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Peekskill Council Approves Zoning for Homeless Shelter
The Peekskill Common Council last week unanimously approved a zoning text amendment to allow transitional housing, paving the way for the only homeless shelter in northern Westchester to relocate to a new home.
The Nov. 28 decision by the council was made despite opposition from the owners and tenants at the nearby Blue Mountain Shopping Center, who raised concerns about increased crime and possible environmental hazards on the property at 1070 Lower South St, which for many years was occupied by a recycling company that was cited by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with thousands of violations.
“I understand the concerns that have been raised and they were not taken lightly,” Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie said. “I believe this zoning text amendment will better the city. All environmental concerns will be closely looked at.”
Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CCHOP), the non-profit organization that has run the Jan Peek House on North Water St. since 1988, has high hopes about being part of a three-building proposed development at 1070 Lower South St. that would enable it to expand its current footprint from 7,500 square feet to 20,000 square feet.
According to CCHOP Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Knox, CCHOP served almost 61,000 individuals in 2021—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.
“I am passionate to build this homeless shelter,” said developer Abraham Rosenberg, who in May first presented plans to seek a zoning text amendment for 1070 Lower South St. and other nearby properties in the M-2B Zoning District.
Besides constructing a two-story building to house the Jan Peek House on a vacant parcel opposite the BASF factory, Rosenberg is proposing to construct a three-story self-storage facility and a 10,000-square-foot building for a potential job training center or commercial venture.
Joanne Landau, one of the owners of the nearby Blue Mountain Shopping Center, and others unsuccessfully lobbied the council to delay voting on the zoning text amendment for 45 days to digest information that had been recently submitted.
“What’s the rush?” Landau asked. “This is an environmental injustice.”
Victor Wong, longtime owner of the McDonald’s in the shopping center, said his main concern is the safety of his employees and customers.
“It kind of seems a little sneaky. Everything is being done fast,” Wong said. “There’s a lot of stuff that may happen that we have to get the police involved. I’m all for helping people. 100 percent. I just wish there would be a better location for this to be.”
Four years ago, CCHOP did an extensive search and settled on 851 Washington St. since it could be renovated to serve its needs and is close to a bus stop. The building on Washington Street was purchased by CHHOP for about $900,000 and was in dire need of expensive repairs. Public opposition was intense.
In March 2019, CCHOP stated it had not received the funding needed “to move the Washington St. project forward,” and thus would be turning its attention to another property in an industrial area.
Deborah Walker said many residents are aware of the issues with the property that Karta Recycling and Container facility abandoned after going out of business.
“Nobody is against the homeless. It has something to do with the land that you want to put the shelter on,” Walker said. “I know the land is contaminated.”
Clayton Esters, who resides at 1103 Lower South St. directly across from 1070 Lower South St., stated in an affidavit that Karta operators buried old cars, washing machines and dish washers on the property that leaked oil and gasoline.
“I spent 50 plus years looking at covered up garbage,” Esters stated. “I don’t know if the leakage has seeped into my property. It probably has. I know other families have complained of cancer and early deaths.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/