Safe Harbors announces winners of Newburgh youth talent show

Jada Oglesby took first place in the sixth annual Ritz Kidz Talent Show.

Newburgh’s got talent.

Dozens of people got a firsthand look at some of the city’s most talented youth on Sunday during Safe Harbors for the Hudson’s sixth annual Ritz Kidz Talent Show.

The competition drew Newburgh Enlarged School District students ranging in age from 5 to 17.

Vocalist Jada Oglesby took home the top prize and vocalists Mia Martinez and Jamila Oglesby came in second and third place.

“It is always great to see the many talents our community’s youth brought together in such a positive and exciting event” said Lisa Silverstone, Safe Harbors’ executive director.

Videos of the performances can be viewed on YouTube at http://tinyurl.com/kqzdxjq.

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Gay Lee to join incumbent Judy Kennedy in race for mayor

Councilwoman Gay Lee is planning to run for mayor next year, a step that was expected after her lopsided loss to reigning state Sen. Bill Larkin Jr.

Lee said she is “absolutely going to run” in a race that will include incumbent Mayor Judy Kennedy.

“I think that I am a very good leader,” she said. “I think the city needs direction and the Council needs unification. We need to be able to come together as a Council and not be split into pockets of folks”

Kennedy first won election in 2011, defeating former Councilwoman Christine Bello.

She wants to continue efforts to improve Newburgh, Kennedy said.

“We’ve worked so hard to move this city forward – to try and build relationships, to get the state involved to get the county involved, and to put this city on a good track,” Kennedy said.

Lee received just 27 percent of the vote in losing to Larkin in what everyone considered a futile battle to unseat the longtime incumbent.

On Wednesday she distributed a letter to supporters.

“I am so appreciative of the voters for trusting that I could deliver the message; speak up for the disappointed and be the voice of the voiceless,” she said.

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Council weighs residency requirement for municipal officers, department heads

Newburgh’s City Council is weighing a local law requiring that all newly hired city officers and department heads live in the city at the time of hire or relocate their residence to the city within a certain time period.

At their Thursday work session, members of the Council discussed a proposed local law drafted by the Corporation Counsel’s office.

Officer positions covered would include city manager, commissioners, corporation counsel and the fire and police chiefs. The law would take effect Jan. 1, and also require that those it covers remain city residents during their employment. If not they will be deemed to have “voluntarily resigned.”

If the requirement would hinder the filling of a position, the law’s provisions allow for a 90-day grace period for an out-of-city resident to move to Newburgh. The waiver could be extended for two months under certain circumstances.

“This is coming on the heels of a lot of community discussions around just encouraging and having our employees live, and work and play here in this area,” Councilwoman Karen Mejia said. “I’m excited about it.”

Councilwoman Gay Lee was less excited.

She described as “too loose” what had initially been a 120-day grace period. Combined with the a possible two-month extension, someone hired from outside the city could have up to six months to relocate.

The Council agreed to lower the grace period to 90 days. But Lee thinks the long-discussed issue of municipal employees living outside Newburgh reflects longstanding practice in which qualified city residents have been bypassed by those who make hiring decisions.

“You may not think that happens, but if you look around City Hall, it clearly happens,” she said.

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Councilwoman denies role in demonstration that never happened

The rumor was strong: A contingent of sign-carrying people would storm Monday’s City Council meeting to call for the ouster of City Manager Michael Ciaravino, who fired James Slaughter, Newburgh’s former business and industrial development director and one-time interim city manager.

Not such protest took place on Monday, and Councilwoman Gay Lee used part of the meeting to shoot down another rumor: that she was organizing the protest.

In moments captured on the official meeting video Lee read an email from a resident who said Mayor Judy Kennedy was telling people the councilwoman was behind a planned demonstration against Ciaravino, who Lee opposed and the mayor supported.

According to the email’s author, Kennedy also said that Lee had contacted the media to ensure newspaper and television coverage, and the mayor wanted to organize a counter-protest of Ciaravino supporters.

“I did not organize a group to fire the city manager, nor would I ever organize a group to do anything like that, and certainly I would never have a conversation with Mayor Kennedy about anything like that,” said Lee, who is challenging William Larkin Jr. for his state Senate seat.

Lee, who has feuded openly with Kennedy, vowed to turn the email over to the city’s newly resurrected ethics committee.

“I did not vote for Mr. Ciaravino, but it is not my hope to sit and watch people fail,” Lee said. “He certainly knows that if I had a problem with him, I would tell him.”

Kennedy said a “whole lot of people” called her last week to say people bearing signs would be at Monday’s meeting.

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NFA tennis coach seeks to raise $220k to renovate Delano Hitch courts

Desolation describes what used to be the tennis courts at Delano Hitch Park.

Chain-link fencing is rusted and warped. Water pools in places along the cracked blacktop surface. In all but a few places, the outlines of the individual courts have faded and sneakers hang from power lines.

Enter Dennis Maher III. The Newburgh Free Academy coach for boys varsity tennis is undertaking a campaign to raise $220,000 to renovate the courts and return them to use as a home base for NFA’s teams and tennis clinics, and a place where city residents can play for fun.

Newburgh’s tennis teams have had to use courts at Cronomer Park in the Town of Newburgh for at least the last 25 years, according to Maher. Residents who play tennis are limited to using two courts located on South Street, he said.

“We believe this would have a great impact for our city,” Maher told the City Council on Thursday.

Maher’s goals are to renovate the four existing courts and add two more; replace the fencing; and build a restroom facility, new parking lot and a storage area/concession stand.

He has already applied for a grant through the United States Tennis Association, Maher said.

“One of my goals, when I took over the tennis program three years ago, was to tap into the talent of the inner city community,” he said. “In order to do that, however, we must bring back the courts at
Deleno Hitch Park.”

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Columbia University urban design students host public events in Newburgh

About 49 students in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation are spending their fall semester researching the City of Newburgh and coming up with ideas for remaking the city for an urban design class.

Those students make their second appearance in Newburgh on Saturday, when they will split into 12 groups and hold simultaneous public events around the city beginning at 11 a.m. and lasting until 5 p.m.

One group will lead street-drawing in the area around Delano-Hitch Park and another will create an interactive exhibit meant to call attentions to Quassaick Creek.

There will also be events held at the lot next to the Ritz Theater, the vacant Furniture Mall storefront at 123 Broadway and other locations. This flier has the full list of locations and descriptions of events.

Each of the 12 team’s work can be viewed at http://msaudcolumbia.org/fall/2014/category/4-interim-review-1.

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Newburgh fires development director

James Slaughter was fired as the City of Newburgh’s director of business and industrial development on Thursday, ending a relatively short tenure in which he was passed over for the permanent city manager position after nearly a year as interim.

Mayor Judy Kennedy and several members of the City Council confirmed the firing on Friday.

It was Kennedy and members of the previous City Council who in June 2013 named Slaughter, then a newly hired department head, to become interim city manager after Richard Hrbek resigned in the wake of a scandal involving a prostitute.

Slaughter applied to become permanent city manager but could only garner the support of two City Council members, Regina Angelo and Gay Lee. The Council voted April 28 to hire Michael Ciaravino as the new city manager.

Slaughter had been named a finalist for the city manager job in Battle Creek, Mich., but did not get the position.

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Newburgh to help cover shortfall for Hudson Valley Lighting project

Newburgh is going to commit $375,000 in general funds over the next two years to Hudson Valley Lighting’s new building on Scobie Drive.

Owner David Littman has told city officials that the company has a $750,000 shortfall in funding for the $16 million project. Under a proposal discussed Thursday at the City Council’s work session, Newburgh would cover half the shortfall using public funds appropriated in the 2015 and 2016 budgets.

The city will also waive permitting and other fees associated with the project. Those fees are estimated to be about $80,000.

Last month the city won a $2.9 federal grant for sewer and water infrastructure improvements at the property, a former city garbage dump that has been included in the state’s Brownfield program.

“This is actually one of the biggest projects that we’ve been able to undertake in the city for a long time, so it’s pretty significant in terms of just doing a good project to keep jobs and to create more jobs,” Mayor Judy Kennedy said.

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Newburgh fire chief thinks banks may retreat from owning ‘zombie’ properties

There have only been a couple of cases, but Newburgh fire Chief Mike Vatter thinks the decision by some banks to end efforts to foreclose on properties in the city may be a sign that lenders will start retreating en masse from the headaches of owning so-called “zombie” houses.

Newburgh has been a one of the cities considered ground-zero for zombies, properties abandoned by their owners in the wake of foreclosure.

Officials in Newburgh and other cities have joined state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a campaign to get banks to take responsibility for maintaining the properties, which deteriorate and contribute to blight.

“It’s only a couple, but I suspect, as the state turns up the heat on the banks, the banks are getting out,” Vatter said.

In May state Sen. Jeff Klein introduced the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act, legislation pushed by Schneiderman. It would make lenders responsible for maintaining properties before they are awarded title at the end of foreclosure.

No action has been taken on the legislation since it was amended and resubmitted to the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee in June.

Many of the zombie properties were homes bought when banks were handing out mortgages to unqualified borrowers to feed investors cravings for mortgage-backed securities. Vatter believes those same banks would rather end efforts to foreclose than deal with the burdens of owning and maintaining those properties.

“It’s my belief that the banks are going to walk away from these buildings, and they’re not going to assist at all in helping solve the problems they created,” he said.

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Newburgh Loaves and Fishes launches appeal for Thanksgiving meals

Members of Newburgh Loaves and Fishes say the number of families receiving Thanksgiving meals from the organization grew from 100 in 1996 to over 1,300 in 2013.

The group is predicting even more growth this year as it launches a fundraising campaign whose goal is to raise enough so 1,500 poor families will have the ingredients to make a Thanksgiving meals at home. That cost is over $30 per family, according to the group.

Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to: Newburgh Loaves and Fishes, P.O. Box 2844, Newburgh, N.Y., 12550. Contact Stephen Auffredou, president, at 917-816-0053, or the Rev. Mauvoureen “Vonnie” Hubbard, vice president, at 845-401-8154, for more information.

The group is also seeking those willing to donate their time. Anyone interested in volunteering can call 845-401-8154 or message Newburgh Loaves and Fishes on Facebook (@Loaves Fishes).

Here is the text of Newburgh Loaves and Fishes’ appeal letter:

To our most cherished Partners, Sponsors, Contributors and Volunteers and Friends,

As we begin the Fall 2014 Newburgh Loaves and Fishes campaign for this Thanksgiving
holiday we are requesting that everyone please help to get the word out that an increase in
need in the form of both monetary and food donations along with your help is needed
to make this year’s event a success.

When Newburgh Loaves and Fishes started in 1988,
100 families were served. Last year’s event in November of 2013 over 1300 families were served
and an estimated 5200 people with the food necessary to prepare a Thanksgiving meal at home.
Unfortunately in 2014 we expect this number to further increase and are truly in deeper need as ever
of your support this year. With food costs rising we anticipate that to supply a family this year will
exceed $30 per family.

This year we are hoping for and would appreciate your support earlier
than the week of Thanksgiving, so that we can make sure that we have enough for the Tuesday, November 25th distribution. Of course our major partners and supporters we know will be delivering food on Monday the 24th, but we need to know beforehand what you believe your organization will be able to deliver on that day.

So many of you have been so generous with your support and we wish to once again thank you
for your prior years support and hope we can count on it again this year. If you could be so kind as
to start collecting some of the needed food items and email us at NewburghLoavesandFishes@yahoo.com or call us at 845-401-8154 we will gladly arrange for the gathering of the items so we can be assured that we have enough of the needed foods before the week for our distribution.

Please remember that we are looking for sizes that can be used by a family of multiple numbers of people. We are looking for gravy in a 12 oz bottle or can or package, cranberry sauce in the 14 oz size can, boxed stuffing 6 oz, canned fruit 15 oz, instant potatoes, canned yams, 2 cans of vegetables in the 15 oz size, 1 pound bag of rice and a 15 oz can of beans.

Any or all of these items would be appreciated.

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    Leonard Sparks

    Leonard Sparks covers the City of Newburgh as a reporter for the Times Herald-Record newspaper. Read Full
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