Fallout from a recent critical Instagram post by Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey aimed at opponents of the Jan Peek Homeless Shelter has entered the political arena.
Former councilman and mayoral candidate Vincent Vesce criticized Rainey for comments he made on Instagram last month where he took issue with a 10-year-old girl speaking at a Common Council meeting and taking a stance against a former plan to relocate the only homeless shelter in northern Westchester from North Water Street to 851 Washington Street.
In his post, Rainey also took aim at members of the resident’s group Peekskill Safe & Strong for supporting the girl.
“They clap and give a round of applause when a child speaks of how bad homeless people are and how dangerous and scary grown man are,” Rainey stated. “I’m wrong, as a mayor, for calling them ignorant, so I’ll save that comment/opinion to myself when I’m OUT of office I guess. In the meantime, I’ll teach my child the power of helping the homeless rather than teaching my child how bad they are. I guess I’m a different kind of parent.”
Vesce, who served with Rainey on the council and is looking to limit Rainey’s run as mayor to one two-year term, called Rainey’s remarks “unprofessional.”
“I am aware of the comments the Mayor made and actually couldn’t believe what I saw. It’s one thing to disagree on issues or voice your opinion on social media but it is quite another to outright attack your constituents for simply stating their opinions in what was a respectful manner, especially when one of those constituents is a little girl,” Vesce remarked. “This is just another example of the unprofessional and immature behavior demonstrated over and over by this Mayor. Given his personal history and the language and lyrics used in the so-called music he produces, I suppose none of us should be surprised by this recent unprovoked and disgraceful outburst against a mother and her young daughter. It’s just another clear example of why Peekskill needs a change in leadership.”
“As you know, there is more to being Mayor of Peekskill then showing up for photo ops or ribbon cuttings, and having the city’s PR firm promote you, and another to fully understand what it means to provide sound municipal governance over city operations and provide the community with leadership that they can be proud of, not embarrassed by,” Vesce added.
Rainey responded to Vesce’s criticism last week by saying he stood by his post.
“Peekskill people remember that the last time someone named Vesce was Mayor of Peekskill, crime went through the roof, downtown was a ghost town, and homeowners were taxed to the max. Vinnie Vesce is the legacy of a patronage machine that focused on handing out jobs to friends and family members instead of making Peekskill the best that it can be,” Rainey said. “The voters want Peekskill to move forward, and that’s what we are doing in my administration. Peekskill is Westchester’s hottest community right now, with development everywhere you look, taxes going down, and a sense of pride we haven’t seen in this beautiful city in 50 years.”
“And that’s because I’m determined to be Mayor for all of Peekskill—not just a small group of people who want to control the rest of us for their own personal benefit, and stoke fear, distrust and divisiveness in this community. That’s what I said on Instagram, and I stand by it. Peekskill deserves better, and I’m determined to make that happen,” Rainey added.
During a board meeting last month, the mother of the 10-year-old girl confronted Rainey about his post. He did not respond to her. Others also ripped him, including Brian Dee, a local businessman, who said, “I thought you were a stand-up dude. To call all of us ignorant, that will come back to bite you in the butt later.”
In March, Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CCHOP), the non-profit organization that runs Jan Peek, announced it was abandoning plans to move the shelter to Washington Street and was seeking an alternative location.
Rainey indicated last month he was aware of the new property CHHOP was considering but refused to reveal the location, instead urging residents to monitor CHHOP’s website, which has made no mention of the site being pursued.
Rumors have circulated in the city that the property that has been identified is on Lower South Street, owned by the Tutor Perini Corporation. Local businessman Louie Lanza recently confirmed to The Northern Westchester Examiner he was one of several investors currently involved in a land deal on Lower South Street.
The Jan Peek House homeless shelter has been located on North Water Street since 1988.
Rainey and Vesce, along with Common Council and Westchester County legislator candidates, have been invited to attend a candidate’s forum being held by the Peekskill NAACP on Thursday, May 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Peekskill Middle School.