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Night Sky on Ice?

Dear Rick,

When the East Hampton Town Board approved conversions of tennis courts to ice skating rinks with only a building permit required and without the review of the Planning Department or Board, the type proposed by the Buckskill "Winter Club" (Type II) was not foreseen.

As submitted by the applicant at the November 1 Planning Board meeting, the Buckskill regulation-sized ice hockey rink will be twice the size of the rink at Rockefeller Center, with night lighting, night adult hockey league use, industrial machine noises and high volume use, far beyond its current use as a pre-existing non-conforming day-time tennis club. This would be a National Hockey League-size ice rink, located in a residential neighborhood with commercial grade sports lighting that will be two hundred times brighter than a commercial parking lot.

League hockey is a noisy, boisterous sport. The owners' additional profit (over and above the profit received from the long standing tennis club) is at the expense of the neighbors' rightful quiet enjoyment of their premises and a town-wide impact as a precedent. Only an ice skating rink having a low impact (designated as a Type I rink) in terms of size, noise, lighting, use and design should be approved adjacent to a residential neighborhood, not in a Residential Zone.

There are also issues concerning the quality of the night sky town-wide since the reflection of artificial light on ice will create light pollution and sky glow, obliterating the stars in the sky for miles. And, the reflection skyward on the bright white ice by high powered metal halide sportslighting will likely cause navigation problems for the pilots landing at the nearby airport.

The rink will produce the equivalent of dozens of searchlights aimed upward, affecting night vision adaptation. Has the FAA weighed in on this likely problem? What will the impact be on the environment, including on the thousands of migrating birds, which will be thrown off course by these lights? If the Town wishes to provide for a NHL-sized hockey rink in East Hampton, then a public (not private) facility could be sited in a non-Residential Zone, covered with an opaque all-weather sports bubble, further reducing the noise and impact on the Town's night sky and the neighborhoods.

SUSAN HARDER, Dark Sky Society
December 05, 2006

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