Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

No dancing in the streets on Cinco de Mayo this year

Increased costs and withdrawal of major sponsor spoiled the party
Joseph Squillante
A Cinco de Mayo celebration from 2012.

A series of economic events has caused Ruben Alvarez, proprietor of Ruben’s Mexican Cafe in the heart of the downtown, to withdraw his permit from the city for the Cinco de Mayo celebration he’s sponsored for 17 years on the first weekend in May, ending his sponsorship of the event.

Manhattan Beer, a major sponsor of past festivals, withdrew support to the tune of $10,000; the city of Peekskill increased the price for police and department of public work presence by nearly three times past years from $4,000 to $11,000; and a number of vendors backed out, Alvarez said on Sunday.

There was confusion last week around whether the celebration was happening after the Common Council passed a resolution unanimously on March 11 to allow N. Division and Park Streets to be closed for the festival.  [Before a permit can be issued, the Common Council has to pass a resolution.] After Alvarez received the permit he was informed of the increased cost of police and department of public works personnel. He withdrew his permit shortly after that.

“There was a notable increase last year in the number of people attending and drinking and we needed to increase the police presence,” said City Manager Matt Alexander on Friday.

“I have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and cannot make taxpayers pay for security for an event that will make someone else’s business money.”

“We did offer to Ruben an idea of how to decrease the cost, but he wasn’t interested,” said Alexander. Alvarez told the Herald that Alexander suggested the cost could be reduced by having the celebration at the gazebo only and not close down the streets. Alvarez said that wasn’t feasible. He said he understood that Manhattan Beer wasn’t funding any events this year.

Alexander said the city is interested in keeping up this festival and wants to work with Alvarez for next year. He suggested that a non profit (such as the Business Improvement District) could be involved in sponsoring Cinco de Mayo so it doesn’t fall on one business owner.

“The Cinco de Mayo festival is a privately organized, presented and funded event by one of the downtown restaurants. The BID is not involved with Cinco de Mayo (other than helping to promote it since it happens downtown),” Bill Powers, BID executive director told the Herald in an email.

Word spread last week on social media when local DJ Roy Escobar broke the news on his  platforms about the absence of the celebration, receiving comments on his post from residents expressing their sadness about not having a festival this year. “What’s sad is a lot of tourists come from different cities just to enjoy that day. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Asian, Hispanic, everybody comes and enjoys their day,” said Escobar.

PHS students enjoying a meal at Ruben’s on Friday. (Photo by Jeff Merchan)

When speaking to the Herald, Escobar commented about people who think Ruben’s Mexican Cafe is the only establishment that profits from the celebration. “Ruben is not the only one who benefits from the festival, you got to be honest, not everyone wants to eat at Ruben’s Cafe because it’s packed on Cinco de Mayo. So where would they go? They’re going to go to the new establishment Taco District, they’re going to go to Gaucho’s Steakhouse, to the Whiskey River. They are going to go everywhere to eat.”

Escobar commented on how much Alvarez does for the community “It’s unfortunate because this man (Alvarez) does so much especially for the kids. He does piñatas for kids and does free face-painting,” added Escobar. On Friday April 19,  Alvarez opened his doors at Ruben’s Mexican Cafe to host 100 Peekskill High School kids who bought their meals after enjoying a show in New York City. Kids packed his restaurant to enjoy Mexican food, thanks to the generosity of Alvarez, who has been helping Peekskill school kids for years.



About the Contributors
Jeffrey Merchan
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.
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