Meet Lisa, the new executive director of Safe Harbors of the Hudson (SHOH). She is vivacious, full of energy and spearheading SHOH’s revitalization efforts in downtown Newburgh through supportive housing and the arts. SHOH oversees the Cornerstone Residence, The Ritz Theater, and The Ann Street Gallery. Lower Broadway would not be what it is today if it was not for their efforts.
You are the new executive director at Safe Harbors of the Hudson. What other work have you done in Newburgh prior to your new position?
I was the Director of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands for 7 years prior to starting at Safe Harbors. I also served on the board of the Ritz Theater.
What are your responsibilities as executive director?
I oversee the Safe Harbors project, which includes the Cornerstone Residence, 128 units of supportive housing; the Ann Street Gallery, Safe Harbors Contemporary arts venue, the Lobby at the Ritz, our intimate performing arts space and the historic Ritz Theater, which we are working to restore into a large scale performing arts center.
What projects is SHOH fundraising or advocating for?
Safe Harbors fundraising efforts support our ability to provide quality, attractive and innovative housing for the formerly homeless, those living with mental health diagnoses, low and very low income working adults and artists in need of affordable live/work space; programs and community events to include GED classes which are free for our residents and Newburgh community members; outings and events for our tenants, in house amenities to include a full fitness center, library, computer lab; public art (such as the mural project), the community clean up, free outdoor concerts and markets for the community, etc.
What influence do you think SHOH has had on Newburgh since the 2006 ribbon cutting?
Safe Harbors has transformed a formerly blighted building, which was a hub of drug and crime activity and transformed it into a community and cultural hub, a place where people live with dignity and respect and where neighbors and tourists flock to our gallery and Lobby concert series. The corner of Broadway and Liberty is a gathering place for families and community organizations, the building itself, with the marquee, the mural and the open air exhibition of Newburgh portraits has created an iconic façade. We are truly an anchor institution in the City of Newburgh.
What would you say to the critics who feel that the supportive housing SHOH provides is counter productive to the economic development of Newburgh?
I would say take a look at what we’ve done! I would say well-designed, supportive, affordable housing can transform communities, bringing economic opportunities without pushing anyone out. I would point to the people who meander from a concert in the Lobby to the Wherehouse for dinner, I would point to people who come to the Ann Street Gallery for an opening reception and end up shopping at Newburgh Art Supply. I would point to people who have the support they need on site so they don’t seek treatment at the emergency room. Supportive housing reduces the drain on community services. When we have 300 people in our lobby for a cupcake baking contest one weekend, 125 people for a concert the next, 100 people in the gallery for an opening the next, and on top of all that, we are helping the homeless to be housed, the uneducated to receive their degrees, I say, go us!!!
The Ritz Theater Lobby has already had Grammy, Tony, and Oscar winning performers. How will a full fledged theater contribute to the revitalization of Newburgh?
We really have great performances at the Lobby, which draws amazing talent and hundreds of patrons. A fully restored Ritz Theater will be an 825 seat venue, which allow us to bring more talent to downtown, bringing thousands more people to our City, creating many more jobs, spurring economic development and enhancing the cultural hub we have already created on Lower Broadway.
If someone is learning about SHOH for the first time, what is one thing they should know about your organization?
I think our mission statement sums it up…we are transforming lives and building communities through housing and the arts!
Do you feel safe in Newburgh?
Absolutely. I have worked in the City for 9 years and never once have I felt threatened in any way. I routinely leave the building in the evening, after a performance, an art opening or a late night and walk to my car on Broadway, Liberty or Ann Street and no one has ever bothered me. My car has never been broken into or vandalized. You have to be smart, like in any city, but I feel absolutely safe. I think it’s important to note, too, that our building is graffiti and vandalism free. We have a beautiful mural, photos mounted on the wall, planter in the front and the back of the building and, in my nearly 2 years here, the building has never suffered any damage.
How can people help contribute to SHOH?
Attend a concert, become a Friend of the Ann Street Gallery, participate in our 5K, attend our gala, or simply send us a check or click on the Donate button on our website (Ritz Donation, Ann St Gallery Donation, SHOH Donation)! There’s no shortage of ways to give!!
Thanx Lisa for what you do.
Newburgh is so lucky to have you on our side. you get things done – and in a kind and gentle way! Hooray for you Lisa!
Thanks to Tricia Haggerty Wenz who had the vision, the fortitude, and the ability to bring people together. Safe Harbors is a shining example of how to take care of people, and do it right. And I am proud to continue serving on the board with Lisa at the helm.
It is so critical to have projects that ‘earn their keep’ by bringing real economic growth to Newburgh in exchange for the credits and support that they get from the city, as SHOH has done.
We should also be cognizant of the fact that SHOH was a centrally-located rundown property with a defunct and very damaged theater. Restoring that badly blighted old hotel, restoring and creating venues that attract tourists, and making sure that the residents of SHOH live with the spirit of ‘giving back’ was transforming something devastating into something special.
Every time we consider the creation of ‘affordable’ , ‘workforce’, ‘supportive’, call it what you will, we must consider EVERY element of its impact on Newburgh. Thankfully, the leaders of SHOH did that. Which is what makes the place so rare.