Court Thwarts East Hampton's Attempt To Close Airport

 - May 17, 2022, 1:47 PM
Following the issuance of a temporary restraining order by a New York State Supreme Court judge, East Hampton Airport will remain operational and publicly accessible for the near future.

Following an 11th-hour stay, East Hampton Airport (KHTO) on New York’s Long Island will remain open today. New York State Supreme Court judge Paul J. Baisley Jr. issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the town of East Hampton last night following hearings on the subject.

That move placed a pause on the town's plan to shut the airport down just before noon today and reopen it again on Thursday as private East Hampton Town Airport, complete with a new designator (KJPX). The TRO enjoins the town “from deactivating or closing the airport on May 17, 2022, or any date thereafter pending a determination on petitioner’s motion for a preliminary injunction.”

In a separate action, NBAA had joined with several other stakeholders to issue legal challenges in federal court opposing the move last week. In a hearing this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, judge Joanna Seybert noted the case before her is still under consideration and that she will monitor the action in the state court, reserving the right to impose her own TRO should the state court’s restriction be removed in the future.

The ruling by the state supreme court will keep KHTO in operation at least until May 26, when another hearing would possibly be scheduled.

Alex Gertsen, NBAA’s director of airports and ground infrastructure, noted that the organization’s protest hinges on the provisions set forth in the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA), which apply to all publicly-owned airports. That measure was most recently legally contested in 2016 in a case also involving the town of East Hampton.

KHTO is a publicly-owned, public-use airport and after its proposed conversion it would be a publicly-owned, private-use airport. While KHTO’s FAA grant assurances expired in September, NBAA argues that under the law as a publicly-owned airport, it would still be bound under the ANCA regulations. Gertsen told AIN that the restrictions the town intends to impose are strikingly similar to the ones it unsuccessfully lobbied for six years ago.

He added that the FAA charts have already been changed, with the revisions to take effect on May 19. He suggests pilots interested in operating at the airport review notams before their flight.