By Alberto Gilman
City residents shared concerns with the Newburgh City Council last week pertaining to a site development agreement with Kearney Realty & Development Group for the redevelopment of properties at 140 and 146 Montgomery St. and 137 Smith St.
Michelle Kelson of the city’s Corporation Counsel provided a brief overview of the proposed site development agreement that the city council has considered. The public hearing was required to take place prior to any particular vote. The site development agreement is also available on the city website for public viewing and access.
“The three parcels [140 and 146 Montgomery St. and 137 Smith St] that are subject of the site development agreement were the subject of a request for proposals that was issued by the city. The submissions were reviewed by the mayor’s Strategic Economic Development Committee [SEDAC] and there was a presentation of the SEDAC’s recommendation to the city council with also brief presentations from two of the submitees,” Kelson stated. “The council indicated its support for the SEDAC recommendation to proceed with a site development agreement with Kearney Realty & Development Group Inc. for their proposed project at the site.”
The Kearney Group, located in Somers, NY, is pursuing a development project known as The Green that is a mixed-use mixed-income development. The presented proposal featured several amenities that included a central greenway, on-site property management and retail spaces for local businesses.
The properties are adjacent to the Horizons-on-the-Hudson Elementary School, the Varick Homes and the Bourne Apartments. The properties are also recognized as designated Urban Renewal land within the city.
The Kearney Group, along with Liberty Street Partners, had come before the council during the spring with their initial proposals for the development of the properties mentioned. The Mayor’s Strategic Economic Development Committee [SEDAC] had recommended to the city council, following the two firms’ presentations, that the Kearney Group should take on the development project.
The East End Lofts along Colden St, another Kearney project, have not seen any movement for some time but with the proposed development this time around, the Kearney Group seeks to bundle both projects into one financial package with the final approval of the council.
SEDAC Chair Bill Fioravanti said SEDAC had re-evaluated their goals and intentions for the development project when five proposals had come back to the committee.
Fioravanti said the Kearney Group proposal had discussed the guarantee of long term affordability, there would be no displacement and the coupling of the The Green and East End Lofts led to further consideration of the overall project.
Fellow SEDAC member Jerry Maldonado also expressed his support for the development.
“I think it [the development project] represents a new model for how we want to do development in the city,” said Maldonado.
Longtime resident Corey Allen shared that years ago, his grandfather had a business that operated on the Newburgh Waterfront. When the Urban Renewal process came about, the business was destroyed.
Back in July, Allen held an informational event at the Boys and Girls Club center for city residents to discuss an awarded grant that would be used for a multimedia report project to tell the story of Urban Renewal. This project will give those in the community to share their voices and experiences on the Urban Renewal process that occurred years ago.
Allen, however, requested clarification on the city council’s movement on the development project while still waiting for the multimedia project to commence and wishes to see more inclusion from those affected by Urban Renewal during this development process.
“I had a look at the developers’ agreement. There was parts of it that I liked a lot. The right to return part. I had been advocating for that. But I’m still dissatisfied, very dissatisfied,” said Allen. “We need people connected to that land. There need to be more input from folks who were affected by Urban Renewal itself.”
NAACP President Ray Harvey brought up concerns over the housing crisis, the homelessness in the city and the redevelopment of properties into Airbnb rentals. Harvey concurred with Allen’s comments on having more input and inclusion as the development process continues.
“Urban Renewal was about, let’s be honest, about taking black folks’ land away from them. Let’s relook at this project for what it really is,” stated Harvey. “Let’s make sure we include everybody.”
Fellow resident Leanna Rivers concurred with most of the comments said throughout the course of the hour-long public comment. “The last thing that we want to see is the people having their city snatched out from under them,” stated Rivers.
Council members shared their own thoughts and comments on the proposed development and contract.
“It wasn’t just houses that they tore down, it was a whole network of families and community and things like that, that were torn apart” said Councilman Anthony Grice.
“We’re in a housing crisis. There are actual groups that care about our community, and I believe that this project is one of them,” said Councilwoman Giselle Martinez.
“This is a good project. It combines affordable housing, it combines economic development,” said Councilman Robert Sklarz. “We’ll be proud of the final product.”