Newburgh youth, police program survives to see another graduation

Ten young people graduated from Newburgh's Youth & Police Initiative program on Monday.

A celebration that almost never happened took place inside a basement room at Newburgh’s Center for Hope on Monday evening.

As dozens of people gathered on lower Broadway to march west in a demonstration against police brutality, 10 young people and a handful of law enforcement officials shared an hour filled with kind words and hot food.

It was the culmination of the latest graduating class of the Youth & Police Initiative. Since 2012 the program has sought to be a bridge between youth and police officers, starting with the premise that mutual understanding is the key to a better relationship.

“They present to the officers about their lives; the officers present to them,” said Isabel Rojas, the retired New York City police officer who coordinates the program for NHS Human Service. “It’s kind of like personalizing the relationship.”

Attending the ceremony were Lt. Dan Cameron and Sgt. Aaron Weaver of the Newburgh police department; James Gagliano, who once led the FBI’s mid-Hudson gang task force and now coaches basketball at the Armory Unity Center; and assistant county attorney Tiffany Gagliano.

“I hope you learned that the police really do respect you and they really care about your well-being,” Cameron said.

A funding shortfall almost derailed this most recent class. But a column by Times Herald-Record journalist Tracy Baxter spurred a flurry of donations.

Mary Ellen and Doug Glorie, owners of Glorie Farm Winery in Marlboro, donated $800 after reading the column. The donation was enough to cover each kid graduating on Monday.

“That gave me goose bumps,” Mary Ellen Glorie said of the column. “So when I got to the part that said the program’s in jeopardy, I said no, you can’t take that away.”

Doug and Mary Ellen Glorie, the owners of Glorie Farm Winery in Marlboro, donated money to the Youth & Police Initiative after hearing of its funding troubles.

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Newburgh students get taste of computer coding

Newburgh Enlarged City School District students got a small taste of computer programming on Monday as the district took part in the nationwide “Hour of Code.”

Volunteers from NFA’s Excelsior Academy and the district’s technology department guided students through coding lessons. Programming is a foundation skill for tasks that range from computer applications and animation to robotics.

“As technology increasingly shapes every aspect of our lives, fewer students are learning how computers work,” said Joseph Catania, an instructional technology specialist with the district. “This event was designed to make coding attainable through age-appropriate activities.”

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Big hearts meet big needs at Church of St. Mary

Need started arriving with the dawn, more than two hours before a volunteer would push open the metal door and invite the first people inside.

On foot they came. Pushing shopping carts and baby carriages they came. One woman bought a baby in a stroller covered with layers of blankets.

“Some of these people are out here at six in the morning,” said Tami Hollins, a volunteer.

Awaiting them inside the Church of St. Mary on South Street are the agents of survival: clothing, food and other necessities.

Every third Friday St. Mary’s opens its doors to hundreds of Newburgh’s poor – seniors, single mothers, veterans, the disabled. This past Friday dozens of volunteers handed out foodstuffs that included turkeys, whole chickens and canned and dry goods.

Those who braved the cold wait also found baby formula, housewares, tables filled with donated clothing and a rack with winter coats.

“In Newburgh, you got a lot people with a lot of heart and a lot of people with a lot of need. You just need the sweat to bring it all together,” said Marietta Allen, who coordinates the collection of donations and the distribution.

People still waited in line about 11:30 a.m., three hours after the start. Inside a large gymnasium, as many as 60 volunteers manned tables that wound around the perimeter.

Basic services are part of the mix. There are lawyers to answer legal questions, county agencies such as the Department of Health, medical providers giving blood-pressure screenings and someone there to help military veterans.

Allen pulls out slips of paper where she has documented requests for furniture.

“We get a lot of furniture delivered,” she said. “We try to match the furniture to people who need it.”

Requests for blankets and comforters are popular right now. In addition to those items, Allen is seeking donations of money, clothing, food, housewares and other items.

Call her at 566-1425. To make a money donation, checks can be made out to the Church of St. Mary. On the memo line write “outreach/veterans.”

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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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    Leonard Sparks

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