Unless you have been living under a soundproof rock, you have probably been subjected to the interminable noise emanating from KHTO, which is the official airport code for East Hampton Airport. Located on more than 600 acres in, of course, East Hampton, NY the airport has been at odds with the local citizenry who have had it up to the heavens with the noise, pollution and inability of Town officials to do anything substantive and conclusive.
A citizens activist group, founded this summer and calling themselves Say No to KHTO, was created to advocate the closing of the regional airport in response to the continuous situation. The level of frustration and anger is growing exponentially to the number of aircraft that descend from the skies causing homeowners, residents (and visitors too) to endure aviation noise and aircraft emission pollution that is negatively impacting their lives in the communities they call home, and also where substantial monies have been expended to spend a season in the Hamptons, although the intense adversity to the noise and pollution extends throughout both the North and South Forks.
The group’s solution, reached after exhaustive measures to address and reconcile the situation, is to close the airport. Although Town officials have stated that this proposal for the Town owned and commercially zoned land will never be acted on, and who recently produced a report that stated the number of airport noise complaints has been reduced – although the number of seaplane complaints has increased – the group has countered with proposals for better use of the land, perhaps to generate solar and wind power farms to aid in sustainable energy goals, and/or affordable housing.
Say No To KHTO is headed by Barry Raebeck, PhD who previously co-founded the Quiet Skies Coalition, and who has indicated that at this point it does not appear the Town and the group will be meeting in the middle of the tarmac any time soon.
Hamptons.com recently posed a few questions to Mr. Raebeck concerning this volatile contention between Town officials and Say No To KHTO supporters:
This has been an on-going issue for some time. Is it your opinion that other measures have been exhausted to the point that the distrust and frustration with Town officials leaves no choice but to advocate for closure of the airport and why?
BR: If I were on a board that ran a business that was losing money (more than $2 million in costs and legal fees this past year), polluting the environment terribly, serving a handful of people, even fewer of whom are shareholders, and generating over 90,000 documented complaints in just two years from people all over the region, how could I rationally insist on its value to the shareholders? The shareholders would rationally insist on new board members!
Since the vast acreage is owned by the Town of East Hampton and commercially zoned, how realistic are the proposals put forth for other usage of the land?
BR: The Town has all kinds of flexibility on how the land is used. The Town rezones properties and modifies zoning laws all the time. What is ironic at best is that much of the surrounding land is county watershed. Why are we allowing millions of pounds of toxic emissions to be spewed all over that? Why is East Hampton intentionally polluting itself? How can East Hampton Town officials crow about “sustainability” when they are subsidizing the biggest polluter and emitter of carbon on the East End?
Is there any compromise you feel could be realistically met at this stage that would cause the goals of Say No To KHTO to redact its position of closing the airport?
BR: Sure, return the airport to its intended use as a local facility for recreational pilots of single and twin engine planes, insist that it is self-supporting, and refuse to ever take another penny from the FAA – while converting much of the land to beneficial use. Who decided that KHTO would morph into a municipal commercial jet and heliport, with these awful seaplanes thrown in for good measure? No one. It was allowed to happen due to gross negligence, and actual complicity in some cases, of local officials.
Could you relay just how many people in the immediate airport area are currently affected by the noise and pollution?
BR: The “immediate area” is the least of the issue. I ran an ad two years ago with signatories from 16 villages and towns on Eastern Long Island (virtually every part of the East End) – all of whom said they were being assaulted by aircraft emissions and noise generated by KHTO. Airportnoise.com is based in Queens, where helicopters flying to and from KHTO create more noise and pollution on local residents than jets flying into LaGuardia, because the choppers must fly low to stay beneath the jets. KHTO is a huge problem ALL OVER LONG ISLAND. Its aircraft are negatively impacting hundreds of thousands, yes millions, of Long Islanders and New Yorkers. Our website has hits from Copiague, Northport, and Huntington. Manhattanites have been calling for Hamptons-bound helicopter restrictions for years. Those KHTO supporters who say the argument is being generated by “a few people who shouldn’t have built homes so close to the airport” are simply lying. In the past week I have been assaulted by unnecessary, unwelcome aircrafts when I golfed in Amagansett, when I went to the ocean beach at Georgica, when I walked with my family in Barcelona Neck, when I sat with a friend in Sag Harbor and another in Noyac, when I golfed in Bridgehampton, etc. etc., ad nauseam.
Finally, can you reveal just how many supporters Say No To KHTO has in what many would view as a David and Goliath situation?
BR: We have only just begun. Many people have contacted us, sent contributions, and expressed great interest in our plans. I have been interviewed by news media all over the region, including the New York Post and Newsday. This is surely not David and Goliath, however. (Although if I recall correctly, David won rather convincingly in that little scrap.) This is more like The People versus The Corporate Polluters, those last protected by vacillating politicians who may lack the courage to lead or perhaps are intimidated by people with money. The people on the right side have money too, believe me. In my experience, which is substantial in these matters, when the people are right, the people prevail. Using our land for our benefit is pretty easy to sell. Maintaining a private flyer polluter club at public expense is pretty hard to defend. I don’t expect the taxpayers of East Hampton to pay my dues at the golf club I belong to. How is it possible that I am paying their dues at the KHTO Club? Socialism for the rich. Pollution for everyone.
For more information on Say No To KHTO, go to www.saynotokhto.com.