The New Castle Town Board last week appropriated $5,000 to retain legal representation with expertise in aviation issues to ensure that the municipality’s interests are protected in matters related to Westchester County Airport.
On a request from the town’s Airport Advisory Board, the Town Board hired the Irvine, Calif.-based Buchalter Law Firm on an advisory basis to help it wade through the issues.
The move doesn’t mean the town is prepared to commence litigation regarding the airport, Town Administrator Jill Shapiro cautioned.
For more than two years, residents in parts of the town have repeatedly pressed local and county officials for answers about the noticeable spike in noise from aircraft landing at the airport.
“This is to help the board understand the information that comes in from the county and know what questions to ask,” Shapiro said.
Supervisor Robert Greenstein said while the county hired a consultant earlier this year to help it formulate an airport Master Plan and began monitoring for noise and air quality, there is no one connected with the town that has the technical expertise to help advocate for the residents.
“If you recall, instead of having a consultant we asked Westchester County when they hired a consultant to not just do it for the Master Plan, but to try to address our concerns as well,” Greenstein said. “They said they did but we just want to make sure.”
Councilwoman Ivy Pool said that the board’s decision to hire its own consultant is reflective of what its members have been hearing from the community. Residents and officials want to know why people who have lived in their houses for decades in some cases now hear constant airplane noise instead of just a few times a day, she said.
“We really need to understand what has changed here,” Pool said. “Prior to 2017, we still live close to an airport, that hasn’t changed. We’ve always lived close to an airport but these airplanes that we would see a couple of times a day, all of a sudden we are seeing every five minutes, and it’s not everybody either.”
“We want to address the quality of life as well as noise issues as it relates to the airport, and while the parties are working with the county, we’re also exploring our options, moving them forward in the event the county doesn’t do what it needs to do to protect us,” added Councilman Jeremy Saland.
That letter, dated Oct. 8, urged the county executive to publicly release the results of the noise and air quality monitoring, which was supposed to be received on or about Sept. 27; that the county schedule a promised public meeting in New Castle with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) representatives and the town’s congressional representatives; and for the county to prepare for potential legal action against the FAA if that proves to be necessary.
New Castle officials told Latimer in the correspondence that “now is the time to act more assertively.”
“We must avoid the same fate as Long Island where empty promises by the FAA to change flight patterns were nothing more than lip service,” the town’s letter states. “Legal action may be required to make change happen and to enforce FAA promises.”
The Examiner learned Monday that the results of the noise and air quality studies was expected to be discussed at Wednesday evening’s county Airport Advisory Board meeting at Westchester County Airport.