East Hills discusses approach to airplane traffic over village

East Hills discusses approach to airplane traffic over village
The Village of East Hills will be holding a meeting with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) regional director to address the issue of airplane traffic over the village, they announced at the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday night. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

The Village of East Hills is planning to bring U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) Long Island regional director to speak with residents on issues including airplane traffic over the village,

The issue of airplane traffic over the village was pressed by a resident who spoke about it at length during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday night.

Gillibrand’s regional director Michael Scheid will be coming to the East Hills with the intent to meet with residents and discuss village issues to be addressed by the senator.

Mayor Michael Koblenz said he discussed with Scheid the possibility of the U.S. Senate providing money for a study on the effects of airplanes flying over the village, which is an issue residents would be able to discusst with the regional director at the meeting.

Air traffic over the village includes issues of noise disturbances, health hazards and pollution. Koblenz said, calling it a high priority for the village.

The issue has been an ongoing battle for various municipalities on Long Island, including various villages and the Town of North Hempstead.

In 2019, the Town of North Hempstead proposed bringing suit against the Federal Aviation Administration, which the Village of East Hills joined.

East Hills attorney William Burton said litigating against the federal agency is unaffordable and the best outcome would be a settlement.

Burton said the Federal Aviation Administration has argued that changing flight patterns is unsafe and therefore they would not consider it.  He said the best way to counter this assertion is to conduct a study that shows there are other safe flight pattern alternatives.

East Hills resident Robyn Brattner, a local community organizer on the issue of airplane travel over the village, spoke at the meeting to ask for further help from the Village to address the issue.

Brattner asked the village to allocate a portion of its funds towards the effort, for expenses like future litigation or studies.

She said that raising money the grassroots way, which the community group has done in the past, is a task they don’t have the bandwidth to take up on their own at the moment.

“We have exhausted so many different routes and so many things that restarting this again is just very daunting,” Brattner said.

The village did not respond to her request, saying that they are going forward with the Senator’s office to address the issue.

Brattner said the response to the issue should be a collaborative effort that approaches the issues through the different avenues available.

“It is pervasive,” Brattner said. “It is really something that’s only increasing and it’s getting significantly worse and there’s just no end in sight. If we don’t combat it on a lot of different levels, and just doing one thing, it’s not going to get us as far as we could if we spread it out and just try a lot of different approaches.”

She said the issue, which she has been fighting against for 11 years, has worsened over the years.

She said the flight pattern over the village used to be utilized 40-50% usage, but in July has been utilized at least 90% of the time. She said there have been 27 consecutive days of planes flying above East Hills.

“We have now 27 days straight of usage, 18 hours a day, 60 seconds that these planes are polluting us,” Brattner said. “Talk about long-term health hazards. This is monumental.”

Brattner said she and other residents met with U.S. Rep. George Santos to address the issue.

She said Santos was on board and proposed a three-pronged approach: threaten cutting funds through the House bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration – which was passed Thursday without those cuts – approach the FAA division at John F. Kennedy airport and litigation.

“He has a methodology, something at least in place, because nobody else has, nobody even responds to us,” Brattner said.

She said Santos, who currently faces federal charges and a House Ethics Committee probe, proposed holding a press conference and issuing a press release on the issue to utilize his notoriety to gain attention to the subject.

Brattner said she was working with him because he was the only one willing to. She proposed the village join in on the work with Santos.

Koblenz said working with Santos is fruitless as he has no authority due to his reputation of deception and current federal indictment.

He said the village will go forward working with Gillibrand’s office to propel actions to address the issue, not Santos.

There is no date set for the meeting with Scheid, but Koblenz said it would likely happen in September. He said Gillibrand is not guaranteed to attend the meeting.

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