Following the South Fork’s lead, helicopter committee in the works

Dozens of Southold residents gathered to learn about the town's new ad hoc civic committee.  (Cyndi Murray photo)
More than dozen of Southold residents gathered to learn about the town’s new ad hoc civic committee. (Cyndi Murray photo)

Hands shot up from the audience when Southold Supervisor Scott Russell asked for volunteers to join the town’s newly formed citizens advisory committee to combat helicopter noise. 

About two dozen residents and officials — including county Legislator Al Krupski, state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo and Southold Town Board members — attended an informal meeting Tuesday, where Mr. Russell explained the plan to create a community-based group to address noise abatement.

Following in the footsteps of South Fork towns, Southold’s citizens advisory committee would be similar to other committees in the region. The Sag Harbor citizens advisory committee was sanctioned by and works with the Southampton Town Board on any issue that affects the Sag Harbor hamlet — particularly helicopter noise. The Southold citizens advisory committee, Mr. Russell said, would also have the “full support of the Town Board.”

The group would be charged with rallying citizens, distributing information and reaching out to other East End groups combating helicopter noise. A main goal would be eliminating or reducing helicopter fights between New York City and East Hampton Airport, which account for the majority of helicopter traffic.

“We need the numbers because right now a couple of hundred voices from Southold aren’t enough,” Mr. Russell said. “This is about getting a unified voice.”

The Town Board will start by appointing a five-member ad hoc committee. However, Mr. Russell said, “sooner or later” it will be a independent committee that could potentially hold its own elections to choose officials, as the Sag Harbor group does.

The citizens advisory committee would be required to hold monthly meetings, record minutes and provide copies to the town. It would be permitted to post meeting notices and agendas through the town clerk’s office and be able to use town building space for meetings, Mr. Russell said.

Bob Malafronte, chair of the Sag Harbor group, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, urging the Town Board to act quickly to form the committee, since the East Hampton Town Board will be deciding in December whether to accept or reject more federal funds for airport improvements.

If East Hampton takes the money, it won’t be able to place any limits on the type of aircraft that uses its airport, per FAA rules.

“We have to be ready as a coalition of north and south,” Mr. Malafronte said.

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