Collapse of Lockwood Drive culvert shows vulnerability of area

Council approves $150K for emergency repairs 


By Regina Clarkin

The threatened breaching of a portion of Lockwood Drive in the Highland Park neighborhood in late December exposes the fragility of decaying infrastructure in a section of the city that’s the site of a proposed 46-unit residential development. 

The dexterity of the city’s department of public works in response to the collapse of a culvert under the road, causing near-catastrophic pooling of  stormwater runoff, illustrates the multi-dimensional aspect required for mitigating a crisis.  

Erosion from stormwater trapped by a collapsed culvert threatened to undermine Lockwood Drive. Photo from DPW report to Council.

Peekskill’s Common Council approved emergency spending of $150,000 during Monday’s meeting, allowing DPW employees to continue working on the storm sewer culvert under Lockwood Drive at the edge of Highland Park, the site of the proposed Mountain View Estates.  

According to Christopher Gross, Director of Public Works and the City’s Engineer the collapse of the culvert caused “flooding to excessive depths, threatening private property, the integrity of the Lockwood Drive roadway and the utilities under Lockwood Drive which include the water distribution system, the sanitary sewer collection system and the gas line.”

Road alongside stream constructed by DPW to get to failed pipe. The Hat Factory is in the distance. Photo by Regina Clarkin

In his presentation to the Council requesting the emergency spending, Gross outlined the difficulties facing the city on December 30th by explaining how DPW employees began pumping water out of the culvert before it rose high enough to overtake the road. A week later, an access road was constructed along the upstream embankment to begin excavations in the hopes of finding the deeply-buried 36-inch plastic culvert pipe that collapsed from the bottom up. Gross said the pipe appeared to have been either a previous repair attempt and/or an extension of the original masonry stone culvert. 

Failed plastic culvert extension. Photo from DPW report to Council.

In asking for authority to continue the work under an emergency status, Gross said the city would be able to order precast concrete culvert sections, rent an excavator and operator and other equipment, and complete the project before the spring rainy season. If the city hired outside contractors, the cost would be approximately three times the amount requested and the completion date would be extended, Gross explained. 

The construction of a cofferdam to seal off the water so exploratory excavations could find exactly where the pipe failed. Photo from DPW report to Council.

This emergency repair comes in the context of an ongoing quest by Lockwood Development Partners to build a multiunit residential development including single family homes and clustered condominiums in the same area off Lockwood Drive. At the November Planning Commission meeting, commissioners were not swayed by the developers scaling back their April proposal from 46 units to 32, saying the environment of the project hadn’t changed. The Planning Commission is the lead agency requesting an Environmental Impact Statement for the project. 

“Soil conditions haven’t changed, numbers of trees are coming down, and the very sandy soil requires lots of fill to be brought in,” said Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Stern to the developer’s representative.  Commissioner Ruth Wells echoed those comments saying “the reason for wanting to do a full Environmental Impact Statement wasn’t the size of the project, but the conditions of the environment. There is still the potential of toxic waste runoff from the Hat Factory and its previous uses. The site raises environmental red flags more than the idea of the project,” said Wells, who has been on the Planning Commission for 13 years.  

Because the scope of the project has been reduced by 30 percent, the developer is seeking approval without having to undertake a full Environmental Impact Statement. 

Developer’s comparison of their original 47-unit proposal (left) vs. an earlier approved plan that was never built.  Image from Planning Department documents.

Members of the public spoke passionately at the November meeting, expressing gratitude to the Planning Commissioners for looking out for the size and scale of the development.  Elaine Caccoma of the Peekskill Conservation Advisory Commission spoke of walking the site during the summer. She noted the wetlands below the proposed development are in a sensitive area that flows into the river via Annsville Creek.  

This is the stream flowing along the proposed development site. The collapsed culvert is at the bottom right of the image. Photo by Regina Clarkin

Mountain View Estates developers are expected back before the Planning Commission in the next few months. It is unclear what – if any – impact the culvert collapse might have on their proposal.