Report: Hudson Valley Cities Will Power Region’s Growth

Real Estate In-Depth | March 2017

RBA President & CEO Al Samuels, with Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress President & CEO, Jonathan Drapkin, Joe Czajka SVP for Research, Development & Community Planning and Elijah Reichlin-Melnick Senior Research Planner

SPARKILL—The not-for-profit regional think tank Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress released a report earlier this month entitled “Urban Action Agenda-A Program in Motion” that theorizes the Hudson Valley region can attract new residents, including Millennials, into urban and downtown districts if proper planning and development takes place.

Matt Rand, Managing Partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty and Al Samuels

The report included extensive research on 25 urban centers in Pattern’s nine-county region. Pattern President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin unveiled the Urban Action report on March 9th at various events, including a presentation at a meeting of the Rockland Business Association at the Rockland Country Club in Sparkill.

“Cities and urban areas are coming back; they will power growth across the valley,” Drapkin said. He added that the report could serve as a blueprint for municipalities to “strengthen their urban fabric, build upon their development areas, identify commonalities, and help find solutions and work to reduce sprawl, while promoting the preservation of green space.”

The report notes that many of the urban areas are enjoying some population growth. Pattern contends that some cities and urban areas are undertaking revitalization initiatives that are setting the stage for a new wage of residents that are attracted to the area by its safe and attractive downtowns, improving commuter options, diverse population centers and access to locally grown food.

“The valley has urban areas of all sizes to meet your needs,” Drapkin said. “There is a Hudson Valley city to be found that will appeal to multiple lifestyle tastes.”

Some of the report’s key findings include:

• Valley cities and urban areas are far safer than many perceive due to dramatic drops in crime rates.

• The Hispanic population is growing in raw numbers and as a percentage of the population.

• The percent of commuters using trains is increasing in most urban areas, carpooling is decreasing, and more people are walking to work.

• Many closed schools across the Hudson Valley are finding creative new uses that serve the public.

• There is increasing access to healthier food in cities and urban areas via farmers’ markets and community gardens.

Pattern in its report notes that some urban centers are transforming themselves for future growth, while others have yet to embrace change for a variety of reasons.

Entering 2017, Pattern suggests, “some urban centers in our region are thriving, while others are still struggling to fully recover from decades of disinvestment and decline—nor has it been without major challenges. Most urban areas continue to grapple with a range of critical questions touching on all areas of modern urban life.” Those questions include:

• How can new economic development, needed for jobs and tax revenue, be attracted?

• What is the best way to preserve and develop affordable and attractive housing options for residents and newcomers?

• How will ongoing demographic shifts and population movements impact the future development of urban areas?

• What can be done to combat obesity and drug epidemics and improve public health for urban residents?

• How can aging infrastructure and transportation networks be maintained without further burdening over-taxed residents?

While the report forecasts growth in urban centers in the region, it also relates that the quality of life that makes the Hudson Valley so unique must be maintained. “The hope is that growth will occur in the urban areas, allowing protection of the Hudson Valley’s open spaces and natural areas, such a key part of its identity,” Pattern noted in the report.

Marsha Gordon, President & CEO of the Westchester Business Council, John Jordan, Editor, Real Estate In-Depth, and Al Samuels, President & CEO of the Rockland Business Association at the March RBA Luncheon

Pattern for Progress issued a critical report on Rockland County last fall. The report commissioned by the Rockland Business Association blamed a myriad of issues, including public service salaries, for Rockland County’s high tax burden.

The Newburgh, NY-based research and policy organization’s report entitled “A Crushing Burden: Why is Rockland County So Heavily Taxed?” blamed high public sector salaries as well as high salaries for teachers and school administrators, as well as the county’s location near New York City as chief contributing factors to its high tax burden.