I have a whole bunch of emails from people asking me about Newburgh, and it’s taking me so long to get through them all. I’m so sorry! I promise I’ll get to all of your questions soon (maybe I need to put a Newburgh FAQ on here?), but in the mean time, I thought this article from the NY Daily News might be of interest to those of you considering moving up here. (DO IT!) It gives a pretty accurate description of what the City of Newburgh is like, what we’re all about, and where we’re heading going forward.
Please note: The prices in the article tend to be on the higher end of the deals that can be found here. You can still get a great house in Newburgh for less than $200,000 (sometimes much less).
(photo from newburghonhudson.com)
Strong housing stock, picturesque waterfront help Hudson Valley’s Newburgh
BY JULIA VITULLO-MARTIN
Wednesday, October 15th 2008, 11:58 AM
Can an impoverished post-industrial city cast off its decades-long legacy of slumlords, crime and drugs while developing its waterfront and restoring its once historic neighborhoods?
The leaders of Newburgh, N.Y., a small city 70 miles north of Manhattan, are convinced it can. While at it, they also plan on drawing New York City residential pioneers looking for a more affordable lifestyle in an emerging city with a housing stock in need of some love and care.
Two projects are key to their plans – an ambitious conversion of 30 acres of Hudson River waterfront into a mixed-use space by Tuxedo-based Leyland Alliance, and the city’s Public/Private Housing Partnership, dedicated to refurbishing and selling formerly abandoned buildings.
Leyland won out over some 30 prominent bidders for the waterfront last year, in part because it convinced city residents that its plan could reconnect the waterfront with the rest of the city. The riverfront site overlooks a section of the river made famous by Hudson River School painters, and has been empty since a period of urban renewal in the 1960s. Construction is expected to begin in 2010.
Newburgh’s Public/Private Housing Partnership Initiative is moving some 50 city-owned houses back into private hands. The newest offerings are the “Grand Ladies of Dubois Street”: six houses built in the 1800s now being rehabilitated by Hogar (Housing Opportunities for Growth, Advancement and Revitalization) Inc., a private developer from Haverstraw, N.Y.
“Compared to what’s available in the larger market, these houses are a steal,” says Hogar executive director Edna Rivera. She notes that most families attending last Sunday’s open house came from Westchester, Manhattan or Brooklyn. What’s more, she says, three neighborhood banks are fully committed to making loans on the properties.
Of the three Partnership houses put on the market in June, the largest is a fully renovated 3,700-square-foot Carpenter Gothic with five bedrooms, four bathrooms and off-street parking for four cars. In contract for $320,000 (with special financing that required only $9,600 down), the sale carried one restriction – the purchaser must live there for five years.
“That’s the whole point,” says city manager Jean-Ann McGrane. “We want buyers who are fully committed to these neighborhoods.”
The buyer has offset the $2,648 in monthly costs by renting the first-floor one-bedroom, one-bath unit for $900 – which is almost equivalent to the monthly taxes of $950 – leaving a monthly cost of $1,748. Former New Yorker McGrane compares Dubois Street to Park Slope, which she says went through a similar transition in the early 1980s. “These houses are a great buy for people who understand what they’re getting,” she says. A house at 44 Dubois is listed at $350,000.
Built in the 1850s, the house at 48 Dubois sits alongside 50 Dubois, a turreted, exuberant-looking house that was former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro’s childhood home. The block has declined since then.
Kevin Zachary, an African-American who grew up in a gray shingled house across the street, says the neighborhood was ideal when he was a child in the 1950s. “Then the drugs came, and violence and shootings,” he says.
His old home neighbors the Shaw Houses, two of which have been renovated by Hogar, with an open house scheduled for Oct. 22. Both are priced at $250,000, says Rivera, because they are targeted at first-time buyers who meet HUD guidelines, earning 80% of the area’s median income. The third Shaw House remains a privately owned SRO.
Former Brooklynite Vincent Cianni, who bought the Partnership’s first house last September, says: “I’ve lived in developing areas before. When I moved to Williamsburg, it was very underdeveloped, edgy, raw, borderline. My neighborhood here is quiet, wonderful families live on the block, and the city is doing a lot to reduce crime.”
Cianni paid $238,000 for a historic Sears Roebuck kit bungalow not far from downtown. His broker, Miguel Marquez, calls it a bargain in any terms.
Marquez (owner, Grand Newburgh Real Estate Services) is also the broker for the formerly city-owned houses on William St. He concedes it’s a rough area. But after his company warned city officials that they couldn’t sell houses in a neighborhood with conspicuous crime, the police department installed security cameras, hoping to remove the more serious criminals.
Newburgh Police Chief Eric Paolilli says he recognizes that “there’s no way to market property if people believe the streets are in chaos.”
He instituted a New York-style analytic unit that tracks criminal incidents by time and place, allowing the department to efficiently deploy resources. While robberies have shown a 6% increase in the first six months of this year over last, property crime is down 21%.
“We deal very closely with individual officers,” says activist Eric Jarmann. “I have tremendous respect for them. We see them in action.”
Homeowner Cianni says he doesn’t worry about crime, which he argues is “internal to specific neighborhoods.” He was attracted to Newburgh in the first place by friend and Brooklyn-transplant Barbara Ballarini, who owns the immensely popular Caffe Macchiato, directly across from what had been the site of George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War.
Newburgh’s comeback is “just a question of time,” says Ballarini. “As a single person, I opened a business for the community. I live here, and my daughter goes to a public school here. If everybody does the same thing, Newburgh will change fantastically.”
But will everyone do the same thing?
“Look at what’s been happening,” says McGrane. “The Peruvian restaurants on Broadway, the new businesses like the frame shop and art supply store or the flourishing old businesses like the mayor’s tailor shop or Torino’s Bakery. Lots of people moving in, fixing up, investing. The Dubois Street houses are a great buy for people who understand what they’re getting, and Newburgh is a great place to live for people who love cities.”