Thursday, February 2, 2017

A man who remembers urban renewal




Out in all weathers, our friend, a man we have encountered several times during the filming of Newburgh: Portrait of a City, was eager to talk of Newburgh's troubles, but equally as eager to point out what a beautiful place it is.

"It is also home," he said.

I saw him recently and asked him if he could spare a moment. As always he smiled and said, yes, of course.

First he told us that in spite of the wheelchair he was in good health. He said that this was because when he goes to the store, he always parks his wheel chair outside and walks round the store.

Then he told us that what started Newburgh on the downhill path was that the city was never rebuilt after urban renewal.

"Much of the east end, leading down to the river, was torn down. This was where the factories were and where the blacks lived," he said. "But the rebuilding never took place. The funds were paid to the city but the city manager disappeared soon after — and the funds disappeared at the same time. I know this because I was at school with the city manager's daughter. It was close to graduation but she didn't turn up for the ceremony and we never saw here again."

The injury that put him in a wheel chair was received at work, and not, he said, from an attack which he then described to us:

"The worst thing that ever happened to me was when I moved from downtown Newburgh, in the east end, to uptown, in the west end. My house got broke into and I got beat with a baseball bat. The gentleman told me I need to go back downtown with the rest of the blacks. And he didn't use the word blacks either." 

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