Below is a copy of Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster’s state of the city address from Monday night’s council meeting:
First let me thank the City’s staff for their continued professionalism, hard work and dedication to our residents. The past five years have been difficult as the nation suffered a deep recession and a slow recovery. The housing market in NYS has stabilized, but is slow to recover, state and federal funding continue to diminish, and city spending has finally come into line with significantly reduced revenues. In spite of all the challenges, the City’s staff has continued to rise to the occasion with creativity and sound ideas.
Peekskill is financially sound. Based on smart financial planning we are maintaining a prudent fund balance while also continuing to invest in Peekskill’s future. And this is contributing to great confidence in our City and our future. There is greater investment. And, this will mean more business, more jobs, and more opportunity for all of Peekskill’s residents.
We have been streamlining administrative operations while keeping our focus on public safety, economic development and city services. Departments are working collaboratively and creatively with each other to ensure excellent services to our residents and businesses.
We are strengthening departments with new leadership. We have welcomed our new City Engineer, our new Corporation Counsel, our new Police Chief, our new Human Resource Director, and soon our new Director of Planning and Economic Development.
Thanks to a thousand people too numerous to list we have created a sense of community that is second to none. Working together we look out for each other, we create a safe community and we make sure everyone is included in our success. Working together we have created a healthy city, beyond that which can be described in a State of the City report. The true state of the city is the environment that you create; one that attracts newcomers to live and work here and retains our long-time families and businesses; one that encourages our young people to learn and start careers but to return to their roots; one that fosters a sense and duty to ‘give back’. Working together we have made great things happen in Peekskill.
THANK YOU to:
our business partners: BID, HVG Chamber of Commerce, Peekskill Art Alliance, HVCCA, all the new entrepreneurs opening businesses in Peekskill, and our tried and true businesses;
our community partners: HRHC, Field Library, Peekskill Museum, Embark Peekskill, Peekskill Agencies Together, Peekskill Area Pastor’s Association, the Preservation Company;
our educational partners: PCSD, Assumption School, Westchester Community College, BOCES; our boards and commissions;
our city boards and commissions: Planning, Zoning, Historic Landmarks, Conservation Advisory, Human Relations, Historic Advisory, Parks Advisory and Ethics;
our volunteer agencies: PVAC, Volunteer Emergency Management Services, Volunteer Firemen, and Volunteer Police Auxiliary;
our volunteer committees and service agencies: the parade, celebration and festival committees, the Elks, the Road Knights, the Lions, the Rotary, the Knights of Columbus, the Peekskill Garden Club, the Peekskill Senior Citizens Club, the American Legion-Oliver Chase Post, the thousands of people who volunteer at the food pantries, the homeless shelter, the PTOs, the youth sports leagues and the numerous nonprofit groups that are too numerous to list
Peekskill is a ‘hot’ city for economic growth. We have been successful in the recent rounds of competitive NYS grants which will allow us to continue to revitalize and create jobs. Each inch of growth and success has been hard victories that demonstrate the dedication, focus and commitment by city staff and our partners.
Peekskill is successfully attracting new families and businesses. Our unique culture and diverse population creates a welcome mat for families with a variety of interests and from a variety of backgrounds and income levels. Our historic homes continue to get renovated. Our safe urban vibe continues to attract new and unique businesses; some in the arts, some in technology, some in sound production and engineering, and some in retail. Starting next month you can get inked by Rihanna’s tattoo artist and raise 4 chickens in a coop friendly environment. Starting next month you can visit the Yellow Brick Road Café while you gaze out at the permanent installation of The Diver on the riverfront.
Crucial to Peekskill’s long-term success is continuing the development of a welcoming waterfront that attracts boaters, day cruises, and historic ships and the visitors they bring. Connecting a welcoming waterfront to nearby restaurants and shops, hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts and our downtown is part of a focused strategy that we build upon each year. The Holiday Inn Express, the newly renovated Inn on the Hudson, the new zoning allowing bed and breakfasts are accomplishments in 2012.
The following is a summary of some of the Exciting Developments coming in 2013:
- Reopening the Paramount Theater
- Opening of the Holiday Inn Express
- Ground breaking for Scenic Hudson Park at Peekskill Landing
- Groundbreaking for the Southern riverfront park improvements
- Groundbreaking for the Central Firehouse
- Welcoming a new year-round docking facility for Trinity Cruise Line ‘Evening Star’ on the southern riverfront green
- Engaging a developer for Lower South Street
- Planning for new residential development along Central Ave.
- Improving the safety of the Bear Mountain Parkway by the DOT at Highland Ave., North Division Street, Carhart Ave., and center median improvements from N. Division St. /Carhart Ave. to Route 202.
- Improved, dedicated parking for library patrons in the parking lot next to city hall
- Public meeting on Route 6 Streetscape Improvement Design Report
- With grant money, we will begin planning for the Charles Point Trail connecting the Fleishman Pier with the Charles Point Marina and Lent’s Cove
- With grant money, we will update Peekskill’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan to include docking facilities, piers, watercraft launches and water related uses
State grants and public-private partnerships enable the Next Round of investments in our downtown. They include:
- Main Street grants for façade improvements and creating 2nd and 3rd floor residential units for properties along S. Division St and Brown St
- Historic lights and sidewalk improvements begin on South Street, Brown Street, South Division Street
- Improvements and enhancements to the Nelson Ave. garage
- Main Street Commons begins construction
- 1028 Main Street will be the site of a new building for an existing downtown business with on site parking.
- Physical improvements to Crossroads Shopping Center
- New restaurants and the Peekskill Central Marketplace are coming
- New life for the Workers Compensation building to bring residential and commercial businesses
- New life for the White Plains Linen complex along Highland-Constant- N. Division St to begin with a public informational meeting
- Updated zoning and design guidelines for Monument Park area and Route 6
- Expanding and updating the downtown residential zoning to allow for greater investment in businesses and properties
Accomplishing all that we do would not happen if we did not aggressively pursue and participate in Regional Planning and Coordination. Some of the initiatives Peekskill has sought out, and the value these collaborations have brought to our residents, include:
- Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium: founding member of 14 municipality group focused on energy efficiency for homeowners and businesses; grants have allowed for a city inventory of our energy usage, opportunities for residents to have energy efficiency upgrades to their homes, opportunities for businesses to access (PACE) property assessed conservation energy financing, opportunities for business-to-business renewable energy solutions, and municipal energy reduction actions
- Mayor’s Redevelopment Roundtable: original member of a 9 city consortium focused on leveraging time, talent and third party resources to help cities in a recessionary climate access the tools and developers to revitalize and redevelop our communities and to compete effectively for grants through the Regional Economic Development Council
- Westchester Municipal Officers Association: Peekskill has a leadership role in pursuing county-wide efforts for state pension reform, state and county mandate relief, county Community Development Block Grant relief, and taxpayer equity
- Mid-Hudson Region Sustainability Planning Committee: Peekskill was represented on the Steering Committee that developed regional guidelines and plans for a 7 county region that will provide access to funding for economic development and environmental projects that fulfill the sustainability goals
Peekskill also works closely with our immediate neighbors—Cortlandt, Buchannan, Yorktown and Croton on a variety of road, sewer, environmental and transportation issues. We also share services with each other and work collaboratively through groups like Historic Hudson River Towns, the Cortlandt-Peekskill-Yorktown Sustainability Committee, the Indian Point elected officials group and through our County Legislators.
As we set the course for 2013 some of the City’s goals, in addition to the projects and initiatives listed above, include:
Expand the use of public-private partnerships for redevelopment and revitalization projects
Through the Westchester County Association municipal showcase incentivize developers of land-banked properties along Main Street, Central Ave., Railroad Ave, North Water Street, Park Street and St. Mary’s-Fort Hill to structure agreements to develop their properties
Expand on-line capabilities of doing business with city hall
Increase the use of technology in city services, code enforcement and public safety
Strengthen community outreach and leadership in the police department
Expand job training and workplace opportunities for the City’s disadvantaged young adults
Support the Housing Authority Board as they continue to improve the quality of life for the residents, seek grant funds and resolve long-standing issues.
Resolve lease issues with Lincoln Depot Museum Board so that the Visitor Center and Exhibit Plaza can be built. As we have learned from recent experiences with city owned property that is leased to nonprofit groups, the City needs accountability from the nonprofit organization for achieving financial and operating measures so that the City can protect the public good. The depot building was purchased a decade ago through an eminent domain action with city funds. The demolition and restoration work was completed with grant funds, contractors and city staff. The new visitor center and plaza will be constructed with grant funds awarded to the city. For this project to be completed as a public asset, certain terms and conditions are required. If and when these terms are agreed to, the final pieces can move forward. We are all excited about the possibilities of a new museum, public plaza and visitor center—but fiduciary standards must be upheld.
Continue to secure a date for the transfer of the NYS Armory building from the NYS Army National Guard to the City of Peekskill.
I want to thank my fellow council members for their hard work and dedication this past year and look forward to another year of solid achievements in 2013.
Thank you to the Acting City Manager for his continued commitment to the best interests of Peekskill. And thank you to our City Clerk and our City Attorney for their continued support of the Common Council through our Council Meetings.