Parklets Shuttered Over Safety Concerns 

“Not A Dead Idea” says City Manager; Work Needs to Happen


Taco Dive Parklet on Railroad Avenue with 2-ton cinderblocks protecting it.

By Regina Clarkin

Three “parklets”, the outdoor dining spaces that sprung up during the pandemic to give restaurants extra outdoor seating, will soon be dismantled due to safety concerns raised by Common Council members. City Manager Matt Alexander said he spoke with the three owners of the parklets associated with Taormina Restaurant on Hudson Avenue,  Taco Dive Bar on Railroad Avenue, and Gleason’s on South Street last week, and sent letters explaining that the city has safety concerns and is not extending the temporary order allowing the parklets. All three business owners have permits for sidewalk dining. 

“It’s not a subject that’s over,” added Alexander who said he hoped he would be able to meet individually with the owners of each parklet in the next weeks to discuss ways to make it safer to have them. At Monday’s Common Council meeting Alexander told the council that “it’s not a dead idea,” adding that city staff need to do more work in terms of guidance to the three permit holders. The work will involve the city, police department, the department of public works and the city’s insurance carriers. He also has scheduled a meeting with members of Peekskill Walks for April 29 to discuss the matter with the pedestrian advocacy group.

“We understand that this is something positive,” referring to the parklets, saying that the city needs to look at infrastructure, signage and additional patrol aspects before it could reinstate them.  Alexander took over as acting city manager shortly after the Council discussed ending the parklets at its March 7th work session. When members of the public learned that the parklets were not going to return for the outdoor season, an online petition gathered nearly 800 signatures in favor of them remaining open; many citizens also attended a Common Council meeting to speak in support of the curbside dining areas. 

John Sharp, who owns Gleason’s on South Street, said that he hopes decisions regarding parklets and outdoor dining will be equitable across the board, and that people will be listened to in the decision making process. 

View inside Gleason’s parklet facing South Street.

Anthony Pietrosanti of Taormina on Hudson Avenue said he did speak with Alexander and expressed to him that he’ll lose business if the parklet is closed. He said he can’t understand how his diners being outside on the sidewalk without concrete barriers are safer than diners at tables in the parklets which are behind the barriers. He said he would advocate keeping the concrete barriers in place even if he can’t have tables on the street, and that he plans to double up tables on the sidewalk and use the barriers to create a pedestrian walkway. 

Fourteen tables are in Taormina’s parklet. When it’s closed the owner said he’ll have to squeeze tables on the sidewalk. He’d like to see the concrete barriers remain to create a walkway.

Lou Lanza of Taco Dive Bar at the corner of Railroad and Hudson Avenues said the city would be hard pressed to find anything safer than the 2-ton cinderblocks he’s got protecting his parklet.  “And with the street becoming one way traffic to the train station, it’s become much safer. Division Street turns into a parklet on the weekends when they shut down the road and Esther Place is a parklet, there needs to be something at the riverfront,” said Lanza.

Conor Greene, of citizen advocacy group Peekskill Walks, said he was disappointed that it seems the city is moving to end a really successful and popular program. “We understand the safety concerns – that’s one of our priorities.” Greene echoed Pietrosanti’s suggestion that people in the parklets are safer with a concrete barrier than they are on a sidewalk with just a curb between them and cars. 

“Instead of ending this program because of concerns over our streets not being safe enough, the answer is to address issues on the street that are causing concerns. In the downtown there should be no driver going faster than 25 miles an hour. And the whole area around the train station should be 10 mph to create a great outdoor atmosphere – and anyone who is driving down there knows that is the speed limit,” said Greene. 

Hundreds of signatures were gathered within a couple of weeks, and Sharp acknowledged that the signatures weren’t just names, but quotes and lengthy comments about what the parklets provided the city. 

“People want our public spaces to be used to make our city fun and interesting,” said Greene.