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Town to Blade: Pay Up

Thu, 05/23/2024 - 11:48

Sues for past-due airport counter fees totaling $186K

A spokesman for Blade said the company was confident that the issue would be resolved quickly and that its service to the airport would not be affected.
Durell Godfrey

The Town of East Hampton is suing Fly Blade Inc., operator of Blade helicopters and seaplanes, for what it claims is $186,354 in past-due fees associated with a license agreement to maintain a counter at the East Hampton Airport terminal. It is looking to terminate Blade’s occupancy at the terminal if the payment is not received.

Town Supervisor Kathee Burke-Gonzalez read a walk-on resolution at Tuesday’s town board meeting announcing the action, which was unanimously approved by the town board.

“Fly Blade Inc. has failed to pay its annual license fees since Jan. 1, 2021, and is now in arrears,” she read. “Fly Blade Inc. was put on notice of the arrears by the town and the town attempted to reach an amicable solution, but said attempt was not fruitful.”

Blade says, however, that it has not had a lease agreement with the town since Jan. 1, 2021, and that’s why it hasn’t paid anything.

Edward Burke Jr., an attorney for Blade, indicated that in previous years his firm had always worked closely with the town for renewal of the licensing agreement. “However, the previous administration and the lengthy lawsuit it commenced in an effort to close the airport entirely, evaporated the town’s desire for any linkage with leaseholders and thus no licensing agreements were ever tendered. Now that the litigation has been dismissed, my clients are certainly willing to work with the present administration and address the matter at hand.”

A spokesman for Blade said the company was confident that the issue would be resolved quickly and that its service to the airport would not be affected.

“We 100 percent want to pay the town any money that it is owed,” said the spokesman. “There’s just a discrepancy from when they thought the lease ended and when we thought it ended. We used the counter even though we had no lease agreement, so we’re trying to figure out what is appropriate for us to pay. While we really don’t need the desk, and only used it during the summers, we want to resolve this.”

“There is no basis in the law for Blade’s claim that it is not obligated to pay the town for the use of the company counter/desk space,” Robert Connelly, the East Hampton Town Attorney, wrote in an email this week. “Blade entered into a license agreement with the town for its use. The license agreement ended, yet Blade continued to use the space without remitting payment. At that point it became a holdover licensee and was required to continue paying the license fee as established in the license agreement, which it did not. I suspect that Blade would not let a passenger fly on one of its helicopters without paying for a ticket, however, it can use town property without having to pay the town what is due to it?”

The town has been locked in legal battles with airport operators since January 2022, when the board voted to close the airport with plans to reopen it as a private facility with new restrictions in place in order to address resident noise complaints borne out of an increase in helicopter and jet traffic at the airport. That plan was blocked by a successful lawsuit from Blade, East End Hangars, and the Coalition to Keep East Hampton Airport Open.

In March, the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division affirmed a ruling by the Supreme Court that said the town had failed to comply with the requirements of the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act when it closed the airport in 2022 with plans to reopen it under new operating rules. The town had planned to study the impacts of doing so in real time rather than in advance of the change, but the court determined that it could not do so.




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