Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said she was taken aback when she received a phone call on April 22 from Mike Iannelli, an aide in U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, to discuss her letter requesting that the Sag Harbor post office be moved to provide a new site for Bay Street Theater.
“He read me parts of the letter, and I told him, ‘I have no idea what you are talking about,’” she said. “I’m pretty sure I would have remembered if I had written a letter to my senior senator asking him to move the post office.”
Ms. Mulcahy said she requested that Mr. Iannelli send her a copy, so she could try to verify its source.
“Then I got stonewalled,” she said. “I sent him an email every week and heard nothing back.” Finally, she said she sent him a note saying she was going to write Mr. Schumer’s general counsel to request a copy of the letter.
On May 24, a copy of the letter, which was typed on plain paper with the mayor’s name at the bottom, but no signature, dated March 9, was faxed to the village office.
Mr. Ianelli did not return calls seeking comment.
Ms. Mulcahy said Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, the not-for-profit created to find the theater a new home, had asked her last November to meet with State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and postal service officials to discuss the possible relocation of the post office as part of the theater’s development plans.
“I didn’t like that idea, and I never encouraged that idea,” she said, adding that the meeting never materialized.
She suggested that perhaps Mr. Potter had drafted the letter as a trial balloon to test the waters with Senator Schumer’s office, but on Tuesday, Mr. Potter denied that he had sent it.
The letter states that as mayor and a long-time resident of the village, Ms. Mulcahy supported the relocation of the post office, which was needed to support Bay Street’s effort to build a new theater.
“Bay Street is a nonprofit organization that is vitally important to our community,” the letter states. “The organization has been a valuable partner to Sag Harbor 30 years, producing significant economic, education and entertainment benefits to our village. To the best of my ability, I will collaborate [with] Bay Street leaders and work with other village officials to ensure the intended use and building structure are beneficial to all parties.”
“Our community values the services of the post office and Bay Street officials will work to ensure the facility remains at a convenient location,” the letter concludes. “We appreciate your assistance in making this relocation possible.”
The plot thickened when Ms. Mulcahy said she found on her front porch Thursday, June 3, a similar letter to Senator Schumer, this time on village letterhead, signed by Trustee James Larocca, and dated March 15.
In the salutation, the formal “Dear Senator Schumer” is crossed over by a handwritten “Chuck.”
After introductory pleasantries, the letter notes that Sag Harbor and its waterfront were undergoing major changes, including the effort to build a new home for the theater. It points out that the village is engaged in an “intensive effort to create a new master plan for the waterfront” and “a community effort to rewrite our building code to better protect against unwanted or oversized development.”
“In this connection, I want to express my full, enthusiastic support for the relocation of the Sag Harbor Post Office,” the letter continues. “It currently occupies a prime space across the street from our new John Steinbeck Waterfront Park and the projected location of a new Bay Street Theater. The waterfront district is being reconfigured to better serve the artistic and cultural needs of our community, support workforce housing, and promote our essential tourism and recreational economy.
“The relocation of the Post Office to a nearby available site within walking distance will fit perfectly in our evolving plan for the waterfront,” the letter concludes.
Once again, Mr. Potter said he was not involved. “I did not leave, nor do I know anyone that left, any letter on Kathleen’s doorstep,” he said.
Regardless of the origin, the mayor questioned the appropriateness of Mr. Larocca’s letter, saying it was her understanding that trustees are not allowed to use official letterhead for individual letters. Plus, she said if she was to be criticized as mayor for having written a letter last year to National Grid, supporting the sale of the gas ball parking lot to Bay Street without informing other board members, then Mr. Larocca should be similarly criticized for seeking to have the post office moved without raising the issue with his colleagues.
“This conflating of two unrelated matters, frankly, is ridiculous,” Mr. Larocca responded. “I don’t need to clear with the mayor my response to a request from a U.S. senator. I find the whole thing ridiculous.”
He said his letter offering an opinion on relocating the post office was different from Ms. Mulcahy’s letter to National Grid, which, he claimed, undermined his effort to negotiate for the property. Ms. Mulcahy said she only wrote her letter after it was clear the village could not afford to buy the property and if Mr. Larocca had been continuing his effort to negotiate on the village’s behalf, he should have informed her.
Neither Ms. Mulcahy nor Mr. Larocca said they knew why Mr. Schumer, after recently becoming Senate majority leader, would be focusing his attention on a tiny village’s post office when issues like COVID-19 relief, infrastructure bills, and voting rights legislation are on the table, although Mr. Larocca said the senator is well known for his constituent services and it was under that context that he believed he had been contacted for his opinion.
Ms. Mulcahy said the post office as well as the National Grid and Schiavoni properties had all been broached as possible future sites for Bay Street during informal conversations that took place before and after Friends of Bay Street bought the Water Street Shops last October.
Earlier this year, Ms. Mulcahy said the board made an informal pact to not speak to Mr. Potter, saying “This guy was getting out of control and we shouldn’t talk to him because it was dangerous for any of us to talk to him.”
But a forum sponsored by Bay Street in May, Mr. Larocca acknowledged that he had continued to have regular conversations with Mr. Potter in a bid to get the future theater moved from the proposed site at Water Street Shops.