Revitalization of the Hudson Valley’s cities and urban areas is setting the stage to attract a new wave of residents and businesses. So says a report from Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, which finds that safer and more attractive downtowns, regional amenities and more are part of the scene.
Pattern for Progress President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin expects that as New York City becomes too expensive for some, the Hudson Valley’s urban areas are poised for an influx, over time, of residents and businesses.
“We think one of the key goals here is to figure out how to drive growth to the urban areas and yet protect our green space,” Drapkin says. “We think one of the other important goals is trying to figure out how do you break the cycle of poverty.”
The report from the Newburgh-based nonprofit policy and planning organization is entitled “Urban Action Agenda: A Program in Motion.” Pattern works with 25 communities spanning nine counties as part of its Urban Action Agenda. Again, Drapkin.
“Let’s face it, the needs of a New Rochelle are completely different than Monticello. The needs of a White Plains are different than Ellenville,” Drapkin says. “And yet here we are looking at all 25 of them, all the major cities and then urban areas which are like a Monticello a Liberty, a Walden, a Brewster, in an effort to say this is where we really do need to grow.”
There is an apparent baseline for success, says Drapkin, including the ability to secure a decent paying job, housing, education and a variety of amenities. Drapkin says that when it comes to crime, there is realty and myth.
“There’s no question when you look at the data for all 25 communities, crime rates have been coming down dramatically yet perception still exists. And when perception becomes repeated over and over again, perception becomes reality,” says Drapkin. “And we’ve got to do something for Newburgh and Poughkeepsie and Middletown and many of the other communities that still suffer a little bit from the notion of how much crime there is when in reality it’s not nearly as bad as people might think it is.”
Here’s Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison.
“This is a safe community. I know that. I live here. I’m here all the time. I was a cop in the Poughkeepsie area for 26 years. I know when crime was spiking and there were serious concerns with it, as there still is, but it’s not the way it allegedly even was back then,” says Rolison. “We are a safe community. The statistics bear it out.”
The report also found that the Hispanic population is growing both in raw numbers and as a percentage of growth. In Poughkeepsie, the Hispanic population has doubled, from nearly 11 percent in 2000 to just north of 21 percent in 2015. Diverse populations are a hallmark of a city and one of the many attributes touted by Mayor Rolison.
“If you look at the institutions of higher education which are all on the border of the City of Poughkeepsie — Marist, CIA [Culinary Institute of America], DCC [Dutchess Community College], Vassar College, the river, the waterfront. Two bridges, Metro-North, Amtrak, close proximity to the Thruway, Taconic, Route 84, just the diversity of the people who live here in the city,” Rolison says.
The report states that since 2000, several of the communities in the Urban Action Agenda have experienced significant population growth. For example, in Rockland County, Haverstraw grew by nearly 20 percent, the most of the 25 communities. Fishkill, Nanuet, Walden, and Wappingers Falls grew by at least 10 percent while Liberty, Middletown, New Rochelle, Peekskill and White Plains showed smaller growth. There were spots of decline, however, as the report shows Hudson and Catskill saw their populations fall by at least 10 percent, with Saugerties, Mount Vernon, and Port Jervis recording more modest decreases.