Developer Pinpoints Westchester’s Challenges and Opportunities

John Jordan | June 2017

John Barrett, Seth Pinsky, Victoria Bruno and Richard Haggerty

WHITE PLAINS—Seth Pinsky, executive vice president with RXR Realty, which is building major multifamily projects in New Rochelle and Yonkers, believes that Westchester County is at a crossroads where it can either take advantage or miss out on the current investment climate.

Pinsky, who was the guest speaker at the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors’ Commercial Investment Division meeting on June 22nd, said that real estate investors are now seeking to make real estate investments in Westchester County’s major cities.

“Westchester and the New York region are at a crossroads. We have a core New York City, in particular, that is thriving, but the success of New York is threatening to overwhelm New York City,” Pinsky said. He noted that costs are rising and the city’s infrastructure is strained on a day-to-day basis.

He said that outside of the city’s core many of the surrounding markets are struggling. However, he believes that the “unsustainability” of both the city’s growth and the suburban malaise has created opportunities for investments in suburban urban centers near mass transit, such as Mount Vernon, Yonkers, New Rochelle and White Plains.

“There really is today only one solution if we want to be successful as a region going forward…We have to take bold steps,” he said. “We have to make communities across our region more desirable, with a focus, in particular in our region’s suburban downtowns and the reason for that is these suburban downtowns have so much potential and have been underexploited for too long.”

RXR Realty is currently building Larkin Plaza, a twin-tower mixed-use project that when completed in about two years will feature a 25-story tower building and a 17-story building that will house 442 rental apartments and 35,000 square feet of retail space at a site near the Yonkers Metro North station. The firm is also constructing 587 Main St. in Downtown New Rochelle at the former Loew’s Theater site. The new development will total 28 stories and include 280 rental apartment units, approximately 15,000 square feet of retail and theater space. The firm is also the designated developer for the City of New Rochelle with partner Renaissance Downtowns.

Pinsky at the CID session, said that RXR is currently studying possible development opportunities in White Plains, Mount Vernon and Yonkers and in Downtown New Rochelle. The city has passed a new master plan that at full build out could result in the development of more than 12 million square feet of new construction including up to 2.4 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail, 6,370 housing units and 1,200 hotel rooms.

He strongly suggested that the region pay particular attention to its transportation network, noting that the current problems facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could impact the economy in the long term. Westchester’s location in terms of its short commutation times to New York City could be negated if transit system problems persist. “Our transportation network is in dire need of investment,” Pinsky said. “The worse our transit network, the less of an advantage Westchester has,” he added.

Other recommendations from the RXR executive included encouraging more suburban communities to engage in regulatory reform that would foster new investment. He suggested that either Westchester County or New York State offer “carrots” to locations that enact such policies, perhaps in the form of grants and other financial perks.

Pinsky offered high praise to the City of New Rochelle, which after failing to secure approvals for the controversial Echo Bay site, built a consensus and enacted regulatory reforms that included zone changes and a master plan for the Downtown District that expedites approvals, adds predictability and “takes the politics out of the approval process.”

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth