Triple Five chairman Nader Ghermezian and director of business development Stuart Bienenstock answer questions at the second and final session of the 'qualified and eligible' hearing March 19 at Pulaski Street School. File photo: Denise Civiletti

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court this week approved the sale of Dowling College’s Brookhaven Campus in Shirley to Triple Five, the Edmonton, Canada-based international conglomerate seeking to buy Riverhead Town’s remaining vacant land at the Calverton Enterprise Park.

Triple Five Aviation LLC will pay $14 million in cash for the 105-acre property.

The Shirley campus is adjacent to and has an easement to access an operating airport with two 4,000-foot runways. The campus was home to the Dowling College School of Aviation, as well as the college’s athletic field complex featuring a multi-purpose stadium and baseball and softball fields, a 72,000-square-foot 289-bed dormitory, three buildings that comprised the National Aviation and Transportation Center, as well as classrooms, computer labs, a cafeteria and a library.

“We are looking forward to re-establishing and building upon the aviation programming prior to the Dowling College shutdown,” Triple Five spokesperson Stuart Bienenstock said.

The company anticipates closing on the deal “within 45 days,” he said.

Triple Five has not yet submitted any applications to the Town of Brookhaven for the site, according to a town spokesperson. While the site is zoned A1 Residential, which allows for single-family residential development of one house to an acre, it may continue to operate as it previously had when owned by Dowling, town spokesperson Jack Krieger said.

Triple Five sees the Shirley site as “synergistic” with the Calverton site it hopes to buy. The company sees the two sites as working hand-in-hand, with EPCAL being the “epicenter” of their plans, he said.

Triple Five’s vision for Calverton has always included an educational component, Bienenstock said.

It is essentially “plug and play,” Bienenstock told RiverheadLOCAL last month. It will give Triple Five the opportunity to develop its vision for making eastern Long Island a hub of the aviation industry once again, he said.

Triple Five was the winning bidder in an auction of the Shirley site ordered by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York.

A different subsidiary, Calverton Aviation and Technology, formed in partnership with Luminati Aerospace, is looking to buy 1,643 acres of vacant land in the Calverton Enterprise Park, including the site’s two runways, for $40 million.

A purchase agreement between the Riverhead Community Development Agency, which holds title to the EPCAL site, and Calverton Aviation and Technology, was approved by the outgoing town board at the last meeting of 2017. The move was approved in a split vote with outgoing supervisor and councilman, Sean Walter and John Dunleavy, voting with Councilman James Wooten to support the contract, and council members Jodi Giglio and Tim Hubbard voting against it. The vote, taken during a contentious and lengthy public meeting during which civic activists and residents blasted the board for its intended approval of the contract, came just one week after it was revealed that Triple Five would partner with Luminati Aerospace in the deal. For months prior to that revelation, Luminati Aerospace had been negotiating a partnership with NYC billionaire John Catsimatidis, who announced last July he was interested in the deal. Luminati Aerospace had signed a Letter of Intent with the town in March 2017. Catsimatidis’ announcement came a few days before a deadline the town board had given Luminati to finalize the purchase agreement or face cancellation of the LOI.

The purchase agreement with CAT is subject to a determination, pursuant to N.Y. State General Municipal Law, that the purchaser is a “qualified and eligible sponsor.” The town board, which sits as the governing body of the Riverhead CDA, concluded public hearings on CAT’s “qualified and eligible” application on May 4. Board members have agreed to hold off on making a decision on the application until the Riverhead Ethics Board weighs in on complaints filed against Giglio, seeking her recusal from the vote, following a private meeting the councilwoman took with Triple Five in New York City on March 12, during the pendency of the qualified and eligible hearing.

The town board on Tuesday approved the appointment of an outside lawyer to advise the ethics board, at the ethics board’s request, on the complaints against Giglio.

Bienenstock said Wednesday, “It felt nice to be be approved and qualified by an appointed judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York.”

The Dowling College campus sale is a result of a public auction in which Triple Five submitted the highest of four bids. Triple Five’s bid was approved by a committee including the college’s creditors last month and on Monday was approved by the bankruptcy court judge.

Riverhead did not solicit bids for the sale of the Calverton acreage. The site is located in a designated Urban Renewal Zone, which under state law may be sold without a bidding process to a purchaser determined to be “qualified and eligible” to purchase and develop the site in accordance with the town’s adopted urban renewal plan for the development of the site.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.