Larocca Announces Affordable Housing Initiative In Sag Harbor

Mayor Jim Larocca. DANA SHAW

As part of a new effort to address the lack of affordable housing in Sag Harbor, Mayor Jim Larocca said this week he would appoint trustees Bob Plumb and Ed Haye to serve as co-chairs of the Sag Harbor Affordable Housing Initiative.

Mr. Plumb is a long-time village resident who was elected last month to his second term on the Village Board. “He brings the practical, first-hand experience and perspective of a long-time home builder, and in recent years, as a government official involved in the realities and challenges of affordable and workforce housing in the complex real estate market here on the East End,” Mr. Larocca said in a release. “I am pleased that he has taken on this critical task.”

Mr. Haye, an attorney, who the mayor appointed to complete his term as trustee after he won the mayoral race, will serve with Mr. Plumb.

“He understands how things work, and he is passionate about the need to create more accessible and affordable housing for younger generations of residents, and for seniors who need to downsize but who wish to remain in the village where they have made their lives,” the mayor said. “Ed and Bob form a solid team to help lead the village in the search for real-world solutions to what has become a chronic problem in this community.”

Mr. Larocca said on Tuesday that he has made the task of finding solutions to the housing crisis a priority. “As soon as we can,” he responded, when asked when he expected the committee to offer proposals. “But I can’t give you a schedule because we are venturing into new territory. There is a lot to be done. There is a lot of policy to set. Up to now, we have not had much of a policy.”

The mayor said village officials would soon meet with the leaders of the Long Island Housing Partnership, which for more than 30 years has facilitated the creation of affordable units for both rent and sale, and which he helped found, as well as with former Mayor Greg Ferraris, the chairman of the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.

“Dealing with something as complex as affordable housing requires us to partner with everyone in the business,” the mayor said.

Mr. Larocca said one obvious target is the existing stock of second-floor apartments in commercial buildings in the village. “They are under pressure to be converted to offices,” he said. “I would like to see us establish a village policy to favor secondary, workforce, and smaller units.”

He said another first step is to find out just how many accessory buildings such as pool houses, sheds, or garages have been converted into apartments. He said communities such as Levittown have seen large-scale conversions of garages and parts of single-family houses into apartments to meet a growing need. “We don’t understand the scope as a resource or the complexities of facilitating it as a resource,” he said.

Mr. Larocca cited Patchogue, which was revitalized in large part by developing rental units in its downtown. “We don’t have those opportunities here,” he said. “Our Main Street is spoken for. Our commercial district is spoken for.”

That said, the mayor pointed to the area bounded by Water, Bridge, Rose, and Meadow streets as a possible site for affordable housing. Buildings on the block have been targeted in recent months by Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street and other groups he is associated with. Mr. Potter has said his goal has been to find new spaces for tenants of Water Street Shops, which is being proposed as a new site for Bay Street Theater.

“The dilemma is we are a society that believes in markets,” Mr. Larocca said. “And right now the market is slaughtering affordable housing. There are limits to what government can do to restrain that. It’s not our job to restrain markets, but it is our job to make a place in the community for the next generation and seniors who want to downsize without moving to the Carolinas, and we are failing on both counts.

“Sag Harbor is an outstanding place to live, work, do business, raise a family, and just plain enjoy life,” he added. “Preserving, protecting, and nourishing this community requires making it possible for our young to be able to afford to live and prosper here. The work begins.”