Sunday, May 13, 2012

From Darkness into Light

The City of Newburgh held its second annual Community Clean Up. The mural in the above picture was part of the effort to express a new message for the city. Chilean graffiti muralist, Francisco "Dasic" Fernandez, calls his work "Transcendence." "It puts together two elements that is in the nature, who is the darkness and light, represented in this case by the sky, and the two faces of the sky in the day and in the night. This woman right here is trying to personify the nature in that way," said Fernandez, referring to the subject of the mural, which decorates the side of the Ritz Theater on Broadway. Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy reported that the number of volunteers increased over last year. She said it was indicative of an "energy building in Newburgh." Eleven dumpster will filled by the efforts of the local community. This blog post was sourced in the MidHudsonNew

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Newburgh Revisited

It was a long time absent from a city in which I gave 20 years of my life. Of course, the giving is not over. In fact, the City of Newburgh is a lifetime affair. It is hard to leave it completely. I have always called Newburgh, "The Prison without Walls." The streets, the people, the debris of abandoned cars, old refrigerators, and TVs have their place set in a disturbing normalcy.

Somehow I got out of the prison and removed my self to Westchester County. Upon re-visiting Newburgh this past week, the contrast of my new life was stark. In Newburgh there were food lines outside of the church, more abandoned houses, and all this signs of a city with the highest crime rate in the State of New York. There is no place in Westchester County that can compare...expect maybe Mount Vernon. In Scarsdale, Pelham and New Rochelle, these conditions of life are not visible. There is no recession here. At least not visible. Occasionally, I hear of a downsizing from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom townhouse. Here in Westchester, that is major decline. But in Newburgh, decline is ever present.

Not to sound so bleak, there is hope. I heard from Carmen Vasqueztell that the ever-philanthropic Mr. Kaplan has converted the Armory into a center of advancement. It is called the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. It is a very exciting and positive program that has succeeded in bringing together various non-profit and social service organization to address the needs of the Newburgh community.

Vasqueztell and other educators and professionals are volunteering their time to make a difference. Kaplan owns the waterfront which is productive and clean. Everything he touches turns to success. Maybe he should just buy the City of Newburgh and transform it back to the Queen City on the Hudson!!!

I was sitting at Primo's Pizzeria with an old friend, Mildred Starin. I am writing again. And she is my new subject. Stay tuned. An old friend of mine came in and said hello. She chided me about not updating my blog. So here I am again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

America, the Beautiful: Can we believe again?

Heroism, beating the odds, being fearless in the face of annihilation, rugged individualism, survival of the fittest, sacrifices for the greater good, saving for the future. WIN! Against all odds.
These are all parts of the American belief system. It is part of our common creed.
As Americans, we believe in the impossible. We believed we could go around the world in 80 days and sped up the process with supersonic speed. We believed we could stop indestructible aliens and save the planet and our civilization. Despite our differences of nation, tongue, race and creed, we, the American people, always win for the world.
And now, we can’t even stop an oil leak a mile under the sea. It has been almost 80 days to this writing that raw crude oil is spewing into the sea. And not only the environment and beaches are dying, our belief system is taking another direct hit.
It was only some years ago that we witnessed people abandoned and dying in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We weren’t prepared. And our response was weak and seemed to forget the importance of the lives of Americans. All Americans.
What happened to the courage and innovation that was once the envy of the world. On this day, July 4th, we celebrate our Independence from tyranny and limitations. Daring men (yes men) fought a war of rebellion and formed this nation that has prospered with our belief system.
Remember the movie, Independence Day. Our nation saved the world against a spaceship a quarter of the mass of the moon with dozens of smaller ships 15 miles in diameter. Common citizens warn the President of the impending attack and despite his reluctance, he prepares for battle. But on July 2, the aliens destroy major cities across the globe. Air force is dispatched the following to no avail. But American innovation and resolve devises a plan to take out the mother ship. It is a last ditch effort on July 4th to defeat the enemy. And we win, in a blaze of fireworks as the mothership implodes by a nuclear device.
It makes you feel proud. Granted this is only Hollywood. But it has a deeper meaning to those who believe in our abilities to overcome circumstances and situations that seem impossible. We win.
So again, why can’t we overcome a broken pipe a mile below the sea.
Bruce Willis plays many great roles. In the Die Hard series, he is one cop and takes a troupe of professional hardened terrorists. He wins. He always plays the American hero: cocky, witty, clever and resourceful.
In Armageddon, Willis plays the role of an oil driller. The nation calls upon him and his band of misfit drillers and geologists to save the planet from a meteor racing towards earth. They train quickly to become astronauts and land on the meteor, drill a hole in it and detonate a nuclear device to obliterate the meteor and spare earth from its last day. Needless to say, they succeed with the loss of Willis, who nobly stays behind to assure the nuclear device detonates.
So again, who is calling Willis to go down there and fix the Goddamn leak and spare the American Coastline from ecological annihilation?
American films are a reflection of our common consciousness. We know they are not reality, but for that moment, we believe in our ability to win and overcome all things. They become real to us. And when such realities like Katrina or the British Petroleum disaster occur, we as Americans have a collective sentiment that we should conquer such issues with innovation, bravery and resolve. We do not blame or pass the buck.
So who is leading our nation in a moment of ecological peril? Where is the social responsibility of BP?
One must ask in earnest, do we truly believe anymore. And if not, where are we going as a people

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Newburgh's Police Will Prevail; What About The Peace?

For certain, there are a few truths in this life. We pay taxes and die. We live and love. We try and tire. And the police -- some way or another -- will always win. And why shouldn’t they? Would you have the criminals in control?
In Newburgh, we have a viable but incapacitated police force in a community that actually requires a cop on each block or, better yet, the national guard. I am not calling them to come down and clean it up, but I have a feeling they will soon be on their way.
This is my reasoning. First, we have a gang crisis. The writing has been literally on the walls for some time now. There is plentiful graffiti and markings which are modern-day war drums on the urban scene. The school district and community only wake up when there is blood on the ground. Gang activity in Newburgh is, as the kids say, OD!
Second, as I said, the police always win. The city council was foolish enough to approve a 2010 budget that reduced police protection. The school district was left without patrolmen. The district knows the gang problem. It is suppose to be in the business of education, not dodging bullets and confiscating knives. They need the police on site at NFA at all times. The school district went as far as to pay the city for police protection. This drastic step by the school district gave the police department relevance. Cops, and firefighters too, have a need to be relevant and respected. The city council cannot just stick them in the corner or piss in their faces and tell them it’s raining. It won’t work. These men and women put their lives on the line to keep the peace.
So when I read the recent headline in the Times Herald-Record: “Newburgh Gang Violence on White House Radar,” I was not surprised. Clearly, someone in Newburgh police affairs is working overtime to make their department relevant. If it takes public relations, picket lines, or calling the local congressman, the Newburgh City Police Department will prevail and hopefully prosper from some federal stimulus funds. Neither the police nor the fire departments can wait around for City Hall to make some noise about our crime and gang crisis.
The kids are running rampant with vindictive violence. Worse yet, Robinson Avenue is no longer the dividing line between the "hood" or East End and the West End. It is more like Fullerton Avenue now where there were reports yesterday of police in riot gear investigating a disturbance. Face it, gang territories are spreading out past West Street. So it will not be long before an outside law agency will have to step in to help our beleaguered city.
I have always maintained that the city should never, under any circumstances cut public safety. They should cut some of the other departments, but never police, fire and public works. Police presence in Newburgh should be increased in order to address and resolve a growing eminent danger: gang violence.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What? Close Washington's Headquarters?

It seems that the State of New York is suffering a lapse of good judgment or our deep financial crisis is at a breaking point. I would submit, ladies and gentlemen, that it is a combination of both that leads the state to propose the closing of Washington's Headquarters at Newburgh.
I found an article in the Mid Hudson News Network that quotes an official from Scenic Hudson that the proposal is on the the table to not fund America's first historic site.
In 1859, a group of concerned citizens rallied together to stop the extension of Grand Street through "the old house." They stopped the demolition of the building and incorporated into the The Historical Society of the Newburgh Bay and Highlands.

It was in this "old house" that our nation was born by the cessation of arms to end the Revolutionary War in 1783. Here, Washington had refused to become a "King" George and the first Purple Hearts were awarded. I came across a great article about Newburgh's importance in the founding of this great nation. Please read...Newburgh and President's Day.

My connection to this state historic site is not as thick as it was when I was Newburgh City Historian or when my dear friend Tom Hughes was the curator. But I have been informed, quietly so, that many historic objects and documents have been removed from the museum and the old house over the past two years. I did address this removal issue with state officials. In addition, I spoke with an employee at Washington's HQ and was told my concerns were accurate.

It is a shame that historic items would be relocated out of Newburgh. It is a travesty that Washington's Headquarters would be on the cutting block because of the ongoing financial dissolution of New York State.

More than any other landmark, Washington's Headquarters at Newburgh is the soul of our city and the womb of every right we hold dear. Thousands of people visit this landmark of note. It is an anchor for businesses along Liberty Street and a jewel in the middle of urban decline. It is emblazoned on our city seal, our fire and police emblems, our website, our city charter and all that is Newburgh.

If Washington's Headquarters at Newburgh - which stands for the birthplace of our endearing freedoms and rights - cannot be sustained, what else could fail?