Saugerties, NY: A Friendly Place with a Colorful History
But while prosperity creates jobs, this increase throws a harsher light on income inequality and the lack of affordable housing in Saugerties. “We are in a crisis where nearly 50% of the people of Saugerties live below the ALICE threshold, ”said Kevin Freeman, a New York transplant candidate for a city council seat, using an acronym describing vulnerable people. with limited assets and limited income, but employed. He sees hope in sensitive development organizations, like RUPCO, which are active in the region.
The community comes together to protect its natural and cultural resources and each other, and volunteering is a municipal sport. Marjorie Block, 59, a craft painter whose family has lived in Saugerties since 1680, is the president of the historical society, oversees the town’s tourism and hosts the annual food truck festival at Cantine Field to raise money to rebuild playgrounds. Ms. Block intends to have a play area where children and adults with disabilities can play. “Everyone wants to sit on a swing on certain days,” she said.
Then there’s Nina Schmidbaur, 31, a social worker who became a local heroine when she bought a ruined Victorian mansion on Route 9W called Clovelea that she had sworn to own since she was a child, albeit it was ravaged by fire and two decades of neglect. (Before that it was a Chinese restaurant.) Ms Schmidbaur, who declined to say how much she paid for the property, intends to set up her psychotherapy practice on the ground floor and live there. upstairs once the repairs are complete. She is also running for a seat on the city council, with the aim of improving access to mental health services. “I have the word ‘courage’ written on my keychain,” she said.
But if Saugerties’ soul is embodied in a building, it’s the Orpheum, a turn-of-the-century theater on Main Street that has hosted roller skaters, vaudeville acts, silent films, talkie films and , for a controversial moment in the 1980s, porn. For the past two years it has sat vacant, like a wallflower with a brave smile. Now Jason Silverman and Paul Sturtz, the new executive directors of Upstate Films, which operates a movie theater in Rhinebeck, NY, are in negotiations to buy it.
If successful, there will be independent film screenings, lecture series, festivals and collaborations with the city’s remarkable array of cultural organizations. Upstate Films has plans to expand into a number of locations, but “we started Saugerties because it is the most exciting place in the region for us,” said Silverman. “There is so much energy, there are filmmakers and archivists on every block, and there is a real sense of belonging and ownership among those who have lived here for generations.”