County executives George Latimer of Westchester, Marcus Molinaro of Dutchess and Ed Day of Rockland participated in the “Making the Connection: Strengthening the Region” conversation held at the Putnam County Golf Course on Monday. Pattern President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin moderated the discussion.
“We strongly believe in dialogue between municipal leaders from different parts of the Hudson Valley,” said Drapkin. “The sharing of best practices, or how each addresses new issues, is a sure way of benefitting the residents throughout the region.”
The county executives covered a wide range of topics, including housing, transportation, economic development, workforce attraction, incentives for businesses, the opioid crisis and the measles outbreak, among others.
A common theme running through the conversation was economic growth, and challenges and opportunities in the Hudson Valley.
“Our concern is that we don’t have the housing stock,” said Molinaro. “We’ve got to create workforce-level housing so that college graduates – we’ve got thousands in Dutchess County – can afford to live there. That’s our challenge. But I’m confident we’ll see sustained growth, at least for the foreseeable future.”
Day said Rockland County has a strong workforce but suffers from a poor transit system.
“The way to get people to Rockland is to have transit oriented development,” said Day. “But you can’t have TOD when you don’t have transit to go with it …Rockland County is the least served county in the entire MTA region.”
Latimer pointed to the high cost of housing in Westchester as a primary hurdle.
“The cost of housing in Westchester is very high …Affordable housing exists north and east of us, but not in our county,” said Latimer. “If we can’t solve the housing problem, it’s going to be difficult to grow the kind of future jobs that we want because those entities will say, ‘Hey, I can expand here physically, but I can’t get housing for my people, so I’ll go somewhere else.’”
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell was scheduled to attend but could not make it because of a work emergency. Orange County executive Steve Neuhaus, who is serving in the Middle East, sent a recorded message to offer his take on affordable housing, education, partnerships and availability of construction workers in Orange.