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Study Claims Airport Is 'Economic Lifeline' for Town; Opponents Shoot Down Theory

Quiet Skies Coalition says the timing of the release is suspicious given airport proponent Councilman Dominick Stanzione's bid for re-election.

A protestor at the East Hampton Airport, which a new study claims generates $48 million in spending in East Hampton. Credit: Taylor K. Vecsey
A protestor at the East Hampton Airport, which a new study claims generates $48 million in spending in East Hampton. Credit: Taylor K. Vecsey

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.”

laszlo Lowenstein November 05, 2013 at 04:18 PM
"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. You had me at the word "assuming." Even assuming all those unsubstantiated "facts" are true, and if there was no airport to fly into, there is a very good chance that these same people would still be spending their $48MM here. Why? Because its the Hamptons! How would they get here? By another means of travel: taxi, Jitney, limo, rental car, McCarthur airport. Oh wait, all those things (car service, gas, local taxis, stopping at Tate's for cookies, etc.) actually put $ into the local economy. So maybe they'd be spending MORE here if the airport was closed. Based on this finding I would conclude the opposite of the report: close the airport and we will see a windfall for local businesses.
SadderBudweiser November 05, 2013 at 04:46 PM
And the award for best fiction goes to...... Another idiotic attempt at validating the relentless, uncontrolled noise and pollution happening 24/7. These airport folks are their own worst enemy when they put out this drivel. Hey, here's a thought: Why don't you bozos get Forbes Magazine And look to see how many of the wealthiest in the world you recognize as airport users. I can think of five without much effort. They can maintain your airport with their pocket change.
the owl November 05, 2013 at 07:51 PM
Interesting and frightening. I'm one of many I guess who did not realize that a serious research center within NYU was so adept at fiction? If it were not so deceptive, from an otherwise reputable institution, it would be laughable. How can one "assume" and call it a serious study? What is the world coming to, that any old group with money can "buy" a report from such a venerable institution? Are morals a thing of the past, even at our most venerated institutions? ...no wonder our congress has lost its way.
laszlo Lowenstein November 05, 2013 at 11:06 PM
What's shocking is that the consultant Appleseed was part of this. They've done economic impact studies for Harvard and Brown Universities in Boston area and Providence respectively. They must have phoned this one in. There is just no way you can conclude that wealthy visitors are going to stop coming here just because they can't land their plane/helicopter on EH soil.
SagHarborBob November 06, 2013 at 05:31 AM
Goodbye Stanzione, and hello to finally getting control of the airport!!
SadderBudweiser November 06, 2013 at 08:29 AM
You know what they say about assuming. How about we get some truth from Airport Noise and Pollution proponents for a change?
fh November 07, 2013 at 05:25 PM
People had to know the airport was there before they moved nearby. Even if the positive economic impact is 1/4, it is still substantial.
SadderBudweiser November 07, 2013 at 06:41 PM
Once more for the slow learners: complaints come from as far away as the North Fork and Riverhead. And, while there is economic impact most of it flies away with the out of town helicopter and seaplane companies. Any benefit to East Hampton Will be seriously out-weighed by the economic impact of a shrinking tax base as property values in the affected areas decline.
the owl November 08, 2013 at 07:54 AM
Ignorance can be addressed, there are so many tools available for learning. The quiet skies coalition people have a plethora of information available to those who bother to learn. Stupidity is an all together different problem. That airport serves very few people, I don't know anyone who has used it (other than local pilots, who do not seem to be a major problem as far as I can tell, in this fight). The noise and jet fuel emissions are falling upon us all, impacting our environment, and our health. THAT is the Key issue.
SuzyScuba November 10, 2013 at 03:10 PM
To "fh": Knowing the airport is/was there is not the problem. It's the horrific increase in traffic and the helicopters that are unrelenting. For years, East Hampton Airport (HTO) was a small local airport. It served mostly privately owned winged aircraft and was used for weekend enthusiasts. HTO is now designated as a "regional" airport by the FAA, a recent up-grade due to the tower and increased traffic. Noise pollution doesn't just effect "nearby" residents. Both the North and South Fork residents are being bombarded by incessant noise pollution. Helicopters are the worst offenders followed by seaplanes, jets, and commuter commercial flights. This not a "local" problem. It is an Eastern Long Island problem.
SuzyScuba November 10, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Jeff Smith is wrong. Completely wrong.
SuzyScuba November 10, 2013 at 03:18 PM
P.S. Jeff Smith is wrong about the airport being an "economic life-line." And to make certain the public understands, Quiet Skies Coalition is NOT attempting to close the airport but it does want the town to take control and implement curfews, which are currently not in place as the airport is open 24 hours a day. In addition, as the owner of the airport, East Hampton Town, can address the noise pollution problem. As it is now, the Eastern Region Helicopter Association (ERHA) , is pressuring our community and working against our right to assert control over the airport because it is not in that organization's best interest.

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