EXCLUSIVE: County Executives Believe Mid-Hudson Economy on Cusp of Reopening

John Jordan | May 2020

WHITE PLAINS—It appears the reopening of the Mid-Hudson economy, which was all but shut down back on March 22 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo put “New York on Pause” to prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, is finally at hand.

After a setback earlier this week, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus believe the Mid-Hudson is very close to complying with all seven necessary metrics to begin phase one of the reopening of the region’s economy.

Latimer in his daily COVID-19 update on Tuesday, said that in terms of Westchester County’s compliance, “We are as close to opening as we can be, short of being opened.”

In relation to the region, he said, “I would be hopeful that within the next seven days or even sooner we can meet those metrics.” He noted that the numbers in terms of the number of hospitalizations, new hospitalizations and other metrics are so close to meeting state requirements, it comes down to the interpretation of the numbers and cases by the state. He said the data definitely points to a reduction in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, but whether the county and the region complies with a certain metric depends on the subjective interpretation of the data, Latimer noted.

“I think the Hudson Valley, like the other regions of New York State, is moving close to being open. This is the call that the governor and his people make. It is not my call,” Latimer stressed. “I think we are close. I think we should be over the line very shortly and open up to the first phase (of reopening).”

The first phase of the reopening loosens restrictions imposed back in March on the construction and manufacturing industries, as well as the wholesale supply chain. In addition, certain retail operations can be expanded for curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup. The phase one designation also affects the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.

Latimer’s bullish view came after Real Estate In-Depth first reported that the region had slipped from complying with five metrics to four over the weekend and as of Monday, May 18, according to the state’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard. New York City had fallen from complying with four metrics to three, according to the published dashboard at the time.

Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus revealed in his daily COVID-19 Update on Saturday (May 16) that the governor’s office notified counties in the Mid-Hudson region that the region had not met one of the key metrics for reopening and that the state was “restarting the clock,” which might mean a delay in the region’s economy’s opening by as much as two weeks or more.

Neuhaus told viewers that he could not provide any further details because he had not had a formal meeting with other Mid-Hudson County Executives and the governor’s office and would provide updates to county residents on Monday.

Reports had surfaced that the Mid-Hudson region may be qualified for phase one of the reopening sometime this week, but that timeline appeared in possible jeopardy earlier this week.

“We were anticipating opening at the end of next week or somewhere around that area,” Neuhaus said on Saturday. “Now that clock has started again.”

He added, “That’s where we are right now,” Neuhaus said. “I don’t know what that timeline will be. Is it going to be the 12 to 14-day (period) now to start the clock?”

On Tuesday, May 19, New York State’s dashboard indicated that the Mid-Hudson once again qualified for five out of the seven metrics, up from four out of seven the day before. In addition, New York City now qualifies for four metrics, up from three the day before.

Orange County Executive Neuhaus in an exclusive interview with Real Estate In-Depth, noted that state officials in a conference call on Monday (May 18) did not discuss whether the slip from five metrics to four would cause any tangible delay in reopening the Mid-Hudson economy.

He said that Orange County and other counties may have gotten “Mother’s Day and Passover and Easter bumps” in hospitalizations, etc. due to the nice weather and holiday. However, he said that he is confident that in a few days the region will make inroads, including in hiring contact tracers, and is confident the region will be eligible for reopening relatively soon.

Neuhaus said in the phone interview with the newspaper, “I am optimistic that the region will open a lot sooner, (than expected earlier in the week due to the compliance downgrade) as early as this Friday or definitely sometime next week.”

The Orange County Executive also said he pointed out some major statistical and compliance inconsistencies with the state but stressed that the county executives are working with state officials to bring the Mid-Hudson into compliance.

Gov. Cuomo recently announced the following regions were approved to begin phase one of their respective economies’ reopening—the North Country, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier.

On Sunday, the governor announced that the Capital District and Western New York regions had achieved all seven metrics for reopening. The Western New York region reopened on May 19 and the Capital District reopened on May 20.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth