05/28/14 4:06pm
05/28/2014 4:06 PM


A temporary Federal Aviation Administration requirement that helicopters fly over Long Island Sound rather than homes on the North Fork is set to expire on Aug. 6, according to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). Mr. Bishop and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) are now working on a bill to make that requirement permanent and to also extend the area where helicopters must stay over the water.  (more…)

07/14/13 11:41am
07/14/2013 11:41 AM


A federal court has rejected a challenge by helicopter pilots that would have overturned Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring they fly a mile off Long Island’s North Shore during their trips back and forth to the Hamptons.

[Read more this week in The Suffolk Times newspaper]

The pilots, represented by Helicopter Association International Inc., have been fighting FAA rules enacted last year after the agency found “residents emphatically agreed that helicopter overflights during the summer months are unbearable and negatively impact their quality of life,’ according to a decision issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.

The helicopter association had argued, among other points, that the FAA lacked the authority to change air traffic patterns solely for reducing the impact of aircraft noise on residents and had exceeded its congressional limits on authority.

The court disagreed.

“Although the noise-related provisions [the helicopter association] cites refer to discrete areas, for example, to noise reduction in or near airports, neither their substance nor their structure suggest that Congress intended to narrow its broad authorization to the FAA to regulate the use of navigable airspace, much less to restrict the FAA’s capacity to manage aircraft noise to these limited contexts,” reads the three-judge panel’s decision, written by Circuit Court Judge Judith Rogers.

The judges also agreed the FAA had the authority to act out of concern for safety on the ground, below the flight paths.

The 2012 rules came after years of complaints along the North North and Shelter Island about the noise from helicopters taking well-heeled passengers back and forth to the South Shore over homes, sometimes at low altitudes.

The concern caught the attention of Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other lawmakers who lobbied on behalf of residents for the changes.

Helicopter pilots had typically taken three routes over Long Island, either along the South Shore, North Shore, or over the Long Island Expressway. However, the North Shore route was preferred because it was faster and less likely to encounter weather delays than the southern route, according to the court case.

Under the FAA’s new rules, helicopter pilots are permitted to fly inland on the North Shore only in the case of inclement weather or other emergencies. Offenders could face fines or license revocations.


06/01/13 7:00pm
06/01/2013 7:00 PM


I read with great interest the Town Hall Notes article regarding helicopter noise. It’s a key quality-of-life issue affecting North Fork residents and it’s so far eluded a solution.

I agree with Supervisor Russell that East Hampton “holds the keys to the kingdom” and that the only permanent solution is for East Hampton to adopt a comprehensive noise limitation policy. But as Mr. Russell acknowledges, this is not going to happen anytime soon, if at all. We do not seem to have a clear way forward to influence East Hampton to cooperate.

In the meantime, the helicopter noise has disproportionately affected residents in the Mattituck Inlet area. Mr. Russell should focus on arriving at an interim solution. First, work to redirect a portion of the flights over the Atlantic Ocean southern route. I may not have all the facts, but it seems that the current 65/35 route split (65 percent North Fork and 35 percent South Fork) is arbitrary. Who could argue against 50/50? It certainly seems a more equitable distribution of the flight routes.

Second, the North Fork route traffic should be equally divided between Mattituck Inlet and Orient, or perhaps identify a third flight route. Frankly, I’m disappointed Mr. Russell recently voted against a voluntary measure offered by the Eastern Region Helicopter Council to evenly divide the number of flights between the two routes. Why should the Mattituck Inlet residents be singled out to bear the brunt of the noise? What do we need to do to arrive at a more equitable solution? Are we not sufficiently vocal about it?

Mr. Russell correctly pointed out that “splitting the problem in half” does nothing to fix the helicopter noise and I applaud him for trying to work out a comprehensive solution. But splitting it in half does offer at least some limited measure of relief to those of us who are disproportionately affected.

Short of a comprehensive noise reduction policy, which seems to be out of reach, Mr. Russell “holds the keys to the kingdom” to arrive at a fair and equitable temporary solution.

Margo Lowry, Orient

05/24/13 6:00pm
05/24/2013 6:00 PM


Southold Town’s request for East Hampton’s help in mitigating excessive noise generated by aircraft — specifically helicopters — approaching East Hampton Airport has fallen on deaf ears, according to Supervisor Scott Russell.

Mr. Russell was the lone opponent of new voluntary air traffic patterns outlined last week by the Eastern Region Helicopter Council.

Air traffic control currently directs approximately 35 percent of aircraft to East Hampton by way of the southern route, over the Atlantic Ocean. The remaining 65 percent of flights are directed to use the Sierra route, the northerly approach over Mattituck Inlet.

“From the complaints we get you can literally draw a line from the northerly section of Mattituck right through [to East Hampton],” Mr. Russell said.

Under the new guidelines air traffic controllers agreed to divide the number flights using the northerly route between the existing pattern over Mattituck Inlet and a second pattern above the causeway in East Marion, Mr. Russell said.

“They say the planes will be going over the least populated area; but it’s really not,” Mr. Russell said. “Now you’re going to upset the people of Orient and the people of East Marion. Their notion of splitting my problem in half doesn’t help.”

While the measure is voluntary, Mr. Russell said East Hampton “holds to the keys to the kingdom” on the issue because it owns the airport.

“The pilots will do what East Hampton wants them to do,” he said.

East Hampton Town forfeited its right to impose legal restrictions on helicopters several years ago when it accepted a Federal Aviation Administration grant. East Hampton has remained quiet about the noise complaints voiced by neighboring municipalities, Mr. Russell said.

“We are getting no compromise from our neighbors from the south,” Mr. Russell said. “I have no reason to believe they are going to give up the FAA as a revenue stream.”

Board members approved a resolution Tuesday requesting that East Hampton adopt a comprehensive aircraft noise limitation policy.

The resolution asks that East Hampton impose evening and weekend curfews and limit the number of flights and the airport’s hours of operation.

The resolution also asks East Hampton to refuse an extension of its agreement with the FAA when the agreement expires in December 2014.

“I have no reason to think they will honor what we just passed tonight,” Mr. Russell said. “I don’t like suing other towns; but we are certainly exploring all of our options.”


09/17/12 9:14am
09/17/2012 9:14 AM

To the Editor:

It’s apparent that many North Fork residents are still getting bombarded with various aircraft noise. The newest helicopter regulation approved in August simply pushed the helicopter flight pattern farther east.

All towns east of Manorville would be considered “transition” areas, which would permit pilots to cross to East Hampton Airport, the Southampton heliport and Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach. This should have never been approved.

For years, North Fork residents have requested helicopter pilots to fly over the Sound and around Orient Point, or on the South Shore route. Due to FAA and JFK airspace regulations, the southern route is very limited. According to the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, one major helicopter company, Liberty Helicopters, has signed an agreement to use the South Shore route.

If one company is permitted to take that route, why can’t others? The North Fork cannot continue to be used for entry and exit points to the South Fork.

It is critical that residents contact their elected officials. Question why these helicopters have to fly over our schools. What is this doing to our environment?

Inquire as to why the county is not enforcing a 2009 law making it illegal to fly a helicopter “in a manner that creates a hazard or undue hardship for persons and property on the surface.” It carries a $1,000 fine for each violation.

To file complaints via the Web, please go to helicopternoise@mail.house.gov or call 537-loud (5683) or 1-800-376-4817. Details should include your name, address, town, phone number, date and time of occurrence, direction and any description of the aircraft. A tail number (NR#) is best.

If you get the tail number, go to faa.gov. There is a box on the opening page which reads “N-number inquiry.” All aircraft details will become available to you.

The FAA also has a noise complaint line at 718-553-3365, but those reports are not investigated or responded to. To file a complaint about an unsafe aircraft, call 755-1300. You can also join the Quiet Skies Coalition at quietskiescoalition.org. Federal aviation regulations can be found there.

Teresa McCaskie, Mattituck

02/01/12 3:40pm
02/01/2012 3:40 PM

JOHN DUNN PHOTO | Senator Charles Schumer at a helicopter noise news conference in Port Washington last year.

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to adopt the proposed North Shore helicopter route, designed to lessen helicopter noise over residences, by July 4, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

The route would require helicopters to fly offshore and at an altitude of at least 2,500 feet. But one local helicopter noise activist said the move is all but meaningless for the East End because it does not address the issue of helicopters crossing the North Fork on their way to the Hamptons.

The FAA, said Mr. LaHood, “is 100 percent committed to finalizing regulations on the use of the North Shore route by helicopters.

The proposed rule would require helicopters to fly over water rather than land and at a high enough altitude to reduce noise when flying over Long Island. Working with all stakeholders, we intend to have a final rule by Memorial Day weekend, to go into effect before the Fourth of July.”

Mr. LaHood said he is working on North Shore plan specifics, as well as proposed over-water helicopter routes for the South Shore.

Mr. Schumer (D-Brooklyn) said he had hoped to get the helicopter route included in FAA’s 2011 Reauthorization Bill, but “it was blocked by the Republican-led House, at the industry’s behest.”

Because of this, he was then able to convince Mr. LaHood to enact the route as an FAA regulation, which does not require a vote of Congress.

“Secretary LaHood’s strong and unequivocal statement should serve as a wake-up call to the helicopter industry,” Mr. Schumer said. “Long Island will not continue to be the Wild West for low-flying, disruptive and noisy helicopters.”

The FAA’s plans do not sit well with the Eastern Region Helicopter Council.

“At Senator Schumer’s request, in 2007 we agreed to follow the North Shore route,” said council chairman Jeffrey Smith.

“Unfortunately, this restricted flight plan resulted in a highly concentrated and condensed flight pattern for all helicopters over the North Shore. This in turn created a higher frequency of noise for those residents affected and dramatically exacerbated the existing noise concerns.”

The ERHC recommends reinstating a “diversified route structure” that will distribute helicopter activity more evenly between the North Shore, the center of Long Island and the South Shore and alleviate the increase of helicopter traffic over one area.

Joseph Fischetti, a Southold engineer who represents Southold Town on helicopter noise issues, said the FAA’s action is no reason for the East End to celebrate.

The problem is not how high helicopters fly along the shore, but where they turn over land on the way to airports in Westhampton Beach and East Hampton, he said.

“The 2,500 feet on the North Shore is not going to help us,” he said.

He believes the answer is for the FAA to open a new South Shore helicopter route, since pilots routinely follow the North Shore and turn south over Mattituck and Cutchogue, to take advantage of an approved helicopter route through LaGuardia Airport in northern Queens.

“If it’s easy to get through JFK, the pilots will use it,” Mr. Fischetti said. Since the copters are headed to South Fork destinations, it makes sense for the FAA to establish a viable South Shore route, he added.

The North Fork’s communities are not seeking to divert all helicopter flights, he noted.

“If we could mitigate some of this traffic by having some of them fly the southern route, we’ll do that,” said Mr. Fischetti. “We’ll take our share.”

Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, said residents there had many complaints about helicopter noise, although he said it had been reduced in the past year or so because some pilots had voluntarily agreed to fly offshore. He said the economy may also have muted the problem, as fewer people can afford helicopters.

As for Mr. LaHood’s announcement, Mr. Bail said he’s “cautiously optimistic. We have to see the details. My concern is that they are going to resolve the problem for Nassau County and western Suffolk and neglect the East End.”

County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who has been working for several years to relieve helicopter noise problems in his district, also said he’s cautiously optimistic.

“We’ve been here before,” he said. In 2009, Mr. Schumer held a press conference in Smithtown to announce the new helicopter regulations that never became reality, Mr. Romaine said.

“I will give a lot of credit to Senator Schumer for persevering and getting Secretary LaHood to say he will issue the new routes,” Mr. Romaine said. “I’m very optimistic but I want to wait for the final regulations to come out in July.”

Mr. Romaine said the technology already exists to reduce helicopter noise by having them operate in what’s known as “whisper mode.”

He said some military and CIA helicopters already use this technology.


10/15/11 1:31pm
10/15/2011 1:31 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Greenport couple George Agnew and Linda Mugford with Southold resident Ellen Gomez hold protest signs in front of Rothmans on Saturday where Southold Democrats gathered and called for the preservation of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Southold Democrats held a rally Saturday, calling for the preservation of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as what committee chairman Art Tillman is describing as “a new plank” in his party’s platform: eliminating helicopter noise on the North Fork.

Frank Dalene, vice chairman of the civic action group Quiet Skies Coalition, told a crowd of about 30 people at Rothmans Department Store in Southold that he believes helicopter noise  could be reduced if East Hampton Airport returns to operating as a private airport.

“[The airport] now acts as a commercial hub,” said Mr. Dalene, a pilot from Wainscott. “It’s an aerial assault on our quality of life. The same helicopters that fly over your homes, fly over ours.”

Mr. Tillman said the Democrats decided to join Quiet Skies Coalition’s quest because helicopter traffic has increased over the past few years.

“As the rich get even more money, they resort to helicopters and it seems the public be damned,” Mr. Tillman said.

There will be a public forum on helicopter noise at the LTV PBS television station, located at 75 Industrial Road in East Hampton, on Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Tillman, along with Town Board challenger Marie Domenici and Town Justice candidate Brian Hughes, hope campaign efforts such as Saturday’s rally will help make up for the party’s decision to forgo the use of political signs.

“Because our candidates agreed to no signs, we are taking one big risk,” he said, adding that his party plans to spread its campaign message through “non-conventional” methods. “If the people would read about our policies online, then we will win.”


03/02/11 10:52am
03/02/2011 10:52 AM

In a move to prevent East Hampton Town from controlling the East End debate over helicopter noise, Southold on Tuesday agreed to establish a new multi-town helicopter advisory committee to counterbalance one that East Hampton created and that, so far, no other East End town has joined.

East Hampton owns and operates the only municipal airport on the North or South forks.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said at a Town Board work session Tuesday that the new Southold committee “offers East Hampton a seat at the table but doesn’t allow East Hampton to control” the committee’s agenda. He said that East Hampton’s airport manager would be invited to serve as a representative.

East Hampton Town Board member Dominick Stanzione, who handles airport issues for the board there, raised hackles in Southold this winter when he complained to Mr. Russell that Southold’s representative on an ad hoc aviation committee was stepping on the toes of other members. Southold’s representative, pilot Joe Fischetti, was pushing for a South Shore route to and from East Hampton Airport in Wainscott to divert some traffic from the North Fork.

“We’re willing to take our share of the traffic, but most of the flights are going to three locations, which are all on the South Fork,” said Mr. Russell, referring to the county airport in Westhampton, a heliport on Dune Road in Southampton Village and East Hampton’s airport, which attracts the most helicopter traffic.

Speaking of Southold’s new committee, Mr. Russell said, “What this does is give everybody representation.  … They cut everybody else out of the deal. We don’t want to cut everybody out.”

Mr. Russell said he believed Riverhead, Southampton and Shelter Island were willing to send representatives to the committee.
Councilman Al Krupski recommended at the work session that the East End Transportation Council, a regional group that is pushing for a network of light rail and bus service on the North and South forks, might be the ideal organization to speak as a regional voice on airport and aircraft noise issues.

“Why aren’t they interested? Now we have another subgroup of government to address only helicopters,” said Mr. Krupski.
Town planning director Heather Lanza said members of the East End Transportation Council (EETC) are expected to appear at the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association’s April meeting. Southold’s representatives in the association, she said, should try to convince the other supervisors and mayors to ask the EETC to look into the helicopter noise issue at that meeting.

This discussion comes one week after U.S. Senator Charles Schumer introduced an amendment to an FAA Reauthorization Bill that would force the FAA to adopt regulations to reduce helicopter noise within 12 months.

“Schumer basically punted to the FAA,” said Councilman Bill Ruland at Tuesday’s work session. “If nobody comes to them with dialogue, rest assured that they’re not going to do what you want them to do.”

Planning new website
Southold Town plans to issue a request for proposals to build a new town website that would be more visually appealing and easy to use than the current site.

Mr. Russell said at Tuesday’s work session that the town expects to spend between $15,000 and $17,000 to build a new website that could be updated by town employees and would be easier for the public to navigate.

The town’s current website, designed by North Fork Internet, is updated by its IT department, but Mr. Russell said he hoped some things on a new site could be updated by individual departments. As an example, he said, tax exemptions such as the senior STAR credit are frequently updated by New York State. He said that town employees should be able to provide the latest tables for calculating those credits via the town’s website.

Credit for Taxes

As of March 1, Southold Town is able to accept payment of taxes over the Internet using a credit card.
Residents can access their tax bills and the payment portal through a button on the home page of the town’s website, which directs them to http://egov.basny.com/southold/.

The online-only credit card service accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. Users are charged an administrative fee of 2.45 percent of the amount of their tax bill, which goes directly to the company that processes the credit card payments. Visa debit card payments are subject to a flat fee of $3.95 instead of a percentage of the tax bill. Half-year tax payments are due on Jan. 10 and May 31.