Zeldin to FAA: Answer Southold’s helicopter route petition — or else

Lee Zeldin defeats Tim Bishop for Congress

It’s been nearly two months since Southold Town petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to reconsider its decision to extend the North Shore helicopter route, which has led to noise complaints from East End residents.

On Wednesday, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) contacted FAA administrator Michael Huerta to demand that the federal agency respond immediately to the town’s Nov. 15 petition — or said he would renew efforts to have the administrator ousted from office.

In a letter to the administrator, Mr. Zeldin said the four-year extension to the route adopted in July — which sends helicopters over the North Fork instead of rerouting them to waters near Plum Island or along the South Shore — came as a “complete surprise” to him and local officials.

“The people of the North Fork of Long Island continue to have their quality of life, property values and local economy impacted by aircraft noise and the actions of the FAA, and deserve a response,” Mr. Zeldin said.

Mr. Zeldin railed against the FAA’s decision in his letter, saying residents weren’t given the chance to share their concerns until after the route was extended.

Southold Town’s petition alleged the FAA had violated federal law and an executive order by then-President Barack Obama by failing to consult with town officials before ruling to extend the route through 2020. 

“The FAA cannot justify the extension of the [route] when public input or consultation with local leaders has not taken place since 2010,” Mr. Zeldin wrote. 

At the time, the town had threatened to pursue legal action against the FAA if it didn’t receive a prompt response.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said Wednesday the town has not yet taken legal action against the FAA. The option remains part of an “ongoing discussion,” he added.

“We’ve already discussing strategies and maybe avenues that may lead to the most success,” Mr. Russell said. “In the meantime, we’re hoping with the congressman’s help we can see actually some action on the part of the FAA.”

The supervisor said Mr. Zeldin has been a “real chief advocate on behalf of the East End” during his time in Congress and that he may have the clout to get something done.

“I think now, with his pressure that he’s asserting, maybe the FAA can’t ignore us anymore,” Mr. Russell said.

FAA spokesperson Jim Peters wasn’t immediately available for comment.

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File photo: Congressman Lee Zeldin. (Credit: John Griffin)