Gentrification in the Hudson Valley

The executive director of Safe Harbors of the Hudson discusses her organization’s mission — and challenges

Gentrification. It sounds like a geological process by which magma incrementally moves bedrock. The truth isn’t far off: Gentrification refers to the process in which longtime residents are forced out of their neighborhoods by wealthier tenants who arrive and drive up housing costs.  

A hotly contested issue in Brooklyn, gentrification is flowing upstream to Hudson Valley communities as urbanites settle down in suburbia. Lisa Silverstone, executive director of Safe Harbors of the Hudson, explains how her organization continues to revitalize downtown Newburgh amid these challenges:

Q: How do you balance the issues surrounding gentrification with Safe Harbors of the Hudson’s mission?

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A: You have to be cognizant of it right from the early planning stages.  You have to make sure that you have robust affordable housing built into your urban planning, that your affordable housing meets a lot of income levels, that there are opportunities for everyone to benefit from economic development in a community. 

In the Cornerstone Residence, we house 128 residents, 76 of whom are formerly homeless. We have people who live in low-income brackets, who live with mental health issues, who struggle with addiction, but we can serve them here and still have economic development like, 2 Alices [Coffee Lounge]. 

Q: How do you draw the line between renewal and displacement?

A: When people who have lived in neighborhoods for years start losing the ability to pay rent, when you start losing the unique character of your neighborhoods, when you start losing your diversified population, that’s when the alarm bells should go off. The alarm bells shouldn’t go off when buildings start being rehabilitated. That’s a good thing. 

Q: What role does community play in revitalization?

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A: You have to constantly engage everybody in your community. At least offer opportunities for engagement. Because if people have no idea what’s going on, they’re going to be leery by nature — even if it’s a great thing.  You can gain trust and gain a better understanding of what’s needed in a community.

Also, create something everybody can share in equally. I’ll tell you, people are very excited about the park we’re building. Anybody can sit and enjoy a park. You don’t have to be income-eligible, you don’t have to buy anything. You don’t even have to walk through a door! It’s generated a lot of support in the community.

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