Judge Clips Town’s Wings in East Hampton Airport Case

East Hampton Airport sign
East Hampton Airport (James J. Mackin)
James J. Mackin

A Suffolk County judge has blocked the Town of East Hampton’s plan to enact new flight restrictions intended to curb noise complaints at East Hampton Airport, siding with aviation interests opposed to the plan.

Aviation companies and advocates who filed suit against the town earlier this year cheered the decision Wednesday by Judge Paul J. Baisley Jr., who found the town needed to perform an environmental review before enacting new flight restrictions. Town officials signaled that they plan to appeal the ruling.

“We never wanted to file a lawsuit, but the town continually disregarded our concerns over privatizing the airport, making litigation our only option,” East End Hangars Inc. Board President Steven Dunaif, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We are hopeful that town leaders can bring our community together and reach a legal solution that benefits all of East Hampton.”

The town had planned to briefly close the airport this spring as a part of its plan to switch from a public airport to one that requires prior permission for takeoff and landing. A federal court struck down a similar bid years prior but the town tried again after federal grant assurances limiting its control were lifted last year.

“We will just continue the fight,” a disappointed East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said Thursday when asked about the ruling at a town board meeting. He said the ruling was “not completely unexpected,” the board is reviewing its options to appeal and had planned to do an environmental review after the changeover. 

“Apparently the court wants us to go forward with hypothetical data,” he said. “We will be doing that instead of actual real-life results.”

The judge ruled that the town “acted both beyond its legal abilities and in an arbitrary and capricious manner” in saying it would do the environmental review after the change.

Erin King Sweeny, executive director of the pro-airport East Hampton Community Alliance, welcomed the news.

“EHCA is hopeful that the recent court ruling will encourage all parties to use this as an opportunity to develop a balanced solution to keep East Hampton Airport open to continue to serve the economic and life-saving interests of the community.”

More from Our Sister Sites