A new study of the economic impact of East Hampton's town-owned airport shows the airfield generates nearly $48 million in spending in the town and is responsible for creating 647 full-time and part-time jobs.
There is no job breakdown in the study -- commissioned by the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council, a private group composed of pilots who use the airport -- and the figure includes people who work summer weekends for caterers. The report lists the total annual salary of people employed because of the airport as $13,391,425.
"We wanted to be very conservative," about the salary estimate, said Mitchell L. Moss, director of NYU/Wagner's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, which compiled the report.
For well more than a decade, the airport has been a thorny issue for town officials, who realize it is important for the town's overall economy, but who have to deal with complaints about worsening noise.
While some people have called for limiting airport operations, others say new helicopter routes will reduce the noise and complaints.
Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition -- formed to lobby for ways of reducing airport noise -- said her group does not want the airport closed, but is asking the town to stop taking money from the Federal Aviation Administration. That, she said, would give East Hampton more control over airport operations.
Cunningham has not yet seen the report, and called it a political gesture.
Moss denied her allegation, saying the 21,000 annual flights into and out of the airport are important in making East Hampton a premier vacation destination for the wealthy.
"When I was there [at the airport] I saw people fly in for the weekend from the West Coast, not just Manhattan," Moss said.
"There is no more productive revenue source for the town."