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Town Of East Hampton, Which Operates Local Airport, Recently Established Aircraft Noise Restrictions to Improve Quality Of Life For Tens Of Thousands Of Residents—To Alleviate Community Concerns Caused By Incessant Aircraft Noise During Summer Months

Senator Urges FAA to Stop Intervening in Lawsuit And Honor Prior Commitment, As East Hampton Airport No Longer Receives FAA Funding

        Schumer: The East End Already Has Enough Aircraft Noise; It Doesn’t Need Background Noise from the FAA Threatening to Sue

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to forgo its support of a temporary restraining order on the Town of East Hampton to prevent the implementation of the Town’s aircraft noise ordinances.  For years, residents of the East End have been faced with incessant aircraft noise throughout the summer months.  In the past, the Town was subject to federal ANCA regulations as a recipient of FAA funding, but when the Town voluntarily stopped receiving funding, the grant assurances expired and enabled the Town to set access restriction without FAA approval.  This was confirmed in a FAA letter sent to former Congressman Tim Bishop. As a result, the Town of East Hampton put forth three local laws that crackdown on the aircraft noise issue. Schumer said that, since they dropped federal funding and were previously assured by FAA that it would not intervene, the Town should not face any objections from the FAA regarding these laws and should be allowed to defend these strictures against various challenges free of FAA interference.

“The FAA is creating an unnecessary amount of turbulence over control of the East Hampton Airport. They should honor their prior position on non-intervention and let the Town defend the regulations on their own legal merits,” said Schumer.  “The Town of East Hampton is already trying to cope with the challenge of managing aircraft noise, and it doesn’t need more background noise from the FAA.”

According to residents, the Town of East Hampton and surrounding areas endure the constant sound of airplanes and helicopters that fly low overhead during the summer months.  Air traffic through the East Hampton Airport increases dramatically over the summer, and local residents have complained about the noise frequency and levels and, following the cessation of federal financial support for the East Hampton airport, the local board took steps to mitigate noise levels. These regulations are being challenged in court by a coalition of aircraft industry concerns.  
In April, the Town of East Hampton proposed three laws to address the noise problem.  First, the Town of East Hampton banned all flights between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.  Second, the Town created a curfew for especially noisy aircrafts from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Lastly, the Town limited noisy aircrafts to one trip each week between May and September.

The aviation industry brought the Town to court and claimed that air control was under the jurisdiction of the federal government; counter to its previous pledge not to intervene, the FAA supported the aviation industry’s request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the Town from imposing these regulations.  

The Town of East Hampton had ties to the FAA until last year, when they decided to stop receiving funds from the FAA.  When the FAA grant assurances expired and the Airport Improvement Program was halted, the Town says it was free to enforce its new ordinances. 

Schumer today urged the FAA to pull back on its legal fight over the East Hampton Airport and allow the challenge to be litigated on its merits without interference from the FAA. Schumer went on to say that unless the rules limit operations in an arbitrary, discriminatory way, there is no reason for the FAA to sue over the implementation of these rules.

A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:

Dear Administrator Huerta:

I write regarding the local ordinances regulating airport use and aircraft noise recently adopted by the Town of East Hampton to urge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to refrain from joining in the legal action against these regulations being pursued by a coalition of aviation businesses.

Previously, the FAA indicated that it would not take or support legal actions against the Town of Easthampton if it established reasonable airport use regulations, so the FAA decision to support the temporary restraining order (TRO) was disappointing and inconsistent. Therefore, I urge the FAA to refrain from joining in any further legal action in this matter, especially as it related to the underlying merits of the case.

Residents on the East End of Long Island experience a high volume of helicopter and aircraft noise, especially over the summer months. As aircraft traffic into and out of the East Hampton Airport increases, many residents believe their quality of life decreases.  For years, as air traffic increased, so did complaints from residents and the desire to mitigate the noise problem. Yet the Town was constrained from acting because the airport received FAA grants money, which required it to adhere to federal rules and refrain from passing their own.

Last year, however, the Town of East Hampton let their FAA grant assurances expire, and decided to forego future funding from the FAA, including funding from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The Town deliberately took these steps so that they would have the legal standing to implement and enforce these new ordinances without violating FAA rules. Because the Town is no longer accepting federal funding from the FAA, they hold they should be free to implement ordinances like these without unnecessary interference or objection from the FAA, as long as they do not limit operations in an unreasonable, arbitrary, or discriminatory way. Specifically, in April the East Hampton Town Board adopted ordinances banning all flights between 11:00pm and 7:00am, and limiting the flight of certain aircraft. The Town also adopted an ordinance limiting noisy aircraft to one takeoff and landing per week between May and September.

In the spirit and letter of the previous FAA assurance to former Congressman Tim Bishop that it would not oppose reasonable local regulations, I urge the FAA to withdraw from the legal fight over the East Hampton Airport noise ordinances and to allow the community to confront the legal challenge to implement the rules they feel are necessary to maintain their quality of life.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate