Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

McKenzie says Peekskill is strong in ‘State of the City’ address 


In a speech heavy on accolades, facts and figures and with a touch of pageantry, Mayor Vivian McKenzie gave the State of the City address on Monday night. 

A color guard of three police officers led the procession of Common Council, Mayor and City Manager into Council Chambers crowded with city staff, friends and family members of McKenzie and Democratic party regulars along with the newly re-elected mayor of Buchanan Teresa Knickerbocker, state Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins. George DeFeis, marketing manager at the Paramount Center, led the crowd in an acapella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and the Rev. Robert Kilpatrick of the AME Zion Church on Park Street offered the invocation. 

Highlights from the 50minute speech included news that the field at Depew Park and new pickleball courts will open on May 24, the police department has begun the first phase of funding for new locker rooms for female officers, and a rendering of a newly remodeled Paramount Center for the Arts was unveiled.  

Construction is expected to begin early next year on a restoration of the facade and marquee of the historic venue along with a new lobby, restrooms and amenities. There will be flexible theater seating, new lighting and sound equipment and rotating artist exhibitions and performances spaces.

McKenzie also said the city is using data to inform decisions regarding walkability and traffic safety. “Walkability, pedestrian safety and bicycling. These are really big concerns for the city of Peekskill. However, we’re taking a safe approach to this. We’re looking at the areas really impacted such as the intersection of Broad and Main Streets where there have been 19 crashes with 3 pedestrian injuries in 2023. From that intersection up to North Division and Main Street are areas where we’re really looking at and studying to see what it is we need to do, with a data driven approach, to improve those areas.  

In this slide McKenzie pointed out the two areas that the city is requesting grants for to improve traffic safety.

McKenzie began her talk with a description of Peekskill, noting it’s one of the fastest growing municipalities in Westchester with a population just over 25,000 that consists of 44 percent Latino, 30 percent white, 23 percent black, and two percent Asian. Those numbers are compared to Westchester’s population of 25 percent Latino, 53 percent white and 13 percent black and six percent Asian. 

“You can find everyone living here,” she said. 

She went on to discuss the city’s housing and income statistics which show that Peekskill’s housing units grew by eight percent from 2010 to 2020 compared to Westchester’s five percent growth rate.  The housing stock in Peekskill is getting older with 72 percent built before 1979. Even though Peekskill’s household income has increased by 58 percent between 2017 to 2022, there are still 1,216 households in Peekskill (11.7 percent) earning below the poverty threshold. The average household income in Peekskill was $86,695 compared to Westchester County’s $114,651 average. 

There was sustained applause from the audience when McKenzie referenced City Manager Matt Alexander and how he “really holds the city together.” He meets with department heads on a weekly basis and he has an open door policy, you can always get in to see him, but he does have a guard in Stephanie Romero who is his confidential secretary, she said. “He works to determine and remove any obstacles that exist between the city’s vision and reality.” 

A picture taken at a recent staff retreat. The city has 235 full time employees and 200 part timers with a total of 22 departments. McKenzie’s address noted all the department leads by name and responsibilities.

Acknowledging the issues the city has had with its legal department she said Corporation Counsel Michael Hartman is working to repair those issues by taking a good look at documents and making sure there are more than one set of eyes seeing what comes in. Hartman has also been cutting expenses and making sure the city’s legal business is handled correctly. 

City Clerk Cassandra Redd was acknowledged for getting the two-year backlog of minutes up-to-date and for increasing the number and participation of the school district and Field Library for honoring individuals around specific heritage months. She has also instituted timely responses to Freedom of Information Law requests with Deputy Clerk Jeanette Moore. 

In the police highlights, in addition to funding for the first phase of a new locker room, McKenzie spoke of the work of community policing. “It’s not about arresting people, it’s about building community for betterment and equality for all.” 

She lauded the fire department for securing  $1.6 million worth of grants to hire six new firefighters who began training a few weeks ago and for purchasing two new fire trucks for $2.4 million which will be delivered in 2025. 

Violations are going up thanks to the work of Code Enforcement and the Building department. In Public Works she referenced the new app “See Click Fix” where residents can upload a picture of an area that needs repair by the public works department and she mentioned that last year 354 street lights were repaired. 

McKenzie reported that the Planning Department  oversees $54.3 million in projects of which $25.9 million were awarded grants. Of those projects, upgrades to the city’s parks in the downtown, at the riverfront and in neighborhoods are included. 

Pugsley Park between Main and Howard Streets is scheduled to be open in June with a new lawn to allow for flexible programming, new lighting and 47 native plant species.

The Mayor asked members of Boards and Commissions to stand and acknowledged them for volunteering their time. She referenced the new Civilian Complaint Review Board members who were appointed in November and are now being trained. “There are still openings on boards and we encourage people to send their resume to the city clerk if they are interested in serving.”  The city has 18 Boards and Commissions with 95 residents serving on them. 

Along with good things that are happening in the city there are challenges as well, said McKenzie. Challenges include budget and inflation, climate change and quality of life. “We’re trying to find ways to make the best of them, especially when things are out of our control.” She referenced the city’s health insurance rates as one large area over which the city has no control. In 2024 employee health insurance rose $1 million or 26 percent.   

She spoke to the city’s breaking the tax cap and said it boiled down to $1.43 a week more in taxes. “We’re doing it gently and doing it so we’re not really trying to tax our citizens. We chose to keep the tax rate low.”  

Regarding Quality of Life issues, she said the city is aware there is a garbage problem in the downtown. “The DPW is working really hard to get it off the streets. We’re struggling and enforcing the laws as well,” and to combat the rubbish and litter problem the city is employing a number of measures including: educating property owners sending letters about garbage rules, an anti-littering campaign, a school program and See Click Fix. Enforcing is the second phase of the three prong approach by issuing violations with tickets. 


She presented a slide showing how the building department is issuing tickets for quality of life violations.

Areas the city is continuing to focus on involving economic development and supporting businesses with newly launched “Business Days’ and referenced the recent days in Peekskill for Whiskey River on their 4th anniversary and Skinchanted on their 12th anniversary. She ran through a litany of newly opened businesses and ones that are in the planning stages such as Cosmo’s Fresh Market on Washington Street in the heart of a residential neighborhood. 

The list of housing developments approved and in the construction phase were also acknowledged. Many of these were referenced in the city manager’s report to the business community last month. 

At the end of her talk, McKenzie spoke of the city’s request for proposals of interest for four city-owned parcels of land in the riverfront. She finished to a sustained standing ovation. 






About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante