Inside the Legal Battle Over the Hamptons’ Airports
There were two main airports in the affluent East Hampton, New York, and now both are in disarray.
East Hampton Airport, the pair’s larger airport, has been through months of litigation over the town’s attempt to limit non-stop air traffic. Then, at the end of last month, the news bankrupt that a mysterious buyer swooped in to acquire nearby Montauk Airport – also located in East Hampton – leaving some residents reeling with the possibility that an unnamed tycoon would dictate its rules.
As the summer heats up, and the super-wealth descends via helicopters and private jets, locals are swarming to join the fray.
“It’s just a quality of life issue,” said Montauk resident Bonnie Brady of the noise. “Your whole summer, you can’t really hear yourself thinking.”
The uproar began in January, when the town announced that it would close East Hampton Airport to the public and reopen as a private entity; Any aircraft wishing to use the facility require prior authorization. Officials clearly believe that will solve at least part of the problem.
But the following month, eight plaintiffs (including Brady) to sue town, the board and the town supervisor, argued in part that the plan was simply to ease congestion with planes to nearby airports like Montauk.
Brady told The Daily Beast: “We had a lot of traffic over the summer. She emphasized that she understands why some residents near East Hampton Airport want to reduce noise pollution but feel “there needs to be a way to fix it so you don’t just cause suffering. “
Another plaintiff, Blade Air Mobility, argued in court that the privatization plan would effectively prevent it from operating out of East Hampton Airport. For about $1,000, Blade brings Manhattanites to East Hampton in just 40 minutes, allowing its customers to avoid hours of traffic.
Other residents affected have also filed separate lawsuits over the planned closure, alleging it could harm local businesses.
The Hamptons, long a mecca for those with deep pockets, popularity boom during the pandemic as wealthy city dwellers spend more time in their second homes or move there altogether. Rents have fallen from their peak, although super luxury beachfront villas are still available being advertised for $1 million per month or more.
Last year, there were 32,298 flight operations logged in East Hampton, town document shows, a 27% increase from 2020 — part of the reason officials are eager to rein in activity. Total flights peaked last August, at 6,138, about seven times more than in February. (Historically, the town’s population reported quadruple throughout the season.)
In May, Judge Paul Baisley weighed in on the airport controversy following a series of legal filings. He issued a temporary restraining order order prevent the town from closing the airport or “implementing any new usage restrictions.”
According to the plaintiffs, East Hampton did so anyway. In a June submit calling for the town and its officials to be despised, the plaintiffs argued that, “for the first time,” the town began forcing the aircraft to “completely shut down before loading and unloading passengers… effectively double this time the plane has to land between flights”.
The plaintiffs provide additional examples to support their claim that East Hampton is following Judge Baisley’s order with the new restrictions. “By trickery or fraud, it is extremely dangerous to restrict the use of this Airport, even if it means destroying the Airport to get there,” they wrote.
The court has yet to make a decision on the matter. An official in the East Hampton Supervisor’s office declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
Adding to the volatility is the mysterious new owner of Montauk airport and what regulations, if any, they will seek to enforce.
Buyer — who reported spent about $14 million – still no results. Even Montauk Airport’s new manager, Neil Blainey, told The Daily Beast he didn’t know the owner’s identity.
Some East Hampton residents criticized the town for failing to purchase the airport, which would have granted it additional control over its airspace. Town supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc objected, saying in a press release that the town had attempted to pursue that as early as 2019.
The problem, he said in comment As reported by local store 27East, the previous owners wanted to close the sale in stock to reap capital gains tax benefits that could run into the millions. But legally, the town is barred from entering into that kind of agreement, he said.
It remains to be seen what will happen under the new management. Blainey, meanwhile, weighed in on the bustle at East Hampton Airport, arguing that closing it would backfire by preventing the town from having any effect on air traffic. “It seemed to me like they would shoot themselves in the foot if they really got close,” he said.
Brady, as expected, also pushed the airport to continue operating, fearing the sky near her Montauk house would be even louder.
“I don’t think anyone wants to live that way,” she said. “Especially when you’ve lived here for such a long time… And suddenly, foolishnessthat is Doomsday right now. “