Photo: Denise Civiletti

To the Editor:

The contrast between the way the Town Board handled its responsibility to the people of Riverhead with respect to the attempted sale of EPCAL land to Triple Five and the way the IDA handled the joint application for tax inducements filed by the town and Triple Five is like night and day.

Let’s take a look at how each entity performed.

First, the Town Board in 2018 had the responsibility to decide whether Triple Five was “qualified and eligible” to purchase and develop the land at EPCAL. Part of that process was determining whether Triple Five was financially capable of developing the property. Instead of demanding and receiving the actual financial audits and records of Triple Five, three members of the Town Board (Tim Hubbard among them) were satisfied with summary statements paid for by Triple Five from third parties affirming Triple Five’s financial capability — a total dereliction of duty to assess Triple Five’s financial capability.

Second, as a part of the sales contract, the town had the responsibility to get the land at EPCAL subdivided into eight lots. It failed to do so because of a DEC road block the town could not get around, owing in large part to the vagueness of Triple Five’s development plan.  When that happened in 2020, under the explicit terms of the contract, the town had the right to walk away from the contract, but it declined to do so out of fear of being sued — a baseless fear given the explicit words of the contract.

Third, being eager to move forward with the sale to Triple Five yet unable to accomplish it themselves, the Town Board agreed to a scheme with Triple Five whereby they could transfer their responsibility for the entire matter into the lap of the IDA. 

This they did in 2022 by filing a joint application for an inducement resolution (tax breaks for Triple Five) with the IDA. While evaluating this application, however, the IDA was asked by the parties to take steps completely out of their normal processing procedures. They were urged to adopt an aberrant two-step process with the first step being only an evaluation of Triple Five ‘s financial capability. The idea was that, if the IDA found Triple Five financially capable the deal would proceed: the town would receive its desperately needed $40 million sales price, the IDA would lease the EPCAL land to Triple Five , and eventually Triple Five, once it got its development plan together and its site plan approved, would come back to the IDA for consideration of the tax break application.

It was a devious scheme, but fortunately the IDA, despite inordinate pressure, declined to be used by the Town Board to perform what has always been the responsibility of the Town Board.  Instead of following this deviant two-step scheme, the IDA followed its normal procedures and processed the joint application the same way it processes all such applications. It asked for all the information it needed, it assessed everything that was provided, and then evaluated all that information in accordance with its criteria for deciding if tax inducements are warranted.

Unlike the Town Board, the IDA did its job and fulfilled its responsibility to the people of Riverhead. 

Rex Farr, founder

John McAuliff, coordinator


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