County Executive Rob Astorino’s Announcement Reflects WCA Economic Development Agenda
Westchester County may soon be home to a new $1.2 billion biotech research, medical, and office development with retail space, a 100-room hotel, and eventually, a children’s living center, according to County Executive Robert Astorino, who unveiled the plans at the WCA’s Economic Forecast Breakfast on January 7. The Westchester BioScience & Technology Center would be developed on 80 acres in Valhalla, with private sector developer Fareri Associates.
Jack Kopnisky, Sterling National Bank; William Mooney, Jr., WCA; Hon. Robert Astorino, Westchester County
Creating sustainable, mixed-use developments in successful industry clusters will drive innovation and economic growth in Westchester, said Astorino, echoing the WCA’s economic development BLUEPRINT for Westchester agenda and leadership in promoting the growth of Westchester’s burgeoning biotech/health innovation hub.
The new center will create an estimated 12,000 new jobs—4,000 construction jobs and 8,000 permanent positions—and will generate an estimated $9 million in new tax revenue and $7 million annually in rent over the 99-year lease with the developer. WCA President & CEO William M. Mooney, Jr. greeted the news enthusiastically.
“The WCA has led the charge in driving the growth of Westchester’s entrepreneurial and innovation sectors; this development is a sign that our efforts are paying off,” said Mooney.
A plea and a pledge
The announcement came on the heels of Astorino’s opening remarks, which focused on the fiscal challenges Westchester faces. The average county employee earns more in salary than the average private sector worker ($79,000 vs. $67,000, according to the Astorino administration), and fringe benefits push the average compensation package north of $128,000 per year. Unfunded state and federal mandates account for a $926 million financial burden, 100 percent of the county tax levy, Astorino said.
“That leaves very little room for Westchester’s own priorities,” he decried, and offered a “plea and a pledge” to the Westchester County Association to work together to make 2016 a year of accountability, and a year of growth. “The voice of the business community must be heard,” he added.
Mooney promised to continue the organization’s long-standing government advocacy work. “We will work with you on these astronomical issues. We are committed to addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ which is the high cost of providing benefits to county employees, and to finding ways to control spending and promote economic growth.”