Building on Broadway presents a quandary in Newburgh

A downtown Newburgh building that one area leader called an “architectural gem” is at risk of collapsing onto Broadway, while city leaders and the property owner debate its future.

Newburgh city engineer Jason Morris told the City Council Dec. 13 that inspectors determined the southeast corner of the building is “tearing away.” The Department of Public Works established a buffer zone around the 150-year-old building, blocking traffic on Carpenter Street and blocking one lane on Broadway.

Many neighbors blame the property owner and city code enforcers for letting the building deteriorate this much.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Wilber Ruiz of Newburgh. “Somebody walking past here — look at that.”

James Polk of Newburgh said, “One: It’s old. Two: It’s coming down. Let it come down.”

What You Need To Know

  • Newburgh city ngineer Jason Morris told the City Council that inspectors determined the southeast corner of the building is tearing away
  • Building owner Benny Papaleo hired a structural engineer to determine whether the building can be saved, Mayor Torrance Harvey said Monday
  • Court proceedings involving both sides were adjourned until Jan. 13
  • After several conversations with city leaders it was still unclear what, if anything, is being done to shore up the building

The future of the building will likely be up to the property owner, Benny Papaleo. Employees at Papaleo’s nearby auto repair business said Wednesday he was not available to answer questions and took a message.

Papaleo owns several properties in Newburgh and has requested to buy additional city properties to expand his business, several city officials said, adding that they would try to block those purchases if Papaleo does not make good on 242 Broadway.

A group of neighbors led by Orange County historian Johanna Porr Yaun are lobbying the council to use every possible outlet to save the building from demolition and keep its Mansard roof.

“Saving this building is necessary to keeping the fabric of our historic main street entact,” Porr Yaun told the council during the December 13 meeting, noting that historic building designs are a tourism draw.

Even State Sen. James Skoufis wrote members of the council on Dec. 16, urging them to “stabilize rather than demolish” if a court were to permit the city to take action, and “take whatever steps necessary to compel the owner to repair the building.”

If the city were to take control of the property and then choose to demolish the building, the initial cost to the city would be more than $200,000, some officials have estimated, though all council members said they support a plan to stabilize the building.

Councilman Anthony Grice said Wednesday whatever costs the city might incur by stabilizing the building would be recovered by billing Papaleo for them or, if necessary, adding them to his tax bill.

“He would not get out of that bill,” Grice said. “There’s no way of getting out of it. There’s no way they could go to court and get out of paying this bill — that’s not a thing.”

Papaleo has hired a structural engineer to determine whether the building can be saved, Mayor Torrance Harvey said Monday. The city and Papaleo have been in court proceedings this week, but both sides agreed Wednesday to adjourn until Jan. 13.

After several conversations with city leaders, it was still unclear what — if anything — is immediately being done to shore up the building.

Some city officials are also worried about a transformer next to the building.

Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde said Wednesday she was informed by administrators that if the building were to collapse and damage the transformer, it could cut power to much Broadway in downtown.

In his letter, Skoufis also suggested the council invest more in code enforcement, a department multiple city officials admitted needs an overhaul.

“I’d say it’s codes who dropped the ball and didn’t keep an eye on this building and this owner,” Monteverde said.

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