Newburgh officials call on residents help to grow 144-acre land which was once full-fledged community
Newburgh city leaders are asking for the public's input about developing a prime 144-acre hillside that was once a bustling community until it was demolished about 60 years ago.
They are also hoping to ultimately approve projects that make up for some past losses suffered under the federal government's urban renewal policy of the 1950s and 1960s.
A densely populated community along Water Street between downtown and the waterfront was torn down as part of the program meant to clear and replace decaying neighborhoods.
In Newburgh, and many other American cities, the neighborhoods were never rebuilt as wealthier families moved in large numbers from cities to suburbs. The urban renewal policy disproportionately affected non-white families, according to numerous experts and data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Now, city leaders are promoting a new survey and community forums on how to equitably redevelop the hillside.
Several longtime Newburgh residents told News 12 they would like for some of the destroyed buildings to rebuilt, and for children's education and wellbeing to be priorities.
"It'd be something that's – I don't want to say owed to the people – but something that should be considered," Eddie Caraballo said.
City Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde said she would support green space, housing of all sizes and small businesses to connect downtown to the waterfront.
She would also support projects that benefit families who suffered because of urban renewal.
"They were displaced and taken out of their homes and they lost their homes," she said. "I think that part we're certainly going to need to figure out."
Before even considering putting projects out for bid, the city must first conduct an environmental assessment of the hillside to find out what hazards are beneath the surface. When contractors leveled the community decades ago, they simply buried streets, sidewalks and fuel tanks.
"There's very likely contamination that has to be removed," Orange County Industrial Development Agency CEO Bill Fioravanti told News 12 over Zoom Monday. "We have to rebuild the infrastructure. We have to remove contamination. We have to prepare safe homes and businesses for Newburghers for generations to come."
The city is receiving federal and state grants for both the contamination assessment and removal. The process could last a year and a half.