Any and all concerned with East Hampton Airport will have an opportunity tonight at 7 to say just how they feel. The East Hampton Town Board has four sessions planned via call-in, on the question of what, if anything, to do once a series of binding agreements with the Federal Aviation Administration runs out this month. On the table is maintaining the airport as is, closing it, or some middle ground, with restrictions on the time and type of aircraft that use it. Confusing matters, unfortunately, has been a concurrent effort to “re-envision” what purposes the land itself might be put to if the airport were closed completely. These are two entirely separate matters and must be dealt with as such.
Part of the issue is what would happen at the privately owned Montauk Airport, which could pick up some of the air traffic if, for example, helicopters were no longer welcome at East Hampton. Jets generally are unable to use Montauk’s short runway, so they would be less of a noise problem. While what happens on East Lake Drive is far from the biggest challenge facing Montauk, it must be acknowledged.
As to East Hampton Airport itself, the status quo is unacceptable. Noise from jets and helicopters extend under its flight paths across densely populated hamlets and villages from Sagaponack to Southold and East Hampton Village and along the ocean beaches. This is all to serve a very limited clientele in terms of numbers and whose economic importance is minuscule, especially when compared to the nuisances they are causing.
Then there are environmental concerns. East Hampton Town was among the very first to declare its commitment to “green” energy, helping set an example for other local governments. Certainly, the big jets might land elsewhere, so that the actual net effect of a local ban would be negligible. The message could encourage other places to seek similar solutions.
If, as the town’s advisers say, the town could return the airport to its former use, primarily by private pilots, that would seem the best choice at this time. Allowing it to continue to grow in use as a commercial and heavy-aircraft hub is not in the community’s best interest.