August 8th, 2012
Historic ‘mortgage burning’ for Varick Homes
Mamie Freeman from Arco Management, with Varick Home HDFC Inc. Board Members Riki Peterson-Jicha, Letitia Elliott, Richard T. Peterson, Jr., Ebony Anderson and Onyx Peterson. All were on hand to celebrate the full payoff of a HUD Guaranteed Mortgage.
MONTGOMERY - When Richard “Dickie” Peterson took over Varick Homes in 1992, things couldn’t have been much worse. Now, 20 years later, they couldn’t be much better.
On Saturday, Peterson and company officially celebrated a historic feat: becoming the first African American owners of a HUD Guaranteed Mortgage in New York State to fully pay off their mortgage. In fact, the milestone was accomplished eight months ahead of time. About 100 people, many of them residents of Varick Homes, attended the “Mortgage Burning” festivities, held at Montgomery’s Spruce Lodge. In addition, Varick Board Members, along with several City of Newburgh dignitaries (including; Reverend Byron Williams, Mayor Judy Kennedy, Councilwomen Gay Lee and Regina Angelo), were on hand, each pointing to the long, arduous journey, spearheaded by Peterson. Overcoming several obstacles and naysayers, the elusive payoff in many ways symbolized the unwavering potential of the City itself.
Back in 1992, the scene was not a pretty one at the Section eight housing development overlooking the Newburgh Waterfront. Over two million dollars in the rears to various creditors, Varick only had 40 habitable residences out of its over 100 total. Riddled with drug activity, prostitution, unchecked dogs roaming the grounds, and a general unsanitary and very unattractive interior and exterior appearances, it was on the verge of closure. Some in the community spoke of turning Varick around, but only one man, Peterson, stepped up to the plate. Contributing some of his monies, along with ensuring rents were collected, Peterson not only revitalized the housing community, but paid off the entire lofty debt; he even managed to have surplus funds. The accolades run deeper.
“The place now looks like a park,’ said Peterson’s son, Richard Peterson, Jr., who spoke on his father’s behalf, as Dickie could not attend the celebration due to medical issues. “Varick Homes was a life mission my father fulfilled through integrity, service and sacrifice to make it a decent place to live for Newburgh’s underprivileged.
Not only did Peterson make good on that vision, he accomplished yet another notable distinction along the way. Varick Homes is currently rated the number one HUD Housing in New York State for a development of its kind.
Although Peterson, Sr. could not attend the Burning, he provided a reaction via the phone.
“This is a culmination of 28 years of hard work due to a partnership with the residents, the City of Newburgh and the Varick Board,” said Peterson. “Times could be tough along the way, but we all managed to work together and make this happen.”
One of the recipients of Peterson and his teams’ diligent efforts was Tammy Ponder. A Varick Homes’ resident since 1995, Ponder was on hand Saturday to lend her gratitude.
“Today is a day all of us at Varick Homes have prayed for,” said Ponder. “Thanks to Mr. Peterson and his perseverance and patience, we have a safe place to live.”
Newly elected Councilwoman Lee, like Mayor Kennedy was ignited by the far-reaching ramifications of the Mortgage Burning, along with reverence for its Varick’s President.
“Varick’s Homes is a real community; that is what’s really important about all of this,” stressed Lee. “Dickie Peterson is all about the attitude, we are in this together.”