City of Newburgh — Maybe the dust-up over the new house at 2 Nicoll St. is a good sign. New construction has been rare enough in the city these past years that the suburban-style Zoning Board fight over the project could be seen as evidence of how hot the East End real estate market is.
City of Newburgh — Maybe the dust-up over the new house at 2 Nicoll St. is a good sign.
New construction has been rare enough in the city these past years that the suburban-style Zoning Board fight over the project could be seen as evidence of how hot the East End real estate market is.
At least there's something to fight over.
But the months of arguing over the house Solomon Ryles wants to build here, with its charges of incompetence, greed and even racism, could also be a preview of fights to come.
Ryles' lot along the Hudson is less than a mile from the 30-acre stretch of land slated for redevelopment by Leyland Alliance. While Leyland's plans — for a hotel, two office towers and more than 800 new homes — has so far been greeted with cheers by city residents, the Nicoll Street fight proves how the mood can get testy along the born-again riverfront.
"I was very surprised," said Ryles, 65, this week of the neighbors' reaction to his project. "To be honest with you, I didn't know what to expect."
Ryles had owned the house at 2 Nicoll St. since 1978. In recent years, his parents lived in the small home while he lived and worked on the West Coast.
When his parents died in recent years, Ryles said he decided to move back to Newburgh, but to expand the small house.
He tore down the old house last year and began putting in a foundation for a larger home.
But neighbors complained to City Hall about the plans and discovered much of the work was done without proper permits or with permits approved by the city's code enforcement department before they should have been.
"We're not looking for him not to build," said Joanne Hughes, who, with her husband, Ed, have led the Ferry Crossing neighbors' objections. "We're looking for him to build in the same footprint the old house was on."
Ryles' original proposal, for a two-story—plus-basement home that was 75 feet long, was double the size of the previous building. It would block views of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and upstream vistas of the Hudson that the Ferry Crossing and some North Montgomery Street neighbors had.
"That would have reduced their property values by $20,000 to $25,000," estimates Hughes.
As the waterfront, with its nightclubs, restaurants and planned new neighborhoods, continues to lead Newburgh's comeback, more thought has to go into projects — even single-family homes.
Jeremy Moore, an opera singer, moved into his Ferry Crossing home last year. He understands Ryles' desire to maximize the value of his small lot, but thinks the Zoning Board of Appeals isn't doing its job.
Protecting views for everyone who has one keeps property values — and taxes, he notes — up.
"We can really do something down there," he said. "If it's not done right, it can really botch everything."
Moore also worries about how race can quickly become an issue in Newburgh. At Tuesday's meeting, Ryles was accompanied by two local ministers and the president of the local NAACP. The insinuation that neighbors who objected to the plan — who were mostly white — opposed Ryles, who is black, because of race, angered some.
"It was a very unfortunate move," said Moore. "It's a cliche here in Newburgh how everything turns into a racial dispute."
Ferry Crossing residents this week said they expect that the upcoming waterfront project by Leyland will ultimately get more scrutiny — and criticism — as artist sketches turn into architectural plans.
"I would imagine they will have some controversy and concern," said Hughes. "Like any other project."
For his part, Ryles said the construction of his house will go on, but the experience has given him second thoughts about moving in when it's done.
"I have to think about what I'm going to do," he said. "It's no good to live somewhere the neighbors don't want you."