Orange County residents met in Kaplan Hall on the Orange County Community College Newburgh Campus to discuss transportation in the area. Many speakers came to the microphone to air complaints and concerns about the public transportation provided by Orange County for the City of Newburgh.
The public hearing on the Orange County Comprehensive Plan updates was held on February 27. The proposal is to replace the previous plan from 2003 entirely. The new plan will include transportation unlike previous plans.
Members of the community came to the microphone to speak up about the poor condition of transportation in the City of Newburgh.
Margaret Sanchez stood up to speak about the challenges of riding the bus with disabilities.
“You have two buses in service that I can’t even get on with my disabilities,” said Sanchez. “There are a lot of people that take the buses they have baby carriages they have challenges. If I want to get home from the Beacon train station on the weekend I have to walk over the Newburgh-Beacon bridge, because I don’t have the funds to take a taxi.”
David Church, Planning Commissioner, said he would look into the buses that are causing issues. That is something he can deal with immediately in comparison to some of the larger issues mentioned by residents.
“I have to comment that most regular bus riders do not get on at the current bus terminal or Park and Ride. It simply is not convenient for most as you need transportation to there thus making it an unrealistic walk for most,” said Marianne Marichal. “I am asking you to please consider extending bus service both locally in Newburgh and with the Beacon-Newburgh Airport Shuttle. It provides transportation to and from work for so many and with extended service, would open up badly needed work options. I would gladly pay more for both services.”
When it comes to the the bus terminal Church admits this is going to be a long term solution the county will have to find. He suggested speaking with property owners on Broadway to find a temporary fix to the issues people face.
“We know about the gaps in service, we’re just starting to get aware of this reliability question,” said Church. “I’ve had staff start riding the buses to get first hand experience with what’s going on. A bigger project is the bus system, the hub on 17k, that’s where all the buses in the region connect. To move that to connect downtown, that’s going to take more time. That’s not something I can do this week. Maybe there’s a short way to work with the property owners to work with us on something until we can get a more permanent solution.”
Acting Orange County Executive, Harry Porr, also came to the microphone to suggest including a light rail to connect Stewart Airport to the Beacon Train Station. The idea is one he has been talking about for years when he was City Manager for Newburgh.
“The idea is basically how do you get from Stewart to the city of Newburgh as efficiently as possible,” said Porr. “What we discussed at that time was to have a light rail system be in at the Stewart Airport, run down 17K and Broadway and down Colden St across the Newburgh Beacon Bridge to the train station in Beacon. The benefit of that would be a one seat ride to grand central. It would create all the real estate gold on Broadway.”
The comprehensive plan includes broad plans for transportation, there are no specific ways in which the plan will improve transit, specifically in Newburgh.
“The plan we wrote is more of a concept plan,” said Church. “It doesn’t have specific projects we are working on. The real lesson is there are immediate needs. We need to move from this broad brush general plan fairly quickly to address people’s specific needs.”