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Minimizing Impact

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 18:36


Sadly for those who want quick noise relief from East Hampton Airport, a majority of the town board does not appear eager to make any changes right away. During a meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc proposed a one-month shutdown, perhaps in February, when air traffic is at its lowest. Minimizing the impact of an airport closure appears to be Mr. Van Scoyoc’s objective. He has outlined an impossible hurdle: to anticipate how changes at would play out before any decisions are made. Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, also seeking re-election, called as well for yet more study as well.

Mr. Van Scoyoc’s main rival in a re-election bid, Councilman Jeff Bragman, has gone further, calling for a one-year halt to commercial flights. He answered Mr. Van Scoyoc’s call for additional studies by pointing out that nothing would be set in stone and that adjustments could be made as more is learned. The town’s legal advisers on the airport have said that on the fly (pardon the pun) changes would be feasible during a year’s, or however long, pause.

Resolution of airport matters would seem impossible in a run-up to an election, but here we are. The timing of the town’s obligations to the Federal Aviation Administration expiring in September put the matter squarely in the middle of the campaigns. Among the town board challengers, John Whelan and Cate Rogers have said they liked the idea of a halt to commercial flights at East Hampton sooner rather than later. Ms. Rogers said, “The time to act is now,” but Mr. Whelan has said that any major steps should wait until the new town board configuration becomes official in January.

What is disturbing about the talk now is that it is happening at all. For more than three decades, people have been complaining about East Hampton Airport. To cite one example: A raging fight over what size jets could be accommodated consumed countless hours during the 1990s. It is not as if the town board could not have seen this coming and had a plan in place already, unless Mr. Van Scoyoc’s no-plan plan is, in fact, a plan. The town should have been ready for this day long ago. Cynically, perhaps this is just how government works: pushing off the most difficult matters until they can simply no longer be evaded.

Agree with them or not, only Mr. Bragman, Mr. Whelan, and Ms. Rogers have stated definite points of view. As to the others, who knows, unless doing nothing actually is their position.

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