Prominent developer Martin Ginsburg is looking to make a splash near the waterfront in Peekskill with an ambitious mixed-use development across from the Metro-North Train Station.
During a Common Council work session last week, Ginsburg, 86, who has completed several housing projects in the city, unveiled a plan to transform an existing municipal parking lot on the corner of Railroad Avenue and Requa Street into a multi-story rental apartment complex with hotel rooms, retail space and a parking garage.
“We’re not new in town. I think we have done some important projects,” said Ginsburg, who mentioned Chapel Hill, Riverbend, Gateway on Main Street, Fort Hill apartments and The Abbey Inn & Spa as some of his previous work in Peekskill.
“We’re doing something that we think will make a difference in this area. It’s not an easy task,” he remarked. “I’m not interested if I can’t do the whole project because it won’t do the job. This is your railroad. It should make a statement. If you don’t want a statement, you have the wrong guy.”
Two separate concepts were presented to the Council. One would consist of two, nine-story towers that would contain 196 market rate rental units, 40 hotel rooms, 5,000 square feet of retail and 263 parking spaces in an attached garage. The second would be a five-story structure with 165 units, 40 hotel rooms, the same square footage of retail and 202 parking spaces.
For the project to move forward, the Council would have to vote to sell the parking lot to Ginsburg, increase the height for structures now allowed in the zoning district and add hotels in the City Code as a permitted use in the district.
Ginsburg is also proposing to redesign and upgrade Railroad Avenue and have the city make Requa Street one-way.
“Our secret of success is our total commitment to completing all necessary details,” Ginsburg said. “This will be my seventh and final project in Peekskill and it has to be my most important. Peekskill is a city I believe of major potential. It does not have a history of market rate development and none on the waterfront. I’m a pioneer. I go where nobody else goes. I’m a little bit of a Hudson River nut trying to create Hudson River towns that are tourist focused.”
The discussion then turned to affordable housing, with Ginsburg contending regulations for setting aside a certain percentage of units in developments for so-called affordable housing were often cumbersome and did not yield the intended results.
“We build market rate housing. That’s what we do,” he stressed. “I’ve built affordable housing and got very little satisfaction from it.”
He noted when he constructed the Gateway townhouses on Main Street, none of the 38 people who applied for the two affordable units were Peekskill residents. Ginsburg said Peekskill would benefit more from a neighborhood improvement program.
Councilwoman Vanessa Agudelo said she would be open to different strategies but stressed there was already “a housing crisis” in Peekskill, with more than one-third of city residents using 50 percent of their income for housing costs.
“I would require that there will be affordability built into this project that Peekskill residents can afford,” Agudelo said. “I think we have seen developers can and are willing to build affordable housing in Peekskill.”
Mayor Andre Rainey concurred, saying, “The idea is to make sure the residents of Peekskill are taken care of.”
Councilman Dwight Douglas offered his support for the project, commenting, “Your proposal is interesting. Adding a hotel is good. It would clean up one of the ugliest sites. I think it’s worth considering.”