Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Will the Boys & Girls Club come to Peekskill?

Rendering of the Main Street side of the Kiley Building where the Boys and Girls Club is hoped to operate from.

Three years ago, Alyzza Ozer, the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester, told members of the Peekskill Common Council that her organization would transform the Kiley Youth Center on Main Street into a Boys & Girls Club.

“We’re extraordinarily excited about the opportunity to work with all the partners in Peekskill,” Ozer said at the June 2021 Council work session. “We work very hard and love what we do. We look forward to the opportunity to serve more kids.”

Several months later, at a Nov. 8, 2021 Common Council meeting, then-Mayor Andre Rainey introduced a resolution that formalized the proposal to bring that Boys & Girls Club to Peekskill with an anticipated opening in late 2022.

“And the last resolution of the evening and the one I’m most excited about,” Rainey said. “Congratulations to the City of Peekskill, congratulations to the youth, congratulations to the Boys & Girls Club and congratulations to the Peekskill Housing Authority for working out this agreement and coming this far.”

Now, three years later, a final deal among Westchester County, the Peekskill Housing Authority (PHA) and the Boys & Girls Club still hasn’t been reached.

Big plans for major renovations, no deal signed yet

 At the PHA board meeting last Monday, April 29, board member Rob Scott  (who is the Common Council’s liaison to the PHA)  raised the question of where talks stand. Scott asked whether the PHA would get county financing to renovate the Kiley Center if no deal is arranged with the Boys & Girls Club to run the programs. Scott said he didn’t want to have the Housing Authority lose the chance to have the Kiley Center renovated.

Mark Kamensky, the attorney for PHA, explained that a condition of Westchester County’s financing is that programs be run at the center. If the Boys & Girls Club were to decide at some point after an operating agreement with the Housing Authority was signed that they could not run the programs, the Housing Authority would then be responsible.

Kamensky said he is still optimistic that an operating agreement with the Boys & Girls Club will be signed, but that no deal has been arranged yet. He said he will urge that talks conclude soon with the Boys & Girls Club.

Several phone calls from the Herald to the Boys & Girls Club and Wilder Balter Partners, the project developer, asking for updates on the project were not returned.

Janneyn Phalen, executive director of the Peekskill Housing Authority, owner of the Kiley Center, told the Herald that the Housing Authority is working with Boys and Girls Club to come up with an operating agreement and hope to work that out shortly.

The minutes of Housing Authority board meetings have reported the same update for the past two years. In the March 2024 minutes, plans to review the project with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and schedule meetings with Housing Authority tenants once the matter moves forward were noted.

In an update to the Common Council regarding DRI funding this February, the city’s Planning Department stated that construction on the project was expected to begin in late 2024. The renovation would include a new entrance on Main Street, a new teen center and new bathrooms, kitchen, mechanical systems, roofing and landscaping.

A Planning department official told the Herald last week that the Kiley Center terms are under negotiations right now and that it is no longer anticipated that construction would begin this year. A new estimated date is expected to be determined this summer.

In October 2022, the Peekskill Planning Commission granted site plan approval for the project, good for six months. In addition to the interior renovations, the plans called for two additions, one 950 square feet and the other 835 square feet. Adding 6,107 square feet of new space will bring the total building size to 23,327 square feet.

The Common Council’s 2021 resolution authorized the city manager to enter a contract that would pay the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester $300,000 per year, with a 2 percent increase in future years, to provide services in education and career development, health and life skills, arts and social recreation, sports, fitness and recreation and a food and nutrition program. According to the resolution, youth programs at the Kiley Center are run by the city’s Recreation Department. The City of Peekskill 2024 operating budget includes $192,538 for “Kiley Sports Programs.”

The Kiley Center has a regulation size basketball court.

The original Kiley Center was built in 1959 and an 8,160-square-foot pre-engineered metal structure building was added in 1996. The city sold the building to the Housing Authority in 1999.

Funding and plans for operation both in place

To pay for the renovations, the project developer (Wilder Balter) secured a total of  $6.5 million in funding to do the work. Money from New York state and Westchester County would pay for $4 million.

Peekskill allocated $1.5 million from its $10 million DRI state grant for the Boys & Girls project and Bill Balter from Wilder Balter Partners had committed $1 million in private funds as well. Wilder Balter developed the 82-apartment affordable housing building at 645 Main Street, located next door to the Kiley Center.

Bill Balter and his father Lee were the proponents of bringing the Boys & Girls Club to Peekskill in order to offer educational and recreational opportunities to kids in Peekskill and residents of Bohlmann Towers in particular. The Balters have been long-time financial backers of arts programs in Peekskill, in particular the ARTS10566 program.

Bill Balter, who has served on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester, provided technical assistance to the Housing Authority including design drawings for the improvements to the Kiley Center.

The plan calls for the Boys & Girls Club to maintain standard after-school hours of operations, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, plus extended summer and vacation daytime schedules. The club planned on maintaining a staff of 10 to 14 people on site, double the staffing level provided by the city recreation department. The Mt. Kisco Boys & Girls Club charges an annual registration fee of $75 per child.

Kiley Center is used for basketball leagues and on Sundays for soccer.

Given the dramatic rise in both materials and labor for construction projects since 2021, new estimated costs for the renovation work could be part of the ongoing discussions to decide how to proceed with the project. Additional funding from the County might be sought.

Plans to convert Housing Authority also under discussion

Wilder Balter started negotiating with the Peekskill Housing Authority in January 2022 to dramatically change the management of the Housing Authority’s 274 apartments at Bohlmann Towers, Dunbar Heights and Turnkey by doing a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion.

Under the federal government’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, projects like the Peekskill Housing Authority funded under the federal public housing program convert their public housing assistance to project-based Section 8 rental assistance.

Bohlmann Towers at 801 Main Street, named after Peekskill educator Fred Bohlmann who was the first superintendent of the Peekskill School District.

Under Section 8, residents continue to pay 30 percent of their income towards rent and the housing must continue to serve those with very low and extremely low incomes. Residents must be notified and consulted prior to conversion, are given a right to return to assisted housing post-construction so that the same tenants can enjoy these newly preserved and improved apartments and maintain the same fundamental rights they had as public housing residents, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development.

RAD was designed to help address the multi-billion-dollar nationwide backlog of deferred maintenance in public housing and to stem the loss of affordable housing that could no longer be kept to decent standards.

From the program’s inception through Nov. 1, 2022, the Rental Assistance Demonstration has facilitated more than $15 billion in capital investment to improve or replace nearly 185,000 deeply rent-assisted homes, most of which house extremely low-income families, seniors, and persons with disabilities, according to HUD.

Wilder Balter could bring millions of dollars in tax-credit financing to the Peekskill Housing Authority for major capital improvements under the RAD conversion program.

According to minutes of the April 2023 Peekskill Housing Authority board meeting, Wilder Balter was selected by the Board of Commissioners to partner with the Housing Authority to redevelop its properties.

Negotiations on proceeding with the RAD conversion came to a standstill over three issues the Housing Authority deemed non-negotiable, according to the minutes; naming the Housing Authority as sole managing agent; giving the Authority approval of the general contractor contract; and giving approval power of investors and lenders to the Authority.

At that point, Wilder Balter is quoted as telling the Authority “Given the many changes of the PHA team, we think we should pause and reconvene in a few months after the new Executive Director has been hired. At that time, we would suggest we meet with the PHA to discuss the redevelopment.”

Phalen was named permanent executive director of the PHA at its February board meeting.



About the Contributor
Jim Roberts
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.