Coalition Against Airport Pollution
Stop mindless growth at Gabreski Airport

 

Update Archive

Update -

The following article appeared in the Southampton Press on September 15, 2011


Some Still Upset Over Three-Story Hotel At Gabreski Airport
by Lisa Finn

Even though more than a month has passed since the Southampton Town Board approved amendments to the planned development district at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton—a move that paved the way for a three-story, 145-room hotel to be built as part of the proposed Hamptons Business and Technology Park—some residents are still seeing red.

Some neighbors believe that the visual impact created by the height of the hotel, as well as two large signs that will be installed near the entrance of the still unbuilt complex, will detract from the character of their resort community.

“I’m disappointed,” said Sharon Frost, who lives in Hampton West Estates, a development located on the western side of Old Riverhead Road, across from the airport. “It doesn’t fit with the surrounding community. I agree that we need a hotel, but I don’t think it needs to be three stories high.”

When the airport PDD was approved in 2007, the plans called for a two-story, 35-foot-tall hotel. But in January of this year, developer Gregg Rechler, of Rechler Equity Partners in Melville, came before the Town Board with a list of suggested amendments to the plan, including a request that the firm be allowed to build a three-story, 45-foot-tall hotel within the technology park. The facility will eventually be built on the east side of Old Riverhead Road, just north of the airport’s main entrance.

Another amendment included a provision for the installation of two entrance signs slated to be 6 feet long and 16 feet high, or 96 square feet in size. The developers stated that the signs would be placed on monument walls; according to the adopted amendment, the actual signage may occupy 78 percent of the total area of the walls.

A special exception was necessary for the increased hotel height; buildings within the airport PDD were supposed to remain capped at 35 feet, or two stories. On July 26, the Town Board approved both the hotel and sign amendments.

Three stories, Mr. Rechler said at the time, were necessary to attract a major flagship hotel to the estimated 50-acre business and technology park that will feature nine buildings. Mr. Rechler and his cousin, Mitchell Rechler, the developers behind the project, signed a 40-year lease with Suffolk County in May 2009.

Gregg Rechler said this week that his company has had discussions with “a couple of different high-quality flagship” hotels that are interested in the Westhampton site. He declined to identify the hotel chains, saying that it was still too premature to do so.

Also, he said there is still no time line for the construction of the hotel. “I’d love to have it sooner than later,” Mr. Rechler said. “The hotel will definitely help perpetuate the vision of the industrial park.”

The new Hamptons Business and Technology Park is expected to be an economic generator and create year-round jobs. Groundbreaking is now slated to commence in the spring of 2012.

Now that the amendments have been approved, Mr. Rechler said work is commencing to secure site plan approval so ground can be broken on the first two buildings. Those structures, for which tenants are now being sought, include a 30,000-square-foot mixed use office building and a 58,000-square-foot structure that will house research and development companies.

So far, “a handful of people” have expressed interest in leasing space at the buildings, though formal leases have not yet been signed, Mr. Rechler said. He said his firm hopes to secure site plan approval and permits for first two buildings early next year.

Still, some community members remain opposed to the project, stating that the amendments should never have been approved.

“I live right down the road,” Ms. Frost said. “We have to pass it every time we leave my house. It has more of an impact on us than others.”

Mr. Rechler explained that the signs must still undergo a review by the town’s Architectural Review Board as part of a separate approval process.

At a public hearing held on May 24 on the then-proposed amendments, Gabreski Airport Manager Anthony Ceglio said he had done a survey of signs in the area and thinks the ones being proposed by the Rechlers is not out of character for the community. In addition, he said making them smaller would make them less visible to those driving by. Mr. Rechler agreed, stating that the signs “are totally consistent with other signs throughout the Southampton community.”

Forest Markowitz, another resident of Hampton West Estates, said he and other members of the Hampton West Estates Residents Association are all for development at Gabreski Airport. But he said they have been put off by what he believes was a “bait and switch” by the Rechlers, particularly regarding the size of the hotel.

“I think it’s a really good idea, [one] that will bring in well-paying, year-round jobs,” Mr. Markowitz said, referring to the technology park complex. “We don’t want towering ocean cities,” he later added, noting that other tourist destinations, such as Cape Cod and Nantucket, feature shorter, two-story hotels.

But Mr. Rechler stressed that his firm has worked closely with the town and he is confident that all those involved did a good job creating a design for the ?hotel that will “not feel out of place.”

Mr. Markowitz also fears that the board’s approval of the special exception for the hotel will open the door for potential litigation from those property owners who were previously denied variances for their respective projects.

Other early objectors, meanwhile, said they have had their fears abated by the actions of the developers. Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller, who initially expressed reservations regarding the increased hotel height, said he is no longer concerned. For the most part, he said, residents are “not worried about it. I guess we can’t be too concerned about it.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst noted that, as things now stand, only a small number of residents still oppose the hotel height. “I think most people understand that, in order for it to be viable,” the amendment had to be green-lighted. Also, the supervisor said, berms, vegetation and the fact that the topography dips a bit where the hotel will be sited should minimize the development’s visual impact.

Additionally, Hank Beck, chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee-West, has been a strong proponent of the hotel opening at Gabreski, noting that it will bring a much-needed year-round business to the area. He also said that many businesses in neighboring Westhampton Beach will also benefit from the influx of visitors.

Others are still not convinced. Westhampton resident Gail Clyma, who was integral in the creation of the town’s Dark Skies legislation, said she has been involved in extensive community discussions regarding the Gabreski PDD.

“A very important part of those discussions was that this thing should be as unobtrusive as possible,” Ms. Clyma said. “This is supposed to be a resort town, and a big industrial park is not really consistent with that image.”

Ms. Clyma noted that no assurances have been offered by the developers regarding another sign that will be located on the new hotel itself, featuring its name. As it now stands, the proposal calls for a sign facing Old Riverhead Road, she said, but nothing has been “defined, described or measured.”

“Does that mean there will be a 48-foot sign?” she continued. “We have had absolutely no assurance that it’s not going to be outrageous. This is a breach of faith on the part of the developers.”

The resolution adopted by the Town Board on July 26 states that the hotel sign cannot be internally illuminated and must comply with the town’s Dark Skies requirements.

Ms. Clyma also questioned whether or not the two monument signs that will be installed near the entrance to the park comply with the town code in terms of size. A monument sign is defined as a sign with lettering that does not take up the entire space on a wall. According to Ms. Clyma, town code states that monument signs cannot be ?larger than 32 square feet, or up to 40 square feet if the lot in question features five or more businesses; the ones the Rechlers are proposing would measure 96 square feet each. Also, only one sign is permitted per lot, she said.

But according to town planner Janice Scherer, the Gabreski Airport PDD does not fall under the provisions of the town code. She said certain requirements, including signage, were revised to meet the specific needs of the development.







Update - June 23, 2011

The following article appeared in the Southampton Press on June 23, 2011

Letter To The Editor

Jet Noise Overlooked


Over the past 10 years, citizens groups living near Gabreski Airport, in conjunction with airport management, have made progress in 1) diverting propeller aircraft away from densely populated areas, and 2) convincing Suffolk County legislators that South Fork residents are strongly opposed to increasing traffic and noise from Gabreski Airport.
A major disappointment is jet aircraft noise. Even on calm days, jet pilots too often take off directly over Quogue, East Quogue and Hampton Bays, apparently dedicated to the shortest possible route to the next landing site. This is despite the noise control group at Gabreski, which had defined a take-off route away from densely populated areas.
Very much related to the jet noise problem, your newspaper recently reported on a proposed new fixed base operator (FBO) for aircraft service including 25 hangars, each large enough to house corporate jet aircraft [“Private Hangars On Hold At Gabreski,” June 9]. The FBO is proposed by Ocean Aviation Inc., led by Jim Reiher. Mr. Reiher states that the proposed 25 aircraft hangars will reduce aircraft traffic in the local area. His rationale is that pilots will move their families to the Gabreski area and avoid a roundtrip on summer weekends if they have a hangar at Gabreski.
In our judgment it is extremely difficult to forecast with any accuracy the impact of 25 new jet hangars at Gabreski, where there are virtually none now. Our opinion, and that of others we have talked to who have studied the proposal, is that it would add substantially to jet traffic activity at Gabreski, creating a jet aircraft hub. With the attraction of 25 hangars and additional aircraft service, it is hard to visualize anything other than more airport use, not only over summer weekends, but throughout the week and throughout the year. The proposal is planned for review by the Airport Conservation and Assessment Panel (ACAP) and other county organizations. As residents, you have representatives on the ACAP as well as on your community organizations. We believe the outcome of the Ocean Aviation proposal is extremely important to property values and the quality of life within a 10-mile radius of Gabreski Airport.
Whatever you do, think about it. If you have an opinion, let your aviation and town representatives know about it.
Paul and Jane Dietche
Quogue








Update - September 21, 2010

The following article appeared in the Southampton Press on June 17, 2010

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

Will New Rules Cut Noise?

BY KARL GROSSMAN

As of Monday there were 49 comments on the website of the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the agencies proposed plan for routing those terribly noisy helicopters that shuttle between Manhattan and the Hamptons.

If you would like to comment via the Internet or read comments made by others, visit regulations.gov and for the "keyword" type in FAA-2010-0802. Comments can also be mail to FAA at the Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington DC 20590. Or you can fax them to (202) 493-2251. The deadline is June 25.

The FAA is then to issue its plan-in time, officials have said, for the Fourth of July weekend.

Hopefully, the comments will make a difference.

Suffolk County Legislator Edward P. Romaine, the leading official locally in the fight against the chopper racket, writes that he is "pleased that the FAA has proposed rules to regulate helicopter traffic over Long Island" but is concerned about the details. The FAA "should establish waypoints along unpopulated areas" for the flights rather than leaving this to the "discretion" of the pilots. And he questions the FAA reliance on the so-called North Shore route, urging the "opening up" of airspace south of Kennedy Airport to enable helicopters to fly a south route "completely away from populated areas and out over the ocean."

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, in announcing the FAA move last month, declared that these regulations are a cumulations of years of work to protect Long Island residents of intrusive and disruptive helicopter noise" and "resident will finally have some peace and quiet and not have to worry about being jolted out of bed or interrupted at dinner. These regulations will make it clear that, enough is a enough."

But the FAA notice of Proposed Rulemaking, published several days later in the Federal Register, was quite short on details. It said: “This proposed action would require helicopter operators to use the New York North Shore Route,” and noted it was “added to the FAA flight chart in 2008 and the use of that route is currently voluntary. New York public officials have continued to receive complaints regarding the adverse impact of helicopter noise on their communities.”

So the FAA would mandate use of the North Shore Route. But, as currently set up, the North Shore Route does not apply to all helicopters. It was developed in 2007 at meetings involving Mr. Schumer, other elected officials, the FAA and the Eastern Region Helicopter Council representing commercial chopper operators. As David Nuss, chairman of the council, wrote in a 2008 letter to Mr. Romaine: “The media and some elected officials have unfortunately perpetuated the misconception that all helicopters would be flying a mile out over the Sound at 2,500 feet. This is not and never was the case. The new North Shore Route was only designed for larger, twin-engine helicopters. Safety and weather conditions may require the smaller, singleengine helicopters to fly closer to shore or over land.”

Many of the Hamptons helicopters are single-engine craft—and they make lots of noise, too. Will the North Shore Route, in the end, be applied to them? The Eastern Region Helicopter Council is already complaining about that. “To send single-engine helicopters over water a mile or a mileand-a-half from shore is something we have advised against because of safety,” Robert Grotell, its special advisor, recently told Newsday.

If many people speak out, maybe the FAA will listen and set the sweeping restrictions on the operations of the Hamptons choppers that are necessary. But comments will need to be sent in to the FAA before next week’s deadline.

As of Monday, there were 49 comments on the website of the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the agency’s proposed plan for routing those terribly noisy helicopters that shuttle between Manhattan and the Hamptons. If you’d like to comment via the internet, or read comments made by others, visit regulations.gov and for the “keyword,” type in: FAA-2010-0302. Comments can also be mailed to the FAA at the Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590. Or you can fax them to (202) 493-2251. The deadline is June 25.

The FAA is to then issue its plan—in time, officials have said, for the July Fourth weekend.

Hopefully, the comments will make a difference.

Suffolk County Legislator Edward P. Romaine, the leading official locally in the fight against the chopper racket, writes that he is “pleased that the FAA has proposed rules to regulate helicopter traffic over Long Island” but is concerned about the details. The FAA “should establish waypoints along unpopulated areas” for the flights rather than leaving this to the “discretion” of the pilots. And he questions the FAA’s reliance on the so-called North Shore Route, urging the “opening up” of airspace south of Kennedy Airport to enable helicopters to fly a southern route “completely away from populated areas and out over the ocean.”

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, in announcing the FAA move last month, declared that “these regulations are the culmination of years of work to protect Long Island residents from intrusive and disruptive helicopter noise” and “residents will finally have some peace and quiet and not have to worry about being jolted out of bed or interrupted at dinner. These regulations will make it clear, enough is enough.”

But the FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, published




Update - July 15, 2009

The following article appeared in the Southampton Press on July 2, 2009
Levy: New Copter Law Might Be Unenforceable

By Jessica DiNapoli


Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy this week signed off on a new law that seeks to reduce the amount of noise created by low-flying helicopters traveling to and from the East End, even though county officials admit that the new regulation might be unenforceable.

Sponsored by Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine, the new law attempts to crack down on helicopter pilots who fly in a careless or reckless manner, or in a way that could endanger the lives or properties of others. More specifically, the legislation is intended to target those helicopter pilots who fly too low, disturbing homeowners whose properties are in the flight patterns, while transporting commuters to and from the Hamptons throughout the summer. Pilots who violate the county law could face either a $1,000 fine or up to a year in prison, according to the legislation.

But Suffolk County Executive Spokesman Dan Aug emphasized that even though Mr. Levy signed the bill, it might never be enforced because the Federal Aviation Administration controls and monitors the county’s airspace.

“He signed the bill, but he’s cautioning people to not get a false sense of hope in respect to enforcement powers,” Mr. Aug said. “It is a matter that may transcend the county.

“He agrees with the spirit of the legislation but doesn’t believe the legislation gives the county enforcement powers,” he continued.

Jim Peters, a spokesman for the FAA, explained that while his office manages the county’s airspace, it does not currently have any altitude restrictions targeting helicopters.

“The FAA has no set altitudes for helicopters,” Mr. Peters said. “For helicopters, because of the way they operate, there is no pre-described altitude, unlike fixed-wing or jet aircraft.”

Mr. Levy signed the bill on Friday, June 26, though it will take about a month for it to be officially recorded as New York State law, explained Bill Faulk, Mr. Romaine’s spokesman. The law will be enforceable once the New York State Department of State files the law, he explained.

Still, there are many unanswered questions regarding how the new law will be enforced by the county. It is the same issue that members of the Suffolk County Legislature had been wrestling with almost since the beginning of the debating process nearly two years ago.

“There are some decisions that need to be made with enforcement,” Mr. Aug said, declining to offer additional details.

Mr. Faulk previously explained that the bill was drafted in order to allow Mr. Levy wide latitude in deciding how it would be enforced. One suggestion is for the county to channel all complaints made about reckless helicopter pilots through 852-COPS, a non-emergency Suffolk County Police phone number. Information recorded there could then be forwarded to either Suffolk County Police Department or the county attorney’s office, Mr. Faulk explained.

He added that Mr. Romaine intends to press Mr. Levy to make sure that the new law is enforced. “We hope it’s not just signed into law and left alone,” Mr. Faulk said. “We do want to see enforcement.”

Another bill drafted by Mr. Romaine that sought to regulate helicopter traffic was shot down by the Suffolk County Legislature in December. That bill sought to establish a minimum cruising altitude of 2,500 feet for helicopters throughout Suffolk County. The bill was rejected because Suffolk County cannot regulate its airspace.

The approved law differs from the earlier version of the bill in that it seeks to regulate the behavior of pilots and not the altitude at which they are flying, according to Mr. Romaine.

Mr. Peters declined to comment extensively on the new county law. Instead, he referred to a letter that the FAA had sent to U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton in late April.

The letter states that the county law is preempted by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, which created the FAA. The letter also lists specific court cases that show that the FAA has exclusive responsibility for managing the airspace over the entire country.

“The FAA is the sole manager of airspace system,” Mr. Peters said. “That’s all we can say.”

Mr. Romaine has been working on different versions of the bill, including the one rejected by the Suffolk County Legislature, for about two years. The new law seeks to give teeth to the county’s “Fly Neighborly Agreement,” a voluntary noise abatement program instituted by the Noise Abatement Subcommittee of the Francis S. Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board nearly three years ago. Suffolk County owns the Westhampton airport.

Gail Clyma, a member of the Coalition Against Airport Pollution who lives in Westhampton, said she is very happy that Mr. Levy signed the law. “I hope that this does something about the number of helicopters flying over residential areas in violation of the voluntary noise abatement procedure,” she said.






Update - July 1, 2009

The following article is written by journalist Karl Grossman

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP
July 2, 2009


The reasons for a Suffolk County law aimed at dealing with the noisy, low-flying helicopters ferrying people between Manhattan and the Hamptons were perfectly summarized by Gail Clyma of the Coalition Against Airport Pollution.

Ms. Clyma, of Westhampton, was the solo witness at the hearing held by the county executive's office before Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy last week signed the measure authored by Legislator Edward Romaine which had been passed by the Suffolk Legislature in a 12-to-5 vote.

Of the argument by representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and helicopter operators that Suffolk County "can't pre-empt" the FAA in trying to do something about the racket the choppers have been making, Ms. Clyma testified that "this is not really meaningful because the FAA isn't doing anything. There isn't anything to pre-empt."

Of voluntary noise abatement attempts, she pointed to efforts at the county's Francis Gabreski Airport as "not effective."
Then, a key key reason as to "why we need this legislation" cited by Ms. Clyma-"there's an attitude problem with some of these helicopter pilots."

As evidence, she put on the record comments helicopter pilots made last year on the website www.27east.com as Mr. Romaine first moved on legislation to deal with the chopper din.

"The long and the short of it is this: We are here to stay. Your pathetic little politicians will not get the FAA to change the rules, because we are not violating any rules. If you don't like the 'constant'…noise, then FRIGGIN MOVE ALREADY!" declared one chopper pilot.

"What a bunch of BS!" asserted another. "I am a professional helicopter pilot, and am here to tell you that I could fly at 10,000 feet and some jackass would still complain! There is no pleasing some people! I have the same right as anyone to earn a living! How dare you threaten me with fines or jail time because I 'interrupt' your daily routine for a whole 17 seconds? Who do you people think you are?"

"Let's post signs on public property near where all these whiners live. Let's list each and every one of their addresses as being in a 'High Noise Environment.' Let's write in large, clear print, and post the signs as close to the whiners' homes as possible," demanded another.

"What a bunch of clueless crybabies! You're all just jealous! How completely infantile can you get? Where is it written that you have the right to silence? Get a friggin life already!" insisted another chopper pilot.

This is what Suffolk County and its residents-besieged by the racket of the Hamptons helicopter noise-have been dealing with. There's a sign at the entrance to Gabreski Airport: "Fly Neighborly," it says. That is the opposite of what many chopper pilots are interested in doing.

Mr. Romaine's legislation was narrowly defeated by the legislature last year. He told his fellow lawmakers "this is not going to away," that he would return with a new measure. With his aide, Bill Faulk, he put together a new bill focusing on "careless and reckless operation." They found rulings holding that state and local laws prohibiting the operation of aircraft in such a manner are not pre-empted by federal authority. The new bill makes pilots of low-flying, screeching choppers eligible to be charged with careless and reckless operation.

It provides strong criminal penalties: "up to $1,000 and/or one year in prison per offense." That should get the attention of the chopper pilots.

The bill should also get the attention of the FAA which, like so many federal regulatory agencies (consider the causes of the current economic downturn), is mainly a cheerleader rather than regulator of the industry it's supposed to police.
Meanwhile, as the Romaine legislation opens by accurately declaring: "Low flying helicopters have become a public nuisance in Suffolk County."

"Our next step-and I intend to be very serious about this," said Mr. Romaine after Mr. Levy signed his measure Friday, will be working with the Suffolk County Police and town and village police departments on enforcing it.

As to the chopper cowboys, they'll still be able to mouth off-in court.

Update - July 2, 2009

The following article is written by journalist Karl Grossman

East Hampton Press
July 1, 2009


The Suffolk County Legislature this week by a vote of 12-to-5 passed a bill prohibiting the operation of helicopters in Suffolk County in a "careless and reckless manner."

The measure, authored by Legislator Edward Romaine of Center Moriches, is aimed at noisy, low-flying helicopters that ferry people to and from Manhattan and the Hamptons.

The measure now goes to County Executive Steve Levy for his consideration.

A similar bill was narrowly defeated at the last legislative meeting of 2008. It would have set a minimum cruising altitude of 2,500 feet for helicopters in Suffolk. Helicopter operators and a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration had argued before the legislature that the federal government pre-empted localities from establishing minimum altitude requirements for aircraft.

After that bill failed, Mr. Romaine vowed to his fellow lawmakers that "this is not going to go away" and that he would return with a new bill in the new year.

Mr. Romaine and his legislative aide Bill Faulk pored through court decisions and found rulings holding that that state and local laws prohibiting the operation of aircraft in a "careless and reckless" manner are not pre-empted by federal authority.

So the helicopter bill was re-drafted, not setting a minimum cruising altitude but focusing on "careless and reckless operation" which, it declares, includes
"operating at an altitude that creates a hazard or undue hardship for persons and property on the surface."
Speaking against the bill at the legislative meeting Tuesday in Hauppauge was Legislator Lou D'Amaro who cited his experience piloting airplanes for the past 15 years and insisted that federal regulations are supreme. There would be "chaos" with more than "one set of regulations," said Mr. D'Amaro. An assistant county attorney was also critical.

The Romaine bill declares: "Low flying helicopters have become a public nuisance in Suffolk County." It continues: "The operation of helicopters at low altitudes is presumed to be a hazard to persons and property on the surface and constitutes careless and reckless operation." It states "the purpose of this law is to ensure safe operations of helicopters passing through the air boundaries of Suffolk County and to preserve and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of Suffolk County."

Mr. Romaine declared at the session that if the bill became law, residents of eastern Long Island "may be able to get some peace and quiet."

Helicopters have transponders on board which broadcast their altitude, he said. These records can be accessed. "If you're flying at 300 feet-with the weather perfectly clear-over the treetops, that's dangerous and reckless," he said. The Suffolk County Police Department, local police forces and the Suffolk County attorney, he said, would enforce the measure.

Penalties for violation of the proposed law would be a fine of "up to $1,000 and/or one year in prison per offense."
Mr. Romaine spoke of FAA representatives saying that "they don't police" helicopter operations. "They could care less." How can Suffolk County be "pre-empted," he asked, by "an agency which takes no action?"

Further, said Mr. Romaine, "this law would send a message" to helicopter operators: it's time to clean up your act."

Mr. D'Amaro, of Huntington Station, stressed that "as a licensed pilot" he considered the measure "unsafe regulation of aircraft." He said there needs to be only "one set of regulations" governing aircraft.

Assistant County Attorney Gail Lolis said the measure would be "impossible to enforce" and "subjective" in terms of what "people on the ground" consider "careless and reckless."

William Lindsay, presiding officer of the legislature, asked Mr. Romaine about a measure introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Tim Bishop of Southampton instructing the FAA to study helicopter flights over Long Island because of the noise situation.

Mr. Romaine noted that the same Bishop measure was approved last year, but then stopped in the Senate. "I'm happy to let that study take place," he went on. And, Mr. Romaine offered: "I'd be delighted once this resolution passes to abolish the resolution-once the feds move in and do the right thing."

Update - June 9, 2009

The following article is written by journalist Karl Grossman

Southapton Press

S U F F O L K C L O S E U P

A New Approach


They’re back!

Memorial Day weekend arrived, the starting date for the return of many noisy helicopters ferrying people to and from the Hamptons. This was no Long Island counterpart to the swallows of Capistrano. The choppers with their raucous noise came back.

The economy is in a downturn, but that apparently isn’t discouraging some folks from shelling out several hundred dollars to go by chopper to and from the Hamptons.

And their flight paths continue to be over many peoples’ heads.

Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine has filed a new bill to deal with the helicopter racket and last week asked residents to turn out for a meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature on June 23 in Riverhead to give their viewpoints on the chopper noise and help his resolution get enacted.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives last week approved a measure authored by Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton, instructing the Federal Aviation Administration to study helicopter flights over Long Island. “Those of us who live in Suffolk County are tired of the roar of helicopters disrupting the serenity of our island,” said Mr. Bishop.

The problem is that the U.S. Senate rejected the same measure last year.

“Why aren’t these helicopters flying the ocean route?” demands Mr. Romaine. The three main destinations for the Hamptons helicopters are all not far from the ocean, he notes. The choppers could fly from Manhattan and then over the ocean, well off Long Island’s south shore, and make turns “at different vectors” into these airfields.

The Southampton Village helipad “is right off the ocean,” he points out, and Suffolk County’s Gabreski Airport and the East Hampton Airport are just a few miles away.

But, instead, this Memorial Day weekend—as has been the situation—the choppers were largely routed over northern Long Island, and then over eastern Suffolk, making turns south to these airfields.

Mr. Romaine’s new bill declares:

“Low-flying helicopters have become a public nuisance in Suffolk County.” It notes, accurately, that the FAA “has failed to regulate the operation” of these Hamptons helicopters. It says that “the operation of helicopters at low altitudes is presumed to be a hazard to persons and property on the surface and constitutes careless and reckless operation.”

That’s the key to his measure: that flying low—as do the Hamptons helicopters—constitutes “careless and reckless operation,” which Suffolk County government is entitled to stop.

Penalties for violation of the proposed county law would be a fine of “up to $1,000 and/or one year in prison per offense.”

A representative of the FAA and advocates of the Hamptons choppers in fighting an earlier Romaine bill on helicopter noise last year insisted that Suffolk County and other local and state governments were preempted from regulating aircraft operations by the federal government. However, in preparation for the new battle, Mr. Romaine and his staff have come up with court cases determining that this is not true.

The Appellate Division of Superior Court of California, in one case involving low-flying aircraft, dismissed the claim of preemption finding: “The state has the right to impose criminal sanctions for the unlawful operation of aircraft above its land and waters.”

Mr. Romaine says it’s important that people come to the public hearing portion of the legislative meeting, to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 23, and “speak out on the issue.” That’s the best way, he said, to “grab the attention” of legislators and get the new chopper bill approved. The meeting will be held at Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center at 20 East Main Street in Riverhead.

Mr. Bishop, meanwhile, said he believes an FAA study “is a necessary step toward the goal of reducing helicopter noise of Long Island. I believe it will offer a road map for pilots who want to fly over Long Island in a way that is respectful of our communities.”

But if the Bishop measure is to again be blocked in the Senate, and considering that the FAA sees its main mission as encouraging air travel, local Suffolk County action appears vital in taking on the bane of Hamptons helicopter noise.

Update - February 26, 2009

The following article is written by journalist Karl Grossman

Southapton Press

S U F F O L K C L O S E U P

Unwelcome Sounds of Spring

It’s February and we’re still deep in winter, but in just a month, the birds of spring will return, and along with them, the noisy helicopters ferrying people to and from the Hamptons that have so disrupted life on eastern Long Island in recent years.

But Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine and his staff have been busy in preparation of the chopper invasion and last week introduced new legislation to quell the helicopter racket. At the County Legislature’s last meeting of 2008, a measure sponsored by Mr. Romaine seeking to dim the helicopter din was narrowly defeated. There was a near-tie on his bill to establish a minimum cruising altitude of 2,500 feet for helicopters flying in Suffolk County. Eight legislators voted yes, nine no and there was one abstention.

After that bill lost, Mr. Romaine vowed to his fellow lawmakers that “this is not going to go away.” He would be back with new legislation with the new year, and “I’ll bring the people.” Large numbers of people affected by the noise can be expected in coming months to be at legislative meetings urging legislators to vote for Mr. Romaine’s new bill.

His new measure is different from his previous legislation in that it doesn’t set a minimum altitude requirement. Helicopter operators and a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration maintained that the federal government pre-empted localities from establishing minimum altitude requirements for aircraft.

So this time although there’s no set minimum altitude—offsetting this claim—Mr. Romaine’s bill focuses on flying in a “careless and reckless manner.” And it defines this as “failing to take all actions reasonably necessary for safe operation or operating at an altitude that creates a hazard or undue hardship for persons and property on the surface.”

This certainly hits the problem on the head because the roaring choppers certainly have created an “undue hardship” for people on the ground.

Mr. Romaine and his aide Bill Faulk have spent considerable time digging into federal and state court decisions and have found that prohibiting flying in a “careless and reckless manner” is within the powers of localities.

The bill sets forth the situation: “Low flying helicopters have become a public nuisance in Suffolk County,” it begins. “The Federal Aviation Administration has failed to regulate the operation of helicopters,” it notes—accurately. “The operation of helicopters at low altitudes is presumed to be a hazard to persons and property on the surface and constitutes careless and reckless operation.” Further, “other municipalities, including the City of New York, have established regulations for helicopter operations within their jurisdictions. Therefore,” it concludes, “the purpose of this law is to ensure safe operations of helicopters passing through the air boundaries of Suffolk County and to preserve and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of Suffolk County.”

Penalties for violation of the proposed county law would be a fine of “up to $1,000 and/or one year in prison per offense.” The prospect of jail surely would have an impact on the chopper operators.

Mr. Romaine’s strategy also involves using a Suffolk County stand to get action on the federal level. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Tim Bishop have tried to negotiate with the helicopter operators—but there has been no relief. Mr. Romaine sees county action as being “an irritant” to spur federal movement.

The FAA—with a mission to promote air travel, apparently even noisy chopper traffic—has, meanwhile, been nowhere on the issue.

That, says Legislator John Kennedy Jr., an attorney, is a key opening for local legislation. When the supposed regulatory body “hasn’t fully occupied the field, there may be a role for statute of a lesser level of government,” he notes. “I think it’s Swiss cheese. I think there is a place for us that actually helps to protect our constituents.”

Legislator Dan Losquadro speaks of “the only time we’ve seen any effort” on the federal level being when the county has moved to “put something on the books that would call these practices into question. And absent of that, there has been … some press conferences … I fully support us doing something to give ourselves a measure of local control.”

The Hamptons helicopter business has marred warm weather months on eastern Long Island in a cacophony of intense noise—which must be quelled.

Update - August 25, 2008

Karl Grossman's radio commentary on helicopters

The following commentary by journalist Karl Grossman aired on WLIU on August 25th.

Commentary - WLIU Radio - Karl Grossman
August 25, 2008

It's been the worst season yet of roaring, low-flying helicopters - going from Manhattan to the Hamptons and back-besieging Long Islanders on the ground with noise.

Dozens of people spoke at a public hearing before the Suffolk Legislature last week on a bill authored by Legislator Ed Romaine to establish a minimum altitude at which helicopters could fly in Long Island's Suffolk County.

Barbara McAdam of Cutchogue told of "the skies filled with the incessant noise of commuter helicopters." Patricia Curry of Noyac testified that "the level of noise is absolutely horrendous." Nancy McDermott of Orient Pont spoke of the choppers flying "low, fast and loud over my home."

Lisa Tettelbach of Cutchogue said: "This helicopter traffic has been occurring in excess over the last couple of years-and especially this summer." She asked the lawmakers "to support this legislation."

As for the helicopter operators, Robert Grotell, representing the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, declared that Suffolk was pre-empted by the federal government from passing any law regulating helicopters.

William Lindsay, presiding officer of the Suffolk Legislature, responded that "we probably are pre-empted, but that issue has never stopped this legislature."

Good for Bill Lindsay!

East Hampton Airport was identified as the busiest field for the choppers. Ms. Curry said helicopter traffic last year there was 17 percent higher than it was the year before, and is being projected as increasing from 15 to 20 percent in each of the next two years. She said: "Unless something is done, the future will be worse." Indeed.

Gail Clyma of Westhampton protested the traffic in and out of the second chopper trouble spot, Suffolk County-owned Francis Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.

Ms. Clyma said: "We need this legislation to get compliance from pilots who ignore the voluntary guidelines." Also called for, said Ms. Clyma, is "identifying and publicizing the violators."

Ray Huntington of Cutchogue said of the Romaine bill: "Three little words-it is necessary."

The measure declares that "low-flying helicopters have become a public nuisance in Suffolk County" and the "recent agreement between public officials and helicopter operators"-a supposed deal worked out by Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Tim Bishop with the industry-"has failed to alleviate the public nuisance." Further, the bill charges that the FAA "has failed to regulate the operation of helicopters." It's accurate on all counts.

And, as for Romaine's proposed law, indeed, it is necessary.

I'm Karl Grossman and that's my opinion.



Update - August 6, 2008

Helicopter legislation

County Legislator Ed Romaine has introduced a bill that would require helicopters to maintain an altitude of at least 2,500 feet when flying over Suffolk County (weather permitting). Although helicopter operators signed an agreement late last year to voluntarily maintain this altitude, compliance remains far from satisfactory.

The Legislature will conduct a public hearing on this bill at its August 19th meeting in Riverhead. This is your opportunity to let County government know how you feel about helicopters continuing to fly low over residential areas! Although some claim that only the FAA can enact such a regulation, action of some sort will be much more likely if members of the public speak up in force at this hearing.

Suffolk County Legislature Public Hearing
Tuesday, August 19th at 6:30 p.m.
SCCC Culinary Arts Center
20 East Main Street, Riverhead
(just east of Roanoke Avenue)


Look for a sign-up card when you enter the auditorium. Each speaker is permitted up to 5 minutes.

If you would like to get your comments into the record but cannot attend that evening, there is also an opportunity to speak during the Legislature's General Meeting that starts at 4 p.m. (same date and location). At some point during this session, there will be a "public comment" period during which anyone may speak on any subject for up to 3 minutes.

Please attend this important hearing!


Karl Grossman's radio commentary on helicopters

The following commentary by journalist Karl Grossman aired on WLIU on August 4th. (Although the original version of Romaine's legislation called for a minimum helicopter altitude of 1,500 feet, the bill was later changed to specify 2,500 feet.)

Bravo to Long Island official Edward Romaine and his challenge to the helicopters which have again been making a racket this summer on Long Island.

Romaine is a Suffolk County legislator and tomorrow he intends to introduce a proposed county law at a meeting of the Suffolk Legislature that would establish a minimum altitude for helicopters to fly at in Suffolk.

His bill accurately declares that "low-flying helicopters have become a public nuisance in Suffolk County."

And further, it says, "a recent agreement between public officials and helicopter operators has failed to alleviate the public nuisance."

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, and Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton worked on an agreement over the winter with groups representing helicopter operators under which operators promised to significantly reduce chopper noise, especially by flying no lower than 2,500 feet and taking routes over water as much as possible.

But the business of bussing by chopper well-heeled folks from New York City to and from eastern Long Island during the vacation season has become a booming business.

And although the operators promised-they have not delivered.

Helicopters again are routinely flying low and loud on their way to and from East Hampton Airport, the Southampton Village helipad and the Suffolk County-owned Francis Gabreski Airport.

Meanwhile, there seems to be little control of the chopper traffic.

Indeed, Romaine says he doesn't see his proposed county law as being pre-empted by the Federal Aviation Administration "because the FAA does not regulate helicopters."

Others disagree on that and certainly Romaine's measure will stir up considerable controversy. Good. The hordes of helicopters have impacted most negatively on the quality of life on eastern Long Island.

His proposed law would set a minimum flying altitude of 1,500 feet, not onerous at all, and provides a fine of $1,000 and a year in jail for each violation of that.

Romaine says" this problem has to be solved," that the choppers must fly higher, and over the Atlantic Ocean and the Long Island Sound as much as possible-rather than right over peoples' homes and heads. Further, he says they should spread the pain by, when flying over land, flying over a variety of, rather than just a few, communities.

If the chopper operators can't handle Romaine's law, it's high-time that helicopter traffic-other than for medical and police emergencies-be banned on eastern Long Island.

I'm Karl Grossman and that's my opinion.


Update - September 3, 2007

WLIU Radio
September 3, 2007
Karl Grossman's Commentary

Well, the Labor Day weekend has arrived and…sadly…the summer vacation season is at an end. But the good news…the helicopters that have made such a racket this summer on Long Island will not be flying as much.

A TV commercial tells the story:

"Liberty helicopters," it proclaims, "Rising above the traffic. Manhattan to the Hamptons in 40 minutes."

Yes, but at what cost to the people below?

At a public hearing in July on a master plan for East Hampton Airport-the destination for many of the choppers-Kathie Goldman, a resident of Northwest Woods in East Hampton, spoke of "so many helicopters coming over my house" that it's been like "Apocalypse Now."

Indeed, the noise from helicopters this summer has replicated a war zone. The choppers have been flying from New York to Long Island at a rate never before seen, or more precisely, heard.

The folks on the ground, maybe not as well-heeled as those well-heeled visitors but they still have plenty of votes-must press their campaign against noisy chopper traffic. It's time helicopters be banned or severely restricted at area airports. Enough is enough.

As to what the industry claims would be voluntary noise abatement, there's a bridge in Brooklyn…

Todd Rome of Southampton, president of Blue Star Jets, in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, urged working "with helicopter operators to voluntarily reduce noise."

He was promptly answered by a letter to the editor of the Times from Gail Clyma of Westhampton, a member of the aptly-named Coalition Against Airport Pollution.

She noted that the manager of Gabreski Airport in Westhampton instituted a voluntary noise abatement program last year-part of which involves choppers arriving and departing over State Route 27. "Yet," she wrote, "many if not most helicopters are continuing to fly low over residential areas in violation of the voluntarily guidelines."

Ms. Clyma commented on how the choppers have been "literally rattling dishes in the cupboards" and have "become a significant blight on the quality of life."

The racket must end. We might take a lesson from France on how to end it. After the outrage of people along the Gulf of Saint-Tropez area to chopper-flying vacationers, officials have begun to shut down helicopter landing pads.

A public nuisance is involved. If helicopters can't be banned or severely restricted at the fields harboring them here, those airports should be closed.

I'm Karl Grossman and that's my opinion.



Update - August 2, 2007

The Southampton Press
SUFFOLK CLOSEUP
Air Assault
By Karl Grossman


They say people have a right to throw a punch as long as it isn’t someone’s face into which the punch is thrown. If that happens, it’s assault. In recent times, Long Island residents have been increasingly subject to assault by helicopter. The situation is particularly severe on the East End.

At a hearing on July 19 on a master plan for the East Hampton Airport, Kathi Goldman, a Northwest Woods resident, spoke of “so many helicopters coming over my house” that it’s been like “Apocalypse Now.”

Although folks on the East End have been affected the most—what with owners of vacation places and wealthy visitors using helicopters more and more—people all over Long Island have been having their peace disrupted by these raucous whirlybirds. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer went to the Smithtown residence of Craig Cooper on July 9 to announce his effort against tranquility-destroying helicopters. Commented Mr. Cooper, a television producer: “No airplane or truck makes our windows rattle, but helicopter noise is a constant thumping sound. It really becomes intense.” The senator declared: “The scourge of low-flying helicopters has risen on Long Island for far too long.”

Mr. Schumer announced legislation requiring the FAA to conduct a study of helicopter traffic over Long Island. The helicopters have “no minimum altitude requirements,” he noted, and flight patterns aren’t being imposed. But the problem is that the FAA is like so many other federal agencies that have turned to promoting the industries they are supposed to be regulating. It’s a chopper free-for-all up there with traffic skyrocketing and, according to Mr. Schumer, “beautiful summers on Long Island” being turned into “the ultimate headache.” He called for island-wide “helicopter flight corridors that would divert aircraft away from homes to, preferably, over water.”

Now, considering the difficulties of driving to and from the East End, it is understandable that those who have a lot of money might want to use helicopters. And it is some expense.

New York Helicopter’s website lists its rates for chartering flights from Manhattan to Westhampton as $2,150; to Southampton, $2,450; to East Hampton, $2,650; and to Montauk, $2,850. Double that for round-trip.

Choppers pilots do not like to fly high and then make a steep, abrupt descent when they get to their destinations. East Hampton Airport manager Jim Brundige, an ex-helicopter pilot, has explained this is so because, if there’s an engine problem during a steep, last-minute descent, the chopper would not have enough forward motion to keep its blades spinning, which would allow it to “autorotate” down to the ground under control. Instead, with blades stopped, it would fall like a stone.

Considering the extent of a now horrible situation, helicopters should be banned or severely restricted. As to industry promises of voluntary noise abatement, that’s just baloney.

Todd Rome of Southampton, president of Blue Star Jets, in an op-ed in this Sunday’s The New York Times, urged working “with helicopter operators to voluntarily reduce noise.” The managers of the county’s Francis Gabreski Airport in Westhampton instituted a voluntary noise abatement program a year ago—part of which calls for choppers to arrive and depart over Sunrise Highway. But they’ve kept buzzing residential areas.

“Helicopter operators are showing little inclination to respect this voluntary noise abatement program,” notes Gail Clyma of Westhampton, a member of the Coalition Against Airport Pollution.

If chopper traffic can’t be banned at the East Hampton airport, the town field should be closed because it is now constituting a major public nuisance. Anti-noise ordinances on the local and state levels should be redrawn and actively implemented, and when the FAA and the chopper business object, challenge them. Although airplanes have been required by the federal government to be quieter, helicopters remain noise machines.

Anti-noise ordinances enforced aggressively could change the economic calculus of the chopper companies profiting from the discomfort of Long Islanders.

Charge plenty to allow for helicopter landings. Southampton Village officials are planning on finally imposing a landing fee for helicopters that set down on the village’s helipad. But the proposed fee—$100 to $150—is not likely to mean much for wellheeled individuals happy to pay plenty more to go by chopper. ( Village Trustee Bill Bates wisely urges that the pad be closed.)

Demand higher altitudes. And, as The East Hampton Press urged last week, “regularly release the names of those who own and operate the helicopters ...

The public should be told who’s ruining their quality of life.” The helicopter noise pollution situation is now so severe, the volume of traffic so heavy, massive action needs to be taken.

It must be stopped.

Update - June 2, 2007


APDD legislation


It appeared at the May 22nd Town Board hearing on legislation that will implement the Gabreski industrial park (Airport Planned Development District, or APDD) that the Board has gotten the message the community has been sending and will establish a firm cap of about 510,000 square feet of buildable space. This will be the maximum size after application of any density incentives that may be utilized in the form of Pine Barrens Credits or bonuses for "sustainable" construction under the LEED program.

The Board also appeared to accept that some uses--most particularly, aviation support businesses--will not be permitted in the industrial park. Certain recreational uses will be permitted subject to Special Exception approval.

A revised version of the Draft Generic Environment Impact Statement for the APDD was supposed to have been posted to the Town website last week; this hasn't happened yet but hopefully will soon.

The hearing on the APDD legislation will be continued at the Town Board meeting of June 12th. Probably this will be your last opportunity to register your opinions of this plan, although there will probably be a brief period for written comment after that meeting.


ACAP May 2nd meeting

The Airport Conservation and Assessment Panel reviewed three hangar proposals on May 2nd. Northside and Mailand each proposed 20 T-hangars; Brookwood requested two buildings to house an unknown number of planes of various types.

ACAP informed the County Legislature, County Executive, and the Council on Environmental Quality that there is "no objection to approval" of the three applications. However, a number of worthwhile conditions were attached such as signage to inform plane owners of proper procedures for waste oil disposal and provisions of the voluntary noise abatement program.

The three applications will most likely be on the agenda for CEQ's June 20th meeting.


Update - May 6, 2007

As indicated above, two airport meetings are coming up this week.

Industrial Park/APDD, May 8th

The Southampton Town Board has scheduled a hearing on legislation to implement the 58-acre industrial park planned for the west side of Gabreski. A notice of hearing including text of the proposed legislation is available
HERE. A revised APDD Master Plan has been posted to the Town website at

http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/specialmain.ihtml?id=290

and a revised version of the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement is also available:

http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/specialmain.ihtml?id=292


The two main issues are the maximum size of the industrial park and the uses that will be permitted there. Neither the proposed legislation nor the revised Master Plan has any clear information as to allowable size, and CAAP has been unable to obtain any clarification of this issue. Although the legislation states that the gross floor area shall not exceed 510,500 square feet, this is qualified by "other than where expressly permitted"...meaning there really is no cap.

CAAP believes legislation that does not specify a maximum size for the industrial park is unacceptable.

There are also issues regarding uses to be permitted in the industrial park. In particular, aviation support services...which CAAP believes belong outside the industrial park...are to be permitted at the discretion of the Town Planning Board.

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board has an APDD subcommittee; unfortunately, they will not be able to meet prior to the May 8th hearing because the Town's Land Management Administrator is not available.

If you are concerned about the size of this industrial park or the activities that will be permitted there, you are encouraged to attend the May 8th hearing. We have been assured that the hearing will not be closed on that date and that there will be at least one more opportunity for the public to address the Town Board on this issue.


Community Advisory Board, May 10th

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board, which formerly met monthly, has been cut back to four times a year.

Unfortunately, the County refuses to provide agendas more than a day or two in advance. However, we expect that the APDD subcommittee will meet prior to this CAB meeting, so the industrial park is likely to be up for discussion. This should be a good opportunity for you to get some clarification of the confusing documents the Town has issued.


May 2nd ACAP meeting

The Airport Conservation and Assessment Panel met on May 2nd to review what had been described as applications for 3 T-hangar complexes. These have been represented as almost entirely for the use of small single-engine planes of the sort typically used by recreational flyers.

The Northside and Mailand applications appear to fall within this category. Northside is forecasting an additional 92 flight operations per month, while Mailand...with the same number of hangars ostensibly for the same purpose, forecasts only 12 additional operations per month. Obviously, these forecasts must be taken with a very large grain of salt.

The Brookwood application turns out to be something altogether different. Two buildings are proposed; although a detailed site plan showing configuration of the space was not provided, the applicant stated that there would be space for 15 planes, including twin-engine planes, jets, and helicopters.

ACAP voted to approve all 3 applications with several conditions.

- All tenants are to be made aware of the airport's voluntary noise abatement program;

- Only Stage 3 jets (the most up-to-date, quiet types) will be permitted to occupy these hangars;

- Tenants must properly dispose of the waste oil resulting from routine oil changes;

- None of the leases should move forward until the FAA has approved Gabreski's proposed Land Use Plan.

The members of ACAP are now at work on their report, which is due May 17th.


Long Island Jet

The Long Island Jet proposal for major expansion is currently in limbo. The applicant is considering scaling back the size of the project in order to avoid having to do an Environmental Impact Study. Although an EIS has not been mandated, such a requirement might well have followed CEQ's "Type 1" designation...thanks to everyone who wrote to legislators and CEQ members!

If the application is revised along these lines, it will have to be reviewed again by ACAP. Meantime, we're in wait-and-see mode.

Update - May 1, 2007

As noted above, three airport meetings are taking place during the first third of May.


T-Hangar Applications to ACAP, May 2nd

The Airport Conservation and Assessment Panel has received three applications for the construction of T-hangars at Gabreski. Northside and Mailand are each proposing 20 such hangars; Brookwood is requesting two buildings, but the total number of planes to be stored there is not clear.

As you probably know, T-hangars are designed for the storage of small planes. Usually, but not necessarily, these are single-engine planes for recreational use. As such, T-hangars are probably the most benign type of aviation use we can expect at Gabreski. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that according to the draft Airport Master Plan Update released in 2005, 50 of these hangars are expected to be occupied by planes moving to Gabreski from elsewhere.

ACAP meetings are open to the public, and there is an opportunity for public comment (probably limited to three minutes).



Industrial Park/APDD, May 8th

The Southampton Town Board has scheduled a hearing on legislation to implement the 58-acre industrial park planned for the west side of Gabreski. A notice of hearing including text of the proposed legislation is available HERE. A revised APDD Master Plan has just been posted to the Town website at

http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/specialmain.ihtml?id=290

The two main issues are the maximum size of the industrial park and the uses that will be permitted there. Neither of the above documents has any clear information as to allowable size; regrettably,
Jeff Murphree, who is head of the Town's Land Management Department and the expert on this subject, has been unavailable to clarify the confusing language in these documents.

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board has an APDD subcommittee; unfortunately, they will not be able to meet prior to the May 8th hearing because Jeff is not available.

If you are concerned about the size of this industrial park or the activities that will be permitted there, you are encouraged to attend the May 8th hearing. We have been assured that the hearing will not be closed on that date and that there will be at least one more opportunity for the public to address the Town Board on this issue.



Community Advisory Board, May 10th

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board, which formerly met monthly, has been cut back to four times a year.

Unfortunately, the County refuses to provide agendas more than a day or two in advance. However, we expect that the APDD subcommittee will meet prior to this CAB meeting, so the industrial park is likely to be up for discussion. This should be a good opportunity for you to get some clarification of the confusing documents the Town has issued.



Long Island Jet

The Long Island Jet proposal for major expansion is currently in limbo. The applicant is considering scaling back the size of the project in order to avoid having to do an Environmental Impact Study. Although an EIS has not been mandated, such a requirement might well have followed CEQ's "Type 1" designation...thanks to everyone who wrote to legislators and CEQ members!

If the application is revised along these lines, it will have to be reviewed again by ACAP. Meantime, we're in wait-and-see mode.

Update - March 28, 2007

Good news on Long Island Jet!

On its third look at the Long Island Jet expansion proposal for Gabreski, Suffolk County's Council on Environmental Quality came to a different conclusion at its March 21st meeting and classified the application as a Type I action under SEQRA. This does not ensure that an Environmental Impact Statement will be required, but that is at least a possibility now.

Following this classification, the next step will be notification of agencies (such as the Pine Barrens Commission) that would be expected to take an interest in this matter. Next, a "lead agency"…most likely Suffolk County…will be chosen.

The County Health Department has been asked for some information that was not available in time for the meeting on the 21st. It is possible LI Jet will be back on the agenda at CEQ's April 18th meeting to hear whatever the Health Department has come up with. We will not know until closer to that date whether "lead agency" selection will be done in time for CEQ to also consider at that meeting whether to recommend a "positive" or "negative declaration." A "pos dec" means that full environmental review will be undertaken, which CAAP believes is essential in the circumstances.

Several CEQ members commented at the March 21st meeting about "hearing from the public." Many thanks to all who wrote...your letters are making a difference!

Update - February 27, 2006

Bad News for the Aquifer

On February 21st Suffolk County's Council on Environmental Quality reconsidered the expansion plans for Long Island Jet Center. And again, CEQ voted for an "unlisted action" and a "negative declaration"...in effect saying that this proposal will not have an adverse environmental impact.

If this recommendation is accepted by the Legislature's Environment Committee, LI Jet's lease application will likely be considered by the full Legislature without any meaningful environmental review being required.
Your letters to Committee members are needed--see below!

CAAP strongly disagrees with CEQ's decision! Here's why:

This is a major expansion--acreage more than doubles, building space increases 6 fold to over 68,000 sq. ft., and the expanded facility would have space for 40 or more planes. LI Jet claims the expansion will not increase aviation traffic, but they plan to hire 5 new chief pilots, 10 "line service technicians," 7 customer service representatives, and a dozen or so others. (Further details on LI Jet's plans are in our January 24th update.)

Aviation activities entail large quantities of hazardous substances (fuel farms, solvents used in maintenance operations, de-icing chemicals), and it makes no sense to expand such activities at this location above our drinking water supply. (More information at the Gabreski Issues link atop our left menu.)

The sole source aquifer beneath Gabreski has already been compromised by aviation operations, and some of these spills have yet to be cleaned up (see Known and Suspected Contamination Sites). Although the County enacted regulations intended to reduce spills and other contamination risks more than 25 years ago, enforcement at Gabreski seems to have started only about 5 years ago and is incomplete at that. LI Jet was in violation of these laws until the County threatened legal action.

LI Jet is only the beginning of proposed aviation expansion at Gabreski...see this recap of aviation applications pending at Gabreski.

CEQ's action defies a recommendation from the Airport Conservation and Assessment Panel (ACAP) for a "positive declaration" and that the LI Jet application be denied. ACAP was created to advise the Legislature and County Executive. Mr. Levy himself has said repeatedly that he does not favor significant aviation growth at Gabreski.


Please write to members of the Environment Committee!

Addresses of Committee members and other involved officials are
here.

Your letter need not be long. You can mention one or more of the above issues and simply say that you believe no further consideration should be given to LI Jet's application until it has been subjected to a full environmental review.

Postal mail is always best, but e-mail is certainly better than nothing. In either case...and particularly if you go the e-mail route...a follow-up phone call to be sure your message has registered is an excellent idea.

Please think about our drinking water and write today!

Update - January 24, 2007

The Long Island Jet Center has been a Fixed Base Operator at Gabreski Airport for a number of years, but it has scarcely been a model tenant. Now LI Jet is seeking a major expansion of its Gabreski facilities. The application has been reviewed by the Airport Conservation and Assessment Panel, which was created by County Executive Steve Levy to replace the Airport Lease Screening Committee. (Click here for Levy's Executive Order.)

ACAP recommended that the expansion request be denied-a decision in which CAAP concurs. The application will next be reviewed by the County's Council on Environmental Quality, perhaps at its mid-February meeting.

CAAP has assembled some facts about the LI Jet proposal that will give you an idea of its scale and our reasons for believing it should be rejected.

Long Island Jet Center Expansion Plans

In September 2003 the Long Island Jet Center submitted an application to expand its Gabreski operations and appeared before the Airport Lease Screening Committee. Most of what is publicly known about LI Jet's plans appeared in minutes of the Screening Committee meeting and in this application (including associated Environmental Assessment Form) and an updated application filed in November 2006.

Here are some facts about LI Jet's expansion plans:

1. LI Jet is planning to construct a full-service Fixed Base Operation (Airport Lease Screening Committee minutes Sep03).

2. LI Jet President William McShane stated, "We need to start basing planes here year-round" (ALSC minutes Sep03).

3. LI Jet currently occupies 3.82 acres; the lease will increase this area to 10.07 ac, removing 5.78 ac of vegetation (LI Jet Nov06 Environmental Assessment Form). A County attorney, Basia Braddish, told the 2Feb06 meeting of the Legislature's Environment Committee that the site is "already paved."

4. Gross floor area of buildings is currently 10,585 square feet; LI Jet proposes to expand this to 68,894...a six-fold increase (Nov06 EAF).

5. In spite of this six-fold increase in capacity, LI Jet claims in the Nov06 EAF that the number of airplane trips per day will increase only 44%!

6. Parking spaces will more than double from 50 to 120 (Nov06 EAF).

7. LI Jet is planning to add three 15,000-square-foot hangars plus seven T-hangars. The application does not specify the amount of space for tie-downs, but this was described to the Screening Committee (see below).

8. The expanded LI Jet facility would host 36 to 45 or more planes at Gabreski.

How was this number reached?

LI Jet President McShane told ALSC, "Each 15,000-square-foot hangar we are proposing is capable of housing up to 6 business jet aircraft in the LearJet configuration or LearJet class (those are roughly 2,500 square foot airplanes in terms of their footprint) or up to 2-3 business jet aircraft in Challenger class." For three 15,000SF hangars, that's 18 LearJet types or 9 Challenger types.

Adding 7 T-hangars, that's 18+7=25 or 9+7=16.

In addition, LI Jet told ALSC they planned space for 25-30 tie-downs; in a Sep03 letter 20 tie-downs were mentioned.

So, 16+20=36, or 25+20=45. If the number of tie-downs goes to 30 as McShane indicated was possible, an expanded LI Jet by its own description could have the capacity to host 55 planes!
9. LI Jet's fuel storage capacity is currently 12,000 gallons jet fuel and 2,000 gallons AvGas (ALSC minutes Sep03); this will increase to 24,000 jet fuel and 14,000 AvGas (LI Jet EAF).

10. LI Jet's EAF claims no "toxic chemicals" will be used. This is not true. Volatile organic compounds are used during aircraft maintenance, and they are extremely toxic pollutants.

The Southampton Town law governing the Aquifer Overlay Protection District defines petroleum as a "hazardous substance" (ARTICLE XIII Aquifer Protection Overlay District, § 330-65 Definitions). It also states, "Lands within the overlay district are designated critical environmental areas pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act" (§ 330-66 Construal with other statutes).

11. Inspections by the County's Department of Health Services in 2002 and 2005 showed that LI Jet was not in compliance...see separate CAAP analysis, "How Effective Are Suffolk Groundwater Protection Regulations?" Correction of some violations occurred in 2006 only after the County threatened legal action.

12. The LI Jet expansion is only one of many pending proposals to increase civilian aviation at Gabreski. "Segmentation" (the review of projects as though they are "independent, unrelated activities") is contrary to the intent of SEQRA law.


The LI Jet proposal should be subject to full SEQRA review to ensure that our groundwater is safe from additional contamination. And SEQRA requires that "cumulative impact" be taken into account--in other words, the numerous existing contamination sites at Gabreski should be factored in when considering the risk of further contamination from expanded aviation operations.

In the past LI Jet fell so far behind on its rent that Suffolk County tried to evict them, but somehow the County managed to lose the ensuing court case and was ordered to offer LI Jet the lease they applied for in September of 2003. But nowhere does Judge Barbara Wilson's decision indicate that LI Jet should escape environmental review of the project.

Finally, the County Executive's stated policy is that the airport should become financially secure without significantly increasing air traffic (28Oct05 Levy letter to Airport Manager). Long Island Jet's expansion plan is contrary to such a policy.




Updated - October 12, 2006

The 30-day written comment period following Town Board hearings on the industrial park planned for Gabreski ended today. The Board declined to re-open the hearings or extend the comment period to allow the public to participate in discussions about use of Pine Barrens Credits at the park. CAAP submitted the following statement just prior to the deadline.


Re: Gabreski Industrial Park APDD

As the written comment period for hearings on the APDD comes to a close, the Coalition would like to remind you of some of the important issues we have spoken to you about.

CAAP feels strongly that the maximum size for this development should be firmly capped at approximately 500,000 square feet including impact of any density incentives from Pine Barrens Credits. We are dismayed that Commissioner Morgo, who spoke in support of this size limit at your August 8th hearing, reversed himself last week and suggested building 800-900,000 sf of space.

We recognize that arrangements for application of Credits are complicated and regret that these hearings were closed before this difficult question was resolved. As you probably know, the APDD subcommittee of the Gabreski Community Advisory Board has been hard at work on this issue. CAAP supports the statement from the Advisory Board that you will be receiving, and we hope you will give its recommendations very serious consideration.

We also wish to re-iterate our concern for further development of this property that sits atop our sole source aquifer. It seems obvious that if the airport had not already been in existence, these lands would all have been designated Core Area rather than Compatible Growth Area when the Pine Barrens Preserve was created. There are at least 18 known contamination sites at Gabreski, 2 of which lie within the APDD acreage. As hydrogeologist (and CAAP member) Bob Mozer pointed out in his August 8th letter to the Board, volatile substances at these sites may pose a risk not only to construction workers but also to future tenants of and visitors to the park. The DGEIS certainly needs to acknowledge this issue, and steps should be taken to ensure that clean-up is complete before any work is done in these areas of the APDD.

Finally, in view of its fragility and the abuse this property has already sustained, we strongly encourage the Town and County to establish a monitoring program so that future spills can be detected before major damage is done to our drinking water supply. Notwithstanding Suffolk Health Department regulations intended to minimize risk, accidents continue to happen at Gabreski and elsewhere: More than 1,000 spills within the County are reported each year to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

We respectfully request that serious consideration be given to these concerns.

Update - September 27, 2006

The Coalition has sent the following letter for publication in the Southampton Press. (Although it was originally submitted for the Press's September 28th issue, the letter was mislaid by the Press; we are hoping this updated version will appear October 5th.)
_____
RE-OPEN THE HEARINGS

Although public hearings on the proposed industrial park at Gabreski were closed by the Town Board on September 12th, it subsequently became apparent that there is no consensus on what size of park is to be permitted.

This is an extremely important issue and is also a complicated one because of the desire to "land" a significant number of Pine Barrens Credits at the park. Several formulas have been proposed, and the matter is under discussion in a subcommittee of the Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board. To date there is no agreement on a plan.

In view of the importance of this question and the complexity of determining the best way of handling the Credits issue, the Coalition Against Airport Pollution calls on the Town Board to re-open these hearings so that the public can participate in this debate. We are now down to the last week of the announced 30-day period for written comment, yet the public does not know what it is they should be commenting on!

We believe the Town has a responsibility to ensure that sufficient time is allowed for additional proposals to be brought forward and evaluated.

_____
We encourage you to contact the Town Board and urge members to cap the size of the industrial park at a
maximum of 510,000 square feet including any density increases attained through application of Pine Barrens Credits.

The 30-day period for submitting written comments to the Board on the industrial park will end on October 12th...now just two weeks away. As indicated in our letter, CAAP believes the public should be allowed to participate in the debate over use of Pine Barrens Credits--which would mean that the public hearings on the industrial park must be re-opened. At a minimum, the period for accepting written comments
should be extended for at least another 30 days so that citizens can submit their opinions on this aspect of the project.

Please contact the Town Board as soon as possible!

Southampton Town Board
Town Hall, 116 Hampton Road
Southampton, NY 11968

Board office: 287-5745
Supervisor's office: 283-6055

Although postal mail is always best, e-mail may be better than nothing:

PHeaney@town.southampton.ny.us
NGraboski@town.southampton.ny.us
LKabot@town.southampton.ny.us
SKenny@town.southampton.ny.us
CNuzzi@town.southampton.ny.us

Please call or write today! Ask Board members to (a) re-open the hearings, or at least extend the written comment period and (b) insist that the industrial park be firmly capped at 510,000 sq.ft. even after application of Pine Barrens Credits.

Update - September 20, 2006

The Coalition has always been concerned about the potential for groundwater contamination from increased development at Gabreski. At the September 12th Town Board hearing on the proposed industrial park at the airport, this letter from CAAP's Bob Mozer was read into the hearing record.

Southampton Town Council
Town Hall, 116 Hampton Road
Southampton, NY 11968

Dear Supervisor Heaney and Town Council Members:

As a follow-up to my testimony on my concerns about the Gabreski APDD, I would like to clarify some points regarding the status of Suffolk County Water Authority's (SCWA) Old Meeting House Road wellfield in Quioque, relative to the existing or possible future groundwater contamination at the airport.

After I completed my testimony, Supervisor Heaney made a comment during the public hearing that he believed the Old Meeting House Road wellfield was out of service. In a subsequent telephone conversation regarding the same issue, Supervisor Heaney stated that even if the wellfield is currently in operation, he believed that the ownership of the SCWA property will be transferred to the Town and that the only structure at the site that will be used in the future is the existing water tank, which will likely be used as a cell-phone tower.

Based on several discussions with Herman Miller, Vice President of Production for the SCWA, most of this wellfield property may eventually be purchased by the Town. However, the SCWA will retain a small portion of the property where the wells and water tank are located, and the Water Authority plans to continue operating the wellfield for the foreseeable future.

I would like to make one other point concerning the proximity of this wellfield to the APDD.

In the course of reviewing applicable Pine Barrens regulations, the draft EIS states on page 1-13 that the standard referred to "restricts the development of activities that could degrade public water supply within a 200-foot radius of a public supply well." However, the passage quoted in the EIS has been taken out of context. The Pine Barrens text immediately preceding, which introduces the section on wellhead protection, notes that the 200-foot specification originated with the State Health Department; it then goes on to say, "Although this may have been considered adequate to prevent the rapid drawdown of bacterial contamination or its entry into groundwater through poorly constructed wells, it does not necessarily ensure an adequate level of protection against the suite of organic and inorganic pollutants that may threaten community water supplies." In other words, although 200 feet may be an adequate buffer for household sanitary waste, it should not be assumed sufficient to protect against the types of pollutants that may be discharged in an industrial park.

As a professional geologist and 25-year veteran of the environmental consulting business, I would like to re-emphasize my concerns about the nature of the types of permissible land uses being proposed in the APDD. Some of these businesses are likely to use hazardous chemicals, and without an awareness program for these business owners and employees about the sensitive nature of this groundwater recharge area, our "sole source aquifer" is likely to become contaminated. These uses include a variety of laboratories (research and development, photofinishing, and commercial testing), manufacturing (furniture and fixtures, printing and publishing, pottery and glass products, sheet metal, architectural, and ornamental metalwork), and aircraft, aircraft engines and parts, services and repair...to name a few. In addition, without a groundwater monitoring program in place, contamination may not be detected until it is found in either private or public water supply wells downgradient of the APDD. We already have an example of this type of problem in the Speonk area where hazardous solvent chemicals were discovered in a test well sampled as part of a subdivision application. That site is now on the New York State list of inactive hazardous waste sites, commonly known as a Superfund site.

I urge the Town of Southampton and Suffolk County to be pioneers in this matter and seek the necessary financial and technical support from the County or the State to implement such a program as part of the APDD for Gabreski Airport.

Sincerely,
Robert J. Mozer
Professional Geologist
For the Coalition Against Airport Pollution

Update - August 25, 2006

CAAP's position on the industrial park proposed for Gabreski Airport is summarized in this letter published in the August 24th edition of the Southampton Press.

At the August 8th Southampton Town hearing, it was gratifying to hear the Board's enlightened and constructive views on development of the proposed Gabreski Industrial Park APDD. The Coalition Against Airport Pollution was particularly pleased to hear the Board's support for limiting density and possibly including recreation. CAAP has long supported responsible development of the APDD as a means for the County to meet its financial goals for the airport without the need to expand aviation activities.

While 510,000 sq. ft. was mentioned as a maximum density, is that the optimum level? There has been no mention of an assumed lease rate for the property. We are puzzled by the projections put forth by a County consultant of more than $300,000 in tax revenues for the Westhampton schools. What lease rate is built into those projections? What lease rate achieves the County's financial goals? We are still waiting for the County to provide complete and accurate financial data on current airport operations.

CAAP applauds the work being done by the APDD Subcommittee of the Gabreski Community Advisory Board to revise the formula for use of Pine Barrens Credits so that significant numbers of Credits will be required for any given density. We extend our thanks to Bob DeLuca, Beecher Halsey, and the other hardworking members of this Subcommittee.

We are apprehensive about an apparent lack of thorough study of the traffic implications of even 510,000 sq. ft. of development. People who travel these intersections daily know instinctively that adding 500 cars to the rush hour mix on Old Riverhead Road cannot be resolved by one roundabout and a left-hand turn lane.

As our name implies, the Coalition is primarily concerned about pollution at Gabreski. Although Suffolk County has stringent regulations intended to protect our drinking water supply, accidents do happen: Over the past 10 years at least 40 chemical spills at Gabreski have been reported to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and it's anybody's guess how many more have gone unreported.

Furthermore, CAAP member Bob Mozer pointed out at the hearing that there are at least two contamination sites within the APDD zone that are still awaiting clean-up. We are concerned that these areas are not mentioned in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Town's consultants, and we believe it is essential that all such problems be fully documented, necessary remedial action taken, and a monitoring plan be put in place to detect future releases before our groundwater is further contaminated.

We encourage the Board to schedule a meeting on the APDD at a time and place more convenient to Westhampton-area residents. Again, we welcome the Board's constructive views and look forward to the development's next step.

Update - August 2, 2006


Please note that the Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board meeting scheduled for August 10th has been cancelled. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 14th.


Industrial Park

The Town of Southampton is continuing public hearings on the Master Plan for the proposed industrial park at Gabreski - the Airport Planned Development District or APDD. The hearings also cover the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the Master Plan.

The Master Plan and DGEIS are available at both the Westhampton and Quogue libraries. They are also available on the Town's website. The link for the Master Plan is:

http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/specialmain.ihtml?id=290

and for the EIS:

http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/specialmain.ihtml?id=292

Under current zoning, the industrial park could encompass as much as
1.5 million square feet of space...which would obviously have a substantial impact on the surrounding communities.

The second public hearing on these two documents has been scheduled for August 8th. If you have any opinions about the scale of the project, the types of businesses that should be permitted, or any other aspect of the proposed industrial park,
this is your opportunity to be heard. Unless a substantial number of citizens speak up, the Board is likely to close the public hearing after this session.

Tuesday, August 8th
1 p.m.
Southampton Town Hall
(Second Floor Board Room)
116 Hampton Road, SouthamptonUpdate - June 13, 2006

Industrial Park

The Town of Southampton has released its Master Plan for the proposed industrial park at Gabreski - the Airport Planned Development District or APDD. At the same time, they have released a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement covering this Master Plan.

The two reports are available at both the Westhampton and Quogue libraries. They are also available on the Town's website. The link for the Master Plan is:

http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/specialmain.ihtml?id=290

and for the EIS:

http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/specialmain.ihtml?id=292

The Town has scheduled public hearings on both of these documents for June 27th. If you have any opinions about the scale of the project, the types of businesses that should be permitted, or any other aspect of the proposed industrial park,
this is your opportunity to be heard.

Tuesday, June 27th
7 p.m.
Southampton Town Hall
(Second Floor Board Room)
116 Hampton Road, Southampton

Gabreski Issues on TV

Two CAAP members appear on the monthly television program produced by the Pine Barrens Society. The program can be seen Mondays at 8 p.m. on Channel 20 until the end of June. Or you can view it at the Society's website:
www.pinebarrens.org/TVshow.asp. Definitely worth taking a look!

Update - May 26, 2006

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board is nearing completion of two significant undertakings.

The Board's Noise Abatement Committee has drawn up "Fly Neighborly" guidelines encouraging pilots to use approach/departure routes and procedures designed to minimize noise over residential areas. Two flyers-one for jets/helicopters and another for smaller planes-have been prepared by the Committee and will be mailed to pilots and distributed at various locations around the airport.

These guidelines are voluntary because the Federal Aviation Administration actually prohibits mandatory noise limits. The Committee is also developing procedures for registering noise complaints and hopes to establish a routine for following up with pilots who fail to comply with the voluntary guidelines. Watch this space for details of the noise complaint procedures when they go into effect. In the meantime, you can use CAAP's online complaint form (see left menu) and/or call the airport office, 852-8095.

The Advisory Board also established a Lease Review Committee to recommend new procedures to replace the Airport Lease Screening Committee, which the County Executive decided to abolish. The Review Committee proposed, and the County Executive has now created via Executive Order, a new Airport Conservation Advisory Panel. ACAP will have seven members; its composition will be similar to the Community Advisory Board, meaning that it will have much more local representation than the previous Airport Lease Screening Committee.

As the name indicates, the new body will be advisory in nature and have no decision-making authority. However, Legislator Schneiderman intends to introduce a bill that would require the Legislature to formally consider ACAP recommendations.

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board normally meets the second Thursday of the month, usually at Quogue Village Hall, though the location will change for the June 8th mmeeting. Your presence at these meetings is important...please do attend whenever you can!

Update - April 5, 2006

Advisory Board accepting written comment

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board has completed two public hearings "to ascertain the views, wishes, and opinions of the residents of Suffolk County." The Advisory Board is now receiving
written comment.

If you have any concerns about the airport's present or future impact on your community and your quality of life,
please write to the Advisory Board. Your letter should be addressed to:

Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board
c/o James Morgo, Commissioner
Suffolk County Department of Economic Development
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Your letter can be very brief. You may simply want to state that you oppose expansion of civilian aviation at Gabreski because it will pose an unacceptable threat to our drinking water supply. Perhaps you would like to refer to our "
Gabreski Issues" page for some specifics to incorporate in your letter.

Letters must be received by Sunday, April 16th!

Please write a short letter now, while you're thinking about it. The more citizens the Board hears from, the better the chance that our concerns will be heeded!

Update - March 26, 2006


Advisory Board Hearings

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board is holding two public hearings "to ascertain the views, wishes, and opinions of the residents of Suffolk County." If you missed the first one, we hope you will be able to appear at the second on Tuesday, March 28th, in Hauppauge.

Although the Advisory Board has been meeting monthly since last September, the bulk of each meeting is devoted to the Board's own agenda with only limited time for public comment. While there is a 5-minute limit per speaker, these hearings are intended to allow an unlimited number of citizens to convey their ideas and opinions about Gabreski to the Board. Let's take advantage of this opportunity!

Please plan to attend!

Tuesday, March 28nd at 6 p.m.
Auditorium, Rogers Legislature Bldg.
725 Veterans Memorial Hwy.
Hauppauge

The Rogers Legislature Building is in the County Center on the north side of Vets Highway/Rte. 454. Approaching from the east, entrance to the County Center will be on your right roughly 3 miles after exiting LIE onto Rte. 454.


March 14 Legislature meeting in Riverhead

Many thanks to everyone who turned out for this important event! In response to your presence, the Legislature tabled the two measures of concern to us--I.R. 1143-06, by which the Levy administration seeks to abolish the Airport Lease Screening Committee, and I.R. 2022-05, by which the Legislature would accept a recommendation that major expansion by Long Island Jet be allowed to proceed without any environmental review.

We are hoping for further signs of progress on these two issues in coming weeks...your voices are being heard!


Correction

It has come to our attention that an error appeared in the February 4th Update that was posted to this page (and that now resides in our
Update Archive). That Update concerned plans for the proposed Industrial Park at Gabreski, and we were endeavoring to unscramble some confusing press coverage of a presentation on the subject made to the Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board.

In describing the scope of the proposal, the Town's consultant referred to traffic study data on estimated number of car trips per hour. The consultant also mentioned the number of parking spaces that were envisioned for the Park. Your correspondent made an incorrect connection and reported that 1,700 cars per hour were expected to enter the Airport. That number, however, is actually the number of planned parking spaces...not the number of trips.

We regret the error!

Update, March 20, 2006

Advisory Board Hearings

The Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board will be holding two public hearings "to ascertain the views, wishes, and opinions of the residents of Suffolk County." The first will be at
6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22nd, in Riverhead, and the second on Tuesday, March 28th, in Hauppauge.

Although the Advisory Board has been meeting monthly since last September, the bulk of each meeting is devoted to the Board's own agenda with only limited time for public comment. While there is a 5-minute limit per speaker, these hearings are intended to allow an unlimited number of citizens to convey their ideas and opinions about Gabreski to the Board. Let's take advantage of this opportunity! A large turnout will demonstrate to the County the breadth and depth of public concern about Gabreski growth.

Please plan to attend both of these hearings! Details on the first:

Wednesday, March 22nd at 6 p.m.
Legislative Auditorium
Evans K. Griffing Building
Riverhead County Center
300 Center Drive, Riverhead

The County Center is located on Rte. 51 just west of where it intersects Rte. 24. The Griffing Building is the one with the flagpole in front; if you follow the ATM signs, you will enter at the lobby outside the Auditorium.

Update, March 10, 2006
County Legislature Meeting

As indicated above, the Suffolk Legislature will be meeting in Riverhead late afternoon/evening of Tuesday, March 14th. Since the Legislature only meets in Riverhead a few times a year, and since this will be largely after working hours, it is important that we have a large turnout of people opposing expansion of civilian aviation at Gabreski.

Two bills that CAAP strenuously opposes are likely to be on the agenda.

I.R. 2022-05 would accept a recommendation from the County's Council on Environmental Quality that a major expansion by FBO Long Island Jet be permitted to go forward without any environmental review. (See our press release in the Update Archive.)

I.R. 1143-06 would abolish the Airport Lease Screening Committee, which traditionally has been chaired by our Second District legislator, and send all airport lease applications directly to the Legislature with no opportunity for local oversight.


Although it is possible one or both of these bills might be taken off the March 14th agenda, we need to be prepared to oppose them. Even if they do not come up for consideration that day, we should take advantage of the relative convenience of the Riverhead meeting to speak out against them. Your presence will be valuable even if you do not care to speak.

Please drop us a note via reply e-mail and let us know whether you will be able to attend so that we can provide talking points and updates as needed.

This is an important meeting. Please help deliver the message to the Legislature!

Here are the particulars:

Tuesday, March 14th, starting at 4 p.m.
Legislative Auditorium
Evans K. Griffing Building
Riverhead County Center
300 Center Drive, Riverhead


The County Center is located on Rte. 51 just west of where it intersects Rte. 24. The Griffing Building is the one with the flagpole in front; if you follow the ATM signs, you will enter at the lobby outside the Auditorium.

The meeting starts at 4 and will begin with announcements, proclamations, etc. The Public Comment period will start around 4:30.
Note that each speaker is limited to 3 minutes. If you wish to speak, you will need to fill out a sign-up card when you arrive. Speakers will be called in the order of sign-up, so it's a good idea to arrive a little early.

Public hearings will start at 5:30. I.R. 1143 (to abolish the Lease Screening Committee) is on the agenda for hearing; however, since this might be recessed again, you should probably plan to speak during the Public Comment period starting around 4:30.

We look forward to seeing you in Riverhead on March 14th!

Update, February 23, 2006

First, thank you to everyone who wrote to the Southampton Press to protest their inaccurate reporting of the January 19th meeting of the Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board! They will at least know that they are going to be held accountable, although their report of the February 9th GACAB meeting was somewhat off the mark. (There is no consensus, as the Press suggested, that construction of T-hangars should proceed before a Master Plan has been completed and adopted.)

As you perhaps have seen on our Website, the February 7th General Meeting of the Legislature bought us a bit of additional time on important bills that would (a) abolish the Airport Lease Screening Committee and (b) ratify a recommendation from the County's Council on Environmental Quality that no environmental review be undertaken on plans for a major expansion of the existing Long Island Jet Center fixed base operation (FBO) at Gabreski.

Fortunately, the County Executive's proposal to abolish ALSC was recessed until the next General Meeting on March 14th.

The LIJet matter was tabled until the same date. If you read our press release

http://www.eastendcommunity.com/Update_Archive.htm

you will see that what airport management presented to CEQ as a "redevelopment" is actually a major expansion that will provide homes for 36-45 planes at Gabreski, including 9-18 jets. The Coalition wrote to CEQ in mid-January to protest their opinion that the project required no environmental review, and we were subsequently notified that our letter was to be discussed during the February 15th meeting.

Because of the importance of getting CEQ to reconsider its opinion on LIJet, Coalition members donated sufficient funds to retain an attorney to respresent us at the February 15th meeting. Although CEQ defended its determination, they agreed to provide their files on LIJet to the attorney for review.

At this writing it remains to be seen how the LIJet/CEQ matter will be resolved. It is likely, however, that further legal representation will be required, and a fund-raising effort will soon be underway.

We expect that these two pieces of legislation will both be on the agenda at the March 14th General Session of the Legislature. This is an afternoon-evening meeting (4 p.m. start), and it will be held in Riverhead. Please mark your calendar now to attend this meeting. A large turnout will be essential to persuading the Legislature that our concerns must be heeded!


We could use some additional volunteers to help out with fact gathering, fundraising, making phone calls, and attending meetings. Please drop us a note if you can help!

Update, February 7, 2006

YES!!!
We have achieved a very important reprieve today, when the Suffolk Legislature voted to table both the County Exec's plan to abolish the Airport Lease Screening Committee and the separate, deplorable bill that would have permitted major expansion of the Long Island Jet Fixed Base Operation without any environmental review.

The Coalition sent out a press release late Sunday night on the LIJet matter that was also sent to members of the Legislature, the Levy administration, and Southampton Town officials. The release will give you some particulars on this issue. (See below.)

Coalition volunteers were busy Monday morning calling legislators to be sure they saw the release. To these volunteers and to everyone else who helped win this reprieve,
THANK YOU!!

We are not, however, out of the woods on these two issues...both are still "on the table" at the Legislature. Please plan to attend the General Meeting of the Legislature at 4 p.m. on March 14th in Riverhead. We will provide further information as the date approaches.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 2006

Suffolk Legislature Poised to Prohibit Environmental Review of
Major Aviation Expansion at Gabreski Airport

On February 2nd the Legislature's Environment Committee upheld a Council on Environmental Quality recommendation concerning Long Island Jet Center, which has proposed a major expansion of its existing operation at Gabreski. In a decision at its August 17, 2005, meeting, CEQ recommended a negative declaration ("neg dec")--meaning there will be no environmental review of the project in the Pine Barrens Preserve. According to minutes of the meeting that were finally posted to the County Website in mid-December, CEQ contends that "this project will not add air traffic."

Several County employees spoke in support of the "neg dec" at the Environment Committee meeting. The Airport Manager told the committee that LI Jet's plans "will have no significant impact." This statement is at odds with the facts.

The facts are:

1. LI Jet is planning to construct a full-service Fixed Base Operation (Airport Lease Screening Committee minutes 9/19/03).

2. Gross floor area of buildings is currently 12,988 square feet; LI Jet proposes to expand this to 67,125 SF...a five-fold increase (LI Jet Environmental Assessment Form).

3. Parking spaces will more than double from 50 to 129 (LI Jet EAF).

4. LI Jet currently occupies 4.7 acres; the lease will increase this area to 10.2 ac, removing 6.7 ac of vegetation (LI Jet EAF). A County attorney, Basia Braddish, told the Environment Committee that the site is "already paved."

5. LI Jet President Mr. McShane stated, "We need to start basing planes here year-round." (ALSC minutes 9/03)

6. The expanded LI Jet facility would host 36 to 45 or more planes at Gabreski.

How was this number reached?

LI Jet President McShane told ALSC, "Each 15,000 square foot hangar we are proposing is capable of housing up to 6 business jet aircraft in the LearJet configuration or LearJet class, those are roughly 2,500 square foot airplanes in terms of their footprint, or up to 2-3 business jet aircraft in Challenger class." The LI Jet application was for four hangars 12,000-22,500; even if they only have room to build three 15,000SF hangars, that's 18 LearJet types or 9 Challenger types.

LI Jet also proposed 10-15 T-hangars. Even if they only build 7, that's 18+7=25 or 9+7=16.

In addition, LI Jet told the ALSC they planned space for 25-30 tie-downs; their 9/03 letter says up to 20.

7. LI Jet's fuel storage capacity is currently 12,000 gals. jet fuel and 2,000 gas (ALSC 9/03 minutes); this will increase to 24,000 jet fuel and 14,000 gas (LI Jet EAF).

8. LI Jet's EAF claims no "toxic chemicals" will be used. This is not true. Volatile organic compounds are used during aircraft maintenance, and they are extremely toxic pollutants.

The Southampton Town law governing the Aquifer Overlay Protection District defines petroleum as a "hazardous substance" (ARTICLE XIII Aquifer Protection Overlay District, § 330-65. Definitions). It also states, "Lands within the overlay district are designated critical environmental areas pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act" (ARTICLE XIII Aquifer Protection Overlay District, § 330-66. Construal with other statutes).

9. There is no mention in the CEQ opinion of the fact that LI Jet is just one of a large number of similarly polluting operations being planned for Gabreski. It is our understanding that this is illegal--i.e., that SEQRA law prohibits such segmentation and requires that cumulative impact of separate but similar plans be considered.

The LI Jet proposal should be subject to full SEQRA review to ensure us that our groundwater is safe from additional contamination. Although CEQ neglected to mention it, a dozen or so contamination sites have already been identified at Gabreski.

Furthermore, the "neg dec" is contrary to the County Executive's stated policy that the airport should become financially secure without increasing air traffic. If that is really the County Executive's wish, why were three County employees urging the Environment Committee to uphold the CEQ opinion?

In the past LI Jet fell so far behind on its rent that Suffolk County tried to evict them, but somehow the County managed to lose the ensuing court case and was ordered to offer LI Jet the lease they applied for in September of 2003. But nowhere does Judge Barbara Wilson's decision indicate that LI Jet should escape environmental review of the project, nor would the Judge recommend it.

If the County Legislature upholds CEQ's negative declaration during their session on Tuesday, February 7th, by voting yes to I.R. 2022-05, it will be a slap in the face to all residents of Gabreski's surrounding communities, the Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board, and the Town of Southampton.


Update, February 4, 2006

Gabreski industrial park and the Southampton Press

Three separate, unrelated elements came together in an unfortunate way to cause confusion and disruption at the January 19th meeting of the Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board.

1. In response to requests made last fall for public notification of airport-related meetings, the County finally mailed a post-card alert to many area residents prior to the January Advisory Board meeting. As a result, a number of people attended this meeting who were not familiar with the current situation and some of the background material covered at previous Advisory Board meetings.

2. Plans for the proposed industrial park at Gabreski were given their first public showing without much in the way of explanation or context. Among the most provocative features were the idea of developing 1.5 million square feet of space and a forecast of 1,700 cars per hour entering the airport.

3. The Advisory Board Chair, Jim Morgo (Suffolk County Commissioner of Economic Development), did not attend the January 19th meeting. As anyone who has been following this group knows, Jim runs a very tight meeting. Had he presided at the January meeting, it is unlikely that there would have been any disturbance audible in the adjacent Quogue Village theater in spite of the potentially combustible combination of 1 and 2 above.

And the confusion has been confounded by a Suffolk Life article which failed to make any distinction between the proposed industrial park and the County's plan to greatly expand the aviation side of Gabreski with dozens of new jets plus hangars for more than 80 additional smaller planes.

The Coalition Against Airport Pollution is concerned primarily with the environmental hazards of aircraft operations and the threat they pose to our drinking water supply. We have supported the concept of an industrial park in the hope that the revenues generated would enable the airport to be financially self-sufficient without further expansion of aviation.

However, there are serious questions about the scale of the industrial park as it was described to the Advisory Board as well as the possibility of allowing aviation-related uses there. And just as CAAP objects to the environmental damage caused by aviation, we will want to see safeguards in place for the industrial park to ensure there is no further contamination of our sole source aquifer.

In a February 2nd editorial the Southampton Press seized on the unruly behavior of two or three people at the Advisory Board meeting to castigate everyone who opposes mindless
aviation growth at Gabreski. In its eagerness to invent a clever connection between aviation noise and an occasionally boisterous meeting, the editorial belittles the legitimate concerns of those who wish to live in peace in their communities and to drink water free of the various pollutants aviation spawns.

Update, January 17, 2006

Statement to the Suffolk County Legislature

Re: Resolution 2022-05 - Making a SEQRA determination in connection with the proposed Francis S. Gabreski Airport redevelopment of LI Jet Center East, Inc., Town of Southampton.

1. It appears to us that the Council on Environmental Quality may have overlooked relevant information when it recommended a “
negative declaration” on the Long Island Jet application to substantially expand its operations at Gabreski. All of Gabreski Airport is in the Pine Barrens and is designated a Critical Environmental Area. It is our understanding that, as such, a “positive declaration” is required.

2. Long Island Jet’s plans have additional implications under the governing
Pine Barrens legislation. Possibly CEQ was unaware that this application should, as we understand it, have been reviewed by the Pine Barrens people prior to any recommendation by CEQ.

3. Possibly CEQ was not fully aware of the scope of this planned expansion and the risks to our
sole source aquifer posed by increased fuel storage, de-icing chemicals, hazardous substances employed in aircraft maintenance, etc. Gabreski already has at least two Superfund sites and a number of other contaminated sites that are threatening our drinking water supply.

We also note that several months before this resolution was introduced, the County Executive established a
Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board to enhance communication between the Airport and surrounding communities. To date the Advisory Board members have not been made aware of this resolution nor of the CEQ opinion rendered 5 months ago.

Our organization is bringing these facts to your attention to ensure that we have exhausted administrative remedies on this matter.

Update, January 2, 2006

Happy New Year! Thanks to your interest and support, CAAP has made good progress in 2005. People of our East End communities banded together, and County officials took notice...even delaying some decisions that may yet bring major aviation growth. Such growth could inflict even more damage at Gabreski, already suffering with numerous contamination sites.

As many of you know, our Coalition's focus on pollution at this airport in the Pine Barrens dates back to 1998. Although CAAP was inactive in recent years as the perceived threat at Gabreski receded, it came to life again in a big way thanks to all of you who turned out for the September meeting of the Airport Lease Screening Committee. If you were there, you heard Legislator Schneiderman (who chairs the Committee) promise to table all pending lease applications until a new Master Plan for Gabreski has been approved...we'll see!

September also saw the first meeting of the Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board created by the County Executive. It's assignment is to comment on master plans for the airport itself and the proposed industrial park there. The Board is providing a useful forum for the exchange of information.

By the end of September, Jay Schneiderman had introduced a bill that would impose a $2,000 penalty for nighttime landings at Gabreski and another that would establish a moratorium on construction of more than 5,000 square feet at the airport. At this writing both these bills are stalled in committee. At the end of October the County Executive announced that he did not condone the Master Plan's vision for Gabreski's future.

As the year ended, several of us met with Dick Amper, Executive Director of the Pine Barrens Society, and were greatly encouraged by his support for our objectives. He shared insights into the inner workings of various governmental entities that will play a role and offered to put his excellent contacts at our disposal. He will join us in meetings with some key officials and offered to advise us on fund raising. And when he saw the CAAP letterhead listing concerned community groups, he immediately offered to add the Pine Barrens Society to the list. (If you are a member of a neighborhood association or local civic group, please let us know if we may add it to our lettterhead!)

Also in December we established several research teams to start gathering important background information and began to consider options for legal representation.

An important feature of this website is an updated/overhauled section on how to complain about Gabreski noise. We have added an online complaint form and encourage you to use it whenever you are disturbed by air traffic. This will enable us to map the areas that are most affected and, if you also register your complaint with the Airport Manager, to cross check against the complaint information he reports.

December also brought one item of very bad news. At mid-month the County's Council on Environmental Quality finally posted minutes of its
August meeting, from which we learned that CEQ had issued a "negative declaration" on plans by Long Island Jet Center to substantially enlarge its Gabreski operation... meaning there will be no further examination of environmental impacts. CAAP will be writing CEQ to protest this action and will ask for your individual letters as well when we have obtained further detail about the proposal...stay tuned!

In the meantime, we thank you for letting us know of your concerns about the airport. Please encourage your friends and relations to do likewise via the convenient form at

http://www.eastendcommunity.com/JoinCAAPform.htm

Best wishes for 2006!

Update, December 12, 2005

WHERE WE ARE NOW
Three business jet operators have filed applications with Gabreski Airport (Suffolk County) authorities. By CAAP's best assessment of the evidence available to the public, they would massively increase traffic and noise, with the permanent basing of more than 30 jets at Gabreski, the construction of fuel farms, terminals and offices.

In addition, there are construction applications pending for 80 new hangars (so-called "T-hangars") to house individual planes of undetermined engine type and size. According to the Master Plan for Gabreski, these new hangars would immediately draw 50 new tenants (airplanes that will regularly fly in and out.)

Details can be found in an
August memo from county official Neil Toomb to members of the Airport Lease Screening Committee. One of our members discovered this memo in county records. It suggests Toomb was trying to speed these leases along on the grounds they required no environmental impact studies.

Two major factors are driving airport development. First, the county claims to be losing money on Gabreski. Second, the FAA deeded Gabreski to Suffolk County in 1972, but the quit claim deed requires the county to respond to aviation demands. The FAA is pouring millions into Gabreski to modernize runways, lighting, plumbing and to build a new terminal. The arrangement is a velvet trap: the more money the federal government invests, the more beholden the county is to encourage aviation development.

The situation is not hopeless, but our communities face a key political disadvantage: the entire East End has just one representative in the county legislature, the major decision-making body in Suffolk. That's why your support is urgent. Citizen pressure since May has met partial success:
1. The County Executive (Democrat Steve Levy) has set up a
Community Advisory Board (meeting monthly in public.) Levy has pledged that Gabreski will not become another Islip/MacArthur, but county officials continue to encourage aviation development at Gabreski anyway.
2. District Two Legislator Jay Schneiderman (Republican of Montauk) chairs the
Airport Lease Screening Committee (meeting quarterly) He has tried to impose a temporary aviation moratorium and a $2,000 penalty on night landings.
3. County Executive Levy has designated The Town of Southampton as the "lead agency" in developing a non-aviation 58 acre "industrial park." Levy was also instrumental is having all but 10 acres declared an
Empire Development Zone, giving major tax breaks to businesses that locate at Gabreski. Non-aviation revenue could remove economic pressure on the county and benefit local economy.

The Coalition Against Airport Pollution maintains its historic support of the 106th Air Guard Search and Rescue unit, which adds to our sense of community pride and economic well being. In supporting sensible growth at Gabreski, CAAP maintains steadfast support for Gabreski's role in homeland security.

Stay current on Gabreski news by checking this website regularly.

Update, December 4, 2005

Jay Schneiderman's resolution to impose a partial moratorium on aviation development at Gabreski was again on the agenda of the Legislature's Economic Development Committee on November 30th. If you have not seen it, the text of the resolution is available online at www.co.suffolk.ny.us/legis/resos2005/i2098-05.htm

Although County Executive Steve Levy has "rejected" the draft Master Plan for Gabreski, at this meeting his representative asked that
the moratorium resolution be tabled until the FAA produces a written statement that it has no objection. Given that the FAA's mandate is to promote aviation, it seems unlikely that such a statement will be forthcoming.

There will be a
full meeting of the Legislature in Riverhead on Tuesday, December 6th. Since only a small percentage of the Legislature's meetings take place here, it is recommended that as many people as possible show up to speak in support of the moratorium during the "public" portion of this meeting.

If enough people speak, there is an outside possibility that the resolution could be brought to the floor for a vote. Even if this does not happen, however, it makes sense to take advantage of this meeting...almost in our back yard...to let all the legislators know that we support this moratorium and why.

The meeting convenes at the County Center in Riverhead at 9:30 on December 6th.

Can you attend?

Please drop us an
e-mail so we can get some idea how many people might be there and also offer ideas for points you might want to make when you speak.


Update, November 8, 2005

The first week of November 2005 brought sunny skies to Long Island and a break in the clouds that have been hanging over Gabreski Airport.

County Executive Steve Levy issued a statement regarding the final draft of the airport Master Plan, saying, in part, "This is an engineer's working plan and I'm rejecting it." (The just-released plan is a 105-page document that envisions everything from an almost immediate 50% increase in "operations" at the field, to a gigantic building program for hangars and a new terminal, to predictions that air cargo and commuter flights will become part of the Gabreski picture. A copy of the plan is available at the Westhampton Library.)

A few days after the county executive's statement, Suffolk County Economic Development Commissioner Jim Morgo echoed Levy's sentiments. Morgo chairs the newly-formed Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board. At their November meeting he agreed the Master Plan was deficient in many respects. Nonetheless, board members pressed airport management to answer questions about the airport, including its operating costs, landing fee income, traffic load and authority to issue leases.

There is no question that community response and large turnouts at public meetings about Gabreski have helped to sweeten the demeanor of county officials. We welcome this indication of a new openness to community concerns and hope it will endure.

But the issue is far from resolved, and your continued support and curiosity are needed. There remain many aviation propositions on the table, including lease applications from three firms to establish fixed-base jet operations at the airport. Very little is known yet by the public about these companies, except that they not only operate charter-type jet fleets but also maintain, service and fly privately owned jets and helicopters. They want to put in fuel-tank "farms" and build hangars in the 15,000 to 50,000 square foot category. With appropriations for a new general aviation terminal in the 2006 county budget, these and other lease applications require vigilance. Of particular concern are 80 T-hangars that the Master Plan predicts would draw 50 new aviation tenants to Gabreski.



Legislative alert


Legislator Jay Schneiderman has introduced two Gabreski-related bills that could use your support. Both are slated for Committee action on November 16th.

Resolution No. 2099 would impose a penalty for nighttime flights that are a particular disturbance to area residents.
A landing fee of $2,000 would be charged for flights arriving between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays).

Resolution No. 2098 calls for a
moratorium on "aviation related construction" at Gabreski until a Master Plan is approved by the Legislature; buildings of 5,000 square feet or less would be exempt.

The Coalition supports these two bills. In fact, we support a curfew on overnight civilian flights such as is in place at some U.S. airports. And we would hope that if No. 2098 is enacted in its present form, the county would show good faith by halting
all construction at Gabreski (except that in support of the Air National Guard or Homeland Security) until an approved Master Plan is in place.


Here's how you can help!

Both bills are on the agenda of the Legislature's Committee on Economic Development, Higher Education, and Energy for its meeting of Wednesday, November 16th, at 9:30 a.m. To express your support, write to the Committee Chair:

Hon. Lynne Nowick
59 Landing Avenue
Smithtown, NY 11787

and send a copy to Jay at

Hon. Jay Schneiderman
P.O. Box 1827
Sag Harbor, NY 11963

If you are so inclined, you can
mention that you also support a curfew and that you hope the county (as suggested above) would apply the moratorium to all construction in support of civilian aviation.

While snailmail will have the most impact, you can also register your opinion via e-mail:

LynneC.Nowick@suffolkcountyny.gov

and to ensure your message is duly entered in the official record, please send a copy to her aide,

Ed.Hogan@suffolkcountyny.gov

and again a copy to

Jay.Schneiderman@suffolkcountyny.gov

Since the Committee meets on the morning of the 16th, be sure your letter or e-mail is received by
Tuesday, November 15th! Of course, we'd be delighted to receive a copy of anything you send, either at CAAP@eastendcommunity.com or the Post Office box shown below.



October 15, 2005

Suffolk County has just released a draft of its Master Plan for Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. Here is what County Executive Steve Levy has in mind for our neighborhood:

• A 42% increase in take-offs/landings next year vs. last year

80 new hangars to be built in 2006, with more to come!

• At least 50 additional aircraft moving immediately to Gabreski to occupy these.

• Expanded aviation facilities to attract more planes & to increase potential for commuter service.

• A noise assessment criterion that concludes that even by 2015, noise "contours" will not extend to any structures outside the airport!!

The Coalition is reviewing the draft report and gathering additional information about Gabreski plans and operations. We will need the help and support of everyone in earshot of the airport to keep the lid on aviation growth.


September 15, 2005

CAAP has come to life again to meet the challenges facing our communities from a county government that is determined to turn Gabreski into a moneymaking enterprise. We have always said that we favor the development of the 50-plus acres at the field that have been set aside for non-aviation use, and we fully support the Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing.

However, big-time plans to expand civilian aviation are now in the works and ExcelAire, one of the largest heavy jet fleets in the Northeast, is about to get the go-ahead to live at Gabreski, our airport-next-door. The Quogue Association (see their
May, 2005 letter at another location on this site) first caught wind of this when a member attended the May meeting of the Airport Lease Screening Committee (ALSC.) The Association immediately complained to County Executive Steve Levy and up-island legislators that, once again, the government in Hauppauge was riding roughshod, in near-secrecy, over the East End. With only one representative in the county legislature, local citizens often have to beg, plead and yell to get the county to pay attention. This is one of those times.

ExcelAire's application to base its 18-jet fleet here was accepted in May, and supporting studies, including one of the speediest State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) reports we've ever heard of, have been filed with the ALSC. The public has had no opportunity to view these files and yet ExcelAire has been fast tracked to set up shop at Gabreski. Because almost none of the information that details the jet fleet's plans has been made public, CAAP can only guess what's ahead from questions a Quogue resident put to ExcelAire's representative at that May meeting of the ALSC. Among other things, he said the company wants to move to Westhampton because there's "room to grow" at Gabreski. Here are the only facts CAAP has been able to dig out about ExcelAire, but just these few points alarm us.

ExcelAire intends to:

• build a 25,000 square foot hangar, that will be doubled as its jet fleet grows

• move 18 jets from MacArthur Airport to Gabreski, with 1 to 2 additional jets added every year

• set up a maintenance facility and fuel farm to service these jets

• offer helicopter charter to its clients


These alarming quotes come from ExcelAire's own website (ExcelAire.com) :

"ExcelAire has one of the largest, locally based heavy jet fleets in the Northeast, while also offering a selection of mid-size jets."

"ExcelAire is a full-service business aviation provider offering Part 135 jet and helicopter charter…"


IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.

Once again, CAAP heartily supports non-aviation growth at Gabreski. To that end, new airport management under County Executive Levy has moved rapidly to clean up the field and prepare it for non-aviation tenants. But the 2006 budget calls for many millions of dollars to be spent on improvements such as a new Gabreski terminal and control tower.

What CAAP wants to see is a county government that is responsive to the fact that Gabreski is our neighbor, while the county officials who make decisions about it live too far away to hear what we hear every day and many nights. Despite assurances from the county that they don't want Gabreski to turn into another LaGuardia, one of its first moves has given the green light to 18 jets and more to come.

HAS THERE BEEN ANY PROGRESS?

CAAP was pleased to see that the Quogue Association's letter-writing campaign got quick responses from county politicos, but the results are mixed, if not meaningless.

The county executive (Steve Levy, a Democrat) issued an executive order to create a citizens' advisory board, which has just had its first monthly meeting. (Future meetings will happen on Thursday evenings, and they are open to the public.) The group's charge appears vague, but at least citizen representatives are to have a look at the master plan and a session with an FAA representative. However, a look at the Levy board's composition (
see list below) indicates that a majority of its members are beholden to the county for appointments or livelihood. Although Quogue is represented through the Quogue Association and an at-large member who is a Quogue resident, and there is a Southampton Town representative who is a Westhampton resident, the hamlets of Eastport, Speonk, Remsenburg, East Quogue, and Hampton Bays (all in earshot of Gabreski) have no direct representation.

The chairman of the ALSC (County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, a Republican) got a bill through the legislature to create a larger advisory group (with more representation of aviation interests), but Levy vetoed it and Schneiderman lacked the votes to override. (See article titled "Levy Wields Veto On Airport Panel".

That means there are now two committees with possibly conflicting jurisdictions overseeing the airport. And it is not at all clear which of these bodies has jurisdiction over anything except non-aviation issues at Gabreski. That all but assures that - despite the supposed opportunity for citizen input - the county gives only the appearance of public participation in decisions about air traffic at Gabreski.

Another player at Gabreski is the Town of Southampton. County Executive Levy has ceded zoning functions at the airport industrial park to the town and declared that the town will be "lead agency" on environmental decisions.

And that reminds us, whatever became of the Superfund toxic sites at the airport, and were the "brown fields" ever cleaned up?

CAAP urges all who read this to attend public meetings of the Levy board (first Thursday of every month) and the ALSC, which meets on some Fridays. It's regrettable the ALSC meetings seem never to be publicized, but check this site for postings.

Gabreski Airport Community Advisory Board

1. The Commissioner of the County Department of Economic Development and Workforce Housing, who shall serve as Chairman of the Board (James Morgo);

2. The Airport Manager of the Francis S. Gabreski Suffolk County Airport, or his or her designee (Anthony Ceglio);

3. The Planning Director of the County Department of Planning, or his or her designee (Tom Isles);

4. One representative with a background of at least five years in the field of business aviation, to be selected by the County Executive (Lloyd Scott, Malloy Air East);

5. One representative with a background of at least five years in the field of recreational aviation, to be selected by the County
Executive (Joseph Fischetti, Southold).

6. One member of a widely recognized or publicly acknowledged environmental organization, to be selected by the County Executive (Bob DeLuca, Group for the South Fork);

7. One representative from the public at large, to be selected by the County Executive (Cristina Kepner, Quogue);

8. One representative selected by the Quogue Association in consultation with the Mayor of the Village of Quogue (Bo Rogers);

9. One representative from the Westhampton Chamber of Commerce (Hank Beck);

10. One representative from the Westhampton School District, to be selected by the Westhampton School Board (Beecher Halsey);

11. One civic leader to be selected by the Mayor of the Village of Westhampton Beach (Brian Tymann);

12. One civic leader from the Town of Southampton, to be selected by the Supervisor of the Town of Southampton (Sharon Frost, Westhampton); and

13. The Commander of the United States Air National Guard's 106th Air Rescue Wing, or his or her designee (Colonel Michael F. Canders).

Click here to sign up and receive updates about Gabreski


Coalition Against Airport Pollution
P.O. Box # 121 * Westhampton Beach, New York 11978 *
e-mail