Living the Hamptons high life pits neighbor vs. neighbor

A Sikorsky S-92 model mega-copter takes to the skies.

A Sikorsky S-92 model mega-copter takes to the skies.  (Sikorsky)

While most Americans awaken to the sound of an alarm clock or a garbage truck, residents of New York's tony Hamptons, where homes can sell for more than $100 million, complain they're rousted by the sound of neighbors leaving for work -- in noisy helicopters.

The noise from choppers of wealthy Wall Streeters like billionaire Ira Rennert, who reportedly likes to head off for work in a 19-seat Sikorsky S-92, have prompted neighbors of more modest means to cluck their tongues and complain about the new rich. They've even banded together behind a website, where they blast the conspicuous commuters and call for rules to keep the morning air still and quiet.  

"To have our lives disrupted like this is terrible," Frank Dalene, president and CEO of the luxury homebuilder Telemark and founder of the Quiet Skies Coalition, told "We are barraged by these aircraft, sometimes only a minute apart -- constantly."

Dalene claims that in the above video, he was standing on the second floor of his home. 

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But Jim McCarthy, a spokesman for Rennert, disputed that the aircraft in the featured video was above Dalene's home. He said Rennert has every right to commute by chopper and said he respects the law and his neighbors' privacy.

"Singling out Mr. Rennert in this manner is unfair," said McCarthy. "Mr. Rennert is but one of numerous corporate executives, as well as many Hamptons residents, who travels by helicopter. Mr. Rennert’s crew takes the utmost care not to exceed height and noise restrictions and to follow all flight regulations."


The 78-year-old Rennert's 63-acre Sagaponack estate, dubbed "Fair Field," features a 110,000-square-foot home with a basketball court, gym, three swimming pools, a 164-seat theater, a two-lane bowling alley, and 29 bedrooms. The mega-mansion is rumored to be the largest inhabited estate ever. 

Rennert reportedly owns two helicopters. One is a twin 2,520 horse-power engine Sikorsky, an aircraft usually reserved for sending crews out to offshore oil rigs. He flies his "helibus" into the East Hampton Airport frequently.

"He flies whenever he wants to," Cunningham complained. 

"He's targeting my house and using his helicopter as a weapon. In a video, you can see it turn right at me. It got so low that the vibrations caused the house to shake," said Dalene, whose group rails online against the choppers at

Another aircraft that's bugging the neighborhood the most -- HeliFlite, a glizty helicopter taxi service to and from Manhattan. 

"The just hop in and motor out," Kathleen Cunningham told when she spoke about some big business execs who commute daily to the Hamptons from work. Cunningham is the chairperson for the Quiet Skies Coalition. "They just fly them too low and at terrible times of the day. You feel like you're on a battlefield."

There has been some progress on the issue. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) helped push for new FAA regulations for the Long Island area in February, after saying that the choppers "tortured and tormented Long Island communities for far too long." Now aircraft must take new routes that pass over waterways instead of land. 

But the coalition says that's not enough for residents. They want the airport closed on weekends and late at night and they want helicopters banned altogether. Dalene knows the plight of Hamptons residents seeking morning solitude is not likely to resonate with folks in the real flyover country, but he's undeterred.

"It's a .001 percent problem," Dalene chuckled.