NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Over the years Flavio LaRocca has been hard at work, reconstructing the area along East Street where he operates La Rocca & Sons construction company to suit his needs. The problem? All the work has been done on public property.
Last weekend, he was at it again. A crew from LaRocca & Sons, led by Flavio LaRocca himself, went to work on one of the last remaining impediments to La Rocca’s operations on East Street, the trees on City property between East Street and City Park behind the Sidney Frank Skate Park.
LaRocca’s crew went to work on Saturday May 16th at 7:30 a.m., starting with chainsaws.
This time neighbors called police to complain.
Residents called to complain about the work underway along East Street. A New Rochelle police dispatcher sent Car 5 to East Street and reported back that the call was “unfounded”. Shortly after that the police dispatcher reported a second call from neighbors complaining about the work and sent a car back to the area. This time the call came back that it was just workers working on their own property.
Residents in the area say they observed just one police car come through the area. It was raining heavily that morning. These residents have told Talk of the Sound the police car never stopped, they said it just cruised through the area without stopping, without talking to any of the men working on City property or getting out to look around.
A third call went out — this time to Talk of the Sound.
By the time Talk of the Sound arrived on scene at about 9:15 a.m., Flavio La Rocca and a crew of 8 or more workers had cut down all the trees in the area behind the Sidney Frank Skate Park, then used an excavator, a pay-loader and dump trucks, to deposit broken chunks of asphalt on the area, grade out a flat surface, and pile up more asphalt at the back edge of the area he had cleared. A wood-chipper was used to grind up the trees into small pieces. The resulting wood chips were dumped on top of the asphalt both to hide the illegally dumped material and to create an 8-10 foot high berm to screen the area from the soccer field behind the berm.
As photographs and video were taken (above) a steamroller was unloaded from a trailer and used to pack down the asphalt into the dirt.
Flavio La Rocca, suddenly realizing that the work was being photographed and recorded on video, ran and hid behind one of his trucks He then climbed into the passenger seat and ordered the driver to take off. As he left the scene, he was observed making a phone call on his mobile phone.
La Rocca later returned to the scene in a pickup truck but upon seeing he was again being recorded, again fled the scene. This time he backed his truck up along East Street, towards Fifth Avenue, stopped, then drove forward again along East Street, turning onto East Place and did not return. All of this was captured on video (above).
The result of La Rocca’s work was a crude parking lot carved out of a wooded area on public property. Before the work was even finished, five cars were parked in the newly-fashioned, “parking lot”. The area holds between 10-20 vehicles.
Throughout the morning, police and City officials were called and notified that the illegal work was in progress. No one from the City government came to view the “parking lot” until later in the afternoon by which time the work had long since been completed. Three employees of Flavio La Rocca did return to the area later that afternoon to continue work on the poorly paved outline of what had been the traffic peninsula with several trees on it that La Rocca had removed several weeks before. One the men made a phone call on his mobile phone and the three men soon left the scene and did not return.
On Monday morning, more than two dozen vehicles were parked on and along both sides of East Street, areas that La Rocca had cleared and paved over including the peninsula which had since been paved over.
Flavio La Rocca has not responded to repeated requests to be interviewed for this story but the consensus among City officials and residents that La Rocca was motivated by the City’s recently adopted parking policy at City Park which required users to purchase a parking permit at a cost of $200 a year. Rather than have his workers pay the parking permit fees, he carved out a new parking lot — on City property.
Provided with photographs and video evidence of La Rocca and his men at work on the “parking lot” on City property, City officials held a series of meetings at City Hall over the course of the week. An action plan e was developed to address the matter.
Talk of the Sound met with New Rochelle Corporation Counsel Mark Blanchard on Thursday. He confirmed that La Rocca has been building on City property and that the City has begun a process to take action against Flavio La Rocca.
The Department of Public Works Commissioner will soon serve an order on all the property owners along East Street to vacate the public right-of-way and to clear the right-of-way of all obstructions. The property owners will be given a deadline, likely 48 hours, to comply with the order. Any vehicles or equipment on City property after the deadline will be towed away and impounded.
Once that step is completed, the City will move to take control over the entire area by installing large poles in the ground and fencing off the entire area.
Next, the City will conduct test borings to determine whether the materials used to pave the roads is toxic. If it is, a referral will be made to the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation.
There is a stream nearby that runs along the edge of the border between the City property along East Street and the designated parkland known as City Park or Flowers Field. If the soil is found to be contaminated, the City will also make a federal referral for potential violations of the Clean Water Act.
Blanchard said the City intends to aggressively pursue civil and criminal charges against Flavio La Rocca. Charges currently contemplated include trespassing, destruction of public property, misappropriation and more.
The total cost of legal fees and fines is expected to exceed the cost of the $200 a year parking fees his workers would have incurred had they simply paid the parking permit fee to park in the City Park lot.
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