Citing Divisive Atmosphere in Peekskill City Hall, Martin and Team Lay Out Vision for More Cooperative Relationship with Local Schools, Business Community, and Neighborhoods
Peekskill, NY — At a spirited campaign kick-off on Saturday in the middle of downtown Peekskill, Westside Neighborhood resident and activist Ken Martin launched his campaign for Mayor of the City of Peekskill, citing a need to restore civility and leadership to what as become a broken City Hall. Standing in Jan Peek Square in front of the downtown gazebo, Martin noted that the tone and tactics at Peekskill City Hall over the last 17 months have divided the community, forced highly skilled professionals to flee city government, and soured relationships with the school district, the business community, and local neighborhoods.
“What we have seen happen in the last 17 months is that the ego and hubris coming from the mayor’s office have created an atmosphere in Peekskill that threatens the gains this City has made dating back to the Gibbs administration,” said Martin. “Peekskill deserves leadership it can be proud of, that brings our neighborhoods, schools and community together and serves the taxpayers, not the egos of their elected officials.”
Martin, a 22-year resident of Peekskill, has been a longtime resident of Simpson Place. He worked aggressively with neighbors to successfully protect Peekskill’s Westside neighborhood from a developer who was allowed to violate zoning code to build a 3-story condominium complex. A married father of three and local public school parent, Martin is a history teacher in East Harlem. He is a strong advocate on behalf of the Peekskill City School District and helped organize efforts to oppose establishment of a charter school that would have drained significant financial resources from our public school students’ education.
Joining Martin on the ticket is Peekskill resident Andre “Noodle” Rainey, a 31-year old Peekskill artist and local celebrity whose positive and uplifting hip hop sound has taken Peekskill by storm. Rainey owns his own entertainment company, Noo Moves Entertainment, and has devoted his efforts in the community to providing youth opportunities and mentorship to young men. Partnering with local businesses like Shop Rite, Modell’s, State Farm Insurance, and Hudson City Bank, Rainey has been running an annual book bag drive on behalf of Peekskill students for the last five years. He is the father of a two-year old son and lives on Walnut Street, across from Peekskill High School.
“My entire life has been dedicated to fostering a positive, inclusive environment, particularly for our youth. Part of the reason I decided to run for Common Council is because I believe the children of Peekskill –and all residents –should be able look to our local leaders as positive examples and role models and I believe that has been missing. I intend to focus like a laser on our collaboration with our public schools, our youth programming, and working with young men in this community to be good fathers and role models to their own children.”
Running for re-election to the Common Council are Councilwomen Kathleen Talbot and Vivian McKenzie. Talbot and McKenzie were instrumental in the planning and dedication of the Peekskill Landing Park, the construction of the Holiday Inn Express on John Walsh Blvd, and fighting to keep their Republican colleagues on the Common Council from raising taxes by up to 8%, ensuring the city stayed within the state-mandated tax cap.
Talbot, a resident of the Fort Hill neighborhood, is well-known as one of the most accessible members of the Common Council, making herself available to residents, neighborhood associations and networks, as well as arts, business, and educational organizations. Whether it’s cleaning up our parks, working with the Peekskill Business Improvement District or promoting Peekskill’s artists, if there is a community event or effort underway Kathie is right there leading it. A retired social worker and small business owner, she has one son and two grandchildren.
“Over the course the last four years I have served on this Council I have been proud to have helped bring the city’s first hotel to the tax rolls, see the downtown turn into a restaurant and dining destination, dedicate the largest new piece of park land this city has seen in decades, and keep taxes under the state-mandated tax cap, despite efforts to raise taxes substantially,” said Talbot. “Last year, Peekskill taxpayers were one vote away from having their taxes raised by up to 8% and thankfully, we successfully fought on behalf of the taxpayers against that effort. I’d like to continue the momentum we were building and restore some sanity to Peekskill City Hall.”
Vivian McKenzie, owner and proprietor of Kathleen’s Tea Room, is running for reelection to a four-year term. A member of two of Peekskill’s longest established families, the Bridgewaters and the Jamisons, Vivian is currently the only African-American serving on the Peekskill Common Council. She has taken a keen interest in ensuring that issues of inclusion and diversity are addressed in City Hall. She has been a strong advocate for keeping taxes low on property owners, both as a means to promote business in the City and keep residents from being taxed out of the City. She has fought tirelessly against the negative and acrimonious message that has been coming out of Peekskill City Hall over the last year, urging for a more respectful and positive tone.
“The City of Peekskill has been on an upward trajectory the last 18 years and the message that was coming from Peekskill under leadership of both parties was that this is the place to be. Recognition for our long-term effort has been found in places like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal” said McKenzie. “I have become increasingly concerned, however, that what the rest of Westchester and the Hudson Valley have been seeing over the last 17 months is beginning to hurt our city’s reputation. It’s time we get back to a positive message and positive leadership that is attractive to new business and new residents.”
Over the next several weeks Martin, Rainey, Talbot and McKenzie will be laying out their agenda for the City of Peekskill, meeting with residents, businesses, and community organizations and other stakeholders to present their vision for a more positive Peekskill.