The November election may be six months away, but residents in Peekskill were given an early look at the candidates running for office during a forum sponsored by the Peekskill NAACP last Thursday at Peekskill High School.
Approximately 75 people turned out for the two-hour event that included candidates for Peekskill mayor, the Common Council and the District 1 seat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
The incumbent Democratic team features Mayor Andre Rainey, who is seeking a second two-year term, councilwomen Vivian McKenzie, Patricia Riley and Kathleen Talbot, and Colin Smith, a current councilman who is running for the county legislator position being vacated by Republican John Testa.
They are being opposed by the bi-partisan team of Republican Vincent “Boo’ Vesce, a former councilman looking to replace Rainey, council hopefuls Lauren Brady, a registered Republican, and Democrats Luis Segarra and Marlon Mahon, and former Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina, who is vying for county legislator.
If elected, Vesce, who served on the council from 2014 to 2017 and is employed as a business consultant for the airport services industry, said he would focus on bringing more commercial development to Peekskill to help the city’s tax base.
“We have to have a balanced approach on what is needed here,” he said. “There’s a lot of private/public partnerships that can be done here.”
Rainey, Owner and President of NOO Moves Entertainment, which he founded in 2010, touted the successes of the council under his leadership.
“We have made Peekskill one of the greatest cities on Earth,” Rainey said.
McKenzie, who has been on the council since 2013 when she was appointed to replace Don Bennett, owns Kathleen’s Tea Room in downtown Peekskill.
“I have seen our city move forward and I’m proud to be part of this transition,” she said.
Talbot formerly owned a small business for 30 years and has been on the council for eight years. She currently serves as deputy mayor.
“I understand business and I understand people. I love Peekskill. I’m hard working. I’ve become a good listener,” she said.
Riley is a retired teacher. She served on the council from 2008-2011 and was appointed last year to fill a vacancy.
“We had a vision Peekskill would become a destination city and it has,” she said.
Brady works as Events Manager at the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce and is co-founder of the non-profit “This is Me Foundation.”
“I want to be a voice of all the people in Peekskill,” she said. “Don’t look at us as R and D, but of you and me.”
Segarra is co-owner and CFO of The Crescent Companies. He ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2017.
“I’m running for office because I believe the voices of business and residents are not being heard,” he said.
Mahon works as an IT and corporate management consultant. He has lived in the city for 18 years.
“My greatest strength is my ability to listen,” he said. “I truly believe the next best thing doesn’t have to be invented. It’s already happening.”
During the forum the candidates fielded questions on taxes, affordable housing, diversity for city offices and committees and the proposed relocation of the Jan Peek homeless shelter.
Vesce said the homeless shelter, which was slated for Washington Street but is now rumored to be heading to Lower South Street, was “handled incorrectly by the city.” He said he supported the shelter “in the right location, where it is most beneficial.”
Meanwhile, Rainey, who has made youth issues a top priority, revealed the Boys and Girls Club was currently exploring bringing its programming to Peekskill at the Kiley Youth Center.