Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Grants will buy 32 EV charging stations at city’s garages and riverfront

Work to be completed on fast-charging stations by July
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Riverfront Green will receive 10 high-speed electric vehicle charging stations this spring and summer. (istock photo Joe_Potato)

A recap of workshops Mayor Vivian McKenzie attended at a recent Washington DC conference and how the information she gained can help the city of Peekskill was presented to Common Council members and the public during the Feb. 13 meeting. Additionally, a date was set for the public hearing on the mixed use residential development for 201 N. Division Street. The public hearing is scheduled for February 26. The council was also told by a city planner that 32 fast-charging electric vehicles stations would be installed in parking lots and the riverfront by July, at a net zero cost to the city. 

Mayor McKenzie goes to Washington

During a busy three days at the US Conference of Mayors, McKenzie attended a workshop on Women Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs. Discussions for this event included how to navigate obstacles to small business ownership, empowering women entrepreneurs and small business owners, strategies for building and supporting women entrepreneurs and business owners, and how to empower diverse small business ownership with capitalization and resources.“I found this discussion helpful and [I] secured ideas on how to support our local business owners, encourage new entrepreneurs, which in turn could fill our empty storefronts,” said McKenzie.

View of Washington Monument from the Capitol office veranda of the Majority Leader. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

At another presentation she learned how artificial intelligence (AI) can work in cities.“From this session, not only did I see examples of how AI can streamline some of the processes in city hall, but how it can impact our planning for the city.”

At a discussion about the Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act she learned about a local infrastructure hub, that is a national program that connects cities and towns with the resources and expertise they need to access federal infrastructure funding to drive local progress and deliver results for residents. She has additional information and will be sharing it with the city manager and the planning department.

On her last day at the conference, the mayor attended a discussion involving Economic Growth and Economic Mobility in Cities. This discussion focused on resources available to cities to help promote economic growth and mobility for the residents.“I learned about opportunities to partner with federal agencies to increase economic growth that can generate more business and job opportunities for local communities.” 

201 N. Division Street project

The 125-unit mixed-use building at 201 N. Division Street, a project of developer James Guerriero, needs a special permit from the Common Council to grant one extra story of bonus height. The hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m on February 26. One of the conditions of the special permit is a recommendation from the city Planning Commission. 

Rendering of the proposed mixed use residential development at the corner of Howard and North Division Streets.

On December 11, 2023, the Council referred 201 N. Division to the Planning Commission for review and recommendation on the Special Permit. The Planning Commission conducted conceptual review of the project on January 24, 2024. On Wednesday, February 14,  the Planning Commision gave a positive recommendation to the council, stating that all objectives of the special permit, outlined in the staff report, were met. 

Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Rebate Opportunity

City Planner Peter Erwin presented a Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Rebate Opportunity at the February 5 committee of the whole meeting. His online memo states that the Westchester Municipal Infrastructure Improvement Initiative (MI3) is offering the City of Peekskill an opportunity to install electric vehicle charging stations at zero net cost.

Through the MI3 program, INF Associates, Inc. (“INF”) will design and install 32 new electric vehicle charging stations at four different locations. The locations are: James Street Garage (8 stations), Lot K (4 stations), Lot 4 at Central Avenue (10 stations), and Riverfront Green Park (10 stations). 

The EV charging stations would be Level 2 fast-charging stations manufactured by FLO. Charging fees would offset the ongoing hardware and software costs of maintaining the stations.

According to the memo, the installation costs are 100 percent reimbursable through a combination of three rebate programs: Con-Ed “make-ready” incentives, NYSERDA Charge Ready NY 2.0, and from Westchester County through the MI3 program.

To install all 32 stations, the City would incur an upfront cost of $263,810 which would be eligible for 100 percent reimbursement within approximately six months.

“The Planning Department and the Sustainability Coordinator worked with DPW on this project. I know that DPW hasn’t been happy with the existing charging stations, partly because the software is difficult to manage and we haven’t been able to charge user fees. So at the James Street and Riverfront sites, we would be replacing the existing stations with a new manufacturer,” said Erwin.

Erwin added that INF will install the stations between May and July of this year. During the portion of the Feb. 13 agenda where resolutions are voted on, council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into agreements with INF Associates, Inc. 

City Manager Report

City Manager Matt Alexander also provided his usual City Manager report. He gave an update on the Hollowbrook Dam project. Alexander stated the city is looking to sign an agreement with Con-Tech Construction by February 16. He added that the project should start in spring and is expected to be done by the end of the year. This project is utilizing $1.6 million of grant funding from Westchester County. 

In addition, Alexander stated city staff are looking at a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant, and is anticipating $4.4 million in grant funding, with a $1.1 million city match. City Planner Peter Erwin is currently working on an analysis for the grant. This grant would be used to complete the Pedestrian & Cyclist Connectivity project that is part of the DRI state initiative. 

Alexander also provided an update for the $1.6 million SAFER grant for the fire department. The grant, which the council authorized the city manager to accept last October, is for hiring six new firefighters. Alexander informed the council that city staff are meeting with and interviewing applicants.

Quality of life issues were also discussed by Alexander. He stated that snow was the main category of code enforcement for the first part of 2024, as was overcrowding. “There have been 94 violations for snow, this is before this past storm, 36 violations for litter, rubbish, and sanitation.” said Alexander.

Trash on a downtown street in December of 2022. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

To combat litter, Alexander said that the city plans to work with the Police Department and code enforcement to spread educational material and talk to residents about the city’s garbage rules and the benefits of adhering to them. 

In regard to overcrowding, Alexander said “The building department continues to work with our corporation counsel on issues of overcrowding and how we can really crack down, and we’re really very interested in looking at ways, when necessary, to go through the criminal procedures.” He added that some of the overcrowding in Peekskill can be classified as criminal. 

Alexander informed council members that Director of DPW Christopher Gross has gone out to Main Street and Bank Street, and noticed deficiencies in traffic safety. “I met with him this week about this issue but he already has planned a meeting with AKRF, who will assist the city in getting training on how to reprogram our pedestrian lights, old aging pedestrian lights.” 

To view the Mayor’s and City Manager’s full reports, click here.

Grandpas United Program

At the Feb. 5 council work session, City Manager Alexander presented a Grandpas United program from the Youth Bureau. The resolution’s online memo states the White Plains Youth Bureau awarded the city of Peekskill Youth Bureau $19,025 to conduct a Grandpas United program in Peekskill. These funds were made available from a grant from the NYS Office of Children’s and Family Services. 

Grandpas United is an intergenerational program, which provides group mentoring, one-on-one mentoring, ongoing activities and special events. Grandpas United also creates an environment to support Grandpas by sharing with one another their talents, skills and experiences to maintain their dignity, self-respect, and self-worth.

A resolution authorizing the city manager to sign an agreement with the City of White Plains Youth Bureau to accept the grant award and conduct a Grandpas United program was unanimously passed by the Common Council at this week’s meeting.

$1.7 Million CREST Grant for Peekskill Playground Renovations 

In September, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced $1.7 million in funding available to enhance Peekskill parks and make them fully accessible to those with disabilities. These funds are from a Community Resiliency, Economic Sustainability and Technology (CREST) Program 

At last week’s work session, Superintendent of Recreation Catherine Montaldo informed the council that, “Starting today, we had a committee of folks come to the office and were looking at some design plans for McKinley Park, so we can get that started.” 

The funds from this grant will be used to completely redo McKinley Park, and work at Tompkins, Riverfront Green and Depew.

The council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the city manager to submit the grant application for $1.7 million from the CREST program.

Pugsley Park and Monument Park OPRHP Grant and New Work

City Planner Erwin discussed the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (ORPH) grant for Pugsley Park and Monument Parks at the February 5 session. His online memo states that the Department of Planning & Development applied for $500,000 in grant funding from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) to augment existing DRI funding for the Enhancements to Pugsley Park and Monument Park. OPRHP awarded this grant in December 2023.

“Last summer when we went out to bid for the DRI funded construction, we learned that we did not have enough funding to complete our design for both Pugsley Park and Monument Park. Because we had the construction documents for both, we were able to submit a consolidated funding application to the state last summer for $500,000, and that was awarded in December,” explained Erwin.

The OPRHP grant will fund additional work in Pugsley Park and new work in Monument Park. The additional Pugsley Park work can be completed via change orders to the City’s existing contract with Con-Tech Construction Technology, Inc.

The change orders are: New trees and landscaping ($363,930); New concrete base wall for future public art ($33,200); Restoration and relocation of historic wrought iron fencing ($14,437.50); Restoration of historic well ($3,540).

“I want to make the point that although there’s about $400,000 worth of cost there, that won’t all have to go into the $500,000 grant. First of all, we are seeing savings in the current construction going on at Pugsley Park so we’ll be under budget hopefully. Secondly, we’re segregating $250,000 of the current Pugsley Park work as our local match for the OPRHP grant, so some of the work that we do at Pugsley will count towards that project and then the remainder of the budget will be spent at Monument Park.”

Erwin singled out the highest cost in the change orders, new trees and landscaping, stating 34 new native tree species are planned for Pugsley. 

Example of native trees in a small public park in New York City. (istock photo Krblokhin)

In regard to the concrete base wall for future public art, Erwin stated that it will support a series of murals that’s being planned by the Peekskill Arts Alliance, as part of its DRI funded public art project. “When they have designs from PAA artists, they will likely come before the council for your approval of those murals.”

Erwin also discussed the historic well. “During construction, the team uncovered a well in Pugsley Park that was underground and covered with a plank.” He added that city staff have looked into a solution with a contractor where they can backfill the well with gravel to maintain its structure and hopefully have illumination at night. In addition, installing a sign to tell the story about how Pugsley Park was built and how the well came from one of the original homes there. 

A resolution authorizing the city manager to accept the $500,000 ORPH grant and approve change orders was unanimously passed by the council on February 13.

Bench and Tree Plaque Donations 

Council members approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to accept a donation of two plaques to be placed on a tree and bench at Pugsley Park from Scarlet Antonia, founder of Antonia Arts on South Street.   

The two plaques cost $500 each and will honor Frank Baum and the Yellow Brick Road. Suggestions for the wording come from Antonia. She proposes the plaques to read:  Tree Plaque: Follow Your Dreams and Blossom, Deeply Rooted on Solid Ground, An OZ Inspired Sanctuary. Bench Plaque: In Honor of The Yellow Brick Road, Where Dreams Dance, Courage Soars, Magic Sparkles to Guide You HOME

At the beginning of the meeting where 25 resolutions were passed,  two volunteer firefighters were sworn in by Mayor Vivian McKenzie. Kevin De Yoe and Robert Gillick received a round of applause and standing ovation from the council after being sworn in. A third firefighter, Julio Cruz, was set to be sworn in, but was absent. 

 

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.