By Samuel Rowland
Six people escaped injury Wednesday afternoon after the roof of popular Peekskill café Kathleen’s Tea Room collapsed.
Reportedly, six people were inside the establishment, including the owner, Peekskill Deputy Mayor Vivian C. McKenzie, when a loud noise was heard, and they decided to evacuate the building. The roof collapsed shortly around 2:30 p.m. after everyone had evacuated, according to Peekskill Police.
It is not currently known why the roof collapsed.
Peekskill City Manager Andrew Stewart noted in a statement made to Examiner Media that it was “[his] understanding” that there was also water leaking from the ceiling, along with the initial noises, that triggered the evacuation.
As is standard protocol, the gas, electricity, and water supply were all shut off for the café and the neighboring buildings, to prevent potential leaks and resulting accidents. The sidewalk in front of the café and other adjacent street areas were also blocked off.
“The Building Department closed the building and conducted a preliminary assessment of the status of the structure… [and] determined that the protective measures were adequate,” Stewart stated. “A structural engineer has been on side today [June 3] to make a further determination as to whether or not the building is a risk for further collapse, or what further measures need to be taken for safety’s sake.”
Kathleen’s Tea Room is an English-style restaurant focused entirely on mid-day meals like lunch and afternoon teatime. McKenzie has owned and operated the business since 2010, even continuing to work there part-time while serving on the Peekskill City Council, starting in 2013 and later being appointed Deputy Mayor in January 2020. She is currently running for mayor.
A GoFundMe was organized on the day after the incident by the Family Resource Center of Peekskill, Inc – a private non-profit social work agency with a headquarters in the same Business Improvement District as Kathleen’s Tea Room. It managed to raise $4,016 before it was shut down on the same day at McKenzie’s request, with all donations set to be refunded.
The update on the GoFundMe by Elizabeth McCorvey, the organizer, cited the business’s need to “sort out its insurance issues” first. However, there may have been ethical issues if it went forward, as McKenzie is a candidate in the June 22 Democratic primary for mayor of Peekskill as well as a current government official.
“I’m humbled and grateful that so many of you have reached out to offer your support and compassion to me, my family and the employees of Kathleen’s Tea Room,” a statement on the Peekskill Democratic City Committee (her PAC) Facebook Page read. “I must however inform you that I did not authorize, nor can I accept donations…via GoFundMe or otherwise.”
McKenzie could not be reached for comment.
John Donadio, owner of Nourish Hair and Body hair salon and spa on Main Street, is a frequent customer of Kathleen’s Tea Room. He first heard about the incident from a customer at 3 p.m. on June 2 who had walked past the scene. When asked, he said that the accumulation of water on flat-roofed buildings of Peekskill Historic District buildings like Kathleen’s Tea Room could be to blame.
“It was only a matter of time,” Donadio said, referring to the chance that one of the building’s would be damaged.