Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Updates on Peekskill’s 11 DRI projects

Rendering of a mural by Robert Barthelmes on the side of the police department building. This piece of public art is part of the Downtown Revitalization project.

A comprehensive status update on the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant was in the spotlight at the Feb. 20 Common Council meeting. City Planner Peter Erwin detailed the current state of each of the 11 projects. Pugsley Park and Fleishmann’s Pier are expected to open in June 2024. Other projects, such as the Downtown Civic Hub and Connectivity projects, will not go out to bid until construction documents are complete and the Planning Department has coordinated construction plans with other agencies, such as the Department of Water & Sewer and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Councilwoman Kathleen Talbot and Deputy Mayor Patricia Riley joined the meeting via Zoom. 

DRI Program Updates 

 In August 2019, Peekskill was awarded $10 million through Round 4 of the NYS Downtown Revitalization Initiative for the Mid-Hudson region. Two years later, Governor Kathy Hochul announced which projects the state had approved. 

Of the 11 projects currently in progress, seven are public projects by the city of Peekskill and four are private projects led by private partners working with New York State. 

The projects total to $9.7 million; $300,000 of the allocated award money was used for a Strategic Investment Plan (which was completed in 2021). 

Pugsley and Monument Parks

In December 2023, the city was awarded a  $500,000 NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) grant, to augment existing DRI funding for enhancements at Pugsley and Monument Park. 

Erwin informed the council that the electrical work, new lighting, benches and park furniture, and landscaping for Pugsley Park will be completed in March. The park is expected to open by June 2024 for summer events.

The work at Puglsley Park is ongoing and with a June opening date expected.

The Monument Park project will include new pedestrian lighting, concrete work and landscaping. Construction is expected to begin in late 2024/early 2025.

“The architect and staff are really engaged at Pugsley Park right now but as soon as we have time, we will begin discussing re-bidding the construction work at Monument Park,” said Erwin. City staff will work with the landscape architect on the project and an advisory committee for the re-bidding procedure.

Downtown Civic Hub and Connectivity 

The Downtown Civic Hub project is backed by $1.6 million in DRI funding, and includes renovations to the public spaces around the flagpole and the gazebo at North Division Street and Park Street, the construction of “Peekskill Plaza” on South Division Street, and enhancements to pedestrian crossings. 

Erwin’s presentation states that 90 percent of construction documents for this project are currently being reviewed by city staff and an advisory committee. “The biggest part of the remaining 10 percent is to design a shade structure that can replace the gazebo with something as iconic.” Erwin told the council that Barton & Loguidice (the consulting firm hired for this project, informally known as B&L) have found a subcontractor called New Energy Works. New Energy Works is consulting with city staff to come up with something unique for Peekskill, Erwin noted.

This project calls for a wider brown plaza surrounding the gazebo with added seating areas facing restaurant row for live music and events, while leaving space for informal gatherings. “On South Division Street, the project proposes an expanded sidewalk with landscaping to complement a revitalized Ford Piano Building. However, it leaves room for loading and unloading to support the several existing and new businesses on that block.”

Apart from waiting for the new gazebo/shade structure design, a few other issues are stopping the city from requesting bids for this project. First is a Park Street water main repair expected to be completed by the water department by 2025. “Under Park Street there is a 16 inch water main and a 4 inch water main, so we’re waiting until we have a strategy for making those water lines as efficient as possible before we go into construction.” 

Secondly, the city and the Business Improvement District are hosting a memorial statue for Harriet Tubman this summer, which would be impacted if construction work were to begin soon. Finally, an application for $4.4 million in grant funding from NYSDOT Transportation Alternatives Program is currently pending.“If we receive that grant, which would be announced in May, we would go back and design a much higher level of service for pedestrians and cyclists all the way down Central Avenue and make sure that it would be coordinated with the Connectivity project.”

Erwin was referring to the Pedestrian & Cyclist Connectivity Project, which is funded by $1.1 million in allocated DRI funds. This project features bike lanes, improved sidewalks and crosswalks, new street furniture, and landscaping improvements leading from the train station to downtown Peekskill. In his presentation, Erwin stated that this project is in the same place as the Downtown Civic Hub, with 90 percent complete construction documents being reviewed by city staff and an advisory committee. 

The city is coordinating this project closely with a Safety Improvement Project, spearheaded by Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), to improve railroad grade-crossing. The MTA Hudson Avenue grade-crossing repair is expected to be done sometime in 2024 or 2025. Erwin stated that the city will not go into construction until city staff determine both projects can be done in a coordinated way. 

The city has a contract with B&L for design, engineering, bidding assistance, and construction inspection services for the Civic Hub and Connectivity Projects, for $378,750. Erwin explained to the council that the department is seeking to execute a contract amendment with B&L to obtain additional design and engineering services. The city and B&L estimate that the cost to perform this additional work will not exceed $50,000, bringing the total fee for B&L services to $428,750.

A resolution allowing the city manager to execute this contract amendment was unanimously approved by the council at the Feb. 26 Common Council meeting. 

Fleischmann Pier

Erwin also briefly discussed Fleischman Pier ($180,000 project), which is a part of a larger $5 million project to reimagine the entire Charles Point Park and the pier. 

The pier is set to open in June, but still remaining is fender pile installation, pier decking, and a request for expression of interest for commercial boat operators. 

In the future, the planning department is seeking to receive funds for dredging to allow larger boats to dock in Peekskill.

Wayfinding and Marketing & Branding

For the Wayfinding project, which has $290,000 in DRI funding, the city has contracted ACSM, Inc. based in Charlotte, North Carolina for consulting services. According to the RFP for this project, a signage program will be created to assist visitors in navigating Peekskill’s diverse points of interest for vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. 

“There are some specific goals that our DRI plan articulates around Wayfinding. We want to direct vehicles from places where parking is scarce to places where parking is available. And then when you get there make it feel like it’s a comfortable cohesive part of our downtown, where people can walk to shows at the Paramount Theater and things like that.” 

Examples of what signage in Peekskill could look like.

ACSM, Inc. visited Peekskill last week and the city expects to have a draft strategy document sometime in March. Erwin stated that this draft strategy will be presented to insure the community has a chance to comment and give feedback. 

City staff will convene an advisory committee to review the draft strategy and decide the type of signage, as well as locations that should be prioritized. 

Very little information for the marketing and branding project was discussed. That project has approximately $210,000 in DRI funding and the city is contracted with Weinrib & Connor for advertising and marketing services. Both this project and the Wayfinding project are a part of $500,000 total budget received by the city from the DRI. 

In Erwin’s presentation, it states city staff will convene an advisory committee to create a new branding guide and marketing strategy for the city. This project is expected to be completed in November of this year.  

Weinrib & Connor kicked off their campaign at a Chamber of Commerce lunch earlier this month. Read more here

Downtown Revitalization Fund

The last public project Erwin discussed was the Downtown Revitalization Fund (DRF). The DRF is a micro-grant program meant to assist small businesses and building owners in the downtown make capital improvements. The fund has $700,00 in DRI funding and ten applications are in the process. All applicants were awarded through competitive open call in 2023.

Erwin informed the council that TerraDulce Bakery, located at 1049 Main Street, is furthest along in the application process. The bakery seeks to install outdoor dining. Erwin noted that this would be diagonally across from Pugsley Park:“I’m excited about seeing that [project] completed… and having a lot of action in that part of town.”

Pictured here is the Terra Dulce Bakery on Main Street with an outdoor dining area.

After this, Erwin proceeded to go into the four private DRI projects. First was “Enlighten Peekskill.” This project is a three part public arts initiative, funded by the Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art (HV MOCA) through $500,000 in DRI funding. The three parts of this project are Illuminate Peekskill!, Making Connections Murals, and the Five Elements Murals, which was completed in March 2023.

Illuminate Peekskill! features five sculptures approved for sites between the waterfront and the downtown. The first installation (Wind Farm) is expected in April, with all installations expected to be done by June 2024. “Wind Farm” by Scott Goss and “Illuminate!” by David Farquharson were presented to the council last December

Erwin presented a rendering of “Luminated Rhythm ” by Shagun Singh, a series of panels that will form a lenticular image underneath the overpass of Route 9 along Central Avenue. The image shown was just to depict the structure and the colors shown are not confirmed, said Erwin. “The artist is willing to work with the community about how to populate these panels with images and what they would like to do is find images of traditional dress and attire from all over the world.”

Also shown was “Ol’ Man River” by Robert Brush, which is an illuminated sculpture displaying the lyrics of a Paul Robeson song. The location used for the rendering is the building behind Taco Dive Bar, but Erwin emphasized that location has not been approved and HV MOCA is looking for a very prominent site to display this art piece.

Proposed mural of Ol’ Man River on a building at Hudson and Railroad Avenue.

In addition, Erwin’s presentation featured an image of a map of Peekskill and each sculpture’s location. “These are the sculpture sites. You can see how they form a trail that’s going to really be complimentary with our connectivity work and create incentive for visitors to walk up the hill and discover what Peekskill has to offer.”

Planned locations for the 5 sculptures of “Illuminate Peekskill!”

All Making Connections Murals are expected to be complete by the end of 2024. This project is sponsored by the Peekskill Arts Alliance. Three murals were shown and discussed with the council. The artists responsible for the art are Leonardo Moleiro (side of Bean Runner Cafe building), Mikail Tyutyunik (side of Bruised Apple Bookstore building), and Robert Barthelmes (police station). Erwin stated that all three murals received certificates of appropriateness from the Peekskill Historic Landmarks & Preservation Board and are ready to go.

Moleiro’s mural will go on the side of the Bean Runner building.

A resolution authorizing the city manager to accept the donations of the three Making Connections Murals and enter into a memorandum of understanding with each individual property owner was unanimously approved by the council on Feb. 26.  

Erwin then discussed the $2.6 million received by Paramount Hudson Valley Arts for two projects. The first project, backed by $1 million in DRI funding, will feature exterior and interior renovation to the Paramount Theater (operated by Paramount Hudson Valley Arts), to support performing artists and improve visitor experience. The project will include façade and marquee restoration, new lobby, restrooms and amenities, flexible theater seating, and new lighting and sound equipment. Construction is expected to begin in early 2025.

Paramount Hudson Valley Arts also received $1.6 million in DRI funds for a Multimedia Arts Center.. This project would support rotating artists exhibitions and performance spaces on the ground floor and third floor of the Paramount Theater, as well as featuring a street level artwork display. Construction is also expected to begin in early 2025. Both projects are seeking State Historic Preservation Office and Peekskill Historic Landmarks and Preservation Board approvals. 

The last project Erwin presented was the Kiley Youth Center. The grant recipient of this project is the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester and it has $1.5 million in DRI funding. While addressing the council, Erwin acknowledged that this is a “long time coming” but made sure to emphasize this project is a complicated one. 

This project will provide major renovations to the Kiley Youth Center to provide new spaces for the Boys & Girls club. The renovations include: new entrance from Main Street, new teen center, new bathrooms, kitchens, mechanical systems, roofing, and landscaping.

Erwin said that Westchester County has committed to providing $4 million through a ground leasing funding structure. The total cost for this project is $6 million. Construction is expected to begin in late 2024.

To watch Erwin’s full DRI presentation, click here. For his slide presentation, click here.

Parking Updates

In her presentation, City Comptroller Toni Tracy noted that the city’s two parking garages require $2.5 million in repairs and improvements. In her online memo, Tracy noted that parking fines have not changed since 2014, and parking meter rates have not changed since 2015. However, administrative costs have increased, and the cost of building materials have increased by 20 percent since 2020, both of which contribute to the overall capital improvement cost. Tracy proposed increases in parking meter rates (of 25 percent) and parking fines (of about 33 percent) to generate nearly $400,000 of additional annual revenue. 

The council asked Tracy to revise some of the fine increases based on the severity and commonness of the violations, which she provided for the Feb 26 meeting and are available here. Further, the council requested that Tracy work with parking enforcement authorities to ensure that parking violations are clearly cited.

A resolution fora public hearing on March 11 to discuss these meter rate and parking fine increases was approved, with Councilman Ramon Fernandez opposing, at the Feb. 26 Common Council meeting. 

Environmental Protection Agency Community Change Grants

Planning Director Carol Samol presented two grant opportunities from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), both falling under the EPA’s Community Change Grants Program for disadvantaged communities facing environmental injustices. In her online memo, Samol noted state and federal documentation classify Peekskill as facing “a great many environmental justice (EJ) issues,” since residents are exposed to traffic, lead paint, hazard and superfund sites, and wastewater discharge. According to Samol, EPA staff said Peekskill “should absolutely apply.”

Samol also noted that whatever the outcome, the grant application process “will be very important to shaping our Comp [Comprehensive] Plan,” which will outline infrastructure goals. Her online memo noted that recent research shows that environmental degradation impacts mental health. So, planning infrastructure projects through the “lens of Environmental Justice” can only benefit Peekskillians. 

A resolution authorizing the City Manager to submit two applications for funding from the Environmental and Climate Justice Community Change Grants Program was unanimously approved at the Feb. 26 Common Council meeting. 

Juneteenth Festival and Parade

City Manager Matt Alexander presented a memo from Tuesday McDonald, Executive Director of the Youth Bureau, requesting street closures for Peekskill’s Juneteenth festival and parade on June 15, 2024. 

A resolution authorizing street closures for the Juneteenth festival (10:00am-7:30pm) and parade (12:00-2:30pm) was unanimously approved at the Feb. 26 Common Council meeting. 

More information about the planned street closures is available here

Trepp User Participation Agreement

In his online memo, City Assessor Robert Morin noted that Westchester County is providing Westchester municipalities with free access to the Trepp commercial real estate market data software. The Trepp data includes “appraisal, lease, vacancy, expense, mortgage and capitalization rate information,” and is useful to the city in assessing various real estate tax matters. 

The council was in favor of gaining access to the software. Mayor McKenzie said, “We like free! Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”  

A resolution authorizing the City Manager to sign the Trepp User Participation Agreement was unanimously approved at the Feb. 26 Common Council meeting.

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.