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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Former Armory director named interim city planner

Deirdre Glenn was named interim planner for the City of Newburgh.

Glenn is the former executive director of Habitat for Humanity and the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. She takes over for Ian McDougall, who stepped down as city planner.

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City officials attend ribbon-cutting for new Broadway barbershop

A handful of Newburgh city officials joined Eli LaFontant for ribbon-cutting ceremony outside Exclusive Cutz, his new barbershop at 223 Broadway.

LaFontant described Exclusive Cutz as a traditional barbershop for men, women and children. In addition to specialty haircuts, the shop offers wash and sets, and permanents. It is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“The location is convenient for everyone, especially those without a car,” LaFontant said. “We are looking forward to meeting our neighbors and being a part of the community.”

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Newburgh Rowing earns record number of medals

Nicole Rabe, Julia Padavano, Rachel Beisswenger and Anya Sendelbach won a gold medal in the girls' quad.

More turned out to be more for the Newburgh Rowing Club.

It arrived at the 23rd annual Coastweeks Regatta in Mystic, Conn., with 55 athletes, the largest-ever group taken to the competition. It left Connecticut with 38 medals, a record for the club.

“I could not be more proud of all of our athletes, each of whom rowed like champions,” said Ed Kennedy, programs director and coach for the club.

Coastweeks, which took place on Sept. 14, brings together local and regional rowers. They compete in categories ranging from masters to veteran on a 2,000 meter course along the Mystic River.

Newburgh Rowing’s nine gold medals included one each in the girls’ quad and girls’ 4-plus races. The club also earned 13 silver and 16 bronze medals.

Rachel Beisswenger, Julia Padavano, Nicole Rabe and Anya Sendelbach took first in the girls’ quad, while Victoria Albert, Paige and Taylor Cosgrove, Kennedy Barber-Fraser and Tess Stepakoff comprised the club’s winning 4-plus team.

Newburgh Rowing’s men’s quad team – Christopher Cosgrove, Davonte Davis, Richard Guerrero and Kelvin Solis – won a silver medal, losing to a team from the U.S. Maritime Academy.

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Longtime admin asst., records officer given sendoffs

Ann Kuzmik, right, was recognized by Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy and members of the City Council for her service to the city.

Ann Kuzmik was a reporter for the Mid Hudson Times when then-Newburgh City Manager Bill Ketcham convinced her to take an administrative job with the city, with a particular focus on media relations.

One of her first assignments: A pig that had escaped from a petting zoo at a local festival.

“It was my job to track the whereabouts of the pig,” she said. “It wound up in the sewer treatment plant.”

Kuzmik recalled that incident while standing outside City Council Chambers on Monday. Clutched in one of her arms was a flower bouquet, a gift from members of the Council as they recognized her retirement.

Joining Kuzmik on the list of honorees that night was Records Management Officer Elizabeth McKean.

McKean is retiring on Friday after 17 years with the city. Kuzmik’s last day in the office will be Sept. 19. She will then exhaust leave time before her retirement is official.

“I’ve had a ball,” McKean said. “I truly think this is an extraordinary community.”

McKean started volunteering with the Newburgh’s map collection department in 1997 and became a full-time employee in 1997, charged with taking caring of the engineering department’s archives.

Eventually McKean was handed the duties of cataloguing, filing and researching all records for Newburgh, a job in which she often found herself in moldy basements.

She applied her expertise to efforts to protect Quassaick Creek and resurrect the historic Dutch Reformed Church on Grand Street.

Kuzmik became a main point of contact for local reporters, who routinely fielded her press releases. She also documented 12 years worth of city events with her camera. She also watched city managers come and city managers go, with not many staying for long.

Most of all she is proud of her involvement in commissioning the design and carving of Newburgh’s 9/11 memorial and in convincing the U.S. Postal Service to use to city as the setting for its release of a Purple Heart stamp.

“From my first time in the City of Newburgh I fell in love with it,” Kuzmik said. “It’s a wonderful place.”

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Council to vote Monday on contract for video streaming of its meetings

Newburgh’s City Council is moving toward making its twice-monthly legislative meetings and twice-monthly work sessions available via live streaming.

Members of the Council will take up a resolution Monday authorizing a contract with Plano, Texas-based Swagit Productions LLC to broadcast live up to 50 meetings a year.

The contract would pay up to $25,584 for the company to install cameras, hardware, software and other equipment at City Council chambers. The city would then pay an additional $1,350 a month for the actual streaming.

Meetings would be archived and indexed, allowing viewers to click a link for an individual law or resolution and replay the discussion specific to the legislation.

Council members meet two Mondays a month to vote on laws and resolutions. They meet Thursday before those meetings for work sessions. Video of the Monday meetings is posted on YouTube, while audio of work sessions is posted and archived online at the Internet Archive.

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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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