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New BID Director Asks Members to Leave the Past Behind, Aims to Build Involvement

New BID Director Jason Angell plans to start with building engagement and promoting arts, culture and cuisine.

Peekskill’s new Business Improvement District (BID) Director understands that he is stepping into a position that represents a number of challenges. The BID was audited by the state comptroller land found to be dysfunctional; it has beenby a former Chair many times (and in the comments of many Patch articles); and it has struggled to draw participation from the downtown business owners who pay the $100,000 worth of taxes each year that provide the BID’s budget.

Jason Angell was hired as the new BID Director, a part-time position, about two months ago. Angell, 34, is the former Executive Director of the Working Families Center, a non-profit “think and act” tank that works closely with the Working Families party. While there, he oversaw the development of the Green Jobs- Green Homes New York program model, which was signed into state law in Oct. 2009 as the Green Jobs, Green NY Act. He was raised in New York City but often spent time with his family in Garrison, where he and his wife are now living and starting a sustainable farm. He is also currently teaching political science at Bronx Community College.

Angell says his experience at the Center, as a small business owner (owning the farm), crafting the Green Jobs model, working to grow local economies, and his work while earning a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse, equip him with the skills needed to run the BID. Read his full biography here.

In an interview with Patch, Angell used an African proverb to explain his feelings about his new job.

“A journey begins with a first step,” Angell said. “I acknowledge there are mixed feelings about how effectively the BID has been run over past few years.”
Angell’s first goal is to get business owners involved with the Business District Management Association, which runs the BID. “I’m not going to come in and say this is everything that should happen,” he said. “One of my priorities is to get out and reach out to bid owners in downtown and make connections, and hear from them about their thoughts on how it can be improved.”

The BID was responsible for the which involved 30 downtown businesses that offered discounts to customers with a “Merry” button. It also featured downtown trolley tours of decorated homes and businesses, and the which packed the downtown with jolly Santas on Dec. 17. Angell saw success with the campaign, which he organized during his first few weeks on the job, but said he sees an opportunity to do much more for the next holiday season and viewed this year's campaign as a “jumping off point” for next year.

Over the 16 years the BID has been in effect, it has been responsible for bringing the Peekskill’s Farmer’s and Flea Market to Bank street in the summer, for aesthetic improvements in the downtown, for outdoor festivals like Jazz Fest and for attracting Main Street grant money.

Angell said he hopes to improve upon the successes the BID has already seen. In an analysis of the BID budget that Angell performed in order to create a five-year plan he found that for every dollar the BID invests in the farmer’s market they get a more than $2 return. The farmer’s market is a good place to “take advantage of the diversity of Peekskill,” he said.

Angell explained his vision of the farmer's market as a Hudson Valley Brooklyn Flea, which is a popular flea market in Brooklyn that features local food and drinks, as well as crafts and arts.

He also envisions the BID helping to make Peekskill known as a leader in public art, which would be a good way to pull people into the downtown, he said.

In regards to the state audit which highlighted administrative and organizational problems of the BID, Angell said that, “part of (a solution) is making sure we have good transparency for members, in terms of budget spending, and to be as transparent as possible. (We need to work to) promote businesses and the downtown as much as possible.”  

Angell is working with the 11 current BID Association Board members and hopes that BID members start coming to the meetings to provide input. Any property owner or tenant in the downtown district is a BID member. However, tenants must prove their occupancy in the district in order to vote in the BID election and property owners must not by in tax arrears in order to vote.

“We are not a healthy BID until we can prove that BID members are participating,” Angell said. “I am really calling upon business owners and BID members to put the past behind them and to come down, participate in meetings on the first Tuesday of the month and to come to annual meetings with ideas on how BID can serve them. And to run for election.”

There are two tenant board member spots vacant and three property owner spots vacant. The BID will have an annual meeting on Feb. 23 when the election will take place. After the BID association board is elected by the BID members, they will then appoint the chair and other positions.

Angell plans to visit as many BID members as possible in the next month to encourage them to participate in the election and BID activities. He is also working with the current board to create a 2012 plan to present to members at the Feb. 23 meeting. The meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at a location to be determined. BID members will receive information on the meeting and elections in the mail in the coming weeks.

Keep up with Patch for the latest BID news by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter and FourSquare (PeekskillPatch).

What do you think the BID can do to help downtown Peekskill? Tell us in the comments and take our poll.

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Editor's Note: Information on the BID elections has been added to this article.

Patty Villanova January 13, 2012 at 01:38 PM
It was a violation of the City's own Ethics Code for the spouses of Claxton & McGowan to receive the $500 award. Section 48-3 states "No city official or employee shall directly or indirectly solicit gifts or financial benefits or accept or receive cash or any other gifts...........having an aggregate value exceeding $75, whether in the form of service,loan, travel, entertainment, food, drink, hospitality, thing or promise, or in any other form." The law further states "no city official... shall use his or her official position or office..... in a manner in which she knows or has reason to know, may result in a financial benefit for her immediate family..." Clearly, Claxton & McGowan have violated the spirit, if not the letter of the Ethics Law that they swore to uphold. The money needs to be returned and the appropriate legal action needs too be taken by the Corporate Counsel, Ms. Nelson. The law provides penalties which I will outline in another post as am running out of space here.
Ron Riverside January 13, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Senor Escobar and Mary Jane speak the truth. What could they have possibly spent 7K on? Didn't see much advertising. What other overhead was there, apart from paying Stella during the pub crawl and making a few buttons? "Driving home drunk"! Nuff sed. I go to the Quiet Man a lot. Next time I'm there I'm going to try to get the lowdown on what the GOP is up to. They coasted for too long. Now they don't know what to do except hide. Time to stir up the nest. Good posts all.
Patty Villanova January 13, 2012 at 02:20 PM
More from the Ethics Code: "it is the public policy of the City...to establish standards & guidelines for ethical conduct of City officials.. these policies are best effectuated by prescribing meaningful sanctions & remedies to be imposed upon city officials....who violate the public trust.. The law refers to "any official or employee of the City, whether paid or unpaid." "Immediate Family includes spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent, grandparent or sibling." "Interest" A participation, connection or involvement of any sort which may result in a direct or indirect pecuniary or material benefit. For purposes of the law, the interests of a City official shall be deemed to include her immediate family." "Any city official or employee who violates,disobeys or disregards any provision of this chapter or any rule or regulation pursuant to this chapter, may be liable to the City for civil damages... such civil damages may be recovered in an action by the City at the request of the Common Council in any court of competent jurisdiction. " Which brings me to the main problem with Peekskill, the one thing that keeps bringing us down, the one thing that keeps this City from being the best, the one thing that causes the never-ending corruption- PUBLIC OFFICIALS DO NOT OBEY THE LAW. THEY ALL FEEL THEY ARE ABOVE IT. Whether it's the mayor, the BID chairman or the council members. The Law is for the Little People.
Patty Villanova January 13, 2012 at 03:49 PM
After the Comptroller's office did its audit of the BID, the City was required to come up with a Corrective Action Plan or CAP. One of Rick Finn's dubious achievements was to work with the BID board to design and implement the CAP and there were provisions made to monitor the events that were paid for and put on by the BID. The Comptroller recommended "city officials should develop performance measures for monitoring BID activities undertaken by the Association & set forth these measures." The response: "The City will incorporate into the Agreement written performance standards and measurements. These standards will measure the success of each BID activity and the cost effectiveness of the expenses associated with each activity. These may be measured by comparing the number of people at each event with the amount of money spent on that event." OK- so Jason, SHOW US THE MONEY! This is an open call to Mr. Angell, Mrs. Phillips, Mayor Foster, Drew Claxton et al. DO THE RIGHT THING. And if you can't or won't, then post a response on Patch. It's not just me who's watching you and this whole sordid debacle. You guys & gals OWE it to the Downtown stakeholders and you will be held accountable, even if I have to personally re-open the audit with the Comptroller's office.
Liz Giegerich January 13, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Ok. I am waiting to hear back from the city corporation counsel on whether or not entering the contest was restricted in the ethics code. Because the city council had nothing to do with the contest, I am not sure a spouse would be restricted from entering. I will report her response once I receive it. On the Merry campaign - I do not know how much that cost. Angell said that in the 2012 plan to be presented at the Feb. 23 meeting projects with costs will be presented.
Leslie Lawler January 13, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I feel one of the problems that seems to taint many issues that I've seen come to the Council's forefront is the "selective and subjective enforcement" of many codes, rules regulations when it comes to elected officials and certain hot topics. The ethics code was redrafted to ensure integrity -- or so we were told. After reading the code, it seem pretty clear to me. I feel this window contest wasn't genuine at all. Only BID members entered, they voted on themselves, and the winners just happen to be the partners of sitting elected officials. Not good in my book. Law tends to be interpretative. Ask 10 lawyers their interpretation of 1 law, and you'll get 20 interpretations. Dollars to donuts that Ms. Nelson comes up with an interpretation that blesses this nonsense.
Andrea Bloome January 13, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I for one am excited about having Jason as part of the Peekskill Community. I was surprised that the board had chosen someone so unconventional and I think that unconventional is what we need to move things forward. I am looking forward to seeing the changes that he might bring to the all ready popular farmers market downtown. I am happy to see so many thriving businesses downtown like the Birdsall House, the Quiet Man, the 12 Grapes to name a small selection of the businesses that are thriving. I would love to see more retail boutiques like Pattie's store and the Coop. I talked to Jason last night, while out on the town, and I know that he is going to be putting forward a great effort towards bringing people together. Thanks Jason.
Patty Villanova January 13, 2012 at 04:43 PM
BIDs in the State of NY are formed pursuant to General Municipal Law, and for all intents and purposes, the BID is considered to be an agency of the city and is governed by the applicable City & State laws, rules, regs. The BID is managed by the Peekskill Business District management association, Inc. board of directors which was itself established pursuant to GML 980m to manage the BID. The point is, that as public officials, Claxton and McGowan's conduct is covered by both GML and the City's own ethics code which expressly prohibits them or their spouses/partners from taking part in a contest which has a monetary award. If anyone should know about the Ethics Law, it's Bernis Nelson who herself was responsible for helping to replace the existing Ethics Code with a new one that was supposedly more restrictive. According to the new Code: "every City Official or Employee shall be subject to and abide by the following standards of conduct." I think that covers the 2 councilwomen. Also Liz, I know that you try to be fair, but I really get the feeling that you are defending these people by stating your own opinion about the facts and circumstances of this issue regarding the Ethics laws. I will be very interested to see what Ms. Nelson's opinion is since she has been likewise accused of being ethically challenged.
Anabasis Bob January 13, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Patty's right. There's a better chance that the Giants will beat the Packers than Bernis "The Furnace" Nelson will rule against the BID on this. Bernis is a brawler. We all saw how she took on Leesther at that meeting last year. That was a knockdown, bare-knuckle struggle for dominance. The Furnace does not like to be challenged. She also looks a lot like MaryBeth McGowan. Odd. Let's go G-Men!
Juan Escobar January 13, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Liz it is like a super pac running the contest and saying the city council had nothing to do with it. As far as corporation counsel I guarantee the "opinion" will be in favor of the City and the BID as it always is. The real issue is the appearance of impropriety coming from an organization that has such a gray past. Las cosas parecen no cambiar nunca!
Patty Villanova January 13, 2012 at 05:55 PM
All of this brings me back to my original point, that Mr. Angell is simply not qualified for the job and should be replaced ASAP, preferably someone who has more experience and good common sense. Just look at the mess that's being written about in this article: one of his first acts in office is to have the BID sponsor a promotion that excludes the general public, i.e. our customers, from voting on which of our windows THEY like the best. It was supposed to be a competition, remember? Then he allows the spouses of the 2 sitting councilwomen to not only enter the contest and vote for each other, but also to win the prize, even though they all knew or should have known that it was probably illegal or at least presented the appearance of impropriety. Anyone who exhibits this kind of poor judgment in his first days in office needs to be shown the door. If the Powers that Be really want to make things right, they've got to get rid of Angell and have Claxton, Bitter, Masson and McGowan return the money, with an APOLOGY to all concerned. Yeah right, when pigs fly.
Monk E. Lopez January 13, 2012 at 06:58 PM
The BID's taking money from their left hand and putting it into their right. Trying to pull some Houdini legerdemain. No one's fooled, BID! Show us the money! Remember the 2008 SummerFest when there were more drug dealers in Pugsley Park than attendees? Remember? I do. I was there. Nobody else was. Too bad I wasn't a toker. I could've scored some and not wasted the day. Show us the money!
joshua tanner January 13, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Does the BID have any say about litter in the downtown? Over the holidays I walked around town looking at the decorations and was pretty surprised to see how much garbage and litter was on the streets - especially on the west side of Highland Ave across from St Peters. I recall there was some kind of crackdown on litter years ago, and I see signs promising stiff fines, but I see a lot of litter in certain places.
Patty Villanova January 13, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Keeping our Downtown clean and free of litter is certainly something the BID could and should be doing. In years past the BID purchased a very expensive cleaning machine to help remove chewing gum and other things from the sidewalks. Nobody knows what happened to that piece of equipment or to any further initiatives to clean up the BID. If Mr. Angell wasn't too busy politicking, perhaps he could find something truly useful and necessary to do for the downtown.
Andrea Bloome January 13, 2012 at 08:01 PM
It is sad that there are so many negative comments directed towards the person who the BID has just hired. I personally applied for this position and lost out to Jason. As a small business owner, I look forward to lending my support. C. Anderson, how have you gotten involved in making the changes that you want to see happen in Peekskill?
Mary Jane January 13, 2012 at 08:10 PM
What an amazing thread! Patty, you're right in that people are watching. Joshua, thank you for bringing up the litter issue. That's a question to be posed to Ms. Claxton. She heads up the "Clean Initiative" that has obviously been a laughable failure. The streets have never been filthier and it's completely shameful. How much did it cost to paint the words "Clean" on all of the garbage trucks?
RealTimeRufus January 13, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Interestingly enough, pigs will fly when The Pink Floyd Experience takes the stage at the Paramount next month. I went a couple of years ago. It rocked. I encourage all to go. Maybe for the opening act, they can have the holiday window winners return the money. Or maybe I'm just comfortably numb!
Patty Villanova January 13, 2012 at 08:30 PM
I propose that a Special Prosecutor be appointed to begin an immediate investigation into Window-gate.
peekskillman January 13, 2012 at 09:30 PM
geez posters, cant you all at least give this man a chance before you tar and feather him? It seems a lot of good points are being made on different issues, maybe he is working on some of these problems as we speak. Walk before you run, and time will tell whether he is effective or not. If he doesn work out, then goodbye, and hire someone else to replace him. Until then, patience please, give him a chance.
Spruce Bringsteen January 13, 2012 at 09:39 PM
I agree. Let's give this young man a chance. Despite what people say, the Santa Pub Crawl was a success. Sure, there weren't a thousand people but there were enough. We need more events like that. We should have pub crawls every month. If Mr. Angell fails to improve the BID, there will be plenty of time for tarring and feathering.
Patty Villanova January 13, 2012 at 09:41 PM
This is not so much about the new director as it is about the sorry state of affairs in Downtown Peekskill. Jason urges us to forget the past, but in doing so we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes that have been made over and over again. There was no reason to hire him in the first place, other than that he suited the political needs of certain people in city hall. The many problems that have been outlined in just this one article are the tip of the iceberg and Downtown P-skill is now approaching critical mass. I have invested 7 years of my life plus all my savings in my business & there are others out there who've invested even more. We don't have time to wait for Jason to get up to speed or to provide him with a free education so he can go on to his next job which he undoubtedly will. The BID board had some excellent applicants (including Andrea) who were more than suitable for the position and who didn't need on the job training. Sorry, but I have no more patience for the BID, the politicians and the bureaucrats who don't care about anything except lining their pockets every chance they get. Claxton & McGowan should be ashamed of themselves, except I don't think they are capable of that emotion. Foster and her predecessors have spent a fortune studying the economy of downtown Peekskill, yet they still can't seem to get it right. The answer must be that they don't want legitimate small businesses to come here or remain.
John Q. Public January 14, 2012 at 01:06 AM
I don't get the outrage. Peekskill has a special tax on commercial property owners in a certain district. They have, what, a $100,000 budget? The money has been squandered for years. When Patty V was in charge she couldn't stop it. Yes, this kid is a political appointment. Peekskill Dems are demonstrably corrupt. Look what they did with the school district. 10 years of political cover for a bad superintendent, a political appointee of Clinton. When she leaves, the state comes in and declares Peekskill Schools derelict in their duty to kids. All because of the local Democrat machine. That's a bigger outrage.
joshua tanner January 14, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I walked up North Division again tonight. There was even more garbage up by the monument (I only walked up the left hand side as you face the monument). There are lots of cups, cans, wrappers, bags, cigarette packs, bottles, piles of leaves and so on. It looks like a ghetto of some kind. I didn't see too many receptacles either. This should be easy to fix since a lot of the debris is coming from the stores/salons/bars. They should have to provide trash receptacles of some kind. The streets are in patrol area so warnings should go to the businesses and anyone littering should get made uncomfortable in some manner.. The streets just have an "anything goes" unregulated kind of look and thats how crime areas develop. People in New York City understand NY crime was lowered by paying attention to nuisances like minor vandalism and litter etc. People figured if the small things bring correction the large ones must as well. Right now that street looks like everyone has their back turned. I see litter all the way down to the gazebo but nothing like up by the monument. I would add streets I grew up on near Washington St have also been showing a lot of litter with the new foot traffic patterns created by the new school. Kids just drop any and all garbage without a second thought. Maybe the BID, schools and city can work together to keep Peekskill from looking like a dump. I also saw Bruised Apple is being hassled over a neon sign. Victorian era was full of loud signs and ads.
LucaBrasi January 14, 2012 at 02:05 AM
If Mr Angell keeps his job for a couple of years I want to compare the before and after photos of his face, l have a feeling it will be like Lincolns. If he is smart he will consider being a full time gentleman farmer.
Patty Villanova January 14, 2012 at 02:52 AM
You're right about NYC- in fact the BIDs down there do much of their own street cleaning and maintenance. The littering and lack of care about the way our streets look is symptomatic of a greater malaise. Nobody in government seems to care is the problem and most of the electorate doesn't even bother to vote. The constituencies like the firemen or the teachers or the public sector employees can all be counted on to get out the vote. It will be very tough to get rid of Foster, Claxton, et al and right now they are thumbing their collective noses at us. The GOP is no longer any kind of serious opposition, so the cycle of debt, dependency and decay will continue with this regime for a long time. We can't count on government to help us, in fact they just get in the way.
Patty Villanova January 20, 2012 at 05:17 PM
I was just wondering if Liz ever followed up with Corp. Counsel Bernis Nelson regarding the possible violations of the City's Ethics Code by Mrs. Claxton and Mrs. McGowan. ?
Liz Giegerich January 20, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Hi Patty, The city corporation counsel did get back to me this week to let me know that citizens who want an interpretation of the ethics code can apply for one from the Ethics Board. The corporation counsel would not be the one to interpret it for someone who feels there is a violation.
Juan Escobar January 21, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Again I say, the real issue is the appearance of impropriety coming from an organization that has such a gray past. Screw the Ethics Board, what don't they get? Esto me duele!
Patty Villanova January 21, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Hi Liz, Thanks for getting back. I find it incredible that the City's top attorney, the Corporation Counsel, who herself penned the newest amendments to the Ethics Code, refuses to provide an interpretation to a member of the press and/or a citizen who is asking for a clarification. As far as the Ethics Board- the last I heard it was packed with political appointments and rarely if ever meets. This is not a case for the Ethics Board per se; I believe the issue in question, whether or not it was proper for the spouses of two sitting councilwomen to receive an award from a City agency, is something that requires an answer from someone in City Hall. I assure you that this is not going to get swept under the rug and if Nelson or Foster won't do their jobs, then I am going to refer this matter to the Comptroller's Office AND to the AG. By the way, the City's Corrective Action Plan for the BID was mandated to incorporate the Code of Ethics; one would think that Exec. Director Angell would have familiarized himself with the CAP prior to taking the job. Then again, since when does anyone who gets a paycheck from the City have to do much of anything to justify it? The beat goes on.....
Leslie Lawler January 21, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Once again, it's subjective and selective enforcement of city codes, rules and regulations when it comes to certain elected and municipal officials. Section 48-8 of Article I of the City Charter "Ethics," entitled "Legal Assitance" reads as follows: "The Corporation Counsel shall provide legal assistance to the Board of Ethics in its issuance of advisory opinions, interpretation of the Code of Ethics and Article 18 of the General Municipal Law, prosecution of any hearings, and providing such additional legal assistance as may be needed by the Board of Ethics." It is simply amazing the amount of time and sweat these folks, who are supposed to be examples of upholding the law, expend trying to wiggle out of having the law apply to them. Nice try Bernis.

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