East Hampton grounds controversial airport closure plan over FAA backlash

East Hampton has delayed its controversial plan to close the town airport from the end of the month to May amid multiple lawsuits and intense backlash from the FAA, the town board announced Thursday.

Politicians in the tony town voted last month to close the decades-old East Hampton Airport on Feb. 28, and reopen on March 4, under private, town-controlled ownership.

The “new” airport is then expected to only allow privately owned aircraft to land on its tarmac — a move meant to appease the town’s super-rich who own jets and choppers, while cutting down on noise pollution.

As part of the scheme, the town would be able to collect $10 million in federal surplus funds allocated to the “old” airport.

The FAA was furious when it caught wind of the plan, and sent the town a point-by-point refutation of the plan’s feasibility earlier this month. One source said behind closed doors the feds in charge of the skies were calling the town board members “reckless and ruthless.”

The town board voted unanimously Thursday for the delay, saying the new closure date would be May 17 and it expects the tarmac to reopen on May 19. The board did not immediately return the Post’s request for comment.

The decision comes after a Feb. 16 meeting between the town and the FAA, the board said, where the groups discussed a new timeline “acceptable to both parties.”

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesperson for the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, praised the delay, but told the Post in a statement he still worries about a future, “misguided” closure.

“We are pleased the East Hampton Town Board is starting to listen to commonsense solutions and delayed their plans for the airport to allow for more discussions and alternate solutions,” he said, calling on all sides to “stop filing lawsuits” and imploring the town “not to rush ahead with their misguided plans to close the airport.”

Riegelhaupt is just one of the many opposing voices who have made their worries clear to the board.

Global Medical Response, the nation’s largest provider of medical helicopters and air ambulances, wrote a letter to the town board on Feb. 8 expressing “extreme concern” about the shuttering.

“Any amount of time this airport is out of service could be detrimental, and the closure of this airport would adversely impact the health and safety of our community,” it said in a letter provided to the Post, expressing fears about how it would safely evacuate residents in an emergency.

Sixty percent of East Hampton and Montauk-area medical evacuations have been happening at the airport, even though the town downplayed the tarmac’s role in emergencies services, an aviation insider told the Post.Since the original vote, the town board has been inundated with lawsuits.

On Feb. 9, the estates of the late builder-to-the-stars Ben Krupinski and his wife Bonnie — who were meant to land at East Hampton Airport before their plane tragically crashed into the Atlantic in 2018, killing the couple and two others —  filed an injunction through an LCC to keep the airport open.

Among the other suits is one filed against the town on Feb. 15 by plaintiffs who both use the airport and who would be affected by rerouted flight paths.

2022-02-23T15:38:58-05:00