Harvey looks ahead to 2021

Posted 12/30/20

The City of Newburgh has continued to serve its community to the best of its ability over the past year, despite the unprecedented pandemic that called for a heightened challenge. Heading into 2021, …

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Harvey looks ahead to 2021


The City of Newburgh has continued to serve its community to the best of its ability over the past year, despite the unprecedented pandemic that called for a heightened challenge. Heading into 2021, the city has a comfortable position financially with a stabilized tax levy, has completed its arts and cultural study, is continuing its housing study and has a number of other developments across the government’s boards and commissions.

The Mid Hudson Times spoke with Mayor Torrance Harvey to see what he’s learned from 2020 and what he’s looking forward to in the upcoming year.

How are you looking back at 2020?

2020 was very tough – I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It was the most difficult time that I’ve ever had as an elected official. To be an elected official during a global pandemic there are responsibilities we have legislatively and also on the humanitarian side. We are in a constant state of emergency while trying to continue moving forward with other elements of the city – be progressive with infrastructure, maintaining a balanced budget for the following fiscal year, trying to keep taxes down and keeping the public informed. Everything the council and I are responsible for has heightened. Everything is exponentially more challenging because of a global pandemic and healthcare crisis.

How has the 2020 budget, including the difficult choices made in November 2019, prepared the city for this year?

Although there were layoffs that went into effect on January 1, 2020 because of the cuts that were decided on in 2019, we did not lay off or furlough anyone as a result of COVID. I took a lot of heat for the cuts in early 2020, even though it was the city manager’s proposed budget and the council voted on the final budget. Had we not made those layoffs, not knowing that COVID was going to come – no one is talking about that aspect. We all hated to make the layoffs, but had we not made those very tough decisions for 2020, our city would be without a doubt bankrupt. When you look at the numbers and the overtime expenditures for each department, well over a million dollars for each, we didn’t have a choice. When we made those tough decisions, no one knew COVID was going to hit our shores.

What positives came out of the year now behind us?

The city government and residents were able to weather all those storms. We saw the arts and cultural study concluded and we had an amazing summit in early December. We discussed how to continue to integrate art and culture into our ongoing revitalization efforts. Art is not an afterthought, it is a priority. In addition to that, we have a shared vision of revitalizing our city without displacement. The Strategic Economic Development Committee Board is in full effect, and we had a retreat in December with them as well. We took away how to revitalize our city with a renewed effort and campaign. 2021 is going to bring a powerful, widespread campaign on what the council, myself and city executives, will do in partnership with the board. It will focus on expanding our tax base, creating a walkable city, a transit-rich city and a culturally, racially, economically and an equitably inclusive city.

Plus, our housing market, in the midst of the pandemic, is booming. It’s a sellers market right now, and because of that our housing market is so strong because of the revitalization efforts and new energy moving into our city. Because of the pandemic, they had a great exodus of the five boroughs. With that being said, there is still light and hope even during the pandemic.

The City of Newburgh has started discussing new softwares to better utilize technology to benefit both the government and residents. Can you discuss this further?

We are bringing on Municipay so people can pay their taxes online for convenience. That rolls out on the first day of the new year. After that, a few months later people can pay their enterprise bills (water, sewage and sanitation) online. We are at $850,00 in the Rise Phase Three grant, which we competed for against other cities in New York and got one of the top awards. Part of that will go toward a new software system, Municity, to streamline all of our departments. It will allow in real time data to be transferred between departments. There will be technological upgrades for the city in 2021. It’s going to be great because you’re going to be able to pay your bills and taxes online and the departments will be streamlined.

How will the new CARES act funding support Newburgh in 2021?

Some of the funding [$30,000] as it relates to COVID, will be allocated towards a technology study on WiFi and how much it is going to cost and what kind of undertaking it will be for the city to create free or low-cost WiFi for all city residents. The federal funds are allowed to be used for a technology study on what it will cost.

The city has also received $125,000 for emergency food service, $35,000 for child care services, $155,023 for neighborhood service programming and $25,000 for the administration.

With the deadline of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203, which requires local governments to adopt a policing reform plan, coming up in April of 2021, what can residents expect?

I’m indirectly involved with the Executive Order 203 Oversight Committee. The final decisions and recommendations have to go before the council and me. There are stakeholders involved and there are strong opinions being voiced. They’ve made significant progress on recommendations and suggestions already to reimagine our police department and some of their protocols. I am inspired and encouraged that the work is being done at a surprisingly rapid rate. It is the reason I pushed for the hiring of Lieutenant RD Macklemore as an executive senior advisor to police matters. Lieutenant Macklemore is not only an officer in the Wallkill Police Department and very well experienced, but he is a lifetime resident here and a pastor. There is no way we are going to do justice to reimagining our police protocols and department without his input. Our new police chief Butch Amthor is also involved. I’ve read every new recommended change and they are doing good, aggressive work. It’s going to be a wonderful organized and well written plan to send to Albany.

In 2020, we were able to get the no-knock policy legislated in the city, where it is no longer legal to go into people’s homes unannounced. Then there is the policy on police officers having to identify themselves during routine traffic stops. There are already progressive changes that are being made.

What else can residents look forward to heading into 2021?

We have new leadership in the White House and (Democrats) might have control of both the house and the senate. Then, we can get some legislation done and get moving on a second stimulus bill. This great nation was founded on compromise. People are in dire need of the second stimulus but they won’t compromise. Every day that goes by without the second stimulus bill – people need rent assistance, utilities and more. The CARES act has some of that and we partnered with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley that has an aggressive housing unit that supports families who are unable to make payments because of COVID-19. We need congress to work and legislate this second stimulus bill, which should include state and local government funding.