From Mother Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/05/hamptons-ira-rennert-mansion-helicopter
Helicopters from hell and a lead-smelting tycoon's mega-mansion—just another day of millionaires versus billionaires in America's toniest summer spot.
By Josh Harkinson
July/August 2012 Issue
July/August 2012 Issue
With twin 2,520-horsepower engines and up to 19 seats, the Sikorsky S-92 is among the world's most powerful civilian helicopters. "Helibuses" typically service offshore oil platforms and the like, but two years ago billionaire industrialist Ira Rennert acquired a posh version to shuttle himself between Manhattan and Long Island's exclusive Hamptons, where he owns a 63-acre, 110,000-square-foot villa complex. One of the first to notice the giant bird was Frank Dalene, founder and CEO of a successful luxury homebuilding company, who lives on a ridge along Rennert's flight path. Its whumping rotor was like "a lightning bolt striking nearby," says Dalene, a fast-talking 58-year-old with a long nose and narrow-set eyes. He blames the vibrations for "literally damaging my home."
Dalene and his neighbors near the East Hampton Airport might have abided Rennert's choppers—he owns two—had they been an anomaly. But the situation has become intolerable over the past few years, Dalene says, thanks to a whirlybird craze among the investment bankers and hedge fund gurus who weekend in Sagaponack and Southampton. On Friday afternoons the tiny airport is a beehive. Come summer, some CEOs commute daily between their beach chalets and Manhattan's East 34th Street Heliport. "They don't give a crap about nobody," Dalene gripes.
Last year, he founded the Quiet Skies Coalition, an anti-helicopter group that has become one of the most potent political forces in the Hamptons. Its wealthy members north of the Montauk Highway launched what Dalene describes as a "knock-down, drag-out battle" against "ultra-wealthy" helicopter owners who largely live on the south side, accusing them of shattering the island's tranquillity, contributing to climate change, and poisoning the air with leaded fuel. "I am beginning to think Mr. Rennert is practicing class warfare," Dalene wrote Rennert's Manhattan secretary in an email that likened the noise assaults to "throwing their garbage on the other side of the tracks for us poor folks to live with."
Over on the poor side of the tracks, Dalene owns side-by-side properties assessed at around $2.1 million. On one wall of the potato barn he's converted into an office is a photo of him with Newt Gingrich. On another wall hangs a framed "Republican of the Year" award from the National Republican Congressional Committee. But having deemed local Republicans too pro-helicopter, Dalene says he intends to register as an independent. (Mitt Romney attended a trio of fundraisers in the Hamptons this weekend, including a $50,000-a-person event at the estate of David Koch.)