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The Airport’s Last Stand

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 16:37


Consider this: As the arguments against dramatically changing or even closing East Hampton Airport are whittled away, a last resort is emerging, that there are too many wealthy people here for that to happen. What does this say about the East Hampton community — that the interests of a very few can resist those of the many? If so, that is a sad commentary on whose behest our elected officials really serve.

The political math on the airport is lopsided. The voting constituency within East Hampton Town in favor of the airport’s continued use by heavy jets and helicopters could probably be counted on two hands, while those indifferent or outright opposed to it number in the thousands. This means that the individual consequences of making big changes at the airport would not cost town board members their seats. The opposite, however, may be true.

With an obligation to the Federal Aviation Administration to maintain open access at the airport ending in September, radical action will soon be possible. It has long been noted that it would take only three votes on the town board to close the airport and that a third party running on that promise could take control if the Democrats now in power fail to act.

Doing nothing to reduce airport noise has a significant election downside. The town board must know that keeping it the way it is in the interests of just a tiny minority of voters, albeit ones who command an outsize degree of loyalty thanks to their net worth, is not tenable. This, then, is the core challenge for the board: Do they defer to the topmost fraction of the 1 percent or to the rest of us? The moment for that decision is nearly at hand.

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