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Ball Discusses Challenges with Peekskill Officials

PEEKSKILL, NY – State Senator Greg Ball and his staff met with city officials Thursday to discuss things the state can do to help the city prosper. Afterward, they toured the downtown together.

“What are your biggest headaches?” Ball asked city officials.

Mayor Mary Foster said that finding funding to replace aging infrastructure was a major problem for the city, such as fixing storm water and sewage systems.

“Our residents see a lot of development but not a lot of tax relief,” Foster said. “That’s where the state could be very helpful.”

Foster said revitalizing the downtown area was the city’s biggest priority, and was in search of grant money.

“If you can do that in your older cities you can bring back your downtown,” Foster said.

Since the city is so small and space is limited, mixed use buildings are more favorable than large box stores that can be built in larger cities or suburban areas, Foster said.

“We don’t get tax revenue for parking lots,” Foster said. “We need people to be creative.”

The city currently has two large projects underway:  a new central firehouse planned for Main Street and the planned hotel on Louisa Street where construction has stalled.

“It’s a new building in an underperforming part of the city,” said Foster of the firehouse project, which she said would cost about $14 million.

The city has put in place a transfer tax and two 1 percent tax increases to pay for the building, but Foster said state or federal funding would be welcome in these tough economic times and might allow them to eliminate the transfer tax.

“People say that tax really hurts, but they don’t notice it as much when the market is good,” Foster explained.

 Deputy Mayor Don Bennett said that smaller, more rural municipalities are getting state funding when Peekskill cannot.

“Give us a piece of the pie - we’ll take the crust. $10,000 goes a long way,” Bennett said.

The city is also seeking funding for affordable residential housing, but since the city already meets the federal quota for affordable housing units they have difficulty receiving funding. The city planned to create a second Art Loft project on Main Street but has been unable to secure funding after new requirements to add an elevator made the project too expensive for the developer.

City officials also complained about the 18 to 24 months that SEQRA environmental review studies take, which they said can slow down developers considerably or discourage them altogether, a sentiment Ball agreed with.

“They go out of business,” Ball said of developers.  “They’re absolutely killing the little guys.”

 

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