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Rep. Lee Zeldin wants FAA to reduce helicopter noise over East End

Rep. Lee Zeldin, in front of Smithtown Town

Rep. Lee Zeldin, in front of Smithtown Town Hall in Smithtown on Oct. 27, 2014. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Rep. Lee Zeldin has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that helicopters fly higher over the East End in order to reduce aircraft noise by the Memorial Day weekend.

Zeldin (R-Shirley) sent the letter to FAA administrator Michael Huerta on Monday, writing that helicopters fly unnecessarily low while crossing over the North Fork and parts of the South Fork. Zeldin wrote that helicopters should have to fly higher than 2,500 feet until they close in on East Hampton Airport.

"My constituents cannot afford to have another season ruined by disruptive noise," wrote the freshman congressman, who was elected in November to the seat previously held by Tim Bishop, a Democrat.

Zeldin serves as vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, which oversees the FAA.

In writing the letter, Zeldin inserted himself into one of the thorniest issues in his eastern Suffolk County district: the intensifying battle between residents complaining of bothersome aircraft noise and helicopter pilots who say they provide an economic lifeline to the East End.

His input comes as East Hampton Town officials are proposing their own rules for East Hampton Airport -- including a summer weekend ban on helicopters and nighttime curfews -- intended to curb noise. The proposal is up for a public hearing in East Hampton on Thursday.

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, a Democrat, thanked Zeldin during a meeting Tuesday.

"I would like to publicly thank Congressman Zeldin for making this a priority and we appreciate his attention to this critical issue," she said.

Zeldin wrote in his letter that FAA officials should stand by assurances they made to Bishop that they would not oppose any reasonable actions by East Hampton to deal with the matter.

"It's important for East Hampton to be confident that their restrictions meet that legal standard of reasonableness," Zeldin said in an interview Monday.

He said East Hampton officials must be careful to balance quality-of-life and economic concerns.

"The restrictions are obviously intended on improving quality of life for many who have had a negative impact from the rapid increase in aircraft traffic over the last several summers," he said.

"There is a potential for a negative impact to the local economy if the situation isn't resolved in as efficient a way as possible, and I will be looking at what East Hampton" proposes, he added.

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