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Zeldin: To reduce aircraft noise, FAA should direct flights south

07/23/2016 3:40 PM |

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Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has a seemingly simple fix for getting rid of helicopter and airplane noise on the North Fork: send the aircraft south.

At a meeting set up by the nonprofit group Southold Voice in Peconic Saturday morning, Mr. Zeldin said he would ideally have the Federal Aviation Administration close the northern aircraft route that sends helicopters over the North Fork on their way to airports in East Hampton and Montauk.

Instead, Mr. Zeldin suggests the FAA designate the southern route along the south shore as the only route for air traffic — and enforce it.

“These aircraft are not landing on the North Fork,” Mr. Zeldin said, drawing applause from the dozens of residents in attendance. “Unless I’m completely missing something… why would anyone be traveling the North Fork at all?”

Air traffic noise remains a “critical” quality of life issue on the North Fork, said Southold Voice chair Marie Benninati. That showed in the concerns voiced by many in attendance, who said air traffic noise has become worse this year and asked what can be done to lessen the racket.

A main concern is the north route of aircraft traffic, which is a suggested path for aircraft to take that sends them near residential areas. Pilots are restricted in where they can fly and at what altitude, Mr. Zeldin said. But while some pilots follow the law and are quick to make changes if a complaint is filed, other companies and pilots flaunt the rules.

“A lot of these companies? I don’t think they care,” Mr. Zeldin said.

Mr. Zeldin said aircraft coming from New York City should fly south off the coast to limit disruption for local residents, and to keep aircraft out of North Fork skies.

“This seems to be a common sense solution,” Mr. Zeldin said.

The northern route now used by pilots is set to expire on Aug. 6. But it’s unclear if the suggested path will be abandoned, or whether it will be extended by the FAA. And Mr. Zeldin said FAA administrators have been ignoring his requests to speak. 

“As soon as we got adversarial with the FAA, they went silent,” he said. “The FAA are being silent with everyone.”

Mr. Zeldin blamed the U.S. Senate for canceling his leverage over the FAA by refusing to pass an appropriations bill. Mr. Zeldin said since no appropriations bills are being passed and funding is simply continued at the current rate, the FAA doesn’t fear pushback from members of congress holding the pursestrings.

Ideally, Mr. Zeldin said, local town governments should have the ability to regulate air traffic and aircraft noise within their borders. He also sharply criticized the FAA for getting involved in a lawsuit filed against East Hampton Town over its decision to limit aircraft noise.

“I believe very strongly in local control,” he said.

Mr. Zeldin, along with Southold Town Councilman Robert Ghosio, urged residents to file complaints about aircraft noise. Mr. Ghosio said a website that tracks planes can be used to submit complaints electronically.

Mr. Zeldin also called for more cooperation between his office and his counterparts in the Senate.

“Senator [Charles] Schumer has been a lot more engaged than Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand,” he said. “I can’t even tell you if its on her radar.”

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