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LOCAL LEADERS ARE “DIGGING DEEPER” IN SULLIVAN

Sullivan Renaissance Launches Municipal Partnership Grant Program

March 7, 2016

BETHEL—“It’s a kick in the pants for everybody,” said Monticello Village Manager Dave Sager. Battered buildings will be demolished in and around Monticello. Graffiti will be erased in Thompson.  Littered gateways to Liberty, Fallsburg, Bethel and Thompson will be replaced with corridors of green shrubs and bright flowers. And people will be hired to enforce local building codes. What’s more, walking trails will be created and improved, farmer’s markets will bloom, and Sullivan County residents will be encouraged to eat healthy and exercise.

 This is just a sampling of what Bethel, Fallsburg, Liberty, Monticello and Thompson will do in the next few months as part of Sullivan Renaissance’s new Municipal Partnership Grant Program. Each town was awarded a $15,000 grant this past Saturday at Renaissance’s Annual Conference at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The aptly titled event – “Building Beautiful, Healthy and Active Communities”-- marked the public kickoff of the new grant program.

The five municipalities chosen will utilize a combination of public funding, government grants and in-kind donations of goods and services totaling nearly $1 million to address care of public spaces, enhancing gateways, code enforcement and building healthy communities to compete for a $100,000 capital grant, secured by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.

 “It’s a really big deal for us,” said Town of Liberty Supervisor Charlie Barbuti as he stood in the lobby of the Bethel Woods Event Gallery Saturday, where healthy foods like yogurt parfaits and fresh fruit sticks were served and a mini-farmer’s market offered everything from locally grown dried herbs to fruit smoothies. Barbuti said Liberty plans to welcome folks to its village by planting greenery and flowers in its roundabouts, as well as enhancing the rail trails that “very few people know about.”

“It looks the way it does because we let it get that way,” Barbuti said. “But this grant is going to help start to change that.”

 “We’ll get Monticello turned around,” said Village Manager Dave Sager.  The village plans to remove at least three blighted structures and install four new welcome signs.

“It’s making a lot of magic happen,” summed up Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante, who mentioned adding new plantings and signage to the entrance of Woodbourne as examples of what his town will do with the grant money.

 The Municipal Grant Partnership Program is a natural next step for Sullivan Renaissance, the 15-year old program of the Gerry Foundation that New York State Senator John Bonacic called “the best organic beautification program for a county in the U.S.”

 The goal is “to put a new face on the county,” said Sandra Gerry, founder and chair of Renaissance, who added, “We need to roll up our sleeves and dig a little deeper.”

On Saturday, folks from across Sullivan County learned how to start doing just that from several hands-on experts, including keynote speaker Mark Fenton, a former host of PBS-TV’s “America’s Walking” and a public health, planning and transportation consultant.

“We have to build communities that build health,” he said, urging the officials and their constituents to encourage exercise by building more walkable, bikeable communities. He also showed how specific areas in Monticello, Wurtsboro, Liberty, Fallsburg and Bethel could be made more inviting through zoning, planting and planning.

Conference-goers also heard from the people behind two nearby community initiatives:  the transformation of an abandoned, polluted supermarket site in Hancock in Delaware County into a welcoming town park, and the renovation of dilapidated, unlivable buildings in Newburgh into clean, livable spaces.

SIDEBARS

Organizations and businesses interested in being part of the 2016 Sullivan Renaissance Community Beautification Grant Program still have time to plan projects and submit an application for funding.  Applications are available at http://www.sullivanrenaissance.org/grants/applications/ and are due by March 16, 2016. 

Video presentations from this past weekend’s Sullivan Renaissance Annual Conference can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/SullivanRenaissance. Sullivan Renaissance is a beautification and community development program principally funded by the Gerry Foundation.