Give Me Liberty

A Cornwall native and her husband go from New York City to Newburgh to fulfill a lifelong dream

I formally met New York City on a steamy, heavy summer day, the kind of day where you could cut the humidity with a knife and you just about expect it to burst into its own rain cloud right in front of you. Our relationship was rocky at first; having moved there for college, this small-town Cornwall girl wasn’t sure she could hack it out in the largest city in the country. 

I warmed up to it, though, hopping on the Poughkeepsie-bound Metro-North train less and less. Days were spent zipping all over, from Happy Hours in the East Village to birthday celebrations in Brooklyn. I carved out a career as a digital journalist and my husband, Mike, also from Cornwall, flourished in his career as a chef. We always knew New York was going to be temporary—our life plan involved things like buying a house, raising children, and probably the craziest of all, opening a restaurant. None of those things were going to happen in the city. 

And soon enough, New York began to feel less like home. The cacophony of sirens and car horns, the overripe smell of garbage that smacks you in the face on a summer morning—we were fed up. We had hit our expiration date on this city we once thought so magical and dazzling, eight years after arriving.

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Late spring snowflakes swirled overhead as we pulled our overstuffed Prius into our apartment complex in Cornwall. Champagne and a note—”Welcome back to Cornwall!”—greeted us at the front door that day. I breathed in the fresh air and let out a big sigh. It felt so good to be home.

Now firmly settled back in the Valley, it was time to revisit that whole opening-a-restaurant idea. You have to be a little bit crazy to do something like willingly decide to open a restaurant, in Newburgh of all places. 

Yes, Newburgh. An odd choice, some might say, given Newburgh’s history and current state. We saw shining glimmers of hope and potential where others saw decades of failure. A walkthrough of a space on Liberty Street revealed gorgeous exposed brick and a sweeping view of Washington’s Headquarters and the Hudson. It had four blank walls and some dingy carpeting. It was simply the perfect spot. 

Seven months after that first visit, I found myself sitting on our chocolate leather banquette in our dining room, beside custom cherry wood tables, under the soft glow of Edison light bulbs. It was all so surreal. My husband had turned an empty box into a New York City-worthy restaurant right here in Newburgh. Eight years of city living had made an impact on us after all.

“Well, looks like we’ve got ourselves a restaurant, huh?” Mike said, walking out of his swanky new kitchen. My breath caught in my throat. We were due to open our doors to the public in a week, poised to make our mark on an equally great city right here in the Hudson Valley. Liberty Street in Newburgh is just as dazzling and magical, if not more so, than any big-city adventure we ever had. “Yep,” I replied. “Looks like a restaurant to me.”

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Alexandra R. Kelly is an editor for the Huffington Post. She and her husband, Mike, opened Liberty Street Bistro in Newburgh this past June.

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