Veteran of downtown revitalization gives the back story to DRI grant


By Dwight Douglas, Peekskill Democratic City Committee candidate for councilperson

This month’s announcement of the projects selected for funding from the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative Grant was a historic moment for our City. The projects themselves are transformational… the long held dream to connect our beautiful waterfront to a vibrant downtown will now become a reality.  The DRI Grant does not stand alone.  It is a significant component of the over $25 million in grants recently obtained under the Rainey-McKenzie administration. Taken together they are a vote of confidence in the leadership team that has Peekskill moving forward, and in our strategy to continue that momentum.

This grant didn’t emerge out of thin air. It is the culmination of hard work and effort spent turning our city around and creating a bright future for Peekskill. I’ve been privileged to have been a part of the team most recently led by Deputy Mayor Vivian McKenzie.  That team has brought us to where we are:  poised to reach our full potential, poised to be that special caring, creative, interconnected community that we all aspire to.  As I like to say, working together with my colleagues:  “nothing’s easy.”  My experience has taught me that we can achieve our dreams for Peekskill if we work together and work hard at it.

That’s why I’m running for reelection to the City Council. As I ask for the public’s vote, I think it’s important to explain how I helped lay the groundwork for the success our city is seeing today and how the DRI Grant among others fits into that larger context.

One of the major driving forces for our downtown renaissance and our local arts and culture scene has been the Paramount. But 40 years ago it was an abandoned building. I was part of the private and public development team that took it over and turned it into a performing arts magnet drawing activity into our downtown. Now, with the DRI Grant, we’re bringing it into the 21st Century, but the foundation was laid by the work we did starting in 1980.

Similarly, “Restaurant Row” is one of our city’s major attractions, and the DRI Grant is going to enhance it and the surrounding area. 35 years ago it was just another block. But some of us had a crazy idea that we could turn it into something special. It wasn’t easy, but we secured funding, made investments, recruited the restauranteurs, and worked with them to open the first of two sit-down restaurants. Then, once people and entrepreneurs saw how successful these were, it took on a life of its own and grew.  Now North Division Street’s Restaurant Row is an anchor to build out a better downtown.

From Charles Point Pier Park to bringing the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester into the Kiley Center, virtually all of the projects funded by the DRI can be traced back to work I’ve been involved in for decades. It took many people, working as a team, to get the job done, and I’m proud to have been part of it. We have not solved every problem facing Peekskill, but I’m proud to say that we’ve consistently made our city better. We’re moving forward. We’re moving in the right direction. And I’d like the chance to keep that progress going.