Triple Five Group chairman Nader Ghermezian told an audience of about 25 people at the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday night that he owns more than 100 companies, including some industrial and aviation companies that could open new facilities at the Enterprise Park at Calverton if Riverhead Town accepts their proposal.
Luminati Aerospace and Triple Five have a joint venture called Calverton Aviation and Technology (CAT), which is seeking to buy more than 1,600 acres of land from Riverhead Town for $40 million.
Mr. Ghermezian and Stuart Bienenstock of Triple Five also gave a presentation on CAT’s vision for EPCAL alongside Steven Rodgers of Utah, who has more than three decades in the aerospace composite field and who has been retained by CAT for the Calverton project.
Mr. Rodgers spoke via FaceTime from France because his flight had been canceled.
The size of both the audience at Wednesday’s meeting at the Marriott Residence Inn, as well as the number of people that spoke, was lessened by the snowy weather.
Thus far, much of the controversy surrounding CAT’s proposal has centered around Luminati founder Daniel Preston, who has faced multiple lawsuits and who has seen two prior partners at EPCAL drop out.
Mr. Preston did not speak at the Town Board’s Feb. 27 qualified and eligible sponsor hearing on CAT’s plans, which also drew criticism.
But Mr. Ghermezian said that he told Mr. Preston not to speak at that hearing, which is intended to determine if CAT has the money and ability to carry out its intended development plan for EPCAL.
Prior to the Chamber presentation, Mr. Ghermezian told a reporter that while the controversial Mr. Preston owns only 25 percent of CAT and has no voting power in the company, he does have more than 100 patents for inventions which could be valuable.
In a written statement read Wednesday, Mr. Ghermezian said of Mr. Preston: “He is your stereotypical inventor. Brilliant. Irritable. Short tempered. And he and his generation are redefining the world we all live in. His critics the other night cited a long list of lawsuits and failures.”
Mr. Ghermezian said inventors like Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Robert Oppenheimer, who invented the atomic bomb, faced similar criticisms.
Triple Five, a privately owned company that is not publicly traded, is best known for shopping malls such as the Mall of American in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the American Dream still under construction in the New Jersey Meadowlands. Some critics of the company have questioned what experience it has in industrial and aviation construction, which is what it said it would bring to EPCAL.
Mr. Ghermezian listed four companies that are 100 percent owned by Triple Five, and that he said will establish a presence in Calverton.
• Advanced Manufacturing & Power Systems, which services the power generation industry;
• CPV, which specializes in “high-quality valves and fittings” for industries such as petrochemical and industrial gas, and which has also worked for the U.S. Navy;
• Admiral Filter Company, which designs and manufactures filtration systems for marine and aerospace use; and
• Wings Air, which does “state-of-the-art” helicopter design and innovation, and which he said has agreed to move its newest helicopter production line to Calverton.
Triple Five also owns Maverick Engineering, which has more than 100 engineers on staff, Mr. Ghermezian said. In addition, he said there will be high paying jobs at EPCAL and CAT will have training schools to help employees get to those jobs.
Mr. Rodgers gave a presentation on CAT’s vision for Calverton, which he said is not the detailed plan for the area.
“The plan will be developed once approval has been granted, and will be supported by extensive research,” he said. It will look at the needs and desires of the Riverhead community and how they mesh with the needs of CAT, he said.
Unlike the qualified and eligible sponsor hearing on Feb. 27, where CAT faced significant criticism from speakers, Wednesday’s meeting before the Chamber had a friendlier audience.
“I think this fits the original intent of the legislation when the land was transferred from the Navy, which is job creation, tax base growth and enhancement,” said Chris Kempner, a former Riverhead Town Community Development Agency director who now works for Brookhaven Town.
She said CAT’s plan is “right in line with what we’ve been trying to bring to the town for years.”
Jesse Powell of Ridge, the son of James Powell, who along with the late Gordon Danby of Wading River invented Maglev technology at Brookhaven National Lab, expressed interest in working with CAT.
While Maglev train technology was invented on Long Island, it is being used in Japan, but not in America. The trains in Japan travel 350 mph, Jesse Powell said.
He now heads a company called Maglev Strategies, LLC, which wants to develop a new Maglev research center in New York state. He suggested EPCAL as a site for the center.
The Town Board is planning to continue its Q&E hearing Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m. The board has changed the location of that hearing from Town Hall to the Pulaski Street School, because the first hearing drew so many people that many had to stand in the hallway since there was no room in Town Hall.
Photo caption: Nader Ghermezian speaks to the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)