02/08/17 7:30am

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Last October the exciting news of the rehabilitation of the Liberty Street School was announced. Ever since then there has been an obvious curiosity to see inside the school. It has been vacant since the last class left almost 40 years ago in 1980. Thomas Burr Dodd of RipRap LLC was kind enough to share photos he took, documenting the monumental task of making this building safe for occupants. As can be seen in the photos entire floors and ceilings are missing. Tours are not being given of the school, nor should you try to gain access.

Before we take a look at the photos, I asked some key questions about the development of the school and the role RipRap hopes in play in the community.

What will the Liberty Street School become?
“RipRap LLC will repair and build out the school building at 1 Liberty and transform it into a multi-use creative space, giving attention to historic preservation as well as modern green building practices. The building will include studios for artists and entrepreneurs, as well as flexible spaces for galleries, classes, and community happenings. RipRap is hoping for a harmonious reinvigoration of the school building and the surrounding community.”

When will the work begin?
“Work has already begun to stabilize the building. Fingers crossed, the school will be operational in three years. The building will be available as a location for film shoots very soon, as we feel the space “as is” is incredibly beautiful.”

What is  RipRap’s commitment to the Newburgh community?
“In New York City, we have seen gentrification neutralize our creative incubators; hard-working artists and other makers continually seek out affordable, struggling neighborhoods and help these communities to thrive, only to find themselves and their neighbors priced out by skyrocketing rents. In Newburgh, RipRap hopes to add to the existing creative community by restoring and “upcycling” dormant infrastructures, like what we have achieved with the Brooklyn Fire Proof complexes in NYC. This time we are putting down deeper roots, and are extremely sensitive to the threat of displacement.

This past fall, RipRap started a community meeting called Navigating Newburgh, which meets on the first Thursday each month at Caffe Macchiato. This meeting pools experiences and resources in hopes of empowering residents and newcomers to buy their homes instead of renting, encouraging owner-occupied ARC-compliant restorations, and focusing on passive and environmentally-conscious building technology. RipRap LLC strives to be a resource and a cheerleader for homesteading hopefuls.”

RipRap has also taken over the Save the Liberty Street School Facebook page. Be sure to follow the page for up to date photos and announcements. All photos below are © Thomas Burr Dodd.

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Photos © Thomas Burr Dodd

10/12/16 7:30am

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This has been in the Newburgh rumor mill for a while, but now the cat is out the bag. In an article published by the THR, details regarding the sale of the Liberty Street School to Thomas Burr Dodd were released. According to the article, the plans are to create a new film studio although these plans have not been 100% confirmed. Dodd is well known in Bushwick, Brooklyn for his work at Brooklyn Fire Proof, his company that provides film and television sound stages as well as work environments for artists, professionals, micro-manufacturers and entrepreneurs.

A quick look at the company’s website, Rip Rap LLC shows the collection of real estate Dodd and his wife, Pearl Son-Dodd have acquired. Rip Rap has 5 notable commercial properties in the City of Newburgh. Besides the Liberty Street School, the collection includes the historically valuable Weigand’s Tavern, 2 much coveted warehouses in the Heights – 45 Clark and 75 Carson, and 30 Chambers Street. The residential collection is interesting as well. All are historical buildings in need of repair. The most interesting to me was 129 South William Street. It was one of the few buildings missing to complete the row that WeRevitalize bought last year across from Atlas. And if all of this seems like a lot, they have also started a construction company called Square & Spruce.

News like this can cause all kinds of reactions. The Dodd’s have made many things clear on their website:

  1. They like Newburgh just as it is now.
  2. They do not want to promote a rapid gentrification of the region that displaces locals.
  3. They want to provide mentorship and renewal to Newburgh to raise it up without destroying its unique character.
  4. They want to help create jobs and opportunities for new and existing residents.

This southern section of Liberty Street has been lacking the momentum that has been seen between Broadway and Spring Street. Completion of the school would catapult development of the many dilapidated and crumbling buildings. The Dodd’s aren’t the only ones doing work on Liberty though.

A new developer called the Soda Cova Group is also tackling key buildings like 2 Liberty Street directly across the street from the school and 15 Liberty Street three doors down from the school. They plan to restore the storefronts, restoring the mixed use of the buildings. A different developer has bought 17 Liberty, but with no plans as of yet to remove the storefront apartment.

Newburgh City Living has acquired 36 Liberty Street. They recently just completed 24 Courtney Avenue that is under contract.

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Further north the Labor Temple at 109 Liberty has been bought by the owners of the Motorcycle Museum. They have plans to put in a bicycle museum and restore the storefronts. We might be seeing this work take place very soon.

It goes without saying that this new work is just as significant as the work done by others many years ago. There are dozens of other buildings that need restoring and development in this corridor. It is definitely an exciting time, but there is much work left to do.

07/15/14 7:30am

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This scroll ironwork above the doorways at the Liberty Street School has been there for some time now, however, I am just getting around to showing it. Was it always there or is this something new? If you peek in the doorway shown below you can see original yellow tile lining the walls. The plan is for the school to be converted into housing with historical touches of the school’s past. I don’t know if that plan has since changed.

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11/05/13 7:30am

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Has anybody noticed the new windows being installed in the Liberty Street School? The school has a new roof and now, new windows. These will certainly help the building battle a cold Newburgh winter, and hopefully let work continue on through the season indoors. After years of sitting dormant, it is really encouraging to see work moving forward at the school!

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Photos (c) Jillian Elder (t0p), Hannah Brooks (bottom)

09/09/13 8:30am

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The Liberty Street School is just a little closer to being rehabilitated! New scaffolding is up, and now it has a brand new roof. Neighbors have reported seeing men working at the school as well as debris being brought out. Unfortunately the original roof was slate. But this is a rehab, not a restoration. And for the sake of the entire structure costs probably had to be cut, and a new slate roof wasn’t possible.

The rehabilitation of the Liberty Street School is very important to the Liberty Street/Washington HQ’s corridor, as well as the revitalization of the Heights neighborhood. To see renderings of what the completed project should look like, click here. Also see the Save the Liberty Street School Fanpage.

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03/18/13 11:30am

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We recently got a tip that scaffolding has now been seen on the Renwick side of the Liberty Street School. Perhaps this will be the start to some more facade repair or maybe even new windows. The Liberty Street School is a cornerstone building for the Liberty Street business area as well as the Heights neighborhood. It has been abandoned since the last class left in 1980. Newburghers continue to anxiously await the rehabilitation of this building. For more history and photos of the school, sign up for updates from Newburgh Restoration, or check out the Save the Liberty Street School fan page on Facebook. We’ll be closely watching.

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Liberty Street School

Bottom photo credit © Christine Detz Gustafson