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Town Board encourages public to attend helicopter noise hearing next month

The bill passed earlier this month by the U.S. Senate requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to reassess the unpopular North Shore Helicopter Route has Southold Town Board talking about its next steps.

The bill includes an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 that would require the FAA to consider noise impacts on affected communities, improve altitude enforcement and consider alternative routes, such as an all-water route over the Atlantic Ocean.

Attorney James Harmon, who serves as legal counsel for Southold’s helicopter noise steering committee, told board members Tuesday that he’d received graphs from the East Hampton Town Airport depicting inbound and outbound helicopter flights over three busy summer weekends. These documents reflect data collected from the airport radar system which can only capture aircraft within the 4.8 miles radius of the airport.

The FAA, however, collected and presented data for the same three busy summer weekends, and found that the majority of helicopters were transitioning over the North Fork compared to the Atlantic Route. For example, from May 25-29, 190 helicopters transitioned over the North Fork while just a mere 61 flew over the Atlantic Route.

A public hearing will be held Nov. 14 at the Riverhead Middle School at which Southold residents will have the opportunity to speak about how helicopters affect their lives. There will also be a 60-day comment period after the hearing.

“I recommend that Southold, first of all, appear before the hearing, make a written submission,” Mr. Harmon said, adding that he could work on the statement pro bono. “And be prepared and ready to endorse what is being referred to as the Atlantic Ocean Route.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said it’s not enough for him and the rest of the Town Board members  to show up. The public needs to become engaged as well.

“A lot of people might not make the hearing in Riverhead to speak in opposition,” Mr. Russell said. “But at the very least, we can at least create a campaign for people to email my office, so we can attach hundreds of emails to any statement we want to submit during the comment period.”

Teresa McCaskie, a member of the town’s helicopter noise steering committee, said she will be reaching out to civic groups to try to gauge support and encourage attendance at the upcoming public hearing. The date has not yet been set.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated with additional information on Oct. 31.

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