Featured Story

Supervisor: Luminati, UREC ‘getting closer to contract’

Luminati unveiled one of its aircraft at an open house several years ago.

Riverhead Town officials met Monday with John Catsimatidis, the billionaire CEO of New York City-based United Refining Energy Corp, to discuss the proposed deal between his company and Luminati Aerospace, which is seeking to purchase about 1,600 acres of land at Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Mr. Walter said Luminati CEO Daniel Preston and Mr. Catsimatidis are working on establishing a joint venture.

“It’s not going to be a conventional financing agreement,” he said.

At Thursday’s Town Board work session, Mr. Walter said the outside legal council representing the town, Michael Heller and Frank Island, had a five-hour meeting Monday with with Nelson Happy, a spokesman for UREC, and Robert Hasday, an attorney representing Luminati.

“They are getting closer to the contract,” Mr. Walter said. “In fact, they are working on the rough draft of the contract, and they are going back and forth on issues.”

Mr. Walter, Councilman Tim Hubbard and Deputy Supervisor Jill Lewis met with Mr. Catsimatidis Monday to talk about his plans and visions for EPCAL.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Walter said the town intends to hold Luminati to a strict schedule.

Last month, he said the town gave Luminati a 30-day deadline as of Aug. 21 to complete the sale, although he acknowledged the town is free to change deadlines it imposes, and has done so in the past.

Mr. Walter also said he will not include anticipated revenue from a possible Luminati purchase of town land as revenue in his tentative 2018 town budget, which is due at the end of September.

“That would be a gimmick,” he said.

In April, Luminati made an offer to purchase about 1,600 acres of land at EPCAL for $40 million. Town officials say only about 600 acres can be developed, due to environmental constraints.

The exact boundaries and number of acres Luminati would purchase has yet to be officially determined, and Luminati has been asking the town for a survey to do so, according to Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

Mr. Walter, speaking at Thursday’s meeting, said the town is “moving forward with that.”

In the months following the Town Board’s April 4 resolution authorizing Mr. Walter to sign a letter of intent to begin negotiations with Luminati, media reports began to surface about lawsuits and liens against Mr. Preston, and about most of the members of Luminati’s original “dream team” of scientists leaving.

It also came to light that Facebook was no longer planning to do business with Mr. Preston, who had never publicly stated who the client was for his plan to built solar powered unmanned aerial vehicles that transmitted wireless internet, citing confidentiality agreements.

It was around this time that a majority of Town Board members said they would not support the sale.

In July, however, UREC issued a press release saying it had sent a letter to Luminati stating that “UREC is highly interested in providing, and has more than sufficient financial resources to provide, the financing necessary for the purchase by Luminati” of the EPCAL property identified by the letter of intent.

The release quotes Mr. Catsimatidis as saying: “I have deep roots and interest in aviation, and I am very excited by Luminati’s development plans for the property and the economic development and jobs creation that will result. UREC has a great deal of interest in this project and looks forward to completing the necessary due diligence and working with Luminati and its CEO Daniel Preston to bring the project to fruition.”

Because the EPCAL site is within an Urban Development area, the town must hold a “qualified and eligible sponsor” public hearing to show that the purchaser has the ability and finances to purchase the land and perform whatever development plan it proposes.

That hasn’t happened yet.

Laura Jens-Smith, who is running against Mr. Walter for supervisor on the Democratic line this fall, attended Thursday’s work session and said afterward, “I’m under the impression that the letter of intent is with Luminati.”

She said that if Mr. Catsimatidis is looking to finance the project and be part of the development, then he should also be subjected to a “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing.

Mr. Catsimatidis already owns businesses in Riverhead Town, including one at EPCAL and one in Northville.

Neither Mr. Happy, not Luminati spokesperson Josh Knoller, could immediately be reached for comment.

[email protected]