It isn’t enough to talk about buildings, or streetscapes, or general urban planning directions to achieve success. One has to understand that it is imperative to provide opportunity and positive attitudes in Newburgh in order to attract ‘new money’ and investment in the community, ideally translating into new residents who can help sustain the economic minimums for individual households and thus result in new sales and property tax income for the city. Without a change of attitude especially with regards to violent crime including burglary (which undermines a sense of security) people will not feel safe and thus will not risk their own lives to live in Newburgh. This isn’t to say Newburgh isn’t filled with so many wonderful people, festivals, events and even a symphony. It’s to say that the urbanism of the CBD is clearly suffering and needs the kind of focus to make the kind of change happen that will help those who feel stuck in what is sometimes referred to the Newburgh slums. References to ‘slums’ must stop, and those who use the term should be informed to understand how it is doing more harm to families living in those communities than doing good for the sense of ‘coolness’.
INTRODUCTION & OVERVIEW
The following series of proposals are made to yield the greatest positive impact on a broken city while spending the least money, in order to affect positive change that in itself will help supplement funding for more robust proposals and positive change. It is understood that in this case study of Newburgh, NY, the city has little funding available partly to do with basic city planning which is draining the city (because of inefficiency of layouts and higher than normal maintenance required) as well as economic depression.
Therefore the following are proposals to trigger further development, remove the ‘scary overtones’ of urban blight and reduce its maintenance draw without costing the city significant funding, while setting up the city for future success. If successful, by triggering further development, renovations, and generating sales tax and other funding the following programs will pay for themselves and provide financial means for more aggressive urban and social buttressing. The alternative, despite sporadic efforts by individuals with flips and renovations, will potentially be the further decline of the city and the potential flight of more citizens.
Someone unique is the basic layout of Newburgh, with a very wide main street (Broadway) which I refer to as ‘The Strip’. The downtown being the portion of the Strip closest to the river. It is also unique in that it is a 3 sided city with the Hudson making up the 4th side. Considering its size of 28,000 ± residents it does not have a town square to mark the center but instead relies on the Strip. Despite its small size, it has the hallmarks of a larger city in that there are surrounding residential communities, the poor essentially being left in the city center, which is unique as usually the poor are in an area to one side of a city center. But this offers a unique opportunity, that the poor can be integrated into the revitalization of the center and thus become the backbone for its success, if the transition is handled properly.
As a city, Newburgh, NY is not in a unique situation. Cities across America during the 1950’s sought to encourage development by tearing down their dated downtowns (urban renewal). While I could, and have, write a thesis on why this approach failed so miserably, essentially because it ignored the human psyche and knew nothing of how to cater to the way people think, it should be understood that the approaches herein do address the human way of thinking about the world around them. With that in mind, one could draw from this outline for so many cities whose core has been eroded by renewal ideology, or by some other factor like loss of jobs, to reinvigorate their city as a place to be and live.
For this study, I chose Newburgh, partly because of its high crime rate for such a small city, but also because it holds so many architectural, regional, federal park and city park assets and gems. It’s hard to imagine how such a city could find its CBD (central business district) suffering so harshly as exhibited by high crime, low income, boarded up houses, broken streets and empty lots. Urban renewal, the tearing down of larger buildings to hopefully entice larger more modern buildings and businesses did little but leave large scars and a significant loss of jobs and downtown pedestrian activity, not to mention the loss of character.
It isn’t enough to talk about buildings, or streetscapes, or general urban planning directions to achieve success. One has to understand that it is imperative to provide opportunity and positive attitudes in Newburgh in order to attract ‘new money’ and investment in the community, ideally translating into new residents who can help sustain the economic minimums for individual households and thus result in new sales and property tax income for the city. Without a change of attitude especially with regards to violent crime including burglary (which undermines a sense of security) people will not feel safe and thus will not risk their own lives to live in Newburgh. This isn’t to say Newburgh isn’t filled with so many wonderful people, festivals, events and even a symphony. It’s to say that the urbanism of the CBD is clearly suffering and needs the kind of focus to make the kind of change happen that will help those who feel stuck in what is sometimes referred to the Newburgh slums. References to ‘slums’ must stop, and those who use the term should understand how it is doing more harm to families living in those communities than doing good for the sense of ‘coolness’.
The ‘little suggestions as noted herein’ will combine their results with ‘already underway efforts’ that are renovating existing structures, to combine and effect a stronger surge of change that will trigger its own momentum and sustainability, tipping the balance towards a city of sustainability and desirability. The city, as designed, was not sustainable unless change to modify its functionality is enacted quickly (to remove unnecessary strain), and now is the time, considering the current efforts being made, to capitalize on the momentum that is happening (a partial list of current programs is listed herein).
Changing Attitudes: It is crucial to affect real change with the weakest link of the population by teaching them the vast variety of avenues towards financial success. The approach (one that is fundamental to house, street and neighborhood success) towards financial independence should be communicated to renters, homeowners and absentee landlords:
‘owning a home is like having a piggy bank… for every dollar that is paid on a mortgage it is a dollar put in your own bank. Yes, your house or your parents house is like a bank. If you improve your home you can increase that dollar from 1 dollar to 4 dollars and thus make a lot of money. This can be accomplished with your own time, by repairing, painting and cleaning the parts of your bank that need attention, and, encouraging your neighbors to do the same.’
This is a lesson that most people do not understand until it is explained to them.
Just as one is addressing the human factor, one must address the weakest links of the built urban environment which is covered herein.
It is important to integrate all or most of the proposals, in order to effect an interlacing self-supporting effect and thus reinforcing impact that can be felt not only by those who call the city center their home, but by the entire region. Call Chuck Schumer and other representatives to secure funding, to be supplemented as taxable income increases through the programs themselves.
The following is a robust multi-prong approach towards effecting real change in the shortest amount of time and at the least amount of financial burden to a city. They are NOT in order of priority.
This study is non-commissioned, and thus may have silly mistakes like incomplete sentences or other incomplete thoughts. If you find such an error, please identify the number where you spot something confusing or incomplete so I can take steps to correct it. I consider this to be a work in progress.
Thank you for taking an interest. All comments and suggestions are welcome. Please show some appreciation!
Nicholas Buccalo, Architect. April 7, 2017.
ZONING, CODE, LANDMARKS
1a ZONING PLANTING INCENTIVE:
Problem: Streets without trees look desolate, hot, uninviting. Adding street trees is the easiest and cheapest way to make a street look better.
Solution: For every 100 trees plus guard fence (around tree pit) planted in a depressed neighborhood, a bonus of ‘x’ amount of square footage is added to the allowable FAR (floor area ratio). This bonus of square footage might be the thing that spurs developers to invest in a new building. Developers naturally try to maximize square footage, because the cost of the footings and roof stays about the same, yet an added floor can help secure their financial investment. Offering a bonus helps give them the confidence that their investment will be secured.
Trees must be planted on side streets running from Broadway (City Center) as space is available. This is part of the ‘linking’ proposal noted herein. This effort should be coordinated with the ‘narrow street program’ (see below) which seeks to widen sidewalks, reduce the amount of asphalt, and create front yards. Smaller flowering front yard trees are allowed as a substitute for a sidewalk tree if homeowner agrees.
Other Incentives to build: Besides the spectacular views Newburgh offers, other programs listed herein could be part of FAR incentives, or some other tradeoff to help assist in realizing the many important components needed to buttress a changing city in such a way to ensure its functionality and vitality well into the future.
Zoning Incentives Cost: Clearly many of the incentives noted here do not cost the city anything but changing the Zoning, and accepting both the benefits to the city (more people, more taxable income, a filled-in urban environment, avenues for success for its citizens) as well as the resulting massing of a building.
In order for these incentives to be known, the city would have to advertise them in some way, starting with the city website.
1b ZONING TO AVOID OFFICE PARK TYPE BUILDINGS:
The goal is to help new structures fit into the fabric of the city, to enhance the building itself, and preserve the sidewalk experience. There’s nothing worse than having to walk an entire block with no pedestrian activity in the building. The other goal is to prevent the feeling of a suburban office park or storage facility park which would have a negative psychological impact on the cohesiveness of the city.
Problem: While new structures, especially offices, institutions, academic buildings are all welcome, be sure to avoid ‘the killing of the street activity’ and, ‘the creation of an office park sensibility to the disposition of buildings’.
Solution: New buildings need to define the street wall, or provide a public space that is a defined urban space, or provide some acceptable relationship to the street, and, provide some retail space and glass transparency like display windows (not to say a solid brick wall can’t be aesthetically pleasing or should be prevented).
1c PRO-ACTIVE PERMITS, CODE INSPECTIONS, and other APPROVALS:
Problem: for many projects, just the process of getting permits, approvals, inspections can slow and even kill a renovation.
Solution: it is imperative that inspectors and enforcers take a proactive stance with Contractors, Architects and Engineers to help ‘during the design process’ to make sure the project goes smoothly and quickly, making projects in Newburgh easier to accomplish and thus an incentive for homeowners, developers, contractors and professionals to take on a project and even do more renovations. This should be advertised.
1d HISTORICAL BUILDINGS/DISTRICT PROJECTS:
While the exterior of existing buildings should try to remain historical, this should NOT be a straight-jacket attitude (until the tide has turned), that is, if a solution can be shown to enhance the visual appearance of an existing building and thus express ‘new blood’ in the city (showing vitality in much the same way these structures showed when they were first built) and thus encourage development over historical accuracy, then it should be accepted and encouraged.
It is possible for a city to have too many Landmarked buildings, if the city is unable to sustain itself. This doesn’t refer to National Monuments, or significantly historical structures, but to a house or building which is more plain in its character and whose renovation would outweigh the need to make the front door historically accurate, because there is an acute need for taxes to support the city, and, mixed income housing projects and viable retail spaces. Right now Newburgh needs viably financially strong options in order to sustain itself and provide the opportunity to revitalize Landmarks buildings in the future. This idea is especially relevant in Landmark Neighborhoods.
My own attitude: a strong community has people of all ages, from babies to the elderly. The same is true for neighborhoods. While some streets can represent the comradery of a group of peers to create a special effect, so to can one embrace a diversity of age. In fact one can say some of the most special moments of interaction are when a grandparent shares their wisdom with a child. The contrast between new and old can make each ‘read’ as being special.
1e DISTRICT OR LANDMARKS RESTRICTIONS TO DEVELOPMENT:
What are the boundaries and restrictions of the East End Historic District, and, are their other Landmarks restricted properties or districts? This component of this outline is more of a question as I do not know the particulars of Newburgh. It extends 1d above.
Problem: while landmarks can preserve the heritage of a thriving city, it can thwart development due to its cost, unless funding is private or funded by some program/grant. It’s not to say buildings shouldn’t be restored, it just that providing the economic vitality of the city that can then support the extra investment of landmarked buildings should be a priority. Once the tide is turned, then developers will naturally want to be a part of the growth and prosperity.
1f ONE-TWO-THREE FAMILY PROPERTIES:
Problem: The restrictions for creating a 3 family can make it not feasible for a homeowner, yet the extra income of a second apartment in a owner occupied home could make all the financial difference to keep the house in perfect maintenance for decades to come.
Solution: If the 2nd & 3rd floors use a separate entrance/exit than the 1st floor which has it’s own entrance/exit, treat the 2nd & 3rd floors as a 2 family, if, a 2 hour fire separation can be created between the lowest level and the levels above (double continuous sheetrock plus fireblocking throughout the cavities of the ceiling). This would imply that there are no stairs or mechanical pipes running from the 1st floor through the fire barrier between the floors. The addition of interconnected fire alarm for all floors to alert all residents of a fire/smoke condition. This implies that only the ground floor can be separate, and not the 3rd floor.
As per page 58 of the Newburgh Master Plan (see reference link at end) the ‘First Time Homeowners’ face a financial problem when purchases a single family (or two family) home.
Rental income should ideally cover the mortgage, taxes and maintenance, or at least cover 50% of the costs. If one can afford a single family home, there is an incentive to move out of the city in order to: be safe, get a garage, get a yard, have more quiet, not live on top of your neighbors. Therefore, multi-family dwellings are more likely, but one who is considering the renovation of a owner occupied multi-family dwelling has to cover the cost of extra bedrooms, baths, kitchen and entrances in order to make this situation work for a building. The idea that one rental apartment will make a financial difference is stretching the financial equation. If anything, one apartment only covers the expense of the apartment itself, over a 10 year period, before any financial benefit is felt by the homeowner. Two rental apartments, along with the owner occupied apartment (a 3 family) helps the owner achieve financial stability quicker if not burdened with the expenses of fire-escapes or sprinklers or other multiple dwelling requirements. Again, if 2 units are completely separated from the 3rd, neither safety or financial burden is sacrificed.
1g HOUSING PROJECTS (NO):
The City of Newburgh should reject any new construction that:
- Looks like cheap a housing project, made for low income people, made so cheap via details and character that it falls apart within 10 years thus adding to the segregation, degradation and demise of the city.
- Should avoid any project that segregates people by class, but instead seeks to integrate people of different incomes. By doing so, market rate housing can help support, maintenance wise, housing that is subsidized. Further, those who are most vulnerable will feel secure and be more likely to succeed.
I have seen cities so desperate to allow 2 or 3 story suburban type apartment buildings get built in their city center. This has a devastating effect on the character of a city and must be avoided. Instead, just maintain the grass of a lot and provide incentives for the construction of real buildings that achieve a character which reinforces the CBD as an active and vital city.
1h GAS STATIONS NEAR CITY CENTER or ON MAJOR APPROACHES:
New gas stations should not be along any portion of ‘The Strip’ or within blocks of ‘The Strip’, or in residing inside residential neighborhoods, in order to maintain the quality of a charming city center. This is a general suggestion that should require the review of zoning maps to ensure the alien quality of a gas station does not land at an important intersection. If old gas stations have been abandoned and they lie in this area, they should be cleaned and removed.
Gas Stations, despite the clear need for them, can be devastating to the image of a city. While they need to be accessed in a convenient way for motorist and even visually accessible from a distance, they need to be marginalized to avoid any negative impact they create naturally. This is true for automotive repair shops as well. No one wants to live next to an automotive repair shop and it will kill the value of that land that is adjacent to it. In fact it is so effective at killing land value that often they will spread out, taking over residences and defining an entire area. In this respect, the definition of an area for motor vehicle servicing, the city should try to encourage an area that can be identified as ‘for service’ that will have the least impact on residential or the retail community.
1i PARKING LOTS NEAR CITY CENTER or ON MAJOR APPROACHES:
Parking lots that allow vehicles to park in front of a building, like those on S. Robinson Avenue near S. William Street should not be allowed as they are ‘character killers’. Instead parking should be either perpendicular to a road or behind the business building. Buildings should be near the sidewalk or within 10 feet to offer a plaza. Considering S. Robinson Avenue is a critical avenue into the city it is unfortunate that the current situation was allowed (because it defines the character of the city to all those who drive past it), but zoning can prevent it from happening in the future. In the end, removing parking from the front of a building does two positive things for the business:
- They make seeing the business easier (since you don’t have to look past cars, vans or trucks which creates visual chaos) and thus the identity of the business easier and more memorable, and,
- They make finding the entrance to parking easier and thus make the business seem more accessible. Often times the only indicator of a parking entrance is the curb cut. This parking entrance would be visually reinforced if the parking was perpendicular to the street as long as it didn’t extend beyond the building front (yes people can walk a little, it’s good for their heath).
1j HOUSE & CITY STREET LIGHTING:
Two things can have the greatest public perception of a town or city. The number of trees along streets (already mentioned), and proper lighting.
Problem: Normal lighting often leaves the light source visible to the human eye. This not only creates glare, but also creates night blindness (the inability to see in dark areas) and through contrast between bright and dark, makes dark areas difficult to see into. Further, bright lights that are visible create dark shadows further enhancing stark contrasts. Essentially the human eye can not adjust between bright light and darkness.
Solution 1: House lights/fixtures need to be can type fixtures where the light bulb is not visible to 4 feet above the closest sidewalk. This can be encouraged and then enforced over a 3 to 5 year period. This allows light to bounce around to illuminate other areas, and prevents the eye from being exposed to ‘night blindness’ glare. All bulbs should be ‘warm’ and LED. Cool lights clearly do not make for a warm, cozy environment, the kind one would expect in a nice residential environment.
Like a lack of trees, cool glaring lighting can be harsh to a human, and clearly be an uninviting quality. Besides the cost of the fixture, the requirement of warm LED lighting can actually help homeowners reduce their electric bill, and effectively make the neighborhood safer by making it easier to see people at night (if a person is standing in front of a glaring light bulb, it is impossible to see their face unless there is light shining on the face. Without the glare, reflective light has a chance to illuminate the face).
I have taken extra time to explain this, as most people especially those without any professional experience think that having an exposed light will help light up an entire area. The glare, combined with our iris which needs time to close or open, has an effect that can create night blindness. Glare must be prevented and written into the zoning. Exceptions only for Landmarked buildings.
Solution 2: (If and when street lights are replaced) Street Lights need not extend their light to 10 feet beyond the ‘opposite side of the street’ sidewalk, nor extend 60 feet in either direction along the length of a street, or where the effects of two street lights overlap. Light shining on buildings that are on the same side of the street need not illuminate above the 1st floor (not into the 2nd floor windows) as often the front of the house contains the sleeping quarters and might result in people pulling blinds down 24/7. Therefore street light should have baffles to contain the light, prevent glare and focus their energy in a way that illuminates their area and facilitates light bounce off surrounding surfaces.
Without the glare of ‘naked’ lightbulbs shining in people’s eyes, the light will have a chance to bounce onto other surfaces and create a much more pleasant experience to view at night. It will also avoid ‘black shadows and dark corners’ where someone can hide, thus making visibility much easier and safer.
When one drives down a street, especially on a raining night, light glare from streetlights can have a huge negative effect on our ability to see what is on the road.
1k Million Dollar Views: Newburgh is in a unique position in that it actually does offer million dollar vistas, created by both the Hudson Valley and River, but also by the elevated position of Newburgh itself. Zoning along the bluffs should take advantage of this, and not be used for manufacturing (or play a much smaller non-intrusive role). That is, the river front and slopes are prime locations for residential. Given the goal of higher prices, if that means gated residential so be it. This does not imply not having overlooks and/or promenade for the public to enjoy the best views down, across and up the valley. Clearly the views of the Hudson Valley are better than any park one could design and build. This area should be built up to maximize the land value.
TRANSPORTATION & STREETSCAPE
The following are zoning, planning and maintenance ideas, unless stated otherwise.
2a MAJOR ROADS: The city should explore better connections from the town center to the highway, especially from manufacturing zoned lots. I understand that certain inner city streets are extra wide to accommodate semi-trucks, but they do not need to be as wide as they are. This is not an incentive convincing enough to have a manufacturer move their operations to Newburgh especially if the result is additional blight.
Solution 1: S. Robinson Avenue is an important street, yet the curbs and width seem incomplete as I will assume there are large parking crowds for games in the adjacent park which could impede flowing traffic. At its intersection with Broadway, dedicated turn lanes should be more significant as should the entire intersection, to reinforce its importance to the city center and links (the impression of the growing and developing city to the most people possible).
Considering its importance, S. Robinson Avenue should be tree lined, enough to create a positive impression while driving down the avenue, with large enough gaps to allow for visual connection to businesses (about 1 for every 60 feet).
Curb cuts on opposite sides of the street along S. Robinson Avenue (or similar) should align, and on the same side, if necessary combine with adjacent lots (rather than 2 adjacent curb cuts for two businesses), to eliminate excessive curb cuts which are distracting and confusing to motorists, and, create a hazard to pedestrians.
Solution 2: Major entrances into the district of the city must be properly maintained, including grass strips, fencing, curbs, straightness of signs and poles, all to reinforce a positive message to those entering the city. Not doing this is not providing a good ‘first impression’ and reinforces a negative attitude towards the city.
Solution 3: Major Roads: Connect Water Street with Broadway to complete the connection to the waterfront (secondary access is not good enough), and reinforce major connection routes with beautification efforts (no trash, no weeds). This will reinforce an impression of the city as being well maintained with the greatest number of passing vehicles, and encourage people to enter the city and spend money on lunch or whatever.
It should be understood that without taking steps to ensure the implementation of improvements now, that when the opportunity to rebuild a major street arises those important concepts can be forgotten and not implemented. Therefore regulations must be set now.
2b WATERWAY: Besides the ferry to the MTA, Newburgh must explore other paths to West Point and perhaps even to NYC itself (if it can be shown to be faster than the MTA stopping at every town).
Solution: (Newburgh Express) While a bit far fetched, a consistent and fast access from one major point into and out of Newburgh, with no slow-down stops in between, will automatically make Newburgh a viable option to live. Commute time IS a factor in people’s minds as to whether they are willing to move to a community.
Solution 2: Bus Newburgh Express. The same idea as the express waterway, but using bus service. The important thing is to guarantee as fast service to Newburgh as a city that is closer to NYC or West Point, i.e. has not intermediate stops.
2c RECREATION: is there any reason there isn’t more water recreation sports on the Hudson including a beach, considering it’s width at Newburgh? Often an active waterfront can be seen by people ‘on the other shore’ and attract visitors and perhaps new residents.
Solution: Starting with flags, tents or other soft and inexpensive structures, the city should do all it can to improve the appearance of Newburgh from the perspective of the East side of the river.
Bus, North Side Route: Needs to be broken into two, with the same bus. First the Broadway ‘river route’ which loops back to Broadway, then the bus leaves the center of the strip for the other portions of the North side. This will bring the bus back to Broadway twice as much and provide riders with a quicker ride to their destination (rather than sitting on the bus they will wait on Broadway for the right trip, thus keeping pedestrians on ‘the strip’, win win) (page 93 Master Plan).
This study acknowledges current efforts to improve the waterfront and waterfront district, from major planning to the recent flower sale.
Problem/Solution: While new businesses spread out away from downtown Newburgh, there should be signs pointing to the direction of ‘Downtown Newburgh, this way’ to encourage people to connect. The path from the highway off-ramps to downtown should be easy to navigate and encourage people, and businesses, to go there. (this is connected to the importance of a rotary at each end of the ‘strip’).
2d ROADS: Broadway ‘the strip’:
Problem: This road as configured is pedestrian hostile, doesn’t not encourage driver visitation (the double lane promotes passage through and not meandering/exploring), does not encourage walking, does not encourage people visiting stores on opposite side of road.
- Rotary at each end of main strip to encourage people to drive the strip, turn around and drive it the other way, perhaps stopping at a shop.
- Protected bike lane, protected by parked cars;
- Bus stops that are NOT parking, but separate by curbs to parking areas.
- Reduced parking areas, so that people are more likely to WALK and thus create pedestrian traffic (thus attracting even more people).
- At the river end of ‘the strip’ there should be a place for people to park, sit down and take in the views.
- Trees for shade in the summer to reduce uncomfortable radiant heat. This should also include an island with trees to reduce heat on the road as well. Hot sidewalks and environments make people put their head down and walk fast to their destination. That condition does not encourage people to look around, meander, ‘people watch’, try new stores, etc.
- Any area that isn’t required for walking or driving, should be planted to absorb heat and make visually pleasant.
- Sidewalk cafe’s should be allowed as-of-right with certain restrictions on their encroachment into the sidewalk, achievable with new sidewalk and road widths.
- Parking. Right now the city pays for everyone’s parking spaces. Instead, secured and monitored lots could be easily provided as an alternative for a small fee to help pay for their creation and staffing. Lots need only be gravel, but fenced (thus offering security to vehicles). Currently the city pays for the parking space (the asphalt) with little benefit and potentially doing more harm to businesses as the environment is inhumane.
2e ROADS, OFF BROADWAY:
Problem: The impression of blight will continue for each visitor to the city center along Broadway as they look up and down the side streets.
Solution: It is imperative that side streets get new sidewalks, trees and curbs. The streets should be made one way where possible to make the street narrower (to reduce maintenance cost over the long term and thus make the city sustainable), and to make the sidewalk wider approaching Broadway to encourage cafe seating on the side streets. This will encourage the growth beyond the first block and leave visitors of Broadway with a new perception of the town center. Curbs, as mentioned elsewhere, should be handicap accessible, and extend into the road to define parking areas, making the distance between curb cut to curb cut shorter and thus more pedestrian friendly. The narrow throat will slow down traffic as a natural consequence. Crosswalks should be brick and lines, and if ambitious be uniquely designed to reinforce the creative spirit of the city.
2f ROADS, GENERAL:
General Quantity of asphalt required to maintain all roads is crushing the budget of the city. Not only are some roads too wide, but there are some cases where roads could be modified or removed without hurting access to the neighborhoods they serve.
- Residential roads should be narrower with modest parking and offer some off-street fenced in secured parking lots. Often this means one-way streets.
- Crosswalk curbs should extend into the road to shorten the distance people have to walk to cross a street, and remove asphalt.
- Bricks from roads should be salvaged to patch significant roadways or to use at main crosswalks.
- With narrower streets, land can be given to residents to make their lots larger, thus generating a slight increase in property tax. This extra tax can be used directly to help land owners purchase fencing and gates for their property (security), help them maintain their roof, help them maintain their facade and/or help them gain solar power to help them meet their electrical needs (thus reducing their financial burden).
NOTE: Where there is off-street parking and specifically driveways (with or without garages) available on-street parking should be reduced to eliminate excess roadway (and thus eliminate heat gain, water runoff, maintenance) like on Henry Avenue (this should be labeled a street and not an avenue).
2g SIDEWALKS (Grass Patch, Front Yard Fences, Proper Sidewalks, Proper Tree Pits):
Problem 1: Some sidewalks have a grass patch adjacent to the curb. The soil gets so hard grass can not grow or be maintained. While the patch offers an opportunity for rainwater to soak in and kept out of the sewage system, the soil is so hard that this is probably not happening. Further, dog urine can ruin any hope of grass growing.
South Miller Street: The mud strip pictured is suppose to be a grass strip, but instead should have been designed as a portion of the sidewalk. In an urban situation with townhouses this fails because of heavy traffic including people exiting vehicles, trash cans, dog walking, etc. Where the sidewalk is should be part of the front yard of the townhouse with a fence and gate, thus offering homeowners the ability to plant a garden secure from getting trampled. The curb should be further into the street since the streets are too wide, thus providing ample room for the sidewalk and tree pits. With gates people will be less likely to sit on other people’s stoops or be able to touch their front door, front windows or encroach on the privacy and security of home owners.
Solution: Sidewalks should extend out to the curb, with large ‘fenced’ planting and tree pits (like NYC tree program).
- Newburgh should use several empty lots to start a tree growing program, and, a compost program to create good fertile soil. This should be done in conjunction with offering lots for vegetable gardens, to help locals supplement their budget with the benefit of healthy foods.
Problem 2: There are no fences between the sidewalk and a residence, making it very easy for someone to climb through a ground floor window, or even lean against a building next to a window. This makes most homes in Newburgh undesirable.
Solution 2: Thus, along with the new tree pits, new metal fencing should be installed (especially near intersections because of higher traffic), or white picket fencing (allowed predominantly on interior portion of a block). This ‘fencing’ should be part of a ‘Clock Corner Stone Project’.
It is imperative that the attitude between road width and sidewalk location be reconsidered. While the original urban designers may have had visions of grandeur, the existing road widths are adding a good 30% to the cost of maintenance for the city. It is also robbing homes of front yard gardens and fencing (establishing bounds and limitations for wandering locals, in order to preserve a sense of security… “I hear someone opening my gate….”). Clearly by narrowing roads to either a two way plus parking, or one-way plus parking will reduce the amount of asphalt. Clearly curbs and sidewalks need repairing. Clearly cafes and homes could use the extra space for their own uses. Clearly there is a security vulnerability where windows and doors can be touched by anyone walking down a street. Clearly aesthetically having a sidewalk pressed against a building facade is not ideal. Clearly having grass or planting behind a fence will allow it to flourish rather than having a green strip adjacent to the curb where it will get trampled on will preserve green growth. Adding land back to a property will increase its FAR and reinforce its property tax.
The city gives the slice of front yard to the property (understanding that this takes an effort to accomplish, but can be done efficiently through quantity). If an Owner refuses then fine them for sidewalk and other violations until they comply, pointing out that the added tax is insignificant (or provide a year freeze on property tax as an incentive).
Discourage chain link fences in the front of properties. Show that PVC picket fencing is financially viable alternative and make it so.
NOTE: Some planting strips next to curbs work, like at the intersection of Monument Street and Overlook Place with the composition of the housing stock is different by supporting grass front yards and thus the maintenance of the grass strip is a viable option. This is not the case in dense urban streets.
2h FERRY ACCESS and VIABILITY (buttressing its financial health)
Problem: If ferry service becomes economically unfeasible, this will significantly hurt the viability of living in Newburgh. The ferry is the only real link to the MTA Hudson Line and the only option for those who do not own a car (taxis being too expensive).
Solution 1: Ensure ferry service stays viable by maintaining area around ferry landing including keeping area clean and well defined by curbs and maintained asphalt, and if necessary supplement use with festivals, flea markets or other activities on both sides of the river (split activity to both sides to encourage people to use the ferry to see other half of event).
Solution 2: Directly supplement the finances of the ferry service. Since I have no idea the economic health of the ferry service or how it is funded I can only speculate on its financial health, therefore this suggestion is for review of the services financial health and for the city to take action if required.
2i PEDESTRIAN PATH FROM FERRY at WATER STREET/CSX LINE (and Broadway ‘intersection’)
Problem: There is no pedestrian path from the Ferry to Broadway. Further, the path that leads down the hill from Broadway to Water Street is essentially a dead end. While there is ample ferry parking for those who drive, there are no options for those who walk. In addition, for those who might want to visit Newburgh from the other side of the Hudson River there is no convenient way to make that happen. Providing a convenient and pedestrian friendly path will help support the retail businesses and events on Broadway and in Newburgh.
Solution 1: First thing that must happen is a proper crosswalk (lines and signs to yield to pedestrians) should be installed.
Solution 2: At a location near the ‘Station’ a pedestrian overpass should be installed, to encourage views (of the river and Station) with a platform/tower, and to encourage use of the Station and access to Broadway.
Solution 3: Provide a shuttle between Broadway and the Ferry with a simple loop and use of a van.
3a CLEAN WINDOWS and STRAIGHT BLINDS OR CURTAINS:
Problem: Often older double hung windows can not be easily cleaned on upper floors because they do not tilt in, or the owner/landlord just doesn’t care. The result is a building can look neglected, dirty, old.
Solution 1, Clean Windows: Cleaning windows is easy, inexpensive and should be done at least once a year in spring after heavy rain season on ‘the strip’ of Broadway and streets leading to Broadway. Clean windows are vibrant, reflective and express ‘lived in’ which is in stark contrast to abandoned buildings in the downtown area.
Clean windows will take attention off other parts of the facade that may be in partial disrepair.
Solution 2, Straight Blinds, Curtains or other window coverings: This might seem controlling, but a dusty window that has blinds that are all banged up can and do signal that a building is not occupied or at the very least not cared for. It seems to me that at an outlet store new blinds can be purchased for relatively little money and installed in windows that have the most public visibility, in a critical city area and are in the greatest need.
3b WINDOW PROTECTION IN ABANDONED BUILDINGS:
Problem: While galvanized sheet metal is both inexpensive and does prevent ‘broken window’ syndrome, it doesn’t leave a street with much potential. From a developers/investors point of view, they have to assume looking at the building with covered windows that all windows must be replaced, since they can not be inspected. Often if the frames and/or glass is rotted or broken, sheet metal is the only alternative. While for most abandoned buildings this approach is acceptable, I would recommend that for areas where growth is essential to promote new growth a different approach be applied.
Solution: Instead of opaque sheet metal, use plexiglass coverings on abandoned buildings that have the most potential for flipping and will have an impact on community growth. This is fundamental for any structures on Broadway as this strip is seen by the most visitors to the city, and on streets (links) from Broadway to other neighborhoods. Plexiglass, while it will scratch and fade over time, will leave people with the impression that the building is not abandoned.
3c BOARDED UP WINDOWS (sheet metal coverings):
Problem: While empty buildings do have sheet metal covers over the windows, they aren’t ideal for giving the impression that a street is viable and healthy.
Solution: using either paint or stickers, create the sense of active window. Paint can be sprayed via stencils (with the help of city scaffolding or platform lift) to create the impression of a glass window (especially on factory buildings and corner buildings that are vacant). This is an extension to the idea that a manicured grass lot will sell faster than a lot that is not maintained as it allows people to easily envision using the lot (building).
BROADWAY (THE STRIP)
There is the unfounded notion that removing trees can make a business easier to see (on Broadway or any retail strip) and thus promote business. The truth is one wants people to meander and take their time, much like the psychology of a shopping mall where soft lighting, background music, window displays all promote reinforcement of pedestrian traffic. Hostile environments (hot, bright, wet) will only dissipate crowds. The following seeks to promote pedestrian traffic which in itself will promote additional traffic.
4a BROADWAY BUSINESS SECONDARY & TERTIARY COLOR SCHEME:
This program would be implemented by store owners over a 1 or 2 year period, with minimal assistance from the city, if requested by the business owner, the city to help coordinate with volunteer groups to ‘make it happen’.
Problem 1: Storefronts: Left uncontrolled to a certain extent, individual tastes can create a ‘compositional whole’ that is perceived as chaotic by visitors. This chaos can repulse people from wanting to interact. Often the chaos can make things look uninviting, scary or even dangerous, which is the antithesis of what businesses want to do which is attract customers. This directive is focused more for those buildings and businesses that might not have a particular color scheme for their business, like a deli, laundromat, etc.
Primary Colors: The primary color not mentioned above being the masonry color of the building. If the building is clapboard, then an appropriate primary color should be selected that is of a historic leaning tone trimmed in off-white.
Secondary Colors (Store Fronts, Doors, Awnings, Signage): Given the historical nature of Newburgh, it is recommended that colors be of ‘one family’ (for unity of expression) representing the entire color spectrum (for variety of choice), and of a medium tone (not too light, not too dark): MAROON, RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, TEAL, BLUE, DEEP BLUE, PURPLE. The business’s color scheme adjusted to fit within the selection above, if possible, noting the exception below.
Tertiary Colors: medium to dark warm gray, or black (Storefront frames, Doors, secondary color of signs and/or awnings, window trim).
Exceptions: Obviously there will be exceptions which are allowed, for franchises, institutions, government buildings, businesses whose color scheme is part of their corporate identity, etc. or for those who apply for an exception.
Solution 1a: Provide the paints required to make this change. Set a date which all building storefronts need to comply.
Solution 1b: Cornices and windows should be consistent in color, typically a gray(ish) color that compliments the masonry. The primary door for residences can be individually selected color, but ultimately there needs to be consistency for the entire facade to make the masonry and facade look charming.
Solution 1c: The city provides permitting and scaffolding to allow this work to be completed without extra hardship for building owners, coordinating with volunteer groups for work at grade level.
Problem 2: Consistency of awnings and signage.
Solution 2: Broadway should be considered special, thus all signage should be perpendicular to the facade and of a certain height and dimension to create ‘charm’. The dimensional guidelines for awnings and their types, and signage and how they are lit. Signs should be externally lit (with no-glare light sources), and hung perpendicular to the facade. Their color corresponding to the color scheme of the storefront and awning.
Awnings should be canvas like and angled down or straight, if not metal canopies. Awning help eliminate reflection of sunlight, making the interior easier to see from the outside, thus helping people to consider entering the business.
Problem 3: Sidewalk width and streetscape.
Solution 3: Sidewalks and their pleasantness can promote pedestrian traffic which is good for retail businesses. Trees and shrubs positioned at the curb can accomplish help block sunlight reflection on a storefront window. Sunlight on roads and sidewalks is highly reflective and can block a person’s view into a business. By incorporating foliage, reflections can essentially be eliminated, making the store look more inviting.
Goal: To minimize the financial burden of renovation and restoration by incorporating more aggressive preventative measures.
5a DEMOLITION VERSUS ROOF REPAIR:
Problem: It cost approximately $150,000 to demolish a small wood structure/house, more for larger buildings. Beside fire, the most damaging effect to an abandoned building is water which can rot structure, cause mold and wreck what could have been a simple renovation/restoration.
Solution: It costs a lot less to put over a roof of an abandoned building a rubberised membrane that can seal a building, the cost being paid back when the building is sold.
5b FIRE PREVENTION in ABANDONED BUILDINGS:
Problem: An abandoned building that has been gutted by fire will take a significant amount of extra funds to make whole again. When a fire can start at 197 First Street and burn for hours before being noted, that is a significant problem to the ability to save the structure when the entire interior including structure becomes damaged. This building, significant in size and disposition (not attached), is having a significant negative impact on First Street. It represents the heart of this neighborhood and due to the fire will take a much larger financial investment to make it whole again. 195 First Street is another secondary supporting structure for the heart of this neighborhood. While slightly smaller in stature, it resides on an important corner, is also detached, and, is set back to provide room for a grand porch structure. I would hope that both fire prevention and water damage prevention is currently in effect, understanding that this building just received a Bank Loan for its renovation.
Solution: Provide fire alarms/light on the exterior of a building to monitor the interior. Since electric service might be disrupted in an abandoned building, an alternative source would have to be provided.
5c ASBESTOS, LEAD & MOLD ASSESSMENT program for SIGNIFICANT ABANDONED BUILDINGS proposal:
Problem: Besides water and fire damage, the biggest unknowns are asbestos, lead and mold. To encourage buyers it would be prudent to provide an assessment of abandoned buildings that have the most potential to change the course of a street or neighborhood, especially corner buildings.
Solution: By doing an initial investigation for asbestos, lead and mold and making this information available to real estate companies or homeowners selling property, it can help make a project more attractive and remove some significant unknowns from the project. No one wants to purchase a house that appears to have minor fixes only to find out all the plaster has asbestos in it.
6a WHAT’S GREAT ABOUT NEWBURGH (PROMOTION):
Problem: the city website and other sources do not show off (or flow well) what is so great about the city. The ‘Explore’ link should be filled with photos, larger than thumbnails. Arts & Recreation need massive expanding including more music, composers, artist, even architects. The map is terrible, should be high resolution and searchable and combined with other maps that are on the site (one page for maps).
Solution: This is about identity and image (what people think when they say Newburgh), about pride (to encourage the type of attitude that gets people to maintain their properties), and encouragement of attracting new businesses and residents. There should be a gallery for every aspect of Newburgh, parks, events, schools, architecture, history, region including the best views at the best times of day.
Photos and Growth Goals should be featured on the Home Page of city website (slideshow w/ random start).
6b EXPANDING and/or SUPPORTING LOCAL EFFORTS:
The ‘cleaning crew’ (or whatever they are called) should be supported by offering them soil, mulch, trash bags and pickup, tools, etc., even have a local police officer stop by. Perhaps offer them a coupon for a drink they can redeem at any local store, to increase interaction of residents. Perhaps create competitions between ‘crews’ to encourage getting more done in less time.
Support of local groups should be done only if they engage economically depressed local residents and offer modest income as an incentive, understanding that a person making $11k to $15k is not going to volunteer for anything when they clearly need income.
The following are not endorsements, but reminders, to be verified legitimate by city officials.
- Financing Your Freedom, by Corey J. Allen. https://www.facebook.com/financingyourfreedom/ (how to purchase your own home in Newburgh).
- Community Cleanup, Safe Harbors on the Hudson. (2015?) http://www.safe-harbors.org/events/we-need-you-newburgh-community-cleanup/
- Safe Harbors. http://www.safe-harbors.org . This flyer (link to flyer image) clearly shows connections to sponsors and itself being a local clean up effort: https://www.facebook.com/NewburghHeightsAssociation/photos/a.174732895880331.35481.136945249659096/1082097365143875/?type=3&theater and FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SafeHarborsoftheHudson
- Queen of the Hudson, by David Ludwig (cultural group); http://www.queenofthehudson.org
- National Monuments Fund (hired students to repair the stage of Dutch Reform Church (and learned about carpentry);
- Fullerton Cultural Center (book drop-off); https://fullertonculturalcenter.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/FullertonCulturalCenter/
- Newburgh Restoration (FaceBook page and website/blog http://newburghrestoration.com ): https://www.facebook.com/newburgh.restoration1/
- Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh. https://www.facebook.com/HabitatNewburgh/
- Newburgh Community Land Bank. https://www.facebook.com/newburghcommunitylandbank/
- Newburgh on the Rise (Mike Rizzo), documenting renovations. https://www.facebook.com/NewburghOnTheRise/
- Neighborhood Works America. http://www.neighborworks.org/Community/NeighborWorks-Week
- Newburgh Heights Association. https://www.facebook.com/NewburghHeightsAssociation/?ref=timeline_chaining
- Trees on Liberty (TD Green Streets initiative).
- Rebuilding Together: http://hudsonvalleynewsnetwork.com/2015/12/29/rebuilding-together/ (training program to introduce people to the construction trade).
- Americorps: https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps
Promotion is always critical to growth of small organizations. In this way the city can easily promote local groups with posted notices and ‘featured’ on the city website.
6c SOLAR & ELECTRICITY (ambitious goal except that other parties might be engaged to make it happen while the city focuses on other goals, i.e. get this ball rolling to affect change):
Problem 1: Electrical bills can be a significant extra burden for those who are poor, preventing them from getting air-conditioning and encouraging people to ‘hang out’ on the street to keep cool. While there’s nothing wrong with hanging out, it can often be misinterpreted as a signal of a slum.
Solution 1: Find programs that will turn all the roofs of Newburgh into a solar farm, or find private funding. The financial idea is once the installation and equipment are paid for, the investor gets a percentage while the homeowner/property owner gets a significant savings on their electricity bill.
This would make Newburgh a ‘city of the future’ and potentially become one of the first cities in America to go all green, another bragging right and an incentive for manufacturing to come to Newburgh.
Spending money on energy use can further repress someone who is poor, especially the elderly. Reaching out to window and/or door manufacturers to donate exterior doors and windows is something that can happen if asked for. There are many manufacturers who would enjoy the publicity and tax writeoff.
Problem 2: Electrical lines if located on the street degrade the visual quality of the street significantly.
Solution 2: Move lines to the interior of the lots and/or bury them. If you did a study, one would probably find that the streets with the greatest blight are also the streets that have no trees, and electrical lines and poles along the street. While we think we can ignore its effect on our subconscious the reality is it does affect our opinion of a place, that opinion is that ‘this place is dirty, chaotic, and run-down’.
6d SCAFFOLDING proposal:
The city should provide scaffolding for 1 and 2 family homes to help expedite renovation of exterior facades. A simple signup sheet coordinated by the city, where people can apply and schedule the use of scaffolding. The city should take care of permits, installation and removal within a week, to give the homeowner the ability to fix cornices, windows and other elements that are often out of reach of regular maintenance. This very cheap solution will have a major impact against the negatives of run down homes within the city. The HomeOwner can pay a small fee to help cover insurance costs. The fee should be minimal, say $100, to encourage this program’s use. In some cases the fee should be waived.
The cost on anyone other than a contractor for scaffolding can and is prohibitive. While we all hope a developer has deep pockets, a homeowner who might be poor, elderly, absent, or special needs, has no options and must live with the decaying effects of time. This (lack of maintenance to a point where wood is rotting) hurts a street and an entire neighborhood, crushing home values and thus the tax base. It is the increase value of homes which pays for the program ultimately.
6e WEEDS, OVERGROWTH, IVY, JUNK TREES:
Problem: This is clearly a sign of blight. Weeds in sidewalks, curbs and even in the road are clear signs of neglect.
Solution: With the help of volunteers, remove weeds by pulling them before the seed. Ivy needs to be removed if climbing up buildings and not just cut back. Junk trees need to be removed completely at the root. There are slow growth spreading plants that are dense and winter resistant which can replace ivy, keeping areas green without looking overgrown and neglected.
It is imperative to pull weeds from sidewalks in spring, so the sidewalks can be enjoyed during the summer, and then again before the weeds seed, so that there will be fewer weeds the following spring. When people walk, they are more likely to look at a sidewalk especially if it is broken than look up. It is critical to deal with this issue especially on streets leading to Broadway.
6f SHOES on POWER LINES:
Problem: While ‘funny’ it is unsightly and creates a feeling that a street has out of control children.
Solution: Remove the shoes that are thrown up and wrapped around any and all lines. Insist that the Power provider take action to remove this unsightly problem, or fine them to raise funds for other programs.
Problem: it creates a scary dangerous feeling to a street. Most notable graffiti is that which is placed on a Party Wall above a lower building, making it visible down the street and thus to anyone who happens to drive or walk down that street.
Solution: Focus on hard to reach places where Graffiti exists and block passage to those areas. This will have a long term effect as it will be hard for someone to put new graffiti back in those spots.
It is assumed that other efforts to remove graffiti especially at street level, which are notably effective, will continue.
6h GARBAGE CANS:
Provide new garbage cans for residents that have wheels and a lid that is hinged to stay with the can at all time (as suggested by Newburgh Liberty Street resident. Link: http://kasterine.blogspot.com/2015/08/advice-to-city-council.html ).
Problem: Loud music must be addressed in the Summer months (when windows are open) in order to create a comfortable environment for all residents including the elderly, young and working class.
Solution: Provide paths to enable poorer residents to get air-conditioning, to insulate their windows, doors and walls. Noise escalates to yelling which escalates to violence. Those who constantly violate noise laws need sensitivity instruction which in itself can be a deterrent. The goal isn’t to financially punish someone who can’t afford to pay a fine, it’s to stop loud noise.
6j THE DELI STOREFRONT PROBLEM (and other small businesses like Salons)
Deli’s and other small stores are a vital part to a neighborhood, offering convenient services and goods that support its residences. The idea here is to have them also help the character of the neighborhood which will promote new residents and thus new business. It is a cooperative relationship between the store and the neighborhood.
Problem 1: There is the belief that adding stickers all over a small bodega or deli will show people the products the store has and help attract customers. The truth is these advertisements are rarely used to identify a deli, or to search for a particular product. The result of these stickers is a degrading of the quality of the neighborhood because they essentially look like a paper trash pile but stuck to the facade. Worse is the fact that most deli’s are on the corner of an intersection making them highly visible and having a disproportionate negative impact on the surrounding streets.
The other problem is covering up the storefront with stickers only promotes the idea of an unsafe store, that once inside there’s no way for someone on the outside to know if there’s a problem, like a robbery… it feels like a trap. This simple reality seems to escape many small store owners, while successful franchises like 7/11 keep their windows clear.
Solution 1: Promote, with an incentive, ‘the horizontal line’ program, that is, advertisements must stay in a horizontal line no higher than 4 feet above the sidewalk and no taller than 1 foot high, attached only to the glass portions. Further, all other parts of the storefront must be cleaned including the frame from stickers, glue, dirt or other debris. The incentive could be a new sidewalk, a new sign, promotion (advertisement) or some other thing a store could use to help drive business.
Problem 2: There isn’t enough glass to promote sense of safety in the store, understanding that if someone wants to pull a gun they would rather do it where the entire world can’t see, making closed of deli’s an ideal target. Understanding that depending on sun direction that light can be an issue in stores (like the melting of chocolates).
Solution 2: With incentives, like offering sun screen shade, promote the opening of storefronts, especially corner deli’s, with glass. Expanding a storefront with glass can be expensive, so helping offset this expense with additional customers will ease the financial burden while helping a neighborhood’s character.
Problem 3: The main problem is the store owner him or herself, that they may not know how to proceed or think this idea is incorrect or has no value.
Solution 3a & 3b: Therefore it may be required to reach the building owner, to put into the lease the new requirements for a lease, especially if the store owner is stubborn. Ultimately for most business owners it is a question of initial expense, so a program could be implemented to pay off any initial investment (paid by the city) reimbursed by the Owner as they acquire additional revenue based on the improvement (a type of loan).
6k REDUCTION OF OVERHEAD-TRAFFIC LIGHTS:
Problem: There are, at some intersections, too many traffic lights. While okay in a bustling city, in Newburgh they only drain available money in order to operate, maintain and replace them.
Solution: The following intersection (see image below) at Liberty Street and S. William Street is one example where one light will do the job of the 3 current light fixtures.
6m REDUCTION OF FINANCIAL BURDEN-STREET WIDTHS (also see Roads-General above):
JOBS for ADULTS & YOUTH
7a JOBS for YOUTH and OTHERS:
There should be a list of easy to get hourly jobs kids can get involved in, that may lead to other opportunities for them. For instance, having a small group of friends do plant maintenance for an elderly person, and then have that person request garden maintenance once or twice a month is an opportunity for a child. Bicycle maintenance, painting sewer covers for the city, whatever it takes to get kids to become pro-active in making the city look better while infusing them with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur will help child, the homeowner, the street and ultimately the city.
There should be baby sitting, Day Care, movie making, music, crafts, landscaping and planting opportunities and all the things that teach kids skills, motivation, community, etc. These can grow out of schools.
7b PART-TIME JOBS for ADULTS:
What does one do when they don’t have a full time job? They do miscellaneous jobs.
Problem: Unemployed individual can’t find a full-time position.
Solution: Encourage part-time or seasonal jobs around other parts of the city or neighborhooding cities, including lawn care, sidewalk sweeping, snow removal, fence painting, home cleaning, window cleaning, janitorial services, lot maintenance, security, crafts like jewelry making, etc. with supplemental programs to help individuals learn new skills, like the LAMP program teaching computer skills. These temporary jobs can be for a couple hours a day, or more as the need arises, but at least it is an avenue for people to both make money, prove themselves to employers, and engage them in the work ethic and momentum.
7c THE FLIPPING CREW:
Problem: Not only are there a lack of good paying jobs, but there isn’t a vested interest in keeping the neighborhoods looking great and keeping them safe.
Solution: Gather up locals to do house flips. Some flips to be market rate, to pay individuals working (worker owned effort) and some properties flipped to offer affordable housing. Use of Habitat for Humanity model to organize and implement. Engaging men and women, determining their skills and interest areas to make ‘the Flipping Crew’ a successful ‘home grown’ business that helps the community directly. Their work, done well, would be the springboard for doing other renovations in the region.
7d WORLD CUISINE PROPOSAL
Solution: Create a ‘Restaurant Hub’ of authentic cuisine centered around Broadway, Liberty Street and Grand Street (not particularly easy considering most storefronts are occupied). This will have a double benefit to the city. First it will become an attraction for people to come into the city and second it will be a feature to entice new development on the empty lots in this area, traditionally thought of as the city center.
It is clear the population is diverse, yet there is little authentic cuisine from around the world. Wouldn’t it be great if you could stroll down a few blocks and have a large selection to choose from? By encouraging ‘authentic’ and variety, it will naturally promote itself as the place to check out multiple times, to try all the tastes and find one’s favorites.
To make this work, one might consider holding a yearly ‘world cuisine’ festival on one of the empty lots in this area. This can get the idea of coming to this area into the routine of city dwellers, as a place to come for that satisfying tasty experience.
This concept hopes to engage locals who may be from different parts of the world and have their own favorites. With some help from the city to make everything meet health regulations (people getting sick will kill this idea quickly as it would be a negative reputation for the idea of a festival), this would be an avenue for locals to make a living while offering something very special to the entire population.
7e SCHOOL GUIDANCE/MENTORSHIP (informal):
Problem: A child left without a mentor can easily not know what direction they should travel, or what path they should stay on.
Solution: It is a simple thing for each student to be assigned one teacher to be their mentor, especially in the High School years. It is imperative that an adult talk to a child to ask the question ‘what do you want to do with your life?’ and, ‘what step are you going to take to get there?’ If necessary, to provide wisdom, guidance and suggestions to help the child realize their dream. Two times this happened in my own life at a critical time and both lead me to the schools I needed to attend, one being Harvard University. While I wanted to be an Architect, I was prepared to pump gas. What a difference their 3 minutes each made in my own life.
7f COMMUNITY TRAINING PROGRAMS: LAMP offers a program to train computer illiterate people on how to use computers and software. If this isn’t viable in Newburgh, create your own program to entice businesses with a skilled labor force. Other supplemental training programs or discounts could be offered, or instead FAR (Floor Area Ratio) incentives to help cover the cost of training local citizens.
Other programs for vehicle maintenance, carpentry and building trades, lawn care, window cleaning, iron and steel fabrication, legal and tax service, secretarial services including typing classes, daycare provider, or other services people need.
Per capita, there are a lot of parks in Newburgh compared to cities of similar size and density and perhaps the maintenance (cutting the existing quantity of grass) of every park is draining the city while not providing the type of park functions and maintenance family oriented neighborhoods really need, like basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pool(s), dog walks, toddler and kid playgrounds, etc. to help keep youth busy in a positive way. This should be assessed, to keep the essential character of the park and what is fundamentally important to the identity of Newburgh while modifying it to reduce the maintenance (without making it look overgrown) and better meeting the needs of the residences.
Solution: Lawns should be reduced in size with low maintenance groundcovers and separating borders. Reducing a lawn by 20% will have little effect on the character of a park (and may enhance it) allowing the bi-weekly lawn care to be directed towards weed removal in the city.
The parks should be highlighted (with wonderful photos) on the city website to show off all that is great about the city.
Existing playgrounds should be kept maintained to show kids that they are cared for.
Parks currently appear to be reasonably well maintained.
8b DOWNING PARK: At Downing Park pictured here, one would expect much higher density residential, to help populate the park and take advantage of the greenery. This is a zoning issue, combined with the serpentine road meant to give a person the feeling of driving in the country may work in Prospect Park (Brooklyn) but even their it is now being considered for pedestrian/bike only. For such a small park, this should be a path, perhaps a low maintenance gravel path since Newburgh is practically in the country and there’s no need to take a short ride that would disrupt park goers.
I assume it is gated (at night) and only for patrols at this time, but never the less there is pavement that will require maintenance. While it might be nice to drive through, it is probably used as a short cut. One also has to admit that the entrance at an intersection and center intersection which is at a sharp angle is not ideal for safety.
The amount of grass to maintain is yet another issue.
8c SPECIAL VIEWS: Parks should highlight their best views, and views to the river and the surrounding hills. They should be nodes for development of higher denser developments to increase property tax revenue, to show developers that particular areas will be preserved as open, to guarantee views that help sell real estate. The Hudson Valley is very special, yet is barely exploited as an asset. (see zoning for extension on this concept).
9a Newburgh CREATIVE CENTER proposal:
Problem: Few people are moving into or staying in Newburgh, despite the beautiful architectural wealth in the city.
Solution 1: Often ‘rougher’ parts of larger cities are occupied by artist, specifically artists lofts. This can be accomplished easily in Newburgh. Artists need an open space to work, a place to sleep and a community kitchen and lounge area. Since there are buildings available in Newburgh, the renovation costs to make this happen can be quite low compared to the renovation of a home. This effort can be supplemented by also offering ‘free gallery space’ in spaces that are not being used. This can often lead to artist fixing up a storefront on their own to attract more people.
Solution 2: To promote all creative types in publications including on city websites. To promote their work, whether it is a DJ, a musician, a composer, an artist, etc. to ramp up the hype of the city as being a creative mecca. NYC is facing a lack of artist studio space, and as such is an opportunity for Newburgh to catch a lot of new residents. This will have a bonus effect of supporting local coffee shops and hangouts attracting a younger crowd who have the energy to renovate their own house.
Solution 3: as per Master Plan page 84 ‘Creative Economy’. (see reference to PDF at end of this document).
Solution 4: to promote Newburgh as a ‘place for NYC artist’ one circumstance is distance and ‘how am I going to get my art to a gallery in NYC?’ question. Addressing this issue with a coupon that can subsidize new artists for a ‘one round trip cost of a u-haul’ or some other transportation method could be the right incentive to eliminate that fear.
Solution 5: Engage artist to create art for the city (boarded up windows especially). New Study Links Art Access to Better Health, Safety, and Education in Lower-Income Neighborhoods:
Solution 6: Engage the youth into the music symphony and other performances by offering a lottery style (free) selection of a winner(s) for free seats. Let them talk about their experience with their friends at school. Do this as often as possible to provide an avenue to allow kids to take their whole family to a performance.
INHERENT FINANCIAL SUPPORT
10a MONETARY RECIRCULATION IN POOR AREAS, ENTREPRENEUR PROGRAM
Problem: There are 1,349 Households with income less than $10,000 per year. Another 613 below $15,000/year. This is devastating to a household and potentially means starvation, homelessness and hurts the local retail economy. Reference Consolidated Plan 2015-2019, Page 3, http://www.cityofnewburgh-ny.gov/sites/newburghny/files/u98/10-2_nburgh_con_plan_print_version_pc_.pdf Source: ACS,. 2012
Solution 1: With the vast vacancy in poorer neighborhoods, the commodity that is readily available are empty storefronts. With incentives, like free rent for a year, individuals could launch a privately owned business that could support their own community, thus becoming self-supporting and a potential hot spot for local job growth. Because the individual owning the business, along with other businesses owned by locals, there will be a tendency for locals to take pride in their achievement and seek ways for their own success.
Solution 2: Promote monetary recirculation within the community while attracting outside income to boost the viability of the neighborhood. Essentially, by providing the services households need to sustain themselves, especially with regards to food, clothing, beauty, hardware, cleaning/laundry essentially residents spend their income within the neighborhood and to people who also live in the neighborhood.
10b TYPES OF STORES: Craftsperson and/or Low skill privately owned businesses can consist of the following: Hardware Store, Barber Shop, Clothing Store, Shoe Store, Beauty Salon, Fabric/Yarn Store, Laundry, Architectural Salvage, Ironworks, Deli, Supermarket, Local Produce Garden, Local Flower Garden and shop, Cleaning Service, Landscaping & Land Maintenance Service, Construction Service (exterior, related to stoop, facade and cornice repairs initially), Furniture Reclamation (salvage and repair of shelving, chairs, tables, lamps, etc.), Antique shop, etc.
To make this idea work, each program would have to have 2 people working together as partners. One partner would be responsible for accounting and inventory, the other for sales and/or craftsperson. This ensures that the business is well looked after, and, that it becomes successful offer twice the opportunity for local residents. If successful, the business would begin to pay rent, a percentage that would go to maintaining the building’s facade and roof (plus fire safety), and eventually stand on it’s own without subsidies or help.
10c CULTURE: It is imperative to drastically change the culture of Newburgh in order to make this city socially acceptable to both new residents and new manufacturing. People’s choice to move to a new town isn’t always just based on having a cheap labor force. Obviously without safety, there’s no point in considering it as a viable option. By engaging locals in trades that can help them sustain a living with the potential of real growth and self control over their own lives, the effects will have a positive impact on their lives and on the city as a whole, especially as the sales tax revenue increases.
10d CITY BUSINESS BUTTRESSING: It is imperative that the city assist (for short term only) any privately owned business where the owner resides in a poor neighborhood, with enhanced storefronts (simple sign, paint, simple repairs, cleaning of glass), forms, taxes or other government required components including the repair of sidewalks, installation of vents, smoke detectors or whatever to prevent fines and make the store viable and code compliant. (The city wants the sales tax income as payment, and encourage the growth of a store in order to increase the sales taxes collected). The ‘buttressing’ is a one time assessment of an existing or new store. It proves to business owners that the city cares, which will spread the word since a business like the barber shop pictured below is where locals go to chat. Imagine a local saying to the owner “nice new sign you have” and the owner replying with “the city gave it to me.” :O
This barber shop at 16 Liberty Street could use a simple sign hung below the bay window, lit from either side with LED lighting. Further enhancement would be returning a simple molding piece across the facade.
By changing the complexion of the weakest segment of Newburgh’s population it will trigger the support of other residents and encourage new money to move into the community.
Further, it should be stressed to new business owners the need to ‘protect and cultivate’ new residents to the community ‘for it is their money which will ultimately land in the hands of these new business owner’s hands.’ This statement will have an impact on the culture of the community, changing it from ‘loud’ back to ‘charming’. Hopefully this ‘new attitude’ will be translated to the business owner’s own children and then to the community as a whole.
10e CONDITIONS FOR BUSINESS BUTTRESSING could be: property kept clean, windows cleaned, interior well lit including the rear wall (often a dark rear wall makes a business look dark and dangerous, so just eliminate this effect with a requirement), to keep aisles and sidewalks clear and clean, prevent access to real of lot by public.
This buttressing should also take into account where the owner lives. If the owner is in a depressed area, they should be the priority and given the most latitude and help to succeed.
10f CONCLUSION ‘Recirculation of local revenue’ is not a new concept and has worked in other communities. It is essential for the initial success (to buttress new businesses financially) to be supported with storefronts flanking a target and thus help support the growth of depressed neighborhoods. One would hope that after a year funding/help, that the business would be able to grow in services provided, and, require hiring of other local individuals, or if anything, avoid having to close their business.
PLANNING & APPROACH TO URBAN DEVELOPMENT
11a REINFORCING NEIGHBORHOOD LINKS AND BORDERS:
Problem: A relatively good neighborhood feels cut off from the rest of the city because of a block or two that is blighted yet links it to the center of the city.
Solution 1 ‘Links’: Along Liberty Street bounded by the blocks of S. William Street and Washington Street, consist of housing stock that links two neighborhoods. Since there is only one main road, Liberty, that links these sections it is important to enhance this ‘link’ in order to buttress the neighborhoods around them. Not doing so can spread the decay and make traveling seem hazardous and dangerous.
The large warehouse type building at Liberty and S. William Street should be a super market, it’s blocked up openings replaced with windows of translucent glass (I understand there is a provision in the zoning preventing spandrel or translucent glass, but that provision needs flexibility as the alternative of blocked up openings is a horrible alternative) along with many trees on the Liberty side, the corner enhanced with a proper corner entrance pavilion and signage. Parking accommodated in the structure across the street, or open area across Liberty towards Broadway.
Solution 2 ‘Borders’: This is a condition where the ‘frame’ (like the frame of a picture can enhance the picture itself) of a neighborhood could be defined as strong with little effort. Typically it is a street flanked by residential on one side and light manufacturing or warehouse on the other. Usually this requires repair of the sidewalk and curb. Its buttressing reinforces the housing stock ‘inside the frame’.
Conclusion 1: Neighborhood border West of Robinson Avenue between 1st and 3rd Street should be reinforced to prevent blight (and flight) for spreading. This effort should push East towards St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital to ensure the area around Downing Park remains a core of quality housing and feels safe. With a strong ‘border’ at Robinson Avenue it is assumed that homes to the West will revitalized naturally through individual investment and care.
Conclusion 2: The links from Broadway in the southery direction should be reinforced especially with regards to S. Robinson Avenue since it has a direct connection South to other parts of the region and will be seen by a greater number of visitors, and secondarily along Liberty Street, Williams Street and Mills Street.
11b STREET ‘Corner Stone’ PROPOSAL:
This concept is to create ‘strong core’ streets that are irreproachable to urban blight, created in areas that are currently strong or close to being strong, to ensure their survival and become the springboard for expansion. Since they represent already strong streets, they will be easy and inexpensive to support.
Rather than sporadic efforts on buildings here and there, it is imperative to secure existing stock to prevent further decay. This doesn’t mean other areas will be ignored as suggested by the ‘Building Corner Stone Project’ effort (below), or the scaffolding, road and sidewalk efforts noted herein, but suggests that if funding is available for projects (Bank Loan program or other), that they should try to help secure areas, i.e. buttress themselves by the potential encroachment of urban blight.
11c BUILDING ‘Corner Stone’ PROPOSAL:
This concept is to flip degraded corner buildings near ‘Street Corner Stone Project’ areas. The most significant and often area defining buildings are corner buildings, because of their visibility. If corner buildings are upgraded they will encourage smaller infill buildings to be upgraded. Often the corner building because of its size and number of windows is more costly to renovate, thus, along with its significance, should be supported by the city to make the renovation feasible (exterior being the priority for the city).
First Street Abandoned ‘Significant Buildings’
11d INFILL BUILDINGS:
It should be stressed that infill buildings, those located within a block, will not become attractive to prospective home owners as long as there isn’t a secure fence and gate in the front yard. This has been mentioned before herein, but no parents with the means to invest will subject their family to having people ‘sit on their stoop’ or walk up to their windows and doors. Further, getting someone to rent a ground floor apartment that is insecure from the street is unlikely to attract anyone except the most desperate renters.
11e FACADE RENOVATION FIRST:
During a typical renovation, often the facade of an existing building is put off to the end. This is because a Contractor’s focus is on the inside, and, to prevent damage of new windows if they are required. It is quite common for the worst building once renovated to have the greatest impact on a street, and spur on other house fixes once neighbors feel their street is worth the investment.
Problem: Putting off the facade renovation delays the urban impact and ripple effect it can have on a street.
Solution: Encourage renovation of facades first including replacement of windows (and quick paint on old exterior entrance door to make it presentable) in order to encourage a ripple effect while the interior of a building continues to be renovated. This can be done by either offering temporary solutions to protect new windows (for instance, plexiglass on the interior while a particular floor is renovated, moved to other floors as the work progresses, the problem being when studs, ladders or other long heavy material is moved around during rough construction), or, by offering the replacement cost of any broken glass caused by the construction process. This assumes glass broken by vandalism would be covered by property insurance.
From the Contractor’s point of view, the facade can be accomplished by one crew while the interior demolition is being completed by another crew. This overlap actually shortens the construction time meaning there’s a bigger profit for the Contractor and Investor, and as pointed out, a win for the community too.
CRIME PREVENTATIVE MEASURES
Why is it important to take crime preventative measures? If anything, to lower crime statistics, to discourage crime, to lesson the exposure of Police or Fire Department to dangerous situations.
12a DRUG TREATMENT PROGRAMS & ALTERNATIVES:
Undermining demand for drugs, and at the same time helping people become productive citizens again is critical to a healthy small city. By offering several types of programs of varying sizes, one hopes that one of the programs will appeal enough to an in-trouble individual enough that they will seek treatment and break the cycle.
12b GROUND FLOOR SECURITY GRILLS
I am a bit surprised to see so few, if any, security grills on ground floor windows. I suspect that the lack of security is due to economic circumstances.
Problem: Lack of security grills on the ground floor makes habitation too dangerous when people are sleeping or away (property), thus are not attractive to those who might want to rent (lowering potential income) (Note, lowering of income translates into less funding available for building maintenance).
Solution: The city should provide a means (installation and payback program) for the installation of grills for residences.
The effect of grills will literally make neighborhoods more safe from break ins. There can be a downside if grills are not done correctly, in that they can be perceived as showing that a neighborhood is actually dangerous especially if grills are placed on 2nd and 3rd floor windows.
12c SECURING FIRE-ESCAPES:
Clearly a vulnerable access point to upper floors, the city Police and Fire should note any fire-escapes they believe are vulnerable to compromise from the ground level, and the city should take steps to rectify any problem (by notifying the building owner to determine if they are financially able to correct the problem, and if not to do it themselves). This will help prevent squatting, interior fires, drug dens or other illegal activities including burglary and literally help make the city safe.
12d PASSAGES BETWEEN BUILDINGS (Home Security in Poor Neighborhoods):
Problem: There are too many openings between townhouses (that should share a party wall) that create a security vulnerable condition to homes, i.e. allow burglars to enter the rear yard, out of sight from neighbors, giving them ample opportunity to break into homes.
While typically this would be dealt with by the homeowner, where the homeowner is poor there isn’t a way to deal with the issue. Further, if the home is abandoned or it is an open lot, the issue still exists unchecked. What this comes down to is this: when a home on a street is broken into, everyone on the street knows it. All too often people will leave a neighborhood if break ins start to occur because people have the right to be secure.
Solution 1: While in some home configurations fencing this gap can not be achieved, there are certainly many locations that could use a fence and gate, with a secure latch openable from the interior but secure from the exterior side. The fencing would have to be metal (not chain link as this would be torn apart within a week) and at least 6 feet high.
Solution 2: In addition to the above solution, the addition of motion activated flood lights on the Party Wall side of a building to discourage their use.
Unsecured Passage Between Townhouses
Obviously plugging all the holes in Newburgh’s urban environment will cut down on crime including burglary, rape, property damage and so on. It clearly needs to be a priority since Newburgh is one of the most dangerous cities in the US (2014: http://www.valuewalk.com/2014/11/the-most-dangerous-cities-in-the-u-s-fbi-data/) even as violent crime beging to fall.
Crime Rate Newburgh, NY: http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Newburgh-New-York.html. Crime has been declining since 2001.
While crime rate is high, Newburgh can change this relatively easily considering it isn’t a city that is adjacent to a major metropolitan area, but lies 60 miles North of New York City. And, crime appears to be localized around the city center, meaning the area affected is more concentrated and therefore can be part of a focused effort to eliminate the root causes of crime, being education/skills, opportunities, avenues to a job, care for environment (meaning they live in a nice place and take pride in that).
Full-time Law Enforcement Officers is below the national average at 2.8 per 1000 residents versus 3.25/1000 residents on national average. In 2015 Thefts (44%), Robberies (11%) and Burglaries (17%) made up almost three quarters of crime, clearly motivated by money. Assaults made up 21% with 262 reported in 2015.
With a population of just 28,000 to 29,000, Newburgh is a fairly small city. The crime numbers are not particularly focused on what parts of the city are really in trouble. Clearly there are areas towards the West and North that have little crime, the majority of crime being in the City Center. Ideally there would be a map to identify where each crime (by type) took place for every year, to see patterns and help focus urban renewal efforts in those areas, engaging the locals of that area with actual jobs to improve their own community. Further, making them a part of the reward when real estate market turns around by ensuring the best and most productive, honest and hardworking own their homes.
And let’s face it, when the summer months get HOT, crime goes up. Where are people that don’t have air-conditioners? They’re on their porches, hanging on the corner, even going to roofs. Added to the cooling load is the inefficiency of older homes, helping those electric bills climb on the backs of those who can least afford it. Address these issues by offering deals on AC’s even if that means shipping them into the city and giving coupons to those in the city core.
Unemployment Rate at 11.51% is well over the national average, reflecting the consequences of desperate people. They need jobs. Rate: https://www.homesnacks.net/ny/newburgh/ People of Orange County need to take an active role in recruiting individuals within Newburgh that need work.
12f OLD POLICE VEHICLES:
Problem: There is a crime problem. I suspect drug addicts drive into the town to make purchases.
Solution 1: Old vehicles can and should be parked on streets at night, moved every day to a new location at night and monitored to prevent vandalism (through dash cams mounted on the interior). Because they are parked at night, when a drug addict drives by they will be more inclined to leave the area. Extended us can help deter the city as a place to get drugs.
They should be located in fringe areas and not in the center of high crime areas, to help thwart the spread of crime and provide an extra sense of security for existing residents. They should be located away from an intersection but visible to ‘critical nodes of travel’ so they can be spotted without understanding if someone is occupying the vehicle. These nodes are intersections that lead to or away from high crime areas, but are off main streets to those areas, so that potential users don’t drive adjacent to the vehicle and see that it isn’t occupied.
Solution 2: Instead of using old vehicles, use existing vehicles by coordinating their ‘parking’ for the night instead of parking all the vehicles in a parking lot. 2 vehicles parked on the street will have an effect in a city of only 28,000± especially if they are moved to new locations.
THWARTING ANY RACIAL SEPARATIONS
Racial intolerance only divides an area and undermines community. It’s clear that Newburgh is inclusive, but it is also important to state that any intolerance will not be tolerated in Newburgh, to make sure children clearly understand what’s what.
Essentially Hispanic moved into the 5,600 vacancies left by white people. Clearly this is white flight, not necessarily based on racial motives but most definitely based on crime, noise and blight. Was ‘white flight’ actually due to the closing of the US Army subpost at Stewart Airport which seems to have happened during the same period? If anything other than a natural migration, one can look at it as a good thing, that those who fled are the weak of spirit and are living their lives in fear.
In order to change attitudes (negative attitudes towards people of different races, from all people of any race) …bring people to the dinner table with local incentives
- like expanding park festivals already in place to ensure that people understand they are welcome to join, without stigma or financial constraint. For instance, potluck allows people with little means to participate in a community dinner without embarrassment of providing a coupon or EBT or some other stigmatizing marker of their status or financial situation.
- Encouragement of local or international cuisine bringing out the skills and pride people have in their own food making abilities. This encourages people to appreciate one another, not based on preconceived notions but on actual edible products. Bake sales, etc. should be encouraged.
It should be noted that without actual participation of people within depressed neighborhoods this will have little effect. People in those neighborhoods need to see their neighbors packing up and carrying food items to a social event, to encourage participation and help thwart any fear one might have towards one another. This means reaching out to people and asking what they’re good at making, then asking them for help with an event, helping them secure ingredients if necessary.
It is through a cooperative multi-prong effort that the perception of a declining city can be made to feel reborn and full of promise and opportunity. This can be reflected in its planning, buildings and attitudes of its people. Smiles and hellos can go a long way toward making a friendly experience for visitors thus spreading that spirit and reputation, and, the urban environment should strive to accomplish the same thing.
Newburgh has some very small blocks (thus high block to road ratio), quite a few parks and open areas, wide streets which use to be bricked and an early urban attitude of making the ‘perfect town’ that has in fact created a financial burden to maintain. Yet is also has some very wonderful assets like buildings that are masonry, spectacular views, a major body of water, George Washington, being relatively close to NYC and thus a potentially great getaway spot, and a very positive and engaged population.
It is through the combination of addressing ‘draining aspects of the current urban plan’, the buttressing of business, buildings and people, the focusing in on critical transforming components and taking advantage of its assets that Newburgh can easily reverse its fortune and become once again the place to live.
- Newburgh Sustainable Master Plan: http://www.cityofnewburgh-ny.gov/sites/newburghny/files/u97/masterplan-final.pdf
- Newburgh Consolidated Plan 2015-2019: http://www.cityofnewburgh-ny.gov/sites/newburghny/files/u98/10-2_nburgh_con_plan_print_version_pc_.pdf
- Crime Rates 2001 – 2015: http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Newburgh-New-York.html
- Walkable City is where it’s at (a study on why downtowns thrive): http://www.wnyc.org/story/forget-urban-versus-suburban-today-its-about-walkability/