Newburgh, N.Y.: Onetime Jewel of the Hudson River

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Newburgh, N.Y.: Onetime Jewel of the Hudson River

Eight years before moving to Newburgh, Cher Vickers started a blog called Newburgh Restoration. She wrote from the Bronx and then from Amityville, New York, praising this 28,000-inhabitant town in Orange County that not so long ago was dubbed the "Murder Capital of New York." Many of the entries featured lush Victorian homes – some intact, some less so – each representative of the state's largest historic district outside of New York City.

And all along, Ms. Vickers, now 37, and her husband Luis Salcedo, also 37, have been saving to buy their own house.

When they finally moved to Newburgh, they rented an apartment north of Downing Park, a 35-acre green space designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and named after Andrew Jackson Downing, the landscape architect who set the pattern for Newburgh's exquisite architecture . This enabled the couple in May 2019 to bid on property across the street half an hour after posting on Zillow.

"It's not the 1890 Second Empire house that I wanted, but it's the house for us," said Ms. Vickers, executive director of the Newburgh City Industrial Development Agency, of 1950's five-bedroom Cape Cod, for that the couple paid $ 270,000. "In the end, I saw it as a blessing not to have to deal with lead paint and asbestos with a 1½-year-old."

If ever there was a city with clear potential, it was Newburgh. Disastrous urban renewal decisions in the 1960s and 1970s wiped out more than a thousand buildings, and decades of mismanagement and neglect left deep scars. But Newburgh's not all good bones – it's great.

"There's a grit on the surface of Newburgh that is lovely in many ways," said Christopher Hanson, who has lived in town since 2001 and owns a real estate agency on Liberty Street. "But beneath that layer of sand lies undeniable greatness, a city that hasn't called."

Ten years ago, Hanson's typical client was a Brooklynite with an appeal for Newburgh's red-brick architecture and demographic diversity (the population is 50 percent Hispanic and 25 percent black). It also helped being 60 miles from New York City for a fraction of the cost and surrounded by scenic beauty.

It is now catching the eye of investors who have seen other troubled cities on the Hudson River become playgrounds and havens for New Yorkers. If it could happen in Hudson, Kingston and, right across the street, Beacon, why not here?

Local people who feared and shunned Newburgh are starting to look past years of bad press – a reputation, local residents say, a decade behind reality. (There is still suspicious drug trafficking and gun violence, yes, but not enough to prevent you from being casual about your business, they say. Neighborhood Scout estimates the current crime rate at 37 per 1,000 people; New York City is average 23.)

“A year ago,” recalled Hanson, “when someone came up to me and said,“ I want a single family home in Newburgh City, ”my answer was,“ You have to be more specific. We can't look at several hundred houses. “Now the market has shrunk to a few dozen and the median selling price is up 27 percent.

Michele Basch, 68, chairman of the Newburgh Architectural Review Commission, said the organization was overflowing with requests to improve historic buildings. Young Covid-19 refugees who rented Airbnbs in Newburgh after supplies dried up in other cities now want to stay and vie for property, she said.

Based on the game book The Imagination of Targets in the Hudson Valley, a trio of landmarked downtown buildings – a Masonic Lodge, the American Legion Hall, and Y.M.C.A. – were sold for $ 1.25 million in December for conversion into a boutique hotel, spa and restaurant.

Boosters say Newburgh's need to build equity to attract bank funds for revitalization overcomes concerns about the negative effects of gentrification at this stage. Empty shop windows on Broadway bear witness not only to the economic fallout from Covid, but also to investors waiting for the market to rise before making repairs. The companies that will eventually fill those storefronts will create much-needed jobs. At least that's the hope.

At the same time, the city council and non-profit organizations are addressing the shortage of affordable housing. For 21 years, Habitat for Humanity has been renovating old homes in the Newburgh area and building new ones that are then sold to the low-income people who helped build them. The program has evolved from individual homes to revitalizing larger areas and engaging residents through the establishment of neighborhood associations. It has built more than 100 houses to date.

"We're a real estate developer who never leaves," said Matthew Arbolino, 36, the group's managing director.

Located in a town of the same name, the city of Newburgh is 4.8 square miles on the west side of the Hudson River, just over an hour north of New York City. The once dense waterfront has been a target for urban renewal, and dozens of acres of grass are waiting to be redeveloped after a series of failed efforts. Several popular restaurants line the shore.

On the escarpment is Washington Heights and the jewel in Newburgh's 445-acre East End Historic District: the headquarters that George Washington occupied for more than a year as the Revolutionary War ended. The site, which includes an 18th-century Dutch house and museum, is adjacent to Liberty Street, a small business district with high-quality boutiques and restaurants. This is where the popular Liberty Street Bistro and its satellite bakery Newburgh Flour Shop can be found. an 18 month old gift shop called Oliver & Chatfield; the Velocipede Museum, a shop window with vintage bicycles; and the Wherehouse, a restaurant and bar that Ms. Basch has been running with her husband, Dan Brown, the chef, since 2009. The punk interior will take you to the old East Village.

29-year-old Efrain Gordo Acosta opened the Fxded Barbershop at 126 Liberty Street in 2018. He said he pays $ 1,400 a month for the lease and shuttles the few blocks on a skateboard from his one-bedroom apartment on Lander Street, which he rents for about $ 1,000 a month. On the side, Mr. Acosta is developing a lifestyle brand associated with skateboards and teaching in the new hairdressing program at the high school. Although he had to close for a few months in the spring because of Covid, he said business is going well: "Everyone pays for haircuts."

The most desirable streets of Newburgh, Grand and Montgomery, lie to the northeast and form an extension of the historic district with Liberty. The more prestigious homes are along these routes and express a range of 19th century aesthetics including Federal, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and Shingle Style.

Broadway, Newburgh's aptly named main street, is 30 meters wide. The restored 1883 Ritz Theater building at 107 Broadway is perhaps best known as the location where Lucille Ball made its stage debut in 1941. ("She wasn't entirely sure she was going to be a success, but it turned out that she and her husband achieved tremendous success with Newburgh's theater goers," wrote a local reviewer.)

The Downing Park area is generating interest as shoppers who wanted a view of the water are content with views of the greenery. Here and in the west, real estate is moving into the 20th century. It's American squares, artisan bungalows, and colonial revivals.

Mr. Hanson described the majority of Newburgh's 19th century homes as converted "or jumbled" properties with original details, but also as Home Depot-style renovations that new buyers tend to roll back. Homes that have been carefully restored and upgraded with modern comforts are "unicorns," he said. He put the price of a brick house from the Second Reich at at least $ 500,000 and easily between $ 600,000 and $ 700,000.

An American square starts in the $ 300,000 and pushes in the $ 400,000, he said, "when it's really great."

West of Downing Park is Colonial Terraces, an enclave built in 1917 for shipyard workers. The buildings are brick or clapboard, free-standing or semi-detached, with enclosed verandas and picket fences. A 864-square-foot, two-bedroom brick home on Lily Street is currently on the market for $ 175,000 with taxes of $ 4,142.

The median list price of a Newburgh home in November was $ 275,000, up 14.6 percent year over year, according to Realtor.com. The median retail price was $ 247,500. The average rent on November 4th was $ 1,549 per month, according to the RentCafé website.

Newburgh moves discontinuously, dynamically and in detail from block to block. It's historically, economically, and architecturally kaleidoscopic.

"Someone who recently moved here described Newburgh as" not yet arrived but as ", said Arbolino of Habitat for Humanity. "I disagree with you. This is one of the most historic places in the Northeast. The street where our office is located was shaped by woolly mammoths."

His point of view was that Newburgh is a church with established roots – “a real place for people to start families. Never lose sight of it. "

The Newburgh Enlarged City School District serves both the City and the City of Newburgh, the City of New Windsor, and part of the City of Cornwall. There are six elementary schools in Newburgh City, one kindergarten through eighth grade, one middle school, and the district high school. The total number of district students for the 2019-20 school year was 11,557, of whom 22 percent were black or African American, 55 percent Hispanic or Latino, 17 percent white, 4 percent Asian, and 4 percent were multiply.

According to 2018 state ratings, 31 percent of district students in third through eighth grades met English standards, up from 45 percent across the state. 32 percent met the math standards, up from 47 percent across the state.

Newburgh Free Academy High School had an 82 percent four-year graduation rate in 2018-19. The mean SAT scores for the 2019 class were 526 for reading and writing and 508 for arithmetic, up from 534 for both subjects across the state.

Newburgh is east of the interchange between I-87 and I-84 and is vertically separated by Route 9A. On weekdays there is a ferry across the Hudson River to Beacon, where an hourly Metro North train runs on the Hudson Line to New York City. (You can take a bus at the weekend.) It takes an hour and 39 minutes to get to Grand Central Terminal. Fare is $ 14 to $ 29 each way, depending on the time. New York Stewart International Airport is about 15 minutes west.

"A pleasant place to build a city," was the comment in the diary of Henry Hudson's first companion after the explorer sailed upriver to Newburgh Bay in 1609. A century later, German Lutherans from the Rhine region known as the Palatinate settled the area. In 1752, Cadwallader Colden, the surveyor general of New York, renamed it Newburgh after an ancestral town in Scotland.

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