County Executive Ed Day delivered his annual State of the County Address Wednesday.
Rockland County has rebounded from rock bottom.
County Executive Ed Day delivered his annual State of the County address to the Rockland County Legislature at the Allison-Parris Office Building in New City Wednesday night, promoting his record since taking office and laying out his vision for Rockland’s future.
Day said when he became county executive, Rockland was the most fiscally stressed county in New York, facing a $138 million deficit.
“Our hard work brought Rockland back from the brink of bankruptcy,” Day said. “The road has been rocky, but we worked together to get this done.”
Rockland’s robust surplus fund has allowed Rockland to increase funding to non-profits, wave the county bus fare, provide grants to small businesses, and make infrastructure improvements, Day said.
“The state of our county is stronger than ever before,” Day said. “We have literally transformed this county from worst to first.”
The county is working on keeping the tax burden low for families who have been struggling with inflation and high gas prices, Day said. The county did not raise property taxes in 2023 and by repealing the energy tax, effectively gave families an 8.4 percent tax cut, Day said.
“We will do everything we can do to make things better,” Day said. “Our success is not final, it is something we must work to achieve. We are not stopping nor slowing down. I want our residents to know, we hear your struggles, and see your heartbreak.”
The potential foreclosure of the Palisades Center Mall was top of mind for Day, noting the tax revenue it provides the Town of Clarkstown, Clarkstown Central School District and the county.
Day said they will do everything possible to ensure there is minimal impact on residents should the mall foreclose.
“We know the Palisades Center is one of the major attractions bringing in outside revenue,” Day said.
While the Palisades brings in tourists to Rockland, Day wants to highlight other potential tourist attractions the county has. A new website has been created and the county awarded $278,000 in grants to organizations to promote themselves to people outside Rockland.
“Tourism creates jobs, it strengthens the economy,” Day said. “It allows us to do a lot more than you would think. It’s our duty to support this vital economic driver.”
The county is also working on encouraging more people to volunteer to be first responders through its Heroes College Fund, by offering a $6,000 annual credit for college tuition.
A new fire operations building is being built and the county recently built a new training simulator so firefighters learn the warning signs of a flashover, when an entire room is fully engulfed in flames.
“To our first responders, we appreciate all you do,” Day said. “This is just one more way of our saying thank you.”
Rockland is also working on offering more outdoor amenities to residents, noting the positive impacts it has on mental health and the respite it provided for people during the pandemic. The county is in the process of purchasing of purchasing three properties, preserving 26 acres for open space.
The county has awarded $7 million in grants to municipalities and non-profits for over 24 projects for parks, playgrounds, and gardens in Rockland County. Day said they are also conducting a feasibility study for a bike path from Palisades to Stony Point.
“Once all these projects are complete, the people of Rockland will feel even prouder to call this county home,” Day said. “These improvements will benefit Rocklanders for generations to come. I am committed to making investments today to benefit tomorrow to ensure Rockland County thrives.”
In the wake of last year’s polio outbreak and a prior outbreak of measles, Day said the county is boosting efforts to increase vaccinations. He called on schools to maintain and enforce vaccine requirements and said the county has had ongoing conversations with community leaders and doctors to boost vaccinate rates.
“We declared war on polio in Rockland,” Day said. “We’re going to stand our ground and put an end to polio forever.”
Calling polio a “devious disease”, Day implored families to do the right thing and get their children vaccinated.
Day’s address took place several days after a fire in Spring Valley killed five people. Day said the county is working on cracking down on irresponsible development and illegal housing. In Spring Valley, the Office of Building and Codes has issued 7500 violations and levied $250,000 to property owners since launching last year.
“People will come before profit, plain and simple,” Day said. “We will do whatever is necessary to protect the health and safety of village residents, visitors, and first responders.”
Increased enforcement on code violations is only a band aid to another issue plaguing Rockland, the lack of housing and apartment stock needed to drive down home and apartment prices, Day said.
“This is not an easy problem to solve,” Day said. “This will be one of the toughest. I’ve never been one to back down a challenge. I ask you all to join me. If we can rescue this county from the brink of bankruptcy, we can find a way to make Rockland affordable to all.”
The county is partnering with local municipalities and Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress to conduct a study of the county’s needs and challenges to help develop affordable housing in Rockland.
“I ask our families at home to be patient,” Day said. “This is an issue close to my heart because I firmly believe safe and affordable housing is human right, one that should not be limited to the highest income brackets. I call on my partners in all levels of government and our county legislature to work with me and my administration to knock down our barriers to these families once and for all.”