May 03, 2006
Supervisor Bill McGintee's executive order to close runway 4-22 at East Hampton Airport, a decrepit narrow strip of pock-marked asphalt, was a curious one indeed. Worse was the way the shutdown was accomplished.
Normally, a runway that is out of commission is painted with a huge "X" visible from the sky. This runway, for some unfathomable reason, was marked with a cloth "X," the cloth kept in place with cement blocks.
Imagine a visiting pilot who is unaware of this ridiculous feud being played out here, coming in through the fog to a runway he is used to landing on only to encounter cement blocks — and death.
Is this the town's childish way of handling this matter? Is it to spite the one local pilot who said he would continue to use 4-22?
Frankly, whoever was stupid enough to come up with this birdbrain idea shouldn't have the authority to implement it.
Talk about a lawsuit waiting to happen — the town has now virtually assured itself a heap of trouble over this stupid thing. He closed the runway, McGintee said, because the town was advised the runway is in such bad shape it was no longer safe and the town was afraid of a lawsuit. Yet the town has repeatedly refused to repair it.
Pilots say the strip is sometimes the only useable one for their small planes, because it runs with prevailing winds and is the safest on windy days. It is the only runway of its kind at the airport. Thus, if there is an accident because a plane was denied use of it, it would seem the town would be culpable.
The truth is there is no rationale for closing the runway other than politics. Yes, the airport can be a noisy place during the summer, but the fleet of helicopters and jets bringing the rich and famous will continue unabated despite this action.
Neighbors who live near of the runway, who bought land on the cheap knowing they were next to a runway, are the voices most often heard in opposition. The local pilots, the guys who have been enjoying this sport for decades, are the ones being hurt.
Though it seems unfathomable that people would build next to an airport and then complain about it, that's exactly what has happened here.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Democratic Party boss David Gruber, a vociferous anti-airport crusader, has the town board in his pocket. In fact, though he lives abroad nowadays, he was spotted in McGintee's office not two weeks before the Supe's executive decision.
With the exception of the tiny Montauk airport, which is too small for most aircraft, this is the only working airport on the South Fork (the next being in Westhampton). Why the town would chip away at it — which is exactly what it has been doing for the better part of two decades — to benefit a few homeowners who live nearby is puzzling.
The airport is a community asset. The town should repave the runway and stop playing politics with the lives of our pilots and their passengers.
Still At Large
Our article about the maniacs who tied deer carcasses to the back of their trucks and dragged them miles through Northwest Woods in East Hampton has drawn strong responses. An eyewitness identified several trucks with big tires and heard young local hoodlums talking and laughing. There are only a few such trucks in the town. How hard is it to track them down? The community wants action — we hope one of those involved isn't "connected" and that police and the D.E.C. are diligently seeking the suspects and not dragging their heels.