The city of Peekskill has been selected to receive $10 million in funds from New York state to be used for various projects designed to enhance its downtown.
The money comes from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) and the award was announced in Peekskill this afternoon by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at an event held at The Hudson Room, a restaurant and lounge at 23 S. Division St. near the Paramount Theater. Louie Lanza, owner of The Hudson Room and several other Peekskill properties, hosted the event that attracted local, county and state officials as well as community leaders and representatives of labor unions.
Cuomo added a bit of showmanship to his speech, giving the background of the state’s DRI initiative and mentioning how other communities have already benefited from the funding, which has gone to support a variety of projects helping to revitalize downtowns.
Cuomo explained that while the top award winner in competitions for the funding gets $10 million, not everyone can win all of that money and some communities are happy to receive far lesser amounts.
He then continued saying that Peekskill should be happy if it came in as a second- or third-place winner and it should be pleased knowing that any amount of funding would be better than nothing. And then, after feigning a sad look on his face, Cuomo perked up and announced that Peekskill was a first-place winner and would receive the full $10 million. The room broke out into wild applause and cheers. Cuomo then raced down from the platform on which he was speaking to embrace Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey, who already was on his feet in celebration.
This was the fourth round of DRI funding. The cities of Middletown, Kingston and New Rochelle were first-place winners in the mid-Hudson region in the first three rounds of the funding competition.
In its application, the Peekskill promoted the theme “Take a Peek…Discover Peekskill.” It said it would use the funding to build on its efforts to increase offerings in tourism, the arts and media with strengthened assets to support pedestrian activity in the downtown.
“An infusion of $10M from New York state will jumpstart community-envisioned projects that are focused on equity, environmental sustainability, inclusiveness, and innovation,” the application stated. The area targeted includes the Downtown Central Business District and waterfront Transit-Oriented Development District where there already are cultural and educational destinations, a waterfront and parks system and a core of restaurants and boutique retailers.
Cuomo said, “With the downtown revitalization initiative, we challenged local governments to propose innovative ideas to create jobs and drive economic growth. Peekskill proposed a brilliant plan that builds on their natural resources including the beautiful waterfront, a magnet that draws people and businesses to the area.”
The city now will develop a strategic investment plan to decide which specific projects will be funded. The first $300,000 of the $10 million will be used to pay for the planning process. The Business Journal was told by the governor’s office that another event will be held sometime in the future to announce which specific projects have been selected to receive funding with the remaining $9.7 million.
The Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council reviewed proposals from communities and considered seven criteria before selecting Peekskill as this round’s winner.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer praised Peekskill for preserving some its historic look and feel in the downtown.
“How many communities tore down their architecture when Peekskill preserved its architecture and that is part of the strategic vision that the governor and members of the Regional Economic Development Council were able to identify,” Latimer said, adding that the boost Peekskill receives will help all of Westchester County.
Rainey said, “My hands are still shaking. It’s a new day in Peekskill.”
Rainey said they’ve been working to make Peekskill a place that will attract more residents, prompt businesses to invest and entice visitors, “giving them a reason to stay and build lives and families here. We strive to make Peekskill a place for everyone and we’re known for our great diversity and today we can say we’re well on our way.”