More than a dozen Community Voices Heard [CVH] Newburgh members appeared before Newburgh City Council on Monday, September 26 to voice their concerns on the housing crisis, to seek youth programs for the city and to seek transparency with the spending of American Rescue Plan Act [ARPA] funds.
CVH is a grassroots organization that is composed of women of color and low-income families in New York, tackling various racial, social and economic challenges and issues and serving as advocates for others.
In March of 2021, the ARPA of 2022 was signed by President Joseph Biden that would see $1.9 trillion be dispersed across the country. On the city website, the city was listed to have received $21.8 million of the ARPA funds. $10.7 million of the allocated funds have been committed to water and wastewater infrastructure. $7.5 million has remained for public input.
In May, City of Newburgh Planning and Development Director Alexandra Church had presented to the council the results of the ARPA Public Survey, which was created in January and released to the public for further input. Results from the survey included 1,197 site visits with 770 responses received from the survey with only 26% having completed the entire survey. City Infrastructure Initiatives had scored high overall on the survey. These initiatives included street paving, city sidewalks and ADA repair, the Lead Line Replacement, repairing the city dock and the Delano-Hitch Pool Reconstruction. The Newburgh Ministry Homeless Shelter also scored high on the survey as a possible target for funds.
Mayor Torrance Harvey requested that the results of the survey be posted again back on the city website for public viewing going forward.
Focusing on the youth, CVH provided information from the America Community Surveys data from the U.S. Census that stated that an estimated 2,600 youth under 24 live in poverty in Newburgh. Referring back to the Newburgh Housing Report that was conducted by the Leviticus Fund and released back in June 2021, Newburgh youth between the ages of 16 to 19 are out of school and out of work. The report also listed that 43% of residents spend more than 40% of their income towards housing. With increasing housing costs, many residents ultimately leave the city.
CVH members commented and stated to council that they have not seen the city engage and speak to the community about the usage of the funds. CVH also stated to the council that they have had over a thousand conversations with people and most of those conversations returned to the two topics of youth program funding and the housing crisis.
“Today, we want to see a transparency process and how that American Rescue Plan money is spent and we want to make sure the money is spent on community priorities,” said Ray Harvey, local NAACP chapter president. “I been living in the City of Newburgh for over 20 years, I have seen the decline in housing.”
“We [CVH] want to make sure that the money [ARPA funds] is spent on community priorities and COVID recovery as it is intended, and we want to see a fully transparent and accountable process for how the American Rescue Plan money is spent,” said resident Julia Rhodes Davis. “I expect that the city council is responsible to its constituents.”
“We want to see a transparent process on how the American Rescue Plan Money is spent,” said Cynthia Gilkeson. “If investments like these were made into our youth, my son would probably still be here today with me today.”
“Newburgh has been my home for the past 12 years, I moved here from Brooklyn, I saw what hope could be in this city, but now there is a lot of constant disinvestment,” said Deborah Danzy.
CVH would like to meet with the city council and executive staff within the next two weeks to discuss the various concerns mentioned during the meeting. The council thanked the public members for coming out and speaking. Council members plan to meet with CVH later on within their schedules.
The entire study is available for review on the city website for those who wish to review it.