A federal judge Friday upheld the Town of East Hampton's right to restrict aircraft noise at its airport in Wainscott, clearing the way for officials to begin enforcing most of the new laws in time for the July Fourth holiday.
U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert's ruling allows the town to impose two of the three year-round curfews the town board passed in April: a mandatory 11 p.m.-7 a.m. nighttime curfew and an extended 8 p.m.-9 a.m. curfew on noisy aircraft. They will take effect July 2 at 12:01 a.m.
Seybert, ruling in Central Islip, issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting a one-trip-per-week limit on noisy aircraft from going into effect. The restriction was to be in place between May and September.
In affirming the town's actions, Seybert wrote in her ruling that "it cannot be argued that the Town lacked the data to support a finding of a noise problem at the Airport."
Friends of East Hampton Airport, a coalition of helicopter operators and their allies, sued the town April 21, arguing the rules are illegal because the federal government regulates air traffic. They asked the court for an injunction to stop the laws while the case is argued.
Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the coalition, said Friday that the group is reviewing its options.
"We are gratified that the court enjoined the one-trip limit, finding it to be drastic and unreasonable," he said. "We are carefully reviewing the decision and appellate options regarding the curfews."
Town officials lauded the ruling.
"We're pleased the judge has acknowledged that the Town was justified in adopting restrictions to provide relief to the growing number of people who are negatively affected by aircraft noise," Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a news release after the ruling. "Although we regret that one of the key laws cannot be enforced for the time being, we are gratified that the Court recognized that the law allows the kind of restrictions that are essential to protect the residents of this Town."
Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez Friday called the ruling an "important first step," but cautioned that the fight is not over.
"Our opponents are well funded and will not give up easily," she said in a news release. "In light of today's ruling, however, we encourage our opponents to rethink their strategy. It's time to do what's best for the Town and adapt aircraft operations to fit our reasonable restrictions."