March 10, 2021
Long Island, NY’s East Hampton Airport (HTO) supports 872 jobs, which generate $34.9 million in income and pump $77 million into the area’s economy, according to an economic impact study, based on 2019 data, recently published by the East Hampton Community Alliance (EHCA).
The study, entitled “Contribution of the East Hampton Airport to the East Hampton/Southampton Economy,” also found that the airport attracted roughly 46,000 visitors to the region who spent $1,703 each during stays averaging three days.
The EHCA study examined economic activity generated by the airport’s businesses and their staff as well as personnel employed by the town to manage the airport and operate the air traffic control tower. Seven private-sector tenants operate out of HTO and provide 55 jobs, including 31 year-round jobs and 24 that are seasonal. The overall study area in Eastern Long Island covers nearly 114 square miles with a population of more than 31,000 people.
“This economic impact study further demonstrates the importance of East Hampton Airport to the area’s businesses and local residents,” said Erin King Sweeney, executive director of EHCA. “It also further establishes the airport’s importance as a vital connector for people traveling to and from Eastern Long Island for business and pleasure.”
Numerous local business owners and residents have teamed up with EHCA to increase local support for the airport against a chorus of noise complaints, arguing that HTO is vital to the success and outright survival of many area businesses.
“I am definitely afraid of losing the airport,” said Lee Felty, co-owner of Almond restaurant in Bridgehampton, NY. “The Hamptons aren’t the same place they used to be, where it was a weekend getaway for New Yorkers. Our customers come in from everywhere, so the airport makes the Hamptons accessible and desirable. Its closure would put our business and many others in jeopardy.”
Built in 1937, HTO is owned and operated by the town of East Hampton, and records roughly 25,000 annual operations. Despite having the strictest voluntary noise abatement program in the country, a large number of noise complaints filed by a small group of residents led the town in April 2015 to adopt several restrictions, which were challenged by NBAA and local aviation groups and users. The courts sided with NBAA and concluded that the restrictions were illegal.
Aviation stakeholders continue the “fly neighborly” practices, and helicopters lead by the Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC) have implemented an all-over-water initiative. Pilot compliance with these voluntary measures has been above 98 percent over the past year, according to Jeff Smith, ERHC vice president of operations.
Despite all these efforts, the airport remains under threat of closure after September 2021 when its FAA grant assurances expire, and the town believes it can cease operating the airport. NBAA, EHCA and other local and national groups are continuing strong advocacy efforts to protect the airport.