Last night’s Democratic debate at Peekskill Middle School featured all 8 candidates answering questions during a 90-minute period. There were many pertinent questions that couldn’t be asked given the time restraints. This opinion piece was submitted to us before the debate by Peekskill native and longtime resident David Mueller.
In the 1980’s people would snub their noses at the mention of Peekskill. The riverfront and downtown were desolate. Mayor Fran Gibbs envisioned and created the Artist District which put the city on a firm ground and headed to where we are today.
During the past 20 years Peekskill has gone through our ups and downs – two economic recessions and upward trends when the economy was doing well. Republicans, Democrats and citizens have helped shape our city in the right direction over the past two decades. Today, Peekskill is a shining star on a hill as compared to when I was young. Peekskill has become a beautiful tourist attraction for the arts, restaurants, waterfront and many other reasons.
Peekskill is at a major turning point with so many big ticket items: infrastructure, municipal services and major development adding upwards of 3,000 – 5,000 additional residents. With that said, this is also the first time in my lifetime where there are 3 viable slates of candidates vying for Peekskill Mayor and Common Council. Each and every person running is to be commended.
Here are some additional questions that I believe are vital for all candidates to answer.
The City of Peekskill has had infrastructure issues over the past decade. Some of our infrastructure is over 100 years old. The DPW has not had a contract in well over 2 years. The Parks Department is overwhelmed and does not have enough employees to handle all of the maintenance of the parks. The Police Department has shrunk over the past few years from 74 to 61 persons. The Water Department has shrunk in personnel and the water quality has taken a toll. The DPW and Water Department now has one person in charge instead of two. It should be two separate people running the two departments. Parking in Peekskill is at an all time high and there are no plans for increased parking anywhere. In addition, the neighborhoods have major parking issues which have been known about for years. If walking or biking is the answer, then how does one plan on getting to work outside the city. Peekskill is 4 square miles and people are not willing to walk 4 miles to the train station or to relax and enjoy the park and downtown. What are the plans for parking?
Development on our City Borders
The Town of Cortlandt has proposed a major project called the Medical Oriented District (MOD) on the border of our city from Dayton Lane past Conklin Avenue all the way to Tamarack Drive (across from Sansotta Brothers Deli). The two projects are the Gyrodyne and Evergreen Manor MOD. The plan is to develop 42 acres of land. This will have a major impact on Peekskill and its corridors.
The Evergreen Development Project is proposing 70 townhouses spread out over the site. They also include assisted and independent living buildings, a residential apartment building and a commercial building. They have also projected a construction schedule that will last over the next 4-5 years if approved.
The Gyrodyne Site, calls for the redevelopment of eight contiguous parcels totaling 13.8 acres with 100,000 square feet of medical offices, 4,000 square feet of complementary retail, 200 market rate apartments, 180 structured parking spaces and 383 at-grade parking spaces. It is about a $90 million investment.
What are your thoughts on this major development on our border? How will you talk with Cortlandt about this major shift in development. How will Peekskill deal with the traffic and increased population? Has Peekskill’s Corporation Council spoken with Cortlandt about this?
Peekskill was considering revaluation of the entire City about 7 years ago which would reassess houses, commercial businesses, and industrial lots. This has not been done since the 1950’s. The cost of revaluation was estimated at around $1million dollars. A reassessment of Peekskills 6400+ parcels of land would find out if any of those parcels are paying too much or too little in taxes as a result of increase or decrease in a property’s value for various reasons. The cost of a new master plan, which has not been updated since 1968, was discussed as costing about $1million dollars. If you had to choose which one is more important, which one would you choose? Why specifically? And how would you pay for it?