Oct. 25, 2022

A court in Suffolk County, NY recently granted a motion for an injunction, preserving access to the East Hampton Town Airport (JPX). The litigation, filed by aviation stakeholders, opposed the efforts by the town of East Hampton to impose operational restrictions at its airport.

The ruling, issued Oct. 19 by State Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley, favored petitions seeking to halt the town’s planned closure of East Hampton Airport (HTO) for 33 hours and to reopen it as a nominally new, private-use and prior permission required airport, ostensibly to address community concerns over noise. The ruling also denied a motion by the town to dismiss the case on procedural grounds.

The court previously issued a temporary injunction that prevented the planned closure, although in the interim FAA did allow the airport’s name and designator to be changed.

Although appealable, the judge’s latest decision is a definitive ruling against the town’s efforts to impose onerous restrictions against general aviation operations, including curfews, noise-based operational limitations and punitive landing fees.

In granting the motion, Baisley determined the town failed to correctly study the implications of the restrictions under New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and failed to comply with the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA), which itself requires a study to be submitted to and approved by FAA.

Notably, Baisley indicated the closure of the airport – and not just the restrictions proposed by the town – also would require compliance with SEQRA and ANCA.

“The court’s decision to reaffirm the impropriety of the town’s actions to curtail operations at their community airport is a significant step in protecting access not just to East Hampton Airport, but to other airports in New York state and around the country,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “It is vital that town officials recognize their obligations to maintain access under established state and federal statutes.”

As town officials now consider their response to the judge’s ruling, Bolen reiterated NBAA and aviation stakeholders remain open to collaboration with the town.

“Rather than prolonged litigation over the fate of East Hampton’s airport, we welcome an open and honest discourse that recognizes its importance as a vital part of our national airspace system and a critical transportation hub for the town, the surrounding community and all of Long Island,” he said. ”I think we can all agree the goal should be a balanced solution.”

Deliberation also continues in other pending proceedings regarding the airport, including a separate federal litigation filed by NBAA, which also asserts that the town’s attempt to impose restrictions at the airport violates ANCA.

As operations continue unabated at JPX, NBAA encourages pilots utilizing the airport to continue to fly neighborly, observe the voluntary curfew and following the applicable routes and noise abatement procedures.