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To Ink or Not to Ink (in Downtown Peekskill): That is the Question!

Tattoo parlors in general and in downtown Peekskill, and the physical, medical, and psychological issues of tattoos.

Allow me to begin by saying everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. You have yours; this one is mine. I am against tattoo parlors in downtown Peekskill, but I won’t use the argument that tattoos are not art, since the definition of art is subjective, and beauty - as it has been said - is in the eyes of the beholder.

I also won’t use the argument that they bring a seedy element to a town, since tattooing is a current fad for some everyday people, and not just coveted by drunken sailors and prisoners - the typical image of a tattoo wearer in decades gone by (yet still an image that remains in the eyes of many - and perception is everything.) 

Although, I do believe that tattoos are a form of body mutilation and are a way of creating an artificial self by coloring between the lines to create a surface personality rather than finding oneself from within, still, I will not use that argument since it is merely my opinion. 

What I will use as my agreement are facts about other arts centers that do not have such establishments in their downtown area; the physical, medical and psychological issues of tattoos; loitering problems these establishments bring; and the current, documented trend to have tattoos removed by many. 

I have lived in various downtown arts districts in the U.S. and in every successful and nationally known destination, from downtown Santa Fe, to Scottsdale, Arizona, to the Brady Street Arts District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, among others, and as far as I know, there are NO tattoo parlors located these successful downtown arts districts.  

Walk up the famous Canyon Road in Santa Fe, and you will see art galleries, music venues, coffee houses, performance spaces, but no tattoo parlors.  Stroll the streets of Scottsdale’s Gallery Row and, again, no tattoo parlors.  Enter the funky, Tulsa historic Brady Street Arts district with its galleries, performance spaces, etc., and you will NOT find a single tattoo parlor.

If we want Peekskill, Peekskill’s downtown arts district, to be widely recognized as a premiere arts area, a destination for great food, music, art, a place to bring revenue to our artists and our city, a place where people gather for festivals, and shows in various art forms, we will follow the example of well established arts districts in our country and keep body art, as in tattoo and piercing parlors, out of our arts district.  These body inkings, etc., come and go historically as a fad for the everyday person in the US.  When the fad fades, will the city be petitioned for the tattoo removal of such tattoo parlors?  

In fact, as you may have noticed in the media, there is now a trend to remove tattoos.  Many celebrities and others are having these inkings removed using very painful procedures, regretting ever having them in the first place.  For example, actor and producer Mark Walberg recently, as a visual deterrent, had his multiple tattoos removed in front of his three children in a series of excruciating removal treatments to show his kids the pain and devastation on the body from these markings.

It is a known fact that inks, especially the current glow-in-the-dark and new colors contain heavy metals and are causing allergic reactions that present themselves over the years to those with tattoos.  When one has a tattoo and needs an MRI or other medical tests, that person has to alert their doctor since the heavy metals in the ink can react with the magnets.  I know of a heavily tattooed person who thought she had breast cancer since the mammogram showed lumps in her breasts.  It turned out that the inks from her tattoos crept around her body and created scar tissue lumps that were taken, at first examination, as breast tumors.  And from a psychological point of view, getting tattoos have been proven to be, in many cases, addictive.  The more one gets, the more one wants.  Do we want Peekskill’s downtown image to carry the image of all of the above?

Tattoo parlors bring loitering to a town – appointment only or not.  Just check out the tattoo parlor in Pleasantville on Bedford Road. They set up plastic chairs in front of the place, where patrons and workers sit and stand all day, waiting for their turn. This is unsightly, and gets in the way of people walking by, intimidates some pedestrians, kids, etc. I have observed this there from the other side of the street while I sat in a coffee house. 

Peekskill is just now beginning to lose it seedy reputation, although I still encounter people, even residents, who say, "Downtown Peekskill? I'm not going there. There's crime, drugs."  Of course I ask them, when was the last time you've been in downtown? They can't even recall.  I then ask them to go to the downtown area one day or night and see how our city has changed.  Let's not reinforce that false image with a tattoo parlor. Let's compromise and allow these establishments in our industrial district.

It is not like we don’t have tattoo parlors nearby.  If a person wants a tattoo, they can go to Rt. 6 in the Mohegan Lake area where there are two tattoo parlors across the street from one another. 

If you want to brand our city as a true center for art and commerce, a destination for culture and a fun place for all to visit, do not allow tattoo parlors in the arts district.  We don’t need these establishments to create a stigma, deserved or otherwise, as part of the face of Peekskill.   Let the face of Peekskill be one of the river and arts, smiling at all who visit.  Not one that is marred by dark, indelible stain across our features, like a mask hiding our vibrant visage that we are blossoming into day.

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*Editor's Note: After years of discussion, the Peekskill City Council has directed city staff to draft language that would allow tattoo parlors in the city's downtown district. At tonight's work session, staff will look for clarification from the Council on several issues including: Should tattoo studios only be allowed in the downtown, or in other districts as well? How far should tattoo studios need to be from each other? from schools?  

What do you think about a tattoo parlor moving in to downtown Peekskill? Do you support this or are you against it? 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mary Jane May 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM
@FYI: For the record, numerous complaints have been made over the years from many concerned citizens regarding a whole host of quality of life issues that stem from derelict and irresponsible businesses in Peekskill. As a matter of fact, the tattoo parlor ban was put in place to begin with because it negatively impacted the downtown. I personally don't buy the argument that "that was then and this is now and everyone just loves tattoos," because quite frankly, leopards don't change their spots. As far as the "Noches Sensuales" performers et al, again, scores of complaints have been made to the city by many citizens regarding these business "fronts," however, we can all agree there has been an epic failure on the party of the city to enforce any law, regulation or code. They love to write those infamous "local laws" but heaven forbid they should enforce them. Why has this been allowed to happen over the years with various administrations? Excellent question. As a lifelonger, hopefully when I find the answer, you'll be the first to know. I will say this. Lifting this ban whole-hog sets a lovely legal precedent for lifting a whole myriad of zoning regulations. Any good land-use attorney (or heck, even a bad one) can easily argue that the precedent has been set and the client who also makes their home in Peekskill and wants to open a business (maybe next to you!) can surely do so based on this action. Watch and see.
Walden Macnair May 23, 2012 at 02:40 PM
It is indeed unfortunate that the tattoo studio has become the target of all that is wrong in Peekskill. Please realize that tattoos are indeed an art form, and art is not that which you like but is part of the creative process with the only difference being that the human body is the canvas, yet that does not diminish that process, nor does it remove it from the world of art. However, I do believe that Mary Jane is correct when she says that the root cause of the problem is the lack of enforcement of existing laws and regulations. If we were to enforce the laws that exist we could eliminate the businesses used as fronts for illegal activities, we could eliminate the single room occupancy housing in those beautiful Victorian homes on Main Street and we could encourage residents to come to downtown Peekskill at night before we even think about tourists. Why don’t the council and the Mayor address all these issues? Probably worried about being reelected as they tiptoe through the City trying not to offend anyone. Of course, they'll blame the City Manager, but in the end, he marches to their tune so ultimately they are still at fault. Who among us is strong enough to run for Mayor and then get things done? I don't know, but someone needs to step up to the plate.
Luci Vale June 08, 2012 at 01:45 PM
My suggestion to appease both sides, is to follow what the beautiful City of White Plains did when they encountered the same issue. The tatoo parlor establised there was allowed on South Broadway St, which is still in the commercial zoning area. In no way, would WP ever allow a tatoo parlor on Mamaroneck Ave, or even the side streets that are visible to the main shoping areas. When I lived in WP a few years ago, I didn't appreciate how well the City has developed into a great place to shop and call home....I do now.
Jim Knight June 08, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Hi Luci, On 4 June, the Common Council discussed a new draft of the tattoo ordinance at its Committee of the Whole session (agenda item 12). Next Tuesday evening the new draft will be discussed by the Planning Commission. The Council will then discuss any recommendations made by the Planning Commission, arrive at a final version, and schedule a public hearing. I think you will find that the draft now under discussion is very careful to exclude tattoo studios from residential districts and from downtown commercial areas where there are large apartment buildings, as well as keeping them at least 500 feet from all K -12 schools and from each other. The draft that has been sent to the Planning Commission for comment is public record, so you should be able to get it from the City Clerk for the cost of copying it If, after studying the version on which the public hearing will be held, anyone who either supports or opposes it can speak at the public hearing and/or submit comments in writing or via Email. Public hearings are announced well in advance in local newspapers and on the city website. Jim Knight
Luci Vale June 10, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Hello Jim, I really appreciate your response to my comment. Peekskill is a very unique city in Westchester County, and I hope it will continue to strive to be the best. LV

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