The block caretaker

At 71, George McNeil is taking matters into his own hands

By Lina Wu
Posted 8/12/20

At least six days out of the week, George McNeil gets up and walks the street from Broadway to First Street. Schnekwa McNeil Parker says her father is the block caretaker.

“I clean up the …

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The block caretaker

At 71, George McNeil is taking matters into his own hands

Posted

At least six days out of the week, George McNeil gets up and walks the street from Broadway to First Street. Schnekwa McNeil Parker says her father is the block caretaker.

“I clean up the street,” chuckled McNeil. He meticulously searches for flaws like garbage and more.

“If you don’t stay on top of it each day, it gets worse,” said McNeil. “It builds up.”

McNeil’s unofficial role as block caretaker first came to light in a Facebook post made by Parker.

“George McNeil is his name and he’s our block caretaker just because,” said Parker. “City of Newburgh, you’ve got to do better.”

McNeil first came to the City of Newburgh when he was 12-years-old. Now 71, he’s watched Newburgh evolve into a different place.

A retiree, McNeil sits in front of his home and watches the world change as each year passes.

“The people have changed. People are not the same anymore,” said McNeil. “The young people today, they’re not like when I was growing up. It’s totally different.”

McNeil wants older people to speak up.

“We have to speak out to let the young people know what it was like when wewere coming along,” said McNeil.

McNeil is dedicated to maintaining the beauty of the city he calls home. In some ways by being his block’s caretaker, McNeil is using his own voice.

Although McNeil isn’t interested in commenting on the exact details of the business of the city council, he thinks fondly of Councilman Omari Shakur.

“We go way back,” said McNeil. “We grew up together some while.”

Still, he wants the city to be better. “I could walk out my door right now and show you things that shouldn’t be in some of these backyards,” said McNeil.

“I can walk outside of my apartment right now and walk you through the streets and show you twenty places that should be clean,”said McNeil. “And it’s city property, It should be cleaned up.”

McNeil mentioned a house a few doors down from his home.

“In the backyard, I mean it looks like a jungle back there,” said McNeil. “There’s old furniture and stuff you know.”

McNeil said that he informed the council about the house. Even with council intervention, the residents of the home would continue to fill their backyard with items of all different natures.

“They don’t cut the weeds,” said McNeil. “The grass, the nothing. It’s just terrible.”

McNeil said he believes that conditions will improve, if city workers do a better job.

Although he is grateful for McNeil’s work, Councilman Anthony Grice disagrees with McNeil and Parker’s perception of the city and its workers.

“Calling the whole city out makes it seem that none of them care,” said Grice on Facebook. “It’s the DPW [Department of Public Works] who are responsible for cutting grass on city property. They work hard and sometimes a place waits a little longer than residents would like. That was part, but not only the reason why [Mayor Torrance] Harvey pushed for a street sweeper program.”

“The same for trash cans on public spaces that is DPW. The grass and trash cans on private property is up to the property owner. Codes can be called if their grass is too long or they have much grass,” said Grice.

Grice explained that residents can use the FYI Newburgh app to notify departments over their concerns. The app sends a user a message after their requests are addressed.

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