Peekskill business owners rally against proposal that could reopen closed street
Peekskill business owners are rallying in opposition to a proposal that would reopen a street closed to cars since 2020.
Esther Street is a small side street that was turned into a pedestrian plaza during the pandemic.
"When this street was an active street, it didn't really serve too much of a purpose," says Ethan Kern, of the Peekskill Coffee Shop.
"It's... almost more of a back alley," says Peekskill Walks' Conor Greene.
Community members say, however, that the back alley has had a profound impact on the community.
"People know they can come to Esther Place, have a coffee or a meal, they can do a little bit of shopping, check out the art galleries or just sit – open up a laptop, open up a book and do work," Greene says.
"There's nowhere we can come and gather quite like this...It's not something we'd have an opportunity to do without having Esther Place as part of our community," says resident Amanda Dennstedt.
"Not only was it a boom for our business, but a boom for our community and to be honest a boom for every other business that surrounds the park space," says Brian Orsi, owner of Bucko.
City officials, however, now want to change Esther Street back, citing issues such as illegal parking, insufficient store front access and difficulty getting emergency vehicles inside.
"We're looking at options that will give us an open space for people to enjoy when it's the weekend when it's heavily used, and also businesses owners can still do their business," says Mayor Vivian McKenzie.
Many people say reopening the street would be bad for businesses in the area. Hundreds of residents and business owners have signed a petition demanding to keep Esther Street as a pedestrian plaza permanently. They hope that a compromise can be reached.
"The issues raised can all be addressed. This space has worked safely for three years already. What we're saying is to relook at the parking and loading on Division Street. Trash is not an issue. Businesses bring their trash to the end of the block and DPW picks it up here," Greene says.
The Peekskill City Council is expected to vote on the proposal at Monday's meeting.