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Cuomo signs law giving East Hampton residents vote on airport

The new law concerning East Hampton Town Airport,

The new law concerning East Hampton Town Airport, seen Nov. 16, 2016, allows local voters to have a say on town board resolutions approving state or federal funding that would last 10 years or more. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

East Hampton Town residents are able to vote on whether to accept federal or state funding for the town airport under a new state law signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this week as local officials continue their quest to curb aircraft noise.

The new law, signed Monday, allows residents to vote by referendum on any town board resolutions approving airport funding grant assurances lasting 10 or more years.

Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who sponsored the law with State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), said the law “puts the decision-making power regarding FAA funds back into the hands of the community.”

“It’s important that voters also have a say on these agreements that will impact them for years to come,” Thiele said in a statement Wednesday.

Town officials last accepted Federal Aviation Administration funding in 2001. It ends in 2021.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the town board “does not favor” accepting future federal funding because it “comes with strings attached” that can last for up to 20 years, including restrictions on how the money is spent, which leases are approved, and how the airport generally operates.

“I can assure you the grant assurances bind the town’s hands to the FAA and limit the town’s flexibility to make those decisions on our own,” Cantwell said Wednesday.

He said airport revenue, including leases and other fees, “fully pays” for the Wainscott airport’s operating expenses without federal funding and creates surpluses every year.

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