Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Light sculptures, insurance hikes, bike lanes and more in busy council work session

Closure of Esther Street to be extended for a year
Rendering of Pinwheels going on Central Avenue near PETALS Garden.
Rendering of Pinwheels going on Central Avenue near PETALS Garden.

Two illuminated sculptures, part of “Enlighten Peekskill”, took center stage at Monday’s Common Council committee of the whole meeting. “Wind Farm” by Scott Goss, is a group of five larger-than-life colorful pinwheels to be installed on Central Avenue next to the P.E.T.A.L.S. Garden, according to a memorandum shared with council members.

“Illuminate!” by David Farquharson, is a group of two helical glass block columns with programmable LED lights to be installed at the driveway entrance to 645 Main (approximately 600 Central Avenue). These sculptures will be installed during the winter and spring of 2024.

Two of these sculptures will go up at the Central Avenue entrance of 645 Main.

“Enlighten Peekskill” is a three-part strategy to bring public art to the DRI area, funded by Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art (HV MOCA) which received $500,000 from New York State as part of Peekskill’s DRI award. “Enlighten Peekskill” will feature a proposed series of five illuminated sculptures leading visitors from the train station into Downtown. The other three sculptures of this series will be installed next year.

Three concrete slabs on Central Avenue (west of the Garden Club’s PETALS Garden) await their pinwheel sculptures. (Photo by Jim Striebich)

City Planner Peter Erwin and the Planning Department recommended council members accept the donation of these two sculptures, as ‘owning and maintaining these sculptures best serves the city’s interest in displaying them for many years and coordinating their care and stewardship with other public art throughout Peekskill’. The sculptures will come with an 18-month warranty. 

Councilman Brian Fassett asked City Manager Matt Alexander to help get the arts commission up and running to oversee and help maintain this type of public art. Alexander responded “My goal is to have that to you at the beginning of January.”

Three resolutions will be presented to council members at the Dec. 26 council meeting to accept the donation of “Wind Farm”, to accept the donation of “illuminate!”, and to enter into a license agreement with the owners of 645 Main, which would give the city the right to access the property and provide maintenance for “Illuminate!”. 

2024 Insurance Renewals

City Comptroller Toni Tracy and John Riley of Alliant Insurance spoke to council members regarding 2024 insurance renewals.

During November and December, Alliant Insurance brokers have been marketing the city’s insurance coverage amongst competitors for the policies listed below.

Tracy revealed to council members the higher estimates they received. For #1) Commercial Property Insurance, the quote is $192,228 for 2024. This is a 30 percent increase in compared to the 2023 premium. For #2) Public Entity Liability Policy, the city was quoted at $500,138. This is a 55 percent increase from the 2023 premium. Other numbers were not disclosed, but Tracy claimed the rest were small in percentage increases. Tracy stated they are still others companies looking at this and they may come in lower. 

Regarding the increases, Tracy explained: “Regarding both of those types of policies, the city manager and I went through the list of city properties and just went through increasing values on certain things to make sure they’re insured at the proper values. The property value did go up about 23 percent so that would have an effect on those policies because we’re insuring them for higher amounts.” Another factor behind the percent increases that Tracy mentioned is that the city has had a bad loss history this year with certain issues that are taking place.

Tracy added that she looked at the budget and projected that it would be $70,000 short. “We actually had a little room in the budget to absorb some of this,” she explained. 

Council members were notified by Tracy that the carrier will not provide the protection policies for the Hollowbrook Dam and Lower Wiccoppe Dam next year. “We have grant funding in place and there is engineering planning taking place which are both very good steps toward carriers then picking up these policies, once that work is completed,” said Tracy. Riley of Alliant Insurance added that once both dams projects are complete and repairs are finished, he will work on getting those dams added back on the policy. 

Wiccoppe Dam will be insured when repairs are made. (Photo by Jim Striebich)

According to Tracy, City Manager Matt Alexander has been looking at making improvements so the city could be more attractive to carriers. “One of the bigger steps is setting up a quarterly risk management review and that would include the corporation counsel, the city manager, myself, John Riley as the broker – just to review things that are taking place and make sure the proper things are happening at the right time,” said Tracy. In addition, she added that the city is looking into training for the department heads, with a focus on certain management skills which will mitigate some of the risks in cases that take place. Tracy also mentioned a review of Human Resources issues with other department heads during the weekly meetings with the city manager. She added that for any of these cases, the city will retain outside counsel if it’s needed for disciplinary issues. “All of those steps should definitely help moving forward to make this a better situation.” 

Riley told council members he is in the process of trying to obtain other quotes. “We’re down to about five that are looking at trying to put out a quote. What we are providing you right now would be your worst case possible scenario. I do hope to come back, hopefully later this week or sometime next week, with a better option.”

If there is another quote it will be added to next week’s Committee of the Whole, if not it will be brought back as a resolution at next week’s Common Council meeting. 

Agreement  between Peekskill and New City Parks, Inc. 

Catherine Montaldo, Superintendent of Recreation, addressed council members and spoke about a letter of understanding between the city of Peekskill and New City Parks, Inc (NCP). The agreement outlines a working partnership between both parties regarding improvements to Depew Park and other additional sites. According to the memorandum shared with council members, the focus will be on community outreach, design oversight, project management, and capital fundraising to support the renovation of the pool complex and other areas of the park, including the mini pitch, tennis courts, trails and the Peekskill Stadium. NCP will provide these services at no cost to the city. This letter of understanding provides for an initial one-year engagement period, which may be extended by mutual agreement. 

Depew Park’s Veteran’s Memorial Pool is one of the areas where New City Parks will assist Peekskill with capital fundraising to support renovations.  (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

In the shared document it states, “New City Parks Inc has an outstanding resume and has assisted communities in the tri state area with similar projects. NCP works closely with small cities to create parks where they are most needed, bringing greater health and happiness through play, exercise, and contact with nature, and building environmental and community resilience.”

Mayor Vivian McKenzie asked Montaldo if NCP will work hand-in-hand with the planning department to which Montaldo responded “This would be separate. Matt and I would be the key people they work with but certainly we would bring the planning department in as needed, DPW, [and] anybody else.”

A resolution allowing the city manager to sign the letter of understanding will be presented at next week’s common council meeting. 

NYSDOT Transportation Alternatives Program (“TAP”) Funding

City Planner Peter Erwin presented the Common Council with an opportunity to receive a large amount of state funding. Erwin spoke about the Transportation Alternatives Program (“TAP”) which is funded through the New York State Department of Transportation (“DOT”) and is available to support community-based investments designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of local and regional transportation systems while promoting safety and mobility. The minimum grant amount is $500,000 and the maximum grant amount is $5 million, with a 20 percent local match required. According to Erwin’s memorandum,  the City of Peekskill is planning to issue short term financing in the form of bond anticipation notes for this project.

Erwin, on behalf of the planning department, recommended to the council that the city apply for $5 million in TAP funding to complete the Pedestrian & Cyclist Connectivity project envisioned by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (“DRI”). The existing DRI grant for this project ($1.1 million) qualifies as the local match. This grant application is due on January 9, 2024.

In Erwin’s memorandum, it states that the TAP grant would fund a “shared-use path” between the Downtown Civic Hub and the MetroNorth train station and new traffic and pedestrian signals in the DRI project area. A shared-use path is a NYSDOT-recommended traffic safety measure that provides a dedicated right-of-way for bicyclists, pedestrians, skaters, wheelchair users, and joggers. Planning and DPW staff have identified 12 intersections in the DRI project area for new signals.

A resolution will be prepared for the next Common Council meeting that authorizes the city manager to submit the application for TAP funding for the Pedestrian & Cyclist Connectivity project.

Esther Street Closure Extension 

Carol Samol, the city’s new Planning Director, addressed council members for the first time on Monday. She informed them  that the resolution that authorized the temporary closure of Esther Street two years ago, will expire on December 31 of this year. An extension is required in order for Esther Street to remain blocked off from vehicular traffic.

Esther Street in 2020 before it was closed for a pedestrian plaza.  (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Samol recommended that the city extend the temporary closure until December 31, 2024 in order to allow time to discuss the parameters for a possible permanent street closure. A resolution will be on next Tuesday’s Common Council agenda, authorizing this extension.

About the Contributor
Peekskill native Jeffrey Merchan is a 2022 graduate of Peekskill High School. He is the Collegiate Journalist at Peekskill Herald, funded by a grant from the DJ McManus Foundation. He is currently enrolled at Westchester Community College where he is studying journalism. As the inaugural recipient of the McManus grant, he will be covering city government, schools and feature stories with a focus on Peekskill’s growing Hispanic community.