“Four out of five members of our current East Hampton Town Board signed this pre-election pledge:
“If elected, under no circumstances will I support any increase in aircraft traffic at the Montauk airport due to any future action by the Easthampton town board.”
That was pre-election. Then after they were elected, the four signers of that pledge stuck their finger directly into the eye of every Montauk resident by doing the opposite of what they pledged to do: they voted to close the Easthampton airport, which would have dramatically increased aircraft traffic at Montauk’s tiny airport though there is zero evidence that closing HTO is the will of the majority of town residents. Studies of the consequences of reducing helicopter traffic at HTO reveal that most of its thousands of annual helicopter landings will go to Montuak.
Last week a NY State Supreme Court judge adjudicated that the board’s “Close HTO” decision was “arbitrary, capricious, and illegal.” The town board nevertheless announced it was going to seek reversal of that decision and and try to go forward with its expensive legal project to close HTO.
I respectfully suggest the board will accomplish nothing but spend more taxpayer funds and create more division in the town.
The judge’s decision was eminently predictable for several reasons. Most significantly, the project is subject to SEQRA, a state law that requires official bodies to do an environmental survey before initiating a project. The key word in that sentence is “before” yet the town read that as meaning “after.” How could the town lawyers permit their client to do something so patently illegal? And when the court declared the conduct illegal, – as it most obviously was – the lawyers got paid with taxpayer money anyway. We are talking millions of dollars here. What’s going on? I repeat: the whole purpose of the SEQRA law is to appraise the consequences of a major action before the action is taken. There is no ambiguity in the statute. And yet this board did exactly the opposite of what the statute requires. It took the action and then said, in effect, “Well, let’s see what happens.”
Even before the required SEQRA appraisal is made, certain environmental facts are obvious. In order to get to and from the Montauk strip, passengers must travel virtually the entire length of East Lake Drive, a dead-end residential street consisting of a narrow, winding, roadway without shoulders, already heavily utilized by vehicles going to the town beach at the end of the road, the County park close to the airstrip and a marina and a seaside restaurant. Because of the lack of shoulders, motor vehicles must share the road with runners, walkers, bicycle riders, and caregivers pushing baby carriages. The 20-mile-an-hour speed limit on one of the giant S-curves is a joke. I walk that road and have neverseen a vehicle slow to 20 miles an hour on those dangerous curves. And while there are varied estimates of how much additional traffic will clog Montauk’s Main Street and turn onto East Lake Drive, there is no doubt that traffic will increase during the summer months by thousands of vehicles. One estimate is as high as 21,000. Helicopter companies have announced that if their access to HTO is curtailed, most of the flights will go to Montauk.
Other environmental factors? The Montauk air strip is near a large swamp, Big Reed Pond and Little Reed Pond, which drains into Lake Montauk. A small plane crashed into Big Reed some while back and polluted the pond with gas and oil. The town police chief at the time said, “Removal of the plane posed environmental problems. The pond is an extensive wetlands, and the access road is a narrow rugged track that might have to be widened by bulldozer to get a heavy crane to the site; Meanwhile gasoline and oil is leaking into the pond. We are very concerned about the environmental impact both of widening the road and of the plane remaining in the water.” So much for the crabs, fish, egrets, cranes, and other wildlife who make the pond their home.
The southern end of the Montauk airstrip goes right up to a wire fence that has on several occasions been breached by small planes landing from north to south. Because the fence is within but several feet of the roadway, any vehicle or pedestrian on the road would have been impacted by the airplane that crashed through the fence. Fortunately, that did not happen and the plane came to rest at a wooden rail fence bordering a motel. The prospects for calamity are mind-boggling.
And yet, in the current litigation the board’s counsel had the gall to suggest that the plaintiffs lacked legal “standing” to bring the suit because they would not be affected by any increase in noise or traffic on East Lake Drive. How they could have made that claim is beyond me because several of the plaintiffs live on East Lake Drive. and their papers submitted to the court said so!
That’s just the beginning of the board’s problems. There is also a pending lawsuit in federal court that had earlier decided that the town had violated a federal law called ANCA when it tried to limit hours of operation. That decision was unanimously affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The District Court in the current case refrained from deciding the case because it said in effect, “What’s the point of my deciding to grant an injunction if a similar restraint is being considered by a state court judge?” Good call. In any event, even if the town were to succeed in its appeal of the state injunction, they will have to start all over again with the feds who, as I see it, have a strong case against the Town.
The town board has decided the small number of noisy complainers west of us (one boasts that he calls in complaints at least five times a day) mean more to them politically than the thousands of Montaukers who live, work, or vacation here. We, apparently, are but second-class town residents. We are all indebted to Tom Bogdan who put together Montauk United to defend our rights, legally and politically.”
~ Sincerely, Martin London
The U.S. Postal Service has been hard at work preparing for the holiday season since January. Rest assured, we’re holiday ready and well prepared to deliver fast and reliable service to every address in Montauk, NY and across America.
USPS has made significant investments to ensure your holiday greeting cards and packages reach their intended destination on-time. We’ve added 249 new package sorting machines across the nation which will allow us to process 60 million packages per day. This new equipment is part of $40 billion in new investments made under Delivering for America, our 10-year plan to achieve financial sustainability and service excellence.
Additionally, we have the space we need to manage all packages and mail when they reach us. We’ve strategically expanded our footprint by 8.5 million square feet throughout the country to augment space shortages at existing postal facilities and we’ve deployed new technology on our workroom floors to make sure we can track and move mail and packages quickly and to get them on their way.
The 650,000 men and women of the U.S. Postal Service pride ourselves on playing an important role in delivering the holidays for the nation. We’ve had more than 100,000 part time employees convert to full time positions since January 2021. And there is still time to join our team for the holiday season. Open seasonal positions are posted at usps.com/hiring.
Thank you for continuing to support the Postal Service. Our Montauk Postal Service team wishes you a wonderful holiday season.
~ Homer Clare, Montauk Post Office