Peekskill Community Congress held its third and final public forum Saturday at Peekskill Middle School before a city-wide vote is taken in mid-March.
The Community Congress is a non-partisan initiative that gives residents the opportunity to address issues they are most concerned with, identify shared priorities, and engage in finding solutions to move Peekskill forward.
The first forum was held in December at the United Methodist Church, followed by a second forum in January at Peekskill Brewery. At the three forums combined, 38 residents and local leaders presented proposals that will be presented on a ballot that will be mailed to about 10,000 residents, each of whom will be asked to rank their top three ideas.
“This gives the community the power to set the agenda,” group facilitator Jason Angell said to about 100 onlookers at the middle school Saturday. “This is about a community coming together and seeing what people of Peekskill care about.”
Any resident 13 years old or older was invited to sign up to share their priority to better Peekskill. On Saturday, 15 residents came forward to outline their proposal in three minutes or less.
Valerie Eaton, president of the Peekskill NAACP, urged residents to lobby for Peekskill to have an early voting polling place, which the state Board of Elections would have to approve since Peekskill has less than 50,000 registered voters. Having a polling place would give residents up to nine days prior to Election Day to cast a ballot.
Deb Milone, president of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, presented a concept to transform Peekskill into a large, “magical” holiday display during December.
“Create a magical environment that people from all over will want to come and see,” Milone said. “This will also attract positive publicity for our city. Let’s make Peekskill a visual wonderland in December. If you light it, they will come.”
Margaret Steele, an eight-year resident who works in an art loft downtown, proposed establishing a vision map to transform Peekskill into a model walkable city.
“We have a chance to be a leader in this,” she said. “We are just a walkable city by default. We are not pedestrian-friendly.”
Other proposals included setting up a council to serve as advocates for the elderly, adding more street lights, forming a committee to research ways to build an outdoor covered facility for ice skating and hockey in the winter and graduations and concerts in the warmer months, and providing more jobs for youths.
The ideas that receive the most votes from the ballots mailed in March will become the Community Congress’ prime focus, Angell said. Once the votes are tabulated and the results are revealed, an “action oriented fair” forum will be held.
“The hope is that out of the process, what rises to the top are what people share in common,” Angell said. “One thing about all the leaders in the community who devout so much time…it is so hopeful. There are so many people already looking at things.”