People’s voices need to be heard. That was the opinion of a group of residents who spoke at Newburgh City Hall on Monday night to express their support for the public-input process for the proposed Alembic project.
“People want a say in the process, now is the time,” said Newburgher Gabe Berlin, standing in front of a sea of signs reading “Community Process YES.”
Berlin, who said he needed to “see the numbers” before he would fully support the project, was joined by about a dozen other residents who expressed their support for the project.
Alembic Community Development has proposed a plan to restore the historic Dutch Reformed Church and the former City Club property on Grand Street. Another portion of the project involves the development of housing on a 1.8-acre, hillside parcel along Montgomery Street near Second Street.
Alembic has proposed a mix of market-rate and affordable housing on the hillside. The plan has drawn substantial criticism from residents who say the hillside property is highly valuable and capable of generating much-needed tax revenue for the city.
“We need affordable housing and we also need tax ratables,” said Michael Mannion. “I’m fortunate I live at the Cornerstone,” he said, referring to Safe Harbors of the Hudson’s Cornerstone Residence, which offers supportive housing. “I want to speak up for the people that aren’t fortunate.”
Community activist Joe Alvarez complained that “there are lot of people like myself that don’t have a lot of money, that work very hard,” he said. “I’ve got to come home to a hole in the wall.” He continued, “All these people opposing all these projects that are coming up (to meet) the needs of the people of this city…do they have anybody that’s going to buy this property and develop it without tax cuts?”
“They shut down the Mid Broadway Project,” he said angrily, speaking about the beleaguered Mid Broadway Project, which would have seen 91 units of affordable housing constructed on Broadway between Johnston and Lander streets had it not been stalled due to a reverter clause that has yet to be removed by the Newburgh Housing Authority and a lawsuit filed by city residents in 2014.
“You moved up here because you couldn’t afford to live in Brooklyn,” he said, not appearing to speak to anyone in particular. Dorice Barnwell highlighted the fact that many people continue to live in poverty in the city. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 33 percent of people lived at or below the federal poverty line as of 2016. “There is a big need in the city and we need to stand up together and work together,” Alvarez insisted. “Just continue with the process, see where it goes,” said building owner Patrick Cousins. “Hopefully it makes everybody happy.”
The project’s timeline calls for information gathering through public meetings to be held through April. According to timeline provided for the project, said city Director of Planning and Development Deirdre Glenn, budget information for the project will be made available by the developer in May.
“There is no way we’ll be close to voting on this in May,” said city Councilman Jonathan Jacobson. “Once there is a definite plan that is presented, I think it then has to go back to the public.” Jacobson quipped, “There were no answers” provided at the last public meeting held by Alembic partner Hester Street in February.
“The Alembic discussion obviously will continue,” said city Corporation Counsel Michelle Kelson. “None of those agreements have been finalized or signed or approved. We continue to work through the process.”
By SHANTAL RILEY