Tag Archive | "James"

James Larocca

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James Larocca.

James Larocca.

James Larocca, who spent a career in public service, including stints as a member of the New York State Public Service Commission, the board of the Long Island Power Authority, and as dean of Southampton College, reflects on his service in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy, his concerns about the plight of American veterans and his upcoming speech at Sag Harbor’s Memorial Day observance this Monday morning at the American Legion on Bay Street.

By Stephen J. Kotz


Let’s start with your naval career. What did you do in Vietnam?

I spent almost all of the calendar year 1967 in Vietnam. I was the operations officer of a mobile river patrol unit for 35-foot fiberglass gunboats. We were actually stationed on a 325-foot converted World War II LST.  In my second tour, I was on a salvage tug.


The river patrol idea in my judgment was as flawed from every possible point of view. They adapted a pleasure boat made up in the Puget Sound that used water jets like they use in a Jacuzzi. It was an example of a brilliant idea from the Pentagon that had no practical application in the Mekong Delta. They were unreliable, they were unsafe. The very concept of using this kind of craft to patrol tens of thousands of miles of water was not going to work. It was never tested until someone up in Seattle convinced the military to buy these boats.


You were involved in the planning for the county’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Brookhaven. How did that come about?

[Former Assemblyman] John Behan and I co-chaired the committee that built that. They wanted a Republican and a Democrat. I was the Democrat. County Executive Peter Cohalan told us we had $40,000 or $50,000 to work with. I guess they thought we were going to put up a plaque outside the county building. Subsequently we raised $1.5 million to make something worthy.


Before that, I had not been active in veterans’ affairs. I had put the war behind me. I was moving on. That experience brought me into the world of veterans’ affairs. It introduced me to the plight of a lot of people who were still not fully returned from the war, if you will, people who were still struggling with the V.A., still struggling with their experience. I came to understand that it’s important how a nation expresses its gratitude to those who serve and how it meets its obligations to those who serve.


Are we doing enough for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Absolutely not, but we never do. Sometimes we do better than at other times, but even though we have public events, public monuments, public expressions, we also miss the day-to-day struggles, the day-to-day needs of those who serve. I think that has never been truer than it is now.


The people who serve now are serving in a war that is detached for most Americans because there is no draft, [a war] that is not understood very well by most Americans and, absolutely critically, involves multiple deployments. The nation is not hostile, or particularly indifferent. People are just not involved. The longest war in the nation’s history involves 2 percent of the population. The reality is it doesn’t touch most people.


What do you plan to talk about at next week’s observance?

I’ll ask what it means to memorialize, to honor. These are words we use authentically and honestly, but I think we have to ask what it is that those of this generation who are serving now need—and what they deserve. The answer is a lot. Their lives are interrupted repeatedly, the wounds they suffer are serious, and the circumstances of their deployment are often terrible. How are we, as a grateful, caring nation going to respond? A name on a plaque is not enough.

Sag Harbor Planning Board Looks at 125 Main Street, Provisions & Harbor Heights

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By Kathryn G. Menu

It has been almost three years since local real estate developer James Giorgio proposed to raise and rebuild the historic commercial property at 125 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Now, with a public hearing on the project scheduled for next month, it appears an end and an approval are finally within site.

On Tuesday, October 23 the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board heard a presentation on the project from Giorgio’s architect, Chuck Thomas.

The project involves removing two additions off the rear of the building facing Church Street, lifting the remainder of the building and putting a new foundation under it. The building, constructed sometime in the 1750s, has basically no foundation to speak of and is sitting in dirt. After the new foundation is installed, Thomas said the plan is to reframe whatever is necessary within the historic structure and restore the building, removing aluminum siding and replacing it with wood, restoring the windows and building a new, wood roof.

The additions which would be removed in the beginning of the process would be rebuilt in kind, added Thomas.

The building will continue to host a retail use on the first floor, with an apartment on the second floor.

“We are going to make it look like it should look,” said Thomas.

The project has tentatively received two variances from the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). One allows landscaping of 16.62 percent of the property as opposed to the 20 percent required under village code and the other allows the inclusion of eight parking spaces where nine are required in the code.

The ZBA, however, was not amenable to allowing Giorgio to construct the second floor apartment at just 564 square-feet where a minimum of 800 square-feet is required. On Tuesday, Thomas said the apartment would meet code.

Thomas said he hoped to get started on construction this winter. A public hearing on the project will be held at the board’s November 27 meeting.


   Accessory Apartment Approved

On Tuesday night, Juan Castro became the third Sag Harbor resident approved for an accessory apartment since the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees first adopted a law in 2009 allowing a maximum of 50 residents to legalize apartments within their primary residences.

Apartments must meet building and fire codes and the Suffolk County Health Department must also sign off on the apartment, meaning applicants must show they have an adequate septic system to handle the increase in density.

The 650 square-foot apartment is located in the bottom floor of Castro’s Brandywine Drive residence.

   Provisions Expansion Stalls

While Provisions Natural Foods Market & Organic Café has already received planning board approval to expand partially into the adjacent space most recently used by the Style bar, it has approval to do so sans approximately 200 square-feet of the Style bar space. If Provisions uses that space it will officially expand beyond 3,000 square-feet, which under the village code triggers the requirement for a market research study on the necessity of expanding the store as well as consideration of providing some kind of affordable housing relief.

In order to avoid those requirements, Provisions’ attorney Dennis Downes secured the company approval for an expansion, walling off that 200-square-foot space. But after gaining planning board approval, Downes approached the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals for relief from the market study, which he estimates will cost $10,000, and the affordable housing provision, which would allow Provisions to expand into the full 777 square-foot space.

While the ZBA was amenable to the idea in September, this month Sag Harbor Village Attorney Denise Schoen said she does not believe the ZBA has a right under the village code to offer that kind of relief. Schoen said case law permits the ZBA to grant area variances — those that deal with physical space like a setback — but not variances for other requirements for a special permit.

Downes is reviewing that case law and the matter will be revisited at the ZBA’s November 20 meeting.

Lastly, John Leonard’s proposal to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station to include a convenience store was formally given a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). That proposal will now move into the hands of the ZBA, which will ultimately decide the fate of the project, ruling on close to half a dozen variances including one that will allow Leonard to construct a store almost twice the size of what is allowed under the village code.

That proposal will also be discussed at the ZBA’s November 20 meeting.