Newburgh: Textures and Tension | Community Pages | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Newburgh: Textures and Tension 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:07 pm

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Restore, a donation-based organization that provides affordable furniture and building fixtures, is a subsidiary of Habitat for Humanity and offers excellent furniture at low prices, including Danish modern and other mid-century pieces. (Just make sure to get there early on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the shop receives new deliveries.)

Safe Harbors is another Hudson Valley-based nonprofit active in downtown Newburgh. The former Hotel Newburgh on Brodway has been renovated and is now a 128-unit residence house for single adult living at or below the median household income. There are also 12 artist lofts.

Safe Harbors is affiliated with Ann Street Gallery, where artists—including residents of the housing units—can show work. The current show, “Sensing Space,” features several artists’ takes on landscape. The organization is responsible for the upcoming renovation of the Ritz Theater, located on Broadway, where performers such as Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball would stop on weeknights of their tours and where, recently, musicians such as Pete Seeger and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic have played.

Some businesses that now dot the former livestock path of Broadway include an ice cream shack with a weatherworn sign, a Pentecostal Church, DMU Music, with an excellent collection of turntables, and Machu Picchu, a Peruvian restaurant with a reputation for roast chicken throughout the Hudson Valley. At night, sedans with spinners sometimes still line up to drag race. They may be the inspiration for Newburgh Free Academy graduate Rob Cohen’s car-fetishist film The Fast and the Furious, which he made after graduating from Harvard University.

Artistic Ambitions
On lower Broadway, you can find the Newburgh Actor’s Studio tucked behind a bar with a beer sign glowing in the window. The studio is advertised discreetly, on a printed piece of paper. Mark Gamma opened it in 2008 with Keaton Weiss after the two met on the set of a short film. The theater showcased 11 performances in 2009. On a recent Saturday morning, Weiss is helping an actor to determine his objectives in a scene from David Mamet’s play “Glengarry Glenn Ross.” He began to teach at the theater after dropping out of the University of Massachusetts. He graduated from Newburgh Free Academy, which features an arts academy with programs in dance—one dance graduate went on to dance with Mark Morris Dance Company—and theater. It should be noted that the productions at Newburgh Free Academy’s arts academy are carefully directed, with sets designed by Centerline Studios, a local company that manufactures sets for other Broadway performances.

Also along (Newburgh’s) Broadway, there is Commodore Chocolatier, run by the Cortsones family, with an extensive assortment of dark, milk and white chocolates prepared in the store and Torino Bakery, with coffee and airy croissants. Veer off Broadway onto Dupont Avenue and find Taco Ticos, a taco shack that specializes in delicacies called meat pies—samosa-like pastries filled with beef, melting cheese and served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Continue along Broadway until you hit Route 300 and make a right to visit Yobo, where Newburgh residents have been enjoying sashimi and sake in Japanese tatami rooms since 1980.

If you come into Newburgh from the south, along the river, you’ll pass large propane bins before you start to notice the first warehouses on the outskirts of the historic district and a tall brick structure on the horizon, where the Downing Film Center is located. There, you can see independent releases, such as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a recent Swedish film. Dick Polich purchased the building and named it the Yellow Bird Building after a Brancusi sculpture. “It’s a beautiful city,” says Polich. “There are a lot of problems but many people are proud of the architectural heritage.” After graduating from MIT with a master’s of fine arts in metallurgy, Polich worked in a high-tech foundry for six years before beginning his work with artists. He owns Polich Tallix, a metal foundry on Route 17K in Rock Tavern. The foundry of 100,000 square feet and forty foot ceilings employs 80 people working on commissions for names such as Jasper Johns, Rob Indiana, Nancy Grays, and Frank Stella.

Starting to Happen

During the 1960s, 2,000 waterfront structures were bulldozed by the city in the process of urban renewal, which included Lyndon Baines Johnson’s decision to partner with Firestone to foster suburban growth with the destruction of urban centers. Unfortunately, a large part of Newburgh’s history was lost, including A. J. Downing’s home. The Yellow Bird Building is one of the only surviving structures along the waterfront. Also remaining is a train station that was designed by Warren and Wetmore, the architects who designed Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. With assistance from the Newburgh Historical Society, Ray Yannone, a local architect, is renovating the structure, which will eventually hold a branch of Cosimo’s restaurant and a nonprofit playhouse. A stairway at the building’s side will lead to the waterfront and its string of upscale restaurants, including Torches. Yannone was also active in the design of Heritage Park on the accompanying hill, which was redesigned using original Calvert Vaux sketches. Vaux designed Central Park and came to Newburgh at the suggestion of A.J. Downing, an innovator in American architectural philosophy.

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