No More ‘Warwickian Exceptionalism’

By Michael Kaufman

The Town of Warwick has been home to my family for 10 years, which makes me a newbie compared to the many lifelong residents whose families date back generations. During our years here I have developed a deep attachment for the town, the little village that bears its name and the people (well, most of the people anyway).  Yes, Warwick is a special place, set in a beautiful valley, with picturesque farms, orchards, and wineries, fine restaurants, quaint places to shop, and some of the best ice cream on the planet for sale at the Bellvale Creamery on Route 17A.

But somehow it has gotten into a lot of our heads that we are better than our neighbors in adjacent towns and villages. This has led to delusions of grandeur in which we are sometimes joined by local and regional media outlets. A case in point is the extensive press coverage of a community effort to combat teenage drinking. It was front-page news in the daily Times Herald-Record on Friday, September 24, as well as the weekly Warwick Advertiser. The Record devoted a two-page spread, featuring an “open letter” from community leaders, and an article headed, “Group has faith in town’s ability to work out problem.” A quote from the new superintendent of schools appeared in bold type: “Warwick is incredible in its collective approach to problems, and we’re hoping to tap into that.”

What prompted the open letter and the attendant publicity (including a follow-up story on Monday with a banner headline on the front page, “Warwick continues talking about teen drinking” and in yet another edition after that an editorial lauding the effort? According to the open letter, “For the second time in three months we have had to remove a student, by ambulance, from a school event due to alcohol poisoning.” After consulting with parents and students, the authors determined that this is not “an isolated incident.”

I am glad that after years of covering up such incidents under previous school superintendents, school officials and community leaders have decided to address the problem of excessive alcohol consumption by students. But buried 12 paragraphs into Friday’s article is this telling sentence. “The cities of Newburgh, Middletown and Port Jervis have already formed similar organizations, as have the towns of Cornwall and Montgomery.”

So why does Warwick deserve kudos for its past-due recognition of a problem that everyone has known existed all along? Aww, it’s because we’re so special, that’s why. “Organizers hope the strategy will work effectively in Warwick because of the town’s unique cohesion on other social issues, such as sustainability, business development, energy use and land preservation.”

So far this “unique cohesion” has gotten us a new big box supermarket across the street from another big supermarket on Route 94, complete with a traffic light that frequently backs up traffic. But we are supposed to be grateful because the new big box that blocks views of the mountains was built using “green technology.” There is also a tasteful sign by the entrance, welcoming shoppers to a place called “The Fairgrounds.” What next, a sign in the bathroom saying, “Welcome to the botanical gardens?” And dare I mention again the eyesore known as Liberty Green, accompanied by yellow blinking lights and a four-way stop sign on Grand Street?

And as we all know, there is plenty more to come in the way of development along the Route 94 corridor…. but not to worry.  I’m sure it is going to be swell because “our” millionaire developer and the other businessmen involved in the planning discussions only want what is best for all of us and will surely be swayed by the voices of reason.  Uh huh.

I’m glad that the new school superintendent, with the backing of community leaders, has come clean regarding the alcohol problem. Maybe next he can address the drug problem in the high school, which has been similarly swept under the rug for years, and the bullying, which has been ignored with tragic consequences.

I love Warwick but it is about time we stopped congratulating ourselves for how wonderful we are and began taking a closer look at things. I think we will find that our Warwickian exceptionalism some call “unique cohesion” does not hold up under scrutiny.  

Michael can be reached at


One Response to “No More ‘Warwickian Exceptionalism’”

  1. Edward B. Godwin Says:

    Right as usual King Friday! Middletown built a new library after a decision in 1990. They renovated the railway station and added a structure to accommodate the community needs while assuring a place for discussions as well. How many times did it take for Warwick to arrive at a decision to build? Or take Goshen, another community that is considered better than Newburgh or Middletown of Port Jervis, Leadership. Elitism. Money. Values. Humility. Living in the present. There are good people in all of our communities who address problems.

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