Council Work Session Chock Full of Action Items

Tree Ordinance and Affordable Housing Law next steps set for Monday’s meeting


By Regina Clarkin

Unlike many late-December civic meetings, where city councils are often just tying up loose ends, last night’s Committee of the Whole session in Peekskill was packed like a holiday stocking with significant Council actions and consequential agenda items.

Peekskill planner Jean Friedman announced that the city was awarded $1 million in state money to complete the Fleischmann Pier and Park project, and the city also received another $1.4 million to construct the trail connection in Riverfront Green. The second grant means people will not have to walk through the Riverfront Green parking lot to continue to Peekskill Landing from the southern section of the riverfront trail. Both projects are anticipated to go out for bidding in the spring. 

The council discussed at length about letting the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration that includes music and fireworks in the downtown happen, given the recent spike in coronavirus cases caused by the Omricon variant. There was discussion about 80 percent of residents having one vaccine, and the requirement that people be masked if they are attending the outdoor festivities. Acting City Manager Matt Alexander, who was filling in for vacationing City Manager Andy Stewart, said he would reach out to members of the Business Improvement District and the organizers of the event to discuss the possibility of canceling the live event outright.. 

In other matters discussed on the remote-only meeting Monday night:

After much discussion, the Council will hold a public hearing on an Affordable Housing Ordinance. Members heard clarification from Rose Noonan of the Housing Action Council, who has been consulting with city staff for months regarding the proposed ordinance. At the Dec. 27 meeting, they will set a date for a public hearing on this local law. 

The long-anticipated tree ordinance will be voted on at the Dec. 27 meeting.  

Depew House on Main Street in 2019. Photo by Joe Squillante
Depew House on Main Street in 2021. Photo by Joe Squillante










Plans are being drawn up for adding classrooms and production studio space to the upper floors of the Paramount Center on Brown Street. Downtown Revitalization (DRI) funds are slated for renovating seating at the theater along with inclusion of a full bar. According to Friedman, state officials liked the idea of the Paramount becoming a community center with the addition of production studio space and classrooms. 

Human Resources Director Joanna Duncan briefed the council on a $32,000 spend that will cover three years of training for city employees. The training will encompass new hires about what is expected of a city employee. It also includes training for personnel who are being promoted to leadership positions. This training is beyond the mandatory compliance courses around sexual discrimination and workplace violence said Duncan. Comptroller Matt Alexander said insurance carriers look favorably on municipalities that have such training and it could impact the city’s ratings. 

Water and Sewer Superintendent Dave Rambo said the Department of Environmental Conservation is giving the city a grant as part of its Watershed Estuary Program that samples water from the streams that feed into our drinking system. The city’s Conservation Advisory Council along with Riverkeeper have contributed to the application for the 2 year project, at no cost to the city.  

At the Dec. 27 Common Council meeting Rambo will make a presentation about the city’s water quality and upgrades that have been undertaken. 

Another issue that saw much debate was the zoning map text amendment being proposed for the downtown by the developer of a new housing complex at Broad and Howard Streets. Council members wanted more input from the Planning Commision before setting a public hearing on the issue. That hearing is now tentatively scheduled for February after the Planning Commission meets on January 11. The issue is about creating a transition zone between commercial and  residential zones. 

Police Chief Leo Dylewski asked for permission to enter into contract with Axon Enterprises to purchase software to store data from body cameras. In addition, the department would be purchasing a body camera for each officer along with a taser for each officer. Dylewski noted that each of those recommendations came from the Police Reform Task Force. Front and rear dash cameras would be installed in the fleet of police cars as well as license plate readers. The city will have to spend $32,289.93 next year if the resolution is approved at the Dec. 27 Common Council meeting. 

Deputy Mayor Vivian McKenzie addressed a recent social media post that mentioned concerns that the salary and benefits of the new fire chief would affect the city’s tax cap. She explained that the salary is accounted for in the city’s budget, and can be found on line 3410.0100. According to McKenzie, the tax cap will not be impacted. 

And in liaison reports, Councilwoman Kathie Talbot briefed members on the meeting she attended last week with an official from the state Department of Transportation about keeping trucks off Main Street during daytime hours. Main Street is a state road (Rt. 6). Cortlandt Supervisor-elect Richard Becker was also at the meeting with Peekskill’s Mayor-elect Vivian McKenzie and City Manager Andy Stewart. Talbot acknowledged the help of State Senator Peter Harckham setting up the meeting with the state official and said in early January the planning departments of Cortlandt and Peekskill will be meeting to discuss what each municipality would like to happen.    

The Council’s final public meeting of 2021 will take place at 7 pm on Monday, December 27th.