Opposition grows to proposed development at Calverton’s Enterprise Park

The Riverhead Industrial Development Agency will hold another public information session on Wednesday on the proposed redevelopment of Enterprise Park at Calverton, as the project’s increasingly organized opponents allied themselves last week with the local Teamsters union and launched a donation-driven legal fund. 

The public information meeting is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. in the town board meeting room at Town Hall. 

The Riverhead IDA said in a press release that this week’s latest public information session is intended to “provide an opportunity for the [developer’s] team to describe its proposed financial structure for the acquisition and development of the project, as well as … to demonstrate their market presence.” 

At last week’s gathering of more than 100 people at the Vail-Leavitt theater, Rex Farr, a founder of EPCAL Watch, said opposition to the plan transcends politics.   

“We are not red or blue. We are Riverhead.” 

He urged the crowd gathered to help raise some of the $50,000 in donations the group is seeking. “It looks like we’re going to end up down the legal road, and … I promise you, we’re gonna need a lawyer.” 

As of Aug. 21, the fund had 22 donors who gave a total of just over $2,000.

Another leader of the opposition, John McAuliff, agreed, calling a legal fund “our last stand.

“We have to start collecting money now,” he said. “When the IDA issues its decision, it’s a little late in the game for us to start spending.” He said efforts to find a pro bono attorney had so far been unsuccessful. 

The gathering was organized by the Heart of Riverhead Civic Association, and the largely united audience also included Republican Councilman Tim Hubbard, who is running for Town Supervisor and supports the CAT plan but opposes a cargo jetport, and CAT attorney Christopher Kent, a former Riverhead Town Board member.  

Teamsters representative Dave Carew said at the Vail-Leavitt meeting that air traffic from the development of EPCAL would destroy the quality of life for the surrounding communities. 

“I’ve been asked many times ‘Why would the Teamsters be opposed to a warehouse and trucking?’ It’s the quality of life that we’re talking about. There are thousands of Teamster families … in the surrounding 20-mile area from EPCAL … thousands of Teamster families that would be affected — noise, pollution, congested roads. This isn’t why we live here … So we’re going to stand up and we’re going to help fight.”

Another speaker, Democratic Town Board candidate Andrew Leven, said the sheer size of the proposed project should be a red flag to neighbors of the industrial park.

CAT officials have said that the full proposed buildout on the property — which could take decades — would comprise of 10 million square feet of mixed uses. 

“That is the equivalent of the Tesla gigafactory, which is the largest factory in the world, or 13 and a half Tanger outlets, right in the middle of Riverhead.” Tesla currently runs six so-called gigafactories, four in the U.S. and one each in Germany and China. 

The sharp opposition to a plan by Triple Five Real Estate subsidiary Calverton Aviation and Technology to develop 600 acres of the former Grumman aircraft plant began after an IDA meeting last fall where a CAT engineer described what residents interpreted as an admission that the site would ultimately operate as an air cargo hub.

At that hearing, CAT engineer Chris Robinson told the IDA, “I think the [vision] here is the aeronautic aspect — bringing packages which get brought into a logistics building, transferred onto tractor-trailer trucks … currently, that end of the logistics business is not handled on Long Island. This would be an incredible opportunity to bring that here.”

Earlier this month, at a previous IDA public information meeting on EPCAL, CAT chief executive officer Justin Ghermezian apologized for those comments and both he and Mr. Kent repeatedly insisted that even if CAT did have plans to build such an operation, that existing and anticipated restrictions on the use of the runways as a cargo jetport would prevent CAT from using them in that way. One runway is 10,000 feet long and the other is 7,000 feet. 

Yet Mr. Kent acknowledged during the presentation that the market would ultimately dictate what would be built on the land.  

“We don’t know today what we’re going to build two years from now, but we know we’re going to build something in line with the vision that the town’s had for the property for 25 years and the limitations that have been placed on that property by the town,” Mr. Kent said.