After years of work, city has become a destination
For a long time, Peekskill's most ardent boosters were focused on dispelling the city's negative image, a remnant of decades of economic decline.

These days, though, Peekskill's rebirth is almost axiomatic. Young families are moving to the city, businesses are investing in the downtown, and developers are recognizing the city's unique position as Westchester's final frontier.

It's hard to peg exactly when the vision became reality.

"There's a lot of things happening, and you're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel," said Joseph Lippolis, a real-estate agent and secretary for the city's Business Improvement District. "It is turning a corner, and it's nice to see."

Look no further than the folks sipping lattes at sidewalk tables outside the Peekskill Coffeehouse, already a local institution after just two years. Across the street, the revitalized Paramount Center for the Arts is luring more film buffs, jazz aficionados, students and arts patrons to the old movie palace than ever.

Soon the city will have much more to boast. CPC Resources of Hawthorne began work in summer 2005 on an $8 million downtown revitalization known as Artlofts II, replacing vacant or dilapidated properties downtown with commercial space and housing, much of which would be affordable for working-class families.

At the west end of Main Street, entrants to the city will be greeted by the Gateway Project, 15 condominiums that are the centerpiece of efforts to refurbish the neighborhood and put vacant lots and run-down properties to good use. Work began in July with the demolition of two older buildings. A revitalized Peekskill Landing also soon will add to the frenzy of waterfront redevelopment.

And as the Ginsburg Development Corp. of Hawthorne winds down construction on Riverbend, its highly successful 201-unit luxury complex, the builder already has turned an eye to redeveloping the rest of the city's waterfront.

Hearings resumed in fall 2005 on the $200 million revamp of 40 acres of shoreline, which once was the heart of Peekskill's 19th-century industrial heyday. The project includes as many as 375 new condominiums, reflecting Peekskill's allure to newcomers looking for a small-town setting without getting lost in the suburbs.

"We're getting a lot of people coming up from Brooklyn, Williamsburg, the artsy communities that are down there, and they're looking for a community," Lippolis said. "They're not looking to live in the suburbs. These people want to be where the action is."

A Republican stronghold since Gov. George Pataki was mayor, Peekskill has seen Democrats make inroads through the positioning of party members on the Common Council in each of the last two elections. Such change has been a constant for this historic river town. Founded in 1660 by Dutch trader Jan Peek, Peekskill was a village in the town of Cortlandt until 1940, when it seceded and incorporated as an independent city.

As always, Peekskill is relying on its ever-changing landscape to propel it forward.

(Original publication: October 30, 2005)
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