By Kintura Williams
NEWBURGH – After two and a half years of development, the Newburgh Neighborhood CORe Revitalization Project and its partners didn’t let a little rain and blustering winds stop their celebration at the groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning.
The ceremony served as the start of an 18 month project that will redevelop 15 abandoned buildings on five city blocks off Broadway in downtown Newburgh. By fall of 2018, Kingston based regional housing and community developer RUPCO plans to deliver 45 affordable apartments in the buildings scattered between South Miller, First Street, Johnston Street, Lander Street and Dubois Street. The apartments—ranging in size from studio to three-bedrooms—will have preferred occupancy by homeless veterans, artists and middle-income, first-time homebuyer families.
In a collaborative effort between New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Safe Harbors of the Hudson, RUPCO, Newburgh Community Land Bank, the city of Newburgh and others, the nearly $16 million project came to fruition with Sterling National Bank providing a large portion of the funding.
“We have worked with Habitat for Humanity and other home owners and we could not be happier about this project,” said Madeline Fletcher, Newburgh Community Land Bank Executive Director.
Between live music by local musician, SUNY Orange graduate Ayanna Martine and refreshments, representatives from each organization approached the podium to speak about the work that led to the groundbreaking, and the shared optimism for the project’s completion.
The city of Newburgh was represented by Councilmember Karen Mejia, along with City Manager Michael Ciaravino and Mayor Judy Kennedy in attendance. Ciaravino took his time to stress the need for constructive feedback once the project was completed in an effort to keep it safe and up to code. Mejia expressed her hope for progress and stability for Newburgh as the project unfolds in the next year.
“This project I believe is going to be a star project the state looks at as a way to rebuild neighborhoods. The city on a hill that is a beacon for this state,” said Mayor Kennedy.
Following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Community Opportunity Reinvestment (CORe) initiative marking Newburgh and Albany as pilot neighborhoods, Newburgh Community Land Bank applied for funding for the project. Safe Harbors of the Hudson—an affordable housing complex on Broadway—beat out applicants from multiple cities to serve as the property manager of the new development, offering access to amenities like art galleries, a gym, theater and events.
“We take care of the people and the building,” said Safe Harbors of the Hudson Executive Director Lisa Silverstone. “Why have someone from Syracuse or Kingston manage from outside of the city? They can’t take care of it from so far away. We have someone who is right here.”
City of Newburgh residents weary of gentrification were reassured by RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor, saying that no one would be displaced from their neighborhoods. According to O’Connor RUPCO’s goal is not just to build houses, but to build and uplift communities. So much so that Newburgh will have the company’s first ever community policing hub. Partnered with the city of Newburgh Police Department, the hub will assist and protect residents of the new development.
The groundbreaking, hosted by Safe Harbors of the Hudson, was concluded with a walking tour of the scattered sites. Contributors and residents walked the five blocks together in the rain, passing excavators and waving at the people already hard at work in a building on Lander Street. After a ritual dirt-shoveling, those that were left in the rain were in good spirits.
“I am pumped for 2017, and what lies before us,” said Councilmember Mejia.