This Is for You, Mary Ann Prokosch

Too many funerals in Newburgh yesterday!

My friend and city activist Mary Ann Prokosch died on Saturday, leaving Newburgh a sadder and needier place. We needed ary Ann’s voice and her wisdom, and now we are left to go it alone.

To honor her memory today, I am just going to try to go out there and be a better human. That’s all i can think of to do.

Off i run to grab my “garbage-plucker” and clean up a block of South Lander Street.

This day is for you, Mary Ann.



Timothy Hayes-El, 1962-2014

I am deeply saddened by the death yesterday morning of Timothy Hayes-El, a well-known and much-loved Newburgher who attended and spoke at virtually every City Council meeting.

His first name, Timothy, comes from the Greek meaning, “Honored by God,” and surely he was so honored, as he devoted his later years to God’s children here in Newburgh. His last name at birth was Hayes, but he adopted the suffix –El, which is one of the Hebrew names of God. God indeed suffused Timothy Hayes-El’s being; he was as striking a person as any prophet. With his tall, erect bearing he resembled a Maasai warrior, and his large, shining eyes could draw the attention of everyone in the room. His voice was as commanding as a preacher’s, and he used that voice often and well, to promote his passion: increasing job opportunities for city residents.

He first impressed me when I was working for the TH-Record under the editorship of Mike Levine, and the paper did a series called something like, “How Do We Fix Newburgh?” Timothy was part of a focus group Mike led on that subject. Timothy gave us a great quote, in which he said something like, “I’m not a ‘resident of Newburgh’; i AM Newburgh.”

He was right: Newburgh is missing a great part of itself today. His passion for this city led him to offer himself as a perpetual candidate; most recently, he ran for the Ward 1 City Council seat in November, losing to Karen Mejia. Two years ago, he ran for Mayor, losing to Judy Kennedy. His activism also inspired many young city residents to register to vote. He served time in prison as a young man but returned to Newburgh determined to keep other black youths out of trouble by helping them get jobs and by advocating for them before the City Council.

Timothy had a variety of health problems and had been on kidney dialysis. He had felt ill on Sunday and did not go to church (a rarity for him); instead, he walked the few blocks from his home on Johnston Street to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he died too soon, too soon, on Monday morning at age 52.

Rest in peace, Timothy Hayes-El, Honored by God.


This Day Can’t End Soon Enough

First thing this morning, some poor fellow from Severn Trent — a subcontractor of the City of Newburgh who was working on our sewer plant   — wrote a suicide note and stepped in front of a CSX freight train, right by the plant, on the riverfront.

Then — or maybe it was just before that — the roof at City Hall started leaking so badly that it caved in part of the ceiling directly over the IT Department on the first floor.

And then in the afternoon, the fire department was called to bring the Jaws of Life to the scene of a car crash on Carobene Court, near Mt. St. Mary College. Turns out, the only guy in the car had been shot — multiple times. He was rushed to St. Luke’s, but died there.

I’m almost afraid to look outside.

Blood on my Hands

Got up this morning and tried to wash the blood off my hands.

Not working.

My neighbor Angel Calderon was attacked at 1 a.m. in his own house, where he was sitting watching TV with his dog (forgot to ask what show), when a guy Angel describes as a 6-foot-tall black man, “strongly built,” burst into his livingroom. Apparently he had come in through a window in the back of the house; Angel lives alone on the first floor. The guy punched him till his whole head and face were bleeding, but Angel managed to run out the front door and start yelling for help. That’s when Tim and i, who were engrossed in a DVD of Season II of “Downton Abbey,” heard him and came running outside. Angel was already standing at the foot of the porch of our neighbor Elizabeth Holpuch’s house, and Elizabeth was already on her cellphone with the cops.

Dear God, it seemed like she was talking to them for an eternity. i heard her describing his wounds in some detail, and relaying questions to him (“Did you get a good look at him, Angel? Did he have a gun?” etc.) and telling him to sit down, put a “cold compress” on his head, etc. i ran back home to get a roll of paper towels (brand-new; it happens we’d just bought it yesterday) and a pan of water and a can of spray-on Bactine as if it were a mosquito bite. i ran back and started mopping off his head, which was dripping, dripping, dripping with blood, all down his face and shirt and down onto his shorts and socks. That’s all he was wearing. i’d used up the whole roll of paper towels, and half a 6-quart pan of cold water, before the cops arrived some 20 minutes later. Then it took another 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, though the police dispatcher had told Elizabeth that he was calling for one while she was still on the phone. Anyway help did finally arrive.

Angel used my cellphone to call his sister in the Town of Newburgh, and when the EMTs had finished bandaging him up the best they could and the sister had arrived, Tim and i felt he was in good hands and went back home. We figured he’d be in St. Luke’s Hospital today. But just now i ran into Elizabeth and she said St. Luke’s had sent him to Westchester because the contusion inside his ear needed stitches that St. Luke’s couldn’t provide.

Let us pray. And let us wonder if there isn’t blood on the hands of us all, for our failure to demand and produce a safer city for all the Angels among us.

3 Free and Fast Improvements Newburgh Could Make Today

If you have a question about your City of Newburgh sanitation bill and call the number at the top of that bill, 569-7339, and it happens that you’ve dared to call them at 4 p.m. or later, or on weekends, or on holidays, a peculiar thing happens. You hear: “Today is Monday, October 29th and we are closing at 1 p.m. due to the storm. You can drop off your payments on November 1st with no further penalty.” Then: Click.

Early this month, as a public service, i called the Collector’s Office before 4 p.m. and suggested as politely as i could to the woman who answered that, since that greeting is three and a half months out of date, they might want to change it. The woman i spoke to said she’d tell her supervisor about it. When a week went by with no change, i called the mayor, too.

Shortly after that, i misplaced the bill in question. At 12:30 a.m. today (that is to say, just a few minutes ago, in the middle of the night) i went to the city’s website. There, in the listing for the Tax Collector’s Office, it gives the number as 569-7330. When you call that number, you get a message that is less embarrassing than the other one, but also erroneous: “You have reached the Collector’s Office. Our normal hours are 8:30 to 4.  We are sorry we can’t take your call; we are taking care of other customers.” Then: Click.

My suggestions, which would be totally free to implement and would take about one minute to effect:

1. For the 569-7339 answering machine, change the message to indicate that it is no longer Monday, Oct. 29.

2. Change the “away message” for the 569-7330 number to say, “You’ve reached us after hours; our hours are _____ to ____; please leave a message and we’ll get back to you.” And don’t say you’re “taking care of other customers” if it’s after hours. That’s what you say if you’re asking someone to hold. If it’s midnight, you’re not “taking care of other customers”; you’re off duty. By the way: We’re not your “customers”; we’re residents, we’re taxpayers, and we’re your bosses.

3. And then, as the icing on the cake, go ahead and listen to the messages each morning, and actually return the calls. i dare to hope that within my lifetime, city residents will have the chance to leave a message if, like fools, they call the Collector’s Office at 4:01 p.m.

Art Meets History in an Historic town

Newburgh, NY —– Some 30 artists – and one pooch – gathered recently on a softly-lit afternoon in this little upstate city on the banks of the Hudson River. They had all participated in the latest of the city’s successful Artist-Studio Tours, and had agreed to celebrate at the home of Michael Gabor and Gerardo Castro, who own and operate the Newburgh Art Supply shop at 5 Grand St., a few steps from Washington’s Headquarters.
One of those artists was Ruedi Hofman, a photographer who had been Richard Avedon’s assistant and who, with his wife Ann Stratton, had bought a house in Newburgh.
At one point during the party, he told the artists he’d like to get a group shot of them, and said he’d found the perfect spot for it.
Had he ever.
The 27 artists – and one dog – followed Hofman a few blocks to one of the most beautiful, if heartbreaking, locations in the mid-Hudson: Newburgh’s Dutch Reformed Church. High on a hilltop overlooking the river, the imposing, 177-year-old Greek-Revival structure had been abandoned in the mid-1960s and fallen into a tragic state of disrepair, along with the city’s fortunes as businesses moved out and gangs and crime moved in.
But in recent years, artists from New York and beyond began serving as the shock troops of the city’s revival. They bought and renovated many of the old buildings, renovating them and using them both as living quarters and art studios. They not only survived, but thrived here. Many now believe they are approaching the critical mass needed to tip the city back onto the track of progress and prosperity.
So when those 27 artists gathered in the church that fall day, with shards of its fallen roof hanging precariously above them and its broken pews behind them and its battered balcony all around them, it surprised no one that they were all looking straight ahead, with nothing but determination and optimism in their hearts and hope in their eyes.
The 3-foot-wide Hofman photo is on display at Newburgh Art Supply; to view it, to see  more Hofman photos or for more info, call the shop at 845-561-5552.

Get Your Read-Hot Poetry Here!

All are invited to experience “Epiphanous Poetry in a Victorian Solarium.” The readings will be presented by the Hudson River Poets at 2 p.m on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 297 Grand St. in Newburgh.

Many of the Hudson River Poets are published, performing, and award-winning writers. Ages range from 13-80; educational attainment, from high school to Ph.D. On Jan. 6, the poets will be sharing their original poetry of awakening, in conjunction with the twelfth day of Christmas – the Epiphany. This will be the first public community presentation by the Hudson River Poets in many years.

Admission at the door is $5, which will support HRP’s participation in Newburgh Illuminated, a festival slated for June 2013. There, the poets will present a literary and visual-art exhibit at the Newburgh Free Library. Some of the Hudson River Poets, such as Clay Buchanan, Eve Hinderer and Rosolinda McGovern, are also visual artists. Other well-known poets in the group include Lou O’Neil, Mona Toscano, Sharon Butler, John Fitzpatrick and Jamaican Raga poet Ras Negus.

For more information on the Jan. 6 poetry reading or the Hudson River Poets, contact Laura Lamica at 568-7334 or