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East Hampton Airport could close permanently after long battle to privatize

East Hampton town officials will begin the process of permanently closing the East Hampton Airport after litigation prevented the town from converting the airport to a private-use facility. The town's original plan was to close the airport on May 17 and reopen it 33 hours later, allowing the facility to transition from the public-use East Hampton Airport (HTO) to the private East Hampton Town Airport (JPX), with new restrictions for aircraft. However, the closure was blocked by a temporary restraining order issued by a New York State Supreme Court Judge. The airport had to remain open until May 26, when another hearing was scheduled to determine whether a preliminary injunction should be granted to the plaintiffs in three previous lawsuits. Bill O'Conner, an attorney with Cooley Law, said at the Town Board's work session on June 7 that "Due to the current status, the town has asked counsel to effectuate permanent closure as soon as legally possible." After reopening, East Hampton Town Airport was set to operate under "prior permission required," meaning pilots wishing to use the airport would need to submit an application. Additionally, those landing at the airport would face high landing fees, a curfew, trip limits on Part 135 and Part 91 operations, burdensome requirements for IFR operations, and a ban on aircraft weighing more than 50,000 lbs. and aircraft with an Effective Perceived Noise in Decibels (EPNdb) on approach of 91 or higher. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has been one of the strongest opponents of the airport's privatization, filing a motion of contempt on May 14 stating that the town's plan violates a permanent injunction issued by the court after an attempt to "unlawfully impose very similar restrictions" in 2015, which the motion says contradicts the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA). The closure of the airport stems from a rise in complaints by residents of East Hampton about noise and air traffic. The "prior permission required" was meant to be a compromise between the town and its residents, allowing the airport to operate while limiting the number of aircraft and when they flew. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he believed the airport should remain open. "The impacts of the closure on the East End economy have not been studied," he said. While the FAA gave East Hampton Town Airport the greenlight, its neighboring airport was not sold on the new designation. Plaintiffs in one lawsuit against the airport included a group of Montauk residents who believe they will be impacted by increased traffic at Montauk Airport (MTP) should East Hampton close. Montauk is a public-use airport roughly 25 miles away from East Hampton. It does not carry fuel, leaving some operators without the necessary amenities should East Hampton shut its gate to them. PREVIOUSLY: FAA approves changes to privatize East Hampton Airport with new restrictions
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