Businesses say chopper restriction will hurt bottom lines

Residents of East Hampton are applauding the rules passed last week that aim to cut back on the noise from aircraft buzzing overhead, but several business owners are certain it will hurt their bottom lines.

Town officials say East Hampton Airport saw more than 4,000 helicopter landings last year, prompting many complaints from neighbors about the noise. This summer, helicopters and other noisy aircrafts ferrying passengers to the town will be severely restricted by the new town ordinance, especially at night and early in the morning.

Kathleen Cunningham, of the Quiet Skies Coalition, estimates there will be a 50 percent reduction in the type of aircraft that create the most complaints, including helicopters, seaplanes and large jets.

It's bad news, however, for people like John Kjekstad, who owns charter company Helicopter Flight Services. He says he lands 25 to 30 times each summer weekend in East Hampton. "It's unfair," he says. "It's going to be a big blow to our business."

Cindy Herpst, of Sound Aircraft Services, which services choppers at the airport, agrees. "Obviously it's going to affect our bottom line. It's definitely going to change how we do business here, and if we can do business here and survive."

Pilots say the new restrictions may mean the traffic will instead head to the Montauk Airport. That news that has Montauk residents uneasy. "The last thing we need is to have aircraft from East Hampton being dumped on this very special place," says Montauk resident Richard Kahn.

Cunningham says noise reduction is highly important for the East End. "It's quiet, it's rural," she says. "That's why people come."

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