East Hampton residents attempt to block city’s airport privatization program

The Tony town of East Hampton has reportedly already forked out more than $2.5million to fight a grueling series of lawsuits challenging its plan to privatize its airport – after angering nearly everyone in town.

Enemies range from deep-pocketed East End tycoons to private pilots, helicopter companies and even the estate of a star builder and his wife who died in a plane crash in 2018, everyone being furious at issues ranging from curfews to new fees. .

“We just want to sit with [the town board]. …Them all being Democrats, they don’t believe in that,” snorted metal mogul Andy Sabin, one of at least five plaintiffs, to the Post.

The airport, which has become a coveted tarmac for the rich and famous, plans to close on May 17 and reopen as a “new” airport on May 19.

The move means it will no longer be run by the Federal Aviation Administration and the city can set its own rules — and East Hampton plans to do so.

The new East Hampton airport is expected to establish a curfew for flights, allow only one flight per plane per day, set regulations for the type of plane allowed, and give priority to private jets and helicopters.

Many residents want East Hampton Airport to run into a public space.
Dennis A. Clark

As part of the change, the city would be able to raise $10 million in federal surplus funds allocated to the “old” airport — but at least a quarter of that dough has already been gobbled up by city legal bills that fight enemies, two sources mentioned.

Sabin said he operated his business out of the Hamptons in part because the airport allowed him to bring in customers whenever he wanted.

But he said he was ready to resume and move to friendlier pastures in the south if the city’s plan comes to fruition.

“I’m 5 minutes from the airport from my house in Florida, and I don’t have to worry about bullshit, and the people are so nice.” said Sabina.

Andy Sabine
Andy Sabin is one of the plaintiffs involved in the East Hampton airport lawsuit.
Doug Kuntz
A helicopter sits at the East Hampton airport
The airport should impose a curfew for flights.
Dennis A. Clark

Local pilot and resident Kathryn Slye told the Post: “This council is intentionally excluding the aviation community, ignoring the wishes of 80% of their local community and doing what they want.

Under the new rules, Slye said, take-off and landing fees for small, locally-based aircraft will in some cases increase from $20 to $300, pilots and aviation enthusiasts who cannot afford the high increase.

The new regulations are also expected to ban planes that use leaded fuel, meaning no piston-powered planes will be allowed to land on the tarmac, she said.

Attorney Randy Mastro, who is representing the Blade helicopter shuttle service in its lawsuit against the city, claimed that under state law, East Hampton must conduct a thorough and public review of the environmental impacts of the modification of the airport before it materializes. . The city council has yet to do that, Mastro said.

East Hampton map
The “new” airport will no longer be managed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Suffolk County Court

East Hampton officials returned a request for comment to The Post.

“The city is saying, ‘We’re going to do what we’re going to do and then study it,'” the attorney said.

“That’s not how New York law works. … This is sophistry,” Mastro said.

Critics of the plan also say people won’t stop flying to the summer getaway even if East Hamptons limits use of its popular tarmac.

And if people can’t fly to the city’s airport, they will land in surrounding locations such as Southampton, West Hampton and Mattituck on the North Fork, which could wreak havoc in those locations, insiders say .

A helicopter sits at the East Hampton airport
The new regulations will ban aircraft that use leaded fuel, meaning no piston-powered aircraft will be allowed.
Dennis A. Clark

Airlines in the region are already seeing an increase in people wanting to buy their own planes and helicopters to secure summer flights, an aviation insider told the Post.

“There will be diversions to places that cannot accommodate this type of volume – East Hampton Airport is the nexus of all the aviation infrastructure there, and it maintains the balance,” said the source.

Scott Russell, the town supervisor for Southold, which includes Mattituck, said he would not let companies such as Blade divert flights to the area.

“Whatever their solution is, they can make it happen – as long as that solution doesn’t include the North Folk,” he said of the airmen.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said: “I just don’t know if [East Hampton’s] will create a new set of problems for different residents.

“It hasn’t been analyzed, it hasn’t been studied,” Schneiderman said.

East Hampton Airport
The airport plans to close on May 17 and reopen on May 19.
Dennis A. Clark

East Hampton is also being sued by the estates of late star builder Ben Krupinski and his wife Bonnie – who died in a plane crash in 2018 on their way to East Hampton airport and whose heirs still have an airplane hangar there.

Suing through an LLC, the estates claim the airport closure would violate the terms of a lease they have for airport space that only expires in 2027. The closure would cause harm to the company that cannot be compensated by damages, the LLC said. court documents.

Jeff Smith of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council told the Post: “I believe diplomacy had a chance” – but not anymore.

“The 2022 season is just weeks away,” he noted.

While East Hampton officials have angered local pilots and the ultra-wealthy who will pay $400 for a seat on a helicopter to beat Long Island freeway traffic, neither are local residents. very pleased with airport tipping.

“It’s a total sham,” said Barry Raebeck, director of the Coalition to Transform East Hampton Airport, which wants the airport converted into a public space.

“The issue tends to be turned between rich a-holes versus other rich a-holes. I am a former school teacher. I am concerned about climate change,” he said, adding that the people landing at the airport are those living in 30,000 square foot “climate monstrosities”.

“People are hurting because we don’t have access to 600 acres of public land that could be used for better things,” Raebeck said.

Instead, residents have an airport “that most of us don’t use or hate,” he said.

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