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Give East Hampton's new helicopter rules a chance

A helicopter departs from the East Hampton Town

A helicopter departs from the East Hampton Town Airport in Wainscott on Nov. 11, 2014. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

With the ink barely dry on new rules to quiet the din of helicopters flying in and out of East Hampton Airport, helicopter operators and their allies have sued to block the restrictions.

The Friends of East Hampton Airport coalition has asked a federal judge in Brooklyn to delay the new regulations at least until the suit filed last week is resolved. That seems a long shot, so the group may have to give the restrictions the chance they deserve.

The rules are a response to hundreds of complaints about incessant noise from the surging number of flights ferrying affluent weekenders to the Hamptons. The East Hampton Town Board imposed a year-round 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew on takeoffs and landings. And it will restrict particularly noisy aircraft -- like the bigger helicopters flown by commercial operators -- to an extended curfew, from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m., and a limit of one takeoff and landing a week from May to September.

The restrictions, especially the weekly limit, will hurt helicopter operators' bottom lines. But they will cut helicopter traffic at the airport by 70 percent. The suit claims the town's actions are illegal because federal law doesn't allow local governments to regulate airports. But the Federal Aviation Administration and town officials said the town gained that authority Dec. 31 when federal grants to the airport expired and town officials passed up future FAA funding.

There's no perfect fix to satisfy both residents, who want the quiet enjoyment of their homes, and helicopter operators, who want to do business as usual. But town officials must be willing to make timely changes to solve any problems that arise after the restrictions take effect Memorial Day weekend.

The best solution will come from cooperation rather than confrontation.