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East Hampton control tower could open soon

East Hampton's seasonal airport control tower.

East Hampton's seasonal airport control tower. Photo Credit: Handout

The seasonal control tower at East Hampton Town Airport in Wainscott should be operating by this weekend, after the Federal Aviation Administration gave it the go-ahead.

"I expect it to open in the next 24 to 48 hours," East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick J. Stanzione, liaison to the airport, said Wednesday afternoon.

The tower, which is staffed 16 hours a day, was in use last summer, but because it went from being a temporary facility to a seasonal facility that is open from May to September, federal regulations required a new environmental review of its operations. It ran last year from June to the end of October, when air traffic slowed substantially.

The FAA approved the 378-page environmental report, which is posted on the town's website. "We're happy not only that the FAA accepted the document . . . but upon further review approved the town application for a permit to operate it."

The study concludes there will be no adverse environmental impact from putting the tower into operation, and that it will not increase noise in the area. It also concludes there will be no increase in airport traffic for the next five years.

"I can't agree with that," said Charles Ehern, vice chairman of the East Hampton Quiet Skies committee, which has been working to curb flights at the airport and find ways to reduce helicopter noise. "The traffic has leveled off, but that's after 20 years of steady growth," he added.

But Stanzione said the conclusions reflect actual airport use. He said "traffic is down substantially over the last five years," about 38 percent since 2007.

The report concludes the tower will not bring in more traffic because "summertime aircraft operations are dictated primarily by the demand of individuals coming to or leaving from their residences or local motels, not by the presence or absence of a tower."

Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who opted not to run for re-election this year after facing a number of controversial issues -- including airport noise -- said he expects the report will do little to dampen the controversy over airport noise. "It will be forever a subject of election banter."


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