East Hampton Airport Update

By Peter M. Wolf

Two years ago, the Town of East Hampton coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to temporarily close its publicly owned airport for two days while making the change from public utility airport to Private Use Airport. A last-minute temporary restraining order issued by the Court prohibited the Town from making that conversion. The FAA, however, had not only already adjusted its maps and other aviation administrative supports, but bequeathed a new name to HTO – now JPX. A Private Use airport only permits landings with Prior Permission Required (PPR), offering the Town the ability to determine what types of aircraft may land, when and how often in a given day, week or month they may land.

The restraining order was challenged by the Town and in recent weeks was upheld by the court. The Town has indicated it will continue its appeal, giving hope to the aircraft noise and health and safety affected that some kind of relief may at long last be available. Indeed, airport closure has risen as a possible solution, if no other meaningful compromise can be found. The Town Board should be congratulated for taking a firm stand to protect its citizens and the environment from both the noise disturbances to peaceful enjoyment of home and property, and in its effort to mitigate the environmental pollution and risks to public health that carbon emissions from aircraft and jet fuel present.

In related news, in response to another lawsuit in conjunction with the Town’s attempts to control its own property, it has adopted a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which was a document the court required of the Town when it initiated original plans to convert the airport. The study took almost two years to complete and is now available for public comment until May 3, 2024.

The document can be found at: https://ehamptonny.gov/1913/Draft-Generic-Environmental-Impact-State. Notable are the potential impacts to Montauk residents, because of its own local, privately owned airport located on East Lake Drive. They may experience an increase in traffic, should PJX finally become a PPR airport, or close altogether. And, Montauk residents around that facility, located in wetlands, are rightly concerned. However, the document suggests that impacts, while greater at Montauk, are not outside of acceptable levels, given the lessening of impacts on the greater population of the western end of Town, eastern and northern Southampton and areas of Shelter Island and Southold Townships as well. Comments on the DEIS can be sent to: AirportDGEIS@ehamptonny.gov. Montauk residents could, of course, petition the owners to close or otherwise govern their airport to mitigate potential increases in aircraft traffic there.

The Town recently indicated its plans to appeal the latest rulings from the Court requiring the Town to meet the standards of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA), before enacting reasonable restrictions at a private-use airport. A March 28, 2024 press release stated, in part “…The Town of East Hampton is deeply disappointed in the outcome of the appeals. The Town proceeded in good faith to find a solution to address the long-standing noise and environmental impacts from the Airport on the town and its surrounding communities and remains committed to that goal, as the status quo is not acceptable.”

Meantime, the summer season is upon us. Continue to log aircraft noise complaints at: https://www.planenoise.com/khto or https://airnoisereport.com/complaints. Or call: 1-800-376-4817.