Public weighs in on Pugsley and Monument Parks redesign


Monument Park currently.

By Steve Pavlopoulos

In the wake of Veteran’s Day, about 30 Peekskill residents heard a moving appeal from John Donohue to focus on Monument Park’s reason for existence.  Donohue, commander of the American Legion post, was a participant in Tuesday’s public presentation about design enhancements to Monument and Pugsley Parks as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant. 

 “Monument Park is a sacred place where we honor those who gave their lives in service of their country,” said Donohue. He emphasized the importance of creating clean site lines to the monuments and the flag while offering ample space for people to gather during Peekskill’s Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day ceremonies. 

Consultants from Aspect 120, the landscape architecture firm hired by  the city, began their presentations with site analyses of each park. That included  the shortcomings and assets of each location in relation to the physical and visual barriers at the edges of the parks; the circulation and connectivity to the areas around the parks; the natural features and site furnishings (benches) and the views and visibility of each park. They also noted what focal points in each park are undesirable or attractive. 

Location of parks on the north side of the downtown. Pugsley is bordered by Howard Street to north and Main Street to the south. Monument is at the intersection of North Division Street, Orchard Street and Highland Avenue.

They then spoke of the purpose of the renovations and presented two options for each park. After the presentation, the public was invited to brainstorm ideas. The goal of the brainstorming session was to get to the heart of how the parks are used today, explore some of the issues people are experiencing with each, and determine how the updates can be done in a way that will activate the community by creating green spaces, “that can support all the exciting things happening in Peekskill,” said Aspect 120. 

The public breakout sessions took place at seven round tables throughout  the room and gave attendees the opportunity to discuss the ways they use these parks in their daily lives. Every table had the two proposals for each park and were asked to determine which design elements felt best-suited to each of the spaces based on how residents experience the parks. 

Two options for Monument Park. Both images require illumination of the monuments while design on left allows for more inward focus that is shady and quiet and allows for seating at edges of monument areas.

This format allowed for open discussion and a range of feedback that represented everyone who attended the meeting and wanted to be heard. It’s a testament to Peekskill’s community engagement that about three dozen people came out on a cold, rainy Tuesday evening to make sure their interests are served.  Security within the parks was a top priority among participants. Participants commented that they felt the designs were  organic and thoughtful in terms of plantings, sight lines, and overall layouts. 

Donohue’s comments about the purpose of Monument Park made a strong case for keeping that park focused on the memorials that define the space rather than thinking of it as a place to play or seek out activity. The enhancement of the park is important and personal to him. “I’m 90 years old and I’ve been going there since I was 12. I go there every day to see the condition of the park,” he explained, “and it’s horrible right now.”

The proposals for Pugsley Park as a place to meander between Howard and Main Streets were well received by attendees. The area has potential as  a destination for community performances and outdoor movie nights in the summer. An art walk is an element of  design for both of the options for Pugsley.  The most positive feedback centered on the natural layout that offered winding pathways rather than a straight shot through  the middle of the park. There was a general consensus that Pugsley Park is also falling into disrepair with a lack of positive community engagement.

The two design options for Pugsley. The one on the left features a straight path through the park the other shows a meandering path.

With both these redesigns, there is an understanding that upkeep will be instrumental to their ultimate success. Today, these spaces are messy and underused. This is a community that appreciates the reality that these revitalizations will come with a new set of upkeep requirements to make sure they can be improved then properly maintained for years to come. Renewed activity and beautification is achievable at a cost and this meeting was a productive way to prioritize the coming improvements. 

The straight path through Pugsley as it is today.

Aspect 120 will take in the various suggestions and notes from the work session and integrate them into their next design iterations for these two  spaces. The City will keep updates on the project in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative section of their website and the public can comment on the proposed alternatives for Pugsley Park and Monument Park at the website linked here

Steve Pavlopoulos, who grew up in Connecticut, enjoys parks in any locale. This story is an example of the kind of journalism Peekskill Herald excels at, attending meetings that impact the community and then reporting on them. Support the Herald today  during our NewsMatch grant period where every dollar donated is doubled. You can support/donate here