Peekskill Mayor Oozes Optimism in State of the City Address

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By Rick Pezzullo

Mayor Frank Catalina painted a rosy picture of Peekskill and its immediate future during his annual State of the City address Monday night at City Hall.

Catalina, who has led the city for the last four years and is planning to run for a third term in November, led off with his devotion to the place he has called home most of his life.

“I would first like to say that being the mayor of this great city that I grew up in, where I was at educated; where I practiced law for 36 years; and where I will live until the day I die, has been the greatest honor of my lifetime and I again thank you all for this honor,” said Catalina.

“My administration began at a time of great financial turmoil. Operating deficits were rampant. All new commercial development was halted, delayed or turned way,” he said. “In my prior State of the City speeches, I forecasted what we could accomplish if we implemented our plan. Tonight, we are reaping the actual harvest from implementing that plan, so sit back, relax and savor the good news—but let me tell  you the bottom line right now—the state of our city is strong, and stronger than it has been in over eight long years.”

Catalina, a Republican who has been saddled with a Democratic majority Common Council throughout his tenure, credited his fellow councilmembers with working towards the common good of the city.

“Together we faced the serious financial issues that we inherited, including operating deficits and pension deferrals,” he explained. “Our actions, determination and our commitment to work together resulted in dramatic progress for Peekskill.”

The mayor stressed Peekskill is now on solid financial footing, with the council delivering two consecutive balanced operating budgets and increasing the city’s unrestricted fund balance from $7,500 when he took office in 2014 to $2.6 million at the end of 2016.

However, Catalina maintained the city can’t rest on its laurels and must continue with conservative fiscal policies.

“This balance is a dramatic reversal of what we inherited and something we all should be very proud of,” he said. “A city our size, to be financially ‘healthy,’ we should maintain an unrestricted fund balance of approximately 10 to 12% of our annual budget ($3.7 million). Despite this dramatic progress, I will not rest until we reach that goal.”

In order to continue the city’s growth, Catalina insisted the council must implement the “pro-growth policies of this administration.”

“I have said many times since becoming mayor that we cannot tax our way out of our financial problems. That we can only grow our way out to financial stability, and we have,” he said. “This growth comes from the investment in Peekskill by the private sector, not government funded projects. I am calling upon the business community, developers and investors to see the projects that have come to Peekskill in just the past three years and to recognize Peekskill is no longer the community that says ‘No’ to every proposal. I welcome you to bring your ideas and dreams to Peekskill to make them a reality.”

Catalina pointed out nearly half a billion dollars of private investment have been made in Peekskill in recent years, amounting to more than 20 “significant” commercial projects and almost 500 new residential units.

“We acknowledge that the economic health of any city is tied to the health of its business community and these trailblazers have led the way to the rebirth of Peekskill,” Catalina said.

As for new initiatives, Catalina called on the Common Council to form a committee to find a location in the downtown and near the railroad station for parking garages. He also urged the council to establish and fund a five-year capital budget for the continual upgrade and capital improvements in city parks on an annual basis, and advocated the reinstitution of a quality of life task force to help identify such issues as overcrowding and code violations.

“I believe with all my heart that the evidence is overwhelming that the state of our city is good and getting better,” Catalina remarked. “Where only one commercial building was constructed in the six years before our administration took office, I stood here and said if we implemented our plan, that together we can make a generational impact like none before. I asked you to join in this revolution and to let the naysayers take a back seat or better yet, get out of the way.”

“Today, the real results of that optimistic plan is real and is now sweeping every corner of this city,” he continued. “I said it was dawn in Peekskill and now, the fog of dawn has cleared and we see it was not a dream. We have invigorated the city with a feeling that anything is possible.”

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