Year in Review 2023

Year in Review 2023: EPCAL saga comes to a close — for now

For more than a year, a colorful cadre of Riverhead residents living in neighborhoods surrounding the Enterprise Park at Calverton pressured town officials to abandon their plan to sell more than 1,600 acres of that property to Calverton Aviation & Technology amid fears that it was planning to build an air cargo hub. That controversy ended in dramatic fashion in late October when the Town Board voted unanimously to cancel the $40 million contract.

The vote came on the heels of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency’s decision to deny CAT’s request for tax incentives, citing its failure to adequately demonstrate “the viability of a financially successful project.” According to Riverhead officials, the 2018 agreement with CAT gave the Town Board the authority to declare the original contract null and void based on the IDA’s denial.

Fears of a cargo jetport being built at EPCAL were sparked during an IDA meeting last fall when residents interpreted a CAT engineer’s statement as an admission that the site would ultimately operate as an air cargo hub.

The EPCAL site includes two large runways.

“I think that this is good governance,” John McAuliff, head of opposition group EPCAL Watch, said. “We had some doubts about it. And we were not easy with this process, because it seemed so closed to public input. I’m glad of the conclusion. But I think for the sake of the town, and the governance of the town, and how we go forward, that we cannot forget the process that got us here.”

And the saga may continue, as CAT, a subsidiary of the global conglomerate Triple Five, has formally requested that the town reconsider its decision to cancel the contract. A CAT spokesperson issued a statement that read: “The facts, the law and the record will demonstrate that CAT Triple Five has the legal right to develop this property.”