A mandate for helicopters to stay off Long Island’s north shore that was set to expire in August has been renewed by the federal government — though a loophole will still permit aircraft heading to the Hamptons to fly over the North Fork, and local representatives are still working to close it and force pilots to detour around Orient Point.
The goal of the renewed route, implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, has been to reduce noise in residential areas that helicopters fly over on their ways to other locales on Long Island — namely, the Hamptons. The only way pilots can deviate from the route is for safety reasons, weather conditions, or if transitioning to or from a destination or point of landing.
But Southold Supervisor Scott Russell has said the last excuse to deviate from the plan hasn’t brought the expected results to Southold he was hoping for. And after U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop issued a joint statement last week announcing that the current route was extended — and not expanded to require flights to head around Orient Point — Mr. Russell called the oversight of Southold residents “deplorable.”
“Quite candidly, our federally-elected representatives just sold us out for the interests of western Long Island,” he said. “This is a disaster for Southold.”
Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop said last week that the current route — which towns to the west of Southold have embraced — has been extended for another two years, and the two are working to make it permanent. The announcement came weeks after the two stated that they were attempting to get an extension on the current route requirements, while also pushing for an expansion to require flights to go around Orient Point.
The route requires every helicopter operating along Long Island between Visual Point Lloyd Harbor (VPLYD), located 20 miles north of LaGuardia Airport, and Orient Point to fly one mile off the north shore.
If pilots do not follow the route, they may face fines or have their pilots’ license revoked.
“Luckily for Long Island residents, the beginning of August will not also mean the return of onerous helicopter noise that once interrupted dinners, disrupted people enjoying their backyards and had an effect on quality of life and on property values,” Mr. Schumer said in a release.
Mr. Russell said on Tuesday that last week’s announcement was indeed good news for those on the western part of Long Island, and shrugged off any suggestion that it might have anything to do with the political make-up of Southold’s Town Board — which has no elected Democrats on it.
“This isn’t a partisan issue. This is an East versus West issue,” he said. “The lesser populated East End simply has less clout at the voting booth.”
While expressing satisfaction for the current route’s extension, both Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop stated that they hope to see further results and relief for Southold residents.
“It is my sincere hope that FAA will continue to review ways to minimize the reach of noise pollution,” he stated.
Mr. Russell said he would be reaching out to Mr. Bishop’s office this week to try to remedy the issue for Southold residents.