City grants variances for Legacy House

By Alberto Gilman
Posted 5/8/24

The City of Newburgh Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-2 and approved requested area variances on Tuesday, April 23 for the project known as Legacy House. Three members were not present for the vote.

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City grants variances for Legacy House


The City of Newburgh Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-2 and approved requested area variances on Tuesday, April 23 for the project known as Legacy House. Three members were not present for the vote.

The housing project previously came before the zoning board in August 2023 and was previously denied the requests for variances following a vote and public comments.

The Legacy House project is under the direction of the Newburgh Ministry on Johnston Street and proposes a 50-unit supportive housing project looking to be built at 17 to 19 Johnston Street. The purpose of the project would be to expand the Newburgh Ministry’s facility and services.

The buildings at 17 to 19 Johnston Street are currently abandoned. The project sees the buildings being demolished and the two lots would be combined. Lot A is identified as 17-19 Johnston St and Lot B is identified as 9 Johnston St. The requested area variances did not meet the requirements of the city’s use and bulk regulations.

The building plan has been amended since the last meeting and is proposed to be built 53 feet and six inches in height. The new height is reduced by three feet. The units proposed will be studios or one bedroom dwellings. The project is located in the city’s medium density residential zoning district in the historic district.

At the meeting, Attorney John Furst of Catania, Mahon & Rider PLLC made the zoning board aware that the applicant had proceeded with the filing of an Article 78 Proceeding. The lawsuit is still pending.

According to Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc., Article 78 Proceedings “are lawsuits mainly used to challenge an action (or inaction) by agencies of New York State and local governments.”

According to Furst, the zoning board had not responded to that filing but instead of litigating it, has chosen to reconsider the variances which was appreciated. The use of this project is also permitted subject to a special use permit approval from the city planning board according to Furst.

Don Petruncola, AIA, Director of Architectural Services of Tinkelman Architecture explained that the the Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) office of New York State would not fund a project that is less than 50 units which is where the number of units comes from.

Petruncola further discussed the reasoning for the housing to be built next to the Newburgh Ministry. “The existing facility is where the services are. We don’t want to put the housing half a mile or a mile away from the services,” said Petruncola.

Colin Jarvis, Executive Director of the Newburgh Ministry shared thoughts on the project. “The Newburgh Ministry has been in the City of Newburgh for 41 years, this year is going to be 41 years and we do the hardest job that there is to do and it’s to serve the least and the lost, the most vulnerable, the most desperate,” said Jarvis. “Our mission hasn’t changed, our passion for serving the poor hasn’t changed.”

Zoning board members discussed and commented on the proposed project, expressing concerns about the building height and the impact of the project on the character of the neighborhood.

A public hearing was then opened discussion and comments came both for and against the project. “I’m passionate about this because it makes sense because housing is a human right,” said Ali Muhammad. “This property makes sense.”

“I’m against the project. The residents of this facility are going to be packed in this project, they will need to go outside and to repeat, there’s no open space,” said Drew Kartiganer. “The fact that these people are looking for open space represents a detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood community.”

“The ministry should be applauded for looking out for its population,” said Bishop Jeffrey C. Woody. “I think that this project would definitely benefit the community.”