Triple Five attorney Christopher Kent, left, with Nader Ghermezian, Justin Ghermezian of Triple Five affiliate Calverton Aviation & Technology, and Riverhead special counsel Frank Isler on June 10, 2021 at Riverhead Town Hall. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Dear Editor,

The IDA should say “no” to this bad EPCAL deal with CAT and any requested tax exemptions.

The Riverhead Town Board entered into a contract in 2018 with Calverton Aviation and Technology (CAT) to sell 1,644 acres of precious town-owned land at EPCAL for the ridiculously low price of $40 million. The Town Board agreed to the sale even though the buyer lacked a clear development plan and declined to allow the town to examine its financial statements to demonstrate that it had the financial capability to develop the site.

This contract could have and should have been terminated by the Town Board years ago, but has been mishandled since then.

Now, the Town Board has crafted a complicated plan to shift its responsibilities to the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency. In addition, CAT is asking the IDA for (as yet undisclosed) tax abatements on the property, even though they would be purchasing it for a third of its market value and they have not presented a final development plan that could be reviewed for environmental and other impacts.

Before approving the application, the IDA must determine if CAT is financially capable of carrying out the planned development they’ve pitched to the IDA — a plan that is completely different from the state¬of-the-art innovative aeronautics and technology center with supportive industries they have been touting since 2018. CAT’s presentation of its proposal to the IDA includes nearly 10 million square feet of logistics and distribution warehouses and an air cargo hub using both runways.

The impacts of this new plan — which will obviously result in jet noise and truck traffic — have not received any comprehensive review, as required by law.

CAT has no approved site plan, no zoning approvals, no required permits and its plan has not undergone the review mandated by the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

In fact, the town’s own environmental study for the site, done in connection with its now-abandoned subdivision — and which the IDA says it’s bound by — specifically states that the property would not be used for cargo or freight transport. And when that study was done, not only was there no discussion of re-activating the second runway, but plans called for creating new grasslands where it is located, to replace grasslands in an area of the site to be developed. It’s worth noting, too, that a Comprehensive Habitat Protection Plan been for the site, which is required by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, has never been approved.

It is also well-documented that Triple Five, the conglomerate that effectively owns this “single-purpose entity” called CAT, has had — and continues to have — very concerning financial issues with its New Jersey mega-mall, American Dream, has struggled to meet its existing obligations.

The IDA must not approve any financial assistance for this project, including any tax exemptions. Our Town Board must then exercise the town’s right to cancel this contract.

Riverhead can do so much better with this property and the Town Board has a duty to ensure that it does.


Phil Barbato


Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition

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