impacted our business, we never blamed anyone; we never believed the town owed us a living, we never believed the town guaranteed us work and we never sued anyone. We engaged the democratic process as we are doing today and at the end of the day the chips fell mostly against us. There was no certainty in the future, we never knew when the next hammer would fall, but this I can tell you; the local economy is extraordinarily resilient, local businesses are astonishingly resilient, we adapt, we adjust and we reinvent ourselves. If we are smart, we survive.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for forty-nine years. Many times we don’t have all the data to make an informed decision, we learn to listen to our gut. In the past year while serving on two airport committees, I’ve poured over endless data, expertly crafted analysis, reasonable projections on the impact of these regulations and have come to this conclusion:

  1. People have come to the Hamptons for over 100 years because of its beauty, the environment, and a quiet, peaceful getaway from the rigors of work. For the rich and famous it is the place to be and be seen. The Hamptons will always be that regardless if helicopters fly.
  2. The airport existed for almost eighty years. Fifty years it existed without money from the FAA and without grant assurances.
  3. The airport is sustainable today.
  4. We have only scratched the surface for revenue possibilities on airport property.
  5. Helicopter operations have been a problem only for seven to ten years.
  6. As an entrepreneur, after seeing the data and analysis my gut tells me, after the regulations are put in place, the airport will be sustainable for the long term.

I encourage this Board to have courage, stay the course and implement the regulations as you have proposed them so millions of people on Long Island and thousands in this Town will have meaningful relief from the torture and torment we have endured for far too long.

Thank you.