Dan Rattiner's Stories

Country School Evicted in East Hampton

The Country School preschool on Industrial Road in East Hampton may be evicted by the town because they cannot agree on terms for a new lease, and also, at least in part, because, according to the founder of the school, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) refuses to approve the Town’s selling a piece of the airport property on which the school sits.

Deena Zenger founded the school in the late 1990s. She says the 15-year lease she’d had with the town said she could renew the lease for another 15 years and buy the leased property if she so chose, according to the Southampton Press, but that the town says the lease was never renewed (Zenger says she has a copy of the letter she sent asking for the renewal). Her husband built a 6,000 square foot building there. Ms. Zenger says she’d intended to buy the property.

The FAA, however, says no sale of the airport property can be made without their permission, and they have not given permission.

Ms. Zenger told the Southampton Press that she believes the Town may have given her the purchase option without realizing they could not do that. The original contract may have been illegal to start with, Zenger suggested.

Zenger also said the annual rent wanted was now $76,000 a year instead of $3,000, and Cantwell confirmed that, too. The $3,000 was what the going rate was 15 years ago on Industrial Road. Now the FAA wants all leases brought up to date. The school remains open through this summer and the next school year, Zenger said.

Meanwhile, the Town has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to hear a case they filed against the FAA about whether the owner of the airport must abide by what the FAA says. The town had put in noise restrictions. The FAA ordered the noise restrictions lifted. An appeals court ruled in favor of the FAA. Could the Town shut down the airport? The FAA says no. They have to bear the costs of running it, even if it disrupts the citizenry, and loses money, in perpetuity. The FAA has never allowed a meaningful noise restriction on any airport owned by a town anywhere.

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