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Riverhead Town gives 10-day extension to controversial EPCAL proposal

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter indicated last week that Luminati Aerospace and United Riverhead Terminal would both be buyers of more than 1,700 acres of town land in Calverton. Originally, Luminati was the only proposed buyer.

“There’s a very good chance we can hold a ‘qualified and eligible sponsor’ hearing on both Luminati Aerospace and United Riverhead Terminal on the second meeting in January,” Mr. Walter said last Thursday.

Speaking of the negotiations, he added: “We’re right there. From what I understand from the attorneys, the major terms of the contract have been agreed to.”

But the attorneys representing Luminati and URT tell a different story.

Robert Hasday, the attorney for Luminati, which is headed by Daniel Preston, said it’s not accurate to say that Luminati and URT will both be buyers of the property.

And Nelson Happy, an attorney and spokesperson for URT owner John Catsimatidis, also said Mr. Walter’s account is not accurate.

“There is no agreement at this time, and United Riverhead Terminal Inc. has never been a party to any negotiations,” Mr. Happy said. “Only United Refining Energy Co. has had discussions with [the town].”
United Refining Energy Co. is the parent company of URT, which is located in Northville.

“Our attorney told us they [URT] are on the contract,” Mr. Walter said Tuesday. “I can’t tell you whether it’s accurate. All I can tell you is what our attorneys were told by their attorneys. Their attorneys put it in.”

Mr. Walter, who lost a bid for re-election last month, added: “If what Mr. Happy and Mr. Hasday are telling our attorneys is different from what they are telling the public, that doesn’t bode well for Mr. Preston and Mr. Catsimatidis.”

The Q&E hearing requires applicants seeking to buy town-owned land in a Urban Renewal area, like the Enterprise Park at Calverton, to show proof that they have the ability and financial wherewithal to carry out whatever plan they propose for the site.

The 2017 Forbes 400 ranks Mr. Catsimatidis as the 248th wealthiest person in America, with a net worth of $3.1 billion. Locally, he owns the United Riverhead oil terminal in Northville and United Metro, an oil business, at EPCAL. He announced his interest in joining up with Luminati over the summer.

Mr. Walter said the contract would result in the town selling about 1,700 acres it owns at EPCAL, about 600 of which could be developed, for $40 million.

The prospective buyers also agreed that no housing will be built, he said.

The current board could schedule a Q&E hearing for Jan. 17, but a new administration takes office early next month. Supervisor-elect Laura Jens-Smith and Councilwoman-elect Catherine Kent, both Democrats, will replace Mr. Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy, both Republicans. The incoming board would be responsible for any decisions going forward.

Before a Q&E hearing can be held, however, the Town Board and the prospective buyers must first agree on the terms of the sale.

The town gave Luminati a deadline of Nov. 30 to send back a “red-lined” contract, showing changes it wanted to make in the version sent by the town. Luminati did so on Nov. 27, according to Councilman Tim Hubbard.

He and Mr. Walter said the attorneys who are working on the negotiations on behalf of the town have asked for a 10-day extension to review Luminati’s response, and a majority of the board supported it, although Mr. Walter said the extension didn’t require a board resolution.

Both Mr. Dunleavy and Mr. Hubbard said the newly elected town officials should be consulted on how they feel about the prospective sale.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she opposes the 10-day extension, unless Luminati pays a $500,000 non-refundable down payment.

Ms. Jens-Smith said the Nov. 30 deadline has passed, as have previous deadlines the town imposed on Luminati in July and April.

“Their drop-dead dates don’t seem to mean anything,” she said. “Once they have a signed contract, we will certainly try to get the Q&E hearing scheduled. I would assume [the outgoing board members] would allow me to participate.”

Luminati’s CEO has said he wants to build an aviation manufacturing plant on the EPCAL site, and has indicated he wants to manufacture solar-powered unmanned aviation vehicles to beam wireless internet down to earth.

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Photo caption: John Catsimatidis, who spoke at a past town board meeting, is the owner of United Riverhead Terminal, which the town supervisor said would be buying the town-owned land with Luminati Aerospace. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)