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.
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