Billionaire John Catsimatidis has withdrawn his request to distribute gasoline from his Riverhead oil terminal after neighbors rose up against the plan, but has not ruled out offering a more agreeable alternative.
Catsimatidis, a New York City supermarket and energy magnate, sent a one-sentence fax Monday to Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter that read: "Please be advised that United Riverhead Terminal Inc. is withdrawing the above application."
United applied with the Riverhead Town Board last year to build two ethanol tanks and make other modifications that would allow the company to mix and distribute gasoline. Neighbors packed town board meetings to criticize the plan, saying it would add trucks filled with flammable fuel to their rural roads. Riverhead officials had given United representatives until April 30 to address questions raised at a March hearing.
In an interview Tuesday, Catsimatidis said United would explore altering the plan to ease traffic concerns. "We didn't want to fight with anybody," he said.
The United terminal sits along Long Island Sound in Northville, surrounded by farms and summer homes. Catsimatidis bought the site in 2012, and has used it to accept and store shipments of home heating oil.
Northville Beach Civic Association president Neil Krupnick, who led opposition to the plan, said yesterday that his group was "very, very pleased" with the withdrawal.
"We feel we've won a battle, but we have no idea if the war will continue or not," Krupnick said. "I think clearly Mr. Catsimatidis and his staff knew that he had lost. I don't see him as somebody who gives up very quickly. He's used to getting what he wants."
In 2013, Catsimatidis ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for mayor of New York City. He owns an oceanfront home in East Quogue and lives in Manhattan.
Catsimatidis met personally with Walter and Krupnick last week to discuss the proposal at Tweeds Restaurant & Buffalo Bar in downtown Riverhead, Walter and Catsimatidis said.
Walter said he advised Catsimatidis to withdraw the application and "come back to the table" with civic leaders on a new proposal. The withdrawal was the best possible outcome, he said.
"The application as presented wasn't going anywhere," the supervisor said. "Let's see if they come back and work with the public and the town to see if there's something that can be done to make this project a reality."
Catsimatidis said the gas proposal would create jobs -- though he didn't know how many -- and lower gas prices on Long Island.
"The county needs business," Catsimatidis said. "Riverhead needs business."