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FAA denies Southold’s request to end North Shore copter route

A helicopter lands at East Hampton Airport on

A helicopter lands at East Hampton Airport on Aug. 22, 2013. Southold Town officials are considering their options after the Federal Aviation Administration denied a petition to eliminate the controversial North Shore helicopter route. Photo Credit: A helicopter lands at East Hampton Airport on Aug. 22, 2013. Southold Town officials are considering their options after the Federal Aviation Administration denied a petition to eliminate the controversial North Shore helicopter route.

In the fight against helicopter noise on the East End, officials in one town received some encouraging news from the federal government while those in another town had their efforts rebuffed, officials said Tuesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court could consider a bid by East Hampton Town officials to reinstate nullified airport curfew laws this month after receiving all necessary briefs, a town official said Tuesday.

In Southold, town officials are considering their options after the Federal Aviation Administration denied a petition to eliminate the controversial North Shore helicopter route.

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said the Supreme Court is likely on June 22 to consider reviewing the case after Friends of the East Hampton Airport — a group of aviation associations and allies that sued the town over the curfew laws in April 2015 — filed a brief on May 30 arguing that the court should not review the case because curfew laws would violate the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act.

“Memorial Day Weekend air traffic noise was unbearable for many residents here on the East End, destroying the peace and tranquility they have a right to expect in their own homes,” Burke-Gonzalez said in a statement. “We are committed to fighting for local control of our municipal airport . . . striking a balance for those affected by excessive aircraft noise and the flying public.”

In Southold, residents who live along the helicopter route have complained about noise in the area. In a letter dated May 16, the FAA denied the town’s request that the federal agency terminate the route and mandate that flight operations to or from all South Fork landing points use the South Shore flight route. Last July, the FAA extended the route’s duration to Aug. 6, 2020.

“The FAA recognizes the concerns residential communities, such as Southold, have about helicopter noise,” stated the agency’s letter, which was signed by Gary Norek, the agency’s deputy director of airspace services. “However . . . the FAA has determined that the petition does not identify an immediate safety or security concern that would be resolved by eliminating the NSR and mandating the SSR. In fact, the FAA finds that terminating the NSR and mandating the SSR . . . may not be in the interest of aviation safety.”

An FAA spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the decision “underscores and perpetuates the perception that nameless bureaucrats in Albany make decisions without caring about what the public thinks.”

Russell said the town has other legal options, including filing a brief supporting East Hampton’s efforts.

Kathy Cunningham, chairwoman of the Wainscott-based Quiet Skies Coalition, said she was disappointed but not surprised by the decision.

“I think Southold did the right thing to instigate this, and I’m just sorry the FAA wasn’t more responsive,” she said. “Those poor people up there are plagued and tortured by this aircraft noise . . . it’s really terrible.”

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