Mountain View Developer Needs to do Homework


Lockwood Drive at dawn Photo by Luz Vele

To the editor:

Thank you for the excellent coverage regarding the proposed development plan for Mountain View Estates. What a positive sign that the presentation lasted for four hours and that local citizens were so engaged in the process. They fully participated with very specific, educated concerns regarding environment, access/egress, drainage, steep slopes, toxicity and more. They did their homework but, it seems, that the development company for Mountain View, Lockwood Development Partners LLC, did not. While the builders might be a very responsible group, they should be more transparent in terms of what they do and how they do it. I fear that too many developers think that Peekskill is an easy-mark.

A previous owner originally received approval back in 2008 for this project, but they did not move forward (probably because of the financial crisis of that time). Lockwood Development Partners is the new developer who has applied to the city.  It appears they did not take into account the many changes that have been made since the first development of 31 single-family homes was approved in terms of city ordinances and in 21st century-thinking. For instance:

1. Tree City USA: Like those citizens who were present for the Zoom presentation, I am mostly concerned with the environmental impact of such a project. The suggestion of destroying 700 trees to make way for this development and only planting 57 new ones is not acceptable. Are they seedlings or mature trees? And, what is that, one for each house or condo of the proposed development?

In today’s headlines, time and again, the media reports the severity of climate change in the world today; that everything we do in terms of land development and practices of our daily lives must be for the betterment of our planet and life as we know it. Accordingly, we must keep the trees that beautify our city and benefit our air quality and the wildlife they sustain. If they must be removed to make way for this project, what about Lockwood planting 700 other trees elsewhere in Peekskill. It’s a tough call, I know, but so is cutting them down. After all, of the more than 3,600 members of the Tree City USA nonprofit organization, Peekskill is one of them – so let’s take that seriously.

According to Catherine Montaldo, Peekskill’s superintendent of parks and recreation, a thriving urban forest offers many advantages to communities, including reduction of energy costs. increasing property values and mitigating the effects of climate change. A community like Peekskill receives an annual Tree City recognition by maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance and spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry ($47,000 for Peekskill). So, destroying 700 trees is no small matter for Peekskill.

2. Sustainability, green practices, local sourcing and CSR: In today’s business environment, one hears so much about sustainability, green practices, corporate social responsibility and similar issues. Lockwood might be a very distinguished company but what is its business philosophy? I do know it was stated that the company was purchasing building products from the local area, which is certainly onboard, but what does that mean exactly? Are they purchasing from Peekskill retailers directly – or Cortlandt or Yorktown or elsewhere?

That said, what is Lockwood giving back to the community in terms of corporate social responsibility. Since families with children will probably be moving into these new housing units, maybe they could “give back” to the schools in  a significant way?

3. Transparency: If one Googles Lockwood Development Partners., LLC, what pops up is a Park Avenue, NYC group, as does a group in Delray, Florida, and Omaha, Nebraska. Is this Lockwood connected to any of these organizations? Or, are they all one and the same? Or, is this Lockwood Development Partners, LLC, a legal entity onto itself? I believe we want to know more about this particular developer in terms of its building practices and business philosophy, and to have it clearly stated. What is their website so that we can all learn more. Most importantly, who are the board members and will any of them benefit from this deal?

4. Design: Finally, a more striking architectural design for Peekskill rather than the “same old-same old” would have been applaudable. After all, Lockwood’s original plan destroys much of the beauty that surrounds our part of the Hudson Valley, a region in which we take great pride. What are they replacing it with?

5: Schools: Also, there is a lack of clarity or serious discrepancy regarding the potential number of children that might live in the new community and, thus, possibly attend area schools. In John Lynch’s letter to the Planning Commission, page 12, he indicates in a box that there would possibly be 21 such children but, in the Rutger’s University business model also included in the presentation to the Commission, the calculation would actually be approximately 97 children.That is: 5 single-family units with 4 bedrooms each, minus the master = 3 bedrooms for 3 children x the 5 units = 15 children. Likewise, for the 41 clustered units with 3 bedrooms each, minus the master = 2 bedrooms for 2 children x the 41 units= 82 children; and 15 (quoted above) and 82 = a potential grand total of 97children. Again, this is based on the Rutger’s business calculator for such situations as presented

6: Summary: In conclusion and for all the above reasons, Lockwood Development Partners must:

  • Donate a tree to our fair city for every tree they destroy. A “tall” order but that’s the cost of doing business.
  • Brush up on all city ordinances since 2008
  • Give back to the community in a meaningful way
  • Implement 21st Century green and sustainable practices
  • Provide a policy of transparency with no conflicts of interests
  • Then we’ll know that they are serious about doing business here in Peekskill and can come back to the table.

Stella Johnson
Peekskill resident of 36 years