Riverhead residents will have the opportunity to publicly question officials representing a key organization that offers input on flight paths for helicopter traffic along the North Shore, which residents have complained has caused noise near their homes for years.
The Eastern Region Helicopter Council, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that represents helicopter interests, has agreed to meet with residents in Riverhead at a yet-to-be-determined date to discuss the helicopter noise issue, Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith announced at the Riverhead Town Board’s work session on Thursday at Town Hall.
Since a Federal Aviation Administration ruling in 2012 made it mandatory for helicopters to fly over the North Shore, homeowners in Riverhead and Southold towns have complained that the increased air traffic has generated noise and other complications as a direct result of helicopters flying above their properties at low altitudes.
Riverhead Councilwoman Catherine Kent, the board’s liaison to the town's Helicopter Task Force, said Friday that helicopter traffic had seemingly worsened during the summer, and as a result, has created quality-of-life issues for residents who live in hamlets such as Jamesport and Laurel, as well as for people living along the water.
“It’s gotten to the point where people can’t have a barbecue outside, or they can’t have a conversation outdoors,” said Kent. “It seems our quality of life is being destroyed because a few people can’t sit in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.”
Residents and town officials are seeking an alternative all-water route that would take helicopter traffic over the Atlantic Ocean.
FAA representatives told residents at a Nov. 14 public workshop last year — which residents and officials rated poorly due to residents wanting a public hearing format instead — that the Eastern Region Helicopter Council was “instrumental” regarding determining the flight paths for the route, Jens-Smith said. Since that time, Riverhead officials have reached out to the council for several months at the request of the task force, Jens-Smith said Friday.
“Our task force has been eager to have a meeting with them, so I’m happy that they’ve agreed to come out and participate in a public meeting,” Jens-Smith said.
Helicopter council representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
Though the meeting’s details are still being discussed — including whether residents outside of Riverhead Town will be able to attend — Kent said officials in other East End towns have expressed interest in including residents of the four other towns — East Hampton, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold.