East Hampton Town Airport never had the opportunity to enact its plan to close and reopen the airport under new usage rules last May 17th. At the last minute an injunction paused that plan from going into effect. As of now it is business as usual. New reports have the EH Town officials exploring ways to legally shut down the airport. One has to wonder is this what they really want or is this a ploy that has originated because of the frustration of not being in actual control of the outcome of their own town asset?
Some believe the pro-airport people with all their litigation challenging the conversion of East Hampton Town Airport to a private airport with local rules have provided the cover that the Town Board needs to close the airport. The entity opposing the new town airport plan, IMHO, the so called “pro-airport people,” may have greatly overplayed their hand.
Rather than get an airport that could continue to be used by local recreational pilots with continued limited commercial service, they have projected an image of a group unwilling to compromise, that wants everything on their terms or risk costly legal action. The problem is they have deep pockets, perhaps helped by a thriving national helicopter industry growing and getting more powerful with booming sales worldwide. They might just prevail and thwart EH Town officials.
Normally the Town cannot just say “see you later” when sued, but in this case if they close the airport, as they are now threatening, it’s a new ballgame. EH Town, which now owns the airport unencumbered, will be tied up in continued litigation unless the state courts act quickly, decisively and permanently. Then there will be the entities that have leases at the airport and that legal issue. If the airport is totally closed the town would have to settle with them at some level.
For those who are skeptical about how this all plays out, they may ask at what level of government or politics will the hammer come from to resolve the issue? Many ask if the Town has the right to close the airport and then remove the staff and lock the doors, what will happen?
The million-dollar question is, will a judgement or a legitimate legal action by a judge’s order force the Town to keep the airport open and spend East Hampton Town money to operate the facility, pay staff, etc.? There will then have to be the legal gymnastics to sort out who signs the purchase orders? Who authorizes the checks? Who or what is the controlling force?
In what has become a high stakes situation, what comes next will be an all-out court victory or a compromise. If there is no compromise or outright victory the question will be, can a judge actually order a Town to provide a service that legally they are not obligated to provide?
This situation is very fluid with new developments possible at any moment. Stay tuned.