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A River Runs Through It

​​It might be difficult for most to understand what it takes for a person to overcome the obstacles of running a business. The decisions made on a daily basis; the struggles to make payroll, pay bills and coordinate staff. Personal sacrifices an business owner must make for a dream too eventually “payoff”. You keep the hope.

But what if your business had a river running through it? If your business encompassed 15 acres and 350,000 square feet, much of which dated back to 1838. And your business had to overcome 2 natural disasters of hurricane Floyd in 1999 and most recently Irene in 2011. And if that was not enough, it had to also navigate the worst recession in US History while having to endure local economy woes.

By The Village Idiot

 

Interviewee: Robin Rosenberg of the Garnerville Industrial Center

Location: Antoine McGuires 

Date: September 8, 2012

Robin Rosenberg has done that day in and day out for the past 22 years and continues to do so. The demographics are not in her favor, nor is the economic forecast, history or the natural elements she has had to contend with. The Minisceongo creek has not exactly cooperated with the Garnerville Industrial Center. But sometimes keeping the strength and your head held high with your business does not have to make sense; it just has to feel right. As you stroll through the historic complex and marvel at the architecture and natural beauty of the creek and the ominous smoke stack that looms high above the complex, you feel what has become a life’s work for Robin Rosenberg and her family before her. Like the creek that runs through the complex, the Rosenberg’s have Haverstraw running through their veins. Her family both lived and worked in Haverstraw. Robin’s Grandfather had had a furniture business in the Village named the Beehive Furniture Store. During the Depression the Plant had closed and there were no jobs to be had. So he coordinated investors and reopened the plant for tenants with free rent to stimulate business and create work. Robins father (Robert) soon joined the team at a young age of 16 working summer’s and attending school to become an engineer. He later worked for GE in Massachusetts but would eventually return to Haverstraw. Robin too tried to escape to Boston attending Brandeis University earning her law degree and spending 18 years practicing environmental / land use law for a boutique firm in Manhattan and becoming the first woman partner. 

But Haverstraw pulled Robin back and in 1990 she joined the Board of Directors and in 2001 she left her law practice behind to focus on what she would come to love, the Garnerville Holding Company. She decided to give her fulltime efforts (her life) to this majestic, marvel of a place like no other. In 2001 she accomplished the first ever art festival, in 2008 she accomplished tax exempt status for fundraising purposes. She was on her way to creating one of the largest gallery spaces in the northeast, outside of Manhattan.

Robin’s personal and business passion came across very strong and it seemed that she never really reflected or spoke in great depth about this huge task she took on. While she spoke her expression would change and sometimes a pause, she was being taken back in time about how it all came about. 

It is said “heavy is the head that wears the crown.” John Glass, the Garner brothers and the Rosenberg’s before can vouch for that. They all had the tremendous task of running the Garnerville Holding Company. They all had their own dilemmas and problems of their era. Robin continues to wear that crown of responsibility as she struggles to recreate the Holding company for the present economy. She holds the daunting task of trying to recreate something new and exciting. Presently her greatest challenge is attracting tenants during a stagnant economy and losing the artists she had in a building that was washed away by hurricane Irene. With 60% occupancy it is tough times to say the least. Like those before her, as the times changed they had to change as well. Robin is constantly marketing new ideas, updating the facility and working closely with the local officials to create a place that could potentially create jobs and draw people to an area that they would not ordinarily visit.

These changes would include rezoning to a historic mixed use to include shops and restaurants to the complex, but that is easier said than done. Getting the rezoning is one thing, attracting them is another. The rezoning could have a positive effect on the area and certainly couldn’t hurt. It could potentially increase property value, increase tax revenue which in turn reduces taxes for the surrounding residential area, in theory at least. If Robin is successful in attracting new business it would then have a domino effect on our local economy, creating jobs etc.  Robin and her staff continue to redefine their brand with the Garner Art Center, previously known as GAGA. They hope to accomplish much in next year or so, which includes the reconstruction of the damaged building from the 2011 storm and the continued focus and dedication to the art community as well as the education program for children with their working studios.

It takes vision and courage to create and or recreate, I believe Robin Rosenberg has both.

The Village Idiot… 

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