Downtown Signs Have Taken on New Look in Peekskill

Council to continue efforts to improve appearances, educate merchants about compliance with city regulations in historic district

Peekskill officials expressed pleasure – with a note of civic pride –
during a review of downtown commercial signs featuring then-and-now photos of a
couple of dozen locations in 1990 and 2011. Common Council members and planning officials praised the improved, more inviting appearances of the sites but
acknowledged that there are still concerns that need attention.

“Signage Review in the Downtown Historic District” was presented during a
City Hall meeting Monday, May 2, by Jean Friedman, city planner, and
Anthony Ruggiero, director of the Planning and Development Department.
Utilizing guidelines in place since 2002 the city has encouraged businesses to replace undesirable banners, signs and posters with more attractive versions, Friedman said. “Historic preservation does make a difference.”

Continuing concerns, which the city plans to address through education of
merchants, include:

  • “Open” signs. Non-flashing lighted signs are being
    permitted. Many such signs now use light-emitting diodes instead of
    traditional neon gas. Flags and paper signs are alternative tools for
    announcing an establishment is open for business.

  • Paper signs. The city has received complaints
    about cluttered appearances, especially when the signs cover more than the
    permitted amount of window space.

  • Sandwich boards. Council members voiced
    preferences for a historical look and neat blackboards without
    bulletin-board-style clutter. Criticism was directed at white boards and
    contemporary plastic boards.

  • Balloons and pennants, especially near curbs
    where they could affect parked or moving vehicles.

  • Placement of signs on narrow sidewalks so as not
    to impede pedestrians.

  • Cost of bring nonconforming signs into
    compliance with city requirements.

Council members voiced a desire not to be overly restrictive and said
improved, attractive signage can bring more customers to a business.

City officials will prepare a bilingual letter (English and Spanish)
about signage to all merchants in the downtown district, followed by staff
visits to discuss compliance and the removal or replacement of nonconforming
signs. Summonses will be issued if necessary.

Friedman will develop guidelines for district signage, along with a
proposed timeline for compliance, and present them to the council for

Patty Villanova May 05, 2011 at 12:28 PM
The political correctness and hypocrisy of our City officials is truly amazing. We all know who the obvious offenders are when it comes to signage and who is violating the law. For example, to the best of my knowledge, signs for businesses must be in English to be historically correct. Also, as long as they're allegedly trying to "help" local businesses, then why not enforce the codes and laws that prohibit people living in the back rooms of their storefronts? Or how about doing something about the illegal activities such as drug dealing, money laundering and prostitution, that are taking place Downtown behind the front of certain variety stores and hair salons? For that matter, do you think that Scarsdale or White Plains would allow the number and type of "businesses" that have been allowed to take over the BID district? Why does the City cater to the very people who have destroyed the retail sector of Peekskill? I wonder if it has anything to do with all that Federal money that comes to Peekskill for Medicare, Medicaid, housing, etc. Truth be told, Mary Foster, Rick Finn and their cronies are not interested in real, upscale businesses like Side Effects, the Coop, et al. -- we simply don't generate enough money for them. Watch what happens with their new signage rules and see who they come after. I will report back here when I get my first summons.
Katie Schmidt Feder May 05, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Patty, Every time I read one of your postings - it is SO ANGRY and bitter. I know that you have had many frustrating experiences in Peekskill, but the underlying racisim in your letter is shameful. There are many of us who appreciate the great diversity of Peekskill, even if it isn't perfect. We chose to LIVE here based on this diversity and the overall vibe of Peekskill - the good, the bad and even the ugly. I feel this administration HAS worked hard to better downtown. Look at the $500K in grant money that is helping to beautify main street facades. Look at the wonderful businesses such as yours, the Coop, the galleries, the Coffee House, the Beanrunner, 12 Grapes, Division St. Grill, Birdsall House with its soon to open beer garden, the new Dylan’s Wine Store, Antonia Arts, Ford's soon to open (we hope) jazz and cabaret, the C Town with the best produce and fish around, the new Food Co-Op the list goes on. All downtowns in cities like ours face struggles when competing with the big box stores and shopping centers. (as my comment is too long I will continue below)
Katie Schmidt Feder May 05, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Thanks Barbara, to continue: As a performing artist who is trying to develop more in the arts in Peekskill and honor the great diversity of this city (read about my recent production of Seussical at PHS and Jim Knight's response to good examples Peekskill citizens coming together) and who hopes to develop a Performing & Literary Arts Center here (EMBARK-Peekskill) - I have thus received great support and encouragement from this administration. I just sometime feel- Patty - as you do not live in Peekskill - that you miss a lot of the wonderful things that are going on here and are only focused on your interests. Visit the schools, take in the smiles, meet the families trying to make their way. You won't resent so much the hard working people that might own the "type of businesses" you seem t0 abhor. (I doubt most of them are involved with the illegal activities your describe, - but some may be - but that is ANY city ). It isn’t always easy, and there are challenges everywhere, but those of us who have chosen to live here and send our kids to this district and work together to bridge cultural, racial and economic gaps do not appreciate the hateful negative energy that others who don’t even live here project. Also - you might be surprised that if you project more positive energy to the community - the community might want to bring their positive energy and spending cash into your store. (I USED to) Just a thought. Katie Schmidt Feder
Patty Villanova May 05, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Responding to Katie - am I "bitter", I guess I am. You would be too if you had invested your life savings, sweat and tears into a City that seems bent on self destruction. And please don't play the race card as it's getting pretty tiresome to be called a "racist" every time anyone questions what's happening here. To set the record straight- I love this City which has been a part of my life since 1955. As a kid I went to the Paramount, the Marathon, Genung's and all the other wonderful businesses I'm sure you never heard of. It was a dream come true when I opened Side Effects; nobody wants Peekskill to succeed more than me. Unlike you and the other do-gooders, I walk the walk and put my money where my mouth is. I have volunteered hundreds of hours with the BID, hoping (mistakenly) to improve things by working with the city. I have donated merchandise for auctions and events and I spend a fortune on promoting my shop and our downtown. Excuse me if I get a little upset when I see everything I've worked for going down the drain to satisfy the avarice of the politicians of both parties. By the way, I spend lots of time outside the downtown, visiting my daughter and her family; as I walk around this beautiful city with my grandkids, it breaks my heart to see so much potential wasted. Peekskill could be the BEST small city in the Hudson Valley if the politicians and their cronies would just get out of the way.
Katie Schmidt Feder May 05, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Patty - I don't doubt for a minute and am aware of the time and money you have put into your business and BID. I don't mind being called a "do-gooder" because my main goal in life as most of us is to do the best we can. But don't assume I haven't given a great deal of volunteer hours and money to this city - as I have worked at the schools with CLEAN, volunteering to host the family stage at Peekskill Celebration, countless volunteer hours with the schools, etc. But negativity takes us nowhere - I mean - what is your goal? I found the former adminstration to be overwhelmgly opaque and unresponsive to citizens. I had never recieved such lip service in my entire life when raising concerns - yet several of the concerns I have brought to this adminstration have actually been addressed in a timely matter. No one in politics is perfect and it is hard to please everyone. Having had family members in politics and having served on boards in the past, I know how complicated these roles can be. I know from your experiences with BID - you know this too. I often feel that those of you who grew up in this area are so resentful of the new Peekskillians. I actually know you daughter and her lovely family, but don't sense any of the anger and negativity from them. Anyway - you have the right to feel the way you do - but when do you let go and get possitive? I truly do feel it might cause a shift in your business in a profound way.
Leslie Lawler May 05, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Katie, I first want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed "Seussical," and was impressed that the other grades were included. I think that is a brilliant concept, as it will plant the seed at a young age, and with a little nurturing and cultivation, our children will grow to appreciate and participate in the Arts. Bravo! I'm one of the residents that have grown up in this area and my family has longtime roots here. I would offer that the blanket statement regarding those who grew up here are resentful to new folks is a bit unfair. I have many wonderful new neighbors and I am pleased that they chose to move and invest here. I respect your opinion regarding the former administration in comparison to the present administration. This is subjective by far. I can tell you that my neighbors and I found the former administration to be entirely transparent, inclusive and welcoming -- so much so that the Mayor himself would send us updates regarding issues affecting our neighborhood. He and several Council members made regular visits to our neighborhood. We have not had the same courtesies extended to us by this administration; in fact, despite promises of open government, we have found this administration to favor certain neighborhood groups over others. The former administration is also responsible for bringing in many of the wonderful businesses you cited, so it's only fair to give credit where it's due.
Patty Villanova May 05, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Katie's response is typical of what I've come to expect from those who refuse to open their eyes and see what's going on right in front of them. Facts are stubborn things, but instead of addressing the very real situations I have described during my tenure here, people like Katie choose to play the race card, make accusations of "negativity" and now the bogus claim that there is resentment and anger directed at the "new Peekskillians" which group actually includes members of my own family! Get real-- do you honestly believe that nonsense you're spouting? I and my fellow business owners have done and continue to do everything in my power to promote Peekskil as a desirable place to live, work and do business. Too bad that the politicians and bureaucrats can't get out of the way and their own self interest. Wake up and smell the coffee.
Leslie Lawler May 05, 2011 at 04:00 PM
I understand where Patty is coming from. Even as a homeowner, one wonders, "where is the return on our investment?" Now services are being cut back as comingles for a city whose population has increased, will be picked up in one day, instead of two. Negativity? There has been quite a turnover in City Hall under this administration. City Hall used to be a warm and welcoming place. Employees are now afraid to speak to residents for fear of getting in trouble, however, this administration thinks hanging pictures in the lobby (at taxpayer expense) will band-aid that. Unresponsive? This administration is not listening to the residents regarding building a taxpayer-funded central firehouse. Five public meetings were held. I attended two of them and can assure you firsthand that there was NO "overwhelming support" by the public as the City Manager tells the public. One meeting went completely unattended. So if 3/5 meetings did not result in overwhelming support, I'm not sure how it would quantify as responsive. In defense of Patty, I will also state that she has offered many positive comments throughout the years. I agree with her point regarding some of the questionable activities of some of the businesses in town. Just ask the senior citizens on Main Street who live across the street from the restaurant near City Hall. Why does that restaurant put darkened foil in its entire front windows in the late hours on the weekend and blast music into the wee hours?
Katie Schmidt Feder May 05, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Patty - I think we just have different perspectives. I wasn't playing any race card. I was just telling you how your initial post came off to me. Whether you like it or not, I have read many negative postings by you and that has made me sort of avoid your store. You seem very concerned about your business - so that is all I am saying. I haven't experience the same things that you and Leslie have, that is true. And I will believe Leslie when she says you have offered up many possitive ideas and comments over the years. Obviously you would not have started a business here if you didn't see potential. As of the Central Fire House - I was not in attendance to those meetings, but you indicate that there was not overwhelming support. Were there a lot of citizens stating dissatisfaction with the plan? Just curious. Many people tend to show up when they have concerns vs. to show support. I like the idea of the central firehouse, but would need to try to go back and read more about it to make an informed decision. It is true, that being the mother of two small children and working multiple free-lance arts jobs, I don't always get to be as informed as I would like to be, but I don't apprectiate your "wake up and smell the coffee" condescension as I try to read whatever I can about BID and the city meetings, etc. Ultimately, it sounds like we can all find common ground in that we want the best for Peekskill and we have a love for Peekskill.
Leslie Lawler May 05, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Patty provided kudos to The Flat Iron Gallery on 3/6 in the"The Patch's" article "Shop Locally, On-Line." I also recall a very positive letter she sent to several of the local media regarding the wonderful turnout to The Clydesdale Horses that came to town courtesy of Bertoline's and Budweiser a couple years back. As far as the firehouse project, the meetings netted both: residents with concerns and dissatisfaction (mostly centered around the question of funding the project in a difficult economy) and a lack of residents providing "overwhelming support." Many of the public Common Council meetings over the past few months have also netted residents who have serious concerns regarding the timing and funding of the project. As a lifelong resident, I feel one of the hallmarks of our dear City (historically as well) is that we have welcomed everyone and our population is both diverse, culturally-rich and ecclectic. We are all different and will have different opinions and perspectives, true, but just because folks disagree or don't see eye-to-eye, doesn't mean someone is "attacking" nor does it mean someone is "racist." Sometimes I wonder when that kind of verbiage is thrown around, is it really a smokescreen to keep us all from truly seeing where the common ground truly is. I'm glad that there are some folks that are having positive experiences in our dear City. That's what it's all about when one lives and invests somewhere.
Katie Schmidt Feder May 05, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I appreciate the points you raise Leslie. It is true I didn't experience what you did with the former administration, maybe I arrived too late (2003). All I experience was an overwhelming desire to build, build more condominiums, etc. It turned me off quite a bit. But it is good to hear of these possitives from you. You are right, common ground is the thing to find - As we all do literally share common ground :)
Leslie Lawler May 05, 2011 at 05:50 PM
I understand how you feel, Katie. If I could offer a few specifics for the record -- the Beach Shopping Center took a tremendous downturn after the arrival of the malls in the retail scene. What was once a shopping mecca that brought many customers in from far and wide ("I'm going Christmas shopping at The Beach!") took an unfortunate spiral down once the Jefferson Valley Mall was born. The Beach Shopping Center was deserted and a ghostly near-eyesore. The former administration (and to be fair, Bennett and Claxton were part of the "former" administration) spearheaded a complete revamp which included bringing in Stop 'n Shop and CVS and a completely renovated parking lot. When residents, many of them seniors, asked for a decent grocery store in town that people could walk to, the former administration brought in C-Town. Agreed, condos were built also. But I think (in my opinion, of course) that that would be a good thing so more new folks come live here. I appreciate and enjoyed the dialogue with you, Katie. And thanks again for that great "Seussical" production....it was one of Peekskill's finest moments.
Katie Schmidt Feder May 05, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Thanks Leslie. That is interesting to hear some of the history - like "Christmas shopping at the beach". I laugh - because I can't stand going out to the JV mall -but I prefer little shops and actually do shop downtown Peekskill! I don't like the condo idea because there are so many HOUSES on the market - and sadly, as I understand it, many of the inhabitants of Riverview and Chapel Hill don't send their kids to Peekskill schools - so there seems to be sort of a separatist attitude that is off-putting, but then again, I know many so-called liberal artist types who aren't giving the schools a chance either - so there you have it! Contradictions and, as Patty said, hypocrisy everywhere I guess. But dialogue is good! And thanks for your kind words about Seussical. It was a challenge and I was afraid I had taken on too much by adding the little ones - but somehow it all worked out!
Patty Villanova May 05, 2011 at 10:08 PM
I'm glad to hear that Katie "shops Peekskill" and I sincerely hope that despite my negative blogging, she will come back to my store to see all the great stuff she's been missing! I don't think non-business owners can imagine the frustration and despair that those of us feel who are still trying to hold on in our Downtown. We're talking about businesses , some of whom have literally been in town oveer 100 years, saying they've never seen it this bad. Many of us have to be closed for 3-4 days a week because we've had to find jobs to bring in extra money or worst case, to have to support our stores till things hopefully get better. It doesn't matter how nice the buildings look if nobody is out walking around our streets. Keep in mind that the city is paying lots of money to a host of planning and economic development specialists, most of whom get 6-figure salaries and benefits the private sector can only dream about. Year after year we hear about the latest pie in the sky plan to bring retailers to town, yet it doesn't happen. Why? Because P-skill is not attractive to "real" businesses, even though we have tremendous location, fanatastic buildings, infrastructure and great transportation. There are answers to this dilemma, but they are not an option for politicians who are getting rich by servicing the poor.


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