Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Newsworthy Notes from the week

Rockland County authorities take down illegal smoke shop ring; Westchester County correction officers charged with accepting bribes
Newsworthy+Notes+from+the+week

Drainage repairs continue at Peekskill Stadium on Louisa Street

Peekskill Stadium outfield at the corner of Lower South and Louisa streets.

Baseball at Peekskill Stadium on Louisa Street was deferred until 2025 as extensive repairs to the outfield forced the ballpark to shut down.

The stadium, opened in July of 2004, is built on a former dumpsite. When constructed, a drainage system was built for the infield but not the outfield. As a result, water remained in the outfield, requiring repairs this year. The repairs couldn’t be made to salvage this year’s games so the Peekskill High School baseball team played their games at Torpy Field and two men’s leagues had to find other homes this summer.

The city hired Jablko Construction of Katonah to install underdrains in the outfield to fix the problem. The cost of the work is $19,500 and is ongoing now.

A total of $2.6 million went into building the Peekskill Stadium multi-use facility including a $850,000 grant from Westchester County and a $750,000 New York state grant. 

With 310 feet of room on its foul lines and a 329-foot deep center field, Peekskill Stadium is as large as many major league ball fields. Its equipment is professional grade as well. 

According to the city’s 2024 budget, the stadium is allocated $8,000 in maintenance expenses and was projected to bring in $29,000 in rental fees. In 2023 rental fees totaled $14,790.

– By Jim Roberts

Sustainable Westchester rates compared to Con Ed

As the Peekskill Common Council considers whether to renew the city’s energy supply contract with Sustainable Westchester, figures show that consumer bills with the non-profit have been higher than Con Ed’s in five of the past six years.

Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner’s office has compiled figures comparing Sustainable Westchester rates with Con Ed for a household using 500 kWh in a month. 

In December 2023 the Westchester Power (WP) 100% Renewable Fixed Rate was 15.13 cents kWh while the Con Ed rate was 8.97 cents. In January 2024 the WP rate was 15.13 cents compared to Con Ed’s 12.15 cents. 

And in March of this year the WP rate was 15.449 cents compared to the Con Ed rate of 8.50 cents. According to Greenburgh’s figures, at that rate the average monthly bill for electricity supply would be $77.24 per household for March compared to a Con Ed bill of $42.50. Over the course of 12 months, averaging the Greenburgh figures, the WP annual cost would be $321 higher than Con Ed.

Based on the 500 kWh per month average, the annual cost for WP has been higher than Con Ed for five of the past nine years (the program started in 2016).

In 2019, WP cost $90 more per year. In the following years the figures are: 2020, $139.20 higher; 2021, $10 higher; 2022, $84 lower; 2023, $346 higher; and 2024, projected $243 higher. (From 2016-2018, households with WP could have saved up to $70 annually versus ConEd.) 

If the Common Council renews the contract, residents of Peekskill will be automatically enrolled in the program unless they opt out.

– By Jim Roberts

Officials rally to stop Algonquin Pipeline expansion

Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg speaking at last Monday’s rally against the expansion of a fracked gas line near Indian Point.

At a rally last week, 69 state and local elected officials delivered a letter calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to take an early stance against Enbridge’s proposed fracked gas pipeline expansion, dubbed Project Maple, by committing to denying any upcoming permits for the project.

The proposal would significantly expand the amount of fracked gas transmitted through the Algonquin Pipeline, contrary to the intent of New York’s climate law which mandates greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 85 percent by 2050 and the state’s nation-leading ban on fossil fuels in new buildings, which will go into effect in 2026.

State Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg (95th District) said, “Why would we build infrastructure that will be obsolete before the end of its life? 

“As renewable options become less expensive and easier to choose, more and more consumers are rejecting outdated dirty energy options. We need to have the courage to reject fossil fuel industry lies and say no to things like Project Maple. We have a state law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, that actually obligates us to do this. We cannot take this step backward; we must push forward with building our renewable energy future, where we will see lower costs and cleaner air and water.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “I am proud to stand with Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg and my other colleagues in government against Project Maple, a proposal in the works that would disrupt the already sensitive area surrounding Indian Point.”

Congressman Lawler visits Lincoln Depot Museum

U.S. Congressman Michael Lawler stopped by the Lincoln Depot Museum earlier this month. The Board of Directors of the Museum showed Rep. Lawler the museum and enlightened him on the vast history of the area and the many connections of Peekskill, the region, and the state of New York to President Lincoln. 

Congressman Lawler was especially interested in the connection to a previous congressman who served with Lincoln, Hon. William Nelson. It was Nelson who corresponded with Lincoln prior to his inaugural journey and invited him to stop at Peekskill, the only location in Westchester County that he did.

Peekskill Police awarded technology grant from the state

Peekskill City Manager Matt Alexander, Assemblymember Dana Levenberg, State Senator Pete Harckham, Councilmember Brian Fassett, Deputy Mayor Patricia Riley and Police Chief Leo Dylewski. Credit: Office of State Sen. Pete Harckham / James Persons

The Peekskill Police Department has received $316,406 in state Law Enforcement Technology (LETECH) funding for necessary technological or equipment upgrades for the department.

The funds are part of $127 million provisioned in the FY2024-2025 State Budget for police departments and sheriff’s offices outside of New York City to upgrade technology and equipment. 

“Technology can be a powerful tool for our law enforcement officers, and ensuring that they have up-to-date systems and equipment is part of the state government’s responsibility in supporting our officers,” said state senator Pete Harckham. 

“Police departments serving Assembly District 95 received more than $2.6 million from the FY2024-2025 budget to enhance their ability to protect us and our property using technology,” said state assemblymember Dana Levenberg. “I was proud to vote for this funding and thank Governor Hochul for making it available. We will continue to keep our communities safe with these smart, targeted investments.”

Peekskill Police Chief Leo Dylewski said “This LETECH grant will allow us to upgrade and enhance our technology that will enable our department to better serve the public.  We are looking into License Plate Readers, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Handheld Radios, Patrol Vehicle Equipment (PC/Tablet, Scanners, Printer), new servers, lighting systems, speed signs, and tower computers. Thank you to Senator Harckham, Assemblymember Levenberg and DCJS for their support of local police.” 

County correction officers charged with accepting bribes

One of those arrested, Shakia Smythe, pictured here. Photo from Yonkers Times.

Five Westchester County Department of Correction (WCDOC) officers and civilian employees were arraigned June 20 on charges for accepting bribe payments and smuggling contraband to incarcerated individuals at the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla. 

A civilian employee with the Mount Vernon Police Department was also arraigned earlier this month on charges for smuggling contraband into the Mount Vernon Police Department Cell Block. 

“These defendants put their own interests above the safety of incarcerated individuals, employees, civilians, and other correction officers,” said Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah. “Our jails become less safe when correction officers and others in position of public trust accept bribes to smuggle in contraband. We commend the Westchester County Department of Correction for working with my office to ensure these individuals face serious consequences.”

The five defendants were arrested by the DA’s Office Criminal Investigators Squad on June 11 and arraigned before Judge Mark Rubeo on June 20 in Mount Pleasant Justice Court.

Among the defendants is Shakia Smythe, 32, of Peekskill, a Westchester County correction officer assigned to the Westchester County Jail. Smythe was charged with two counts of bribe receiving in the third-degree and promoting prison contraband in the second degree for allegedly accepting multiple payments, totaling more than $500, from an associate of an incarcerated individual in exchange for smuggling contraband into the jail between June and August 2022. Smythe was suspended following her arrest and is being scheduled for an employment termination hearing.

The other county corrections officers charged are: Peter Cumberbatch, 39, of New Rochelle; Wilfredo Gonzague, 36, of Briarcliff Manor; Sadari Holt, 30, of the Bronx; Shardae Moore, 35, of Yonkers; 

The investigations into the incidents at the Westchester County Jail were conducted by the DA’s Office Public Integrity and Law Enforcement Integrity Bureau and the WCDOC Major Case Squad. The cases are being prosecuted by the Public Integrity and Law Enforcement Integrity Bureau of the Trials and Investigations Division. The charges against the defendants are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  

Authorities take down illegal smoke shops in Rockland

Authorities in Rockland County arrested four people and seized $400,000 and 170 pounds of cannabis following an investigation that began in 2023.

Ibrahim Alfalahi, 36, of Nanuet, was arrested on a count of third-degree criminal tax fraud and five counts of second-degree criminal tax fraud. Prosecutors say he is the owner of the stores. Also arrested were: Abdo Alquhshi, 44, of Nyack; Sadek Alfalahi, 29, of Nanuet; and Fateh Ahmed Alhajjaji, 36, of Nanuet, all charged with third-degree criminal tax fraud.

Raids on unlicensed smoke shops operating as “Zava” in Clarkstown, Orangetown, and Suffern were announced on Friday, June 20 by the Rockland District Attorney’s Office. The year-long investigation was conducted jointly with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, several New York state agencies, and local police.

“Today’s charges highlight the increased prevalence of illegal, unregulated smoke shops being opened throughout our state,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, the special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York.

“Make no mistake: while the use of marijuana has been legalized in New York, businesses must adhere to tax restrictions and requirements – a fact these four defendants allegedly blatantly ignored,” Arvelo said.

The investigation started in 2023 with reports of stores selling cannabis to minors, Rockland District Attorney Thomas Walsh said in a news release.

Investigators executed seven court-approved search warrants, hitting two smoke shops in Clarkstown, two in Orangetown and one in Suffern, Walsh said. The investigation uncovered tax irregularities at the smoke shops, which were not licensed to sell cannabis by the state.

In the Rockland investigation, prosecutors worked with Homeland Security Investigations, the state Department of Taxation and Finance, the state Office of Cannabis Management, New York State Police, plus Clarkstown, Orangetown, and Suffern police.

“I commend the Tax Department’s Criminal Investigations Division for their work with the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office and the other agencies involved in shutting down these illegal smoke shops,” state Department of Taxation and Finance Acting Commissioner Amanda Hiller said. “We’ll continue to work with all our partners in law enforcement to uncover tax evasion and ensure that businesses are adhering to the law.”

Voter education Town Hall June 29 in Peekskill

The New York Democratic Lawyers Council Inaugural Voter Education Town Hall will hold its first of a series of statewide events this summer in Peekskill. 

The Town Hall will be held on Saturday, June 29 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Division Street Grill, 26 N Division St.

The Peekskill Town Hall will be a public forum featuring voting rights expert presenters who will discuss various voter reforms and information attendees will need to create a voting plan for upcoming elections. 

Attendees will be able to ask any questions regarding voting and navigating the upcoming general election.

PRESENTERS: Ny Whitaker (Moderator): Former Senior White House Advisor; Jarret Berg, Voting Rights Counsel Vote Early NY; Eli Valentin, Founder, Institute on Latino Politics and Policy; Saha Guerrero, President of the NYU Democrats; Amanda Blair, Founder of the Brooklyn Voter Alliance; Alejandra Pollack, NYS Dems Voter Protection Director.

RSVP for the event is required.

For any questions, contact: Theo Harris Esq., Co-Chair of the Minority Voting Rights Committee of the NYDLC [email protected]

National Maritime Historical Society library opening July 19

The National Maritime Historical Society (NMHS) will hold the grand opening and reception of the Ronald L. Oswald Maritime Library at NMHS headquarters at the Hat Factory in Peekskill at 1000 N. Division St., Suite #4 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, July 19.

Throughout the ages, a library, the repository of the collected wisdom, mores, news and opinions of a society, has been crucial to civilization and to history. Libraries are essential, and a maritime library serves as a vital resource, offering a wealth of information, for today and into the future.

The National Maritime Historical Society Ronald L. Oswald Maritime Library, named after NMHS Chairman Emeritus Ronald Oswald, was made possible by the National Maritime Heritage Grant Program from the National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, administered by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

As part of this education initiative and in partnership with the Westchester Library System and Hendrick Hudson Free Library, the Society has assessed, cataloged, preserved and shelved its 5,000-volume maritime library, making it accessible to the public both online and at its headquarters.

For more information, visit www.seahistory.org or call 914 737-7878 extension 0.

State DMV launches New York Mobile ID

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has launched the New York Mobile ID, a highly secure digital version of a state-issued driver license, learner permit or ID on a smartphone.

 The Mobile ID is a voluntary product designed for the convenience and security of New Yorkers and is available to IOS and Android users. Anyone who has a valid, state-issued driver license, learner permit or non-driver ID can download the secure Mobile ID app through Google Play or the App Store.

“We’re thrilled to give New Yorkers access to this cutting-edge technology which provides convenience and added security for Mobile ID users and those who accept it,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “Not only will New Yorkers be able to quickly display their IDs, but they will have control over the personal information they share.”

Through a partnership with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the New York Mobile ID (MiD) will be accepted at TSA security checkpoints at nearly 30 participating airports across the country including all terminals at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports. This will allow New Yorkers to verify their identity easily and securely for airport security screening. The New York Mobile ID can also be used at any other business, venue or organization that chooses to accept it including those in other states and countries.

New Yorkers can get a New York MiD in a few simple steps:

  • Download the New York MiD app from the App Store or through Google Play.
  • Register the phone number of the device the Mobile ID will be on. An individual’s Mobile ID can only be on one device at a time to help protect their identity.
  • Take a picture of the front and back of their physical ID (driver license, non-driver ID, or Learner Permit), using their phone’s camera.
  • Pose for a selfie. The app checks your photo and ID against information on file with the DMV to ensure you are who you say you are.

Once your information is verified, your MiD is active and ready to use wherever it is accepted.

Watch a step-by-step guide on how to enroll. All of the attributes on an individual’s physical ID, like their document type (REAL ID, Enhanced ID or Standard ID) and class (D, E, Commercial A, B, or C, etc.), and other attributes like organ donor status, veteran status, and lifetime hunting or fishing permits will all be available in the New York MiD app and can be shared with a verifier whenever a New York MiD holder agrees to share their personal information.

The New York MiD serves as a companion to a physical ID, and not all businesses or stakeholders will initially accept mobile IDs, so New Yorkers should always continue to carry their physical driver’s license or ID.

New laws on addictive social media feeds, protect kids online

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two new laws last week designed to combat addictive social media feeds and protect kids online.

The Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) For Kids Act requires social media companies to restrict addictive feeds on their platforms for users under 18. The SAFE for Kids Act is the first bill of its kind to be signed into law in the nation.

Kids can continue to search for specific topics of interest or subscribe to creators but will not be subject to algorithmically driven feeds that promote unhealthy levels of engagement. The law will also prohibit social media platforms from sending notifications regarding addictive feeds to minors from midnight to 6:00 a.m. without parental consent.

The New York Child Data Protection Act prohibits online sites from collecting, using, sharing, or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website.

“The evidence surrounding smartphones, social media and the decline in the mental health of our youngest generations is undeniable,” said state assemblywoman Dana Levenberg. 

“Beyond the data, and the complaints of parents and teachers, many members of Gen Z have been outspoken about the harms these algorithms and platforms have done to their generation, and about the difficulty of breaking free from them.” 

The tip line is always open at the Peekskill Herald

Have a story idea that you’d like to see a reporter from The Herald check out? Ever think of a question that you wish someone would answer?

We always want to hear from our readers and here’s your way to reach us. Whether it’s a question regarding a specific event, an economic development project, or just a trend you’ve noticed, we want to hear it.

Send us your questions. We’ll review and evaluate the submissions and select those we can answer. We’ll publish the story. Send your question to [email protected]??

Summer workshop focuses on writing the college essay

Join the Hudson Valley Writing Project for a workshop that inspires teens to write authentic personal stories that communicate their beliefs, experiences, and hopes for the future. 

Through creative exercises and writing prompts, students will discover their individual voices as writers. Working together, they’ll study successful college essays, brainstorm topics, and transform ideas into solid drafts while giving and receiving feedback in a supportive setting.

“I feel like I grew as a writer because I learned how to write about myself. I was able to open up and tell the reader who I am as a person and what makes me unique.” 

The workshop is held July 29 to August 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the PACE Westchester Campus in Pleasantville. The fee is $295. Tuition assistance is available. 

For registration and information visit the program’s website. For more information contact the Hudson Valley Writing Project: [email protected] | 845.257.2836.

Urbanite Arts & Film Festival August 9-10 at the HV MOCA

Submissions are currently open and free of charge until June 30 for the Urbanite Arts & Film Festival.

The Festival’s third annual event will be held at the Hudson Valley MOCA Museum in Peekskill on August 9-10. The festival aims to showcase new voices, particularly focusing on young women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and neurodiverse communities, providing a platform for diverse young artists to exhibit their art across various disciplines.

The festival will feature works by creators age 14 to 24 in categories such as short film, photography, music videos, short screenplay writing, and spoken word poetry. An interesting requirement is that all entries in the photography, music video, short film, screenplays, and spoken word poetry categories must be created using a smartphone or tablet.

Comprehensive guidelines, regulations, and eligibility details for the 2024 Urbanite Arts & Film Festival are available here. For inquiries, please reach out to [email protected].

The festival’s detailed schedule will be disclosed in July 2024. 

Peekskill man breaks into two homes, steals two cars, gets arrested twice

Stalin Caguana Uzho of Peekskill faces a slew of charges after allegedly committing a burglary and stealing a vehicle (twice).

Carmel police charged Caguana Uzho with second-degree burglary, (a felony), criminal mischief, larceny and criminal possession of stolen property after he broke into a home in Mahopac and stole the homeowner’s car on June 8.

When police arrived at the scene, they found a broken window that the suspect used to enter the house. While police were still there, Caguana Uzho re-entered the house to retrieve items he left behind. The startled suspect was then apprehended.

Police discovered Caguana Uzho had two outstanding criminal contempt charges in Carmel related to two previous domestic incidents. 

After his arrest, Caguana Uzho was arraigned in Carmel Town Court and remanded to the Putnam County Correctional Facility in lieu of $20,000 cash or $40,000 secured bond.

The next day Carmel police received another stolen vehicle report in the same area of the burglary and found that Caguana Uzho had allegedly stolen a second victim’s car before committing the burglary, the department said. That second victim’s vehicle was found to have minor damage. 

Further charges are now pending against Caguana Uzho, police said.

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.