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Riverhead Town Board mulls outside accountant to review documents in $40M EPCAL sale

The entrance to the Town of Riverhead's Enterprise

The entrance to the Town of Riverhead's Enterprise Park at Calverton, located on the site of the former Grumman plant off Route 25 in Calverton, is shown on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Riverhead officials will discuss in the coming weeks whether to hire an outside accountant to further review financial information of a partner in the venture group seeking to buy land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton for $40 million.

Christopher Kent, an attorney with Uniondale law firm Farrell Fritz PC that is representing venture group Calverton Aviation and Technology, and Nader Ghermezian, chairman of majority partner Triple Five Group, presented several documents Thursday to the Riverhead Town Board at its work session. Those documents were to show Triple Five is financially capable of proceeding with its plans to convert much of the property at EPCAL into space to expand minority partner Luminati Aerospace’s operations.

Those documents include a letter from accounting firm Grant Thornton LLC stating that Triple Five has cash in excess of $40 million to use for acquiring the property. Other documents included letters from two banks. Kent declined to name the financial institutions, but one of the banks said there was money in the account for the property acquisition.

"CAT is ready, willing and able to close on the purchase of the property, can initiate all of its applications to redevelop the setting, including substantial investment in all acquired and on-site structure improvements," Kent told the board.

Town Councilman Tim Hubbard asked about news reports regarding financial issues Triple Five’s subsidiaries have had, including one that operates the American Dream Mall project in New Jersey.

Ghermezian said that his company has entities across 75 different industries and that any individual issues one subsidiary has do not reflect their ability to finance the EPCAL project.

While some board members expressed satisfaction with the presentation, Councilwoman Catherine Kent said she was still concerned, suggesting the board hire an outside accountant to review the financials Triple Five has provided.

"[The EPCAL property] is our greatest asset and we should be doing everything we can to protect it," Kent said.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who said such a review could cost thousands of dollars, said the board will discuss whether it wants to hire an outside accountant in the coming weeks, likely in executive session.

Christopher Kent, the council woman’s ex-husband, told Newsday in an interview after the meeting that whether the town decides to hire an outside accountant is up to them, but that the town needs to send a stronger signal on whether it wants to proceed with the transaction.

"This could be a valuable site that can benefit from all the demand, but the town must chart its course and stay on it so people can feel certain the transaction is going to move forward, that we’re gonna close, and we’re going to put in our plans to develop," he said.

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