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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

SMILES WERE IN abundance at yesterday’s crowded ribboncutting of the new Liberty Action Center at 98 North Main Street in Liberty – part of the Liberty Economic Action Project (LEAP). Holding the ribbon are, from the left, NYS Senator John Bonacic, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, LEAP Coordinator Allan Berube, Liberty businessman and former mayor Ron Gozza, Sullivan County Legislature Chair Chris Cunningham, Sullivan County Chamber President Jacquie Leventoff, Liberty Mayor William “Rube” Smith and Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo.

Liberty LEAPing
Ahead With Projects

By Dan Hust
LIBERTY — October 26, 2004 – Yesterday’s ceremony in Liberty proved that one small step can indeed become a giant leap.
Make that a huge LEAP.
The Liberty Economic Action Project (LEAP) opened its office on Monday in front of a crowd of nearly 200 officials, residents and merchants.
Located at 98 North Main Street, the Liberty Action Center will be the nexus of a broad range of community enhancement projects, said Allan Berube, the coordinator of LEAP’s Community and Economic Development.
“We’re on Main Street, and we’re here for everyone,” he announced to the cheering crowd gathered in front of the old Otto Hillig Building (the home of Liberty Press – and now LEAP).
A powerhouse of sponsors – Cornell University, the Gerry Foundation, the Liberty Public Library, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County, the Liberty Central School District, the Sullivan County Center for Workforce Development, Rural Opportunities, Inc., and the Preservation League of New York State – will all be involved, but it’s the brand-new Liberty Community Development Corporation (LCDC) that will lead the way.
Consisting of a desired 75 community members from around the Town of Liberty (many of whom signed up yesterday), the LCDC will devise and spearhead many of the programs slated for Liberty’s future once it gets underway in December.
“It is your dedication and passion that makes this work,” Liberty Town Supervisor Frank DeMayo told the masses yesterday.
He and Liberty Mayor William “Rube” Smith could also take credit, as it is their boards which have worked together to research and implement the LCDC.
And the result of that year-long effort by politicians and residents is that Liberty is now ready to begin one major project after another, backed by hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants.
Here’s the list of initial projects, followed by phone numbers and people to contact for more information:
OPPORTUNIteen – Designed to encourage and assist Liberty youth in completing their education while strengthening their academic performance, identifying and pursuing short- and long-term career goals and developing life skills, the program will create a Youth Employment Resource Center at the local library to serve employment-age students.
To 20 students in particular, it will offer intensified training and the opportunity for paid employment with a specifically-matched business partner. Afterwards, participants will receive ongoing support to define and achieve personal and career goals – and program leaders hope to offer even more opportunities down the road.
(Contact: Judy Essex, 292-6180.)
Housing and Infrastructure – The LCDC will partner with Rural Opportunities, Inc. to rehabilitate, renovate and/or construct housing to offer quality living for Liberty residents.
(Contact: Walter Stein, 292-5821, ext. 629.)
In addition, village officials plan to use $800,000 in state grants to replace infrastructure along Lake Street, Webster Avenue, Spring Street and Orchard Street, while town and county officials are working on a grant to do a comprehensive study of water and sewer services.
(Contact: For the village, Mayor Rube Smith, 292-2500, ext. 13; for the town, Supervisor Frank DeMayo, 292-5111.)
Team Skate – A youth-driven committee is working on bringing a skate park to Walnut Mountain for bicyclists, skateboarders and in-line skaters. Gabby Rodriguez, a Liberty High School student, is working with Darlene Fedun and many others to make this dream a reality.
(Contact: Darlene Fedun, 292-8202.)
Improving Main Street and Griebel Park – In addition to general enhancement efforts in the village and park made possible through $20,000 from NYS Senator John Bonacic and $50,000 from Sullivan Renaissance, the village will be studied by experts to determine the feasibility and location of an historic district under the auspices of the state and national registers.
Berube was quick to point out, however, that being named an historic district will not restrict property owners in any way, as opposed to being designated a landmark.
The study will be conducted by Neil Larson and Associates, Inc. of Woodstock through a $5,000 grant from the Preservation League of NYS – gained through a very competitive grant program.
(Contact: Rube Smith, 292-2500, ext. 13.)
Main Street Small Business Development – LEAP and the LCDC will identify and recruit small businesses to complement what already exists in downtown Liberty. Cornell University is hiring Dr. Yuri Mansury, an economic geographer/planner, to prepare an assessment of the local economy, and organizers hope to soon offer marketing and customer service programs to Liberty businesses.
(Contact: Allan Berube or Judy Schneyer, 292-8202.)
* * *
Each of these programs will tie in in some way or another with its counterparts – an innovative method that excites Jonathan Drapkin, executive director of the Gerry Foundation (which is underwriting the cost of Cornell University staff to assist the village and town in creating and maintaining LEAP).
“What makes it unusual is that, unlike efforts to do community revitalization by focusing just on facades, . . . we’ve decided to take an even broader approach,” he explained. “It’s a very holistic approach.”
“It’s everyone working together,” added DeMayo. “And we certainly expect great things to come out of Liberty in the next few years.”
For more information on LEAP, joining the LCDC or any of the projects, contact LEAP’s staff at 292-8202.

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