Meet: Brigidanne F.
How many years have you been living in the city of Newburgh? Eight, but I grew up in Cornwall, which is just south of here and where my parents still live.
What made you decide to move here? I moved back to the area from Louisiana (New Orleans area) after taking a job/relocation. I was looking into renting and my parents said I should not throw money away on a rental when I could use that money to build equity in a house. Like my siblings, they helped with the down payment. Newburgh was the only place that fit my budget. So, it really came down to affordability. I didn’t mind commuting that far from work – well until gas prices rose. Now we have a company co-sponsored vanpool.
And if you have been living here all your life, what has made you decide to stay? Like I mentioned previously, I had grown up in the area and knew of Newburgh. Like many who live in the surrounding communities, the City of Newburgh was perceived as a not so safe place to be. I say City of Newburgh because there is also the Town of Newburgh and some folks use the word Newburgh to mean both the Town and City but, most use it solely for the City. After buying and living here you find that the perception is not like the true reality.
What are some things you would change about Newburgh (realistically)? Lately – the City government/administration. They just seem to be all confused and disorganized in their thinking and not working as a team for the citizens of this city-that it is not all about the Waterfront area; there are other parts of Newburgh that need some time in the spotlight. I’d like to see the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude go away and the ‘what’s best for all’ mindset take hold. Frankly, if you spend a little time here you see that most of what you hear negatively about Newburgh isn’t that true. I’ve been able to introduce my parents to many things in Newburgh. My mom who would never consider coming into Newburgh, let alone the East End by herself does so now because she has seen that it is not as bad as she was led to believe.
What are some things you enjoy about living in Newburgh? The People. The neighborly-ness (is that a word?). People know people, and help out. I like that I live within walking distance of Downing Park (the model for Central Park), 2 blocks where I can take my dog for a walk, or see the orchestra on a summer evening. I can walk to Broadway 4 blocks – where there are local restaurants and shops. I live in a neighborhood on the West End called Colonial Terraces (more about that later).
What are some things you like about your community? Family friendly, and safe. Kids ride bikes around the block and play. Neighbors come out and chat together, even barbecue impromptu from time to time. It’s got a small town vibe going. We have a nickname as the “Garden Spot” of Newburgh. There are a lot of owners who do have nice gardens and we have some green spaces in the neighborhood.
What are some positive things? I have the pleasure to serve on the ARC (Architectural Review Commission) among other city committees so, I see from month to month changes in blocks and areas – some are so small you might not even notice and others more substantial. For many years people said change would come to Newburgh and many gave up hope but others stuck it out and slowly the change is coming. It’s just like a small seedling and we just need to watch over it and give it some water.
What do you think makes Newburgh a unique city? Not sure. I am constantly surprised at the ‘factoids’ about Newburgh that come up. I was at Top of the Rock, at Rockefeller Ctr. with some relatives and friends visiting from Ireland and, there on display was a puzzle game that had been manufactured at a place on Grand Street in Newburgh. WOW!!! (I took a photo of the box) It certainly has a history. Also, how small town it is. You can do the six degrees of Newburgh easily. Lots of people have lived here all their lives. At the large corporation where I work, I have met of several people who live in Newburgh that I never knew lived there and we are all involved in different things around the city.
What is a common misconception about Newburgh that you would like to set straight? That it is not a crime infested, slum with bad schools. The City has its problems just like all cities do especially these days. There are a lot of people who don’t live in the city, who talk bad about it, but their own town/village isn’t much better in some respects. We do have a lot of absentee landlords who frankly do not care that much about their property. They got it for $50-70 thousand, a dozen years back, and it makes them three times that much in income which they do not put back into the property to properly maintain it. Newburgh is good location wise in that it is situated at the intersection of I-87 and I-84, plus it is easily accessible to NYC by train and bus. Stewart Airport is good for domestic flights. It is close to outdoor recreational stuff – skiing, hiking, biking. You can go wine tasting, visit craft villages, festivals, flea markets or farmers markets. There is outlet shopping. We have a local orchestra, several local playhouses, and independent movie theater. There are always two or three good things going on either in the city or in the surrounding communities. Also, there are lots and lots of volunteer opportunities with non-profits, churches or even on city boards/commissions. So you’ll always be busy.
Do you have any details you would like to share about the history of your home or any home renovations details/stories? Colonial Terraces – a unique neighborhood built in 1918 as worker housing for the Newburgh Shipyards, which at that time were building ships for WWI. It was one of 22 similar government projects to build housing for the shipyards during the war. I’ve been doing some research on the background and I just find it fascinating that they were able to build these homes in six months starting in October 1917 in the winter at the same time as the last big flu pandemic. Many still have original features. Now, famous architects and planners start their careers working in the Government branch, which oversaw these projects. Colonial Terraces is locally designated so, we come under the ARC for exterior stuff just like the East End does. I have been working on my home for 8 years…still doing stuff, it never ends! Of course it is just myself, and I do what the budget allows. It always takes more time than you think. I guess that’s why the bathroom and kitchen still need work…
What advice would you give some one looking to move to the city of Newburgh and buy a home or rent? Frankly, if you can afford to buy do so. Don’t bother renting unless you have to. Be careful, and do your research on what you’re buying, even neighborhoods. Get inspections and surveys, even estimates for work that you’d like to have done. It may cost you a little more but you’ll be more aware of what you feel comfortable doing especially if your talking about a fixer upper. Be realistic. Even if it has been renovated to some extent get a home inspection. Speak to the Historic Preservation Officer if you’re buying in one of the districts. Ask the locals – post questions on one of the Newburgh blogs/boards like this one. There are tax credit and grant programs available to help with renovation costs. I understand that there are some good deals, even gems, around Newburgh if you look for them.
Thank you Brigidanne for participating! These interviews show that the city is alive and full of residents interested in it’s restoration. I can only keep it going with your help. If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in a similar interview, please contact me at NewburghRestoration@gmail.com.