Tree ordinance takes root in year-end council meeting

Jim Seymour returns to city fire department, as new chief


By Regina Clarkin

At the last meeting of the year, Peekskill’s Common Council passed a tree ordinance that’s been in the making for some ten years and hired a full-time fire chief, a subject that’s been discussed for more than ten years according to people involved in city government. 

Council members also instructed the Acting City Manager Matt Alexander to cancel the city’s New Year’s Eve Ball Drop amid concerns over a  Covid-depleted  police force and Department of Public Works, as well as the safety of those who would attend the festivities. 


Trees like this spectacular beauty will be protected under new local law adopted Monday night.        Photo by Regina Clarkin


The Council formally adopted the long-in-the-works Tree Ordinance. The Conservation Advisory Council, which only offers advice to the Council, has been working with city planner Jessica Youngblood, the city’s liaison to the CAC to shape the legislation. Outgoing CAC Chairperson Kay Barthelmes had praise for Youngblood, saying the crafting of the legislation was above and beyond her responsibility as a staff liaison. Barthelmes cited Youngblood’s dedication to the project by noting that the planner made a presentation to the Council in the summer from her vacation out West. Youngblood is leaving Peekskill  to take the top planning position in Bedford in January. With the adoption of the new law, Peekskill joins the other 46 Westchester municipalities with local laws regulating taking down trees. 

New Peekskill Fire Chief Jim Seymour

James Seymour, IV, 44, was hired by the city as the full-time fire chief, with responsibility for managing the city’s career firefighters and volunteers. Seymour and his family were present at the Council meeting. A Peekskill native, Seymour graduated from Peekskill High School in 1995 and served as a volunteer firefighter and a career firefighter here. He most recently was the fire chief in Scarsdale. Upon the vote, he said it was a special feeling to come back to a blue collar community and be able to serve the city of Peekskill in a proud fashion. He will be sworn in on January 1 and said he intends to spend the first month talking to people and listening to them.  

In other matters, a public hearing was set for January 10 at 7:30 p.m. for comments on the proposed Affordable Housing Ordinance. The public is welcome to attend in person or virtually. 

Proclamations were read by Westchester County legislators Colin Smith and Catherine Borgia, who is set to become chairperson of the County Board of Legislators on Jan. 1, acknowledging the tenures of outgoing Mayor Andre Rainey and Councilperson Vanessa Agudelo. Rainey was recognized for his work with the youth in the city of Peekskill as well as helping secure the $10 million grant from New York State for Downtown Revitalization. Agudelo was lauded for her passionate commitment to speaking up for those often without a voice and for hard work on behalf of environmental justice issues.  When Agudelo was elected to the Common Council in 2017 she was just  25 years old and became the youngest person in the history of the city to hold a council seat. When Rainey was elected mayor in 2015, he was the youngest person elected to that seat. 

The inauguration of Vivian McKenzie as Mayor and Councilpersons Rob Scott, Ramon Fernandez and Dwight Douglas will take place at the Central Firehouse on January 1 at 11 a.m. and guests will be expected to show proof of vaccination and or a negative covid test. The event will be broadcast live on the city’s Facebook page.