Only one runway at EPCAL still has cars

Sandy damaged cars in Calverton
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Vehicles being transported from the EPCAL site last week.

Only one of two runways at the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL) still has Hurricane Sandy-damaged cars parked on it.

Insurance Auto Auctions, an Illinois-based company that has been storing flood-damaged cars on both runways at the former F-14 test site since the storm, has had all the cars removed from the eastern runway, which is still used for aviation.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sandy-damaged vehicles being transported from the EPCAL site last week.
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The eastern runway at EPCAL has had all cars removed from it.

But while that might delight environmentalists who have raised concerns over the cars, that’s not the best news for Riverhead Town finances, since the town stood to make up to $2.7 million from IAA depending on how long the cars stayed there.

“I have a feeling they are going to be [completely] out of there by June, that’s what their goal is,” said Supervisor Sean Walter.

Mr. Walter said the cars being stored by Copart, another auction company, on grasslands at EPCAL owned privately by Jan Burman, have been moved off the grass and now are being stored on privately owned taxiways that run along the eastern runway.

DEC COURTESY PHOTO |  Sandy-damaged cars parked on grasslands at EPCAL in early January.
DEC COURTESY PHOTO | Sandy-damaged cars parked on grasslands at EPCAL in early January.

There still are cars being kept on the western runway by IAA. That runway is no longer actively used for aviation. The cars at EPCAL are all total-loss cars acquired by insurance companies, which then use the auction company to sell them for parts or to licensed recyclers.

SkyDive Long Island had been using the eastern runway but the company signed an agreement with IAA in December through which they were reimbursed for the loss of the runway use while cars were stored on the active runway for up to four months.

Following Hurricane Sandy, which flooded more than 200,000 cars in the tri-state area last year, the town agreed to lease 52.14 acres on the inactive 7,000-foot runway as well as taxiways to the west of the EPCAL property to IAA for six months, and then followed that up by agreeing to an arrangement with IAA and SkyDive Long Island that shut down the active 10,000-foot runway on the eastern part of EPCAL so that IAA could store more cars.

The first deal, using runways and taxiways on the western runway, will net the town over $1 million for six months, with an option for another six months, which could double that amount. The second deal using only the eastern runway but not the eastern taxiways, netted the town $670,000 with a four-month limit on how long the cars could stay.

Parts of the eastern runway’s taxiways, which runs along private properties, are privately owned by adjoining landowners, town officials said. The terms of any financial arrangement between Mr. Berman’s company and the taxiway owner or owners were unavailable. Mr. Berman could not be reached for comment.

The runway leases added a boost to the town’s reserves, and Mr. Walter said he’s still hopeful the town will net around $2 million from the cars in Calverton when all is said and done.

“I hope they stay till October but they’ve already cleaned off the 10,000-foot runway,” Mr. Walter said. The town will definitely get more than $1 million from the runway leases, he said, and possibly about $2 million.

The cars that were being stored on Mr. Burman’s land came as part of a private deal between his company and Copart USA, an auto auction company in Brookhaven hamlet. The town is not involved in that deal.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has issued violations to Copart and Mr. Burman for storing the cars on the grass. The DEC has said it had no objections to cars being stored on the runways or taxiways, which are paved, although Richard Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society has called for the town to end that practice as well, saying rainwater runoff can carry pollutants from the cars into the groundwater.

Mr. Walter said he wasn’t sure exactly when the cars were removed from the grass, only that it happened “recently.”

In addition to the town and Mr. Burman, storm-damaged cars also are being stored on a paved parking lot on the south part of EPCAL, on land owned by Laoudis Of Calverton LLC, which owns the Mivila Foods facility there.

Representatives from IAA could not immediately be reached for comment.

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