Peekskill residents continued to voice concerns last week about conditions in public housing and the work of the city’s Housing Authority, especially its executive director.
Some of the eight speakers addressing housing issues during a meeting of the Common Council Monday night questioned Mayor Mary Foster’s leadership and voiced allegations of racism, sometimes interrupting from the audience after speaking at the podium. At least two people were escorted from the council chambers by police, another was asked to leave and a shout of “I’ll see you outside!” was heard.
Sandy Allen, after expressing appreciation for improvements to the entrance to Dunbar Heights, called for regular police foot patrols of the Highland Avenue complex. She then accused Foster of favoritism, citing an incident in which a resident’s floor was promptly fixed after a complaint to the mayor while security concerns languished.
Edward Fried, a member of the Cortlandt-Peekskill Anti-Racism Coalition, urged the council to end-what he called-its support for Harold Phipps, the controversial executive director of the authority. “Safety is not alive and well” at the authority, Fried said, and residents are not treated respectfully.
Leesther Brown described the Housing Authority board as “highly dysfunctional. … This buffoonery has to end.”
Robin Alpern urged that residents’ concerns at Bohlmann Towers (807 Main St.) and Dunbar Heights be addressed and resolved, not ignored. She also urged white residents to speak up on behalf of their neighbors. “We’re community. If one segment is downtrodden, we all suffer,” she said.
A few speakers questioned Foster’s handling of housing issues and her relations with the authority and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Two urged her to resign.
Later in the meeting Foster said, “We take all concerns seriously. … All housing complaints are handled uniformly and referred to the appropriate authority,” adding that the floor issue cited by Allen had taken 1.5 years to resolve.
Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton said the council took the foot patrol issue seriously and had asked the Housing Authority to reinstate it.