Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Rental registry, volleyball, and cannabis were hot topics at the Common Council meeting

Rental+registry%2C+volleyball%2C+and+cannabis+were+hot+topics+at+the+Common+Council+meeting
Storefront of Papi’s Secret Stash, whose owners spoke at the council meeting. (Photo credit Peekskill Herald, August 2023)

Home volleyball courts and who’s winning the race for Peekskill’s first cannabis dispensary brought residents to the Common Council meeting on Monday, January 22. In regular business, council members passed 19 resolutions, many of which were presented at the January 16 meeting during the grants and projects presentations. 

Acting Corporation Counsel Michael Hartman joined by video call. Councilman Rob Scott was absent.

Liaison Reports/C.O.W

During the committee of the whole portion of the meeting, council members briefly shared their liaison reports. Councilman Dwight Douglas expressed his thoughts on the recently proposed rental registry certification program, as well as asking a list of questions he felt were unanswered at the January 8 work session.

Douglas recommended the council hold off on the rental registry, until a fire inspector is hired. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the role of a fire inspector is to detect fire hazards, ensure buildings are in compliance with state and local fire codes and regulations, recommend prevention measures, and investigate the causes of fires. A fire inspector could also be used as another mechanism to address overcrowding and absentee landlords.

Douglas asked City Manager Matt Alexander, “How is it going already? How many properties are registered? What [has] our outreach been to get people to register? Are newly constructed multi-family apartment buildings automatically registered? If not, they should be if we’re going to maintain that. I assume condominium units individually rented are probably not included? And the last question is, is the building department going to be responsible for registering?”

Alexander responded to the councilman’s questions by stating that the city interviewed fire inspectors earlier in the day, calling them a “good batch of applicants”. At the January 8 work session, Alexander stated he believes the vacancy will be filled within the first quarter of 2024. 

Alexander added. “The rental registration is something that the building department is in charge of and I’ll get you the answers to the rest of these questions.” He noted that the city is currently focusing on the database that would be used to file certificates of registration. 

Alexander finished off by stating that city staff would bring back a list of differences between the Hempstead and Buffalo rental registry (given to council members at the January 8 meeting) and Peekskill current city code, in order to determine what needs to be changed. 

Deputy Mayor Patricia Riley noted during her report that Military Tribute Banners orders for 2024 are now being accepted. Banners will be displayed throughout the city of Peekskill from Memorial Day through Veterans Day. All order forms must be submitted by Friday, March 1. If you would like to order a banner honoring someone who is serving or has served, click here. For additional information, residents may contact City Clerk Cassandra Redd.

Finally, Mayor Vivian McKenzie addressed her absence from last week’s meeting, stating she had attended the US Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC. She added that she gained a lot of information and knowledge that will help the city and will present a detailed report.

City Manager Report

Before the passing of agenda items, City Manager Alexander informed council members that city staff will be presenting a Downtown Revitalization Initiative presentation in four to six weeks, similar to the grant and projects presentation from the January 16th work session. 

He followed this by discussing quality of life issues. Alexander stated that the city has focused more attention on speeding at different locations around the city, which has brought about an influx of traffic tickets. In regard to overcrowding, Alexander said,  “We were able to address two different situations that were going on that had severe overcrowding in them.” The addresses were not disclosed.

He finished with strides the city is making in regard to parking. “We’ve applied for grants for our parking structures but at the end of the day, we need to put two and a half million dollars into our parking garages. We are committed to doing that.” City staff are currently looking at parking meter fees. 

Citizens Desiring to be Heard 

Maria Rivera, accompanied by her son Edwin and family members, spoke to the council in regards to a recent violation she received, while her family was playing volleyball at her home. Rivera also spoke at the November 13 Common Council meeting regarding this issue. 

Maria Rivera spoke to the council about a violation she received. (Screenshot taken from council meeting video by Jeffrey Merchan)

Rivera explained to council members that last week she appeared in court, where she said she was told she could no longer have a net at her home. 

“I don’t see a problem with us trying to play volleyball on the weekends. This started way back before I was even born with my grandpa. My grandpa started it off, because when he had all his sons and daughters on the weekend, sometimes when you don’t go out, you just stay at home. But he feels that there is another way we can just be active and that came with volleyball. It’s almost a cultural thing that they had back in Ecuador.” said Edwin. He added that his family’s home volleyball court helped him and his family stay active during the pandemic when it was hard to exercise. 

Ronald Vele also spoke in support of his family’s volleyball court. “I see no harm in playing with my family. I feel so much more safe with them than going to any other park. As my cousin said, this is our culture, we’ve done this for many years, ever since I was a baby.”

Maria Rivera’s family was in attendance at the meeting; a few members also spoke to the council about the violation. (Photo by Jeffrey Merchan)

“Why can’t I play volleyball on the weekends? All families come together on the weekend. I’m happy seeing my son come with his friends and play at my house, stay at my house, stay safe at my house. Like I want to go to Depew, but I’m not comfortable. I don’t need to go outside because all my family come to my house. So my question is, I pay a lot of taxes, [Why] I can’t have something fun and my family in my house on the weekends?” commented Rivera.

Mayor McKenzie responded to Rivera’s comments. “I don’t think there is anyone on this council who is saying that they don’t want families to come together and participate and play volleyball at their home… I think what we are talking about is respect of each other’s neighbors. If we are talking about bright lights on until 11, 12, 1, 2 o’clock in the morning, if we are talking about people selling food, selling alcohol – things that are not permitted, that’s very different then just playing volleyball. I don’t know what your situation is. I don’t know what was asked of you or why they’re asking you to take the net down. There has been a lot of issues within the city, not just in your neighborhood, but throughout the entire city, where it’s a quality of life for everyone. So where you should be able to enjoy at your home, your family coming is great but the neighbors somewhere else should not have to tolerate someone that has 40 people at their house.” Mayor McKenzie went on to say, “I don’t know what your case is, if you wanted to come and have a discussion with us, you’re more than welcome to do that.” Rivera agreed to meet with city officials to discuss this topic.

Also speaking during this part of the meeting was Maria Dodaro representing Papi’s Secret Stash, located at 1014 Main Street. Dodaro expressed her opinion about why Papi’s should lead the race for the first cannabis dispensary in Peekskill. “I’d like to emphasize why we should be recognized as the number one choice for the first marijuana dispensary here in Peekskill. Eric Sanchez, my partner, and I have many connections here in the Peekskill community. Our family and friends have been deeply rooted here since the 1990s. We started this journey together in anticipation of creating a space for our friends and family to connect through the love of our culture and embodied in our brand.”

Maria Dodaro spoke to the council about the dispensary permit process in Peekskill. (Screenshot taken from council meeting video by Jeffrey Merchan

“It wasn’t until we found a brick and mortar over a year ago, that we discovered why we should pursue our vision. We used our connection with the people here in Peekskill as consumers and what they are hoping for with the legalization of marijuana and shared that with the Office of Cannabis Management [OCM].”

“We are a small branded family business operation who’s committed to creating a safe space to educate everyone from the harmful products that are currently available on the illegal market. Our main focus is to provide education while destigmatizing marijuana as a harmful substance.”

“Unlike other potential licensees, as there are 3,000 plus here in New York, Papi’s Secret Stash is in compliance with the OCM to current date. We have poured countless time and energy into the requirements, asked of us by the Office of Cannabis Management. They have also dedicated countless hours and tax dollars into training, our training, and understanding of New York State regulations and tracking of this new industry.”

She ended her speech by asking the council when Papi’s would get the chance to speak with the council as they have reached out but have not heard back, citing other individuals who are lower down in the queue for application review by the OCM, have already got the opportunity to speak with city staff.

Director of Planning Carol Samol cleared up some of her questions and remarks. “You can apply for the state, which it sounds like you’re already in line there, and then you have to come in and apply for the city to get your special use permit from the planning commission. So far we have, as I know it, only two applications that have filed with the city.” Samol noted that Papi’s may have filed their application with the Building Department, who may still be reviewing their application, which is why the Planning Department has not seen it yet.

The discussion ended when Mayor McKenzie suggested Papi’s Secret Stash speak with Samol regarding their application.

On January 12, the OCM released the Application Queue for applications received by November 17, 2023. The document states, “The queue order solely determines the order in which the Office will begin the review of each application. The order does not indicate the order in which licenses will be issued. Each application is different, and the length of the review time will vary from application to application. Inclusion on this list is not a guarantee of licensure and is not an indication of sufficient eligibility for a license.” 

Resolutions passed

All 19 items on this week’s agenda were unanimously passed by the common council. 

They include: 

  • Authorizing the City Manager to accept the Environmental Facilities Corporation Grant award for sewer system improvements.
  • Authorizing the Water Superintendent to advertise a bid titled “Request for Qualifications – engineering services for sewer improvement projects related to the Water Quality Improvement Project Act Grant”. 
  • Awarding Con-Tech Construction the Hollowbrook Dam Capital Project. 
  • Authorizing the City Manager to sign a license agreement for the public sculpture “Illuminate!” by David Farquharson.
  • Authorizing the city manager to accept a New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Grant for Pugsley and Monument Park, worth $500,000.
  • Approving the purchase and placement of a memorial plaque in the memory of Career Peekskill Firefighter Kevin J. Bristol.

More information regarding these resolutions is available here.

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.