The East Hampton Town Board heard a litany of complaints August 21 on subjects that are sore points for some residents: airport noise and weekend hunting.
Those complaining about the noise of guns and the danger they say is caused by hunting for deer with guns in East Hampton Town saw their hoped-for one day a week ban on the sport during the January season shot down by four of the five board members.
Jeffrey Bragman, who helped orchestrate bringing the question of a weekend day ban in for a full board discussion, found himself marching to the beat of a different drummer than the rest. While his fellow board members were not on his side, he cited a petition that has been signed by more than 600 residents supporting the ban.
“I felt that our board has remained largely silent, for the most part” on the issue, he said, adding silence could be read as “recalcitrance to act.”
According to the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, hunting with non-muzzle loading guns will be allowed in Suffolk County from January 5 to January 31. Deer hunting with muzzle-loading guns is banned entirely across Long Island, while archery deer hunting is permitted from October 1, 2019 through January 31, 2020.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc responded to Bragman’s comments by saying that hunting has been a thorny issue for the town as it wrestles with an apparent growth in the deer population, as evidenced by the increase in vehicular accidents involving deer from 475 in 2016 to 647 in 2018. This is based on the number of deceased animals picked up on roadways. He also said that, while there have been no known fatalities in the town caused by hunters, such is not the case with fatal accidents caused by deer on highways, citing a bicyclist who was killed in Springs several years ago after a collision with a car involving a deer.
David Lys picked up on a point Van Scoyoc made that much of the gun noise heard from hunters is actually from those shooting waterfowl. Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said she believes a conversation should be had with the DEC.
Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said “forests are dying” across the town because of the overbrowning by deer.
“Part of being rural is being able to hunt,” she said. “I love this place because it is rural. Banning hunting puts us one step closer to urbanization.” At the same time, she does not like hunting, personally, and understands the feelings of those opposing the matter.
After listening to about a half dozen opponents to the airport and noise created by planes, the board heard from East Hampton Airport manager Jim Brundige, who said summer traffic is up sharply, anticipating an increase for August of over 25 percent total trips.
Total airport traffic, he said, has risen this year to 15,810 total trips in or out of the airport, up from 14,716 last year. Helicopter traffic, which tends to be the noisiest, and is about 30 percent of all trips, is down slightly for the year, though there was an uptick in July.
A big part of the increase is from local and recreational flyers, with such traffic jumping from 4680 to 5552 trips, an 18-percent increase.
Several speakers who addressed the board during the public portion urged the board to shut it down. The town board has previously tried to manage the noise through flight curfews, only to have those struck down in court. Managing a workable approach to the airport is going to be a major challenge for the board moving forward, Van Scoyoc said.
The town could close the airport come 2021, when an agreement with the federal government regarding the airport expires.