Riverhead to offer up 50 acres in Calverton to FAA

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

The Riverhead Town Board has identified 50 acres of town-owned land near the Stony Brook Business Incubator in Calverton that officials believe can be used for an FAA “NextGen” Integrated Air Traffic Control Facility.

But that agreement didn’t come easy, as board members argued for about a half hour Thursday as to whether to formally propose the site, with Supervisor Sean Walter again trying to dissuade the board out of pursuing the FAA facility — as he did when board members discussed the FAA proposal a week earlier.

The FAA’s “request for information” seeks owners of 34-to-49 contiguous acres of land that they’d be interested in selling to the federal government for a 250,000-square-foot air traffic control campus with enough parking for 800 employees.

But Mr. Walter pointed out at Thursday’s work session that the FAA’s request specifically states that “Sites which have a seasonal water table less than 25 feet below the average grade will not be considered” and that “sites with any history of hazardous material contamination will not be considered.”

He said most of the land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, doesn’t meet the water table requirement, and EPCAL also has had a history of groundwater contamination from when the U.S. Navy and Grumman built and tested fighter planes there.

Mr. Walter also said the sewage treatment plant at EPCAL and the roads at the site — part of which is privately owned — aren’t equipped to handle a facility this large.

“Why are you bashing EPCAL, Sean? Who are you answering to?” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked during the discussion.

The supervisor said Ms. Giglio had submitted information about EPCAL to the FAA last week without any approval from the full Town Board.

Ms. Giglio said the information she submitted was all from the town’s website, and is public already.

At its work session a week earlier, the Town Board discussed the FAA proposal as well, and Mr. Walter said then that the board should be backing a proposal to put the facility at Islip Town’s Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.

Ms. Giglio suggested the town submit EPCAL as a possible location for the FAA facility.

Mr. Walter also participated in an Islip Town press conference in July in support of the MacArthur Airport site for the FAA project.

The FAA currently has two regional air traffic control facilities, one at MacArthur and one in Westbury, which it plans to replace with the new, state-of-the-art facility which will consolidate the functions of those facilities.

The NextGen facility would use satellite-based global positioning to guide planes, rather than the current ground-based radar systems.

A week ago, Mr. Walter said he feels Islip’s facility has the best change of keeping this function on Long Island, and not supporting it could result in the 800 jobs leaving Long Island altogether and moving Upstate.

Mr. Walter said he’s not bashing EPCAL, but believes the area near the incubator is the only spot on EPCAL where this facility could be located.

The supervisor said if the town submits an application, he wants it to be the best application possible.

Ms. Giglio said the FAA isn’t looking for a formal application at this point, it is simply looking for land that could handle such a facility.

“I would love to know who you are answering to,” Ms. Giglio repeated in reference to Mr. Walter’s efforts to block the move.

The rest of the five-member Town Board sided with Ms. Giglio, who brought the matte to the board — and decided to go head with an appeal to the FAA to come to Calverton.

A week earlier, Mr. Walter said that while Islip Supervisor Tom Croci is a Republican, the previous Islip supervisor was a Democrat, and he would support putting this facility at MacArthur Airport regardless of the party affiliation of the Islip supervisor.

He said Islip Town already received a $500,000 state grant to improve the infrastructure around MacArthur, whereas EPCAL’s sewers and infrastructure improvements are estimated to be more than $30 million combined and the town doesn’t know where that money will come from.

“All we’re doing is submitting a letter saying we are available and they will decide if we meet their criteria,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “I’m for this on the East End because it is regional and it will pick the region up.”

Board members also discussed asking former congressman George Hochbrueckner, who is already working for the town as a lobbyist on EPCAL issues, to send a letter to the FAA in support of ECPAL’s chances for the new air traffic control facility.

In addition to EPCAL and MacArthur, numerous other potential sites have been reported as possible locations for the FAA project, although the FAA will not disclose what sites have been submitted. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31.

A spokesman for Rechler Equity, however, confirmed earlier this week that Rechler has submitted their new business park at the county-owned Gabreski Airport in Westhampton as a possible location for the NextGen project.

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