Noise From the Sky Is Buzzkill In Ritzy Hamptons

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) -
A small jet approaches the runway at East Hampton Town Airport in August. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)
A small jet approaches the runway at East Hampton Town Airport in August. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)

The biggest buzz in the Hamptons comes from the sky.

Complaints about noise coming from aircraft ferrying visitors and locals to and from one of America’s best-known playgrounds for the rich and famous have more than tripled over last year, due in part to a new service that lets people book 40-minute chopper rides from Manhattan for relatively cheap prices.

Between the helicopters, corporate jets, seaplanes and other aircraft, residents say life in the vacation paradise has become a nightmare.

“It is extremely disruptive,” says Teresa McCaskie, who lives in Mattituck, 15 miles north of East Hampton Town Airport, which has logged 14,000 takeoffs and landings through early August, up 2,000 from last year.

McCaskie says she can’t sit outside on her deck in the afternoons because of the clatter of helicopters that travel from Manhattan, across the Long Island Sound and directly over her house.

“There are some that are just unbearable — the sound of the thumping,” she says. “The pounding sound when you’re standing on your back deck and your deck is vibrating and it’s pounding your windows.”

Bob Malafronte, a retired New York City teacher who lives in Sag Harbor and is a member of a noise abatement committee, said he wants either an outright ban on helicopters or a requirement that they fly 20 miles farther east over Long Island Sound and then turn south over Peconic Bay — keeping them over water for a longer time.

East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell knows he has to do something. Through early August, the town’s airport noise hotline had received 11,758 complaints, up from 3,335 from the same period in 2013.

Cantwell said the town is studying whether no longer accepting funding from the Federal Aviation Administration would allow them to restrict the number of flights. He said he needs to balance the complaints of residents with aircraft operators’ rights to ply their trade.

While chartering a helicopter ordinarily costs about $3,000 a trip, a new service called Blade that operates out of New York City allows passengers to buy individual seats on choppers for about $500 a trip.

That has made a Hamptons helicopter trip a more affordable option for many visitors seeking to avoid the chronically jammed summertime traffic that can make the 100-mile journey a four-hour ordeal.

“I’m taking this helicopter because I was very busy and I wanted to make it to my daughter’s birthday,” said attorney Matthew Kidd as he waited for a flight at the 34th Street heliport in Manhattan.