As debate over the future of East Hampton Airport heats up with the looming expiration of Federal Aviation Administration grant assurances, allowing the town to control its future, a group aiming to see the airport closed announced its formation on Friday.
The Coalition to Transform East Hampton Airport has as its goal the transformation of the property's approximately 550 acres into a community green space.
"By accepting F.A.A. grants to maintain and expand the airport, the Town of East Hampton relinquished control" over it, a statement said. "As overhead traffic picked up over the past decade, the town and its citizens have been powerless to stop the noise of low-flying helicopters, private jets, and seaplanes," with no authority to enact restrictions or mitigate the airport's "disastrous impact on the local environment and watershed."
Barry Raebeck, a co-founder of the Quiet Skies Coalition, is the group's director. "For the first time in two decades, the Town of East Hampton has the ability to ground the airport forever," he said in the statement. "We cannot afford to waste this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform a major part of our community to something truly valuable that meaningfully serves our town for decades to come. And that is what this campaign will be about. Friends and neighbors united together to improve our community."
Among the group's chief concerns, aside from the noise pollution of aircraft, are the airport's impact on air quality and contamination of the Magothy Aquifer, which provides drinking water to the East End. The group cites the 47-acre portion of the airport that was designated a Superfund site two years ago because of contamination by perfluorinated chemicals, used in firefighting foam, which were stored and used at the airport.
The group plans a grassroots and paid media effort to educate residents, advocate for permanent revocation of the airport's license, and foster community comment on what should become of the land.