(Ed.'s note: The following letter was sent to Ronald Hughes, assistant manager, Federal Aviation Administration, and is printed here at the writer's request.)
It has come to our attention that very recently the flight patterns that plagued East End towns, East Hampton, Bridgehampton and the surrounding areas were changed to now fly over Port Washington, Great Neck and surrounding North Shore communities. These North Shore towns have a significantly higher density of population than the East End and are being dramatically affected by this change. As superintendent of schools and board of education president, we are writing to you out of deep concern. Our primary concern is that the impact of this change could not only be a significant interference and distraction for our students, schools and community, but poses an undue risk to the safety of our students.
First, should there be a helicopter accident - which we are all of course hoping does not ever happen - the re-routing over Port Washington with 5,000 students and seven schools in addition to a dense population is of paramount concern. If in fact citizens and legislators took up the fight to abate the helicopter menace in significantly less dense populations like East Hampton and Bridgehampton, think of the tragic consequences should there be an accident in a significantly more dense population.
Second, we are also deeply concerned about the impact of noise pollution and vibration/shaking on the education of our children. There has to be a better way, and it is the obligation of the FAA to protect all of the public, including our childrens' health, well being and ability to learn. Disrupting sleep patterns from the crack of dawn directly negates the research that finds the importance for children to sleep appropriately. In addition, the fact that these helicopter flights and the noise pollution therein often takes place after school hours negatively impacts studying, homework and co-curricular activities.
We are writing to the Town of North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman as well. It is our belief, knowing Supervisor Kaiman, that he will join us and we will join him in changing this menace to the Port Washington, Great Neck and surrounding communities. It is the obligation of the FAA to be cognizant of the impact of a change of this magnitude. We have full confidence that now that you are aware of what has happened due to this flight pattern change that you will make a change from the densely populated North Shore towns that are now so negatively affected and ensure that there are no tragic nor interfering outcomes for students.
Thank you very much for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. Please note that we will be following up quickly including student letters, parent letters and the gathering of petitions should there not be a mutually agreed upon resolution to this problem. We trust that this will not be necessary, and we will meet with you expeditiously to be of help.
Geoffrey N. Gordon, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Robert W. Seiden
President, Board of Education