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Helicopter operators file lawsuit challenging new noise curfew laws at airport in the Hamptons

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MINEOLA, New York — The battle for the skies above the Hamptons is headed to a courtroom.

A group representing helicopter operators has sued, claiming new laws restricting flights at East Hampton's town airport are unconstitutional.

The town enacted the laws last week to address tens of thousands of complaints it's received about noise from planes and helicopters shuttling the rich and famous into the Hamptons, particularly during the summer.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell has said the town received 24,591 complaints about airport-related noise last year, nearly quadrupling the 6,776 a year earlier. Elected officials and others have worked for several years to find a solution.

PHOTO: FILE. In this Aug. 20, 2014 file photo, a helicopter taKes off in front of two other choppers at East Hampton Town Airport in East Hampton, N.Y. The East Hampton Town Board has voted  to impose curfews and limits to air traffic at the town's municipal airport in an effort to reduce noise from flights between New York City and the Hamptons during the busy summer season.  (AP Photo/Frank Eltman, File)
FILE. In this Aug. 20, 2014 file photo, a helicopter taKes off in front of two other choppers at East Hampton Town Airport in East Hampton, N.Y. The East Hampton Town Board has voted to impose curfews and limits to air traffic at the town's municipal airport in an effort to reduce noise from flights between New York City and the Hamptons during the busy summer season. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman, File)

On Tuesday, Friends of East Hampton Airport filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, claiming among other things that local governments have no authority to impose airport noise or access restrictions; the suit says that is the purview of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The helicopter company Heliflite also joined the suit.

"What East Hampton is seeking to do is illegal and sets back by at least a year any effort to resolve the issue through compromise, practical operational alternatives and dialogue," said Heliflite CEO Kurt Carlson.

The laws are expected to go into effect Memorial Day weekend. One creates an 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. year-round curfew on all takeoffs and landings. A second creates an extended curfew of 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. year round for aircraft considered noisy. The town also is limiting aircraft deemed noisy to landings and takeoffs once a week from May to September. "Noisy" aircraft definitions are classified by FAA sound standards.

The town says it has the ability to establish the restrictions because it is has stopped receiving FAA grant funding in recent years; Cantwell says that gives local officials final word on airport operations.

"The town is fully prepared for this litigation and will vigorously defend its legal and constitutional right to impose reasonable, non-arbitrary, and carefully balanced restrictions," officials said in a news release.

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