Foes of Mid Broadway project speak up
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