Editorial: It’s time to take the next flight out of EPCAL

There’s an old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

But who is shamed when someone is fooled many times over by the same individuals? 

The answer is all of us — if Luminati Aerospace, its CEO Daniel Preston and the cast of characters shielding him from public view continue to lead the Town of Riverhead down a deceitful path at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Described nearly four years ago by former town supervisor Sean Walter as the “single biggest thing to happen to Riverhead,” Luminati’s stature has been shrinking ever since, following a series of controversies that have painted Mr. Preston as a charlatan and his intentions at EPCAL as an ever-evolving shell game.

The once lauded executive hasn’t been seen since people began questioning his business history and his ability to deliver on promises. His company’s involvement in the town’s ongoing land deal at EPCAL is often minimized, even though the vision for the site still appears to be more aligned with Luminati’s overall mission than with the history of its megadeveloper partner, Triple Five.

Now, in the latest questionable development since Luminati flew into town in 2015, the company has agreed to leave the building it leases at EPCAL. It’s also been accused in an entirely separate court action of defaulting on a $10 million loan it accepted from a fellow aerospace contractor.

And while Luminati has accomplished almost nothing it initially set out to do at EPCAL, the Town of Riverhead remains poised to sell 600 acres of developable land (and more than 1,000 acres of preserved land) to Calverton Aviation and Technology, a group that includes the embattled company.

If four years of questionable history tell us anything, it’s that Riverhead Town is poised to sell its most prized land in exchange for a bridge to nowhere.

There was once a time — conveniently falling around Election Day 2015 — when Luminati aimed to bring 2,000 jobs to town as it built solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles for a top-secret tech company looking to provide wireless internet in other parts of the world. We learned many months ago that those plans have been scrapped, along with just about everything else the company has said it’s been doing at EPCAL. We’ve also since learned that Mr. Preston’s once celebrated business record contains its fair share of questionable claims and legal disputes. And in recent weeks, CAT replaced Stuart Bienenstock, who became the face of the company when Mr. Preston disappeared, after it was revealed that a judge ruled he produced a forged document in an unrelated real estate transaction several years ago.

The focus of much of the fight against the EPCAL land sale in the past year centered on CAT’s qualified and eligible status to purchase the land from the town for $40 million, which the 3-2 Republican majority on the board voted in favor of. Moving forward, the discussion around the deal should shift to the company’s character, and the Town Board’s ability to represent the interests of the biggest landowner of all at EPCAL: the people of Riverhead.

Fool us countless times, good riddance to all of you.