Sag Harbor Village Trustee James Larocca on Monday said he would challenge incumbent Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy in the June 15 election.
Mr. Larocca made his announcement on the steps of the Municipal Building to a group of about a dozen supporters, including Trustee Thomas Gardella, who currently serves as deputy mayor under Ms. Mulcahy.
His decision was expected following a Village Board forum on waterfront development issues, including the proposed new Bay Street Theater, on April 23, at which Mr. Larocca pointedly rebutted many of the comments made by Ms. Mulcahy. He said that weekend that he had been asked if he would be willing to be drafted as a mayoral candidate but took the better part of the following week to make up his mind.
Mr. Larocca said he had been planning for this term, which has a year remaining on it, to be his last as a trustee, but he has grown increasingly concerned over what he says has been the slow pace of progress on any number of issues from rezoning the village waterfront to the lack of affordable housing for young people.
“Everything now is blamed on COVID, but COVID has nothing to do with the issues that drove me to change my mind and run for mayor,” he said. “I believe the village is in danger of losing its spirit.”
He said the biggest issue currently facing the village involves Bay Street and its backers’ plans. “There is a tidal wave of big out-of-state money flooding into the village,” he said. “The first order of business will be to sort out who’s here, why, and what they are doing and what the appropriate municipal response is,” Mr. Larocca said.
With that, the group turned the gathering into an impromptu discussion of how to thwart Bay Street’s plans to build a new home in the Water Street Shops building along the waterfront.
Mr. Larocca has repeatedly called for Bay Street to pick another site. On Monday, he distributed copies of an aerial map that showed the Dodds & Eder property on Bridge Street, which was recently purchased by Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, to be about the same size as the Water Street Shops property. Although Mr. Potter has said the Dodds & Eder property is too small for the theater, Mr. Larocca said that simply was not the case. “Show me why it doesn’t work,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, I think the attitude of the village would change.”
Mr. Gardella said it was a difficult decision for him to switch his allegiance to Mr. Larocca from Mayor Mulcahy. He said when he lost a close election in 2017 to Aidan Corish, Mr. Larocca reached out to him and asked him to run on a slate with him the following year.
“I can’t say anything bad about Kathleen. She is a wonderful person, and I think we do work well together,” Mr. Gardella said. “But if I have to choose between them, I have to go with Jim. He’s got an impressive resume.”
Mr. Larocca, who served two tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy, later worked for the New York State delegation to Congress before enjoying a long career in state government. He has served as the state’s first energy commissioner, transportation commissioner, chairman of the Long Island Power Authority, chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Board and dean of Southampton College.
Tuesday, May 11, is the last day to file nominating petitions for the village election. They are available at the village clerk’s office.