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Friday, April 11, 2014

ARE THE BAD GUYS WINNING IN NEWBURGH?

What a week.  First, we found out that the Powers That Be in Newburgh and Beyond have a Plan to make the Newburgh Rowing Club Boathouse go bye-bye, for no good reason; and second, we found out there have been gunshots fired and vehicles hit very close to our kids’ school during school hours.  I will be honest, the only thing that has made me feel better has been sitting online looking at real estate in Sarasota, Florida.  And when one of Newburgh’s biggest cheerleaders is thinking about moving to the Sunshine State, you have to wonder, are the Bad Guys winning?   


First, we have to identify who the Bad Guys are.  I have a few facts but mostly I am left with questions.  Here goes.  FACT:  Steelways did not win any of its bids for the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuilding project.  Sad for Newburgh because that would have brought in a lot of jobs for the City of Newburgh.  But that should be good news for the Newburgh Rowing Club, because we don’t have to move our Boathouse out to New Windsor, or to downsize to a smaller spot on the river, right?  Wrong.  The Newburgh Rowing Club Boathouse was built by volunteers over the course of 10 years and is now a beautiful 6,000 square foot facility with boat storage bays that house multiple 60-foot long 8-man crew shells and a total of over 75 vessels from kayaks, canoes, gig boats, motor boats and crew shells; a boat repair bay; large meeting room; 2 locker rooms; 3 bathrooms; upstairs workout facility with more than 30 ergometers (indoor rowing machines); and a weight room.  

FACT:  our Boathouse has been valued at One Million Dollars.  We are the envy of many rowing clubs, not only for our beautiful location on the majestic Hudson River, but because most clubs with big Boathouses are severely in debt.  Our Boathouse is fully paid off.  We sit on land owned by the City of Newburgh.  We are the licensees of a city park called the Ward Brothers Memorial Park, that is the only open park land in Newburgh that isn’t adjacent to restaurants and commercial activity.  We have docks that can launch both crew shells for a Major Regatta (our biggest brings in 1,000 people and is the largest athletic event in the City of Newburgh) and can host kayakers, who consider the Newburgh Rowing Club a major destination.  We have park benches and picnic tables, a fully electric Picnic pavilion, and fisherman, kayakers and families love to come down to fish, picnic, and barbecue.  We ARE the backyard for much of the City of Newburgh.  Where else can you walk down from the City of Newburgh and have a picnic and have the same view that FDR and the Vanderbilts enjoyed?

As for walking down to the park, we service almost 80 Student Ambassadors through “America Rows Newburgh”, an official affiliate of USRowing, a scholarship-based inclusion rowing program.  Many of the kids walk down to the Boathouse.  Where does the money for the scholarships come from?  Grants that Mrs. Lo and Big Coach’s sister have written, which are based on granting access to the Hudson River to city residents.  If there is no Hudson River park, there is no funding for the most amazing program for kids in the City of Newburgh.  On any given summer night, you can see dozens of young student ambassadors kayaking during practice, while the older kids row in crew shells, the type of boats you would see in the Olympics; fisherman dangling a line off the rocks; and families picnicking at our many picnic tables.  Parents love to come down and sit on the park benches and watch their kids on the water.  

In addition to the scholarship based program, the Boathouse leases space to the NFA High School Crew team, with about 70 high school kids, and the Storm King Crew Team, both of which are sources of income.  We also have tuition paying members, which helps defray our costs.  Our program offerings range from After School Fitness, Recreational Rowing, and Learn to Row, to Middle School Sculling and Competitive Rowing for the more advanced rowers.  In addition, we have a very active and lucrative Summer Rowing Camp, which will run for 4 weeks this Summer, and hosts upward of 200 summer campers from all over the Hudson Valley.  They have so much fun, kayaking, canoeing, doing arts and crafts and having Pirate Days.  Everyone loves it. Having to move our Boathouse to New Windsor -- Brown’s Pond, which is a reservoir owned by the City -- would have changed all that but the Board of the Newburgh Rowing Club didn’t want to stand in the way of progress for Newburgh.  That was back when there was talk of Steelways maybe winning the Tappan Zee bid.  But they did not win any bids.

FACT:  There are no commercial backers for a “Port of Newburgh.”  Remember all those press conferences?  Right, well with Steelways not getting the Tappan Zee bids, there is no one left who could pay for the tearing down and re-building of a Million Dollar Boathouse.  FACT:  the Powers That Be have reached out to the rowing club to say they still want to “plan” a Port of Newburgh and seek grants for the planning phase.  And cross their fingers and hope they can find some money to build it.  OK, that’ nice but, is there a very real possibility that the Boathouse will get torn down, the Park will be “moved” somewhere and the Powers That Be will not find the money to build a Port of Newburgh?  And that there will no no money to re-build our Million Dollar Boathouse? Umm, yeah, that’s possible.  Very possible.

FACT:  I can’t fit 80 kids in my car to truck them up to New Windsor and they can’t walk there.  FACT:  there have been no public hearings on any of this. FACT:  in Cortlandt Manor, where Big Coach is helping the Cortlandt Community Rowing Association start a new rowing club, their town is so completely behind them that the town has gifted them the land on the Hudson River as well as on a lake, and has bought them docks.  FACT:  Newburgh is not Cortlandt Manor.

The same week that the parents got the news that the Powers That Be would still like to plan a Port where the Newburgh Rowing Club is, the Bishop Dunn parents also got a series of emails about shots fired very near the school during the school day, with vehicles being hit.  In other words, crossfire between the Street Version Of The “Powers That Be” in their war for control of the streets.  So what’s a parent to do, when we are caught in the crossfire between the different Powers That Be?  The ones that wear suits and the ones that answer to gang names are both Powers That Be, just in different arenas of Newburgh.

FACT:  the Newburgh Rowing Club doesn’t own the land, just the Boathouse, and like any tenant farmer in Jolly Old England, if the gentried Landowner says, take your cows and get out, we’re out.  But while cows can be moved down the road, moving a Million Dollar Boathouse is not so easy.  What is easy:  playing basketball, all you need is a hoop, some plywood, and a nail.  Also, playing baseball, football, soccer.  Having a rowing club is hard in a place where the Powers That Be don’t value fishing, kayaking, picnicking, Learn to Row, hosting Regattas, and Summer Camp.  The Powers That Be would say, hey there is the possibility of a big payday down the line for a Port.  But that’s the thing, it’s just a possibility.  There is not one single commercial backer.

Sarasota isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either.  Honestly, if I were going to pick up and move, I’d probably go someplace where everybody would love to have a Team Mom that can help them fundraise and a place where the town is thrilled to have a brand new rowing club.  Cortland Manor is looking pretty good.  They even have a Feral Cat program, and that’s the sign of a friendly town.

So what’s a mother to do?  In the meantime, we will do what we always do, pray for our family and friends, pray for the City of Newburgh, pray for the Newburgh Rowing Club, and yes, pray for the Powers That Be, both the ones in suits and the ones running the Streets.

The more uplifting Mrs. Lo Blog will be back Saturday morning.  In the meantime, that’s how Mrs. Lo sees it <3 Mrs. Lo