Are the skies becoming unfriendly in Oyster Bay?

Town considers restrictions on drones


Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino says that residents are concerned that they are being watched from drones operating in the skies above town property, so much so that some have complained. He and the town board members spent a great deal of time at the July 27 meeting discussing what restrictions should be enacted to limit where drones — unmanned aircraft — can fly. “It’s the height of beach season,” Saladino said, “and residents have said they’re concerned about their privacy and the safety of their children.”

“Our objective is to protect the public,” Town Attorney Matthew Rozea added. “We want to know where the drones are, where they’re coming from. We don’t want an invasion of privacy in the wrong hands.”

One proposal under consideration would require drone operators to obtain a town permit, and they would need to inform the town when and where they would be flying, and have insurance.

But town officials didn’t want to give the impression that they were looking to enact punitive measures against drone operators. Rozea said they were interested in meeting with hobbyists and commercial operators, and with “the business community, to protect their rights, too.”

Some drone enthusiasts were at the meeting, and spoke to the board.

Kenneth Kramer, a licensed architect and pilot from Massapequa Park, objected to the restrictions under consideration. “I use drones to fly as a hobbyist,” he said. “Hobbyists follow the rules of the [Academy of Model Aeronautics]. There’s no certification for me to fly my model airplane with an explosive in it, but there would be requirements for me to fly my drone that runs on a battery?”

The AMA is an organization for model aircraft operators. According to its Facebook page, it is dedicated to the promotion, development, education and safeguarding of modeling activities. Several people who spoke at the meeting referred to the insurance that was included with membership, which is $75.

Anthony Anzalone, of Lynbrook, said he flies drones for fun, and that limiting where they are permitted was not reasonable. “Please consider better enforcement of voyeurism regulations on the books now,” he said. “A person with a cellphone takes better photos than a drone.”

Saladino said he would consider seasonal permit applications, and that the process would be easy to complete online. He added that the permit would be free. He also appeared to be considering a requirement that those applying for it be members of the AMA. Saladino appeared to want to move forward to pass of the resolution.

But Scott Harrington, of Oyster Bay, cautioned that its language was too vague. “Reckless drone operators hurt everyone,” he said. “Please postpone a vote today so the law can be tightened.”

Ed Anderson, a hobbyist, also asked that whatever was passed offer more clarification. “What is a drone?” the Syosset resident asked. “You need to clearly define it, or kids will be arrested for flying model airplanes.”

Bob Freier, of Woodbury, a Democratic candidate for town board, wondered why the town was in a rush to make a final decision. “It sounds like this is not ready to be voted on,” he said. “I encourage you to table it.”

Then Councilman Joseph Muscarella asked that the measure be voted on, which appeared to surprise some of the other trustees. Councilman Anthony Macagnone quickly said “No!” and Saladino quietly suggested that the board convene for an executive session.

“Every time someone disagrees, we break for an executive session?” Macagnone asked incredulously.

Councilman Louis Imbroto made it clear that he wanted a vote to be taken, seconding the motion. “We can amend it to make it better,” he reasoned.

Then Councilwoman Michele Johnson, who hadn’t said much up to that point, said she did not want to move forward on a vote. “This is too sloppy to adopt,” she said. “It’s something that needs to be reworked. We don’t have the proper verbiage.”

Councilman Thomas Hand said he didn’t want to vote yet, either.

Muscarella once again suggested that the board go into executive session, this time giving a reason: to discuss potential litigation that might arise from the operation of drones. The room was quiet for a few seconds, and then Imbroto, shrugging, said he would second the motion.

Everyone slowly got up to leave the room. With the microphones still on, Macagnone could be heard saying, “This is a public resolution, and it should be discussed in public!”

A short time later, when the board returned, it was announced that no decision had been made. When members voted to close the public hearing, Macagnone seconded the motion, saying that the board required more information.