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East End residents, officials disappointed in FAA's helicopter noise workshop

The meeting drew 80 people to review videos, charts of flight paths and get questions about the North Shore route answered by federal officials.

Helicopters, seen at the East Hampton Town Airport

Helicopters, seen at the East Hampton Town Airport in Wainscott, are a persistent source of noise complaints. Residents and local officials came away disappointed from Wednesday night's FAA workshop on the North Shore helicopter route at Riverhead Middle School. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Residents and elected officials who attended Wednesday night’s long-awaited Federal Aviation Administration workshop on the North Shore helicopter route summed up the feedback received from agency officials in one word — disappointment.

The agency held the second of three public workshops this week that it was mandated to hold under the FAA Authorization Act that President Trump signed into law in October. Wednesday's meeting was the only one scheduled for the East End, where noise from helicopters, especially in the summer, is a constant source of complaints to government officials. 

The FAA is required under the new law to reassess the North Shore flight path and address the noise impact on affected communities, improve altitude enforcement and consider alternatives such as an all-water route over the Atlantic Ocean.

The meeting at Riverhead Middle School, which drew more than 80 people, featured video setups and charts outlining the flight patterns of helicopters over various local regions. FAA representatives were available to answer questions from residents and elected officials from Riverhead, Southold, Southampton and other communities.

Teresa McCaskie, a Mattituck resident and chairwoman of Southold's Helicopter Noise Steering Committee, told FAA representatives she wanted the meeting “to be held in a forum where we can really be heard, not to be explained how the route works and all this other stuff.”

“We’re entitled to that, and we want to have that,” McCaskie said, adding the workshop format did not follow what the law had mandated.

Adam Irving, 47, an Orient resident, said he heard nothing new explained at the meeting, calling it “a dog and pony show.”

Robert Skinner, a Jamesport resident, said he was not satisfied with what FAA representatives told him.

“The message is ‘We can’t do anything about it,’ ” said Skinner, who lives directly under a route often frequented by helicopters.

North Fork elected officials were also left unsatisfied.

“I was very disappointed,” Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said. “I think the workshop format didn’t satisfy the need for a public hearing. The way it was set up was not what they should have been doing.”

Southold Town Councilman Robert Ghosio said he had not heard anything from FAA officials “that people didn’t already know.”

FAA spokesman Jim Peters said after the meeting that the agency chose the workshop format to have more one-on-one discussion between agency representatives and residents.

“We thought it would give people more opportunity to get the information they were seeking,” Peters said.

In response to residents being disappointed with the meeting, Peters said he hoped they would submit their written comments to the agency.

Residents can send in comments on the route — which must be submitted by Jan. 2 — via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov or by following instructions at the Federal Register website, https://nwsdy.li/federalregister

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