RXR's Seth Pinsky said the key to keeping Westchester County competitive is to improve its transit connections to New York City.
Westchester County must become more competitive with New York City by allowing denser downtown development, unifying local governments and improving rail connections to Grand Central Terminal.
That was the advice given by Seth Pinsky, executive vice president at RXR Realty, which has big development plans for New Rochelle and Yonkers.
Pinsky spoke Thursday at the UJA-Federation of New York's Westchester Business and Professional Division's Fall Breakfast and he outlined steps that Westchester County's leaders could take to seize the opportunity to create communities similar to New York City's at more affordable prices that would attract young adults to the region.
Pinsky noted that Westchester County's population growth has slowed, with young adults and empty-nesters leaving the county for New York City.
"Whereas in 1980, 26 percent of county residents were 18 to 34, today the figure is 20 percent," said Pinsky, adding that those young people who remain have greater challenges. "Today 42 percent of 18-34-year-olds live with their parents, up from 36 percent in 1980."
This trend makes the county less marketable, said Pinsky.
"As Westchester loses in the competition for the young and the aging, especially those who are aging and have means, it's also losing the unique skills they each bring to the county's workforce. This in turn has a dramatic impact on the desirability of Westchester and other surburban counties to businesses," said Pinsky.
Pinsky said the key to keeping Westchester County competitive is to improve its transit connections to New York City. He noted that RXR is investing $200 million in downtown Yonkers just a block from a Metro-North train station because the trip to Grand Central Terminal is just 30 minutes, or less time than it takes to commute to Grand Central Terminal from many parts of Brooklyn.
Elected officials, especially those in southern Westchester County, must also adopt development plans that will allow the suburbs to share in the growth happening in New York City. That means denser, more urban landscapes in the downtowns that appeal to young adults and empty-nesters who don't want to drive.
Pinksy noted the New Rochelle officials have rezoned a huge portion of its downtown to create about 10 million square feet of development. With that new zoning, RXR is preparing to build a 28-story, mixed-use tower with 280 rental units.
The third step that Westchester County needs to take is encourage its patchwork governments to work for a common purpose of redesigning and rezoning suburban downtowns so that developers aren't scared away.
"We must take bold steps," said Pinsky. "We must make communities across the region more desirable and we must do so by focusing in particular on our suburban downtowns, areas with great potential that have remained shackled for far, far too long."
written by Ernie Garcia