The City of Newburgh has a chance to preserve some of its storied history at the same time it provides more decent housing for people in a wide range of incomes.
That should not be controversial, but it has been so far. And it is important that city leaders take the time to listen to all sides and consider all legitimate and documented opinions because while this is not the only proposal to come along, it is the most significant with the biggest impact.
Get this right and others will follow. Get it wrong, make it clear that new ideas and new money are not welcome in Newburgh and it might be a long time before another plan as good as this one comes along.
For now, all they can do is get as much detail as possible about the project being put forward by Alembic Community Development based in New York City.
Some advantages are obvious and irrefutable, starting with the rescue of the imperiled Dutch Reformed Church and the former City Club on Grand Street. Any competing proposal needs to do at least as much. Another minimum would be the 45 to 50 units of supportive housing for people with psychiatric disabilities that is part of this plan.
Then the real test will come in the discussions about whether the mix of affordable and market-rate housing is as good as it can be. Does that mean only those who can pay the most are entitled to good views of the river? And what exactly do those opposed to the project mean when they say that the city already has a surplus of affordable housing? As many have pointed out, just because an apartment is affordable does not mean that someone would want to live in it. What you get for your rent is just as important as what you pay each month.
Those who are sure that the area being considered for this project could be developed by someone else in a way that would guarantee more income through more tax revenue need to keep in mind the recent history of such hopes. Only a few years ago, a developer came up with a plan that would have transformed the city, one that would have filled vacant lots, rehabilitated run down neighborhoods, taken advantage of the vistas that now are going to waste.
But that dream, like many others that have come and gone, was not affordable and the developers have not come back. So while the plans now being considered might not match the vision that many have of a future city, it is more important for municipal leaders to consider what really can happen as opposed to holding out for what they and others would like.
That means they need hard numbers, calculations about what the plan will mean for the city in terms of revenue. Then, they can compare those numbers with real ones, if such are available, from alternatives. And if there are no alternatives, then the leaders will have to decide if they will take the offer they have or wait until a new one comes along.