Larocca Mulls Sag Harbor Mayoral Bid Against Incumbent Mulcahy

Sag Harbor Village Trustee James Larocca. Dana Shaw photo

Anyone paying attention to Sag Harbor Village government would be hard pressed to not notice that Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy and Trustee James Larocca are often at odds.

Never was that more apparent than on Friday when the Village Board held a public forum on waterfront development issues, and Mr. Larocca made it a point to rebut the mayor’s opening statement, in which she expressed general support for Bay Street Theater’s plans and outlined the village’s effort to control development by rezoning much of its waterfront.

On Sunday, Mr. Larocca said he had been approached by village residents asking him to challenge Ms. Mulcahy in the June 15 election, and said he would give it serious consideration if others circulated nominating petitions on his behalf.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Larocca said he had still not made up his mind whether he would challenge the mayor or not. “I know it is an early and small window,” he said of the period between Tuesday, May 4, and May 11, when nominating petitions can be submitted with the Village Clerk’s office.

“I was not making a commitment, but I would not object if they circulated petitions,” he said by way of clarification. “If they succeed, I have not decided whether I will go forward with it or not.”

Mr. Larocca has a year remaining on his trustee term.

The three other incumbents who are up for election this year, Mayor Mulcahy, Trustee Aidan Corish, and Trustee Bob Plum have all said they will seek reelection.

“If someone is going to run against me, I look forward to it and welcome the debate,” the mayor said. “I’m just disappointed it is a fellow member of the Board of Trustees. I think my two years of work says a lot.”

The mayor said she was initially spurred to run two years ago because she thought then-Mayor Sandra Schroeder should not run unopposed and believed village voters deserved a choice. She said the Village Board was making progress on a number of issues and pointed to the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic as a major stumbling block.

Mr. Larocca has criticized the mayor’s approach to the waterfront rezoning effort, calling into question the makeup of the committee making recommendations and the overall goal of the effort. But Ms. Mulcahy said the rezoning effort was in large part an effort to prevent projects such as the three looming condominiums developer Jay Bialsky was allowed to build on the waterfront as part of the deal through which the village obtained John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. Mr. Larocca served on the Village Board and played a major role in obtaining the park property.

Trustee Bob Plumb was a member of the village Zoning Board of Appeals and the only member to vote against the Bialsky project. He said part of the reason he was running again was to oversee a tightening of the village code and said he believed the village made a crucial error by not demanding further concessions from Mr. Bialsky.

“They took the first idea and they ran with it — without any pushback,” he said.

Trustee Aidan Corish, who has devoted time to the possibility of expanding the service area of the village sewage treatment plant and instituting a pilot program for paid parking on Long Wharf, said he would also seek another term.

Mr. Corish said he would like to focus on improving the water quality at Havens Beach, which he described as “a legacy issue.”

Recent water quality studies have shown that a drainage ditch, which runs through the park and drains just east of the bathing beach, often results in elevated levels of pollutants. He said he would like to revisit a proposal, aired in the mid-1990s during the administration of Mayor Pierce Hance, to develop a wetland system to filter water from that ditch before it enters the bay.

“It’s the crown jewel of Sag Harbor,” he said of the beach.