Sue Rosenberg’s name is familiar to regular readers of Saugerties Times thanks to her frequent contributions to the Letters to the Editor feature. In well reasoned and extensively researched contributions, Rosenberg tackles issues, often environmental, such as fracking and the recent proposal for a bottled water plan in the town of Ulster. Central to her willingness to be an active and vocal protector of the environment is the personality of a crusader derived from both her life experiences and from her family’s values.
What drives her passions? “What I can say is that I learned from my parents as a young girl and from my experiences in life two things — one is a belief that it is possible to create a more just, peaceful and fair world where all are cherished and have what they need, and that there is great joy in working with others to make that so. I have been very lucky.”
Sue found her voice in the melting pots of Flatbush, Brooklyn and Queens. As a history major at City College, she was exposed to some of the era’s most forward-thinking professors. Upon graduation, she took a job with the youth bureau of the New York City Employment System. She saw firsthand both the barriers and opportunities presented to those seeking work in the city.
A desire to live among the mountains and forests led Sue to move to West Saugerties in 1984, where she still lives today. Once here, service to others remained a theme in Rosenberg’s life, motivating her to pursue and earn a degree in social work from the Adelphi School of Social Services.
A 30-year career with the Ulster County Department of Mental Health Services followed. During those years, Sue worked with the seriously mentally ill residents of the county. She was active in establishing Beacon House, a day treatment program which enabled clients to receive treatment while remaining in the community. Within and outside the facility, she devised creative activities to engage the mentally ill in art, music, crafts and creative activities. While working long hours with a challenging clientele, Sue had two sons, Mat and Jesse, now 29 and 31.
It’s clear from their life choices that Sue’s sons learned to value creative service to others from their mother. Mat lives in West Virginia, where he is an organizer helping the population deal with the effects of mountaintop strip mining and the social justice issues associated with the power of large corporations. Sue has joined her son as a founding member of the West Virginia Extreme Extractive Energy Collaborative.
In association with Catskill Mountain Keeper and other environmental groups, the collaborative holds periodic symposia at various sites in the United States. Their purpose is to support grassroots protectors of the environment by sharing information, providing networking opportunities and combining resources. While activists in each area of the nation face different challenges in their efforts at preservation of the natural environment for the future, the political and fiscal issues of the work often overlap.
Jesse Rosenberg is an MIT graduate who works in design in Boston. Like his mother, he takes inspiration from nature. He then transforms and translates natural forms into computer code to create jewelry and clothing, among other things. A dress conceived and created on a 3-D printer by Jesse and his partner, Jessica, has been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. It is on display in Manhattan in the museum’s art and technology exhibit.
Retirement from her work with the county has given Sue more time to devote to advocacy. She has been active in efforts to ban the transportation of flammable crude oil on aging rail trains, and the Coalition Against the Pilgrim Pipeline. Her social justice agenda includes a commitment to helping to improve communication between the Kingston police and the city population, advocating for protection of voting rights for all, and working to end the high level of incarceration among men of color.
When asked how Saugerties fits into her activist world-view, Sue cited the town’s history of organizing around issues which would destroy the beauty of our hometown between the mountains and the river. She feels that the community possesses a warmth and willingness to embrace diverse points of view. These characteristics make her feel supported in her volunteer work. She likes the Saugerties Farmers Market, and says it’s a place not only to shop, but to meet others and share this sense of community.