Strategic Economic Committee strives for an equitable revitalization

Posted 9/15/20

In August of 2019, Mayor Torrance Harvey established the Strategic Economic Development Advisory Committee (SEDAC) to “analyze and review proposals for culture City-owned land …

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Strategic Economic Committee strives for an equitable revitalization

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In August of 2019, Mayor Torrance Harvey established the Strategic Economic Development Advisory Committee (SEDAC) to “analyze and review proposals for culture City-owned land sales.”

The committee is led by co-chairs Genesis Ramos and Bill Fioravanti. There are a total of eight members on the committee at this time.

Fioravanti is also the Director of Economic Development for Orange County and Ramos recently started her position as an Equity and Diversity Consultant for the City. Together they bring an equitable approach to economic development for the Newburgh area.

“Newburgh’s middle name is potential,” said Fioravanti. “Everyone knows that. We want to help the City actualize and realize that potential, but in a way that is equitable and inclusive; and in my opinion, a way that could be a model for communities around the country.”

Their equitable approach starts with the “right attitude and intentionality,” according to Fioravanti. They hope to safeguard against gentrification and utilize inclusion area zoning, where, for example, 10 percent of buildings in an area would have to be affordable housing. 

The committee is made up of a group of diverse people, between different ethnicities and expertises. However, Ramos showed concern for being the only Newburgh native.

“When I think of economic development I want to see my city thrive and flourish,” said Ramos. “I don’t want people to be displaced. Too often decisions are made from people who aren’t being heard from.”

The committee is hoping to bring on two more members in the near future. In mid-September they plan to open applications up to the community where residents would send in their resume and letter of interest.

SEDAC is responsible for viewing, scoring and evaluating responses to Requests for Proposals (RFP) for city owned parcels that could be redeveloped.

Last year they managed RFPs for Montgomery Street and Colden Street. For both RFP’s the goal was to “encourage a project that builds upon and complements the recent growth in the City of Newburgh, while maximizing the development potential of the site through new construction.”

The Colden Street RFP was awarded to Kearney Realty & Development Group, who has worked in the area before, for a mixed income, mixed use project. SEDAC felt none of the responses for Montgomery Street were “up to par and that the City could do better.” It will go back out soon for new proposals.

SEDAC also has been working on the City’s application to New York State for a consolidated funding application (CFA). 

Another effort SEDAC is involved in is positioning the city for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which awards $10 million from the State. 

The $10 million would be used to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and help implement key projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization. 

However, award dates are up right now in the air due to the pandemic.

“Urban renewal is a dark period in our history,” said Fioravanti, who hopes to focus on the revitalization of the hillside that overlooks the waterfront on the edge of Broadway. “That was all developed and it was a bustling downtown corridor for Newburgh where it had mixed use, shops on the bottom and apartments above. It was an economic development approach and a federally funded effort urban renewal to tear places like that down that had gone through decline.”

Although the original plan was to tear down and eventually rebuild, it never rebuilt. Fioravanti recalled that it displaced many residents. 

“We promised that we’d built it better and they’d be back, but we never did,” said Fioravanti. “That was in the 60s and 70s. I think it’s led to distrust, racial tensions and skepticism about development that persists today. It’s time to deal and grapple with that history.”

SEDAC hopes to have open dialogue and communication with those living in Newburgh.

“I’ve been vocal about transparency and public engagement,” said Ramos. “The public has opportunities to be informed about our goals, what we’re doing and who’s on the board.”

Fioravanti hopes to use the hillside area to create jobs and have mixed use and mixed income development.

Back in 2007, the City held a charette, where the public was able to have input on the development process for the hillside property. It was done by Leyland Alliance, LLC developers who brought in a “first class urban planner,” Andres Duany. 

“The work that came out of it was amazing,” said Fiorvanti. “It’s sitting on a shelf right now, quite frankly.”

Fiorvanti sees the development of this property as a “cash cow” for Newburgh. However, there are obstacles in the way like rubble from previous buildings, a buried sewer line through the property and soil contamination.

Realistically, residents wouldn’t see the property begin development for a few years.

At this time they are determining how to prepare the property for economic redevelopment and to see what would best serve the community “equitably, inclusively and sustainably.”

SEDAC met on this past Wednesday where they began to develop a critical path and list to prepare the property to be “shovel ready.”

More recently, SEDAC is looking for developers to respond to an RFP to redevelop the “City Club Building,” located at 120 Grand Street.

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