Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

State and federal dollars flow to Peekskill for infrastructure repairs

Council okays honoring Kevin Bristol on tenth anniversary of death
Kevin Bristol’s name will be added to the Fireman’s Memorial at the Riverfront. (Photo by Chloe Trieff)

“What’s the magic word? Grants!” joked Councilman Ramon Fernandez at the January 16th work session of the Peekskill Common Council. The meeting featured presentations from the directors of Public Works (DPW), Planning & Development, and Water & Sewer, regarding grants and project updates. 

A week later, at the January 22 meeting, the council passed a resolution allowing the fire department to spend $1975 on a plaque acknowledging the life and service of Kevin Bristol who died after fighting a fire ten years ago on March 3.

Last quarter,  the Department of Public Works applied for $700,000 in grants; the department plans to apply for $21.5 million in grants this year to support drainage projects. Director of Planning & Development Carol Samol discussed updates related to city parks, waterfront projects, and two downtown construction projects. Water & Sewer Superintendent David Rambo presented six grant projects that address aging infrastructure issues. The Water & Sewer Department received a $5.2 million federal grant for sewer improvement projects, including rehabilitation of riverfront sewer pumping stations.  

Mayor Vivian McKenzie was absent from the nearly two hour meeting on January 16; Deputy Mayor Patricia Riley presided.

DPW requests grants to address stormwater drainage issues

DPW Director Christopher Gross discussed six grants, five of which address stormwater projects. Recent storms have shown the need for improved drainage throughout the city. Gross first informed the council of  grants already submitted by the department.

In September 2023, DPW submitted a $100,000 grant for electrification of the police department, including updates to the HVAC system and electric vehicle charging stations (only for police use).

Last September the city applied for a grant for two electric vehicle charging stations at the police station for department cars only.  (Getty Images)

In November of last year, DPW put in requests for three distinct $200,000 risk grants for three different projects, all valued at different price points. These grants would cover project implementation only, such as engineering studies, and hydrologic and hydraulic studies. The grants would go towards McGregor Brook drainage improvements, flood resiliency projects on the Riverfront Green and surrounding streets, and storm sewer improvements in the Peekskill Hollow Creek Basin.

Gross then noted upcoming grant opportunities. DPW is planning on submitting an application for a New York State Department of Transportation grant (part of the Bridge NY program). The city planned to request  $1.5 million. The grant application was due Friday, January 19 and would cover stormwater culverts (such as those on Lockwood Drive and North Division Street).

Lockwood Drive needed a storm water culvert repair last January 24. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Gross also discussed a $20 million EPA Green Infrastructure Grant; applications are due by November. If awarded, the funds would be used towards a new DPW garage (the current one is in need of replacement), HVAC systems for the police station and Paramount Theater, and stormwater projects.

Planning & Development receives $500K parks grant; reopening of parks this spring and summer

In December, Peekskill received a $500,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation for improvements in Pugsley and Monument Park. Samol noted that the goal is for Pugsley Park to be open by June, in time for summer events. The council unanimously passed a resolution at the January 22nd meeting authorizing the city manager to accept the grant award. 

Samol also discussed next steps for the Charles Point Park and Fleischmann Pier project, which include installing fender pile, decking the pier, and putting out a request for expression of interest (RFEI) for commercial boat operators. The department plans to seek funds for dredging to allow larger boats to dock on the pier. “Our last [grant] application [to the state] for that dredging was denied but we will keep trying and we think that it is a good economic development opportunity here in Peekskill,” said Samol, although she did not cite economic development statistics in this presentation. The department expects the pier to reopen this year, via a “soft launch”, in the spring. 

Work on Fleischman Pier in November. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Peekskill has received two grants for the Riverfront Green from New York Department of State’s Office of Planning, Development & Community Infrastructure. The first is for $85,000 (with a city match of $15,000) for the design of the Southern Waterfront Trail Connection and Shoreline Stabilization. The design is complete but Samol noted that the design may need to be amended to account for increase in construction costs and recent improvements done by the DPW. The second grant is for $1.4 million (city contribution of $261,252) for the construction of the Riverfront Green Connector Trail. This grant is awaiting a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before the funds can be disbursed to the city. 

Samol provided updates on projects funded by the Downtown Revitalization Fund (DRF), which stems from the $10 million state grant Peekskill received in May of 2021. The DRF is meant to help small businesses and building owners in the downtown catchment area make capital improvements. So far, the city has contracted with Ruki LLC to run the fund and has 10 applications for capital improvements in progress. Samol informed council members that Terra Dulce, located at 1049 Main Street, received environmental clearance and is nearing their “funding agreement”.

A project that has been in the works for nearly three years might soon begin construction.  In 2021, Cosmo’s Fresh Market received approval from the city to renovate the vacant property at 630 Washington Street, but changed their plan when they discovered deficiencies. Cosmo’s now proposes razing the existing commercial buildings and re-constructing a new building within approximately the initially-approved footprint. Samol said, “They have all the approvals they need to begin demolition and construction.” In 2022, Cosmo’s received $2 million from New York State, part of the Restore NY Communities Initiative. Cosmo’s is owned by the Narvaez family, which also owns C-Town Supermarket on Park Street. 

At the end of her presentation, Samol shared upcoming grant applications deadlines and upcoming council resolutions. Screenshot shown below.

Water & Sewer awards contract for Hollowbrook Dam widening; plans for sewer improvements 

Superintendent Rambo noted that, “We want the water to stay in the water pipes, and the sewer to stay in the sewer pipes.” He presented six grant-funded projects that Water & Sewer is currently undertaking to ensure the infrastructure does its job.  The push to address aging infrastructure issues stems from a 2018/19 Chazen Engineering Infrastructure Assessment, which estimated a cost of nearly $120 million to replace outdated or nonfunctional infrastructure. 

Rambo provided the council with a spreadsheet of the department’s six ongoing projects, their grant amounts,  and their progress reports. The grants total  $14.9 million, with $5.9 million in city contributions. The spreadsheet is shown below. 

Of the six projects, three of them were already slated for the January 22 agenda for council action. The first was the Hollowbrook Dam Rehabilitation Grant Project, which is a joint venture with Westchester County, was initiated after a 2019 New York State Department of Conservation inspection report noted structural deficiencies. The dam’s spillway is too narrow, “There’s not a lot of breathing room between storms to allow the water to pass,” Rambo noted. “So we have to widen that dam spillway.” According to the city’s online memo, out of the six bids received last month, Con-Tech Construction, Inc. came in as the lowest bidder at $2.1 million. Rambo noted, “The bids were so close – number one and two were within $100 of each other.” Con-Tech is the company in charge of the work being done at Pugsley Park. At the January 22nd council meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution, awarding Con-Tech the dam rehabilitation project.

Next, Rambo noted the resolution on the January 22 agenda to authorize the department to advertise for a junior engineer position. The engineer would design bid specifications for an  $801,544 grant awarded to Peekskill in 2022 by New York State’s Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) program. The project will replace and repair sewer piping that is allowing stormwater to enter the sewer system. At the January 22nd council meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution, authorizing the Superintendent to advertise this post.

The final project discussed was the rehabilitation of the Travis Point and Riverfront pumping stations. According to Rambo’s online memo, this project would eliminate inflow and infiltration in the sanitary sewer collection system. To fund this project, the city has received $5.2 million from the EFC (Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) originating from the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. At the January 22nd council meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the city manager to acknowledge the grant. The deadline to submit the acknowledgment for this project was Friday January 19, 2024 but Rambo said this project will still go through. 

To view the full presentations from each department leader, click here

Fire Department Memorial 

Fire Chief James Seymour presented the Common Council with a proposed memorial for a former Peekskill firefighter who served for more than 20 years in the department. March 3, 2024 will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Peekskill firefighter Kevin J. Bristol. Bristol suffered a cardiac event in his home after battling an early morning fire on March 3, 2014. 

A memo from Lieutenant Patrick MacLennan states that Bristol has been recognized at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the NYS Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Albany, New York, the Westchester County Fallen Firefighters in Valhalla, New York, and at the International Association of Firefighters Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He noted that there is currently no publicly displayed recognition of Bristol’s sacrifice in Peekskill. 

To commemorate his life and service, Seymour explained that the fire department is requesting authorization to purchase a memorial plaque and place it on display at the Heroes Remembered Memorial at Riverfront Green. Bristol would be recognized in the same gardens as the seven Peekskill Volunteer Firefighters who perished at the Fleischmanns fire in 1918 and the civilians and first responders who passed from the 9/11/01 attacks, which includes Peekskill Police Detective Charles Wassil and Peekskill Volunteer Firefighter and FDNY Firefighter Samuel Oitice. The cost of the plaque is $1,975 which would be covered by available funds in the fire department budget. 

“I cannot be happier with this request. I knew Kevin Bristol for many years and Kevin was born and raised here. We talked often about his love for the fire department. Kevin was a good guy, who loved his job, his wife and his family, and to me this is something that is just long past due and I’m glad to see it done,” said Deputy Mayor Riley. The council unanimously passed a resolution at the January 22nd meeting, authorizing the purchase and installation of this plaque. 

Click here to view a tribute for Bristol by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. 

About the Contributor
Jeffrey Merchan
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.