East Hampton Airport to reopen as private tarmac for the rich

It’s aerial class warfare Hamptons-style — pitting millionaires against billionaires.

The East Hampton Town Board announced Tuesday that it will close the municipality’s airport at the end of February. The plan is to then reopen the airport a few days later under private control — with restrictions likely to limit its use to the ultra-rich who own their own aircrafts.

Critics say the slick move will effectively leave the posh area’s average Joe millionaires who don’t own aircraft in a lurch while catering to local more influential billionaires — and addressing financial concerns.

A source with knowledge of the plan told The Post that the board is set to ban commercial flights at the “new” airport, meaning only privately owned aircrafts could land there. The move means no chartered jets, no helicopters that sell seats to individuals and no rented seaplanes.

The airport has been controversial for the past two decades as it morphed from a sleepy runway enjoyed by local plane enthusiasts in the 1960s to a tony tarmac for the rich and famous, who now use it for their jets, choppers and seaplanes to avoid Long Island Expressway traffic from the city.

Helping to fuel the runway were funds from the Federal Aviation Administration. But the town’s financial deal with the FAA ended in September — and debate over the airport’s future has been tearing apart the ritzy retreat ever since.

East Hampton’s airport will be privatized soon to cater more to billionaires.
Alamy Stock Photo

The town wants to keep the airport open — at least in part so it can try to cash in on $10 million in leftover federal funds that were part of its operating agreement with the FAA.

But a vocal but small local minority want the airport closed, saying it produces obscene amounts of noise and environmental pollution and disturbs the peace at their summer homes.

Still, a recent survey showed that almost 80 percent of Village of East Hampton residents want it to stay open, saying it provides necessary services and jobs, and that its closing would only redirect air traffic to neighboring towns.

A sign welcomes visitors to the East Hampton Town Airport in East Hampton, NY in 2014.
Commercial airplanes and chartered flights will not longer be allowed to land on the East Hampton airport.
AP Photo/Frank Eltman, File

Besides, billionaires such as Mets owner Steve Cohen, Eric Schmidt, Bob Kraft, Ron Perelman and Ira Rennert — who all own their own aircrafts and fly to East Hampton regularly — would be outraged if the airport closed, and the town board suspected they would sue should that happen, sources say.

So the board revealed Tuesday that it has now hatched a convoluted plan to keep the airport open, to some degree, which would appease the billionaires and put East Hampton in a position to land the leftover federal money.

The airport will close at the end of February, only to reopen shortly after under private town-controlled ownership and employ a “prior permission required” framework that limits aircraft use.

A small jet approaches the runway at East Hampton Town Airport in East Hampton, NY in 2014.
A small group of residents has demanded the East Hampton airport to shut down amid concerns of noise pollution.
AP Photo/Frank Eltman, File

Montauk United, one of the East End’s largest citizen action groups, accused the town government of stealing, claiming the plan effectively shuts the airport to most people while freeing up the federal funds for the board’s use.

Kathryn Slye of Montauk United wrote in a private e-mail sent to the East Hampton mayor and obtained by The Post that there was no need for the airport to close if it wanted to transition to private control.

Gary Herman, a local pilot, told the board at a recent hearing that it was ignoring the will of the people.

Large Jets arriving and departing at The East Hampton Airport.
East Hampton plans on privatizing its airport in an effort to spend millions in leftover federal funds.
Doug Kuntz

“You, Mr. Supervisor, have some type of plans and you just want to ramrod your plan right through without any community involvement, without community input,” Herman said, referring to East Hampton town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.

“You and the entire board seem to be on a path to create a lot of problems.”

Van Scoyoc’s office did not return a request for comment.