A Fire Starts in Beacon

The Common Fire Foundation has landed in Beacon, specifically, in a rambling 5-family building at 67 Verplanck Avenue. This will be the central location for the organization’s Beacon/Newburgh community. When THVG visited on February 23, movers were busy helping the final resident move in—welcome to Beacon, Michelle! The group closed on the property in October 2010.

“November through January has been hectic, with some things moving very fast and others moving slowly,” says Jeff Golden, who is on the floor installing a childproof catch on a cabinet in the living room he shares with his wife, Kavitha Rao, and their 3-year-old daughter, Samiha. As the hammer blows punctuate our conversation, Rao is busy overseeing lunch for Samiha and the daughter of another community family that lives off site in Newburgh. The couple started Common Fire, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, in 2001, with the belief that how people see and live in the world needs some serious rethinking. The blueprint is to create “intentional communities” that will both support people engaged in the critical issues of our times and act as catalysts for change in the world at large.

Common Fire is best known for its housing co-op in Tivoli, NY, between Hudson and Kingston, which garnered a lot of press for being certified “Greenest Building in the Eastern United States” when it was completed in 2006. That house was new construction, fitted with solar tubes, geothermal heating, and state of the art appliances, all situated on 36 rural acres. The community in Beacon is taking over an existing house “that bleeds heat,” says Golden. When funding is in place, the organization plans to update the exterior shell and the heat and hot water systems to make the house more ecologically friendly and cheaper to run.

The apartment occupied by the Golden and Rao family has been renovated and has wide plank flooring created from reclaimed wood and soft orange accent walls. A large brown tree silhouette is painted across the white wall behind the couch. The two girls are putting the final touches on watercolors paintings at the kitchen/dining table while waiting for lunch. Samiha identifies her artwork as an animal sanctuary for this reporter.

The Beacon-Newburgh community was formed after Common Fire circulated a 30-page vision document for starting intentional communities in more urban settings. “The document generated a lot of interest from people in New York City and the Newburgh Beacon area,” says Rao. The group met almost weekly for three years, getting to kn0w one another, refining the vision and working out the many details. Another urban Common Fire community is taking shape in Oakland, California, with others under discussion in Detroit and Minneapolis.

Immediate plans are to get a garden started on the extrawide lot this spring, and to become more involved with the community. The Hudson Valley Green will be reporting on Common Fire activities now that the group has, more or less, settled in.


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