Sitting amongst a messy pile of work on his second week of work in September, James Slaughter happily explained that he is looking forward to meeting a lot of people in the community.
“My job is to build consensus, get folks’ input, listen and understand the concerns of the business community, of residents and the artist community,” said Slaughter, the City of Peekskill’s new Economic Development Specialist. He added that he also looks forward to working with the Board of Education to hear their opinions on Peekskill’s economic development.
Before Slaughter starts making decisions and directing projects, the new staffer said he is careful to first gain a solid understanding of what he is working with and what the city’s business stakeholders have to say.
The city’s biggest projects in which Slaughter will be involved are the waterfront redevelopment, Lower South Street properties, and downtown revitalization efforts.
“We have several key areas being redeveloped and revitalized--Downtown, Lower South Street, and the Riverfront--and important recommendations from the retail consumer study and the cultural tourism strategy to be implemented. James’ background meshes well with these important priorities,” said Peekskill Mayor Mary F. Foster.
Discussing the Lower South Street development Slaughter said: “The space can be mixed retail, maybe commercial or back office.” He sees good potential for technology and green industry companies using that area for back office space.
But, Slaughter explained, it is too soon for him to tell what would work best.
“We are going through the survey process, we need to ask, ‘will it generate employees, will it provide long-term stability, will it bring ratables to the city?’”
When asked if mixed retail might bring unwanted competition to Peekskill’s downtown businesses, Slaughter said that “all development needs to be connected to downtown.”
“We will do whatever we can to help support those businesses, not create adversarial environment.”
Another area that Slaughter was enthusiastic about was the art and music scenes in the city. He mentioned bringing back First Nights, when galleries stay open late for the public; continuing the live/work program and artist housing; working with the Business Improvement District and strengthening the work of groups that produce festivals and other cultural events.
Slaughter has more than twenty years of experience working with economic development in municipal and private sectors. He most recently worked as president at his own business, The Slaughter Group. He and his wife ran the Group, which focused its efforts on economic development, housing production and technical projects for the revitalization of rural, suburban and urban areas.
Previously, he held the positions as Director of Land Use Advocacy at Scenic Hudson, in Poughkeepsie and as Director of Policy Planning and Development for the City of East Orange, NJ. Slaughter has also worked as Executive Director of African American Affairs Commission in Hartford, CT; and as the President and Director of Management and Planning companies in New Jersey.
Slaughter currently lives in Beacon with his wife and 12-year-old son, but has been familiar with Peekskill for years, especially through his work with Scenic Hudson.
“I had been to some festivals through Scenic Hudson and Peekskill seemed to be very interesting,” Slaughter said. “I thought it would be a unique place to be and I have always enjoyed urban/suburban areas and would like to be a part of revitalization.”
Slaughter replaces Chris Marra, who left Peekskill a few months ago to take a position as the Executive Director for the Secaucus Housing Authority in New Jersey. Read the city’s on Slaughter for more information on his background.