Bishop: We are moving forward at EPCAL

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Tim Bishop at a debate in Riverhead.
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Tim Bishop at a debate in Riverhead.

For decades, the Grumman Aerospace facility at Calverton supported thousands of local jobs producing fighter planes for the Navy to defend the seas and skies and for NASA to explore space. To replace the jobs lost with the closure of Grumman, the federal government deeded the site to Riverhead Town for economic development as the Calverton Enterprise Zone, or EPCAL.

We should all hope that EPCAL, like Grumman, will be a jobs engine for Riverhead Town and all of eastern Long Island — with the private sector now driving development. Those of us who represent the area on the local, state and federal levels share the goal of making the government a helpful partner in responsible redevelopment at EPCAL.

To support that effort, I fought along with Senator Charles Schumer for funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build a rail spur to the Enterprise Zone, linking it to the national freight rail network. I have also worked with Mr. Schumer to push the Navy to ramp up its effort to clean up groundwater pollution that is an unfortunate legacy of Grumman.

Along with senators Schumer and Gillibrand, I was contacted Oct. 5 by Supervisor Sean Walter, who asked us to facilitate a dialogue with Governor Cuomo’s office regarding EPCAL.

The supervisor cited his frustration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulatory process regarding the Town Board’s effort to subdivide the property into appropriate units for public sale.

The senators and I have undertaken the effort to facilitate a dialogue and I have also pledged to work as a liaison with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to the extent that federal environmental regulations may be an issue at the site.

Given my record in support of EPCAL and my commitment to continue being helpful in the future, it was surprising to read an op-ed from my opponent naming me as an obstacle to redevelopment at EPCAL.

Simply put, it is another in the line of baseless and opportunistic attacks that define his campaign. It is also explicitly contradicted by Supervisor Walter, who told the News-Review last week that the senators and I “want to do what’s right by their constituents.”

By shoehorning EPCAL into a political pander, my opponent shows he does not understand the complex issues at the site, including environmental regulations on the books for sensitive animal habitat, not to mention the Town Board’s own evolving consensus about the best plan for EPCAL’s future, which has been chronicled at length over the years in this newspaper.

The people of Riverhead Town deserve representation on the federal level by someone who helps bring federal resources to the table to solve local problems and goes to bat for constituents when their plans run afoul of a bureaucracy acting at cross-purposes.

That has been my record regarding EPCAL, because promoting jobs and economic development in Riverhead Town and throughout eastern Long Island has always been and will always be a top priority for me as a member of Congress.

Tim Bishop, a Democrat, is a Southampton resident and the incumbent congressman representing the 1st Congressional District.