Memorial Day weekend is a month away, but a perennial debate over summertime noise from Hamptons-bound air traffic has already begun on the North Fork.
Helicopter pilots, who fly along the North Shore before cutting south to the Hamptons, have unveiled three flight paths over the North Fork that drew criticism this week from residents of Southold and Riverhead.
Pilots say the flight paths, scheduled to go into effect May 1, are designed to spread out traffic rather than concentrating it on a heavily used route over Mattituck Inlet.
But North Fork officials say the routes won’t make a difference for residents who have complained for years about helicopter noise rattling their houses.
“They’re not solving Southold’s problem, they’re just spreading it out,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said of the flight paths in a statement Wednesday.
He asked residents to contact federal aviation officials and urge them to throw out a 2012 rule directing helicopter flights to a path along the North Shore of Long Island. Pilots ferrying passengers between Manhattan and the Hamptons have used the North Shore route since 2008.
The Eastern Region Helicopter Council, a group of 52 charter helicopter operators, unveiled the new “transition routes” over the North Fork at a March meeting in Melville at which officials and anti-noise activists were present.
One route would take all inbound flights over the Mattituck area. There are two routes for flights leaving the Hamptons: one for single-engine helicopters over Peconic and another for twin-engine helicopters around Shelter Island and over Orient.
Helicopter council officials said in a statement Thursday that “the proposed transition routes to and from the mandatory North Shore route have been carefully analyzed to attempt to significantly reduce noise impact for residents on the North Fork of Long Island.”
Janice LoRusso, a Jamesport resident who has been a vocal critic of helicopter pilots, said they should fly around the North Fork entirely.
“Why they can’t go out around Plum Island is beyond me, because they might use $2 more worth of fuel,” said LoRusso, 66. “They don’t care who they tread on, whose lives they disrupt.”
Teresa McCaskie, chairwoman of Southold’s Helicopter Noise Steering Committee, said she didn’t think the new routes would reduce noise over her Mattituck neighborhood.
She said the Federal Aviation Administration should mandate the use of quieter helicopters and require them to fly at higher altitudes. She also said flights should be evenly split among the North Shore, South Shore and middle of Long Island.
“The North Fork can’t take it all,” McCaskie said. “We understand that this is a business, we understand that this is an industry. But to transition repeatedly over the North Fork to get to the South Shore isn’t fair.”