The airport debate has been hot and heavy for years now, and the May 11 virtual public meeting was no different, with 27 members of the public offering their opinions over three hours.
The Town of East Hampton has four options for what it can do with the East Hampton Airport, which were outlined during the town board’s May 11 public meeting.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and town board members can decide to close the airport, keep the airport operating as is, temporarily close the airport and reopen it again, or keep the airport open for private flights only and eliminate commercial flights.
“I don’t think anybody on this board has made up our minds,” said councilman Jeff Bragman. “We need to hear input from the public.”
Several local residents supported closing the airport due to noise pollution, one man calling it “not extreme, simply common sense.”
Board members have also sought outside counsel to conduct studies that will aid their decision. HMMH, an environmental and transportation planning consulting firm, provided information about complaints and operations. It showed that complaints reported had been steadily increasing since 2015 until the pandemic hit last year.
An economic impact study by HR&A, a New York City-based real estate and economic development advising company, found that “current airport operations and passenger spending generates $13 million to $26 million” to the town, which amounts to about 1 to 2 percent of the town’s taxable sales.
Representatives from HR&A also noted that closure of the airport would “improve town residents’ quality of life and reduce noise, ground and water pollution.”
The town board still needs to receive a carbon emissions study and diversion quality study, which would analyze the impact of air traffic shifting to other nearby airports, such as Montauk Airport, if East Hampton Airport shut down.
The earliest that the town could close the airport is this September, when the Federal Aviation Administration authority requiring the town to comply with grant-related conditions on the airport expires. However, Bragman said the decision would not be made hastily. “There’s time, and we’re going to do it carefully,” he said.