Riverhead may hire Pataki group to market EPCAL property

Town Board members took John Cahill (center) of The Pataki-Cahill Group on a tour of EPCAL Tuesday morning. 'There's tremendous infrastructure on the site,' Mr. Cahill said. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
Town Board members took John Cahill (center) on a tour of EPCAL Tuesday morning. ‘There’s tremendous infrastructure on the site,’ Mr. Cahill said. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The Riverhead Town Board seems poised to hire a “specialized business development firm” headed by former Gov. George Pataki in order to market town-owned land at Enterprise Park at Calverton and woo potential investors.

After taking a bus tour of EPCAL with representatives of the Pataki-Cahill Group on Tuesday, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter suggested the Town Board move forward in drawing up a contract with the firm to work as marketing consultants. A majority of the Town Board appears to be in favor of the plan.

The Pataki-Cahill Group was founded by Mr. Pataki and former state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner John Cahill, who also served as Mr. Pataki’s chief of staff.

Mr. Cahill ran for attorney general on the Republican line this year and lost to incumbent Democrat Eric Schneiderman.

Mr. Walter suggested that Pataki-Cahill partner with a major brokerage firm and the town to market EPCAL. The cost of hiring either firm remains unclear at this point.

The Pataki-Cahill Group isn’t a brokerage firm. It describes itself as “a specialized business development firm providing high-level strategic and tactical advice to companies in the energy, infrastructure, clean-tech, environmental and hard asset fields.”

Mr. Pataki didn’t make the trip to Riverhead Tuesday for the EPCAL tour, but Mr. Cahill did — as did Riverhead native Joseph Edgar of Pataki-Cahill.

Mr. Cahill said the tour was helpful.

“There’s tremendous infrastructure on the site,” he said, alluding to its runway and rail spur. “It really is a unique site.”

Later, Mr. Cahill said it’s important that the rail spur, which currently serves just one business at EPCAL, be extended to other parts of the site.

In October, Mr. Edgar met with the Town Board to discuss potentially marketing EPCAL — as did Jones Lang Lasalle, one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world. Mr. Edgar said at that meeting that Pataki-Cahill would commit $500,000 toward marketing and developing the master plan at EPCAL, which Mr. Walter said accounted for why he liked their approach better.

Mr. Walter said Tuesday that he felt Pataki-Cahill were “frontrunners” for the job.

“We’ve always just went with a brokerage firm, and it didn’t always work,” he said of previous efforts to market the site. In the 2000s, the town had an exclusive broker at EPCAL -— Jack O’Connor — and never sold any land.

“I’d like to see an alliance with Pataki-Cahill, a brokerage firm and the Town of Riverhead,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Cahill said they could do that without affecting costs.

“We don’t plan on adding a penny in cost to what you’re trying to achieve,” he said.

The board has not yet determined how much it will pay Pataki-Cahill should it decide to hire them.

“We just have to iron out the numbers -— and you mentioned [that] if you invest money, you’d want an exclusive for a period of time,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said at a work session discussing the project with Mr. Cahill and Mr. Edgar.

“Our thinking was that in order to put forward the time, money and effort to do master planning, we asked for exclusive brokerage on the property,” Mr. Edgar said. “We think 18 months would be ideal, but we have to think about when we get out of the [state] regulatory process.”

The town still hasn’t received state DEC approval for its proposed subdivision and other studies for EPCAL, which it began in 2011.

Mr. Walter said he doesn’t think the town should wait until the state approves the plan and said he’d like the marketing to begin Jan. 1.

“I want this everywhere,” he said. “We want the largest audience possible.”

The Pataki-Cahill Group would need about 90 days to put together a master plan for EPCAL, Mr. Edgar said. He added that the board would need a full work session meeting to discuss it and should try to get “as many stakeholders to the table as possible.”

“I don’t want to wait 90 days,” Mr. Walter said before suggesting the town drafting an agreement with the Pataki-Cahill Group.

In an interview, Mr. Edgar said they would not be creating a master plan from scratch. Rather, they would be “highlighting the best attributes in the existing zoning” and trying to market the site to companies that best match what the zoning calls for.

He likened it to “leading a horse to water.”

“I think this is good first step and we want to get this in place much sooner than later,” Mr. Walter said.

None of the other board members raised objections at Tuesday’s work session discussion with Pataki-Cahill. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Councilman Jim Wooten said he felt Pataki-Cahill gave an “excellent presentation” in October.

“I think they really will do an exceptional job,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “It’s not a local real estate firm. They deal with the big people and have connections overseas.”

“I like what I’ve heard,” Councilman George Gabrielsen said in an interview. “I like the fact that they’re international, that they can bring a big audience in. And I like the fact that they were former state officials.”

He said Pataki-Cahill would only be paid a commission for any sales.

“They’ve got to work to earn it,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio couldn’t be reached for comment on the issue but said in a WRIV radio interview Wednesday morning that she is impressed with the company’s business portfolio and international reach.

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