Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

 A tale of two development projects

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The neighborhood surrounding the Monument on North Division Street is dominated by two abandoned square-block lots of old buildings begging for redevelopment.

Monument Park is bordered by Orchard Street, North Division St. and Highland Ave. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

At one site, a responsible local developer has devoted several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to present a vibrant plan that’s won strong support from the city and most residents.

The other site, a crumbling, burned-out shell, is owned by a Brooklyn-based firm with that owes tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid Peekskill property taxes and hasn’t come back with a revised plan to restore the property.

It’s a tale of two projects, one moving forward to improve Peekskill while the other leaves a square city block as a dangerous, crumbling eyesore.

Investors will spend millions to help revive Peekskill

At the former RAL Plumbing building site, developer James Guerriero has pursued the long and costly process of hopefully winning approvals to build his five-story, 125-unit mixed-use building at 201 North Division St. The project will bring another 13 units of affordable to Peekskill and revive the neighborhood along Howard and North Division.

“So everything that we’re showing here and proposing in the building is sort of net positive,” Guerriero told the Common Council last year. “We’re not losing parking in the street, we’re gaining. We’re not losing retail, we’re gaining. We’re certainly not losing housing or affordable housing which I think is big,” he said.

The Guerriero investment group has worked with the neighborhood and the city’s Planning Commission and Common Council over the course of months of back and forth to try and win approvals for the height and density concessions they need to make the project economically viable to earn a return on their sizable investment of dollars.

The empty buildings on Howard and N. Division streets belong to the James Guerriero group. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Just north of that site sits an abandoned city square block where the former White Plains Linen company operated for years. White Plains Linen relocated to John Walsh Boulevard in 2013 and sold the buildings to a CW Realty affiliated company in April 2018 for $600,000.

In March 2022, CW Realty proposed a total of 297 units including 249 one-bedroom apartments and 48 two-bedroom units with sizes ranging from 480 to 1,060 square feet. The nine-story building would have rented at market rates with a 10 percent set aside of affordable units.

After hearing the first presentation, Common Council members raised some concerns and asked the developer to come back with a revised plan. The response from CW Realty – nothing.

Battle in courts over a white elephant

At that initial presentation to the Council two years ago, a representative for the developer acknowledged the dreadful condition of their property.

“I’m sure you guys know the existing buildings have been in disrepair for a really long time,” he said. “Unfortunately at present it’s not a fun street to walk down. We’re a victim of graffiti regularly, there are often people attempting to break in. It is a very complicated site. The buildings there are in terrible shape.”

While the buildings at 418 N. Division St. and 407, 425 and 427 Highland Ave. continue to deteriorate, CW Realty is now tangled up in an ongoing court battle seeking to foreclose a mortgage on the property.

Cheskie Weisz

In defending against the foreclosure, attorneys for the building owners appear to be arguing that because of a typographical error in the paperwork they only owe $275,000 instead of the $2.85 million and $650,000 recording on the loan documents. “Plaintiffs’ claim that provision in Mortgage I and II stating that said Mortgages only secured a lien in the amount $275,000 was a typographical error,” court papers allege.

The attorney for the lender, JG Funding, states that the borrower stopped making payments on the loan beginning in February 2023 and also hasn’t paid property taxes.

“The two mortgages in question indisputably secure payment of $2,850,000 and $650,000 respectively, which are the principal amounts due under the mortgage notes,” the JG Funding attorney states in court papers.

“The substantial evidence submitted by Plaintiff not only clearly refutes Defendant’s contentions that the lien secured only $275,000 but clearly shows Defendant’s argument is frivolous, considering that the Mortgages, Guaranty Agreements, Estoppel Certificates, Assignments of Leases & Rents, Section 255 Affidavits, and the Loan Extension Agreement all state the Mortgages secure repayment of $2,850,000 and $650,000 respectively.”

According to records in the Peekskill Finance Department, a total of $151,682 in bills are outstanding to pay for both city and school taxes.

JG Funding lent the money to Peekskill White Plains LLC, the Cheskie Weisz company that owns the properties, in December 2021. The foreclosure case started in June 2023, and seven months later, this past January, a judge ordered both parties to a conference to discuss the status of the case.

While the court battle rages in White Plains, nothing happens at the site in Peekskill, which has been empty for 11 years with no path for progress in sight.

CW Realty’s main office is located on Waverly Avenue in Brooklyn. The firm, with nearly 50 projects in Brooklyn and Queens, is led by CEO and founder Cheskie Weisz.

CW has been developing luxury residential real estate in prime locations in Brooklyn and Queens since 2005. CW’s most recent deals include a $44 million construction loan with Cross River on 1499 Bedford Avenue. The company also recently completed “Casa Dumbo” at 68 Gold Street in DUMBO, (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

Attorneys for JG Funding and Peekskill White Plains LLC did not return calls for comment.

 

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About the Contributor
Jim Roberts has been in this business for more than 35 years (hard to believe) and still learning every day. A third-generation Peekskill resident, he started as a lowly researcher at the Westchester Business Journal in 1986 and learned how to be a reporter from many veterans in the field. He’s worked in private companies, Connecticut state government and wrote for the Co-op City Times for 10 years before retiring from full-time work in 2019. Roberts wants to contribute to building the Herald into a news website for residents who care about what’s happening in Peekskill.