The Airport Issue, Again

The first two letters on our letters page, taken together, perfectly illustrate the mindsets of East Hampton Airport opponents and proponents, and perhaps why such a controversial subject has lingered for so long — the inability of the hardliners to see both sides of the issue.

The first, by Elliot Meisel, a member of the East Hampton Aviation Association, takes this newspaper to task, accusing us of publishing an “inflammatory article” that lacked “a balanced prospective.” Basically, our reporter T.E. McMorrow wrote a short article about a study by a consulting firm the town board commissioned regarding noise created by aircraft that use the local airport. He reported the numbers that were presented to the board. It was one of dozens of articles about the airport that have appeared in this newspaper over the years.

Meisel complained McMorrow isn’t “a fair minded” reporter. The crux of his letter is that many of the people who complain about airport noise do so repeatedly. The Independent, in the past, has reported this at some length. The second half of his letter rehashed the mantra in effect for two decades: The airport generates jobs and revenue. We get that.

The second letter writer, Robert Skinner, from Jamesport, tells a horror story of air traffic during the season over his house. It’s constant, it’s loud, it’s annoying, and he wants instead for helicopters to head to East Hampton by flying over Long Island Sound, circle Plum Island, and approach the airport from the northwest.

Earlier in the summer we reported there was some impetus to allow pilots to take the southern route over the Atlantic beaches but they are stymied by fog and a control tower at the airport that was too short to see the aircraft.

Thank you for writing the letters, and both of you are correct.

We know a lot of complainers log an inordinate amount of calls. We’ve sent reporters to park outside their homes during the peak summer hours. Guess what? It’s noisy as hell.

We believe asking pilots to fly 18 additional miles around Plum Island is inefficient, and history has shown once they start their inward flight path to East Hampton, they will once again rankle homeowners as they fly over — it will be different people, same complaint.

It seems to us, local pilots, by and large, seem to get it. But the helicopter companies making obscene money by operating shuttle services need to be reeled in, or at the very least, brought to the negotiating table. Routes in and out of the airport should be varied, so that no one neighborhood is overwhelmed, though safety must always come first.

One thing for sure: When the town pays a consultant to inform them noise complaints doubled in one year, it should also be told how many people are lodging complaints. One sometimes gets the impression the town board manipulates consultants to tell members what they want to hear. The habit of manipulating data to shape public opinion is unfortunately not a new phenomenon in this town.