To no one’s surprise, the Newburgh City Council has put an end to the plan to save the Dutch Reformed Church and the former City Club along with the construction of housing at 2 Montgomery St.
The plan was opposed from the start by those who believed that the property could be developed with more expensive housing, that the city did not need more subsidized apartments or the like, that a prime piece of real estate could bring in more property taxes.
So what comes next?
Do the opponents on the council and in the community walk away and take no responsibility? Or do they have a plan, a developer or builder who will invest the kind of money it will take to put up the kind of housing they desire?
The property has great views and good access to what has always been a walkable community. As real estate prices rise in Brooklyn and elsewhere, as artists and entrepreneurs make their way up the Hudson to other cities, Newburgh is in the middle of its own renaissance and more high-end housing would be welcome.
As for the church, perhaps it will finally succumb to the forces of nature and collapse. The burned-out shell of the old City Club could easily be brought down and that corner either developed or incorporated into the property that houses the Newburgh Free Library.
If that is the desire of those who opposed the now-defunct plan to save those buildings, they should speak up. Chances are they won’t because while it is easy to find fault with any plan, it is harder to come up with one that would work just as well or, as in the imagination of the outspoken opponents, even better.
Unless someone comes up with a lot of money, either as part of a development plan or something else, we most likely can say goodbye to those pieces of city history.
Moving forward, the council needs to take stock of how this conflict emerged, how it was resolved and how another might be avoided. That means the council has to find a way to encourage development and get the often-warring parties in this latest issue to negotiate and find common ground.
Should historic preservation play a large part, a small part or no part in any future development?
Should the city focus first on high-end housing, on subsidized housing or a mix?
Finally, what role should God play?
That is not as odd as it sounds considering the comments from Councilwoman Hillary Rayford who criticized the former proposal by claiming that God said she would win a council seat and told her to vote against the project.
“When I got the epiphany again, when God spoke again, he said you’re here because of this— talking about the Alembic project, “ Rayford said. “Yes, it failed — because God wasn’t in it.”
If they can agree on nothing else, council members should be able to agree that we all can claim that our god is on our side so that should never be a deciding factor in the way the city is developed.