Newburgh – For the second year in a row, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress has released a major report summarizing the progress of the Urban Action Agenda (UAA) and looking at a dozen key subjects—from infrastructure and transportation to economic development and public health—that impact the urban communities of the Hudson Valley. The UAA, started in 2016, is a multi-year initiative led by Pattern for Progress to promote the revitalization and growth of urban centers throughout the nine-county Hudson Valley Region.
“We continue to believe that taking a regional approach to improving our urban areas is the best way to properly address the issues facing these communities,” said Jonathan Drapkin, Pattern’s President & CEO. “With their existing infrastructure, access to transit, and traditions of denser development, these communities are well positioned to accommodate the region’s growth. By looking regionally, we can support individual cities and villages with targeted strategies to help them revitalize,” added Drapkin.
Consistent with Pattern’s role as a policy, planning, advocacy, and research organization whose mission is to enhance the growth and vitality of the Hudson Valley, the UAA aims to make the revitalization of our urban areas a priority for local, regional, and state policymakers. The UAA includes 25 communities (11 cities and 14 villages) ranging in size from 2,300 to 200,000. These 25 communities collectively account for more than a quarter of the Hudson Valley’s population.
The new report offers an overview of the work that Pattern accomplished in 2017 and early 2018, including ongoing regional initiatives, milestone events, and community-specific projects. Also included are 12 short issue “snapshots” each focusing on one of the 12 different topic areas of the UAA. The report’s conclusion features a look ahead at some initiatives and projects that will continue to advance the UAA in 2018-19.
Among the noteworthy findings from the report:
- In 2015 the Cuomo administration, as part of its Reforming the Energy Vision campaign for renewable energy, changed the Public Service Law to empower localities to buy their lights from utilities and dramatically reduce their streetlight rental costs. Now, communities in the Hudson Valley and throughout New York are converting their streetlights to Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs in order to save money on energy and maintenance costs, improve lighting, and decrease greenhouse gas production. In the UAA, Beacon, Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, and Yonkers have converted to LEDs. Poughkeepsie’s conversion is saving the city $369,000 per year in energy and maintenance costs.
- According to the 2016 American Community Survey, 77,000 residents in UAA communities (12% of the total population) lack health insurance. Among residents aged 18-64, 18% lack health insurance. Nearly 60% of the uninsured residents are men, and 58% are Hispanic or Latino. The non-insured rate is just 7% among college graduates but 17% among high school graduates and 27% among residents without a high school diploma.
- Renters are facing an affordability crisis caused by a combination of rising rents due to limited supply, and declining median incomes. Since 2000, the median rent has risen in 22 of the 25 UAA communities while the median income of renters has dropped in 23 of the 25 communities when accounting for inflation. Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows that majorities of renters in 19 of the UAA communities are cost burdened (paying more than 30% of their income towards rent).
- Urban areas are receiving a significant share of Consolidated Funding Application state economic development funds. In 2017, a total of $84.8 million was awarded to communities in the Mid-Hudson Region (which includes Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester Counties). Within this region, 15 out of 23 UAA communities had projects funded. A total of $20.9 million (25% of the total) was awarded to 30 projects within these communities, for an average award size of just under $700,000. This total does not include the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative prize awarded to Kingston in 2017.
- Public school enrollment is down across the Hudson Valley since the start of the decade by 5.3%, a decline of 19,570 students since the 2010-11 school year. Enrollment has declined in every county and in 77% of school districts. The enrollment decline has been most severe in rural Greene County, with 13.5% fewer students in the 2016-17 school year than the start of the decade, but Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam and Ulster Counties all saw enrollment declines of 10% or more. Westchester County saw the smallest enrollment decline, only 0.5%. Only 26 school districts have seen enrollment growth since the start of the decade, and 21 of those districts are in Westchester. Outside of Westchester, just five school districts have grown–two in Rockland, two in Sullivan (by a total of only 51 students), and one in Orange County.
- Many UAA communities are spending less on law enforcement (when accounting for inflation) and fielding fewer officers than they were a decade ago. Yet despite reductions in the size of police departments and police spending, crime rates in these communities have continued to fall significantly. In Poughkeepsie, for example, the police department shrank from 107 to 91 officers between 2007 and 2016 (a 15% decline), yet crime in the city plummeted by 43% over the decade according to FBI statistics. Pattern’s analysis suggests that the relationship between the size and cost of a police department and the crime rate may not be as straightforward as is commonly assumed.
The study includes 12 “mini reports” on the key subject areas of the UAA: Demographic Shifts: Immigrants in Urban Areas, Economic Development: 2017 Consolidated Funding Application Awards in UAA Communities, Education: Declining Enrollment, Housing: Rising Rents, Declining Income–An Affordability Crisis for Renters, Infrastructure: Sewers–The Hidden Cost of Deferred Investment, Local/Regional Governance: Municipal Finances–Key Trends Since 2012, Public Health: Many UAA Residents Still Lack Health Insurance, Public Safety: Fewer Cops, Lower Police Budgets… and Less Crime?, Regional Amenities: Breweries Revitalize Urban Areas, Technology: LED Streetlight Conversions in the Hudson Valley, Transportation: Commuting Patterns in the Hudson Valley, Urban Parks: Making Places for People.
The full report on the Urban Action Agenda can be viewed on Pattern’s website at www.pattern-for-progress.org. Pattern’s detailed Community Profiles of the 25 UAA communities can be found at: www.pattern-for-progress.org/what-we-do/current-issues-research-agenda/uaa/community-profiles/
Hudson Valley Pattern For Progress is a policy, planning, advocacy and research nonprofit that has promoted regional, balanced and sustainable solutions for the Hudson River Valley since 1965. Visit Pattern-For-Progress.org. Follow us on Twitter at @HVPattern. Like us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn.