Community, Former NFL Pros Join Forces To Tackle Veteran Suicide

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Veterans and football players, as well as former New York Giants’ wide receiver Odessa Turner, at the Play For Your Freedom first anniversary football classic at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center on Jan. 25. (photo by Mark Gerlach)

By Mark Gerlach

A friendly football game was played at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center on Jan. 25 to help battle veteran suicide.

“A good friend of mine came back from war carrying things on his shoulders that nobody knew how to understand or even what to look for,” David Lionheart, Play For Your Freedom founder, said at the event. “And it opened up my eyes to what veterans are going through on a daily basis. We decided to take action and to try to become an outlet for that, using physical fitness and peer-to-peer support, as a way to get our veterans back on track and get back into a society, a free society, that they fought for.”

Play For Your Freedom helps veterans suffering from wounds, both “seen and unseen,” use exercise and peer support to help with their recovery process, the organization’s website says. The group partners with local hospitals, and provides wellness workshops for veterans.

Wednesday’s game was Play For Your Freedom’s first anniversary football classic. Odessa Turner, a retired NFL wide receiver who won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants, was a guest coach at the game. Veterans on hand could play, if they wanted, or watch the game from the sidelines.

Other players that have taken part in past events include Stephen Baker of the New York Giants, Gary Brown of the Green Bay Packers and Damian Gregory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Retired players guest coach during the game as a morale booster, Lionheart said. About 435 veterans have taken part in the program since it began, he said.

The Newburgh Armory Unity Center field was donated for more than a year to Play For Your Freedom. Lionheart thanked businessman and philanthropist William Kaplan, founding chairman of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, for letting the veterans and players use the field.

To read the full article see the Jan., 27 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post.

An Interview With… Deirdre Glenn, Stalwart Crusader For A Better Newburgh

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(photo courtesy of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center)

By Mark Gerlach

Deirdre Glenn grew up in the Heights section of the City of Newburgh in the 1950s and ’60s. After working as an archeologist, living in Ireland and two unsuccessfully attempts at retirement, Glenn’s current mission is to navigate the city toward a blossoming renaissance.

Glenn, 71, works as the city’s director of planning and development. Her passion for helping Newburgh make smart development decisions is palpable, and visible in her eyes as she speaks. She has a deep-rooted relationship with the city, as well as durable admiration for its architecture, streets, history and people.

“Newburgh is very interesting, very diverse and has always been an urban center. We have to keep that quality about ourselves,” she said. “Not only do we have beautiful buildings and a beautiful landscape, but we have a very rich diversity in people.”

Glenn graduated Newburgh Free Academy, about 23rd in her class, and scored high on the Regents’ exams, she said. She was awarded a Regents’ scholarship, attended one year at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y. near the Finger Lakes and ended up at New York University, where she studied art history.

“I realized I wasn’t the country-schoolgirl type,” she said.

Glenn entered college thinking she’d be a social worker or lawyer. However, she was influenced by her godmother, who was involved in ballet, theater and worked as a librarian at the Museum of Modern Art. She spent “endless hours on weekends” at the theater and the museum, she said. “It never occurred to me that people majored in art history,” Glenn joked. As a liberal arts student she took an art history course, and then majored in the field.

To read the full article see the Friday, Dec. 2 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post. 

City Determines Path for Distributing Tax Increases

By Mark Gerlach

The City of Newburgh came to a fork in the road pertaining to its 2017 budget this week – distribute a tax increase among homestead and non-homestead properties, or dish out a sizeable increase to non-homestead properties, while homesteads would receive a tax decrease. The city council ultimately chose the former by a close 4-3 vote.

The decision followed a lengthy discussion, while the council decided which path to travel down.
“Everybody on this council that I’ve talked to believe the taxes are too high,” Mayor Judy Kennedy said at the Nov. 28 meeting. “And some of us are very much struggling to pay our own taxes.”

The chosen route, dubbed “Resolution A,” includes a $19.66 tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation for homestead properties, an increase of 13 cents or 0.68 percent from 2016. The non-homestead tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation is $26.13, an increase of 30 cents or 1.16 percent from 2016. In this scenario, taxes on a $200,000 property would increase $26.45 for homestead for an estimated total of about $3,932, and $59.70 for non-homestead for an estimated total of about $5,226.

Council members voting for the “Resolution A” path included Kennedy, as well as Regina Angelo, Genie Abrams and Karen Mejia.

“Homeowners, since the economic crisis in 2008, have lost services, have paid higher taxes on property, in addition to the fact that we do have a large senior community and those seniors are homeowners. They are longtime stakeholders in this community,” Councilman Torrance Harvey said. “They have complained to me in large numbers that they cannot afford an increase in their homeowner’s taxes. Seniors are being priced out of our community. Elderly are being priced out of our community by raising taxes on their homes that they’ve owned for 20, 30 and 40 years.”

Harvey and council members Cindy Holmes and Hillary Rayford shot down “Resolution A.” The city’s total 2017 budget is $62 million, with $44 million in its general fund. The city’s budget is under the state’s tax cap mandate, which is 2 percent, or the rate of inflation.

To read the full article see the Friday, Dec. 2 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post. 

Multiple Shootings Jolt City

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Investigators standing outside 119 Broadway, the site of an Oct. 30 Halloween party shooting that took the lives of two young Newburgh women, 20-year-old Tabitha Cruz and 18-year-old Omani Free. (photo by Bob Root)

Two young women killed in deadly Halloween party shooting

By Mark Gerlach

The City of Newburgh was plagued by a number of shootings this week.

Two young City of Newburgh women, 20-year-old Tabitha Cruz and 18-year-old Omani Free, died in a shooting that took place at a Halloween party inside 119 Broadway. The incident occurred at about 12:43 a.m. on Oct. 30. Five others were struck by gunfire, but are expected to recover from their injuries, police said.

A suspect, 17-year-old Nija Johnson of Newburgh, has been identified by police and is wanted for murder in the second degree. A $2,500 reward is being offered “for information that leads to the location, arrest and conviction of Johnson,” Johnson’s “wanted” poster says. Johnson had not been apprehended as of press time Thursday.

Cruz graduated Newburgh Free Academy in 2014. She loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian, her obituary said. Free was reportedly a senior at the high school.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the City of Newburgh Police Department at 845-561-3131. 

Two other City of Newburgh men were arrested in connection with the incident. Rainer Hamilton, 21, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, a handgun, in the second degree and tampering with physical evidence, both felonies. Tyson Oliveira, 20, was charged with felony tampering with physical evidence. The suspects are believed to have assisted the shooter immediately after the incident, but are not accused of committing the shooting, police said.

The investigation is being conducted by city and state police, as well as the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Other gun-related incidents were reported in the city this week.

To read the full article see the Friday, Oct. 28 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post. 

Man Charged With Murder in Shooting of New Windsor Teen

By Mark Gerlach

A suspect has been charged with murder in the shooting of Keyshan Gayle.

Gayle, 18, of New Windsor was shot and killed at the corner of Fullerton Avenue and Third Street in the City of Newburgh on Aug. 30. He suffered a single gunshot wound to the back, and was found lying on the ground when police arrived. Gayle was pronounced dead at the St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital emergency room in Newburgh.

Twenty-two-year-old Tyler Castro of Newburgh was arrested on Oct. 12 in connection with the incident and charged with murder in the second degree. Castro was held in city court, and arraigned on Oct. 13. He’s scheduled to appear in court again later this month before Judge E. Loren Williams.

State police and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office are helping with the investigation, an announcement from the City of Newburgh Police Department said.

Since Gayle’s death, there has been a push for broken streetlights and security cameras in the city to be fixed, as well as more cameras to be added. Gayle graduated Newburgh Free Academy last summer.

“My son was murdered in the perfect atmosphere, non-working streetlights, and a non-working camera,” Jennifer Bediako, Gayle’s mother, said at a Sept. 12 meeting at the city’s Activity Center.

Central Hudson has repaired 133 streetlights, which were blown out, City Manager Michael Ciaravino said at an Oct. 11 city council meeting. The city has more than 4,000 operational streetlights, Ciaravino said.

Newburgh recently installed wireless street cameras. In addition, equipment was ordered and a company has been hired to install 14 cameras, replacing old ones, at a cost of about $55,000, he said. The city aims to take money from its formerly proposed skateboard park, and allocate it toward a security camera project.

City Takes Steps To Beef Up Camera Surveillance

By Mark Gerlach

The City of Newburgh is taking steps to allocate money toward purchasing new surveillance cameras and fixing its old ones.

The Department of Justice allowed the city to repurpose $152,031 for new security cameras. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney pushed to have the money green-lighted from a previously-approved grant.

The city received about $460,000 to create safer neighborhoods and reduce gang and gun violence in Oct. 2015. The lawmakers said the approximately $152,000 wasn’t released at that time, in March 2016, and was stuck in limbo, an announcement from the politicians said.

The city is also trying to use money it has for a skateboard park slated for Delano-Hitch Recreation Park for cameras. The council hopes to get the park built for a lower cost, which may include it being redesigned. A resolution was passed to reject the bids the city received for the new skateboard park. The price tag on the skateboard park is in the ballpark of $560,000.

To read the full article see the Friday, Sept. 30 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post. 

Suspect Charged in Connection With Summer Shooting

By Mark Gerlach

Devin Isaac, 17, of the City of Newburgh was found by police in Staten Island and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the August shooting of Deandric Little.

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Devin Isaac. (photo provided)

Little, 29, of the Town of Newburgh was fatally shot at the corner of South and Chambers streets on Aug. 1. He was admitted to St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital’s emergency room on Dubois Street in Newburgh and transferred to Westchester Medical Center, where he died from the injury.

Isaac was arraigned on the murder charge in city court on Sept. 28. He pleaded not guilty. The case was transferred to a higher court. An upcoming court date was unknown as of press time Thursday, although he’s still scheduled to attend a city court date on Oct. 4, according to Orange County Jail where he’s being held without bail.

The City of Newburgh Police Department, state police and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office are investigating the incident. Their investigation pointed to Isaac as a suspect in the shooting, police said. After obtaining an arrest warrant on a charge of murder in the second degree, Isaac was captured on Sept. 22 by the New York City Police Department in Staten Island.

He allegedly possessed a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest. Police couldn’t confirm if the handgun is the same one used in the shooting. Isaac faces felony weapons charges in New York City.

In the city police statement, it was highlighted that a criminal charge is an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty after a fair trial.

State Rolling out Contamination Testing for City Residents

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Filter tanks were installed at Washington Lake recently to treat contaminated water, and redirect the clean water into Silver Stream. The process is being done to lower the lake’s water level, so other bodies of water aren’t contaminated. (photo by Bob Root)

By Mark Gerlach 

The state Department of Health is rolling out tests to see if the health of City of Newburgh residents has been impacted by high levels of a chemical called Perfluorooctane Sulfonate, or PFOS, in its water supply.

“The NYS Department of Health is working with our federal partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to develop a plan for biomonitoring in Newburgh,” a statement from the DOH said. “We are working expeditiously to finalize the details and will be releasing more information in the coming weeks.”

Biomonitoring examines, generally through blood and urine testing, how much toxic chemicals are in the body.

Politicians lauded the announcement.

“From the moment this health crisis was discovered I have continuously called on the New York State Department of Health to become more active in its response, to offer blood testing, and to create a health assessment program for the greater Newburgh community,” state Senator Bill Larkin said. “I applaud the Department of Health for their decision to finally offer blood testing and am hopeful that federal, state, and local officials will continue working together to protect the welfare of those exposed to contaminated water.”

The DOH started conducting a private well survey earlier this month in the vicinity of Stewart Air National Guard Base, the site believed to be the source of the contamination, Larkin’s office said.

“This survey will serve to identify whether or not private wells in this area have PFOS contamination,” Larkin said.

The DOH recommends those using private wells to consider using bottled water for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula until their well is tested, according to Larkin’s office. Private wells can be tested for free, his office said. Call 518-402-7880 to see if you’re eligible for free testing.

“My neighbors in Newburgh deserve clean drinking water, and they deserve to know of any health risks they may be facing because of years of unsafe drinking water,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said in a statement. “I’m glad that the (state) DOH has agreed with our call to test folks in Newburgh for contamination – this is a critical step to learning the extent of our exposure and determining the potential health effects of our drinking water.”

The news comes as a public meeting about city water contamination will be held on Sept. 19 at Mount Saint Mary College. The meeting, which will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., is in Aquinas Hall. Environmental Protection Agency and City of Newburgh representatives, as well as other agencies, will take part in the discussion.

The city used Washington Lake as its water supply until a state of emergency was declared in May because of high PFOS levels in the lake, which were elevated beyond anticipated EPA guidelines. The state of emergency was lifted in about 24 hours, after the city switched its water supply to Brown’s Pond, and later to the Catskill aqueduct.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation previously labeled the Stewart Air National Guard Base a Superfund site, meaning that it’s believed to contain pollution and need cleanup. The U.S. Department of Defense was called out by the DEC as a possible source of the contamination.

A contractor was hired by the DEC to decrease Washington Lake’s water level to prevent PFOS from spilling over the lake’s dam and polluting other water bodies in the Quassaick Creek watershed. The extracted water will be treated with portable granular activated carbon treatment units and pumped into Silver Stream.

Petition Aims to Add Cameras in City

By Mark Gerlach

A petition is circulating after Keyshan Gayle, 18, lost his life to a gunshot wound in the City of Newburgh late last month. The petition is asking for more cameras to be added in the City of Newburgh to monitor and light up its streets.

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Keyshan Gayle. (photo provided)

Jennifer Bediako, Gayle’s mother, spoke at a Newburgh City Council meeting on Sept. 12 at the city’s Activity Center, saying she supports the petition. “My son was murdered in the perfect atmosphere, non-working streetlights, and a non-working camera,” Bediako said, fighting back tears. “It was pitch black in front of that store that night. This is not acceptable.”

Gayle was waiting for a friend to leave the store when someone pulled up and starting shooting, Bediako said. “My son was not the intended target,” she said. “He didn’t even see it coming. And his killer has not been caught yet.”

If there are functioning cameras in the area criminals might think twice before shooting innocent victims, she said.

The petition had about 2,203 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

“We are demanding the city light up our streets with key cameras in honor of Keyshan Gayle,” the petition, started by Schnekwa McNeil, said. “We are demanding the city act now. A lit city may prevent crime and the working cameras will definitely be a key witness to any crime committed.”

To read the full article see the Friday, Sept. 16 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post. 

 

Primary Day Around The Corner on Sept. 13

Primary elections will be held on Sept. 13. For those outside of the county that day, absentee ballots can be obtained by calling the Board of Elections at 845-360-6500, visiting their website (orangecountygov.com/elections), or in person at their office at 75 Webster Ave. in Goshen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The board’s office will be open for extended absentee balloting on Thursday, Sept. 8 from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 10 from 9 a.m. until noon.

Here’s what to expect on the ballot:

State Senate challenger Christopher Eachus is solo on the Working Families Party line in Blooming Grove, Chester, Cornwall, New Windsor, City of Newburgh, and the Town of Newburgh, among other locations. Eachus is taking on incumbent Republican state Sen. William Larkin in the general election in November. There will be a write-in space for the Women’s Equality Party for the state senator seat in the same locations.

Robert Freehill and Steven Brockett will be on the ballot for county judge on the Green Party ticket in Blooming Grove, Chester, Cornwall, Hamptonburgh, New Windsor, both the city and town of Newburgh, and elsewhere.

Blooming Grove:

Philip Canterino and James O’Donnell will be on the ballot for the Conservative, Independence (District 2), and Republican (District 2) line for an Orange County Legislator seat.

Cornwall:

Michael O’Connor and Lynn A. Beesecker will vie for the Conservative and Independence lines for town justice.

City of Newburgh: Dorcas Brown, Joseph Fogarty, Yvonne Garriques, and Jason Alfred will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s First Ward, District One. Voters can pick two candidates.

Hilary Rayford, Roxie Royal, Daniella Jones, and Benilda Armstead-Jones will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s First Ward, District Two. Voters can pick two candidates.

Charline Boyle, Mark Carnes, and Zina Woody will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s First Ward, District Three. Voters can pick two candidates.

Jerry Maldonado, Luis Fonseca, and Gay Lee will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s First Ward, District Four. Voters can pick two candidates.

Nancy Colas, Kevindaryan Lujan, Ramona Monteverde, and Nadene Speer will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee in the city’s Second Ward, District Two. Voters can pick two candidates.

Lillian Burgarelli, Jason Muller, Jonathan Jacobson, and William Hernandez will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee in the city’s Third Ward, District One. Voters can pick two candidates.

Judith Kennedy, Mary Phillips, Mary Keller, and William Keller will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s Third Ward, District Two. Voters can pick two candidates.

Owen Fraser, Deborah Danzy, and Tamle Hollins will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s Third Ward, District Three. Voters can pick two candidates.

Regina Angelo, Lori Angelo, Robert Sklarz, and Roberto Orduna will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s Third Ward, District Four. Voters can pick two candidates.

Karen McCarthy, Mary Korchinsky, Jeffrey Gardiner will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s Fourth Ward, District One. Voters can pick two candidates.

Patricia Sofokles, Candace Nicholas, and Lisa Dally will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee for the city’s Fourth Ward, District Two. Voters can pick two candidates.

Cindy Holmes, Anissa Williams, Gabrielle Hill, and Yvondra Sims-Bruce will compete to be a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee in the city’s Fourth Ward, District Four. Voters can pick two candidates.