Putting Two and Two Together

Strictly speaking, I am not a math person. But I do love to put two and two together.

So I listened astutely this morning as six urban leaders discussed the future of Westchester’s economy at a Key Bank/Business Council of Westchester breakfast. It started on a somewhat grim note about the ongoing exodus to Florida and many points south – and mind you, not for the weather, but the cost-of-living. What was needed to reverse the trend? Panelists seemed to agree we need new residential development, reuse of loft and office buildings for mixed-use housing development, less hassle and fewer roadblocks to construction. Additionally, we need to be cheerleading about the benefits of Westchester and, finally, creating enough excitement in our towns and cities to attract the coveted millennials.

I juggled these notions around in my head, and then paired them with an exceptional, thought-provoking, professionally staged play I saw Saturday night (Outside Mullingar*). It might have been Off Broadway, but it was not. It was at a small, jam-packed theater in, yes, Armonk, which was clever to attract the Hudson Stage Company as a resident theater. The two and two I love to put together is that development and the arts can attract millennials to our cities, as well as young home buyers, two-thirds of whom are reported to be craving a good suburban barbecue.

While Brooklyn-envy has been in full bloom in recent years, it’s important to note that it was artists who led the way to Bushwick, after they led the way to Williamsburg and Gowanus. It was Dia Beacon that led the way to Beacon and, years earlier, it was Lincoln Center that led the way to the West side of Manhattan.

Today, Yonkers is borrowing a chapter from the Lower East Side book of real estate economics by using its cache of in-rem vacant buildings to attract major names in the art world, betting that other artists, and then millennials, will soon follow. Developer Mark Alexander is leading the way to Fleetwood by investing in public art, as is Martin Ginsburg in his Harbor Square project in Ossining. It is the Jacob Burns Film Center and the Tarrytown Music Hall leading the path to Pleasantville and Tarrytown.

My math says there’s good reason for optimism and good reason for the arts, not as a cure-all, but certainly in collaboration as part of a larger comprehensive strategy.

 

*The final performances of “Outside Mullingar” take place on Fri, May 1 at 8pm and Sat, May 2 at 3pm and 8pm at Whippoorwill Hall, Armonk.

Top image: Rendering of sculpture project at Harbor Square, Ossining

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