Rendering of CAT's phase 1A development by CAT's architect BLD Architecture, presented at the Sept. 21, 2022 Riverhead Industrial Development Agency meeting.

A few hundred people turned out this week to hear Triple Five’s plans for the Enterprise Park at Calverton. At least that’s how the event was billed by the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, which arranged the forum at the Hotel Indigo.

What they got instead was dodgy answers to direct questions and a condescending attitude from Triple Five’s arrogant attorney, a former town official who now makes a living representing developers looking to take advantage of Riverhead Town’s obsolete zoning and officials all-too-willing to do those developers’ bidding.

The town’s deal with Triple Five as taken a lot of twists and turns, and this week we tried to lay out the relevant history of the thing, so we can all keep it straight.

Perhaps that’s what motivated Triple Five’s attorney to start Wednesday night’s presentation with a long-winded “history of EPCAL” dating back to the “glory days” of Grumman Aerospace. But the 300 or so people who attended the meeting quickly found it tiresome and irrelevant. He bristled at their response, because, he said, it’s important for us local folks of limited intelligence and narrow perspective to understand the history as well as he does.

Perhaps it was just another instance of a politician-turned-developer’s attorney who likes to talk about himself, because a lot of Chris Kent’s “history” covered things that happened when he was on the Riverhead Town Board and things he did back in the day, which put him in the position of knowing so much more than the rest of the people in that room. (And by the way, he’s proud of the residents of the town he used to live in for being engaged, since that makes for good government.)

Or perhaps his motivation was to kill time in an effort to use as many words as possible to disclose as little as possible about what the company’s actual plans are. That tactic became obvious as he fielded question after question with responses that mostly amounted to “no comment,” dressed up as “we don’t know.”

We don’t know. But don’t worry, folks. Whatever it is, it won’t be a cargo airport. Where did you ever get that crazy idea?

Well, Mr. Kent, that would be from the words written and spoken and presented in plans by the developer’s own attorney, architect and engineer. The presentation to the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency on Sept. 21 was actually pretty straightforward. Watch the town‘s video of the presentation here.

So, yeah, the crowd worried about cargo-laden 747s coming in for a landing in Calverton quickly grew restless Wednesday night by Kent’s effort to convince them that the September presentation was something other than what they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.

The people of Riverhead have heard a lot of ideas floated for EPCAL over the years by a variety of people and companies. But there’s a distinct difference in significance between “plans” we’ve seen in the past and the plans in the currently pending application to the RIDA.

The presentation and application to the RIDA are the basis on which the agency will make its decision on whether to support this project with public money. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is how the applicant justifies its request for financial assistance. There shouldn’t be much wiggle room.

Can the IDA truly provide financial assistance with public funds — over $10 million in mortgage and sales/use tax exemptions plus an as yet undisclosed amount in real property tax exemptions over a period of 20 years for each building — to support a project for which there are no plans, for which the answer to every question is “we don’t know yet?” Really?

“We’re not building a cargo airport,” Kent kept telling the crowd Wednesday night.

As Andrew Leven, a former federal prosecutor and practicing attorney, told Kent, “So rather than playing more word games, if it’s going to be used for cargo, whether you call it a cargo airport or not, it’s still being used for cargo with airplanes.”


To quote the application cover letter written by Kent’s law partner, Peter Curry, to the RIDA:

“As stated previously, CAT will invest a minimum of $1,000,000 to repair and upgrade the eastern runway, so that it can accommodate cargo planes and other manned aircraft, as well as drones and other unmanned aircraft, all in accordance with the Town of Riverhead Zoning Code.”

And project engineer Chris Robinson, at the Sept. 21 RIDA meeting, presenting Triple Five’s plans:

“We’ve also set the buildings up in accordance with part 77 of the aviation to provide a component of the taxiway, a future taxiway, and it’ll run down the east side of the east runway, the 10,000-foot runway, and an apron. So these buildings can be served both from airplane as well as trucking facilities on the opposite side of the building, so that we can keep the varying use components of these buildings separate — employee vehicular traffic, tractor-trailer traffic and airplane traffic, all separated and serving the building from different directions.” The part 77 he referred to was Title 14, Part 77 of the Code of Federal Regulations governing the “safe, efficient use and preservation of the navigable airspace,” issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I mentioned the taxiway which would be located approximately — the apron, excuse me, which will be located about 500 feet away from the centerline of the runway. In the initial phase we’ll build a small piece of the taxiway. This taxiway is anticipated to be expanded all the way along the east side to the north and the south to serve that easterly runway in the future as future buildings come online.”

During the same presentation, project architect Alex Badalamenti told the RIDA board:

“We’ll be using both runways eventually, for cargo and also for testing at the site.”

He went on to describe the proposed development:

“There are three flex buildings for r&d and development. And then two large 300,000-square-foot industrial buildings, warehouse distribution buildings. These are crossdock facilities so that they connect the apron off the taxiway on one side, directly to planes and cargo. And on the other side, transportation and distribution coming out the other side of the building.”

RIDA Chairperson Jim Farley said he was puzzled. “When I look at the buildout, it could be significant air cargo, which I don’t necessarily have a problem with. I’m just trying to understand how that operation works in what is sort of a logistically hampered location in the world, actually, Long Island,” Farley said.

Triple Five engineer Chris Robinson answered Farley. The vision, he said, is “bringing packages, which get brought into a logistics building transferred onto tractor-trailer trucks, which may be brought on to other distribution facilities downstream.

“I mean, we’re not talking about Amazon, but I’ll give them as a for instance, they use their last-mile distribution centers, where they have tractor-trailer trucks that come in in the overnight hours, unload product, that product is divvied up within the building, then they have their — what they call their — launching ramp where they have the vans that get loaded in the morning, leave the facility go out and deliver it and then come back empty at the end of the day. So this will be a piece in that cog,” Robinson said.

“Technically, currently, that end of the logistics business is not handled on Long Island. This would be an incredible opportunity to bring that here. Where currently it might be done in Nashville or other parts of the country where products flown in, divvied up put on trailer trucks delivered to other local distribution facilities, the last-mile facilities or other ones,” he said. “So it’s a piece in an overall puzzle. And I think this creates an excellent opportunity to provide that on Long Island and help feed Long Island from that end of it, versus all of the trucking that currently comes over the bridges from from points west.”

No, the Triple Five damage-control tour didn’t go too well for Kent Wednesday night.

And that’s because Riverhead residents have eyes and ears and, most importantly, brains. They know what they saw and heard and they understand what it means. They love their homes and the town they live in. They don’t want their quality of life to be destroyed by jets carrying cargo into Calverton at all hours, to be off-loaded at a crossdock logistics center for tractor-trailers to haul off in the middle of the night to “last-mile” facilities — perhaps that 641,000-square-foot logistics center proposed for Middle Road in Calverton by another one of Kent’s clients, NorthPoint. NorthPoint also says it building that facility “on spec,” without a known tenant. Hmmm.

Whatever name they give Triple Five’s plan — a hub, a cog, a piece in the puzzle — it’s still a place with runways where planes carrying cargo — typically 747s which, when fully loaded, weigh 890,000 pounds — would be landing. And it would generate truck traffic here the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Yes, people are angry. They’re angry about the plans that were unveiled. And they’re angry about the gaslighting going on.

The people of Riverhead are not stupid. So don’t treat us that way. We get it. Do you?

Correction: The typical weight of a 747 cargo plane was misstated in the original version of this editorial due to a typographical error. It is 890,000, not 89,000, pounds

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.