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New Windsor & Washingtonville

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Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:14 pm
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The crossroads in the hamlet of Vails Gate are the closest thing to a focal point in New Windsor. The town’s major shopping district lies here at “Five Corners,” where Routes 94, 300, and 32 intersect. This was originally part of the private turnpike system, a toll road with a gate keeper. This area supports three major supermarkets, a K-mart, and a myriad of mainly small businesses. (Much as complicated crossings like the Five Corners can easily inflame the passions of modern-day drivers, there’s documentation of road rage in the 1850s at this intersection. Travelers approaching the toll gate began to rebel against the toll and would drive their wagons around it through the fields.)

Plum Point, also known as the Kowawese Unique Area, is just down the road. The 102-acre park has 2,000-feet of sandy river frontage and one of the most breathtaking views of the Hudson gorge near West Point. Breakneck Ridge on the east bank and Storm King Mountain on the west cascade dramatically toward the water below. The park is open for fishing, boating, and picnicking.

The beauty of the area has attracted many artists to the region. “As a traditional plein air artist having studied the Hudson River School of painters, I know it’s gorgeous here,” says Garin Baker, nationally recognized muralist, artist, and illustrator. “There are some of the best views in the valley in New Windsor. It gives one an almost spiritual connection to the landscape.” Baker runs Carriage House Art Studios out of a renovated 1790s stone house in New Windsor, offering workshops in plein air painting as well as live model sessions and an atelier program with three-month intensives. A new project Baker is developing, “Art & Breakfast” (a play on bed and breakfast), combines art classes with tourism for those who wish to visit the area and visit art-historical sites like Olana and the Thomas Cole House and paint at the same locales as past masters.

Suburban yet rural
“We live in a complicated area,” said Debbie Strelevitz, a mother of six who lives in the Town of New Windsor and whose children attend Washingtonville schools. Strelevitz optimistically admits, “I like the fact that it’s got a suburban feel but it’s really rural. I find the schools to be fabulous!” she adds. Being almost equal distance to Albany and New York City and not far from West Point are real plusses to Strelevitz. “We have a lot of access to culture,” she says. Strelevitz moved to the area 16 years ago, three weeks before her eldest was born. “We chose to move up here because we could afford to buy property we couldn’t afford in Rockland,” Strelevitz said. “The only drawback to the area is the lack of public transportation.” But that inconvenience is compensated for by the abundance of area farms for Strelevitz. “I love the fact that we have local produce,” she says. Strelevitz makes regular trips to Roe’s Orchard, on Route 94 in Chester and Blooming Hill Organic Farm on Route 208 south of Washingtonville.

A drive heading through the foggy wetlands of the New Windsor’s Little Britain hamlet in early September gives rise to views of invasive purple loosestrife in blossom as far as the eye can see, silhouetted by golden hayfields—if they haven’t yet succumbed to development. It creates an ethereal atmosphere. An afternoon walk in Stewart State Forest gives rise to nature in an expansive park of 6,700 acres. The park is a mix of wetlands, fields, and woods, and includes many miles of gravel roads and major trails. It is a gathering place for hikers, bikers, horseback riders, hunters, dog walkers, bird watchers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and fishermen.

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