Massive polo complex pitched for EPCAL

TIM GANNON PHOTO | International Polo Organization representative Jorge Neuss along with his son, German, explain the group's polo complex vision to Councilman John Dunleavy.

An Argentine company called International Polo Organization is looking to buy the same 755-acres at EPCAL that Riverhead Resorts had previously sought to buy.

The company wants to build an “equestrian village” the applicants say would bring “the best polo players in the world” there for matches.

The group envisions the Enterprise Park at Calverton becoming “the center of the world for polo.”

The plan would “transform [Calverton] into the polo capital of the world,” said Jorge Neuss of Neuss Real Estate, who presented the plan to two Town Board members Thursday along with his son German Neuss.

Mr. Neuss on Thursday did not say how much the group would be willing to pay for the land, and town officials didn’t ask.

Riverhead Resorts had initially offered $155 million, but that deal fell apart earlier this year.

The proposal presented on a projector also showed 400 housing units, although they later said that the polo program was not dependent on the housing, and that they can change the plan to lessen or remove the housing component.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy were the only Town Board members in attendance, as more than that would have required that a formal Town Board meeting be declared for the presentation, something Supervisor Sean Walter opposed. County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) also attended.

The town has just authorized a firm called VBH to do a $448,000 study to look at what uses and zoning should be allowed at the former Grumman property, and to do a comprehensive wildlife study of the property as well a subdivision, something officials say is needed before further development can proceed. The comprehensive study is expected to take about two years to complete and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter has said he doesn’t think the town will be actively marketing the property during that time, although he also directed any inquiries in the meantime to speak with Ms. Giglio.

The IPO proposal envisions tearing up the unused, 7,000-foot runway on the property and building seven polo fields, six of which would be practice fields and one of which would be within a 10,000-seat stadium. The plans also showed residences to be used by horse grooms and owners while the matches are in town. But they stressed the majority of the polo field areas would be left undeveloped.

“Each field is surrounded by trees,” German Neuss said.

The group favors Riverhead mainly because of its proximity to New York City, Jorge Neuss said.

Most of the major polo destinations in Europe are an hour apart, he said.

In addition to Neuss Group, a real estate firm based in New York and Buenas Aires, Argentina, the other partners of IPO are Ellerstina Polo Team and La Dolfina Polo Team, which are two of the world’s top professional polo teams, according to German Neuss. Both clubs are based in Argentina.
Mr. Nuess

“This is major league polo,” said realtor Jack O’Connor, who brought the group to the town.

“I think it’s very interesting,” Ms. Giglio said afterward. “It will bring a lot of people here for very few events. It’s environmentally sensitive and it’s something that could revive our downtown and attract large corporations who would use the polo fields for their own recreational activity, and then maybe relocate their companies to EPCAL on the industrial side. “

Mr. Dunleavy said he’s interested in the proposal but concerned about the housing component.

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who popped in toward the end of the presentation, said this was the first he had seen of the plan, but that he had a lot of questions.

Mr. Walter said earlier in the day that he refused to put IPO on a formal Town Board work session agenda. He said Mr. O’Connor, the town’s real estate broker at EPCAL, contacted him about this group four months ago. Mr. Walter said he wanted a written proposal, but all the group submitted was a website address which showed 300 single-family houses as part of the plan.

“I don’t want to elevate something like this to the front burner,” he said.

The supervisor has said he doesn’t think the town will ever be able to sell the land at EPCAL that is zoned for recreational uses, and he had led the call to re-study and update the zoning at EPCAL.

This is not the first time polo has been proposed at EPCAL. A group called  Palm Beach Polo offered $33.58 million for 1,600 acres at EPCAL for a proposed polo complex that also included housing. That proposal never was approved.

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