In an Equal Time column I wrote a few months back, I suggested that Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter’s public statements concerning town finances underestimate the intelligence of the town’s taxpayers. He’s doing it again — this time in his public statements concerning the collapse of the Rechler purchase at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.
The supervisor informs us he is “happy” about what he calls “the good news” of the contract collapse. He “welcomes the opportunity” it brings and, he asserts, “the proposal was not his first choice.”
Mr. Rechler is acknowledged by all, including the supervisor, to be the most experienced and best financed developer of industrial property on Long Island. Supervisor Walter and some current Town Board members have long labeled the renegotiated $18 million sales price as a giveaway. The experienced and knowledgeable Mr. Rechler has now returned this giveaway to Riverhead, dashing our hopes for an $18 million increase to our reserves, a larger tax base and thousands of new jobs.
How is this good news? Why is the supervisor happy about this?
Mr. Rechler attributes the contract collapse to the Town Board’s “inability to understand economic fundamentals” and its “unwillingness to adapt to the changing economic landscape.” He points out that “the Town Board had an opportunity to ensure the future of a more vibrant Riverhead. Unfortunately, their inability to understand the economic fundamentals of a successful project forced us to withdraw.”
The Town Board’s conduct regarding the Riverhead Resorts contract — the “Great Walkout” by certain Town Board members, the supervisor’s surprise extension vote, at the request of the Brookhaven Conservative leader of all people, and the abrupt rejection of the Shinnecock’s expressed interest in EPCAL — cannot have inspired confidence in the town’s ability to conduct important negotiations with competence and sophistication.
Now that the supervisor has presided over the demise of the Rechler Industrial Park contract and may soon preside over the demise of the Riverhead Resorts contract, what’s next?
The supervisor says he will “push to subdivide the land into smaller parcels.”
Yes, you heard correctly! In the midst of a national recession, in the middle of what the supervisor alleges is a town fiscal crisis, in the moment that Long Island’s premier industrial developer has declined to move forward, Supervisor Sean Walter, with no relevant experience, no clear plan and using our tax dollars, is “pushing” Riverhead to become a real estate developer in a project so risky that Long Island’s most experienced and well-financed developer has withdrawn.
Riverhead would be best served if the supervisor concentrated on improving town governance rather than using public funds to branch out into the world of real estate development, wherein all that is assured is extraordinary expense and substantial risk.
Supervisor Walter continues to underestimate the intelligence of the town’s taxpayers. Who’s in your wallet now?
Good luck, Riverhead residents.
Mr. Cardinale is a former Riverhead Town supervisor and Jamesport attorney.