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Peekskill Officials Approve FEIS, Use of Eminent Domain for New Firehouse

The Common Council passed a resolution stating requirements have been met to begin eminent domain proceedings for the central firehouse plan if they are warranted. It also accepted the final draft environmental impact statement for the plan.

Peekskill officials took two steps toward completing a controversial plan for the creation of central firehouse during Monday night's council meeting.

The Common Council accepted the final environmental impact statement for the project and passed a resolution authorizing the use of eminent domain, if needed, for the acquisition of property needed for the construction of the facility. The resolutions can be seen in the PDFs attached to this story.

Officials want to build a 36,000 square foot, $15.6 million, two-story structure built on the northwest corner of Main and Broad streets and has been studying plans for the facility since 2008. The city’s current facilities are outdated; too small for the fire trucks; too cramped for the people on duty and for proper training; and can’t be retrofitted to meet the needs current needs of the department.

The city has already acquired 1137 Main Street and 1141 Main Street in order to acquire the space needed for the project. But the city is still undergoing lengthy negotiations with the owner of the Crossroads Shopping Center, located at 1101-9 Main Street, so that it can move forward with the project.

“If we end up having to exercise the power of eminent domain...we do believe that this meets the public safety needs for our city and the public safety needs for our firefighters,” Mayor Mary Foster said.

Foster said the Common Council did not want to use eminent domain to acquire the project and noted that officials passed a resolution stating that the city would use condemnation to acquire property for economic development purposes.

“We would not buy someone’s property to turn it over to a developer, but we have always reserved our rights to use the power of eminent domain for a true public purpose,” Foster said.

The Common Council’s decision to accept the final environmental impact statement means that the city is just one step away from filing its findings statement and making a final decision in the state environmental review process.

Planning Director Anthony Ruggiero said that he planned to send the environment impact statement to interested parties tomorrow. Those parties will have 10 days, starting on Tuesday, to respond to the document.

Foster described the procedure as being a ‘five year birthing process.’ 

“This is a project that we’ve been working on for five years and it started in 2008 with a lot of discussion in our work sessions,” Foster said. “We had consultants come in, go through various site options, go through the state of all of our firehouses, what the issues would be with renovation, did time studies in terms of what would be an ideal location and making sure nothing would compromise response times.”

Silent Majority December 11, 2012 at 11:44 AM
The Flyin Hootinanny and her Crony Council just fired 18 people and others took incentives such as a Lt. on the Police force, the Captain of the Police Force, the Chief of Police, the Director of the Youth Bureau, to name a few. The City Manager's position is being held over by a temporary Replacement. The City Planner is now leaving office. This list is not complete, however the point is that The Council and the Mayor are going to try and push through the Central Firehouse? Really? And use Eminent Domain to do it? Didn't the City just go through a budget crisis where the Firemen themselves went on the record and said they did not need the firehouse, especially if it meant jobs being cut? Un-F-in Believeable. These people not only should be run out of office, but out of the City entirely and never see their way back. This is complete and utter disrespect to the City Residents and Beyond a reckless waste of spending. Don't tell me that we are not Paying for it Mary...as you have stated before at the Council meeting...Because who's paying for it? YOU?? Watch wahat happens over the next year. The Central Firehouse will be pushed through extremely fast over the next year without a Permanent City Manager, A planning Director, 3/4 of the staff at City hall as there used to be, a 10 million dollar price tag, and even more over the long haul, all because Mary and the Council know their days are number. Just under 365 days.
Silent Majority December 11, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Ohh Did I mention that she actually already tore a firehouse down? Ooooppps, my bad, that was an "Accident"
Katie Schmidt Feder December 11, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Many of us do not believe the new Central Fire house is reckless spending. I find it hard to believe that the firefighters in this city went on record saying they do not need the new firehouse as the conditions in the majority of the small decrepit firehouses in this city are deplorable and not safe - especially for sleeping. Can you please provide the record of the meeting in which that was said? Yes- it is upsetting that many positions in the city are being downsized or eliminated - but we all know the realities that all city governments are facing now - tax revenues are down - so hard choices need to be made. We do not want an administration that lets our civic buildings crumble. I do not feel is show disrespect for our City residents - i feel respected when our firefighters are given a safe, current, respectable place from which to work and live. Also it makes FAR more sense to pool expensive resources into one place rather than put band-aids on 10 different buildings! These expenditures come from different budget lines than salaries - so your point is rather mute. I arrived in Peekskill 10 years ago under a different administration which seemed to lack all transparency and appeared to be too closely associated with a certain developer for my taste. The progress I have seen in the last several years under this administration has been remarkable. Many new families have moved here and are staying. I agree, however, we are all sad to see Anthony Ruggerio go.
Rachel December 11, 2012 at 02:52 PM
What will happen with the old firehouses? Are there demolition/redevelopment plans? Will the in-ground oil tanks be left behind to leak and the buildings abandoned to continue their decay?
Liz Claire December 11, 2012 at 04:14 PM
More property taken off the tax roll, that's what the Central firehouse will do. Ms. Feder is naive to think this is an exercise in fiscal responsibility. And what about Ms. Foster's campaign promise never to use eminent domain? Crossroads is one of the biggest taxpayers in the City other than ConEd and Verizon. Take their property and taxes will rise.
jo December 11, 2012 at 05:17 PM
ANYWAY to stall this until she and her cronies are out office ????????
Liz Claire December 11, 2012 at 05:24 PM
There is an institution called "The Institute for Justice" which fights abuse of eminent domain. Probably our last best hope. A voice of sanity in the face of the ruthless, callous partisanship practiced by the Common Council. Maybe they will hear our voice and respond? http://www.ij.org/cases/privateproperty
shedoyle December 11, 2012 at 05:44 PM
this is just so sad. I used to love this city. what a mess. what an utterly sad mess. no money, job cuts, ancient water systems , EMBARRASSING water front and stop signs on every friggin corner. and then they play the eminent domain card well obviously the common council is not going for any popularity awards! slap slap slap in the face to the citizens...........
shedoyle December 11, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I went to this site. how to proceed?
joshua tanner December 11, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Everyone knows that the estimates for the project are all wrong and costs will be substantially higher. Since Peekskill has become a city of "benefits seekers" rather than producers, there will be more pressure on people to pay more for less. With the Assumption closing and the ever increasing amount of undocumented foreigners burdening the school system there will be still more calls for more money from a smaller group of people who have less and less it. Lets not forget the maniacs in DC and Albany will also be coming for more more more. Its crazy to shut down existing businessees to pursuse an expensive and underestimated project while everything is coming apart. This Mayor and council are determined to throw a bag of bricks to a drowning man so to speak. "Incompetent" doesn't begin to expalin this crew.
Fred December 11, 2012 at 07:10 PM
So, we get a new firehouse that is modern and is something new and not ugly in the downtown area and we tare down part of a decrepit shopping center. What's the problem? Some of you people just sit here all day looking to start problems and fights. The problem isn't with this administration or that administration. The problem is with your bad attitudes (and you know who you are.)
FYI December 11, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Why, Rachel, I'd betcha those empty firehouses will be given away or rented for next to nothin' to the non-for-profs in this town who want everything for free, "for the kids". Then the non-for-profs will beg hard times, and we, the few, the taxpayers, will keep ponying up for the kids we don't have, and probably pay for the various OSHA cleanings, the fix ups and maintenance and electricity/heat and so on. Ultimately, we'll support not only a new firehouse but a variety of not-for-profits. And the mayor will win-win. Sheer genius.
David Pacchiana December 11, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Katie, here is the head of the firefighters union speaking out against the central firehouse (go to 28:15 of this video): http://peekskillcityny.iqm2.com/citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=2175&Format=None&MediaFileFormat=wmv Yes, there needs to be a solution to the firehouse issue but the city is taking the most costly approach when there are so many other more cost effective solutions. Tearing down the Crossroads which will reduce the City's tax roll to build a 36,000 sq ft facility that will ultimately cost taxpayers almost $30 million ($980k of annual debt service for 25 years) will put considerable pressure on future budgets that is already under significant duress. That's if the actual cost is within the budget and we already know they can't buy the property at their estimate which is why they have to use eminent domain (the court will give the property owner his asking price, millions more than they're offering). Ask yourself, is this the best use of the City's scarce tax revenues right now?
sayitsnotsojack December 12, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Your words are so true, but there is one thing we suffering taxpayers (the few of us left) can do which is to vote. Vote no to the school district that just spends and spends, Vote for people who will stop all the giveaways to the non profits, and work to find profit making enterprises who will help relieve the burden on us. Vote no, yell louder than the one who just want and take, but give nothing. If we continue to sit by and watch ice dancing with the stars instead of getting active we too will be looking for hand outs but there is not going to be anyone to give to us.
peekskillman December 12, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Ms.Feder, Mr Pacchiana and others are quite right, the cost of this building is much more than the $16 mil price tag. That was a number that was derived app 5 years ago when the plans started. With the shape of the economy, layoffs, costs of goods, labor, insurance ,etc, this price estimate is going to be closer to over $25 mil when all is said and done. The City may have passed eminent domain legislation, but have neglected the true impact of the cost: loss of tax revenue, the costs associated with moving the existing businesses, and the loss of income that these business owners may face. A glaring omission from the study is the testing of the site itself. This old-time citizen can remember the days of "urban renewal" from the 60s and 70s, when buildings were torn down in the name of progress, to give us the monuments to change, such as the white elephant parking garage. All the debris was buried on site, as there were no EPA and other oversights as now. What is the added costs when they find problems with the ground when they try to build? More costs!!
peekskillman December 12, 2012 at 02:53 AM
as to the comment from the mayor that it will not affect the 2013 budget, what about the following years? The head of the firefighters union, various citizens, and business owners have all come out against this project in its current form. However, the council is pandering to the volunteer firemen, led by a retired phys ed coach, and pressing ahead. There has been cutbacks in staff, people are demoralized, others are leaving in droves, and yet they can still find $ for this? Our children, if they even choose to remain here, will be paying for this for years to come. come on council, cut back the size of this or put it off to a later date. Better yet, put it to a vote of the citizens as was mentioned by a number of people at council meetings.Remember the phrase "the will of the people?" Let the people speak!
TO THE POINT December 15, 2012 at 06:13 PM
of course the mayor and the bobblehead dolls(council) are pushing for this firehouse! This way when they are gone and they finally get there name on a plaque so they can say "look what we did" and think they did something!The only thing they did is ruin peoples lives and put the city in a bigger hole.How would you heat and cool that huge firehouse with no money?
john basic December 28, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Common Sense says that 2013 is NOT the time to spend 16 - 20 or 25 million dollars on a new firehouse plus the legal costs of Eminent Domain plus the cost of taking down the buildings in the shopping center plus losing the taxes from the business plus the cost of doing someting with the old firehouses plus.....tbc.

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