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Who is Flavio La Rocca? - Part VIII

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Who is Flavio La Rocca? - Part VIII

November 09, 2015 - 19:27
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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- On the morning of Saturday May 16th, Flavio LaRocca and his employees leveled a stand of trees and greenery on public property, in the area behind the Sidney Frank Skate Park. This would appear to be a clear cut case of a criminal act and yet no criminal charges have been brought. Why?

Based on a tip from a reader, Talk of the Sound was on hand as LaRocca and his crew chopped down trees, ground them up, dumped broken chunks of toxic asphalt, piled up the asphalt to create a berm to screen the resulting “parking lot” from prying eyes at City Park and used a steamroller to pack down more asphalt to create a parking surface.

While this crime was in progress, City Manager Chuck Strome was asked by Talk of the Sound whether he was aware of what  was transpiring behind the skatepark. Strome deferred the matter to Parks Commissioner Bill Zimmerman who was with him at the time. Strome and Zimmerman debated whether the property behind the skate park was parkland while not disputing that the property was city property regardless of whether it had been designated as parkland. Strome stated he would send the police to investigate. The police never came.

Hours went by and eventually LaRocca and his crew finished their work, packed up and left. Later that afternoon Strome advised Talk of the Sound that a police officer had come by the area and not seen any work going on and left. In fact, no police officer came by the area and a review of police scanner audio shows no dispatch calls were made after Strome said the police had been notified. Taking Strome at his word, why did the police department not dispatch any officers and then tell the City Manager they had?

In an interview several days later with then-Corporation Counsel Mark Blanchard, Talk of the Sound was told that the the City intended to “aggressively pursue civil and criminal charges against Flavio La Rocca”. Blanchard said charges could include trespassing, destruction of public property, misappropriation and more.” The New Rochelle police would have been the investigating agency and would have been the agency to file charges. No charges of any kind have never been filed. 

The only action taken in the first few months came as a suggenstion from the New Rochelle Police Department -- that "No Parking" signs be posted on East Street as a prelude to fencing off the "Parking Lot". The lot was fenced off, at a cost of about $5,000 to the taxpayer. La Rocca has paid nothing nor has he been held accountable for anything.

By the time Blanchard left New Rochelle in mid-August to take job as a law partner with Kristen Wilson virtually none of the items on Blanchard’s list had been accomplished and records promised to Talk of the Sound had not been provided. As a side note, Wilson has, for many years, served as Corporation Counsel in Rye. She has contended with a major scandal involving they Rye Golf Club and former Rye City Manager Scott Pickup who was effectively fired in Rye and wound up working in New Rochelle’s Department of Public Works. It's not the only New Rochelle - Rye connection that has come up recently. In fact, a few weeks ago Mark Blanchard sat in for Kristen Wilson as the Corporation Counsel at a Rye Council meeting.

Over the past few months there have been several mitigating factors in the slow response of the City of New Rochelle including prolonged illness of senior staff, the sudden departure of Blanchard and the re-hiring of Kathleen Gill as Corporation Counsel and Chief-of-Staff to the City Manager. In an abundance of caution and an effort to give the folks involved the benefit of the doubt, Talk of the Sound has held off on reporting further on this story for months, until Gill got settled back in as Corproration Counsel. Since coming back as the City’s top lawyer, Gill has moved the ball forward. More on that in a moment.

I want to address a question that everyone who has read my reporting on Flavio LaRocca wants to know — who, if anyone, is protecting him?

No one will say but there have been hints to the effect of “they don’t want anything done about it”. Asked who “they” is, the response is a shrug and silence.

No one will say for sure who is protecting LaRocca. The best we can do is lay out some facts and let readers draw their own conclusions. This being New Rochelle, the first thing to do is “follow your nose” which invariably leads to New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll and his New Rochelle Police Foundation. 

We have reported previously on the highly questionable practices of Carroll and the New Rochelle Police Foundation including giving Foundation board members swipe cards to access locked doors at NRPD headquarters and intervening, in Rye of all places, when a board member was arrested for using his Foundation badge to impersonate a police officer, our first encounter with Kristin Wilson at Talk of the Sound.

Multiple sources have told Talk of the Sound that prior to his death in 2006, Sidney Frank had a close relationship with Patrick Carroll. There have been for years a rumor that Frank willed Carroll a Maybach automobile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Based on our review of DMV records in New York and Florida, where Carroll maintains a vacation home, these rumors appear to be just that, unsubstantiated gossip. They persist however due to the correct perception of a special relationship between Frank and Carroll which is substantiated.

The New York Times reported on Frank’s special protection accommodations provided by New Rochelle Police under Carroll including the use of off-duty police officers to work security and allowing those officers to use a marked police cruiser while working for Frank. John Heine, a retired New Rochelle police sergeant, served as Sidney Frank’s personal bodyguard and driver. There is little doubt, according to police sources, that Frank would have hired Heine without first getting the recommendation of Carroll.

That relationship blossomed in a number of other ways.

Charlie Beaudoin, a retired FBI agent, served as the Director of Security of Sidney Frank Importing from 2004 until this past summer, when Sidney Frank Importing was acquired by Mast-Jägermeister.

John Frank, Sidney Frank’s nephew, was the Chairman of Sidney Frank Importing up until the company was acquired by Mast-Jägermeister.

Both Charlie Beaudoin and John Frank have been long-time members of the New Rochelle Police Foundation Board. Charlie Beaudoin, John Frank and Sidney Frank have all been contributors to Carroll’s foundation. The Foundation honored Sidney Frank with a Corporate Leader Award.

Sidney Frank donated $150,000 to build a skatepark on the western edge of City Park on Fifth Avenue and East Street which was named in his honor.

Maria La Rocca worked for four years in Advertising and Marketing for Sidney Frank Importing Company.

Maria La Rocca owns La Rocca & Sons along with her husband.

La Rocca & Sons owns property directly across from the Sidney Frank Skatepark.

The property torn down and converted into a parking lot by Flavio La Rocca and La Rocca & Sons is directly adjacent to the Sidney Frank Skatepark.

From this readers can draw their own conclusions but these facts suggest that if anyone is protecting Flavio La Rocca it is New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll.

So, back to Kathleen Gill moving the ball forward.

This past Spring Talk of the Sound provided a backgrounder on Flavio La Rocca and his role in opposing the move of the City Yard to East Street where he operates his business.

Talk of the Sound reported on how La Rocca repeatedly misappropriated public property for his own use both for his business, his workers and for his family with a focus on the corner property on East Street and Fifth Avenue across from the skatepark. We described confusion by the City of New Rochelle over property near City Park given to the City over a century ago and that various “land grabs” undertaken by La Rocca. We provided a detailed description of what took place on Saturday May 16th as La Rocca and his men carved out a “parking lot” from a wooded area on City property.

As a result of this reporting, La Rocca’s attorney sent a “cease and desist” letter to Talk of the Sound making various legal threats.

We then expanded out reporting to include property on Potter Avenue including a Clear Channel billboard and at his personal residence at 140 Sussex Road.

From this reporting an action list was developed by Blanchard and later confirmed by Gill. The list follows below, with an update on the status of each item. Progress is due largely to the efforts of Gill over the past few weeks in coordination with the Building Bureau:

140 Sussex Road

140 Sussex Road - Open Building Permit on Swimming Pool since 2005.

[Violation Issue, Permit Closed out, Certificate of Occupancy for Swimming Pool Issued]

140 Sussex Road - Open Building Permit on Second Floor Bathroom since 2011.

[Violation Issue, Permit Closed out, Certificate of Occupancy for Bathroom Issued]

140 Sussex Road - No Building Permit for Pergola near Swimming Pool.

[Violation Issue, LaRocca has now applied to legalize the pergola]

140 Sussex Road - Gates.

[do not encroach]

140 Sussex Road - Sidewalk encroaches by 1.8 feet and too wide.

[Wall encroaches 1.8 feet in area closer to ALMS, will be allowed to remain “as is”; sidewalk size is not specified by the City so it can be any width]

140 Sussex Road - Tree Pits.

[tree pits are allowed just like sidewalk can be any width]

LaRocca “Parking Lot” on City Property

LaRocca “Parking Lot” on City Property - Reclaim property with NRPD parking notices and fence

[Notices posted, fence erected]

LaRocca “Parking Lot” on City Property - Test Soil Samples

[Soil Samples Taken, Report Produced, Various Levels of toxicity in the area]

LaRocca “Parking Lot” on City Property - Report to DEC/EPA for potential Clean Water Act violations.

[Potential water contamination remains as “open issue”]

LaRocca “Parking Lot” on City Property - Destruction of Public Property.

[No Action, at this time but still possible]

LaRocca “Parking Lot” on City Property - Misappropriation of Public Property.

[No Action, at this time but still possible]

LaRocca “Parking Lot” on City Property - Other Criminal Acts related to the conversion which took place.

[No Action, at this time but still possible]

Clear Channel Property on Potter/Fifth

Clear Channel Property on Potter/Fifth - Billboard; not zoned for current use as Construction Supply Storage

[LaRocca moving structures and building materials out of Clear Channel property (trucks can remain)]

East Street - Send letters to East Street property owners about their encroachment onto City property including LaRocca

[City identified 6 encroachments on East Place, including LaRocca’s property on the corner. Letters to be sent this week to property owners requiring the removal of the encroachments]

East Street - “Accept” street.

[DPW Commissioner Alex Tergis states DPW does plow, pickup garbage, manage sewers on East Street] [No Action, None Planned]

East Street - tree cut down, removed.

[No Action, None Planned]

East Street - traffic “peninsula” destroyed, removed.

[No Action, None Planned]

East Street - Construction equipment illegally stored on Guglielmo property

[Story changed on this, since deemed legal use]

East Street - City “Right of Way” blocked.

[No Action, None Planned]

East Place - Remove “Private Road“ signs on East Place.

[Signs removed]

East Place - “Accept” street.

[DPW Commissioner Alex Tergis states DPW does plow, pickup garbage, manage sewers on East Place]

 

DOCUMENT REQUESTS:

Invoices for Fence at LaRocca “Parking Lot”.

[No records provided]

1914 resolution and any legislative history or discussion or information related to why East Street and East Place were left on the list in the resolution.

[No records provided]

List of Private/Unaccepted streets in New Rochelle that was referenced by Alex on 12/15/14.

[No records provided]

Deed that was apparently obtained related to East Street and East Place.

[No records provided]

Report/Results related to drilling, testing of area at and around East Street/East Place and any information about contamination in the soil or area.

[Records provided, under review]

One final point on WHY LaRocca suddenly decided to build himself a parking lot on City property.

Several years ago, Parks Commissioner Bill Zimmerman came before the City Council to propose charging to park in the City Park parking lot on Fifth Avenue. Zimmerman noted that local businesses were using the municipal lot as free parking for their workers and Zimmerman wanted to earn revenue from that. As the new parking fees went into effect, La Rocca objected. As the largest employer in the immediate area, it was his employees who were parking their personal vehicles in the City Park lot. La Rocca along with other East Street businesses were also parking large commercial vehicles in the lot. Rather than pay the city for parking, La Rocca carved up city property on East Street to create “free” parking for his workers.

As the “La Rocca parking lot” has now been fenced off by the City, he can no longer use that “free parking” but he still not happy about it.

Does it surprise anyone in New Rochelle that this month’s City Council agenda includes a resolution to remove the parking fee at City Park “at the recommendation of staff” which means Bill Zimmerman — who advocated for over a year to having parking fees — is now advocating they be removed.

Talk of the Sound will continue to monitor progress by the City against the action list developed in May 2015.