Sparks flew at the Riverhead Town board work session Thursday as Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio locked horns about a potential proposal that could site a Federal Aviation Administration radar control facility at Enterprise Park at Calverton.
According to the FAA, on Dec. 20, the FAA issued a request for information for land for the new integrated air traffic control facility in New York. The RFI is for owners of 34 to 49 acres of land within 150 miles of New York City, within the state of New York, who are willing to sell the property to the FAA. The site must be suitable for construction of an operational air traffic control campus with approximately 250,000 square feet of buildings and parking for 800 employees. The RFI is for information and planning purposes; it is not a solicitation for offers to sell the property. The RFI is open until Jan. 31.
Giglio said the FAA wanted to relocate the FAA Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) from its current location at Long Island MacArthur Airport in the Town of Islip.
Walter objected and said he had met with Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, as well as other elected officials, all of whom agreed to present a unified, regional front and urge the FAA to leave the facility where it currently sited, protecting the jobs of those who currently work there.
Walter said before any decisions are made, he'd like to invite Croci to the town board for a discussion.
Giglio reminded that the matter is time sensitive and a proposal needs to be put forth by next week to Congressman Tim Bishop; she stressed the importance of keeping the facility, and jobs, on Long Island and said the FAA was considering sites in Albany and elsewhere in Hudson County.
Furthermore, Giglio said, the Town of Southampton, the Town of Brookhaven, and Jan Burman, who owns a parcel at EPCAL, were planning to submit proposals.
Other locations the FAA could be considering are the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood and Mitchell Field in Nassau County, the councilwoman said.
"Why not submit a proposal?" Giglio said. "If it doesn't stay in Islip, it could come to EPCAL. I don't want to jeopardize losing jobs on Long Island. Why not EPCAL?"
Councilman John Dunleavy said he'd like to see what the federal government thinks of relocating the facility to EPCAL before deciding; both he and Councilman Jim Wooten questioned the FAA's motivation for moving the radar control operation.
Walter said again that the approach needs to be regional; Giglio said she represents Riverhead residents and said she would like to see the over 800 jobs and other benefits the facility would bring to the town.
Giglio brought a list of reasons why the facility could move to EPCAL, including that EPCAL is "ready to go," with no site plan needed. Giglio sited the Stony Brook Incubator as a model for what she said could be an "anchor" facility.
In addition, Giglio said the Town of Riverhead would not need to spend money; the FAA has a budget.
Secondary industries could spring up, Giglio said, as well as secondary spending in area hotels and restaurants. Riverhead residents, she said, would gain with jobs and payment in lieu of taxes payments. The new facility would breathe life into Riverhead's housing market, Giglio said; the new project could garner grants because the plan is shovel-ready.
In addition, Giglio said there is frontage on Route 25, the facility could hook up into town sewers, the use is consistent with the reuse plan, with light industrial jobs.
"Riverhead has a history with this use," Giglio added, and said the facility could be a "magnet for an aviation school."
The proposal, she added, would help employees with a more favorable commute time; the plan, she said, has regional draw.
Giglio asked for the board's support to have a proposal ready by Tuesday.
John Dunleavy asked why things are always "done at the last minute."
Giglio said she asked Walter in mid-December to have the matter discussed at a work session; Walter said Giglio asked for a resolution and said she should have continued working on the issue so Croci would have had time to come before the board "to explains what this means to Islip. That's important to me."
"To me, Riverhead residents are important," Giglio said
Giglio said she'd like to craft a proposal offering a lease for $1 a year for 50 years.
Walter asked, if Burman was submitting a proposal, why that wouldn't be sufficient since Burman's parcel is at EPCAL. Giglio said she did not want town residents to lose PILOT payments.
Walter and Dunleavy said they'd like to see additional data and research.
Walter said he would ask Chris Kempner to write a proposal by Tuesday.
Croci did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Do you think the FAA TRACON facility is a good fit for EPCAL? Tell us what you think in the comments section.