Riverhead’s current Town Board inherited a reckless giveaway of what’s left of EPCAL for a fraction of fair value to serial fraudster Daniel Preston and his start-up Luminati. After the property was tied up without a penny of consideration for almost a year, the board then, in effect, allowed Mr. Preston to assign his letter of intent to various permutations of entities allegedly controlled by the Ghermezian family. Mr. Preston’s involvement was sufficiently suspect that Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and her running mates during last year’s campaign called for an independent investigation into prior dealings between then-Supervisor Sean Walter and Luminati.
Claiming they can “channel” Preston’s “craziness,” the Ghermezians now assert they are Riverhead’s eligible and qualified White Knight — without presenting any real and specific development plan or timing or their agreement with Mr. Preston (who controls the runways that need to be part of any aviation hub) or making their own financial statements available for public review. While Triple Five’s background and team seems impressive, Mr. Preston has been a no-show at the hearings and representatives of the latest variation of CAT have blocked any inquiry about Mr. Preston or his involvement.
Aside from multiple procedural defects that, in our opinion, make this hearing a nullity, at this time there is insufficient basis to determine what will be built, the costs and benefits to the town (factoring in tax breaks) and whether the new entity is qualified to bring a better defined vision to fruition. As savvy and sophisticated developers, the Ghermezians must surely appreciate the need for complete transparency in this process and concerns about Luminati’s continued involvement, as well as why they must further articulate their development plans — in a project that may dwarf even their other ambitious undertakings — in order for the Town Board to make a fully informed and responsible decision.
Mr. Hariri screened for the Democratic nomination for town supervisor in 2011.