On Friday, November 4th, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Friends of East Hampton Airport, an aviation group, granting a preliminary injunction that prohibits East Hampton Town from enforcing three local laws that were created to address excessive aircraft noise at East Hampton Airport.
“The court’s opinion undermines local control of operations at the town-owned airport property and establishes that the federal bureaucracy controls regulations in the area of aviation noise abatement and control,” said Michael Sendlenski, the Town’s attorney, in a statement that addressed the ruling.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. was also disappointed with the ruling. “I respectfully disagree with the decision of the Court. The Town of East Hampton is the owner of the airport,” said Assemblyman Thiele in a statement. “Like all property owners they have a responsibility to insure that their property is not used in a way that is injurious to the public health and safety of its residents. That is what the Town of East Hampton did with the enactment of its local laws.”
Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez proposed the restrictions last year. “With this decision, the Court has expanded federal control at the expense of local government, eroding the concept of home rule,” the Assemblyman said. “In doing so, the Court has now raised the question of whether or not the Town of East Hampton should be in the ‘airport business’ at all. The health and safety of its residents must always take precedence over commercial enterprise.” The restrictions included a mandatory curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., an elongated curfew on loud aircrafts from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. and finally a restriction on operations by noisy aircrafts – limiting aircrafts to one weekly roundtrip during the summer months. “While I have always believed that the responsible operation of an airport in East Hampton is an asset to the Town, this court causes all responsible persons to first reconsider whether or not the Town should be in the airport business,” Thiele added.
He went on to praise the Town of East Hampton. “I commend the Town of East Hampton for its responsible actions to protect the peace and good order of the entire East End, as well as cherished and well established concepts of home rule,” Assemblyman Thiele shared.
“Unfortunately, this court decision places the authority for the protection of the people of the East End squarely on the back of the federal government, in general, and the FAA in particular. The FAA has shown itself to be interested only in protecting the moneyed special interests of the helicopter industry. There is no reason to believe that will change,” he explained. “Now, it will be up to the U.S Congress, the elected representatives of the people, to insure that this federal usurpation is reversed and the concept of home rule restored by recognizing that the Town of East Hampton, as an airport proprietor, need not ask permission of the FAA to undertake the most basic function of government: the protection of public health and safety.”