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Question of the Day: Is Peekskill a 'Dead' River Town?

The mayor of Newburgh is quoted as referring to Peekskill as a city like his own, where the economy has died.

Patrick Radden Keefe’s New York magazine article, “Newburgh: Murder Capital of New York,” recently quoted the city of Newburgh’s mayor, Nicholas Valentine, calling Peekskill a dead city along the Hudson.

Valentine was telling the writer that Newburgh is not the only once-booming industrial area where mansions have been turned into low-income housing, storefronts have been boarded up and serious crime is prevalent.

The article states:

“It feels almost spooky to walk today among the Gilded Age mansions of long-dead industrialists on Montgomery Street (in Newburgh), some of them boarded up, others carved into low-income apartments," Valentine told the magazine. "Abandoned buildings abound, many of them gone to rot..."

“...It’s happened to many communities up and down the Hudson. Poughkeepsie. Peekskill. Things die.”

The article goes on to describe Newburgh as a city with no grocery store, no public transportation, and few recreational activities for kids, but plenty of gang activity.

The main topic of the lengthy article was Newburgh’s gang problems and the tactics of FBI agent James Gagliano, the head of the Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force. Gagliano used federal RICO (racketeering) charges to get about 100 alleged gang members off the streets last year, which the article said helped to return some safety to parts of the city.

Read the entire article.

Question of the Day: What do you think about Mayor Valentine's comment about Peekskill?

Do you think Peekskill is one of those "things" that "die," as Valentine said, or is it a place that is alive and growing?

jo October 03, 2011 at 12:49 PM
no way.. Peekskill has life.. tons of it.. and it continues to Breathe very well.. me thinks the Mayor needs a trip to viisit Peekskill and he will alter his view.. or maybe he is just jealous that we are on the Rise.. while his city continues to decline.. he owes us an apology..
ted bitter October 03, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Is America a dying Country? Everybody is having problems in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. Amazingly Peekskill has shown amazing Growth in this period. As a small business owner that opened my busines at the beginning of the dwnturn I have had to be creative smart listen to my customers keep prices affordable keep good staff and lower profit expectations. If you believe you are dying then you probably will. We in Peekskill refuse to accept that. We work hard fight hard and play hard together. That's the key to our current success.
Marilyn K. Miller October 03, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Anyone who has been to Peekskill in the past few years can't help but see a city on the rebound. It has far more restaurants than most other towns in this area, has a vibrant music scene where every weekend you can hear live music ranging from blues, jazz, hip-hop or folk. Not to mention the Paramount, where there are live performances of headlining acts almost weekly. With a weekly farmer's market, flea market, coffeehouse and community college, in addition to the above, I don't see how anyone would think Peekskill is a dying town. It's even got a Pilates studio, and no "dying" town would have one of those!
leesther brown October 03, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Well to look at this building's facade folks would think that which is why there was an ordinance prohibiting windows to be covered the way this building's window are,the Mayor should enforce the code that one and secondly when was this picture taken? It had Foster signs in the window the last time I was in town.but to answer the question No...Peekskill has a lot of life left it just needs to be Resuscitated...
diane October 03, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Actually, my husband and friends were just discussing how happy we are to see Peekskill's downtown area restaurants doing so well. Last Wed. night the restaurant area was so busy it was great to see.
Liz Giegerich October 03, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Thanks for commenting. I just changed the photo to a recent one of Peekskill taken from Bear Mountain. The original photo was taken in early spring. I'd have to check what that building looks like now. Thanks. Also, I agree with all of you. Peekskill is full of life with its restaurants, businesses, youth groups, music, art, coffee shops, poetry, social activism, culture... and I have met many individuals that breathe life into the city with their charity, community events and dedication to the city. I just added a poll to the article as well. Tell us why you think Peekskill gets a bad rap.
Peter October 03, 2011 at 05:41 PM
peekskill has a bad rep b/c of the way the City used to be in the 70's, 80's and early 90's. A ton of beautiful housing has gone up in the past 10-15 years not to mention all of the thriving businesses. They just need to work on the Schools. That is where the assistance is needed.
Rpapp October 03, 2011 at 07:01 PM
I think the mayor is completely wrong about Peekskill. There is a lot of culture and foot traffic in our down town, and it was barely there fifteen years ago. Over the past few years, Peekskill has felt like an up and coming city, with the benefit of having old beautiful buildings and history.
JM October 03, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Being from war-torn Los Angeles, (I mean that with all sincerity), I think it is a crime what politicians have allowed to happen in Newburgh, but that is besides the point. I first looked at houses in Peekskill in 1998 when I moved to NY and, yes, I admit that at that time I was a little worried about buying here - so did not. Crime wasn't the issue - it just was rather a dead place. Long story short, house hunted again in 2008 and this time Peekskill was my city of choice without a doubt to invest in my future. Could it be better? Absolutely, so could Tarrytown and Scarsdale. The question today should be "How do we make Peekskill better, bigger, grander?" And quite frankly, lets keep it to ourselves...we don't need those "Valetines" of the valley mouthing off that Peekskill can't become the best river town of our modern era. I believe it can become the best and it seems the other posters here do as well.
Jill Gertz October 03, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Newburgh has LONG been one of the most violent cities in NY and the US. For a long time it was in the top ten nationally for violent crimes per capita. I knew guys considered bad in Peekskill who tried to act tough in Newburgh and ended up in the hospital with their cars in the river. Peekskill was never near as violent as Newburgh . Peekskill is unusual in that it is neither upstate or downstate - its an odd mix or rural, urban and suburban - and placed in one of most wealthy counties in America. Newburgh never had the wealthy county, the trains into Grand Central etc. Peekskill never really dies - even when it should have. Peekskill never really thrives - even when it should have. Peekskill is parenthetical in so many ways. Peekskill could well look like Newburgh now if the NYC and NYS social services had been able to keep sending NYC families up to Peekskill for its better benefits. The flow of illegals saturated the cheap housing stock in the 90's and cut off the flow of hardcore trouble makers like you find in Newburgh. The problem for Peekskill now is it has lost its more middle class families and trended down. There are more people looking for services than supporting them. Illegal immigrants pushing strollers are everywhere. They tax the schools, hospital, clinics etc. People rarely fix their houses anymore in Peekskill. Seeing a paint or carpentry crew used to be common - no more. Peekskill's worst flaw is its schools. I definitely cant send a kid there
Peter October 03, 2011 at 08:40 PM
Also considering that Peekskill's schools are not good (I don't send my kids there, they go to catholic school), the taxes are high. I know it's still Westchester county, but to pay almost 10k in taxes and to not use the public schools b/c they are not safe is a waste. This is what will drive the young middle class out of the City.
Darren Rigger October 04, 2011 at 02:30 AM
The Mayor of Newburgh is crazy and he owes our City an apology. Peekskill is very much alive. It has a wonderful diverse population filled with great culture, arts, entertainment and terrific places to eat, drink and gather. I am proud to live here.
Katie Schmidt Feder October 04, 2011 at 02:39 AM
I often wonder if those of you who use the blanket statement "Peekskill's schools are no good" and "not safe" have ever visited the schools, met the principals, teachers or really gotten to see the students in action? My two kids are in the dual language program in PCSD. There are MANY impressive hard working teachers. I have volunteered at many a field trip or recess where I meet loving, well-behaved bright children and a very hardworking staff! I am most impressed by many of the music teachers, some great art teachers, the friendly and enthusiastic phys. ed. instructors. I spent last year at PHS as the Drama Director and met AMAZING students with a lot of heart - who deserve better than the constant bad rap that seems to prevail. No - the test scores may not be as high as other districts, but there are many reasons for this. Test scores do not tell the whole story. Are there problems to be solved? Absolutely! Can I respect a parent who has tried, investigated & then decided the schools are not for his/her child - most definitely. But many never take the time to visit the schools or give of their time & energy to make the schools better for all (yes - even for the immigrants who may not yet pay taxes, but quite often DO fix up their houses & provide our community with other riches. Most of our ancestors came here as immigrants too!) All said - I am proud to be a Peekskillian and I am doing what I can to be part of the continued renaissance! www.embarkpeekskill.com
TMLeigh October 04, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Your close-up second photo of Don Foster's storefront is an unfair representation of the City. Go take a photo of the Coffee Shop, the Peekskil Art Lofts, the Ford Piano / Jazz Club, the waterfront, Division Street, the restored Paramount Theater, Put up potos of the recent Italian Festival, or the recent Jazz Show, its affordable Victorian housing stock, or that HBO made the Emmy winning Part 1 Mildred Pierce mini-series in Peekskill. Making comments from afar without first hand knowledge, such as your first photo of Peekskill from Bear Mountain across the river is an inflammatory and condescending statement.
Jill Gertz October 04, 2011 at 03:41 AM
Yes I know Peekskill schools - subbed in them for a couple years - most exhausting job I ever had because so many kids had behavior problems. I live a few blocks away now and see all the cop cars that are frequently at PHS. I also have friends who had to pull their daughters out of there because they were getting bullied by girls and sexually harassed by boys. Of course there are some nice kids in PHS but nobody with options wants to risk their kid there. Its not really just about the test scores.The awful way Woodside was destoyed years ago was a clue to what would come. A big problem for Peekskill is that many of its mayors and council people worked in Peekskill schools so the schools never got criticized by officials. It was always like ignoring the elephant in the room.
Katie Schmidt Feder October 04, 2011 at 04:07 AM
to Jill- I respect the work you did in the Schools Jill - and I can appreciate how exhausting it all is. It is very sad that there are kids with such frustrating behavior and I worry that they take learning time from my kids at times. (Although I have also seen issues to the "mean privilaged girl extreme" when I worked in Pleasantville a few years back.) But I really think there is hope for the kids that are coming up from the younger grades and into the new middle school. I know what you mean about the police cars (altough those police are rarely needed on school property by my experience) it is more the disrespect the kids have afterschool as they walk in the middle of the street and break into fights. I guess we will see what the new superintendent is able to conquer - I don't think a fence around the school is the answer, but I agree - there needs to be some serious new approaches and you are right - the elephant should be faced head on - but think how wonderful it would be if this was done by as many in the community as possible - not just by those who have no other options.
leesther brown October 04, 2011 at 04:08 AM
And I'm going to Newburgh to get it too want to ride...
Liz Giegerich October 04, 2011 at 05:33 AM
TMLeigh. Thanks for your comment. The first photo was taken from an article on economic development from earlier this year. It was meant to be a representation of the comment Mayor Valentine made about closed stores, not as a representation of the City of Peekskill (it was not meant to be used as a recognizable Peekskill building). But I understand your point. I changed it shortly after it posted after Leesther pointed out your same point to the Hudson Valley photo, which I view as a beautiful photo of the City of Peekskill and the Hudson Valley. Please feel free to add photos of any establishment you'd like. I just added some that represent some of the things I love about Peekskill and that represent its life and culture (I have a lot of first hand knowledge as I live, work and play here) and I deleted that first photo you objected to.
Whisker McGoo, Esq. October 04, 2011 at 12:34 PM
This is an old trick. The mayor of Newburgh defends himself by essentially saying, "Look, it's happening everywhere. It's not my fault". If you're going down, you try to bring as many others with you. I can't imagine the citizens of Newburgh are too pleased to have a mayor that has written off their town. I also think Peekskill should consider filing a lawsuit against Newburgh and Valentine for municipal slander. Ask for $10 million in damages, settle for $5 mil, have a citywide party, and don't invite anybody from Newburgh.
Ian October 08, 2011 at 11:38 AM
I too am tired of the “Peekskill Schools are bad” idea. They're not. Let me say it again. Peekskill schools are fine. Yes, there are problems, but there are problems everywhere. I teach in a Putnam county school, but I send my kids to Peekskill schools. Every school has problems. Wealthier schools have issues of drugs, depression, unrealistic expectations, and intense anxiety about college. Yes Peekskill schools have some issues of poverty and behavior, but these aren't nearly as serious as people make them out to be. I went to one of the top high schools in the country (Stuyvesant), and we had many of the same issues. And the drugs! There were plenty, trust me on that. Peekskill schools are a reflection of America right now. There's poverty, diversity, a large Hispanic population, but there's also something else there: hope. There's a community spirit that you won't find find in more affluent communities. There's a dual language program which is the envy of other schools. There's a creative engagement with the art community. These things are treasures, truly. To all residents of Peekskill: the Peekskill schools are “our” schools. If you feel there are problems, get involved and help make them better. You'll find that there's a whole group of spirited people doing the same, people who love this town and know what it's potential is. If you don't because you've heard there are problems, then you're missing out on the opportunity.
Marilou October 08, 2011 at 04:57 PM
I live 1 mile outside Peekskill and work in Newburgh. I shop, eat, walk, attend the theater and generally enjoy the City of Peekskill. I work in Newburgh and am shocked by this city. Mr. Valentine's head is in the sand. I will not walk in Newburgh. I am concerned every day I park my car there. The streets are almost impassable do to poor maintenance. The people I see who live there look dejected and forgotten. They have every right to feel this way. Of course the riverfront sports waterside dining and a tiny part of Liberty St. has been revitalized but that is it. Mr. Valentine, your city needs someone with vision not excuses. Leave Peekskill alone or better yet take a page from their book. Don't give up. Ever. Your citizens deserve nothing less from their elected officials.
Katie Schmidt Feder October 09, 2011 at 05:15 AM
I want to second what Ian said about the group of spirited people who are sending their kids to Peekskill schools and getting involved to make the schools better. Many of us moved up from NYC in the last ten years to start our families, drawn by the cultural community, the architecture, and the beauty of our riverfront location. There are some many who could afford to sent their kids elsewhere but still choose Peekskill schools. I attended a school board meeting this past Tuesday and was encouranged how board members are determined to face many of the district's issues head on - especially student behavior and staff accountability on all levels .

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