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East Hampton delays new rules on helicopter noise until expected June ruling on lawsuit

A helicopter departs from the East Hampton Town

A helicopter departs from the East Hampton Town Airport in Wainscott, Nov. 11, 2014. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

East Hampton Town officials agreed Monday to delay new noise restrictions at the municipal airport that were to take effect Tuesday so a judge can rule on a lawsuit seeking to block the rules from taking effect.

U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert said she expects to decide by June 8 whether the town can legally regulate traffic at the airport in Wainscott as officials try to address years of complaints from residents over air traffic between Manhattan and the Hamptons.

In a statement released by the town after the judge's comments, Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he agreed to the delay, feeling it was necessary to respect the judicial process.

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the town's liaison on airport matters who spearheaded the effort to craft the rules over the past year, declined to comment on Monday's court proceeding.

On April 16, the East Hampton Town Board passed three laws restricting access to East Hampton Airport: an 11 p.m.-to-7 a.m. curfew for all flights; an extended 8 p.m.-to-9 a.m. curfew for aircraft considered noisy; and a one-trip-per-week limit for noisy aircraft.

Friends of East Hampton Airport, a coalition of helicopter operators and their allies, sued the town on April 21, arguing the rules are illegal because the federal government regulates airspace.

The group is seeking an injunction while the suit is litigated and has said the restrictions would hurt businesses that ferry people between Manhattan and the Hamptons.

Loren Riegelhaupt, spokesman for the group, declined to comment Monday.

East Hampton's lawyers argued in court papers that local governments have the power to regulate municipal airports, as long as the rules are reasonable, and said "fears of dire losses are overstated."

The Federal Aviation Administration surprised anti-noise activists this month by supporting the aviation group's bid to block the regulations.

In a May 4 court filing, acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie said FAA officials believe an injunction is needed so the agency can "develop its position on the issues."

Attorneys for the town said in court papers that the anti-noise laws "are necessary to protect the essential qualities of peace and quiet that are the core of what makes East Hampton and the East End of Long Island a desirable haven."

With Will James


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