East Hampton Town is expected Thursday to approve transitioning its airport to a private facility as part of its efforts to reduce aircraft and helicopter-related noise from the airport, town hall officials said in a statement Tuesday.
The board at its work session Tuesday presented and discussed a resolution for the town to, among other things, file a 7480-1 form with the Federal Aviation Administration to begin deactivating the airport so it can open a private-use airport. At the session, several people voiced concerns about the privatization plan including some arguing that the airport be closed.
If passed, the airport would temporarily close Feb. 28 and it would reopen as a private facility March 4, which town officials said would be the least disruptive time for airport users. A private airport would operate under a "Prior Permission Required" framework, which, officials say, will allow the town to enact and enforce airport use restrictions so airport traffic and noise can be limited while also addressing safety, environmental and other concerns.
Residents, pilots and aviation advocates at the meeting spoke for more than two hours both for and against privatizing the airport.
Joanna Grossman, of East Hampton, said she is in favor of the board's move. She said she also is "totally in favor" of closing the airport permanently, adding the town’s local aquifer is under the airport and posed a danger to local water quality.
"It’s inevitable there will be a catastrophe at our aquifer," Grossman said.
Melissa Tomkiel, president and general counsel for Manhattan-based urban air mobility company BLADE, which offers helicopter flights to the East End, said closing the airport is "not the answer" and would drastically impact East End residents due to aircraft traffic being diverted. She said her company had presented several options to the town to mitigate noise in lieu of closing the airport.
Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said that while he has seen that some residents would like to retain the airport, "the problem is that it has grown beyond what the acceptable footprint is" and "has raised a lot of voices who simply say ‘Just close the airport.’ "
Through the private airport option, Van Scoyoc said the board is now "trying to get the footprint of the airport back to a level that the community accepts."