AOPA is working with state aviation organizations to rally opposition to legislation pending in New York State that would require a public referendum before the East Hampton Airport could accept state or federal funds for airport improvement projects.
Two measures introduced in the state Senate by Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R-1st Senate District) and in the state Assembly by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (D-Assembly District 1), now in committee review, would provide that East Hampton only enter into grant assurances or obligations with a term of 10 years or more for airport projects “upon the adoption of a resolution subject to permissive referendum.”
“We believe this proposal is bad for not only the town of East Hampton but sets a terrible precedent for the many other communities across New York State,” said Sean Collins, AOPA Eastern regional manager. “What may seem like a simple, one-off piece of legislation impacting only one small town, effectively usurps control from local community leaders whose responsibility it is to manage airports safely and efficiently.
“Nowhere in the state is a public referendum required before repairing a highway, road, or bridge because it is generally understood to do so is inefficient and jeopardizes safety. To do so with an airport is equally absurd and would no doubt delay necessary safety projects,” he said.
In a memo opposing the measures, AOPA pointed out that legislation is unnecessary because East Hampton, as the airport’s sponsor in grant matters, already has authority to implement a referendum before accepting grant funding. It also can decide to decline a grant award if it chooses.
AOPA, which has approximately 11,000 members in the Empire State, emphasized that airport grants from the FAA are usually based on safety needs, and require prompt action from airport sponsors to meet state and federal safety standards.
“This proposal is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that serves only to handicap local authority,” the association said.
A 2010 economic impact report said that the East Hampton Airport generates approximately $6 million in annual earnings, a total economic impact of $12.6 million, and supports 91 jobs. It is the home base for more than 100 aircraft.