11/20/13 7:30am


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!

11/13/13 7:30am


Meet Newburgher, Devon Flavius. He a a lifelong resident who will soon be opening up a new juice bar later this month called Juice Headquarters at 71 Liberty Street. Learn what it was like for him to grow up in Newburgh and why he has decided to stay and open a business here. Thank you Devon!

What was it like growing up in Newburgh?
Growing up in Newburgh was a wonderful experience. It was much different city then it is today. It was a fun place to live. I have fond memories of family, friends and playing sports.

What do you personally find interesting about Newburgh?
Newburgh is a unique city with a lot of history. Places like Washington Headquarters and the Ritz Theater are located in the city. Newburgh is unlike any other city in the Hudson Valley. More of a city feel to it, everything you need is in  walking distance. It’s a convenient city vibe.

Why have you decided to stay in the city and open up a business here?
I’m a lifelong resident of Newburgh and I love my city. There a a lot of promising small businesses in Newburgh and I wanted to offer something new and fresh. I felt it was a need for healthier choices when it comes to nutrition. I too ate unhealthy until I got older and more conscious in my diet. I just want to educate my city on how to eat healthy and feel good.

What kind of positive change have you seen in the city recently?
The thriving energy from the small businesses in Newburgh. I feel that if we continue to support each other, we can restore the city to greatness.

Do you have a favorite building or spot?
The Ritz Theater, a place that is full of history. Just to know that people like Ella Fitzgerald, Lucille Ball, and Frank Sinatra graced the stage is amazing.

What advice would you give others who are considering pioneering a new business in Newburgh?
To support each other and offer affordable services to the community. It’s hard to be successful without those two things.

10/30/13 7:30am


Meet Michael Lidgus, a new Newburgher who is restoring and rehabbing the old Christian Science Church at 188 Grand Street into his new home. He is a retired aerospace design engineer who now gets to do what he loves doing every day of his life – rehabilitating an old building. Read Michael’s home adventure journey and his future plans for the late church. Truly inspiring for anyone else who desires to repurpose and reuse an old Newburgh building!

Michael Lidgus found Newburgh about two and a half years ago but, before deciding on Newburgh he had searched all along the east coast to make sure he was making the right decision; visiting New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Carolina’s, and even Georgia. He ran across interesting old buildings in his travels but New York called him back for family. His daughters live in NYC and he wanted to be closer to them. Newburgh’s train access was a plus because he dislikes driving in the city and dislikes finding a parking spot even more.


For about a year and half he persistently tried to purchase the old Jones Automotive Shop on Wisner Avenue which never materialized. Then, one day he stumbled across 188 Grand Street. It was overgrown with ivy and greenery and it looked abandoned. Being proactive, Michael went online and researched the property and found that it was owned by the Newburgh Community Land Bank. He wrote a proposal which was accepted and, on August 2nd he closed on the church.

Leaky ROOF

Michael is quite the adventurer! He bought a trailer from Craigslist, sight unseen to live in while doing renovations on his future home. Since starting renovations he has repaired the slate roof and just a weeks ago got the electricity turned on. He is also clearing out old carpet in the basement. The building has seen a lot of water damage since the old roof was never properly cared for. This project will be a combination of restoration and renovation. Although the church appears to be quite large from the outside, the space is mostly taken up by a sanctuary and many other tiny rooms. It was never designed to have someone live in it. There were rumors that the church used to be a home. However, Michael explained that in the 1800’s there indeed did exist a home on the property that was used as a church but, it was torn down to make room for a larger building which is the one he is working on now. It was built in 1940. He says that although his home might not have some of the charm as some late 1800’s houses, he thinks the exterior of his home is beautiful with its locally quarried stone. The church was a very plain church, but Michael says that there are 8 brass chandeliers in the sanctuary that are stunning and they make up for the plainness.


When I asked Michael what it was like to work the City of Newburgh Land Bank he said that they made buying the home “a piece of cake”. His feelings as a customer were that they were “great and supportive” and they “introduced him to the right people”. Madeline Fletcher, the Consulting Director, was “heaven to work with” and his experience with Fire Chief Vatter equally pleasant. Before moving in to his trailer, Michael lived on Lander Street or “Blood Alley” as it was made famous by NY Magazine in 2011. However Michael says that he enjoyed his time living there. People treated him like anybody else and were very welcoming. In fact, he learned people might not be as they seem, in a good way.

Michael’s impression is that Newburgh is coming out of the era that has made it notorious. He feels it’s being reborn and just like a real birth, the birthing process is difficult. When I asked him what words of encouragement he would give other people wanting to take on similar projects in Newburgh, he said that there is a place to be purchased here for anybody. There are so many beautiful buildings for anyone willing to do the work. There are properties that you can’t find in a lot of areas for the prices that they are going for in Newburgh. He feels Newburgh was “made just for him”. The City of Newburgh is glad to have you Michael! We can’t wait to see how your home develops!


10/16/13 7:30am

Chuck Thomas2[1]

Meet Chuck Thomas, the new director of the Newburgh Free Library. He is a fascinating man with a background in archaeology and anthropology. Learn how the library is bringing people into downtown Newburgh and the changes Chuck has witnessed over the past 16 years while working there. He and his new bride Nancy Thomas also run the Goldsmith Denniston Bed and Breakfast. Thanks Chuck!

Where did you grow up and how did you end up in Newburgh?

I like to say I was born in a small library in Bismarck, ND, but I remember nothing but snow. Shortly thereafter we moved to a small town in Kansas and by the third grade my family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah – it was there that I grew up.  I had the wonderful opportunity to grow up and have the run of a magnificent library, since my dad was the Director of the Salt Lake Public Library, and while we were there I watched the construction and opening of a brand new, grand library.  My dad was hired as the Director of the Ramapo Catskill Library System in Middletown, NY and that was when we moved to New York. I wound up in Newburgh through a fortuitous set of circumstances.  I was writing grants as a sideline and I was hired by the then-Director of the Newburgh Free Library, Mary Ellen Leimer, to work with their literacy program part-time.  After a couple of years we realized that the library world was a good fit for me and Mary Ellen found a place for me in the library full-time.  Since my mom and dad were both librarians it was a natural transition.  I moved to Newburgh with my late wife, Alice Dickinson, from Montgomery, so we could be close to home and work while she underwent treatment for terminal cancer.

What was your career before you worked at the library?

I went to school for anthropology and archaeology and worked in the museum field and consulted for the NYS Office of Historic Preservation on projects such as the cultural resource survey for the Upper Delaware National and Scenic Recreational River and the Delaware and Hudson Canal Landmark survey, identifying historic features within the proposed river boundaries and along the canal from Lackawaxen PA to High Falls, NY.  Subsequently I and two partners started a Cultural Resource Consulting firm preparing the cultural resource components (history and archaeology) for environmental impact statements for private and municipal projects.  As I aged a bit- fieldwork can be strenuous- and was working at the library already, I realized that both fields had many commonalities.  Both involve researching and gathering and compiling information, organizing that information and disseminating the results to the public and stakeholders.

Congratulations on being appointed director of the library!  What are some of the functions of your position and what positions did you hold prior.

Thank you and many thanks to all those folks who have made my journey possible.  It a nutshell the director is responsible for the management, operations and functions of the library under the guidance of the trustees of the library.  In the case of Newburgh, the trustees of the library are the elected members of the Board of Education of the Newburgh Enlarged City School District and I report to the Board and serve under the Superintendent of Schools.  This is a unique situation, only two libraries in NYS have this arrangement, and it provides us the opportunity to serve as an educational and resource arm of the school system to provide enhanced opportunities for our chartered service area: the City and Town of Newburgh and the Town of New Windsor.

I began as a grant writer for the literacy program at the library, then it was the Literacy Volunteers program.  I was hired as a Library Assistant first in the Local History Dept., still working on grant and funding development, and later in the Outreach Services and Programming Dept.  I began working to obtain my Masters in Library Science and Information Services at Albany and five years later I completed my degree.   I also received my certification in Public Library Administration from the Palmer School of Long Island University and worked as a librarian in Newburgh under the leadership of Muriel Verdibello.

The library now has a satellite location in the Newburgh Mall.  Tell us about the reception it has received and the ability it has to draw people into downtown Newburgh.

The branch at the mall is a terrific asset to our community.  We have added hundreds of new library users and made access to the resources of the library much more convenient.  Because the branch is much smaller, we have fewer items on the shelf, but you can have all of our books and materials sent to the branch for pick-up and you can return items to the branch, no matter where you checked them out.   We only have delivery two days a week at the branch, so if a person is at the branch asking for a book we often can check the catalog and tell them the book is available on the shelf downtown, and we can put that item on hold and if it is wanted immediately, we encourage people to go right over to the downtown facility and pick it up themselves.  More often than not, the person that does get in the car and drive downtown is pleasantly surprised to find a clean, safe and fully staffed facility that has the items they need ready and waiting.  We also have found that people read about our many exciting programs at the main library and they venture into town for the program and realize what they have been missing.  For various reasons people don’t have a reason to come downtown or perhaps remember a downtown that was not necessarily welcoming.  We have changed all that and are learning that if we can get folks into downtown they will keep coming downtown for all that we (and the surrounding community) have to offer.

What differences have you seen in the neighborhood working at the library for the past 16 years?

Ours is a much different neighborhood that it was.  Back when, we hired off-duty city police to provide security at the library.  Now there is no need for that, we have security and cameras and lights but the worst we see is the occasional panhandler and mischief.  With many newcomers to the neighborhood and the addition of Orange County Community College campus, plus the city’s Heritage Center and vibrant churches this is a neighborhood growing into its potential as a place to come to.

What community based programs does the library offer?

I might need an entire interview for this one but from toddler story-times, to movies, free computer training, bilingual homework help, a Parenting center, Job info Center and literacy services, citizenship info and income tax prep help, this library is your community center.

What resources are available for people who want to investigate family genealogy, local history or information about their old house.

The library has a local history and genealogical collection that dates back to the beginnings of the library in 1850.  By 1875 when Charles Estabrook, a history teacher, became the librarian, the collection expanded by leaps and bounds as Estabrook recognized the importance of assembling a collection of information on the families and history of the region.  Over the past 300 years many new Americans have arrived and made their imprint on Newburgh as they arrived in NYC and headed up the Hudson River for new opportunities.  The histories of these families are represented in our collections.  We still encourage researchers with genealogical roots in Newburgh to deposit a copy of their research with us for future investigators.  In addition to print materials we also provide web-based resources such as Ancestry.com and Heritagequest.com.  Listings of the buildings in the National Register Historic District are available as well as unique materials such as the Sketchbook of Frank Estabrook, a prominent architect.  A remarkable collection of city directories dating back to 1856 traces the people and places of Newburgh on a year-by-year basis.

What is the biggest change you have seen in Newburgh over the years?

Well, I came after the worst had happened, urban renewal had demolished the waterfront lands and more but the only renewal that happened was the construction of the present library building.  We were a city waiting for a savior to come and bring us back to the All American City of the 1950’s.  Several potential suitors came along but no one person could undertake the work and provide the love that Newburgh needed.  What I see now is a new growth within the city, with new neighbors coming in and new businesses and industries beginning to flourish.  We are no longer waiting for someone to save Newburgh but rather recognizing the synergy of this city and its environs and encouraging and welcoming new Newburgers who are coming to be part of the organic, natural growth of a new community.

What advice would you give someone who would like to move to the City of Newburgh?

Don’t wait too long to look into Newburgh; look at opportunity, not weakness and think about what Newburgh will do for you and what you can bring to Newburgh.  Visit the library, the historic sites, the waterfront.  Explore the wealth of spaces that are available for your family and your business and come and meet the people of Newburgh.

10/02/13 9:00am


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!!

09/18/13 7:30am

Yaakov at Yellow Bird

Meet Newburgher, Yaakov Sullivan, a retiree who has moved to Newburgh from Brooklyn. He is passionate about Paris, he is an actor, and president of the Newburgh Heights Association.

Where are you from and how did you end up in Newburgh?

I am originally from Milwaukee, WI, but came to New York to do my graduate work a few decades ago. Then moved to Israel where I lived for 12 years. What brought me to Newburgh was a Newburgher with family roots in the city. I worked for 15 years at Columbia University and Kevin Burke was working at the time in the same office. During this time, my dream was (and still is) to retire to Paris, a city I love passionately. Kevin persuaded me that if I wanted to buy something in France, I would need to move from my Brooklyn rental to a place where I could own my own home which I could eventually sell and use the proceeds to buy something in Paris. And where better to buy than in Newburgh!  So I did in March 2008. Whether it will get me any closer to my dream of owning a place in Paris…well,let’s say that hope springs eternal, reality often lags behind. But I love my house and my neighbors. We have a real sense of community in the Heights.

You went from living in a studio in Brooklyn to a 3 bedroom house in Newburgh. Tell us about your house.

The house was built in 1881 and had been turned, like so many, into two separate units. The couple I bought it from had returned it to its original one house arrangement. I wish that were the case throughout Newburgh where so many homes have been cut up like body parts for landlords to collect more rents.

Why did Newburgh’s blight and other problems not deter your from purchasing a home here? How is the Newburgh Heights Association involved with the community?

Newburgh has many problems plaguing it; poverty, lack of an economic base providing people with good paying jobs, many youth who have dropped out of school, gangs, a population that is terribly divided by race and class. All of this in a setting along the Hudson that is breathtaking.  The way I look at it is that all of the problems are surmountable and part of living in any urban area.  The problems may seem intractable but much of what needs to be done can be done on a neighborhood level, very local, since it is at that level that all of us are challenged by the same problems, safer streets, making our area more livable and aesthetically pleasing which can have a calming effect on a population, holding landlords accountable for code violations and making sure that tenants are responsible and respectful of their external and internal space. This is one of the motivating factors that led us to form the Heights Association. To date we have held garden sales for residents to buy flowers and plants for their yards, we have an annual caroling party at Christmas. This October we have a program for the children of the neighborhood to work with a professional artists group designing banners which will be placed along Liberty St. from Benkard to Bay View Terrace. We will be working with the police to express what are concerns are in the neighborhood and to learn what they are doing to stay on top of the situation in the Heights. Communication is critical. We are working to make the bluff more utilized. These are a few of the things we have been working on and of course we are always looking to expand our membership in wider areas of the Heights.

Tell us about your Off-Broadway play that you are performing in NYC.

While I was working at Columbia, I was a writer and researcher but since my retirement, I have gone back to acting which was my career for a good number of years. I recently closed a show at the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row in the city. It was called “The Great Society” and dealt with the LBJ years, the conflict in his life as a president who wanted more than anything to be remembered as America’s greatest social reformer but had the millstone of the Vietnam War around his neck which seriously damaged his presidency. I played Georgia senator, Richard Russell. It was a great experience being on the boards again. The show may move on to a bigger venue and I look forward to the having the opportunity of working on other theatre projects. Living in Newburgh presents me with challenges of working in theatre but I believe they can be adequately met.

What are some of your hopes for the City of Newburgh?

I hope to bring cast members from “The Great Society” up to visit Newburgh. I talk up Newburgh with all those I meet since I think it has a unique community and is a wonderful environment for artists. I look forward to my future here and in helping to make our small city on the Hudson, a community that is working together to make it a place that can provide good jobs and one in which all parts of the city will be pleasing to live in and walk in, a community that is a credit to all of its residents.