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Airport Manager: Threat Investigated by FBI Had Nothing To Do with Protestors

Caller left message on airport complaint hotline threatening to point laser at pilots and shoot down helicopters.

Rumors that the FBI was investigating demonstrations at the East Hampton Airport have not been substantiated, but federal authorities were brought in to investigate a recent threat.

Jim Brundige, the airport manager, said on Wednesday that a few weeks ago he reported receiving a message on the airport complaint hotline from a resident of Southampton Town who threatened to shoot down helicopters and shine laser beams at the pilots, which is a federal offense.

The caller, a man, went onto leave his name, address, and telephone number.

"That one had to be reported," Brundige said and he called the FBI. "They did pay him a visit," he said, though he said it did not seem like a viable threat. "It's entirely possible that it was said in a moment of anger," Brundige said, adding the man seemed to be "shooting off from the mouth," perhaps angry over increased helicopter noise this summer.

Still, he said, "You just can't do that."

The man — who is not a member of the Quiet Skies Coalition, according to Brundige, and not a regular caller to the hotline — was not charged with any crime. Brundidge did not disclose his name.

Brundige said such threats against the East Hampton Airport are very rare. Several years ago, he said, someone left a message threatening to shoot people, and police investigated.

As for the FBI investigating Quiet Skies Coalition rallies, Brundige said an FBI agent did call, "to give me the heads up" about demonstrations, for the past three weekends. He said federal authorities do monitor protests at airports, but that those rallying have been peaceful and acted appropriately.

Chief Ed Ecker received a similar call, he said Wednesday. "I get call from an FBI agent with the aviation unit at JFK," Ecker said. "He picks up information that the group that's been protesting, that they may go a little bit further and go out into the tarmac to stop aircraft from coming in. He was just passing on information, he wasn't investigating."

Ecker said he called Cunningham and someone else from the department spoke to another group, from Noyac, which has been protesting, as well.

Kathleen Cunningham, an East Hampton resident and chairman of the coalition, said in a statement released this weekend that she was informed the FBI was investigating the upcoming rally over Labor Day weekend.

“I learned from East Hampton Town Police Chief, Ed Ecker, that the Aviation Association called FBI Agent Mike Lewis to investigate a report that civil disobedience had been planned for this week’s rally.”

The aviation association president, Irving Paler, denied Cunningham's claim. “The East Hampton Aviation Association certainly did not call the FBI or any other law enforcement agency,” he said. “That is preposterous. We did not know anything about it. Peaceful protest is part of our American heritage.”

Ecker called the discrepency in their conversation a miscommunication or a misunderstanding. "Kathy has been great to work with," he said, adding that police have no problems with the protestors at the airport.

Over 50 people took part in the protest of noise, and the July route change that has directed helicopter traffic over parts of Southampton Town, at the airport on Friday of Labor Day weekend from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“I had a good laugh about it, to be honest,” Cunningham said after speaking with the chief, adding that she told him, “Have you had a good look at this group, Eddie? No offense to our protestors, but I’m just not seeing it.”

Cunningham said she had no problem with the East Hampton Town Police Department, who have stood by and checked on the protests. "Speaking with the chief beforehand really helped eliminate a lot of potential misunderstanding and opened lines of communication," she said.

“If only we had that sort of cooperation with the town board and the aviation community,” Cunningham added.

SadderBudweiser September 06, 2012 at 03:24 AM
So Brundige is just now hearing about the demonstrations? And from the FBI? When and how often does he actually GO to the Airport?
ANTI.bs September 06, 2012 at 02:45 PM
READ THE ARTICLE AGAIN SadderBudweiser. Jim Brundige DID NOT say anything at all you've erroneously accused him off. Cunningham outright lied in her Press Release about the aviation association. Where's her retraction and apology to the aviation association? Now that the truth has exposed her for what she is, a liar, perhaps anything she utters will deservedly be questioned accordingly. There’s nothing funny ("I had a good laugh about it, to be honest..") about making such inflammatory remarks.
SadderBudweiser September 09, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Read my post again bub. I didn't accuse anyone anything, as you suggest. I simply asked how often Brundige is at the Airport. Is he at the airport daily? Weekly? Is he there when it is bumper to bumper with airborne taxi cabs on Friday and Sunday evenings? Probably not. More likely he's enjoying the peace and quiet denied others at home. Is he at the airport at 6 a.m. To ask the noise parade to wait until a more reasonable hour? Probably not.
SadderBudweiser September 09, 2012 at 04:28 PM
And besides, character assasination is an EHAA specialty. Look at all the venom directed at David Gruber. Despite what you may think of him personally or his persistence he's been right on the money with his facts. It seems that when the "Don't Tell Us What We Can Do With Our Airport Crowd" is short on actual truth they shoot the messenger. All the Quiet Skies people really want are Quiet Skies and a clean environment. What is it that you want?
ANTI.bs September 12, 2012 at 03:14 PM
?????“..Right on the money with his facts”???? 4 times in the NYS Supreme Court and 2 times in the NYS Appellate Division ~ all deemed “without merit in its entirety.” His “facts” simply don’t hold water. The ONLY money that counts is the costly MILLIONS taxpayers have paid in defending these meritless lawsuits and the MILLIONS missed out on in federal money that is earmarked for airport maintenance. A lie is a lie and you defending it just makes it worse. Ms. Cunningham’s lie was not even a “great story” that just got “ruined with the truth.” Tactics like accusing an association in an official statement to the press of calling the FBI when the guy who did left his name, address and phone number makes the group Ms. Cunningham represents look like a bunch of kooks instead of reasonable people with valid complaints.
ANTI.bs September 12, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I’m sympathetic to all of us that have legitimate complaints about noise in general, but when I read that HALF the complaints made in July came from 2 people, one of whom made an average of 14 calls a day, that’s when I seriously question the veracity of those that supposedly represent legitimate complainers. (Just like Mr. Gruber’s multiple frivolous lawsuits) It makes us all look like we have nothing better to do all day but sit around and complain about something. I’m a taxpayer who is fed up with the amount of money and time wasted. There are reasonable solutions to every problem, but I for one, will not participate with or join in with any group that roadblocks public facilities of federal funding and the facilities’ ability to produce income for the Town, PERIOD.

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