EnvironmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Developer Still Pursuing Plans for New Homeless Shelter

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By Jim Roberts and Rick Pezzullo—

Plans to construct a new home for the only homeless shelter in northern Westchester are moving forward despite reports of the property at 1070 Lower South St. in Peekskill being for sale.

“We’re waiting to hear from the DEC [state Department of Environmental Conservation] hopefully in the next couple of weeks and once we have the clearance we’re going to go for permits,” developer Abraham Rosenberg said in a recent phone interview.

Rosenberg’s company, 1070 Park Estates LLC, purchased the narrow four-acre parcel in October 2021 from KMMKM Ltd. for $1.35 million, according to county land records.

KMMKM’s president is Kenneth Cartalemi, son of the late Kenny Cartalemi, who operated the Karta Corp. recycling company for many years in Peekskill. KMMKM retains a $950,000 mortgage on the property.

Rosenberg, whose company is based in Rockland County, came to Peekskill in 2017 with the purchase of the self-storage buildings on Highland Ave. from former owner Phil Miller. He operates his company Spare Cube self-storage there now and is looking to expand with a new facility on the 1070 Lower South St. parcel.

Last summer he offered to also build a new home for the Jan Peek House homeless shelter on the northern end of the property next to Manzer’s Landscaping. The new three-story self-storage building would be on the south end across from McDonald’s.

According to a published report, Rosenberg estimated the new shelter could cost $7 million, which he would fund without state or federal grants.

Obstacles ahead for the plan

Rosenberg won a zoning code text amendment from the Common Council last November permitting transitional housing in the M-2B zone. He will need a special permit, site plan approval and possibly a variance for the setback distance to the street.

The owners of the shopping center on Welcher Avenue across from the proposed shelter filed a lawsuit in March seeking to overturn the Common Council’s approval of the zoning change they passed last November.

Among other reasons, lawyers for the shopping center owners cite the decision by the DEC in March 2023 that further investigation of possible contamination on the 1070 Lower South St. property is necessary to determine whether remediation of the ground is required.

The question of possible contamination of the site and a need for remediation depends on a decision from the DEC. A consultant for Rosenberg submitted test samples of the ground last October and requested that DEC rule no remediation was required. DEC denied that request and determined further testing was necessary before deciding if the property would have to be cleaned up.

A mystery listing – for sale or not?

Some confusion over Rosenberg’s plans for the shelter arose recently when a commercial real estate broker listed the property for sale. At the August 21 Common Council meeting, longtime resident Leesther Brown pointed out the listing, questioning whether the shelter was ever going to be built there.

“I didn’t know the property was for sale,” Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie responded.

In the telephone interview, Rosenberg claimed he didn’t know how the listing appeared.

“It was not offered to anyone, I don’t know why they put it on,” Rosenberg said. “I never signed with any broker. It’s not for sale. I heard about it. I’m not taking any offers for it – period. This broker was the original broker when I bought it. I have no idea why he re-listed it.”

Repeated calls to the broker, Bernard Stachel of Tamberlain Realty Company, were not returned.

Rosenberg offer a lifeline to shelter seeking a home

The 200 North Water building where the Jan Peek shelter is now housed was sold to 200 North Water St. Equities LLC in July 2019. The managing member of that company is Malkie Lebrecht, according to land records. The property and two others, 199 and 210 North Water Streets, sold for $3.5 million.

The Lebrechts own several other properties in Peekskill, including the Riley Building at 104 South Division St., 110 Washington St., 405 South Division St., and 629 South St.

The Jan Peek shelter began in 1988 with the support of the Peekskill Area Pastors Association. Today, 40 percent of the residents are from Peekskill.

The current 7,500-square-foot building is rundown and lacks space for a commercial kitchen, meeting rooms and enough beds to serve the population that need shelter. The new building, slated to be about 20,000 square feet, would provide those facilities.

The shelter is operated by the non-profit Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CHHOP) and is open seven days a week, 365 days of the year and offers case management, access to healthcare, education, behavioral services, employment assistance and independent living.

Cynthia Knox, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CCHOP, said last week she spoke with Rosenberg the day before and he told her he was getting ready to apply for a building permit.

“He’s not selling the property,” Knox said. “We really need a new shelter.”

Jan Peek House is a Westchester County Department of Social Services-funded shelter for single adult men and women. The shelter provides supportive case management services for clients to develop an independent living plan that focuses on obtaining housing and supportive services such as medical, behavioral, employment and educational.

Jan Peek drop-in services provides shelter, food and limited supportive services for homeless adult men and women, particularly during inclement weather.

In 2021, CCHOP served almost 61,000 individuals—a 300 percent increase from the pre-COVID-19 pandemic. Fred’s Pantry, which started in 2010, serves more than 400 people each week, 95 percent of which reside in Peekskill or Cortlandt.

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