East Hampton Airport & The Supremes

East Hampton Airport cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Lawyers for the Town of East Hampton have appealed a lower court decision about the East Hampton Airport to the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue is certainly a matter that needs to be addressed.

East Hampton Town owns the land on which the airport sits, founded the airport back before there were formal rules on how planes go in and out, and as with other small airports around the country, originally agreed to allow the FAA laws, which apply to all airports, to apply to our airport.

Because the FAA, which is mandated to do so by Congress, has now failed to provide any reasonable rules to control loud aircraft noise at our airport—or any other airport in the country—the Town decided to take matters into its own hands several years ago.

Lawyers for the FAA told the town they would have to abide by the absence of the noise rules as long as they took funding from the FAA for the kinds of contraptions that any airport needs, such as tower communications, runway repairs and other technical things. The Town then unwound itself from any financial involvement with the FAA and, when it was done, took over entirely, except for the regular rules involving safety and FAA regulations regarding flying. The Town has never argued about technical flying safety rules. They abide by those rules.

When this financial disconnection was done, the FAA said, essentially, too bad, we fooled you, you still have to follow our rules, and the new noise restrictions you passed in 2015 are not acceptable. Furthermore, the town cannot now, under any circumstances, close the airport. Once an airport, always an airport.

There is no guarantee the Supreme Court will hear this case, although the issue is far-reaching. The issue is whether the FAA can force any town-owned property that becomes an airport to remain an airport indefinitely. The property owner is then being FORCED to have a certain activity on the property, whether they want to or not, even if airport activity causes a loss of money. All has to be made up by the taxpayers of the town walking into that trap. This is certainly a constitutional issue. The Santa Monica Airport, which is following our case closely, has already voted to shut their airport entirely and turn it into a public park. But it has not happened. The planes keep on coming in and out. And the matter is in court there.

I think any red-blooded Supreme Court judge, even those such as John Roberts and the new guy coming along, Neil Gorsuch, can appreciate that when you own a property it doesn’t mean somebody else, especially the federal government, can tell you what goes on there. This is outrageous.

Here is a statement issued by East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell about this matter, referring to the lower court reversal of the Town’s ordinances: “With the stroke of a pen, the appeals court decision has federalized our airport and stripped us—and the thousands of similarly situated airports—of the ability to exert local control. We cannot let that decision stand.”

Someday soon, we look forward to the day when some farmers will be out there on the runway with red flags and green flags directing the planes overhead about whether this is a good time to land at East Hampton or not.

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