AREA NEWSThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Report: Shoppers Scared of Peekskill

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Downtown Peekskill
Downtown Peekskill

Peekskill has slowly but surely developed a reputation as an affordable entertainment destination, but a widespread perception continues to stand in its way of being a shopping hub: safety concerns.

That was one of the main themes of a Peekskill Downtown Retail Recruitment Study commissioned by the city as it aggressively pursues attracting new businesses.

“Growing the downtown is probably the most important thing we can be doing, in addition to developing our waterfront,” said Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster. “Our downtown has been long neglected the last couple of years. I’ve seen it really start to come back and this is another critical, pivotal step in that direction.”

Larisa Ortiz of Larisa Ortiz Associates presented the findings of a nearly year-long study last week that included interviews with 20 merchants and five stakeholders and survey results from 1,711 respondents—56 percent of whom were from Peekskill and 15 percent from Cortlandt.

“There is a buzz that Peekskill is changing,” said Ortiz, who grew up in Ossining. “There are people who are absolutely interested in Peekskill. The question is how do we find them?”

Restaurants and the Paramount Center for the Arts are the major draws for the 35-and-over population that make up the majority of visitors to the downtown. However, more discount department stores, clothing businesses and grocery stores are in demand, according to the survey, which Ortiz said presents a problem since most of the 24 retail spaces currently vacant cannot accommodate large businesses.

“Those are larger stores and you don’t have large spaces, so there’s a disconnect there,” Ortiz said.

But the main reason some shoppers avoid Peekskill is safety and security. Survey respondents indicated they feel much safer shopping at the Beech Shopping Center in Peekskill, the Cortlandt Town Center and the Jefferson Valley Mall than being in downtown Peekskill.

“People who are not coming here are concerned about safety and loitering,” Ortiz said. “The need to address safety jumped out at us. People don’t want to walk down a dark street and not know what’s next.”

Ortiz said Peekskill must reinforce its brand recognition as an affordable entertainment location through marketing and promotion and support the success of existing businesses as a “lure for new ones.”

“That will be your calling card,” she said.

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