|Posted by joan on January 26, 2017 at 7:00 PM|
To the Editor
THE VIEW FROM MONTAUK
In an effort to respond to a vocal segment of East Hampton’s population, the Town Board is spending over 2 million dollars in legal fees in order to banish “noisy” aircraft from the East Hampton Airport. These types of aircraft are estimated to land within seconds of each other from early morning to well into the evening. Local citizen action groups have stated these types of aircraft are a major nuisance, medically harmful, physically dangerous and, through the noise they create, make life all but unlivable for an affected population estimated to be anywhere from 300 to several thousand people. To rid itself of these problems the Town Board crafted three separate restrictive regulations. The first two imposed time-of-day landings and restrictive flight curfews. The third limited “noisy aircraft” to one day per week landings thereby hoping to eliminate the number of actual flights in any one day by over 85%. Commercial aviation firms and related trade associations countered with legal action resulting in a court action permitting the first two but striking down the third one-landing-per-week restriction. The Town Board, in retaliation, counter sued, resulting in a higher court not only upholding the original disapproval of the one day a week ban but also reversing the first two. In attempting to regain the third airport regulation the town lost all three and now found itself with no regulatory airport noise legislation in place. Presently The Town Board has decided to appeal the legislation to The U.S. Supreme Court thus explaining the $2 million expense.
Common logic and basic business sense indicates that if the Town Board wins its case, the aviation companies currently enjoying the profits from flights to and from East Hampton airport will not simply disappear, but search for alternate routes and local airports to make up the profit short fall. There are only three local airports which fall into this category: West Hampton, South Hampton, and Montauk. Both West Hampton and South Hampton are physically further from the East Hampton airport and are the epicenter of the huge ground traffic problem which makes alternate airline travel to the Hamptons so appealing. Montauk is far closer to the East Hampton airport and its geographic positioning suffers no ground traffic issues as does the other two locations. In a recent “MONTAUK UNITED” sponsored telephone survey of Long Island aviation professionals and officials, there was near unanimous agreement that the Montauk airport would be the most favored destination for commercial aircraft if affected by an East Hampton airport ban.
Montauk Airport is one of the smallest installations within the entire United States. Given its legal borders it would be physically impossible to contain, manage, coordinate, and provide even the minimum level of safety measures required to adequately cope with the increased volume of aircraft traffic. Additionally, the site suffers from extremely taxing shifting wind patterns which requires extra pilot time and effort during landing procedures, contributing to even more dense traffic back-up, dangerous situations, and disaster potential. The facility has no emergency equipment, no permanent manned night lighting, and no staff to provide professional service if and when emergency situations do occur. Finally, Montauk Airport is a privately held business and as such the East Hampton Town Board has no authority or inclination to meet or provide any physical upgrades, public services, or safety procedures that would be necessary at a minimal level of public responsibility.
The East Hampton Town Board’s response to the above concerns is based on three assumptions.
1. During the only year in which the East Hampton Airport landing times and curfew restrictions were in effect, the Montauk Airport suffered no undue or serious increases in airport traffic volume, therefore, it is logical to assume (by the Town Board) there will be no adverse effect if the third one-day-per-week flight limitation is implemented. The first two limitations deal strictly with daily time and curfew issues and had absolutely no effect on actual physical airport traffic volume. Simple corporate alterations in scheduling solved the problem. In actuality, a significant increase in total take offs and landings at the East Hampton facility was recorded. Montauk experienced no negative affect because there was no need for the airlines to alter their number of flights to the East Hampton destination. It was business as usual. However, a one-day-per-week limitation would result in 85% of weekly aircraft take-off and landings (thousands according to anti East Hampton airport citizen groups) looking for a new facility.
2. The Town Board primarily defends its Montauk Airport position by consistently referring to a “mysterious” diversity study in which collected data, financed by the Town Board, indicates that, if indeed the one landing per week legislation were in effect, aircraft would favor airports other than Montauk. As of this date and after numerous requests by the press, Montauk citizen groups, and the public in general, the Town Board has refused to make this study available for scrutiny. Why?
3. The Town Board has pledged to be extraordinarily observant to any negative issues emerging from the results of an increase in Montauk aircraft traffic and is prepared to move rapidly to alter the situation. What is the plan? What does rapidly mean in terms of time? Define increased traffic: double, triple, four times? Will the traffic be returned back to East Hampton Airport? Will the 1 day per week East Hampton Airport access be increased to 3, 4 5 days per week? If there is a viable, effective plan, then why not activate the plan now and provide immediate relief to all concerned?
The East Hampton Town Board has invested incredible political capital, time and a huge portion of tax payer money in an effort to limit traffic at its airport. While commendable, their strategy and goals are based on faulty logic and represent not a solution to the problem but a diversionary ploy to move a problem away from one politically active and organized area to another less strategically organized location which, as of yet, has not recognized the potential disaster which will occur. Experts agree that even if all the Town Board’s legal efforts are 100% realized, not one flight will be decreased. They will only be diverted, pushed down the road, and will continue to be every bit as troublesome, unhealthy, and obtrusive as in the past. The only difference being that a different and wholly innocent group will need to bear the burden. It is not a solution, but transference of grief from East Hampton to Montauk.
The anti-East Hampton airport groups and individuals have placed an enormous effort in correcting an excruciating situation. They are indeed suffering. No one should have to go through the troubles, problems, and inconvenience caused by the airport issues they face on a daily basis. All of Montauk sympathizes with their condition, and understands and supports their cause and efforts. We sincerely hope a solution can be found which will alleviate the situation. A true fair solution, but not a divergence, not a substitute. We wish you well, but not... not at the price of transforming your problem into a Montauk problem.
The East Hampton Town Board legal efforts will not provide a solution to the airport problem. They will only result in transference, a shifting of the problem, a less politically dangerous path, in the hopes that once done, somehow the rest will take care of itself. To this strategy MONTAUK UNITED responds: The current East Hampton airport legislation, if approved, has the potential of causing unprecedented harm and possibly irreparable damage to every segment and category of the Montauk population. It will negatively affect every civic group, commercial enterprise, and private citizen throughout the entire Montauk geographical sphere. An area far larger, more economically diverse, and more densely populated than any of the East Hampton areas in question. Find a solution and we guarantee support. Use Montauk as an escape and there will be consequences. In the MONTAUK UNITED “2016 Montauk Property Owners Survey,” 99% of all 2600+ respondents stated their most precious civic possession is Montauk’s peace, quiet, and natural beauty. Real people, real taxpayers, real voters.
Categories: Letters to the Editor