Helicopter noise a big topic at Southold Voice meeting

JULIE LANE PHOTO | County Legislator Ed Romaine pointed a finger at federal legislators Tim Bishop and Charles Schumer for a lack of oversight on helicopter routes along the North Fork.

Southold Voice members were more consumed with helicopter noise plaguing the North Fork than with water quality at a Saturday morning public forum at the Peconic recreation center.

Southold Voice was launched in July 2007 as a volunteer group of waterfront property owners and others interested in the use and preservation of the town’s water resources.

While County Legislator Ed Romaine spoke about erosion concerns, particularly in the Hashamomuck area surrounding Town Beach that was heavily damaged by storms last winter, it was his comments about helicopter noise that drew the most comments and questions.

He accused federal legislators Tim Bishop and Charles Schumer of listening to constituents on the South Fork of Long Island, rather than those who live on the North Fork. And he encouraged the crowd of some 75 audience members to call regional offices for Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop to pressure them into more action to reroute the helicopters by a southern ocean route.

Joe Fischetti, who was appointed by Suffolk County to chair its noise abatement committee, estimated that there are approximately 6,000 helicopter flights between New York City and the Hamptons each year and that they’re concentrated during summer weekends on Friday and Sunday nights.

About 60 percent of those flights are headed for East Hampton Airport with 20 percent going to a heliport in Southampton and the other 20 percent headed to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, he said.

Prior to 2007, the North Fork didn’t have problems with the helicopters, but pilots switched to a northern route affecting the North Shore of Long Island and cutting through Riverhead and various points in Southold and Shelter Island towns since the summer of 2008. He estimated that flights cross the North Fork about every three minutes, saying it wouldn’t be such a problem if it were one per hour.

“I knew the solution three years ago,” Mr. Fischetti said, recommending that people write to Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop asking them to pressure the Federal Aviation Administration to require the pilots to fly via an ocean route, south of Long Island.

Turning his attention to water pollution, Mr. Romaine said the county needs to offer incentives to East End residents to upgrade their septic systems.

“At some point, we’re going to be dealing with nitrogen pollution,” the county legislator warned. Rather than require residents to upgrade their systems, he urged “a carrot, not a stick approach” to encourage people to upgrade their systems.

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