The sky over the East End was busy over the Memorial Day weekend. According to East Hampton Town, there were 533 takeoffs and landings at the recently renamed East Hampton Town Airport — and more than 1,200 complaints about them. This comes at the same time as helicopter passenger companies, aircraft owners, and others have sued the town over its attempt to bring some quiet to the chaos. No doubt the holiday air traffic brought additional pressure on the East Hampton Town Board, which told its legal team to prepare options for closing the airport indefinitely as soon as possible.
Aside from town residents with ties to JPX, as East Hampton Town Airport is now designated by the Federal Aviation Administration, opposition to closing the airport comes most significantly from Montauk, where the fear is a private airstrip will have an unacceptable increase in flights. Several property owners who live near the Montauk airstrip are among the plaintiffs in at least four lawsuits seeking to block the town’s imposition of new rules for JPX.
To what degree Montauk would suffer from curfews and limits on the number of flights at the town airport is difficult to predict, but it is certain that if East Hampton Town Airport ceased to exist the impact on Montauk would be significant. This puts the Montauk group suing the town in the untenable position of hastening the consideration of the option likely to have the greatest impact on their quality of life.
All along, it has been clear that because of their refusal to cooperate on effective noise control, the airport interests themselves are forcing the town’s hand. It is a curious twist that some Montauk residents may also be contributing to the outcome that they say they fear the most.