Two Trustees Set to Return as Sag Harbor Village Votes

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By Douglas Feiden

Robby Stein is a Redwood resident, child psychoanalyst and family therapist who started coming to Sag Harbor in the early 1950s and has a passion for clean water, the health of the harbor and environmental solutions to curb pollution and stormwater runoff.

James Larocca is a Madison Street resident, Vietnam veteran and playwright-director who moved to the village from North Haven in 2005 and has championed the reclamation of a derelict swath of land along Sag Harbor Cove as the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.

Mr. Stein and Mr. Larocca will be the only names on the ballot in the election on Tuesday, June 21, for two positions on the Village Board of Trustees, each for a two-year term.

Despite the firestorm triggered by the five-member board, on which both men served, as it steered to passage earlier this year the controversial Gross Floor Area zoning code amendments, the race is uncontested.

Balloting will take place at the Sag Harbor Firehouse on Brick Kiln Road, from noon to 9 p.m., and voters will also decide the fate of a key referendum that would convert the retirement plan of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps from its current defined contribution plan to a new defined benefit plan.

The annual election features two incumbent candidates who both say the board has been united and cohesive under the leadership of Mayor Sandra Schroeder, who’s now completing her first full year in office and with whom they’ve each worked closely. But their professional and real-world experiences are vastly different.

Robby Stein.
Robby Stein.

Mr. Stein possesses a strong scientific bent. He’s practiced in

Manhattan, England and the East End, and his work includes research into the neuro-biology of sleep, developmental play and the making of videos on weaning.

First appointed to the village board by then-Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride in 2009, Mr. Stein has been elected to three two-year terms since and is now vying for a fourth. In 2015, he ran against Ms. Schroeder and lost by a 57-vote margin.

By contrast, Mr. Larocca served as a U.S. Naval officer in the Mekong Delta in 1967, worked for four New York governors and ran unsuccessfully himself as a Democratic primary candidate for governor in 1998.

During a long career in public service, he was state transportation commissioner under ex-Governor Mario Cuomo and retired as a commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission in 2013. A member of the village Planning Board until 2015, he was tapped by Ms. Schroeder to finish her term when she was elected mayor. He’s now seeking his first elected term as trustee.

With the tougher zoning laws reining in the size and scale of new dwellings now in effect, both candidates outlined their priorities over their next terms in office.

Mr. Stein will pursue his plan to transform the low-lying, flood-prone, back-of-Main-Street parking lot into a new green, flood-resistant space that will curtail runoff, boast rain gardens, protect the bay and harbor, and add 41 new parking spaces.

Working with the village’s new grant officer, he’ll seek funding sources for what he dubs the “back square,” as well as other special projects and traffic-calming measures, like a new crosswalk on Main Street between the John Jermain Memorial Library and the Whaling and Historical Museum.

Information technology will be another major focus: “I’d like to see us upgrade IT in general — potentially, billing could go online, the website could be developed — and I’d like to see the village be able to do a lot more electronically than we’re currently doing,” Mr. Stein said. One goal would be “live streaming and real-time access to board meetings online.”

James Larocca.
James Larocca.

For his part, Mr. Larocca said it was a “real treat” to be part of what he termed Ms. Schroeder’s “enormously successful” first year as mayor. He ticked off a litany of accomplishments, saying the administration negotiated municipal contracts that had languished for a couple of years, changed the leadership of the police department and resumed prudent capital programs for the Fire Department and Ambulance Corps.

Looking ahead, he said his top priority would be the Steinbeck Park, which the village wants to develop on a waterfront site where Greystone Property Development Corp. hopes to build a gated, luxury condo complex with 11 homes.

“We hope ultimately to persuade the new owners that it’s in their interests, as it is in the interest of the village, to go together to the Community Preservation Fund and abandon their condominium concept,” Mr. Larocca said.

“That’s the path we hope to be able to proceed down, and we’re at a critical stage in that path. We would like to get the acquisition by the CPF path — it would allow the owners to get some benefit from their investment — and if not, we’re prepared to proceed on other paths as well.”

The next steps after any acquisition would be developing a more detailed park plan and securing necessary federal, state and private funds, he said.

There is also an uncontested election in North Haven on June 21 with balloting at North Haven Village Hall on Ferry Road.

Incumbent Mayor Jeff Sander and Trustee Dianne Skilbred are each running again for two-year terms. David Saskas, who is seeking to fill the seat that’s been vacant since March when Thomas J. Schiavoni resigned to take a seat on the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, will join them on the ballot.

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