Meet Ana, a native New Yorker, originally from the Dominican Republic, who navigated purchasing a city-owned property and the 203k loan system. She owns a cozy 3-story building on Lander Street that she shares with her family.
Opposite to the negative fame that Lander usually gets, Ana has stories of friendly neighbors who share the produce from their garden and who look out for her when she leaves her car lights on. This kind of neighborly camaraderie has made Ana fall in love with her dream home.
Like with any old home, there is plenty of work to do, but Ana and her family are determined to do their part to make their neighborhood beautiful.
How did you find Newburgh and what made you decide to move here?
When I came from the Dominican Republic I moved to Manhattan and that’s where I lived all of my adult life. I was getting ready to retire. My sister Liz was talking up Newburgh for a long time. We started to explore the city. There were many distressed properties for sale that were owned by the city. Liz said that the prices were low enough that, with tax credits and tax exemptions I could fix up and own my own home and rent out a unit to cover some of the expenses. It was a scary step for me to be a first-time homeowner. Finally, in 2015 I bought a 3-story building.
What kind of loan did you end up getting, and how hard was it to find a lender?
I got an FHA construction loan. It was very hard to find a bank and lot of red tape. I started with one bank and then changed. It took many months to finally close. The problem was that my building has a storefront, and FHA does not provide loans for mixed-use buildings. We were able to convince them to exclude the storefront and simply finance the rest of the building. We think we are the first storefront building to get an FHA loan in the area.
What work had to be done to your building and what services did you use?
The building had been abandoned for eight years. There was garbage all over, and many abandoned cars and a six ton pile of bricks in the yard. It had been divided like a rooming house and the work was terrible. The roof hatch was open and water was pouring through. The roof needed repair, space needed to be re-designed, and we had to put in new kitchens and bathrooms. My sister’s husband, Michael, brought in his classmate from Cooper Union, Curtis Wayne, an architect, to do the blueprints. He also has an engineering background and expertise in making historic homes more energy efficient (My heating bill is half the cost of my next-door neighbor whose house is 25% smaller!). We hired a general contractor to handle the renovation.
What has your experience been like living on Lander Street? How are the neighbors?
We heard very bad stories about how Lander Street was so dangerous. The FHA consultant asked Michael “What’s the matter? Don’t you love your sister-in-law? Why are you putting her here?” It’s very noisy in the summer, and the streets are in poor condition, so we have our issues, but my neighbors are wonderful. They are helpful and watch out for me. And I love the children playing in the area.
Why is this your dream home?
The home has lots of windows on the south side, so there is a lot of light. It had two empty lots next to it, and I was able to buy them together and convert the three properties into one. I love to garden, and the extra land gives me the space to do that. My brother and his wife live on the floor below me, and Liz and her husband will be living two blocks away on Liberty Street and starting a business called dwellstead to convert more homes like this one, so the family will be together.
What have been some of the perks and challenges of living in Newburgh?
I don’t drive but public transportation is good. I can take the bus to the supermarket and my favorite stores. I walk mostly but I have to stay on the street because the sidewalks are terrible. The other challenge is the taxes and fees for services–too high–and the billing is confusing. What I like most is the medical attention I get here—it’s excellent! My councilwoman, Karen Mejia, is accessible. I do wish some of the city official government offices were easier to work with.
What advice would you give others who are considering moving to Newburgh?
Have lots of patience. Get lots of help. Learn as much as you can about how things work and make friends! If you do, you will be very happy here.
Traditionally Meet a Newburgher is an interview. However, I thought this sweet letter from this new-to-Newburgh couple was a great example who is moving to Newburgh, how they find it, and where they are buying houses. It was my pleasure Ben, Betsy and Percy! Their letter is below:
“Just wanted to say “Hello” and Thank You for your blog and all the work you do with it. We just purchased a home on Renwick St. at the end of October and have already moved in with our dog, Percy. My wife, Betsy, is a writer and I’m an artist and carpenter. Your blog was/is a great way for us to learn more about Newburgh as we began exploring it last year. We’re very happy to be here now and excited to be part of the community.
I’m carpenter with a specialty in restoration, and I’m planning to re-start my wood window restoration business as well as offer free and low-cost workshops for do-it-yourselfers as soon as we get our place tightened up a bit, and I get my workshop set up (and hopefully more of an on-line presence).
A year ago we thought Benkard and Renwick and Carson seemed pretty sketchy, but the more time we spent here the more we realized that it’s actually totally fine. A few houses on Benkard have been fixed up really nice… Sure it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely lively and depressing at turns, which make it interesting… Thanks again for all your efforts and hard work.”
Meet Ozioma Egwuonwu, an extremely accomplished young woman at the forefront of Newburgh’s revitalization. She has given a Tedx Talk, spoken at the UN and even created her own holiday, World Dream Day. You might have seen her dream board on the corner of Broadway and Liberty or heard of her participation in the I AM Illuminated event with the Mayor. With her business, BurnBright LLC, she is making moves in Newburgh. She is now based out of the new collaborative workspace on Broadway called Space Create. Learn about her international journey and why she has decided to come back to Newburgh.
Where are you from and how did you end up in the City of Newburgh?
I am originally from Nigeria. That is where I was born. My family came to America when I was very young. My father was a diplomat and after his term concluded, we decided to stay in America. I lived my early years in Manhattan and then the Bronx. My family moved up to the Newburgh/New Windsor area when I was 13 years old.
What was it like growing up here?
It was a beautiful struggle because I attended Valley Central High School, but always looked to Newburgh for a certain degree of freedom of expression and identity. When my mother purchased a home in Newburgh, it gave me permission and license to begin to explore.
At 16, I began working at the Newburgh Mall and after work would host sleepovers at my Newburgh home on Friday nights. Newburgh became the place where I would come to play. I remember having a group of diverse friends from all different ethnic backgrounds. The friendships reflected the make-up of the city. Hispanic, Black, White.
During my teenage years, when my friends and I came together we had a lot of fun sharing our lives and creating a safe space beyond the violence. My home on Hasbrouck at that time became a safe haven, and years later some of those friends ended up raising their families in that home.
Growing up in and around Newburgh had many challenges for me, but also created a great foundation for my creativity and tenacity.
Where did your journey take you after high school?
After high school I received a Presidential Scholarship to attend the University at Albany where I received a BA/MA in English studies. Right after, I was selected to work at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab Utah where Robert Redford made a huge impression on me with a speech on the importance of creativity + truth. It set the pace for me.
I returned to NYC I and went straight into the world of production and rose through the ranks to become a full-fledged commercial producer at Saatchi and Saatchi working OLAY. I also pursued a 2nd masters degree in Television, Radio and New Media from Brooklyn College.
After 5 years of being a producer, I decided to switch careers and became a strategist. The 1st turn strategic brand re-invention I worked on was helping to rebrand JC Penney with the Every Day Matters Campaign.
I became a Vice President at around 26 and left about 2 years ago from my post as VP of Cultural Strategy and Innovation at a Madison Avenue Agency to begin to evolve my strategic work in the areas of helping individuals, businesses and communities transform. I now consult with businesses, brands and non-profit entities as needed.
Tell us about your business, Burn Bright. What is it about? What do you hope to achieve? BurnBright is a transformational coaching, consulting and training business that focused on igniting human potential.
When I was in my mid twenties, I developed a methodology and a series of processes that were very effective in helping people gain clarity around where they were in life and where they wanted to go. I called it the BurnBright Method.
In 2011, I began doing more social good and community empowerment work and ever since then many communities and non-profit organizations nationally and internationally have asked me to share insights and strategies on how they can move forward.
In 2012 BurnBright launched World Dream Day a global holiday that has been celebrated in close to 50 counties around the world and reached about 1 million social media impressions the year. This year, however, things really took off for BurnBright with collaborating with the Mayor and the I AM Illuminated event, initiatives at the United Nations, appearances on MSNBC and also even being invited to support global launches with organizations at UK Parliament.
I love being of service and supporting the path towards individual and collective progress. I love helping individuals, businesses and communities move forward and BurnBright!
What other exciting projects are you a part of in the city?
When I returned to Newburgh I conducted a large scale transformational study and published a report that details a 6-point strategy on how to create even more + change in Newburgh. Columbia University invited me to share that research and my other insights as one of the initial inputs to their work, since then I have played a supporting role as a member of the design review committee and also community stakeholder on their local site intervention. My main desire was to ensure that their ideas reflect a dynamic balance between what Newburgh currently is and what Newburgh CAN be.
You have had an impressive career teaching at Columbia University, a Tedx Talk, and even working at the UN. Your could take your work anywhere. Why was it important to circle back to Newburgh?
A large part of my life has always been led by asking “where is the need?” and going there. I live a life of service and there is nothing that brings me greater joy at the moment than playing a powerful role and making major contributions to the landscape that helped to shape my formative years. I believe we should always give what we can, as much as we can, for as long as we can. It consider it to be an honor to be a part of this phase of Newburgh’s evolving narrative.
I recently moved my global headquarters to Newburgh. BurnBright International LLC is now located at Space Create at 115 Broadway, where we have launched Dream-UP NBNY, which was a local event to benefit the community goals and dreams and highlight the importance of peace in the city of Newburgh and the world.
Most recently, I have already launched BurnBright Business Labs. Where we provide services that support start-ups, establish business owners, and creative professionals with igniting entrepreneurial success in the Hudson Valley and beyond.
I will also be training people on how to create Personalized MasterPlans that support their lives and their dreams. Many people here have goals and dreams without the strategies to make them happen. BurnBright will provide services that support them in that. We even have a class called DreamYoga-a new form of Yoga I developed to help people connect to their ideas, goals and dreams on a deeper level.
My main desire is to be a resource for business, personal and community development.
How do you envision the revitalization of Newburgh?
My vision is of a Newburgh where the beauty that already exists is able to shine through for all to see.
When analyzed objectively, the City of Newburgh possesses all of the trappings essential to create a thriving city. Green space, arts and culture, architecture, public transportation, etc. When analyzed closely, however, you begin to realize that the challenges that face Newburgh are quite complex. These challenges are wicked problems that are currently blocking Newburgh’s Light: drug problems, rampant corruption, and a lack of unity, integration and collaboration across economic and color lines among many others.
I believe these challenges can lessen and come to a screeching halt when a community is committed to putting an end to whatever is blocking it’s light of progress. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I’m a strong believer in a comeback story, and I believe Newburgh has a new story to tell. I believe the time to tell it is NOW.
A better, brighter Newburgh is indeed not only a possibility, but inevitable if we are willing to join forces and do the work.
I believe that what it required in Newburgh are key strategic interventions that support and create transformation where it is needed most. My research led me to create a transformation plan based on these areas and I and others have begun to address change in the following key areas:
Empower Newburgh Youth to become agents of change
Create a coherence strategy that pulls key stakeholders and community together.
Turn Newburgh into a Transformational Brand: Newburgh needs a New Story
Stir the air with community-driven innovation. Newburgh as Open Source City
Ignite “Next Generation Entrepreneurship” that attracts business growth
Leverage the cultural equity of Orange County and The Hudson Valley
What advice would you give someone looking to start a new dream in Newburgh?
Newburgh is a great place to bring forth new dreams as long as the person is willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in. This is the perfect place and time to be in Newburgh.
I would suggest that it’s important to first come and learn about what is going on in the community from all aspects of the community. Newburgh can be quite misleading on the surface. When you take the time to listen to people and listen to the story that Newburgh is ready to tell, you can find your place in the unfolding narrative.
Hopefully that place is to be a contribution. To fill this city up with love, light and innovation. There is so much that is needed here and I believe that more good people will come to play the role of lighting Newburgh up from the inside out!
And last but not least, what is your favorite building or location in the city?
Right now my favorite location in Newburgh is at the corner of Liberty and Broadway where we installed a Dream Wall. I love stopping by each day and bearing witness to the way in which this wall is opening this city up in ways I couldn’t imagine. The other day it was wiped clean and within hours filled up once more.
On that wall, all cultures and age ranges have poured out their hopes and dreams for a better Newburgh. That corner holds my heart.
Meet Noah and Angela Shapiro, newlyweds and new parents. The Shapiro family has been in Newburgh since the 1880’s with their business, Shaprio’s Auction Mart that has transformed itself into today’s Shapiro’s Furniture Barn. It’s one of the many hidden treasures of Newburgh. Learn about why they are dedicated and determined to keep their business here and why other businesses should consider a move to the city. Thanks Noah and Angela!
Shapiro’s Furniture Barn has a long history in Newburgh. Can you tell us about how your family started the business since 1889?
We originally started as a horse auction mart before cars were invented. In 1938 we diversified and began to carry used furniture. Then, beginning in 1952 we started to carry a wide selection of bedroom, living room, and dining room furniture, displayed in our beautifully decorated 30,000 square foot showroom. We carry some of the most recognized names in furniture and mattresses. Our family continues to always search for the best buys and values in the furniture market, and pass the savings on to the customers. We are the 4th generation of Shapiro’s to carry on the business.
Why is it important that your business remain in the City of Newburgh?
Why would we turn our back to the customers who have become family and friends over the years? They have supported our family, and our employees families through the years and in return allowed us to provide a great service and business. After 100 years we feel we have found our niche; but always striving to be better. We have our website http://www.shapirosfurniturebarn.com/ which allows us to reach a broader customer base but we do very little advertising because we have such a wonderful customer word of mouth promotion!
Angela, you are Noah are newlyweds. What was your first impression when Noah brought you to Newburgh? What has it been like since then?
Angela-I first visited Newburgh in the Fall of 2010 and my first impression was superb. Noah and I patronized local businesses such as Broadway Cafe where I was welcomed with a hug from “mom”, entertained by George running the flattop and savored the most delicious pancakes. It was lovely too as we were in the courtship phase and everywhere we went people knew and loved Noah. We were always greeted with a friendly hello, handshake, hug and warm welcome. After moving here from Boulder, Colorado my relationship with the community only continues to grow and keep developing as I have the opportunity and pleasure to meet new people and frequent local businesses.
Do you employ local city residents? Why is that important?
We do employ local city residents and believe in supporting the community that has supported our business and family for so many years. We have a wonderful team at Shapiro’s Furniture Barn. Our delivery drivers Rigo and Juan have been with us for over 12 years and William is our numero uno sales man on the floor. He is fluent in Spanish, which is a wonderful resource for our Spanish speaking clientele.
What inspires you about Newburgh?
The people and the community, there is a palpable heartbeat, kindness and spirit here. I love seeing new businesses like APG Pilates and Martha opening up. It is very inspiring to see and connect with the new owners.
Do you think the City of Newburgh is worthy of businesses and investment?
Absolutely! The landscape and curb appeal here is very desirable. People used to come from New York City on weekends to come shopping on Broadway. Broadway has a very European feel to it. I would love to see it filled with beautiful store fronts, delicious restaurants and shops to patronize.
What is your favorite building or spot in the city?
Besides Shapiro’s Furniture Barn 🙂 We really enjoy walking around Downing Park, it’s nice to see and visit Mayor Joan Shapiro Street. She is Noah’s grandmother and we still are reminisced of her presence on a weekly basis from customers. Also, St. Lukes Hospital. We recently had our baby boy Jakob Shapiro there and everyone was so competent, thorough and wonderful to us. We are lucky to have an excellent community hospital.
What advice would you give new businesses looking to move or start up in Newburgh?
Open a business that would really benefit the community; therefor in return directly benefits the business owner. There used to be so many manufacturing jobs in the city. It would be vital to see a business that would offer jobs to the community. However, Howard Schultz said “The lifeblood of job creation in America is small business, but they can’t get access to credit.” That may be more apropos for this day and age. It is possible to survive and thrive here as a small business. We have been here for over 100 years and Sally’s Fish Market on William Street has been there for over 60 years. It’s possible and we welcome you!
Meet Judy, a new Brooklyn transplant to the City of Newburgh. She is excited about all things Newburgh, especially her new studio with Hudson River views which she calls the Barge Watch. Learn all about her and why she decided to come to the City of Newburgh. Thanks for participating Judy!
Tell us about yourself. Where are from and what do you do for a living?
I grew up in the Midwest, lived some time in Europe, then moved to New York for graduate school in painting at Hunter College. After Hunter, I joined the exodus of artists out of the East Village to Brooklyn, setting up a studio in an industrial loft near the Navy Yard. The pioneering, renegade spirit of the early 90’s helped to shape the direction of my art. With the emergence of empty storefronts and warehouses as exhibition space, I began to explore site-specific sculptural installation as an art form. In order to support my artwork, I have sustained a second career for a time as a handbag, belt and accessories designer. I started teaching a few years ago and enjoy that as well. I guess you could say I am a Judy of all trades. I will have my sculptural installation ‘Expansion’ exhibited at the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz from June 21st – November 9th, as part of the exhibition entitled ‘Worlds of Wonder’. I am thrilled for this opportunity!
How did you find Newburgh and what attracted you?
Friends have migrated to the Hudson Valley from Brooklyn over the years, but no one actually lived in Newburgh. I relocated from the Boston area, where I lived for almost a decade, so moving to Newburgh was like coming home to me. The first day I looked around Newburgh, I knew this was where I wanted to settle. Each person I met was welcoming and helpful in my search for studio space. Ultimately, I found my ideal studio on Craig’s list – a diamond in the rough, which is also how I see Newburgh. There is a lot of untapped potential in this city. I also love the outdoors. There are hiking trails with incredible views within a half-hour drive, as well as kayaking, cycling, rock climbing and secret swimming holes.
What kind of studio space do you work in? What is it like working there?
My studio is in a brick industrial building, around 1,500 square feet. It reminds me of my old Brooklyn loft, except now I have a view. Incredible! It has been a lot of work getting the studio in order, but I love it. The studio was absolutely freezing this winter, but looking out at the frozen Hudson River and the barges cutting through the channel was purely fascinating, and so I created a Barge Watch facebook fan page, how nerdy is that?! And then this winter a friend helped me renovate the back room space at my studio and set up an exhibition space. So, now Barge Watch is the name for my studio as well as the ‘gallery’. Please ‘Like’ BARGE WATCH on FB, and stay in the loop!
Why do you think other artists would find Newburgh studio space ideal?
The amount of studio space you can get in Newburgh is comparable to the prices in Brooklyn in the late eighties. There are options to rent or buy, a lot of bang for your buck.
What do you enjoy about life in the City of Newburgh?
The other day, a Newburgh friend questioned me “You have only lived here six months?, really?” That sums up how welcoming everyone is here. There is a genuine spirit of community here. It’s a city, but also a small town in many ways. There is so much history here, and I love the architectural details of the old homes and churches.
What have been some of the perks and challenges of living in Newburgh?
Everyday I discover new perks – The Downing Film Center shows acclaimed first run films, under $10. Top notch Yoga and Pilates studios in walking distance. Free live music at the local pubs. I use my car too much though – for basic things like banking and grocery shopping, and that is different than most of the cities I have lived in. If I didn’t have a car, it would still be possible to use the numerous taxi services. As the downtown gets more inhabitants, I hope there will be more services down the road.
What advice would you give others who are considering moving to Newburgh?
Spend a few days and nights looking around, getting comfortable. Talk to people, ask questions, and if you are interested in renting a commercial space for a studio, be sure to negotiate to get what you want. Or you may just fall in love with one of the historical houses and buy, another great option!
Meet new Newburgher Bob Blake. He is restoring his dream home on Chambers Street that took him over 4 years to purchase. Mr. Blake has some words of wisdom for those of you looking to purchase and restore your own Newburgh home, for everything from grants to finding the right realtor. He is in Newburgh “for the long haul!” Thanks for participating Bob!
How did you find out about Newburgh and how long did it take you to make the move?
I’ve known Newburgh all my life. My family has owned a vacation home in Ulster Co. since 1950. I grew up in the Bronx and we often traveled through Newburgh. We shopped there, too, sometimes at Lloyd’s on 300. Near where Lloyd’s was (now Home Depot) is a Cape Cod house (currently empty). Back then, the people living there had a large garden and sold fresh produce. I know my dad bought a lawn mower at Sears there, when Sears was in the city proper. I remember in the late 1960s we got a new, larger refrigerator and we bought the cabinets for the new configuration at Warehouse Furniture, then way down on Broadway. We had a neighbor upstate who tended bar for years at Luigi’s Restaurant on Broadway. Another neighbor was big on auctions. He bought several loads from the auction of the contents of the Palatine Hotel. I have a chair and a mirror that he gave my family with a Palatine pedigree. He had a barn full of beds, bureaus, rolls of carpeting, etc., all from the Palatine. I’m not sure if I still have them, but he gave us some cutlery, too, marked “Palatine.” Not sure where they are or what happened to them. So, I’ve known Newburgh my entire life.
I had wanted to get an old house and price was a big consideration. Newburgh had really wonderful houses for extraordinarily low prices. I saw one on Courtney Avenue in a real estate booklet and I began to seriously think about it. Taking an old, neglected house and fixing it up always appealed to me. Like Mary Hatch Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” an old vandalized empty house upsets me. I wanted to fix those broken windows. Watching “This Old House” religiously also helped to light my fire. I began to look in earnest in 2008. I saw on line the Newburgh Preservation Association and their Newburgh For Newcomers link. I called. I joined. I was given a grand tour. I was hooked. It took me almost five years to get the house I wanted. The house I eventually bought is the one I first fell strongly in love with back in December of 2008, only to have it sold back then before I could act on it. So, I began in October 2008 and closed on my house in March of 2013, four years and five months of hunting and a good many disappointments. My house isn’t quite as grand as the old Granville house in Bedford Falls, but it works for me, broken windows and all.
What was the process like of finding and buying your home?
Finding a house that suited me was hard. Some of them were such wrecks. Others were virtually impossible to assess because the utilities were off and the owners were unwilling to have them put back on temporarily so that the systems could be checked out. I found many sellers totally uncooperative and not in the least motivated to make the sale. I almost bought a house on Courtney Avenue, but the sellers wanted the contract contingent upon their getting a grant for moving. So, after I paid to have the house inspected, I would then also incur mortgage application costs, etc. and were they not to get the grant, I’d be out in the cold. I requested that in the event of that happening, they would reimburse me for half of my expenses. They said no. I backed out. They did an about face. I told them, thanks, but no thanks. If they’d agreed to my perfectly reasonable request, I might be living on Courtney Avenue. I looked seriously at three other properties, and perhaps a dozen others which weren’t suitable for me. I found to get a rehab loan makes the whole business extraordinarily complicated. Essentially, you cede control of the project to the lender. They tell you what they want done and how. You have to find contractors subject to their final approval. You lose control of what gets done and how it is done. I raised the money to buy my house outright and so can now proceed to work on it as I choose and at my own pace. It wasn’t easy, but I managed it. It saved me a lot of delay and frustration.
Where you able to receive any grants?
Yes. I qualified for the first time homebuyer grant from the College of Mount St. Mary, which is processed through Pathstone. I’ve put the money to good use. That is a wonderful program and the college is to be commended for the positive contribution to bettering the area, which is limited to the census tract around the campus. There are many homes therein that need to be restored, so it is a fertile field for this program to sow the seeds to encourage repair and restoration. The grant is forgiven in increments over five years. Each year the amount forgiven is then additional income to you, so the overall cost of the grant to the grantee is hard to know, but when first buying a house, it is a huge boost to have the extra cash to apply to the myriad projects requiring attention.
Why did you make the decision to move to a city that is still undergoing revitalization?
Perhaps it’s that I like a challenge and I like to champion underdogs. Newburgh gets such bad press and the positive things don’t seem to ever get reported. I’ve lived in a neighborhood that changed for the worse. I hung on as long as I could. I see clear and tangible signs that Newburgh is improving and I like being on the side of the improvers. When I bought my house, I was renting in New Jersey, close to the city. After 18 years there, the neighborhood was changing for the worse. New tenants above me were incredibly noisy and inconsiderate. It wasn’t only their noise, frequent floods occurred, too. I knew I had to move and it seemed a good time to buy someplace closer to the home my family owns in Ulster Co. Rather than over two hours each way on weekends, it’s about a 35 minute trip now. I like a challenge and if there is a wave, perhaps now a strong ripple, of renewal and revitalization in Newburgh, it is a good thing to be here and help that wave gain strength and momentum. I’m in it for the long haul.
What makes your home special?
The house is substantial and solid. I liked its dignified lines. It was not built for people of modest means. The large rooms, the staircase and woodwork, the slate roof, none of this was inexpensive, even 123 years ago when it was built. I have a lot of heirlooms and I’m a bit of a packrat, so its spaciousness was a big draw. If I had to say what attracted me most, I’d have to say: (1) the tower; (2) the staircase; (3) the walk in cedar closet; and (4) the attic. I saw huge potential, which I hope to continue to unlock. Mine is half of a building, a two family side by side, which, I believe, is unique in the city. I’ve seen no other like it. I am blessed that the other half is owned by a couple who maintain their side beautifully. They were glad to have an owner occupant as their new neighbor. I hope to research the house, find out who owned it originally, perhaps find an old photograph of it, which I’m told may be in some city archive. I know from the Building Department’s records that it was an SRO in the 1990s. There is on file a letter of complaint that lists horrible conditions. That’s about as low as a house can descend. I like to think that it knows it is now in the hands of someone who loves it and is taking care of it.
What have been some of the perks and challenges of living in Newburgh?
For the pros: It has convenient access to work via the ferry and Metro North, expensive, but convenient. I work in midtown near Grand Central, so that is very convenient. If you’re lucky enough to get a riverside window seat on the train when there’s daylight, it is a feast for the eyes. It is also only about a 35 minute drive to the family home in Ulster County. The natural beauty of Newburgh is astounding. How often driving down Broadway or one of the other east/west arteries, when that vista of river and mountains beyond comes before me, well, it takes my breath away. The history, too, appeals to me. If it was good enough for George and Martha, it has to have a lot going for it. Shopping is easy. You want for nothing. My coming to Newburgh seemed blessed from above when IHOP opened shortly before I bought my house. Adams Fairacre Farm is a fantastic resource for which I am very grateful. For the Cons: There are challenges. I find some people on my block look at me with what appears to be open hostility. Few are friendly, but those who are are really nice people. Unruly, unsupervised children on the street are a problem, whether running their Hot Wheels over parked cars, or smashing a stick repeatedly into the wrought iron railing of my front porch, their activities go unaddressed, despite adults being right there, paying them no mind until I come out and tell them to stop. I have an ongoing problem that people use my porch steps for their socializing, and some nights they sit there, talking loudly among themselves, shouting out to friends in cars driving by, well into the small hours of the morning. When I eventually repair my front porch (it’s on the short list), I’ll probably end up putting some sort of gate across the steps to prevent people from using it as their congregating spot. I wish it weren’t necessary. Dogs barking incessantly, again in the small hours of the morning, is another difficulty. I’m learning to tune them out. It makes you regret when the air conditioner no longer is needed. Sometimes people play their music loudly well past what would be an appropriate time and I always have litter to deal with, but some of this I expected and knew I would have to contend with.
What do you think the city needs to make a comeback?
I think it needs to attract more people willing to accept the challenges, farsighted enough to want to help improve the city. I was told that I was certifiable for moving to Newburgh and people tried to discourage me. Others thought it was great to join the ranks of urban pioneers, but usually with a “better you than me” caveat. Owner occupancy of houses can only help. I believe too many houses are in the hands of real estate speculators who aren’t particular to whom they rent. What that results in is all too clearly illustrated in much of Newburgh. There are many good landlords, too, I don’t discount that, but I still think owner occupancy helps raise the standards. Law enforcement needs to continue their efforts to stop the drug trade and lower crime. Not allowing further division of existing housing stock or requiring a house be restored to its original one family condition helps as well. I think the city officials are trying. I think they’re on the right course in many respects. The recent redoing of Chambers Street at its point of origin at Broadway is a huge improvement. I can’t wait for South Street to get some attention, too! It’s a bumpy ride down to the ferry, let me tell you.
What advice would you give someone wanting to buy and restore a home in Newburgh like you are doing?
Take your time. Get a good local realtor. I had several over the course of my hunt. I finally found one who was native to Newburgh. She told me which areas were not even to be considered. That was helpful. Don’t be discouraged. The right house for you is there. There are plenty of them, just know what you want and go for it. Being willing to work on things yourself is a great asset, but not mandatory. Have a vision of what you want, what you’re willing to do and what you can afford. I bet you’ll find a good fit in Newburgh. If you love history and architecture, appreciate a truly splendid natural setting and the thought of restoring an old house, putting in sweat equity, doesn’t daunt you, join the likes of Mary Hatch Bailey of Bedford Falls and me. Get yourself an old house in Newburgh and get busy!