More than 30 residents lined the road and tarmac exit at East Hampton Airport late Friday afternoon in an effort to raise awareness among passengers and pilots that airport noise—particularly that caused by helicopters, jets and seaplanes—disrupts local residents.
The Quiet Skies Coalition, a non-profit group that advocates for noise abatement and local control of the Daniels Hole Road airport in Wainscott, held the demonstration from about 4:30 to 6 p.m., timed to coincide with heavy air traffic.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is connect more personally with the people who are using these aircraft,” said Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the coalition, which just turned two years old this month. “If they understand how uncomfortable their choice of transportation is making local people, they might make a more considerate choice.”
This demonstration was the first the group held this year, she said, but what struck her as different from past events was the bad behavior of many of the disembarking passengers.
“A lot of them stuck their tongues out at us and worse, flipping the bird,” she said. “To say they are entitled isn’t an appropriate descriptor. It’s arrogance and profound disrespect for the people who are suffering from their behavior. If someone stood in my yard with a sign saying, ‘Respect my community,’ that’s not the reaction I would have.”
Unlike the passengers, some of the pilots sympathized with the demonstrators, who hailed from East Hampton, Springs, Wainscott, Sag Harbor and Noyac, she said.
The coalition, she added, does not aim to shut down the airport, a notion she said has been circulated by members of the East Hampton Aviation Association.
The association, “for reasons unknown to me, has consistently promoted and publicized with its vast resources that anyone advocating for aircraft noise abatement is secretly trying to close the airport,” said Ms. Cunningham, who lives in East Hampton near the airport.
“This dichotomy has actually been created by the East Hampton Aviation Association to frighten the local pilots into opposing our position by making them believe we want to close the airport,” she said. “It’s a weird spot for us to be in. You can’t prove a negative. And as a consequence—they have very deep pockets— it has not just inhibited, but it has virtually prohibited airport noise abatement advocates from sitting down with pilots.”
Association members have countered that the airport opponents suggestions that the town stop accepting federal grant money for airport maintenance would in effect be a death sentence for the airport because the town would not be able to afford to maintain the facility on its own.
Friday’s event brought out some new participants this year from Sag Harbor who are now affected by a change in route to take away traffic from Noyac, she said.
But route distribution, she said, is a losing strategy. “The basic choice is to decide into which of your neighbors’ yards you’re going to throw your trash.” Only meaningful access limits will have a positive effect, not redistribution, she said.
The coalition expects to release in the next week or two the results of a survey it conducted of East Hampton Town Board candidates regarding their stance on the airport.