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Triple Five’s planned ‘national aviation training center’ in Brookhaven makes the short list for million-dollar state grant

Triple Five's National Aviation Training Center in Shirley will partner with schools across the region to train students for careers as pilots, aviation mechanics and other related fields, the L.I. Regional Economic Development Center says in its recommendation for state grant funding.

Triple Five’s plan to develop a “national aviation and transportation study center” at the former Dowling College campus in Shirley has gotten a boost from the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

The company’s application for state economic development grant funding has been designated by the L.I. Regional Economic Development Council as a priority project for Round VIII funding and recommended for a $1 million state economic development grant.

Triple Five sought a $3 million grant from Empire State Development to assist with the construction and equipment for the project at the former Dowling campus; it is expected to cost $15 million, according to a report released last week by the LIREDC.

The funding will “support the conversion of part of the former Dowling College into a new National Aviation Training Center that will partner with schools across the metropolitan region who need the aviation simulation equipment to train students for careers as pilots, aviation mechanics and other related fields,” according to the LIREDC document. “The new NAT center will fit well with our proud aviation heritage and create a pipeline of well-trained aviation workers.” The project is expected to directly create 20 permanent jobs, according to the report, and 50 construction jobs.

Triple Five purchased the 105-acre campus adjacent to the Brookhaven Town-owned Calabro Airport last month for $14 million. The company plans to spend $2 million to renovate and upgrade an existing 65,000-square-foot building on the campus, according to Triple Five’s application for financial assistance to the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. That agency approved the application, seeking real estate tax abatements, at the conclusion of a public hearing at a special meeting of the IDA board on Aug. 31.

The Triple Five Brookhaven project is one of 43 proposals recommended by the L.I. Regional Economic Development Council as priorities for competitive capital funding totaling just over $20 million in Round VIII. It is one of nine proposals recommended by the council for awards of $1 million or more in the current round.

Triple Five is currently seeking approval from the Town of Riverhead to purchase 1,643 acres of land inside the Calverton Enterprise Park to develop an aviation and technology-oriented industrial park. The Calverton and Shirley sites will compliment each other, Triple Five representative Stuart Bienenstock told RiverheadLOCAL in a previous interview.

The company “sees the two sites as working hand-in-hand, with EPCAL being the ‘epicenter’ of [the company’s] plans,” Bienenstock said.

The Brookhaven site will give Triple Five “the opportunity to display in a small way what the company can do,” Bienenstock said. “It will give Riverhead an opportunity to see what kind of opportunities we can bring to the table,” he said.

Triple Five is awaiting a decision by the Riverhead Town Board on whether the company is a “qualified and eligible sponsor” to purchase the Calverton site, located in a state-designated urban renewal area. The decision has been delayed for months, pending the resolution of an ethics complaint seeking the recusal of Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who met privately with Triple Five principals in March, during the pendency of a town board public hearing on the qualified and eligible sponsor application.

The Edmonton, Candada-based conglomerate formed a joint venture last year with Luminati Aerospace, a company with headquarters in the Calverton Enterprise Park. Luminati and the Town of Riverhead entered into a letter of intent in April 2017, after Luminati offered the town $40 million to buy nearly all of its remaining vacant land inside the enterprise park.

Following eight months of negotiations — during which Luminati was also negotiating with prospective investor/partner John Catsimatidis, who said he was interested in the site — the outgoing town board, as one of its last acts, approved a contract of sale between the town and Calverton Aviation and Technology on Dec. 19, 2018. Catsimatidis’ exit from any Calverton deal and Triple Five Group’s participation in it were revealed by officials in the two weeks before the town board approved the contract by a 3-2 vote, with two of the three members supporting the sale leaving office at the end of that month. That move angered residents and civic leaders, who urged the outgoing supervisor and town councilman to leave the matter to the incoming board.

Luminati Aerospace, in Round VI of the economic development funding in 2016, was awarded a $1 million Empire State Development capital grant. According to the regional council’s Round VI consolidated funding application, “Luminati Aerospace will expand the development and manufacturing of unmanned aerial vehicles at Riverhead’s Calverton Industrial park. The project will enhance the renewal of Long Island’s aerospace industry.” No disbursement of funds has yet been made, according to the LIREDC report. Luminati was also awarded a $5 million tax credit under the Excelsior Jobs Program in 2016.

Since 2011, the first year of the Regional Economic Development Council statewide initiative, more than $5.4 billion has been awarded to more than 6,300 projects, according to the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo established 10 regional councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for their regions. Last year, the REDC initiative made more than $750 million in state resources across all 10 regions, including up to $225 million in performance-based grants and tax credits from Empire State Development and over $525 million from over 30 state agency programs.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.