Article first published by Brienna Parsons at YourPortJervisIsShowing.com.
PORT JERVIS — Friday afternoon, friends and neighbors of mother and local do-gooder, Gina Torres gathered in front of 130 Front Street where a neighbor’s home and family was endangered by debris from a demolished firehouse at 15 Seward Avenue.
About a dozen individuals met with concern regarding the remains and its containment of asbestos. The rubble marked by red tape reading “DANGER ASBESTOS HAZARD” has sat for a month after the City of Port Jervis destroyed the building which has been vacant and in disrepair for many years.
Residents while fearful for their health, were also critical of the timing of the building’s demolition, suspecting the property was being cleared hastily by the city, and callously without clean up planning, to be sold to the neighboring Salvation Army on Ball Street, further descending residents into financial hardship as another property is taken off the tax rolls.
As the Front Street residents gathered, at about 4:30pm Friday afternoon, workers from the New York State Department of Labor’s Asbestos Control Bureau arrived on the scene to place Asbestos Monitors at the site and to cover windows of neighboring buildings. As many residents noted, these precautions came after a month of the carcinogenic material remained open to wind and rain, and residents of the Fourth Ward began to speak out against it.
Mayor Kelly Decker visited the group offering peace of mind. He also offered to share the air quality report from data collected by the monitors upon their conclusion. Tuesday, September 5th it is estimated that the debris will be cleared and the report finished.
Orange County Legislator Thomas Faggione, who had arrived only minutes before the Mayor, told the crowd of several people that “the city destroyed the firehouse, [and] it’s the city’s responsibility to clean it up.” He urged citizens to continue raising their voices and asking questions of their representatives no matter how redundant, especially at Common Council meetings. To this last point, many residents indicated that representation was not present or communicative in regards to the firehouse and asbestos issue among others.
When speaking about Fourth Ward appointed-Councilwoman Lisa Randazzo, Mr. Faggione had this to say: “I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t show up.”
The cleanup comes as the city continues many other projects and may cost taxpayers $145,000 or more to complete.
PORT JERVIS – It’s late September 2015, and unseasonably warm. I’m wearing jeans and a black v-neck as I cross Front Street and Jersey Avenue to approach the Gun Lady I was chasing down a story that I had just stumbled upon after a speed bump along my initial path had sent me home.
Maria Mann, the patron saint of the city of Port Jervis, according to a 2nd Ward resident at the time, was running for the Common Council from her ward. Aiming to be picked up by the Republican committee, the female gun shop owner with progressive views and conservative tastes, made the one liberal bone in my body twitch. After chasing scoops and policy change for years at a “progressive” Upstate New York college, I couldn’t slow my haste, and decided to drop in for an interview.
No forewarning, I requested a Q&A session that moment, and she graciously accepted. Conveniently, Maria’s Campaign Manager, Christopher, was there and helped smooth the harshly left-of-center questions back into focus within the city. Maria, didn’t bat an eye at my gay or transgender outward appearance, and neither did he; not only that, but they were genuinely helpful in keeping me informed and without slant in their favor with their info.
Fast forward, the Primaries, like the most recent Bernie Bust, were rigged. At least, that was the unofficial reason that Maria Mann didn’t get her name on the ballot under the red flag. She didn’t give up, and neither did any of her voters, she ran as a write in.
Coming close, Maria would try the tactic of the write-in candidacy one mote time upon the mournful passing of a long-time statesman, Mr. Bell. Another unsuccessful bid by a hair, had honestly left ‘the people’s candidate’ bruised and without her trusted Campaign Manager, or myself for the record as a GOTV and Volunteer coordinator. The job was beyond my availability and expertise, but Maria Mann didn’t need it, because she knew to stick to her guns.
Maria wouldn’t let them forget their choices, their words, and especially not their inaction. Taking action in the name of justice is what accelerated her to the greater public eye in the first place, when she helped in the arrest of the man who had murdered her neighboring shop owner, Mr. Kucher. Her luck, dedication to the city, and persistence paid off.
Monday evening, the Common Council of the city of Port Jervis, with the resignation upon a conflict of interest by Mr. van Horn , filled his seat. The body led by 2nd Ward Senior Councilman George Belcher moved to appoint Maria Mann 2nd Ward Councilwoman beside them. Many celebrated in the city that night.
Looking forward to asking you questions at Council meetings Maria.