Letter: This EPCAL Deal Must Be Terminated

by The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition

What is “EPCAL” and what’s happening there?  Well, a little over 20 years ago, the U.S. Navy granted Riverhead Town the ownership of 3,000 acres in the western part of town.  This property was formerly used by Grumman Corp. for developing and building fighter jets.  It was named EPCAL, meaning Enterprise Park at Calverton.  This huge property contains one of the longest runways in the country, some industrial buildings, and also over 1,000 acres of critical habitat for endangered species.  

   And, what has our town done with this wonderful gift?  After several non-starter proposals from different developers, the town decided to create a 50-lot subdivision on the developable portion of the property. It was thought that smaller lots would encourage local businesses to develop them and improve the local economy. But before that subdivision could be finalized, a back-room deal was announced in late 2016, with the owner of Luminati Aerospace, to purchase 643 acres at EPCAL for $40 million, without any public input. 

Then an additional 1,000 acres of critical wildlife protection land were added to the deal, again without public input. That’s 1,643 acres for $40 million, or about $24,331 for each acre.  A giveaway price.  That is only equivalent to less than 6 months of the town’s annual budget.    

    Then, another surprise. Luminati was scooped up by a Canadian mega-mall developer, TripleFive (T5), just before a contract of sale was agreed to by our town officials in late 2017 – again without public input. 

T5’s history is fraught with misrepresentation, unscrupulous activities, and lack of integrity. Information surfaced about how this group has operated in many other places by allegedly corrupting the political process. And, most recently, we learned that they do not have sufficient funding and may be headed towards bankruptcy. 

Additionally, our neighboring Town of Brookhaven has terminated its contract with T5 because T5 failed to prove financial ability. And yet, our current Town Board majority still wants to go ahead with this horrible deal.  Besides the evidence of misdeeds elsewhere, we still have no firm evidence that this group has the finances to purchase and develop this property, AND we have been given no definitive development plan.  

These are grand promises for economic development that are just not backed up with a clear development plan or any financial guarantee in the contract. There are no enforceable consequences in the contract if they produce nothing. 

They have also not lived up to their obligations or assisted the town in obtaining the required state Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Department of Health Services approvals.  

And what of the claim by some Town officials that this sale will lower your taxes? Not likely, as T5 has stated they plan to apply for every possible tax exemption.    

      This time-consuming and ill-conceived deal to give away our precious EPCAL property must be terminated and we must find a better way to ensure our town’s economic future. 

The Town Board needs to hear from you!  Tell them this isn’t even close to the best we can do. There is so much more potential for this land to provide a long-range and steady tax base and a beautifully preserved town park.  Rejecting this badly flawed deal would open the door to better proposals and more certain outcomes. 

The Town Board has the right, according to the contract of sale, to unilaterally terminate the contract.  Let’s start over and get it right this time!  Giving this treasure away will not advance our economic future.  

TERMINATE NOW! – FOR THE FUTURE OF RIVERHEAD

Over 6800 of our fellow citizens have signed a petition opposing this deal.  Join them here: www.change.org/p/riverhead-town-board-oppose-the-inclusion-of-1-050-vulnerable-acres-in-the-epcal-property-sale.

Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition

Letters to the editor may be emailed to editor@eastendbeacon.com or sent via U.S. Post to P.O. Box 665, New Suffolk, NY  11956. The Beacon will print all letters that are deemed to not be defamatory, obscene or advertisements, and may edit submissions for clarity and grammar.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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