Riverhead's Republican-dominated town board has turned to a Democrat -- former Rep. George Hochbrueckner -- to help it resolve some knotty problems getting in the way of town plans to develop the 2,900-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton.
His firm, George J. Hochbrueckner & Associates of Laurel, will be paid $7,000 a month for up to six months to lobby for the town as it attempts to win government approval for the subdivision of the remaining undeveloped EPCAL property.
Hochbrueckner sponsored legislation that transferred the property to Riverhead Town after the land was declared surplus by the U.S. Navy in 1996; the Grumman Corp. had stopped building jet fighters there.
The closure resulted in the loss of thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs, and the end of a $1 million-a-year payment in lieu of taxes to the town. The land transfer was supposed to help Riverhead's economy by bringing in new businesses.
But the sagging national economy and the inability to attract major firms interested in the property -- the largest undeveloped industrial site in the state -- left the town only a series of never-built pie-in-the sky projects including an indoor ski mountain and an entertainment complex to rival Disney World.
Recent efforts to subdivide the property and make it easier to sell small parcels of land have been hampered by state environmental laws and arguments over how those laws should be applied.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said Hochbrueckner is the ideal person to deal with those problems. The state "keeps trying to rewrite history. You can't do that with the man who wrote the law," Walter said.