Photos below © dwellstead
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.
See more project photos below: