Court upholds East Hampton airport chopper restrictions — mostly

In an eagerly awaited decision by aviation interests and anti-aircraft noise activists, a federal judge ruled Friday that local laws curbing uses at East Hampton’s airport will stand — at least for the most part.

Federal District Court Judge Joanna Seybert decided in Central Isilp that the Town of East Hampton had proved its case that there was a problem of noise, mainly from helicopters, and the town had every right to regulate the use of its airport.

It wasn’t a total victory for those looking to restrict chopper traffic, but Judge Seybert upheld two of three local curfew laws passed in April by the East Hampton Town Board, including:

  • a mandatory nighttime curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • an extended curfew on noisy aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m..

The judge issued a preliminary injunction on a town ban of one-trip per week on noisy aircraft for the summer months and will rule later on that restriction. In the meantime, the number of trips allowed per week won’t be restricted.

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the Friends of East Hampton Airport Coalition — a group of aviation interests — released a statement after the judge’s ruling: “We are gratified that the court enjoined the one-trip limit, finding it to be drastic and unreasonable. We are carefully reviewing the decision and appellate options regarding the curfews.”

Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who was elected on a platform of reducing noise at the airport and over East End towns, said in a statement that, “the Court’s decision today is an important first step, but we must recognize that our opponents are well funded and will not give up easily. This will be a long process, not just for the pending case in federal court but also for the many other actions filed against operations at the Airport.

“In light of today’s ruling, however, we encourage our opponents to rethink their strategy. It’s time to do what’s best for the Town and adapt aircraft operations to fit our reasonable restrictions.”

The restrictions will go into effect Thursday, July 2 — just in time for the busy Fourth of July weekend.