Home > Mid Hudson Times > Foes of Mid Broadway project speak up

Foes of Mid Broadway project speak up

April 24th, 2013

The description of a public hearing held by the Newburgh City Council Monday night contained an innocent enough typographical error, but as it turns out it was a prediction of things to come.

The hearing concerned an ordinance amending “special use permits” of the Code of Ordinances to add a section related to “large scare mixed-use development special use permit.”

The word “scare” was supposed to read “scale.”

As it turned out, the council couldn’t act anyway because the city hasn’t received comment back from the Orange County Planning Department on the suggested ordinance, which would allow approval of a proposed Mid Broadway apartment and supermarket complex to be shifted from the City Planning Board to the City Council.

Until Monday night there had been very little public outcry to the plans of Mill Street Partners (also known as Excelsior Housing, LLC) for construction of affordable rental apartments and a supermarket on Broadway next to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

During Monday night’s hearing it became evident that a groundswell of opposition has begun forming. The audience included a number of faces not routinely seen on Monday nights.

And terms that have been used by developers to describe the development suddenly carried a much different tone.

Affordable housing became “low-income.”

Ninety-one 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments became “91 one-bedroom units.”

The 12,000-square-foot supermarket that residents had expressed a hunger for suddenly posed “a threat” to local bodegas and a meat market.

Lander Street resident Stuart Sachs spoke during the public hearing to complain that bypassing the Planning Board as provided in the proposed ordinance is a bad idea.

“The Sustainable Master Plan was adopted by the council in 2008,” Sachs commented. “State law declares that land use must be consistent with this plan. The Planning Board is given special training to meet state requirements, and thus are far more qualified to comply with the future land use plan than council members, who do not receive this training.”

Sachs said the action would give the appearance of a conflict of interest by offering a special permit to just one of the developers, not the others.

“If the special permit was included from the beginning we might even have received more and better proposals,” he said.

Interestingly, Sachs referred to “our plan” in opposing that of Mill Street Partners. What that plan comprises remains to be seen.

“Our plan guides the city to development that will spur vitality and ease the tax burden on residential property,” Sachs read from a prepared text supplied to the media after it was presented.

“This project will do the opposite,” he said.

“Without commercial property, taxes will be based on the lower residential rate;

“The project density is lower than the MU2 zone reducing tax revenue, and;

“All of the units are government subsidized which further lowers their tax contribution, and;

“The use of a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) will drastically reduce the contribution to the City tax roles.”

Prior to Monday’s meeting, the Mid Hudson Times received an email from “Tiombe” relaying the concerns of Dr. Hannah Brooks to a “proposed low-income housing development on lower Broadway.

“It’s Hannah’s position that lower Broadway is the wrong location for additional low-income housing and that the project is not aligned with the city’s strategic plan. She is asking the NPBA to come to the council meeting and voice their opinion. There will be a contingent of concerned residents speaking on this issue.”

In addition to Sachs, others speaking at the public hearing included council regulars Kippy Boyle, Barbara Smith, Janet Gianopolous, Natasha Cotten and Timothy Hayes-el.

Boyle criticized plans to appoint a special Code enforcement officer to patrol Broadway.

“Lucky Broadway,” she said. “What about the rest of us.”

By ALLAN GAUL
agaul@tcnewspapers.com

  1. H Brooks
    April 30th, 2013 at 14:18 | #1

    To characterize residents of Newburgh as “foes” of affordable housing does us all a disservice. Since you have published my name alongside comments attributed to me, I feel it necessary to clarify my position and that of many like-minded individuals in the City of Newburgh. I am a physician in the community and serve as a volunteer board member of Safe Harbors of the Hudson, a recognized MODEL of affordable housing and a true civic partner that brings culture, tourism, and economic opportunity to our city. So, yes, I and others DO support WORKABLE, SUSTAINABLE models for affordable housing and the great work of organizations like Safe Harbors and Habitat for Humanity.

    We also support our neighbors, who own homes or have jobs or small businesses in this city. We have personal friends threatened by ever rising taxes being levied property owners. We know businesses that have come and gone and others that barely break even because they can’t survive with so few local customers. We know of numerous examples of young, civic-minded people choosing NOT to purchase a home or start a business in Newburgh precisely because of the high property taxes and diminishing municipal services. It is clear that economic viability requires that Newburgh ATTRACT and KEEP a much larger proportion of middle class residents, yet working and middle class homeowners can barely afford to stay in their OWN homes.

    Newburgh simply cannot sustain itself as a functioning, viable community when an ever dwindling number of property owners are asked to share a larger and larger portion of the taxes levied. This is a formula that has clearly failed Newburgh for decades: We now have approximately 700 vacant properties, 150 of which are city owned (Land Bank data). Additionally, a quick Internet search indicates over 400 foreclosures or pre-foreclosures in the 12550 zip; that’s higher than all of Manhattan with a population of over 1.6 million.

    The Mid Broadway project was INITIALLY presented by the developers, Mill Street Partners, as mixed income/mixed use; one that would NOT require a PILOT (i.e. major tax incentives). That proposal was altered over time into one of smaller apartments confined to limited income residents and the vague notion of an unconfirmed supermarket in a small commercial space. Are the developers (and the city council) even aware that three larger sized grocery stores (Broadway Farm, Gerasci’s, and Paulita’s) already exist on or near Broadway? Are they also aware of already renovated commercial spaces up and down our main boulevard that have yet to be rented?

    We appreciate the positive efforts and progress we have seen with this administration. but, we are at a loss as to why the city council is willing to give over this valuable piece of real estate, on our most important commercial street, without further analysis. We don’t understand the council entering into a Memorandum of Understanding and moving to adopt a special zoning permit to accommodate the Mill St. Partners’ proposal. This project is dependent almost entirely on major state subsidies, priority consideration for our CDBG funds, and city tax concessions that will create a greater burden on our already underfunded municipal services and our citizens. The Mid Broadway proposal is, plain and simple, at odds with Newburgh’s own Sustainable Master Plan.

    Good People of the City Council, Honorable Mayor, and Mr. City Manager, the short-sighted conclusion that ANY project on the Mid Broadway lot is “better than nothing,” commits us for the long term to a development that does not demonsrate NET PUBLIC BENEFIT, the hallmark of excellent city planning. We believe you can do better.

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