WHITE PLAINS, NY -- The City of New Rochelle filed a lawsuit today in New York State Supreme Court alleging that a local contractor and his wife misappropriated public property adjacent to a city park and encroached on a public right of way from a nearby privately-owned parcel.
The complaint names as defendants Flávio La Rocca, Maria La Rocca, Flávio La Rocca & Sons, Inc. and FMLR Realty Management, LLC.
Calling La Rocca's actions "a brazen misappropriation of City property," the lawsuit demands the restoration of the public property near the park to its previous verdant state and the end of encroachment on public property from the second parcel owned by La Rocca.
The publicly-owned parcel is next to the Sidney E. Frank Skate Park, which is part of Flowers Park, a 20-acre public park in New Rochelle. The alleged encroachment on a public right of way relates to a parcel owned by La Rocca located at 436 Fifth Avenue where he extended his use of the property by erecting barriers, fencing, and walls about 10 feet past the property line along the South and East boundaries of the property.
The lawsuit alleges that "structures associated with the Defendants’ contractor’s yard are encroaching into East Street and Fifth Avenue, including a stone masonry wall which encroaches into the Fifth Avenue right of way, and a concrete storage bin wall and chain link fence and gate which encroach into the East Street right of way."
The City first notified FMLR Management LLC of the encroachment in a letter dated June 22, 2009. The City demanded then that La Rocca "remove the unlawful obstruction and encroachment immediately." A second similar notice was made in a letter dated November 18, 2015, again demanding La Rocca remove the walls, barriers and fencing from the public right of way. Both sets of demands were ignored.
Many of the facts contained in the lawsuit are the result of reporting by Robert Cox who published a series of articles on Talk of the Sound. The lawsuit cites photos and video from the local news organization.
La Rocca ignored repeated interview requests by Talk of the Sound before the first story ran in 2015; afterwards he hired a lawyer to threaten legal action against Cox and Talk of the Sound if any further articles were published. Talk of the Sound responded to that threat by publishing more articles. To date, no lawsuit has been filed.
As first reported by Talk of the Sound, La Rocca and his workers entered vacant city property early in the morning on Saturday May 16, 2015, cut down trees, cleared the property with heavy equipment, dumped potentially contaminated broken chunks of asphalt onto the ground and used a steamroller to create a crude parking surface. La Rocca and his workers used wood chips from the downed trees to cover up tons of additional asphalt piled up along the edge of the property to create a berm.
The City responded by fencing off the "parking lot" and demanding that La Rocca restore the parcel to its original state. La Rocca responded with aggressive and often foul-mouthed defiance, sources say.
In the lawsuit, the City says it "seeks to hold the defendants accountable for the destruction and obstruction of City property".
The City demands a judgment against La Rocca, his wife and their companies for compensatory damages including but not limited to the value of the removed trees, loss in value of the Parcel, and property damage; statutory damages including stumpage value and $250 per tree, treble damages, and the costs to restore the property to its prior condition; consequential damages including but not limited to the costs of constructing the fence to prohibit access to the "parking lot" and the costs of removing the "parking lot" and restoring the Parcel to its prior condition; statutory damages under City Code §111-40 of $2500 per first violation and $5000 for each subsequent offense; punitive damages; attorneys’ fees and costs; and prejudgment interest at the maximum legal rate. The City further demands a permanent injunction prohibiting defendants from encroaching upon City property at East Street and Fifth Avenue.
Neither Flavio La Rocca or Maria La Rocca responded to a request for comment.