A Greenport Village business owner hopes to land a private helicopter behind his Carpenter Street property so he can decrease the time spent traveling to vendors and customers.
Walter Gezari, the owner of STIDD Systems, plans to demolish the old Cooper Seafood Dock building and replace it with a smaller building that would leave enough space for a helicopter to land. The helicopter would only be for private use, he said, and he would not technically be building a helipad.
The issue came up at Thursday’s Greenport Village Board meeting. Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said the project needs approval from the Village Board before moving forward. Mr. Gezari was not present at the meeting.
“I’m not trying to commute to work from my home in Calverton,” Mr. Gezari said in an interview. “What I am intending to do is come by helicopter from an FAA-approved airport to this landing spot and then be able to go from the landing spot to New York, Connecticut, Vermont, or other places where we have vendors and customers.”
Mr. Gezari said his business has customers all over the northeast and he picks up people and components several times a week by helicopter to accelerate business.
STIDD Systems has been in the village for 25 years and makes ergonomic marina seats for recreational and military uses, and military submersible boats. The company has about 50 employees, at least 40 based in Greenport, and most of them live in Greenport Village or Southold Town, Mr. Gezari said.
“I was in Burlington, Vt. yesterday picking up critical components for a military shipment we made parts for,” Mr. Gezari said. “To go there by helicopter would be 45 minutes each way. To go by car would be two days, and to use commercial airlines you’d be on a plane all day.”
Mr. Gezari said his helicopter departures and arrivals are “30 seconds in and 30 seconds out. It’s less than a leaf blower and not as long as a riding mower.”
The helicopter approaches and departures would be made over the water, not over homes, he said. He estimated the helicopter would be used about three times a week.
Police helicopters occasionally land at nearby Eastern Long Island Hospital and the Greenport High School grounds, he said.
At the village board meeting, Mr. Hubbard said that Mr. Gezari would seek to relocate his business to the now-closed Mattituck Airport if he can’t get approval in Greenport.
“At first, I said, he’s threatening us,” Mr. Hubbard said. “He’s going to move if he doesn’t get this. But in reality, he’s cleaning up another property downtown on the waterfront, and creating good paying jobs. That’s my personal feeling on it.”
Mr. Hubbard said he lives on the same street as ELIH, where “helicopters come in, and it’s 20 seconds. They come in and they take off.”
Mr. Gezari said it’s not a threat, it’s a reality for his business.
“I need to integrate the aviation activity with the business activity,” he said. “It’s enabled us to grow to the point we are at. Without it, we’d be many years behind where we are now.”
He said the company’s growth is tied into some large contracts it has now and some that are coming.
“We can’t make this stuff fast enough,” he said.
As for the Mattituck Airport, Mr. Gezari said that while he has no agreement in place with the airport’s owners, if he can’t land his helicopter at his Greenport business, and the Mattituck Airport were to be sold to someone else for a non-aviation use, he would have to move his business farther west despite most of his employees living in Southold Town, specifically Greenport Village.
Asked about Riverhead Town’s Enterprise Park at Calverton, (EPCAL), Mr. Gezari said most of his employees wouldn’t want to travel that far west. He added that he had some bad experiences with Riverhead Town in the past.
The town was involved in a lawsuit with Mr. Gezari over the use of his helicopter in Calverton. The lawsuit was eventually settled with Mr. Gezari agreeing not to land his helicopter near his Calverton home.
Mr. Hubbard said the village board must first decide if it will allow Mr. Gezari to land his helicopter at its business.
If the village board approves it, a decision that’s expected in about a month, the application for the new building and helicopter landing site would go to other agencies, including the Village planning board, the state and the Federal Aviation Administration for additional approvals.
Photo Caption: A view of the dock that would be rebuilt to clear room for a helicopter to land. (Credit: Rachel Young)