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FAA will hold 'workshops' not hearings on noise along North Shore helicopter route

A helicopter lands at East Hampton airport on

A helicopter lands at East Hampton airport on Aug. 22, 2013.  Credit: John Roca

Residents and North Fork officials said they are disappointed that a Nov. 14 meeting that the Federal Aviation Administration plans in Riverhead to address noise complaints along the North Shore helicopter route will not be a public hearing.

A Federal Register Notice advertising three such meetings, including the one in Riverhead,  states the agency will use a workshop format for the meetings instead of the public hearing the agency was ordered to conduct under the FAA Reauthorization Act signed Oct. 5 by President Donald Trump. 

“Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall hold a public hearing in the communities impacted by the regulations described in subsection (a)(1) to solicit feedback with respect to the regulations,” according to the legislation.

Under the workshop format, the notice said, the agency “will have several stations covering a number of relevant aspects” of the helicopter rule. Each station will have an FAA representative answering questions, as well as a station where people can submit written statements or have their oral comments transcribed. No formal presentations will be made.

North Fork residents and officials said they prefer to have a public hearing that allows residents and officials to address the FAA on noise they said the route has generated.

“Why is the FAA preparing a ‘meeting’ with ‘tables’ and not a hearing?” Teresa McCaskie, chairwoman of the Southold Helicopter Noise Steering Committee, said Friday. “We are entitled to a hearing.”

Jim Cullen, 58, a Northville Beach Civic Association member and Riverhead resident, echoed similar sentiments.

“We think we deserve a public hearing after all these years, and that’s what [the Reauthorization Act] calls for," Cullen said, adding that he has dealt with helicopter noise near his home for years. "The FAA is changing it around as opposed to what they are supposed to do.”

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Friday that the meeting's format wasn't for him to decide, but that he hoped it "leads to a formal public hearing with the FAA down the road."

FAA officials declined Friday to explain why they chose the meeting format.

“In addition to the public meetings, there is a 60-day public comment period," FAA spokesman Jim Peters said in a statement. "The other Federal Register Notice has the details on how people can submit their comments during the two month comment [period].”

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Riverhead Middle School.

The other meetings are Nov. 13 in Garden City, and Nov. 15 in Flushing, Queens.

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