Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Common Council wants to hear from you about outdoor smoking

Peekskill residents can provide input at public hearing Monday
This area of the downtown is being considered for a smoking ban. (Photo courtesy of Peekskill Walks)

Would Peekskill want smoke-free outdoor dining? The Common Council will find out next week. At its May 28 meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution scheduling a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the city’s current outdoor smoking code to include outdoor seating areas in the Business Improvement District (BID). The public hearing will be held on June 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Council chambers. 

Amend “Outdoor Smoking” code to include outdoor dining 

Corporation Counsel Michael Hartman brought to the council a proposed amendment to the city’s “Outdoor Smoking” code. This amendment will expand the city’s outdoor smoking prohibitions to include a 100 foot radius around outdoor dining areas within the Business Improvement District (BID). (In April, Hartman had presented a more expansive version of this amendment, to include streets, sidewalks, and outdoor dining in the BID, but the council had reservations about this version.)

Hartman stated that he looked into applying this amendment city-wide, but he believes it’s best for the city to focus its efforts on the BID for enforcement purposes. 

This map shows the boundaries of the Business Improvement District.

Councilman Scott noted that during the months where there isn’t outdoor dining (winter), residents will be able to smoke within the BID.

A public hearing on this proposed amendment will be held on June 10.  If the Common Council approves this amendment, a Section B will be added to Chapter 408 of the city code, titled “Outdoor Smoking”. Currently, Chapter 408 prohibits smoking at 14 city parks under Section A. Any person found in violation of Chapter 408 could face fines of up to $50 for the first offense, $100 for a second violation, and $250 for the third and each subsequent violation. 

Proposed Increases in Building Department Fines

At the May 20 meeting, City Comptroller Toni Tracy presented a table comparing the city’s proposed increases in Building Department fines to Yonkers (green) and Mount Vernon (blue). The table also included fine frequency, current fine amounts, and the date the fine was last amended. (Tracy’s May presentation was in response to the council’s request for additional information, including comparisons to similar cities, based on her original April presentation.)

Tracy said these fine increases would benefit the city in several ways: creating uniformity to code/fine process (judges have structure within to operate and determine fine amount), increased safety (improved compliance keeps everyone safer), increased quality of life (compliance improves the quality for everyone), decreased noise levels, and increased quality of properties throughout the city.

This three-family building on Fremont Street that housed 32 people is an illustration of where proposed building fines could be applicable.

In a June 3 memo to the council, Tracy stated that Peekskill intends to follow two building fine policies currently employed by Yonkers and Mount Vernon, cities that Tracy identified as sharing “similar urban issues including population density, compliance with building permits and code enforcement”. First, as in Yonkers, Peekskill will allow for fines’ upper limits to have “additional flexibility”, meaning they can be increased even more. Second, as in Mount Vernon, Peekskill could add a “plus cost of abatement” to the proposed fine increase. Fine increases will now include both the cost of fixing the violation and a penalty amount to dissuade future violations.

On June 10, the council will vote whether to schedule a public hearing for the proposed Building Department fine increases. The public hearing would be held on June 24, 2024. 

Climate Vulnerability Survey 

At the May 28 Common Council meeting, council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to issue a Climate Vulnerability Survey. The survey will be available throughout the summer and is a part of the city’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment and Comprehensive Planning process. 

The brief questionnaire asks residents how extreme weather affects their day-to-day lives. According to City Planner Peter Erwin’s memo to the council, survey results will be used to assess climate vulnerabilities experienced in the Peekskill community, with the goal of building resilience to the detrimental impacts of climate change.

Climate resilience begins with understanding hazards posed by a changing climate and identifying community vulnerabilities. In assessing the risk of flooding along tidal coastlines, a community should include conditions associated with projected sea level rise in 2050 and 2100. This is an image from flooding at Peekskill’s riverfront after a January storm.

Erwin explained to the council that worked with the city’s Conservation Advisory Council and the Westchester Climate Action Planning Institute (CAPI) to develop the survey. CAPI is a group led by Hudson Valley Regional Council, which is offering municipalities free technical assistance to develop a Climate Action Plan and a Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

“It’s great because it could become a part of our Comprehensive Plan – lower our costs and make that process more efficient but it also qualifies us for grants through Climate Smart Communities,” said Erwin.

City staff, along with the Conservation Advisory Council will meet with residents throughout the summer to explain the survey and answer questions. Erwin also noted that city staff will be tabling at community events and bringing copies of the survey.

Churches, businesses, and community groups are encouraged to contact the Planning Department to request a meeting. 

The survey is now available on the city’s website in both English and Spanish.

Community Solar RFP

In October 2023, the city issued an RFP for solar developers to create a community-owned solar power generation facility on city-owned property. The facility intends to provide low-cost, sustainable electricity to participating Peekskill residents.

City Manager Alexander informed the council that the city received one response to the RFP – from a partnership between Ecological Citizen’s Project, Inc. and Working Power, LLC. 

The Central Firehouse is one of the city owned buildings that would get rooftop solar panels.


Ecological Citizen’s Project is the organization that created the Regeneration Farm between Lepore Park and Oakside Elementary. Jason Angelo and Jocelyn Apicello, of Ecological Citizen’s Project (ECP), first presented their idea of bringing a community-solar project to Peekskill in April 2023

The proposal submitted by Ecological Citizen’s Project identified seven city-owned sites as suitable for roof-mounted or parking canopy solar panel installation: the Neighborhood Center (2 Nelson Avenue), City Hall (840 Main Street), the Youth Bureau (828 Main Street), Paramount Theater (1008 Brown Street), Veterans Memorial Pool (Depew Park), the Firehouse Kitchen Incubator (701 Washington Street), and Peekskill Central Firehouse (1137 Main Street).

“The RFP that was responded to did detail that it would not be limited to those sites, working together we might be able to identify another site,” said Alexander. He added that city staff and DPW will do an assessment of the proposed locations.

After the locations are agreed upon by the city and Ecological Citizen’s Project, the entities will enter into a one-year lease. Following this, ECP would construct the community solar system and then begin to enroll Peekskill residents as subscribers. According to Alexander’s memo, subscribers in the solar system would receive a credit on their utility bill for the amount of solar electricity generated. Fifty percent of the solar generation capacity would be reserved for low-to-medium income earning subscribers.

On May 28, the Common Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into a one-year lease option for the selected sites with Ecological Citizen’s Project. 

Depew Park Soccer Field Fence 

At the May 20 council meeting, DPW Superintendent Christopher Gross requested authorization to make a change order for the Depew Park construction project to include fencing. Gross explained that the grass on the new soccer field needs to continue its root development throughout the summer. Fencing would protect the field from motorized recreational vehicles and other potentially turf damaging activities.

The city received a quote from DeRosa Sports Construction, the contractor of the Depew project, for $87,794. Gross stated that this is less than the price offered in their original contract.

The fence would be constructed around the soccer field and posts would be installed on the running track. Gross provided a sketch of the fence in his memo to the council.

The new soccer field at Depew Park has a temporary fence now. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

On May 28, the council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the proposed change order.

Gross then provided an update on efforts being made by DPW and the Building Department for the city’s “Cleanup Peekskill” campaign. Gross presented a sticker that would wrap around the upper ring of all city pitching cans in the BID. The sticker would inform people of the kind of trash that can and cannot go in the pitching can, in English and Spanish. 

Annual Water Quality Report for 2023

At the May 20 council meeting, Superintendent of Water & Sewer David Rambo presented  the City of Peekskill’s Annual Water Quality Report, which is meant to raise understanding of drinking water and awareness of the need to protect drinking water sources. The report provides an overview of  the water quality in 2023, with additional information on where the city’s water comes from, what it contains, and how it compares to state standards.

The city regularly tests the drinking water for contaminants, in compliance with state regulations. The system had no violations: the drinking water met or exceeded state and federal regulations. 

The city’s water main, year-round source is the Wiccopee Reservoir (in Putnam Valley), which is a surface water source 22 miles northeast of Peekskill. The city has an emergency water source via the Catskill Aqueduct, which can be used if the primary source is unavailable.

In 2023, the city produced 1,592,288,000 gallons of water, serving approximately 25,000 people through 5,400 service connections.

The report also details improvements made to the water system last year, such as the replacement of the 1922 water storage tank at 138 Benefield Blvd., purchase  of a specialized tool to allow staff to install new water valves without interrupting water service, replacement of eight fire hydrants, and the repair of 16 water main breaks and installation of 16 water valves.

In 2023, the Water Department also completed a Drinking Water Source Protection Plan, which was approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. This plan is a roadmap for the protection of the watershed that surrounds Peekskill’s  drinking water. 

Residents who have questions about the report or concerns about water, are encouraged to contact David Rambo, Superintendent of Water & Sewer at 914-734-4110.

Liaison Reports/Concerns & Issues 

As new businesses open in the downtown district, many are failing to adhere to city regulations, said Councilman Scott in his report at the May 20 meeting. 

Scott, who owns PK Blendz Juice Bar on Main Street, told the council he recalls facing heavy restrictions on lighting and signage when his business first opened. Scott noted that now, many new businesses are not following the same guidelines; he called the lights “tacky for the downtown”. Mayor McKenzie agreed and shared similar concerns about a business that recently opened.

Councilman Fassett commented on the issue of signage. “I know we have some that have approved signage that still have vinyl signs up, some have no signs up, multiple businesses with no signage. I think we do need to take a look at signage. I think a store should have a sign, I think they should have proper sign. But we’re letting a lot of these go with vinyl signage that are also a concern to the look of the downtown.”

At the May 28 meeting, Councilman Fassett asked to look into establishing a commercial business registry to address issues the city is facing. 

In her report at the May 28 meeting, Mayor McKenzie stated she attended the NY Conference of Mayors and will have a report soon. 

Also at the May 28 meeting, three individuals were added to the active volunteer list of the Peekskill Fire Department: Gabriel Montagnani, Anthony Bello, Jose Abeijon.

City Manager Report 

Last month, Peekskill Plaza residents pleaded for help from city hall to address unsafe living conditions, and now changes are underway at the apartment complex located at 901 Main Street. 

During his city manager report, Alexander informed council members that following the May 13 meeting, city staff set up a meeting with Marathon Development Group (Peekskill Plaza’s management company), the chief of police, the Department of Public Works (DPW) superintendent, and code enforcement. In this meeting, city officials went over specific police phone calls and complaints made by tenants. 

To address concerns of unwanted visitors, Marathon has hired security personnel, who are on site seven days a week, and the management company described plans to switch to an electric “fob” system (to replace the current key system).

On May 28, Alexander and Chief of Police Leo Dylewski joined Marathon representatives at Peekskill Plaza Apartments for a meeting to listen to tenants’ concerns about maintenance, living conditions, and safety. City staff will follow up with building management later this month and update the council.

Alexander encouraged Peekskill Plaza residents who still feel dissatisfied with their living situation to reach out to the city. 


About the Contributor
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.