Triple Five chairman Nader Ghermezian with members of his family and employees at the Feb. 27, 2018 opening session of the town's Q&E hearing. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Triple Five has agreed to pay Luminati Aerospace’s arrears in taxes, false alarm fees and runway use agreement fees.

In a press release issued this afternoon, Triple Five said its agreement to pay Luminati’s debt was in response from a request from Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.

Jens-Smith said in an interview she called Triple Five’s lawyer, Christopher Kent about the past-due amounts after an April 5 report by RiverheadLOCAL.

“I let them know their partner in the purchase of EPCAL was delinquent,” Jens-Smith said.

The company is paying Luminati Aerospace’s outstanding real property tax bill on the property Luminati owns at 400 David Court at the Enterprise Park, she said. Triple Five is also paying off Luminati’s past-due false alarm fees and runway use fees under Luminati’s 2015 runway use agreement with the town.

The debts are not the responsibility of Triple Five, company spokesperson Amy Herbold said in the press release.

“We are taking this extraordinary action not because we are compelled to, or because there is a legal obligation. Luminati and Triple Five are two totally separate and distinct entities,” she said.

“In addition, the arrears and back taxes that are being addressed are not part of the EPCAL acquisition. Nor is the Luminati property currently in litigation part of the EPCAL acquisition,” Herbold said, an apparent reference to lawsuits currently pending against Luminati Aerospace by Hexcel Corporation and ZSK Stickmaschinen GMBH.

“Rather, we are underscoring our own company’s commitment to the future of the overall EPCAL project while recognizing the faith that the town has placed in our company,” said Herbold, Triple Five’s director of development. 

Triple Five said the amount owed by Luminati is more than $46,000. Town records obtained by RiverheadLOCAL in a Freedom of Information Law indicated the amounts owed totaled over $62,000.

“The amount of false alarm fees might have been reduced because they made a bulk payment,” Jens-Smith said.

“I think it was the right thing for them to do,” the supervisor said. “As purchasers of the largest piece of industrial property in the Northeast, then have a partner not pay property taxes or the rent on the runway — I’m very happy they rectified that.”

Triple Five and Luminati Aerospace are owners of Calverton Aviation and Technology, an LLC established to buy the EPCAL land from the Riverhead Community Development Agency under a contract of sale approved by the town in December 2017.

“The main purpose of the Calverton Aviation and Technology development is the creation of high paying jobs through technology innovation, research, manufacturing, education and training in the Town of Riverhead,” Herbold said. 


“The cornerstone of our CAT venture is the ability to create a strong community of companies that will offer cutting edge research and advances in areas that include aerospace, artificial intelligence, sustainable mobility, and more,” she said.

“Calverton was once the center of America’s excellence in aviation. Today, we are setting the stage to make it a 21st Century hub of technology excellence that will create strong, high-paying careers, educational opportunities, exciting innovation and emerging technology for our region and our nation.”

Herbold said CAT is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the contract, including the 1 million square feet of development and the $1 million in runway improvements.  It is “actively engaged with environmental, planning and legal consultants to complete the due diligence process by May 20, 2019.”

Luminati remains a minority, non-voting member of CAT and is a 25-percent shareholder in the entity, Triple Five said in the press release.

“CAT is presently in active discussions with CPC, Launcher Space, Scimax, Unique Electric Solutions and many more companies to locate at the site,” Herbold said.

The press release did not say whether or not Triple Five expects Luminati Aerospace to be a tenant on the property CAT will be developing. Luminati recently surrendered possession of its leased premises at 350 Burman Boulevard — the Plant Six building — following the commencement of an eviction proceeding for nonpayment of rent. Luminati is also a defendant in a $12.5 million lawsuit brought by Hexcel Corporation for alleged default on a $10 million loan made by Hexcel to Luminati Aerospace in May 2016.

Luminati cofounder and CEO Daniel Preston has recently told other news media he is relocating his operations to upstate Little Falls, New York. Last fall, he told InnovateLI.com that he was moving Luminati’s VTOL division upstate. In an interview with the news website MyLittleFalls.com published yesterday, Preston said he was relocating all of Luminati’s operations to Little Falls. See prior story.

“I’m going to be a landowner and investor on that property,” Preston told MyLittleFalls.com.

“I was going to leave the composite work back in Long Island, but since then, I just made the complete decision that my life is really here, not there. I’m going to be a landowner and investor on that property (in Long Island), but I’m two feet out the door and I don’t really enjoy being there. I enjoy being here,” the article quotes Preston as saying.

Preston also told the Little Falls news website he “split the composite line out from the business in Long Island between Hexcel and himself” and was bringing half the composite line to Little Falls.”

Neither Luminati Aerospace nor its subsidiary 400 David Court LLC responded to an order to show cause filed by Hexcel’s attorneys seeking a court order allowing Hexcel to seize the machinery and equipment listed as collateral in a security agreement signed by Luminati to guaranty its $10 million loan.

Hexcel said in court papers it wanted to secure the machinery and equipment in light of Luminati’s eviction from the Plant Six building.

State Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo today granted Hexcel’s motion and signed the seizure order sought by Hexcel, authorizing the sheriff to seize the collateral securing Hexcel’s loan to Luminati Aerospace.

Board split on law firm selection

Riverhead officials, meanwhile, have stated their intention to retain new outside counsel to review the town’s $40 million contract of sale with CAT and advise the town on its position, considering Luminati’s legal woes and the possibility that the company might not be one of the businesses located in the CAT development at EPCAL, as was stated in the contract’s “intended development plan.”

There is a special CDA meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9:30 at town hall, which Jens-Smith called to ask board members to vote on hiring outside counsel.

Councilman James Wooten has expressed skepticism about the need for another lawyer. The rest of the board would like to have another outside counsel advise them on the contract.

But board members are not in agreement about which firm they should hire.

Jens-Smith put a resolution on tomorrow’s agenda to hire the firm of Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione and Wasnik of Garden City. It’s not clear the measure will garner the three votes needed to pass.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio called the choice “political patronage” because the firm and two of its partners made contributions to the campaign committee of County Executive Steve Bellone and to the Babylon Town Democratic Committee.

According to the N.Y. State Board of Elections, contributions from Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione and Wasnik to Bellone’s campaign committee total $1,800 since 2008. Partner Thomas Stagg contributed $3,500 to Bellone’s campaign over three years, 2012, 2013 and 2016. Partner Ronald Terenzi contributed $500 to Bellone in 2008.

The firm contributed a total of $950 to the Babylon Town Democratic Committee in 2010 and 2012. Terenzi contributed a total of $1,050 to the town committee in 2008 and 2009.

“It’s purely politics,” Giglio said.

She accused the supervisor for lack of transparency in failing to bring the matter to a work session for discussion before asking the board to make a decision on hiring a firm.

“I do not have any intention to vote for these people,” Giglio said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard agreed that the board should have a discussion first before being asked to vote on a new law firm. He said board members also should have a chance to interview them before making a decision.

“I’m looking for somebody who is experienced in commercial contract law, with experience working on projects like this,” Hubbard said.

The decision shouldn’t have anything to do with support for any political party, he said. “I don’t want to hire a firm that’s connected to the Republican party, either,” he said.

“I don’t want anybody that has any ties to Riverhead or a firm thats a strong backer of any party. I want a neutral, qualified law firm to do what we need to do.”

Jens-Smith said she was unaware of the firm’s political contributions to anyone.

“Show me a law firm that hasn’t made political contributions to elected officials,” she said.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect the April 24 decision of the court on Hexcel Corporation’s motion for an order of seizure.

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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.