Skoufis Honors Melanie Collins and Michele McKeon of Newburgh

Senator James Skoufis recently presented Melanie Collins and Michele McKeon of Newburgh with the Senate’s Commendation Award. The Commendation Award is reserved for individuals who have gone above and beyond to help their communities. At the start of the pandemic, Collins and McKeon co-founded the “Newburgh Mutual Aid” community group in coordination with local nonprofits, LYNC and RECAP. Through Newburgh Mutual Aid, Collins and McKeon led the coordination of getting 400,000 pounds of produce and healthy food to families in need. 

For the past many months, Senator Skoufis and his team have kept a running list of community members who went out of their way to help their neighbors during this challenging time. Melanie Collins and Michele McKeon are two individuals whose work in the City of Newburgh has made a difference for thousands of people. 

When the pandemic hit and so many local residents were laid off from work, the already-existing food shortage in the City of Newburgh worsened. Melanie Collins and Michelle McKeon partnered to tackle this head-on; with the help of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley and many volunteers, Collins and McKeon organized food deliveries to those in need throughout the city. The food preparation takes place at the First United Methodist Church where these two women direct and organize the deliveries. Together, they have found a way to help solve this persisting issue by bringing food directly to the people who need it.

“Melanie and Michele stepped up in a selfless and tireless way during the pandemic that no one will ever forget,” said Senator Skoufis. “Make no mistake – these two women are always behind the scenes helping on a number of initiatives in Newburgh, and the Newburgh Mutual Aid group is just one example of the work they constantly do to empower the lives of the people who live here. I’m honored to know and work with them both and look forward to continuing to support their ever-important work.” 

“Food insecurity is not new to Newburgh,”said Melanie Collins, President of LYNC Community organization which spearheaded the effort and ran the distribution program from its headquarters at the old First United Methodist Church. “COVID-19 exacerbated the deep need that already existed in our community, but it also motivated us to take collective action to help our neighbors like never before. Thank you so much to all of our volunteers, to those who have donated goods and services to Newburgh Mutual Aid, especially the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, and to Senator Skoufis for his support.”

“For 55 years RECAP has served Orange County providing programs and services and offering a hand up to those in need,” said Charles Quinn, CEO of RECAP, the county’s anti-poverty program. “As we learned from the tornado in 2018, access to food was going to be a huge issue in the City of Newburgh. Food insecurity does not only occur during a pandemic but daily in our cities and rural communities.  It is the part of the work RECAP will continue to do throughout the county and as a partner in Newburgh Mutual Aid.  Thank you to Senator Skoufis for recognizing the efforts of LYNC and RECAP through Newburgh Mutual Aid.  His support and recognition of our efforts is very much appreciated.”

Senator Skoufis and his staff assisted Newburgh Mutual Aid with a number of deliveries. Collins and McKeon plan to continue to expand their work as LYNC transforms the First United Methodist Church into a new community hub called High Point, which is set to open in early 2022. 

Community members who are interested in learning more about how to help with Newburgh Mutual Aid can visit the Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/collectivelyhelping.

Stop & Shop Donates 500 Holiday Turkeys

Stop & Shop’s Turkey Express program donated 500 Thanksgiving Turkeys to The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley at the Stop & Shop in Newburgh located on Route 300 in Newburgh last week.

Unlike a flood or storm that affects a limited area, the COVID-19 disaster is unique in that it is affecting communities in all the counties the Food Bank serves. The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley is committed to meeting the food needs of people who are negatively impacted by this crisis. It is the only not-for-profit in the region that can respond on such a wide scale, and it takes that obligation very seriously. Since March 16, 2020, the Food Bank has: Provided 13.3 million pounds of food, 11 million meals through daily distributions to partner agencies to help them serve the growing number of people seeking assistance, a 53% increase over the same period last year. It has Shipped over 1.3 million pounds of food  almost 1.1 million meals for special distributions in six counties and other hard hit communities to meet the needs of thousands of people, many of whom are unemployed and in need of food assistance for the first time. It has provided over 41 hundred meals for restaurant/hospitality workers who have been especially hard hit by mandated business closings and provided 66% more food to 59 school Back Pack Programs including meat, eggs, milk, and juice for sites that can safely store and distribute perishables. And it has provided more than 173 thousand meals to almost 34 hundred seniors living in senior housing sites.

Stop & Shop’s Turkey Express program will deliver more than 18,000 turkeys to hunger relief organizations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York this holiday season.

Local Surges Bring Yellow COVID-19 Caution Zones

By Edie Johnson

UPDATE: Highland Lakes was added as another Yellow Zone on 11/19 along with the City of Newburgh, Town of New Windsor and City of Middletown.
In a Mid-Hudson ZOOM Meeting CE’s of Orange, Putnam, Dutchess and Ulster counties discussed “How we got here, and what should we do now.” See review of that meeting online later today.

11/18 -When a spike this week in Orange County identified 203 diagnosed COVID-19 cases in just one day, along with  a leap of total cases  from 14559 to 15345 by Wednesday,  conference calls between the County, Local Officials and State of New York  on Tuesday foretold that  the City of Newburgh, Town of New Windsor and  City of Middletown could expect to be designated yellow viral caution zones by Thursday. As a yellow caution zone,  the implications include limitations of 50% of capacity at church services and a limit of 25 person assemblies  elsewhere.  A spike in cases was expected with the onset of colder weather and people spending more time in close quarters, but the degree of this spike was alarming.  Orange County Health Commissioner Irena Gelman has issued a list of precautions for Thanksgiving family gatherings (see page 3).  Schools may be required to do additional testing and/or have remote learning if a student is exposed.  Municipalities have been encouraged to adopt additional precautionary measures such as rotating office staff so that if one tests positive that entire section of workers will not have to be quarantined.

There may be good news on the horizon, however.  Medical research companies have reported extremely positive results this week, with vaccine efficacy results in the upper 90th percentile, including the new RNA modifier version as well as a more traditional vaccine of attenuated virus that is showing especially good results for the senior population.  The race is on for production now. While millions of doses are already being produced, they will first be given to essential workers like doctors, nurses, emergency medical services , the elderly, and others with high risk factors.

Joe Donat, City Manager of Newburgh, said that the City is taking all possible precautions, is limiting access to the building,  and is ready to have non-essential personnel work remotely if necessary.  With the City’s population currently at 30,000, the number of COVID positive cases is about 2,030.  But don’t let the numbers fool you.  Municipalities with a higher population count will obviously have higher numbers.  A percent of population would  be a more meaningful measure.   Donat also said that with outside temperatures plummeting this week, the warming centers are busy and there are many outreach workers on the job to help the homeless and poor of the City.  Ironically, he said that with so many companies looking to move farther out from New York City, the City of Newburgh is experiencing bidding wars for available property, and he hopes that will continue when the emergency is over.  And by and large the population is abiding by recommendations.  A walk or drive through Newburgh shows people distancing and almost all are wearing masks.

In New Windsor, Supervisor George Meyers said that he too is going to limit access to Town Hall, beginning Thursday and Friday.  Unfortunately, he said, “Many people seem to want to pay their tax and water bills in person at the Town Hall”, whereas it would be safer to mail in a check.  Meyers said that they have had warnings that this surge might be imminent, because of frequency of ambulance calls. Most often they are from the western areas of town. He remains concerns that a yellow zone could change to orange or read easily, and says he will take all preventive measures possible.

Blooming Grove, whose Village of South Blooming Grove shares a small southern border with Town of Palm Tree,  had  19 cases on Monday and 18 on Tuesday, raising their total to 482 out of a population of about 18,000.  Half of it’s Highway Department had to go on quarantine after one member felt ill, tested positive, and experienced  24 hours of virus symptoms. Fortunately none had to be hospitalized. Supervisor Rob Jeroloman acted quickly to split staffing and switch to ZOOM meetings for Town Board, Planning and ZBA as of Nov. 30. Town Hall is closed except by appointment . He said that during the conference call they were cautioned that county hospital ICU beds which had maintained available beds in the 70%’s had dropped to nearly 30%. Highway Superintendent, Wayne Kirkpatrick said that the employee who first became ill had no warning whatsoever.  He was at work, feeling fine, but toward the end of the day was not feeling well. He went home and then came up with a positive test, thus pointing out the real danger of carrying the virus unknowingly.  While he was asymptomatic, he apparently carried the virus to other team members. Kirkpatrick said that he was gratified that other highway departments called to offer help if needed, even though some of them were shorthanded as well, along with one area highway department that is essentially closed down.  He added that with rotation and Building Department  and Central Garage cross-training, residents should not be worried whether snow  plowing and other work will be done, “Rest assured, the plowing will get done”. Supervisor Jeroloman added that the Town has permission in the unlikely event that it needed to they could hire private contractors.  Police, fire, and ambulance departments, he said, already function under a rotation pattern.  The Senior Center is closed, but the 2 individuals that do Meals On Wheels will be able to continue to provide them, and other office employees on rotation will have laptops available along with plenty of assignments to do from home.

While there has been a definite surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the area, the death rate in Orange County has remained relatively stable and is currently at 514.

City of Newburgh Classified as “Yellow Zone”

In response to the recent “Yellow Zone” designation by the State of New York, the City of Newburgh urges all residents and businesses to double down on efforts to keep the community healthy and safe.

What does it mean to be designated a “Yellow Zone?”
A “Yellow Zone” area either is put in place as a broader buffer area to ensure a COVID outbreak is not spreading into the broader community (“Yellow Buffer Zone”) OR is implemented independently based on the below metrics (“Yellow Precautionary Zone”). The purpose of a Yellow Buffer Zone is to 1)restrict some activity to help prevent further spread from Red and/or Orange Warning Zone area; 2) provide a larger defined geographic area where metrics can be monitored daily to ensure COVID is not spreading beyond the Red Zone or Orange Warning Zone.
 
How does our status as a “Yellow Zone” affect me, my family, or my business?
Once the geographic focus area has been formed, including buffer areas where necessary, the state will implement appropriate restrictions which are listed below to limit spread of the virus. In addition, all zone areas will be subject to:

 Increased community testing efforts
 Increased enforcement and compliance efforts
 Outreach from state officials to support local containment and educational efforts
 Increased contact tracing support
 Increased public education outreach where necessary
 
Activity Restrictions
Houses of Worship: Capacity is immediately reduced to 50% until further notice.
Non-Residential gatherings: Maximum attendance is reduced to 25 individuals regardless if their location be outdoors or indoors.
Residential gathering: Maximum attendance is reduced to 10 individuals regardless if their location be outdoors or indoors.
Local Businesses: Remain open and must continue to adhere to already adopted CDC guidelines and sanitary practices.
Dining: Indoor & outdoor dining is reduced to only accommodate a four (4) person maximum per table and must continue to adhere to already adopted CDC guidelines and sanitary practices.
Schools: May remain open, however, there will be a mandatory twenty (20%) percent weekly testing of students, teachers, and staff for in-person settings.

Testing Locations
For the most updated list of testing sites, please visit the NY State Website:
https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-near-you .
In addition to the restrictions listed above, everyone must to adhere to the Executive Order(s) issued by the State of New York and reduce the spread as the pandemic enters into flu season. A full list of the Executive Orders issued by the State of New York can be found via: https://www.governor.ny.gov/executiveorders .
Over the last several weeks, the City of Newburgh and the surrounding region has seen significant upticks in cases, and the advisory being issued today is meant to safeguard against increased exposure. Residents are encouraged to avoid non-essential functions including out-of-state travel and remain in
compliance with applicable guidelines related to the pandemic. The City of Newburgh applauds the leadership on both the County and State levels. Over the past weekend, the overwhelming majority of the City of Newburgh remained in compliance with Executive Order 202.74, limiting hours of operation
for bars, restaurants and other establishments. As such, the City encourages all residents to limit activities between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM to whatever extent they can. It would be prudent to limit all travel to essential functions and practice social distancing and wearing a mask when doing so.

The COVID Response team in the City of Newburgh will continue to enforce regulations and restrictions from the State of New York and work hand-in-hand with the community to both increase outreach and educational efforts related to the Coronavirus and best practices.

The public is encouraged to remain aware of the steps each of us can take to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Health organizations are working around the clock to ensure people can get assistance for medical and mental health needs. Find information on our Health Resources webpage, including increased testing locations and services in the City of Newburgh website. 

Support Local Businesses
Our local businesses are adapting to rules to encourage social distancing and minimize the spread of COVID-19. We urge the community to continue to support them in this time of need. A list of local businesses and their operations is maintained on the City’s website.

Food Security
Food pantries, phone hotlines, and occasional bulk food events are operating in our community. Please share this information with people who are in need. We maintain a list of these resources and it is updated frequently.

Nonprofits & Community Advocacy
Social services organizations are serving our community’s most vulnerable residents. Find a list of social services organizations and nonprofits in Newburgh on our website.

Blooming Grove Town Board Meeting 11/17 7:30 PM

Blooming Grove’s Town Board Meeting will be held at Town Hall tonight, 11/17, at 7:30 PM. This will be an in person meeting, with a limit on attendees. However, one of the resolutions at tonight’s meeting will be:

To approve, confirm and ratify the actions taken by Town Supervisor regarding the Emergency Order closing Town Hall for Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Town Board in person public meetings due to the increase / spike in positive COVID-19 cases in the Town of Blooming Grove and the County of Orange effective Monday, November 30, 2020 and to authorize the use of ZOOM and /or an equivalent remote video provider…..until further notice.

Other resolutions being considered will include: To authorize the Supervisor to enter into an agreement with Interstate Waste Services for an eight-yard Front Load Container for glass collection at the Highway Garage for an amount not to exceed $350.00 per month for bi-weekly pick up. Several intermunicipal agreements between the Town and the Village of South Blooming Grove are also being considered.

Blooming Grove Highway Dept. Hit With Some COVID-19

After one and then several more Blooming Grove Highway Department workers tested positive for COVID-19 and others who had contact with them were asked to quarantine, Town Supervisor Rob Jeroloman said that of those who tested positive, one was sick with flu-like symptoms for a day, but is doing OK. He added that Building Department and Highway Department personnel have significant cross-training, so there will be little to no impact on any work needing to be done.

Jeroloman also emphasized how important it is that people use common sense, and if they do not feel well, stay home!

CITY OF NEWBURGH SEEKING CHRISTMAS TREE

With the holiday season quickly approaching, the City of Newburgh announces its annual search for a Christmas tree to display on Lower Broadway.

For over 30 years, the City of Newburgh Department of Public Works has sought out, cut down, transported, and decorated the Christmas Tree that is set up outside of City Hall.  The tree must be a Blue Spruce that at least 35 feet high. Trees from past years have originated from within the City limits as well as from other Hudson Valley communities including New Windsor, Town of Newburgh and Marlboro.

Due to COVID-19 related public health concerns, the City of Newburgh will not host a live audience at the 2020 Christmas Tree Lighting. A virtual ceremony will be held and livestreamed via our social media outlets. We encourage everyone to stay home and celebrate in warmth. We ask the public to tag @CityofNewburgh on Facebook or @CityofNewburghnygov on Instagram depicting your anticipation of the lighting of the City of Newburgh Christmas Tree with the hashtag #NBNYvirtualtreelighting.

Any interested party who is aware of a potential tree are encouraged to contact Eliana Diaz, Executive Assistant to the City Manager, at (845) 569-7301 or ediaz@cityofnewburgh-ny.gov. 

Collision on Tuthill Road Requires Extrication


At 2:37pm  Wednesday the Washingtonville Fire Department was dispatched to a serious motor vehicle collision on Tuthill Road in the vicinity of Fox Hollow.  Upon arrival, responding units found a car on its side with the driver still in the vehicle.  Washingtonville Fire Department personnel stabilized the vehicle and extricated the driver.  The driver was turned over to Blooming Grove Volunteer Ambulance personnel for evaluation and treatment.  Blooming Grove PD was present at the scene. (Photos provided by Gary Hearn)

DA Hoovler Announces Murder Charges In Missing City of Newburgh Woman

Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced on Friday, November 6, 2020, that Matthew Mercado, 37, of Newburgh, was arraigned before Orange County Court Judge William L. DeProspo on charges including Murder in the Second Degree, in connection with the death of 36-year-old Jessica Lopez, a City of Newburgh woman who was last seen on November 3, 2019, at the Windsor Motel in the Town of New Windsor.  Jessica Lopez’ body has not been found after a year’s search, but the DA believes there is sufficient evidence to issue the charges.

Mercado had previously been indicted on charges including Burglary in the Second Degree for breaking into room 32 of the Windsor Motel on November 3, 2019, at about 1:35 AM, and stealing two bags from the three young woman who had been sleeping in the room at the time.  Mercado has been continually incarcerated since his arrest on November 6, 2019, in connection with those charges.  The District Attorney’s Office superseded that case in the Grand Jury and asked the Grand Jury to consider additional evidence concerning the disappearance of Jessica Lopez, who had been staying with Mercado in room 33 of the Windsor Motel the night of Saturday, November 2, 2019, into the morning of Sunday, November 3, 2019.  The Grand Jury indicted Mercado for Murder in the Second Degree for intentionally killing Jessica Lopez in room 33 of the motel as Ms. Lopez was attempting to leave the motel at approximately 5:00 AM on November 3, 2019.  The Grand Jury also indicted Mercado for a separate count of Murder in the Second Degree for having killed Ms. Lopez during the commission of a robbery or kidnapping of her.  Robbery under the law  is forcibly stealing property. Mercado is charged with two counts of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree for having stolen Ms. Lopez bank card and stealing approximately $1,500 from her account, most of which was taken out in ATM withdrawals starting at approximately 9:00 AM on November 3, 2019.