A study on the East Hampton Airport released last week shows the airport's economic benefits, but airport noise opponents claim it's a flawed report that's release is suspect given the close proximity to the election.
The report, paid for by a coalition of airport users and businesses, like Sound Aircraft, and the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, was compiled by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University in collaboration with Appleseed, a New York City-based economic development consulting firm. It was released on Oct. 30.
According to the study, the municipal airport generates nearly $48 million in spending and creating over 600 jobs in support of the business, leisure and hospitality industries throughout the town.
"Assuming that each flight into and out of East Hampton carries an average of three passengers, each staying for an average of three days and spending an average of $500 per day, local spending by airport users in 2011 is estimated at nearly $48 million," the report states. "This spending is estimated to have directly supported 647 full-time-equivalent jobs in a wide range of local industries – about 7.3 percent of all employment in East Hampton in 2011."Jeff Smith, from the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, said the airport is "an economic lifeline" for many of year-round businesses. "If East Hampton wants to remain a world-class destination, that brings in economic revenue from around the world, then it's vitally important that the airport remain open and full operational. At the end of the day, we all need to come together to make sure that this airport stays open and a thoughtfully integrated part of the community," he said.
However, the Quiet Skies Coalition claims that academic experts and an internationally renowned urban policy and planning consultant contacted by coalition have found "the study scientifically flawed and the report’s conclusions grossly misleading."
T. James Matthews, a professor Emeritus at New York University in the Departments of Psychology and Neural Sciences and former Vice Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said there scientific errors in the study, including that the findings are based on the number of helicopter passengers using the airport and that economic benefits are not based on facts.
"These imaginary numbers allow them to calculate that these imaginary passengers contribute $48 million to the East Hampton economy," Matthews said.
The coalition said the report simply tries to pave the way for unlimited helicopter traffic in and out of East Hampton. Its release at the end of October, according to the coalition, was meant to help incumbent Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, a proponent of taking federal funding from the airport who is seeking re-election.
Smith refuted the notion, adding it was released after local weekly newspapers had gone to print.
The report was released last week, less than a week before the 2013 election, in which helicopter traffic and its noise are a major issue, the coalition said.
"QSC believes that publication of the helicopter industry-funded study at this time is a thinly veiled attempt to bolster the Stanzione campaign at the last minute," the coalition said in a statement, referring to incumbent Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who is seeking re-election.
Peter M. Wolf, author of Land in America and The Future of the City and Senior Advisor to the Town of East Hampton Comprehensive Plan said, “The assumptions in this report are questionable, and it does not address the fundamental issue of mitigation of the concentrated disturbance to the large number of residents who are aggressively noise impacted.”