Newburgh activist ends hunger strike, but not appetite for DREAM Act

Laura Garcia has not eaten since Wednesday night and she will still be hungry after she and other advocates for a New York DREAM Act meet at a New York City church on Tuesday evening to break their hunger strike.

Garcia, a Newburgh activist for immigrant rights, is one of a number of people who stopped eating in hopes of convincing state lawmakers to include in the new budget Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s DREAM Act proposal, which opens up financial aid programs to undocumented students.

Advocates have long pushed for the legislation on behalf of immigrant high school graduates who, without citizenship, are barred from public financial aid programs.

While the proposal enjoys the governor’s support and the support of the Democratic-majority Assembly, it does not have enough votes in the Republican-led state Senate.

A “tired and weak and cold” Garcia sat in the offices of the Newburgh YWCA on Tuesday afternoon. She was disappointed over a new budget deal that does not include the DREAM Act, but still vowed to press for the legislation, along with other advocates.

“We’re obviously hungry for making this a reality and we will continue to do what needs to be done,” she said.

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Newburgh approves agreement with baseball league

Professional baseball is coming to Delano-Hitch Stadium this summer.

On Monday Newburgh’s City Council approved an agreement allowing the six-team East Coast Baseball League to use the stadium this summer.

Along with the hometown Newburgh Newts, the league fields teams based at Niagara and Watertown in New York; Waterloo, Ontario; and Old Orchard, Maine. The league is looking to base its sixth team in Johnstown, Pa.

Newburgh’s agreement calls for the league to pay $500 per game for 30 games – 16 night games on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; and 14 afternoon games on Saturdays and Sundays.

Newburgh would also receive 15 percent of gross revenue from concessions sales and 5 percent of the sponsorship revenue.

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Local hip-hop artist pens tribute to Pete Seeger song

Beacon artist Decora Sandiford’s fingerprints are all over Newburgh – from giant outdoor murals like those on South Street and on Colden Street to the window paintings that adorn vacant houses on Lander Street and a community garden at Chambers and First streets.

On Feb. 17 WAMC broadcast a segment by Allison Dunne on the hip-hop artist’s song “Flowers.” It is a tribute to the late Pete Seeger’s iconic “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and one of the songs on Sandiford’s upcoming album.

“Before Pete passed I told him I was going to do that song,” said Sandiford, who used to live on Chambers Street. “Shortly after him passing, I started writing it.”

Seeger died just over a year ago at the age of 94. Sandiford met the legendary folk singer when his group ReadNex Poetry Squad performed at Beacon Riverfest in 2011. Sandiford went on to work with Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and considered Seeger a mentor.

The video for the song opens and closes with Seeger singing.

“When you say where have the flowers gone, it can mean a lot,” Sandiford said. “It can mean hope; it can mean justice; it could mean the love for humanity. … I always got tingles down my spine every time the chorus would come on.”


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Newburgh looks to expand auxiliary police force

Newburgh’s auxiliary police force is being eyed as a resource that could help alleviate some of the stress on the city’s understaffed police department and improve public safety.

Over the past few months weekly meetings have taken place to determine how to grown the auxiliary’s ranks, City Manager Michael Ciaravino told the City Council on Thursday.

Discussions about screening applicants have also taken place with the city’s Civil Service department, he said.

“Now the marketing effort and the recruitment is going to begin,” Ciaravino said.

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Changes underway at Newburgh police department

Newburgh’s police department has changed a policy in which only one person was designated to speak with the media. Now all supervisors are allowed to issue press releases and speak with reporters, City Manager Michael Ciaravino told the City Council on Wednesday.

The department’s commanders have also been reviewing policies other agencies have governing their use of body cameras. This is occurring as Newburgh continues to seek funding to outfit patrol officers with the cameras, Ciaravino said.

In addition, the department’s crime analyst office is now providing weekly activity reports to Mayor Judy Kennedy and members of the Council, and it hosted a demonstration of scheduling software created by a company called VCS.

“The software will limit the time the police department supervisors are required to spend on scheduling, which will then free them up for supervision in the field,” Ciaravino said. “The software will also free up civilian employee time, allowing for the re-direction to more beneficial assignments.”

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Council considers $100 increase for summer camp

Newburgh’s City Council is weighing a $100 per child increase in the price it charges residents and non-residents for the city’s summer camp.

Recreation Director Derrick Stanton’s initial recommendation is for the Council to increase the current $250 price for residents to the same $350 non-residents pay per child. The increase amounts to the costs of field trips, which parents have to pay in addition to the $250 anyway.

“This way, if the campers who come in, if they’re in, they’re allowed to do everything,” Corporation Counsel Michelle Kelson said. “And then you’re not nickel and diming the parents or guardians as you go through the summer.”

Councilman Cedric Brown argued successfully to have the non-resident fee also raised by $100, to $450. Councilwomen Gay Lee and Cindy Holmes are pushing to have some sort of sliding-scale fee schedule created for parents with multiple children.

“I have people that live in my neighborhood and they actually go out to New Windsor now because this price is just too high,” Holmes said.

Discussions will continue at the next Council work session.

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Local artists to mount benefit show for Newburgh Boxing Club

Sounds of hope filled the Newburgh Boxing Club early Monday evening.

Gloved hands thumped against speed and body bags. A jump rope hissed as it passed under the feet of a boy. A girl grunted with each jab as she danced around an imaginary opponent in the club’s ring.

Director Ray Rivera, a short, squat, bulldozer of a man, barked orders as he helped one kid adjust head gear before a sparring session.

Keeping NBC going requires money, and the club is going to receive help from an seemingly unlikely source: a group of local artists.

On Jan. 24, six of the city’s painters and photographers will mount an exhibit featuring dozens of artworks created to benefit the club.  Local artist Decora and Baam Bada will provide music.

Clayton Buchanan, Isaac Diggs, Erica Hauser, Bruno Krauchthaler, Rachel Weidkam, and Martha Zola will donate 50 percent of the proceeds from each work that sells.

Zola said the show sprang from a conversation with Vincent Cappelletti, who donated the space the club occupies.

“He bought me over to show me the club, and he told me how they are always fundraising,” she said. “I said, ‘Let’s try an art show.’”

Each artist is creating between eight and 20 pieces, Zola said. The show goes from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at 290 Broadway. Email for more information.


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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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    Leonard Sparks

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