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Luminati founder a no-show at Riverhead hearing on EPCAL buy

02/28/2018 7:27 AM |

While Luminati Aerospace founder Daniel Preston was a no-show at Tuesday’s qualified and eligible sponsor hearing on Calverton Aviation and Technology’s $40 million offer to buy more than 1,600 acres of land from Riverhead Town at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, seemingly everyone else was there. 

The Town Hall meeting room was filled beyond capacity, and spilled into the hallway for a hearing that lasted three and a half hours. Calverton Aviation and Technology, or CAT, as they referred to themselves, is a jointly owned venture between Triple Five Real Estate I, LLC, which is owned by the Ghermezian family, and Luminati Aerospace, headed by Mr. Preston. Luminati owns only 25 percent of CAT and Triple Five owns 75 percent.

The makeup of the audience largely included backers of Triple Five, many of whom spoke, union workers who supported the project, people who wanted to see a racetrack built instead at EPCAL and residents who had concerns about the proposed sale and, in particular, about Mr. Preston.

Syd Ghermezian, the vice chairman and CEO of Triple Five Group of Companies, spoke at Tuesday’s hearing. Credit: Kelly Zegers

Stuart Bienenstock, director of business development for Triple Five Group, said their primary emphasis of the development will be on aviation, technology and permitted supportive uses. He also said that CAT is committed in their intended development plan to build at least 1 million square feet of commercial and industrial development, and they anticipate building much more space.

“No residential or mall development will take place,” he said.

Triple Five brought up close to 20 speakers from companies that have worked with them, some of whom indicated a desire to work for them at EPCAL.

Much of the criticism from speakers was directed at Mr. Preston, who wasn’t present.

Former councilwoman Barbara Blass said that when Luminati was subject to a qualified and eligible sponsor hearing in 2015 in regards to a runway use agreement, Mr. Preston said he had commenced work on the researching, developing, testing and manufacturing of unmanned aviation vehicles, which was funded by a Fortune 250 company that made payments as milestones were achieved.

He said 40 jobs would be created immediately and that he had a “dream team” of scientists working on the project.

Ms. Blass asked the board to ask if the Fortune 250 company was still involved, how many milestones were met and how much had they paid, how many jobs were created, and how many members of the “dream team” remained.

Robert Hasday, Luminati’s attorney, said people were trying to turn the hearing into a referendum on Mr. Preston.

“This meeting is not about Mr. Preston, it’s about CAT,” he said. “Mr. Preston doesn’t control CAT.”

Robert Hasday, the attorney representing Luminati and Triple Five, spoke on their behalf. Credit: Kelly Zegers

Mr. Hasday said Mr. Preston has “zero control” of CAT.

He said the agreement with the Fortune 250 company, which former Supervisor Sean Walter said was Facebook, ended shortly after that 2015 hearing.

“That clearly had an impact on his plans,” Mr. Hasdy said. “So he reduced the size of his workforce and concentrated on getting infrastructure in place. It’s in place now. He’s invested tens of millions of dollars in equipment and he’s started to hire again with the support of Triple Five.”

“It would be nice to hear it from him,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.

The hearing will be continued on Tuesday, March 13 at 6 p.m.

Photo caption: The Town Hall meeting room was jam packed for Tuesday’s qualified and eligible sponsor hearing on Calverton Aviation and Technology’s offer to buy more than 1,600 acres of land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

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