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Crossroads Tenants Speak Out Against Eminent Domain

A public hearing drew passionate comments from tenants who would be affected if the city invokes eminent domain for the firehouse project.

Several dozen people filled the Common Council Chambers in Peekskill Monday night for a public hearing on the city’s eminent domain procedure and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the

Three of the five who spoke during the public hearing were Crossroads Plaza business owners who will be affected by the proposed firehouse location. The firehouse would be a 36,000 square foot, $15.6 million, two-story structure built on the northwest corner of Main and Broad streets.

While about 20 firefighters who are currently working out of the city’s five different   sat in the back rows of the chambers, none of them spoke for or against the project. The five people who did speak were generally opposed to the scope, location and size of the proposal.

“Your plan is to take us from the very desirable side of the shopping center with ample parking and put us in much less desirable locations,” said David Pacchiana, the owner of. Panio is one of five retail stores at Crossroads that would need to relocate. There are eight retail spaces that would not be demolished, four of which are currently occupied, according to Director of Planning Anthony Ruggiero.

Pacchiana gave a detailed speech that included the presentation of an alternative location for the firehouse that "would save the city millions," he said, estimated costs for the city if officials invoke eminent domain, and the challenges of relocation for himself and other business owners. He and two other Crossroads businessmen acknowledged being located across the street from a “brand new big beautiful firehouse” could be good for business, but not if it takes up most of their parking and requires them to go through the upheaval of relocating their businesses, even if it is just a few doors down, they said. Read Pacchiana’s full talking points .

“For us to move out as businesses it is not simple. It takes time and sacrifice,” said the owner of J’s Salon at Crossroads. He was also concerned that parking spaces would be lost and explained that many customers use Crossroads because of the convenient parking that is hard to find elsewhere in Peekskill. He agreed with a plan that Pacchiana laid out.

Pacchiana’s plan involved shifting park street 100 yards north to create space to use the parking lot south of the current site in order to save Crossroads buildings and parking.

Pacchiana said the move would save the city millions in land acquisition funds, demolition fees and relocation costs. He then approached the council to show them a detailed blue print for his plan.

“This plan would be a win win win for everybody,” he said.

Mayor Mary Foster told him that shifting the project over would require the city to purchase other private property, to reconstruct the road and to move water and sewer pipes that run underneath the ground there.

Pacchiana responded that they could leave the water and sewage by using that portion of the land for parking.

The City Planning Department and its planning and environmental consultant John Lynch and firehouse architect Bob Mithcell will review Pacchiana’s plan, Ruggeiro said.

During his opening presentation, Lynch said that alternatives the city considered had topographic issues that would have impacted the project. But Pacchiana’s proposal was never an option the planners considered because Monday night was the first time he presented it to the council, Ruggeiro said.

“We have never seen that plan,” Ruggeiro said. “Certainly now we will look at it, there are some logistics and we don’t own that property…It will be incorporated into the process and we'll take a look at it.”

Meanwhile, the city is working with Crossroads owner, Tony Huang, to help him reach a deal with a bank that will aid him in reinvesting funds in the plaza and provide more space for existing tenants, City Manager Brian Havranek said.

Another concern of Pacchiana’s was that if the city goes through with eminent domain, it would be required to pay a maximum of $25,000 for relocation fees for each affected tenant, according to the DEIS.

“The $25,000 is not enough to move my air conditioners,” Pacchiana said. By this point, he was visibly heated, and said that if eminent domain is invoked, condemnation attorneys who are “anxious’ to represent the businesses have said that, “by law, the city would be required to compensate each business for re-location and business fixture improvements using prevailing wage rates.” “Remodeling isn’t cheap,” he said.  

 The city has already purchased 1137 Main Street and will close on at the end of this month, Lynch said at the start of the hearing.

The other speakers included the owner of Antonio’s pizza, Arnie Paglia, owner of North Division Street Grill and Tina Bongar, head of the Westside Neighborhood Association.

 “I don’t think we can afford the price tag and that it is in excess of $20 million” said Arnie Paglia, owner of North Division Street Grill. The city’s estimate on the cost of the firehouse was $15.6 million in 2008. Over the last few months, Paglia and other members of the public have voiced concerns that the price tag will be higher now that the economy is beginning to improve. Last year, architect Bob Mitchell the cost has not changed. 

“I don’t see the emergency of this in hard economic times…Does it really have to happen now in the way you propose, because it looks like more than any of us can afford.” Paglia said.

The public hearing will remain open until Sept. 10 and the public can submit written comments to the Director of Planning until Sept. 20.

The DEIS can be found here

Do you approve of the current firehouse plan? Please take our poll and tell us in the comments! 

Peter Goodson August 16, 2012 at 11:14 PM
This will be the final nail in Peekskill's economic coffin if this goes through. They have purposely let the present firehouses decline and lied about how much it would cost to upgrade them. They have also lied about how much it will really cost to build the new monstrosity. Properties were bought by illegally using city funds from the water dept. and removed property from paying taxes. Don't or get about the $10 millionusedto buy the Karta property and the $4 million price tag to clean it up. The property was also purchased without doing an environmental study ahead of time. This is just the tip of the iceberg of this administration's malfeasance.
Peter Goodson August 16, 2012 at 11:19 PM
This poor guy recently bought this business and Foster and Klaxton don't care. Hey Drew,I thought you were against eminent domain? You also used to be against destroying historic properties. So, you then proceed to quietly change the historic district so the corner house can be torn down and now you support eminent domain. What a hippocrite!! Bet you wouldn't allow your building and business to go through this. You have been not only a huge disappointment but a real detriment to the progress of Peekskill.
FYI August 17, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Instead of building the "first thing when you come into the City" as her memorial, let this be Foster's tombstone that never was. Spend the money wisely updating one Firehouse at a time, instead of "to be sold"---seriously? In this market? (lest we not know about Foster's promising the empties to various not-for-profits). Much like you would update your own home, one room at a time, let's try updating one firehouse at a time. It will still be less money. Throwing a hat into the total bin, I project the monolith will come out at $29.5 million. Firefighters, as you obviously know, you are being used as pawns in a political fight. Of course, most concur, you should have clean, up to par firehouses, and we think everyone agrees. But this megolithic expanse is only to leave some testimony to Her Fosterness is at your expense. It isn't about you at all. How about those measurements? (Did someone not leave those already?) 40 parking spaces? For whom, exactly?
peekskillman August 17, 2012 at 01:53 AM
both posters above have hit the nail on the head!! Funny that there were a large amount of firemen in the audience, but none stood up to support this monstrosity. I wonder why?? If I had wanted something as bad as these individuals, ,I would have been up at the podium, singing it's praises; but no, the silence was deafening. That in and of itself should tell the public something. And for the planning staff to state that they never thought of using or buying the adjoining grass lot is inexcusable, arent they supposed to be the professionals? The City has not done it's due diligence on this project, and it is going to haunt the residents for years to come if it passes. Hopefully the citizenry will mobilize, and vote this down. The costs are going to escalate way beyond the projected 16 mil, despite what Mr Mithcell alleges. He needs to sell this to make money, at our expense. Shameful!!
gary niggl August 17, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Cross road apts should be demolished roach infested parasite
Carolyn Charles Johnson August 17, 2012 at 02:23 AM
More then likely the fire personnel were not allowed to speak at the suggestion of their union rep. Teachers do this all the time at boe meetings. Show up mostly in the hopes that others will be deterred from speaking out against. I'm unhappy to hear about the house no longer being in the historical district. That doesn't seem proper at all.
Silent Majority August 17, 2012 at 02:24 AM
This project needs to be put out to the public for a referendum. Let the voting public decide what to do. You know it wasn't that long ago, the City put out a Retail business survey for residents to fill out as to what they wanted in the downtown as far as businesses and other various questions. It would be highly effective for them to survey the residents to see what the residents would like to do with all of the options.
Peter Goodson August 17, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Unfortunately Pman, there will not be a community vote on this. This should have been a city-wide referendum vote for this large of a project that will involve eminent domain as well as borrowing so ouch money. It was not put up for a vote because they know it would be voted down. Just like when the dems illegally passed the bonds to build the new middle school they will do anything in their power to get what they want. The cost of the school was many millions more than they claimed and this firehouse will be the same. The school is already falling apart and causing hundreds of thousands of maintenance costs. The city should just rehabilitate the existing buildings.
jo August 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM
way too big..it dwarfs the rest of the buildings around it... dumb ...really dumb.. a true monument to ineptness and political pay back.. this has nothing to do with fire firefighters, its all about the scope and the true necessity of this behemoth building... will stick out like a sore thumb just the way that Monster on Rt 6 in Mahopac does....it is a negative as far as aesthetics goes
sayitsnotsojack August 17, 2012 at 12:14 PM
One word DUMB
tealeaves22 August 17, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Sadly, this really isn't for the benefit of those that devote their time and efforts (and hopefully not their lives) for the rest of us - it is a tribute for Queen Mary. This city does not need a huge central firehouse when there is only a minimal number of firefighters using it at any given time. I'm all for updating the current houses, I've been in several and they are dangerous, disgusting and depressing. Let's restore them and make them something the crews can be proud of. Given the conditions of some of them, who in their right mind would purchase one? They are not attractive real estate. Who, in this day and age has a "firehouse" in a tin prefab? If this monstrosity is built, the old houses will sit vacant for years until the people of the City of Peekskill have to pay to have them torn down. Mary will no longer be Queen then and will be laughing at the rest of us for years to come.
Patty Villanova August 17, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Why no mention of the Exit Tax that's been imposed on everyone who sells a home or other property in Peekskill? The tax is specifically for the new firehouse and is paid by the seller at closing- 1% of the selling price. How much money has been collected to date? Where is the money being held? Is it in a "lock box" so that it cannot be used for any other purpose except the new firehouse, or does it go to the slush fund, oops, I mean the General Fund line of the budget? What happens to money if the firehouse is never built? Also, will the tax ever end, or will residents have to pay to leave forever? Nobody has challenged this tax as being un-Constitutional, at least as far as I know. What about the corporation counsels who are suppose to be guiding the mayor & council?
Liz Giegerich August 17, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Thanks for all the comments everyone. Patty, the transfer tax is mentioned in David's talking points here: http://patch.com/A-wXFv Also, here is an article William Primavera did about it when it first went through in Dec. 2010: http://patch.com/A-cQ8N
Tina Bongar August 17, 2012 at 04:28 PM
You know, there's something very interesting going on here I think. At the first public hearing I asked why hadn't they seriously considered the adjoining property that the Panio's Liquors owner has proposed. I also said, why have these Public Hearings if no one ever takes into account what is said. Well, the Mayor got back to me and said, this property is going to used for new business development. Note she said at the meaning the owner doesn't want to sell, which isn't really true because I've discussed the property with the owner, granted that was 2 years ago but he has every intention of selling. I told the Mayor the reasoning of not using the adjoining property which was put out their by her own consultant: it's because of the smaller turning radius of the Fire Truck when exiting the bays. Anyway, I genuinely believe Anthony Rugierro doesn't know why they haven't considered it -- because I think he's been left out of the process. Clearly, this is the Mayor's project. She has her own dedicated consultant, John Lynch -- and the consultant from Putnam who wants to build his first firehouse. He said he's consulted for about seven -- but this will be the only one yet to be built. This should tell us all something. Anyway, let's all support this small business owner, and get them to legitimately and thoroughly consider the lot across Park Street.
Patty Villanova August 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Responding to Liz: thanks very much; as usual Patch is the one media source that consistently reports in depth on local issues. Both David's talking points and Mr. Primavera's article are MUST reading for every Peekskill taxpayer and the transfer tax should be brought up at every single council meeting that discusses the proposed new firehouse. I still don't understand how this tax passes the Constitutional smell test-- how can Foster & Co. get away for taxing a tiny minority of citizens, none of whom will be around to enjoy the "benefits" of the firehouse if it's ever built? If they're so concerned about public opinion, then why not have a referendum on the issue? This is not a one shot deal-- the costs associated with this fire station are only going to go up, not down. *Finally- why hasn't anyone taken me up on my offer to get a few million from FEMA, just like other cities around the USA?? Foster & Klaxton just missed another application period, but there's still plenty of $$$ available. Maybe Tina Bongar should ask that question too.
Mary Jane August 17, 2012 at 06:43 PM
The "transfer tax" seems to be not only unconstituional, but discriminatory on its merits against homeowners. Why are only homeowners be taxed if they sell their home? Why aren't renters be taxed and sharing this burden? EVERYONE utilizes the services of the fire department, therefore the cost should be shared by EVERYONE.
Branwen MacDonald August 17, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I would support a scaled down version that wouldn't have all the legal and acquisition issues that come with the eminent domain procedure. There was an attorney from I believe Croton who wrote an editorial on Patch stating that the legal costs would be far more than planned. That plus the fact that I'm sure many costs have gone up in 4 years means the 20 million figure is probably more accurate than 15. There must be a way to make a different site work and avoid the unknown costs of all the lawsuits that will come out of this. And the building itself could probably still have all the proper features but be scaled back, perhaps eliminating the community space or scaling down slightly in other areas like the gym. Since we'll all be living with this for a long time I'd like to see it done right and not be bogged down in excessive costs (maybe even left half-finished in a worst-case scenario) and a bunch of lawsuits.
JM August 17, 2012 at 08:27 PM
In my view, the property owner had his chance to gain support. Had he just spent $50K over all the years he'd owned it to spruce up, give it a facelift, to look even half as good as this shopping view: http://www.couponingtodisney.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/mainstreet-shops.jpg instead of this, its ''always been'' shopping view: http://www.loopnet.com/Attachments/0/3/B/03B59C52-C21D-433E-9E77-6F559B24C47C.jpg I might have some sympathy. Really, even a bare lot would be better than how that whole block looks now.
Patty Villanova August 17, 2012 at 09:00 PM
I love that first link to Disney- wouldn't it be great if Downtown Peekskill looked like that all over?
Martyn Daniel August 20, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Relocation is Not as Limited as Suggested As an eminent domain relocation consultant, I will clarify the misconception that there is a maximum amount of $25,000 each for relocating these businesses. The DEIS indicates that State relocation assistance will be provided to each of the tenants. New York State’s Relocation Assistance Program follows the Federal Relocation Assistance Program which contains only two categories that have a maximum amount, or a cap. The remaining eligible categories are uncapped. Using the Federal Relocation Assistance Program and its capped and uncapped eligible reimbursement categories, seldom have I seen small business relocation reimbursements under $50,000, in fact they are often between $100,000 and $200,000. Larger, more industrial types of business can reach into the millions of dollars in relocation cost reimbursements. Reimbursements mostly depend on what the business has at the old location and how the business sets up at the new location. Businesses and residents can do better than most people think when facing eminent domain and relocation. However, many cost reimbursements are too often overlooked, but many more costs can be eligible for reimbursement and can be paid with proper planning, proper understanding of the Relocation Assistance Program, and with well-prepared relocation claims. So, don’t be discouraged by the false statement that businesses are limited to $25,000. Martyn Daniel MartynDanielLLC.com
peekskillman August 20, 2012 at 08:46 PM
hello Ms Villanova (truce?) and Ms Bongar-you both, as always, make very good on target points. The transfer tax, from what I have been told, will not be rescinded if the firehouse does not go thru. Makes sense, cause reading the link, it is in the "general fund"; if one thinks that it will be released, I have other thoughts for you. You may be correct as to why union members did not speak out, but then again, they may be afraid of repercussions from City Hall, this has happened before. However, the fire chiefs in attendance are volunteers (who by the way collect a pension after serving, so much for the word "volunteer"), why didnt any of them stand up in support?? Maybe because one of them lives outside the City, and would not have any costs/taxes to bear like the rest of us. Mr. Mitchell's cost estimates, as well as legal fees and the relocation costs are going to hurtle this building way over $20 million, and of course, we are going to have to pay for it. Disgraceful!!
David Pacchiana August 27, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Please be advised an ipetition has been created seeking support to oppose the firehouse. If you wish to sign, you may do so here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/peekskill-firehouse-eminent-domain/ thanks for your support. - Dave
Patty Villanova August 28, 2012 at 12:58 AM
The transfer tax is un-Constitutional on its face and discriminates against one segment of the population, namely the people who own and sell their real property. There is no hope that it will ever be rescinded, no matter what happens with the firehouse. Government does not work that way. Good luck to Dave with his petition. I don't think Foster & Klaxton will even acknowledge that it exists. Just like what's going on with the meth clinic. Another Servpro moment- like it never even happened.
Tina Bongar August 28, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Martyn Daniel: Thank you so much on the clarification of the possible Relocation Assistance Programs expenses for these local businesses. It's disturbing that the City hasn't been able to tell or work with the business tenants but as we learned at the Public Hearing it would be a conflict of interest until the City works with the actual owner, which does make legal sense. I'm curious what you think of Eminent Domain in this case because as I understand it the City officials are using the interest of Public Safety as cause "for the action" according to SEQR -- and, obviously, just the idea of not putting the Firehouse here doesn't pose a threat of public safety. Do you have any experience, even conjecture, if this project is something that could be seriously challenged in Court? For instance, the D.O.T. really only pursues eminent domain out of geographic necessity and it's "another party" participating in this E.D. action -the City's DEIS is seriously lacks some important environmental impact information too. Sorry for the sidetracked commentary -- do you have a sense or guess about ways this project could play out in terms of possible legal challenges and cost from your experience? See, if we were truly having a transparent + publicly-driven process I could ask one of the professional planners + consultants my tax dollars are paying for- sorry, another sidetracked comment. Finally it would be great if you could speak at the Sept Council meeting before Public Hearing closes.
Keith Jensen December 08, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Even in New Jersey our Mayor and Council are having a similar affect. Here, our town's leadership decided to purchase a $2Million piece of land to allow a major developement company to better occupy the land for a mixed use project. Now our taxes increase because our town decided to buy a bank which occupies the land and to turn into a park for the developer to use as an entry to their site. Why isn't the developer buying this bank? Your article here is so similar to our situation. Please comment if you see the similarities: http://fortlee.patch.com/articles/fort-lee-to-acquire-main-street-property-for-2m-to-build-park

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