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Editorial: Mr. Preston, the floor is yours

There was one phrase Luminati Aerospace attorney Robert Hasday repeated several times during last week’s qualified and eligible sponsor hearing: “Things happen.”

Why did Luminati’s past business relationships fall apart? “Things happen.”

Yes, things do happen. And the next thing that should happen is Mr. Hasday stepping away from the podium to allow Daniel Preston, CEO and founder of Luminati, to answer questions personally when the Q&E hearing resumes Tuesday. Local officials and town residents eager to hear directly from Mr. Preston were soundly disappointed at the Feb. 27 hearing. As Calverton Aviation & Technology — the joint venture between Triple Five Real Estate I, LLC and Luminati — rolled out speaker after speaker during a tedious 110-minute presentation, Mr. Preston was oddly not among them. And then Mr. Hasday had the audacity to argue that Mr. Preston was merely a bystander in the proposal to purchase the remaining town-owned land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

“This meeting is not about Daniel Preston,” he said. “It is about CAT.”

He went on to blame the press, citing an article published earlier that afternoon on RiverheadLOCAL detailing Mr. Preston’s questionable background and past business failings. Mr. Hasday used words like “outrageous” and “sickening” to describe the column. Of course, he didn’t cite any specific factual errors. We’re almost surprised he didn’t just call it “fake news.” He then said the hearing should not be a circus, at which point Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith quickly stepped in to assure that the hearing had in no way turned into a circus.

If the partners behind CAT thought they could dazzle Riverhead residents with a presentation detailing all the successful and profitable malls they built, they clearly didn’t know their audience.

When Larry Simms of South Jamesport, the second speaker at the hearing, stepped to the podium, he didn’t mince words.

“I’m a little stunned,” he said. “Half the town is here and sat or stood through a nearly two-hour ad, waiting patiently to hear from the principals in this venture and Mr. Preston is going to be a no-show. We’re listening to his attorney cover for him.”

The Town Board has plenty of work ahead to determine whether this venture is qualified and eligible. A large, looming question is what happens if Luminati, the 25 percent stakeholder in the proposal, can’t deliver on its goals if this deal goes through? With Triple Five as 75 percent stakeholder, what do they envision?

Residents John McAuliff and Rex Farr of Citizens Against EPCAL Housing shared with the News-Review a detailed list of questions they submitted at the hearing. They included:

• What is the exact legal relationship between Preston and the Ghermezians [Triple Five Real Estate owners]? How will decisions be made on development and operations?

• According to the CAT website, Luminati has already invested $30 million into the EPCAL site. Is that correct?

• Has Luminati ever developed, constructed or managed a real estate project of the size and magnitude being proposed?

Nader Ghermezian, chairman of Triple Five Group of Companies, was the final speaker during last week’s opening presentation. “Give us a chance,” he said.

“I don’t know what you’re looking for,” he added. “They say how can you have a cake and eat it too. Today, you can have the cake and you can eat it.”

We’d prefer to hear from Mr. Preston before taking a bite.