Day Tells HGAR Rockland Economy Is Improving, But Not Out of the Woods

John Jordan | June 2015

WEST NYACK—Rockland County Executive Ed Day told members of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors’ Commercial Investment Division that Rockland County’s finances, which were on the brink of default when he took office, are improving thanks to new management practices and other cost-cutting programs initiated since he took office last year.

Day revealed to CID members the pending sale of a portion of the Pfizer complex in Pearl River to Industrial Realty Group, LLC of Los Angeles. For further details see story on page 1.

The County Executive was the keynote speaker at the CID monthly session held at the HGAR offices in West Nyack. Day and Rockland Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Michael DiTullo spoke before approximately 30 attendees at the session held on May 21.

Day related that last month Standard and Poor’s Rating Services upgraded its long-term and underlying rating to “BBB” with a Positive Outlook from “BBB-” with a Stable Outlook on the County of Rockland’s general obligation debt. This is the first S&P rating upgrade for Rockland County since 2002 and the County’s second upgrade since Ed Day became County Executive in January 2014. Last year, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Rockland County’s general obligation bonds one notch to “Baa2” from “Baa3” and changed the outlook on the “Baa2” rating to “Positive” from “Stable.”

The county, which is in the midst of “rightsizing” county government, has reduced its workforce from more than 3,000 employees to approximately 2,200 workers.

Day said the county has erased a massive deficit and for the first time in memory has a small surplus. However, he cautioned, “It doesn’t mean we are out of the woods,” adding that “in politics once you say there is money, politicians want to spend it.”

The County Executive said Rockland’s fiscal future depends on the disposition of the county-owned Summit Park Nursing Home and Hospital. The proposed sale of the properties for $36 million announced last year still has not received the required Certificate of Need from the New York State Department of Health.

While there has been some movement on the Pfizer campus, the same cannot be said concerning the Novartis complex in Suffern. Day said that no deal has been reached on the complex. Cushman & Wakefield continues to market the 162-acre property that features 585,000 square feet of research and development space. The pharmaceutical firm announced in January 2014 that it would be shutting the Suffern plant down in phases beginning this year and lasting for another two to three years.

“Cushman & Wakefield has not had a lot of luck in trying to place someone (company) there who could go in and leave the buildings up and not flatten them and create a significant issue,” Day said. The County Executive praised Novartis for working with the county to market the property and for finding employment elsewhere for Novartis Suffern employees.

DiTullo added that the property is now not only being marketed to end users, but also to real estate developers who might look to develop a mixed-use development there.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth