Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Lightbulb Project- Success!

All 52 Light bulbs placed around the City of Newburg are on this unofficial list, but if you are looking for these light bulbs over the course of the next week, some light bulbs may have been moved to different locations.

Watch who's looking at this light bulb
(daylight hours work best when viewing)

#1 - #14 Washington's Headquarters:
    • 13 light bulbs within the park
    • 1 light bulb at the Grand Street Entrance
#15 - #20 Liberty Street:

#21 - #34 Broadway:

#35 - #38 Grand Street:
#39 - #40 Front Street:
#41 - #42 Montgomery Street:

#43 Ann Street:

#44 - #50 Downing Park: 
    • 7 light bulbs in the vicinity of the festivities

#51 Bay View Terrace

#52 188 Liberty: 188 Liberty Street

Light bulbs to be found:  0

Thank you to all the artists who participated, Gerardo Castro for curating, and Newburgh Art Supply.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Lightbulb Project- So Close

Almost all have been spotted, the unofficial updated list only 3 light bulbs shy:

  • Front Street: 2 light bulbs
  • Montgomery Street: 2 light bulbs

  • Downing Park: 6 light bulbs in the vicinity of the festivities

Light bulbs to be found:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Lightbulb Project- Getting Closer

Light bulbs are still appearing around the City, my unofficial updated list (still more to come):


  • Front Street: 2 light bulbs

Light bulbs to be found:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Lightbulb Project- The Search Continues

More light bulbs are appearing around Newburgh, and so far, I've found about half of them. There is such a range in style and mediums used and even in the subjects the artists chose to create.

My unofficial list (so far):

Light bulbs to be found:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Lightbulb Project- First Glimpse

Fifty-two artists created fifty-two 'light bulbs", each being four-foot tall (one actually measure in at six feet) outlines of light bulbs, each being uniquely designed. These light bulbs have been sponsored by various people or businesses and are appearing throughout the city. In no particular order, aside from the order I come across them, these are the locations where light bulbs are to be found:

Two light bulbs, sponsored and displayed at The Wherehouse ( 119 Liberty Street)

Light bulbs by
Amanda J. Light (left) and Amanda Holt McDowell (right)

Artist: Amanda Holt McDowell
 "My love of Newburgh, History, Rabbits and most importantly my very talented Mother (who collaborated with me on this project) are my inspirations for my LightBulb Project. I’m excited to be participating with artists so passionate about Newburgh and the arts.

Artist: Amanda J. Light
"My artwork is a map, marking epiphanies and periods of feeling throughout my experience. Art is also my chosen method of communication, a visual common ground for others on the same journey to relate to and perhaps find answers, or questions, in their own lives."

Light bulbs to be found:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52

Thank you to all the artists who participated,
Gerardo Castro for curating, and Newburgh Art Supply.

If you've spotted light bulbs, let me know where!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

There Are Differences

It's about 4AM and something has been eating away at me the past few hours... This is one of those moments I need to vent or even come across as being preachy, and I want to apologize for that up front.

Everyone has an opinion as to why Newburgh is the way it is, and you could probably rattle off a dozen reasons why without giving it more than a second's thought. The reason that irks me most is the one about the landlords. Not so much that it's about landlords, but that all landlords seem to get lumped together. I hate the term "landlord"; to me it implies a feeling of superiority and we are no longer living in feudal times, but I yet to come across a word or name that has softer sound to it.

Often, Newburgh's issues are blamed on landlords, and the term slumlords comes up constantly. I know a lot of the places are below the standards of living that most of us are used to, and that term should apply, but not all landlords attribute to that issue. I like to think we are one of the good ones, and I get the impression from my tenants that we are, and I think a couple of tenants would attest to that. One tenant sent me a letter not to long ago, which she closed with the words "I love you guys", and another tenant just mentioned she couldn't ask for better landlords.

I know we are not perfect, like we will not be up there that same day when a toilet keeps running or a faucet is developing a small drip, but we are close enough to the place and are there as soon as we get a call that the fire alarms go off at 2AM (which fortunately was no apparent reason; we suspect it was either an electric surge or batteries needing to be replaced) or when an old gas line collapses from the street side, and Central Hudson has to replace the main feed. I don't use a management company because I want to know exactly what's going on in my place and want to make sure things are taken care of in the right way and are not just quick fixes. Things are always in need of repair, floors take no time to get deep gouges in them, relatively new appliances break. The thing is I buy the same sort of things for the house I live in , the only difference is things seem to hold up a lot longer at home. I know its not a matter of quality of items purchased, but how they are cared for, or how they are abused.

You also have to wonder if expectations on either side are unreasonable since any place/property can always use some sort of improvement, but at times you have to look at what necessary as opposed to what you would like to do. One example of an "I'd like to do" is put in a slop sink in the laundry area and mount cabinets in there so the tenants can keep some of there supplies there instead of having to carry them back and forth, but I know that will not be happening in the near future. As you read this though, keep in mind the laundry area was also an "I'd like to do" which I was able to get  done. I recall reading something, somewhere, some time ago, about a place in Newburgh being substandard, with the person giving the reason of the bathroom not having soap dishes or toothbrush holders. I intentionally opt not to put these sorts of things in, but that is a matter of personal preference, not necessity.

Landlords have the reputation as being in it only for the money, and even though we got the place thinking it was an investment, I tend to let an apartment sit empty and tend to turn a prospective tenant away for various reasons rather than have them there so I don't lose a month's rent. In my entire time here, this is the first one year stretch where I have everything rented, but even saying that doesn't give a true picture. I have everything rented, but it doesn't mean I'm getting full rent. One tenant had gotten laid off last year and wasn't able to pay her rent. This tenant keeps her apartment impeccably clean and keeps everything nice, and tenants like this are hard to come across in the area, because the neighborhood is hard to sell. She was straightforward with me; she told me as soon as it happened rather than play games and make excuses as to why the rent was late when the time came. My response was that I'd work with her, but I needed to see something. No set figures put out there, and she's been paying what she can. She just recently caught up through December, thanks to a tax refund, without my asking for money, and I have no intention of starting any eviction processes at this time due to being four months behind. Maybe that will dispel the idea that all landlords are heartless and in it only for the money.

Another issue that comes up is that landlords charge an exorbitant amount of rent and just sit back and collect their money. I was recently watching a city council meeting where someone mentioned how reasonable housing was not available in the area, but the person who spoke just before him had mentioned how he owned a number of building in Newburgh and that a good number of them paid less than $250 a month in rent. He mentioned specific numbers, but I couldn't those figures escape me now. What irked me about this person who said there was no reasonable housing is that he said something along the lines landlords pick up buildings for a penny at auctions and then charge $1,000 a month for rent. When I heard the guy say this, I wanted to jump up and yell "then why don't you buy one and never have to pay rent again."

No one gets a building of a penny. First of all bidding never starts that low, and you are never the only one at an auction bidding on a property. The thing to keep in mind with City auctions is they are primarily properties foreclosed on due to delinquent taxes, and in addition to the bid price, you have to pay back taxes on the property as well. Aside from the auction price and back taxes, most of these buildings need serious work. My place was a shell, and I had to purchase everything you'd need to build a house, expect for the exterior brick, but even then, I had to buy some bricks too. Even if the property went for a penny add the back taxes, add the cost of building a "new" house to that, and then you have a starting point of that the building really costs. Even if you didn't' have to do a single thing to get the property up to code, there is the ongoing cost of current taxes, utilities (although apartments have their own meter in my place, there is a good amount of common area, such as the laundry area and machines, at least a dozen light fixtures throughout, exterior and safety lighting, heating for the hallways and common areas), water, sewer, sanitation, insurance, and other costs here and there for maintenance.

It's almost 6AM and starting to get light out. I think I've done enough ranting for now... time to get an hour of two of sleep.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Taxing Situation

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". 

With that being said, there are several posts that I write, but never publish. I wrote this about two years ago to the day, but note, the nice part comes at the end.

Being that my building was a burnout, everything in it is new. In the process of renovating everything, I had a vision in my head as to how I wanted the finished product to look. I can't say the rehab was high end, but we didn't skimp either. There are hardwood floors in every room, porcelain tile in the bathrooms, decorative light fixtures, ceiling fans and recessed lighting generously placed everywhere, stainless steel alliances and full wood cabinetry in the kitchens, full paned windows, mosaic tile in the entryway, and so on...

Days when my taxes were almost non-existent

In researching another property in the vicinity, I was reviewing the tax roster for that building. Out of curiosity, I looked at my place, and found I was the second highest assessed property on the street, the only one higher being a building that had twice as many units, and its taxes being only slightly higher than mine.

I'm not trying to shirk my responsibility to pay taxes or dispute the fact that the City needs the revenue, but my reward for making my building as nice as I could is being charged more than anyone on the block, while other buildings reap the reward of their lesser taxes by doing as little as possible to improve anything. If the City wants to preserve their historic district and wants people to make improvements, they need to come up with a better way to determine how taxes are assessed. Sure, the value of the building is the main driver, but there should be other factors that either help moderate amount you're paying or reward you for improvements. For example, when filing income taxes, I can deduct expenses I incurred in making the improvements, and something similar should be imposed when the school and property taxes are calculated.

The assessed value of the property should remain in line with the market value, but there should be some sort of rebates or discounts offered to encourage improvements, like discounting the taxes due a fraction of a percent for every so many dollars you reinvest in the property.

Now for the nice part. With ideas buzzing around in my head again, I called the tax assessor about a particular property, to see what would be the final impact of a project I have in mind. Talking to her, she mentioned a 444A Historic Real Property Alternation or Rehabilitation Exemption. Basically, you do not get taxed on the improvements you do for ten years, but note the percentage of what you don't get taxed on decreases over the ten years. This gives you a chance to be rewarded for the effort, and even helps you ease into those higher taxes without going into shock. It even buys you time to get things in order before you get that big tax bill.

The form is even linked onto the City's website (along with a number of other exemption forms), so there was no need to jump through hoops in order to find it. Even the phone call was painless- I called the number that was posted on the city's website, Joanne Majewski (the assessor) answered the phone herself on my first try. No voice mail, no pressing ## to reach so-and-so, no holding on, as we've so come to expect when dealing with official agencies. I know, saying that last part wasn't nice.

It was only adopted by the city a couple of years ago, so unfortunately, it can't help me with my prior project and my current taxes, but it definitely helps making a new one much more tempting!