Editors Note: The Peekskill Daily Voice interviewed Mayor Mary Foster on several major issues in the city in the year ahead. Part of that interview is below.
PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster said the city will see big changes in the coming year as it looks to revitalize itself.
Foster said Main Street state grant money the city received will have a big impact on the city in the coming year. Of that grant money, $250,000 will be used to assist property owners in downtown Peekskill on Bank Street between Park and Main streets for building renovations and streetscape improvements on South Street.
"There are blocks that have already been targeted for the next round so this money will go towards those blocks,” Foster said.
Another $125,000 will go toward a multi-use waterfront trail along the Hudson River shoreline from Charles Point Pier Park to the Charles Point Marina and parking lot while another $50,000 will be used to update the city’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program adopted in 2004 to refine its vision for its waterfront area and adjacent downtown.
“The funding for the construction documents southern part of the riverwalk will allow us to connect the Holiday Inn Express that’s being built on John Walsh Boulevard to the overall waterfront trail, which will connect our southern restaurants, like The Harbor, and open up more development in the marina area."
The city also is continuing to try to bridge the downtown and waterfront.
“The fact that we have real estate developers talking about developing vacant residential properties along Central Avenue is very encouraging because as businesses are expanding and growing along the waterfront district, creating a residential connection between that district and the downtown becomes very important.”
The city has adopted the environmental impact statement for its controversial new central firehouse, which is expected to cost about $15.6 million. All of the existing fire stations will be closed once the new station is built, except the Washington Street station, which will continue to be used as a substation.
All of the land needed for the project has been acquired with the exception of one section of the Crossroads Plaza. Negotiations with the property owners are ongoing but the city will be forces to use eminent domain proceedings if no deal can be made.
"Our attorneys will have one last negotiating session in January with the owner and then we’ll move forward from there," Foster said.
Construction on the new firehouse would take a long time even if the property is acquired by the summer, Foster said.
“We have to remove the existing structures that are there and then we have to make sure we know what’s underneath the properties, so some of that work can begin in 2013."
The biggest factor in the downtown is Paramount Center for the Arts, which has been closed since early October due to economic issues. The venue has served as the biggest engine for bringing visitors to the downtown. The city has received three proposals from management groups looking to operate the theater and the council will be reviewing them at its January meetings.
Foster said the board was committed to bringing in the best operator and was willing to take longer to find the right one if need be.
“We will invite the groups in to do a public presentation to the council, our meetings are all televised, and we’ll make a decision whether to go with one of them or do another request for proposals."
City officials also will be taking a look at changing downtown zoning, possibly towards more unrestricted zoning, Foster said.
“There will be a discussion about whether the boundaries of the artist district is too big or whether it needs to be changed or if there are ways to open up the zoning downtown,” she said. “I know the Business Improvement District is doing work on that front and has been talking to property owners, artists and business owners and they’ll be sharing their thoughts with the council.”