Sound Off: Is Newburgh Really on the Rebound in Orange County?

Part of the Hudson Valley’s River Town Revival: Newburgh, NY

Inquiring minds want to know: Is Newburgh really on the rebound? This benighted town has seen more than its share of negative press in recent years — until 2013, when none other than the august New York Times favorably compared the city to Brooklyn in the 1980s. Seriously?

Yes indeed, says Mayor Judy Kennedy. “Newburgh is on the move. This is the next hot spot in the Hudson Valley, right on the river — and with a view to die for.”

One of the main reasons for the mayor’s optimism is the recent uptick in the housing market. “I spoke with a local real estate agent recently,” she says. “In the last year, he sold 35 homes to folks coming up from the city — that is almost unheard of.”

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The combination of architecturally impressive buildings in need of restoration — the city’s East End historic district (the second largest in the state) is on the National Register — and rapidly diminishing space in the region’s other urban-friendly areas is driving the current surge, says Kennedy. “The urban pioneers are truly seeing Newburgh as an opportunity: Beacon is sort of built out; there are waiting lists over there. And there’s an edge here that Beacon doesn’t have. I talked to a couple who came to rehab a building eight years ago,” she recalls. “They were going to flip it, but instead they decided to stay. They love it here.”

One of the main reasons for the mayor’s optimism is the recent uptick in the housing market

And thanks to the grassroots efforts of any number of organizations, there are an increasing number of reasons to love Newburgh. Arts organizations are flourishing; two theater spaces — the historic Ritz Theater on Broadway, where both Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra launched their careers, and Just Off Broadway, a new 99-seat venue in the former waterfront train station — are attracting audiences. Several galleries, such as Space Create and Gallery Schubes, have opened their doors in the last two years. And this summer’s third annual Newburgh Illuminated Festival (June 20) celebrates the city’s 150th anniversary with live music, pop-up art shows, food, and activities for kids.

downing park
Downing Park

New businesses are also part of the equation. Last November, a ribbon cutting was held for 10 new firms located on Broadway, one of which was 2 Alices Coffee Lounge, which, says Kennedy, is “becoming the place to hang out. I’m doing my breakfast meetings there now.” An aqua-farming company, which will produce organic, mercury-free shrimp, plans to set up shop on Liberty Street in the coming months. In December, the Bonura Hospitality Group, owners of several Valley restaurants, opened Bistecca, an Italian steakhouse and wine bar, on North Plank Street. (And speaking of the waterfront, “it’s hopping,” says the mayor. “You can’t get your elbow in there from April until the end of October. The places are just packed.”) And a 2016 launch is planned for the Loop-Hudson Valley, a 650,000-square-foot outdoor shopping mall, which will be built at the intersection of Interstate 84 and the Thruway — not in the city proper, but close enough to bring jobs and dollars to the area.

There’s no question that Newburgh still has its problems. But Mayor Kennedy is a glass-half-full type of person. “I strongly believe that the more you focus on what’s good, the more you diminish what’s not so good. And that’s what I see happening. People are coming; there is opportunity here. The renaissance is happening. It’s just up to us to guide the direction of it.”

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