Five Questions With Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress CEO Adam Bosch

Five Questions With Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress CEO Adam Bosch

Recently, a new leader took the helm of what some in the business community consider the Hudson Valley’s very own think tank—Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress. The Board of Directors at Pattern for Progress appointed Adam Bosch, 39. to be the organization’s next president and chief executive officer, replacing Jonathan Drapkin, who had led the organization for 15 years.

Bosch, a lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley, previously worked as a journalist, college professor, and policy analyst across the region before joining the senior leadership team of the New York City water supply system. He is Pattern’s sixth president since the organization was founded in 1965.

Earlier this month Real Estate In-Depth chatted with Bosch on his goals for the organization, some of the key issues facing the Hudson Valley and some possible solutions to some of the pressing problems that now exist in the region.

Bosch started his career as a journalist in the Hudson Valley. He covered public affairs, courts and the environment for the Wallkill Valley Times, the Middletown Times Herald-Record, and in the Albany bureau of The New York Times. His work also appeared in several regional and national magazines. His work in journalism earned six Associated Press awards for investigative reporting, depth reporting, and breaking news coverage. Bosch also served as an adjunct professor of journalism for 10 years at SUNY New Paltz.

After leaving journalism, Bosch joined Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress in 2012 as vice president of research and external affairs. Bosch authored reports on the adaptive re-use of closed school buildings across the region, New York’s tax cap, and an investigation of Rockland County’s budget deficit. His examination of Rockland County’s fiscal crisis, and recommendations to solve it, earned Pattern the President’s Award from the Rockland County Business Association.

For the past nine years, Bosch has served as director of public affairs for the New York City water supply system—the largest municipal water supply in the United States. In that role, Bosch was responsible for community outreach, intergovernmental affairs, education programs and more. He served as the primary liaison between New York City and federal, state and local officials across the Hudson Valley and Catskills for issues related to the city’s reservoir system and its infrastructure.

Real Estate In-Depth: You have recently taken over as the Pattern for Progress President and CEO, succeeding the highly respected Jonathan Drapkin, who led the organization for more than 15 years. What are some of your goals for Pattern going forward?

Bosch: It’s really important for Pattern to continue to identify the issues that matter most across the region… One of the things that I am doing early on is having chats with people. When you have chats with people you start to hear the same thing three times, five times, eight times and that is a really good way to understand, especially when you hear those things in places that are far apart geographically, so if I hear the same thing in Westchester that I am hearing in Sullivan and Greene, this is a challenge for the whole region and not just one town or one city. So, early on what I am trying to do is identify the challenges that all our cities, towns and counties have in common and then really try to identify the ones where Pattern can bring some research and recommendations that can be put into action in a way that is helpful. That is the piece that is most important to me. The work of Pattern for Progress cannot be purely academic. It needs to be practical; it needs to be useful and it needs to be timely.

My goal is to do the research—we are known for thorough and deep, objective research. But, there is a second step to that and that second step is to bring that information to the people who have the passion and the authority to act on it and also to bring it to them in a form of advocacy that encourages them to act on it and shows why it is in the best interest of them and the people that they represent or employ. So, when we bring it to our leaders, we have to bring it with both instructive communication because we are supposed to be teaching the region about things, but we also have to bring it to the region with persuasive communication because ultimately, we want to convince them to take some action we think is in the best interest of our communities. So, that is really one of my chief goals is to understand now we can turn our good work into action on the ground in a way that improves the lives of our neighbors. …

So, what’s the number one issue as I go across the region?  You might say housing, yes, I am hearing a lot about housing. I am hearing a lot about people not being able to find the workers they need because there is this mis-alignment between the workers we need and the workers we have. However, actually the number one word in literally every single meeting I’ve had in the first almost two months at this point, is daycare. I have not had a single meeting where the word daycare has not come up. That comes up in the context of housing, it comes up in the context of workforce, it comes up in the context of businesses and benefits and struggles as to how we keep people here.

Editor’s Note: Bosch said that Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress will be working on this issue and research best practices that are working elsewhere in the nation and perhaps have some area of the Hudson Valley employ those measures to address the daycare problem.

Real Estate In-Depth: I understand Pattern is about to release a major study on the state of infrastructure in the Hudson Valley. Can you give us a preview of some of its key findings?

Bosch: I will mention a couple of its findings. We are going to do a big rollout of this study that we did for the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & the Hudson Valley in the coming weeks. A couple of findings off the top of my head. If you look at the rate of investment in our infrastructure and by infrastructure I am specifically talking about roads, bridges, water and sewer, which the study was limited to, over the past decade the rate of investment has been flat when you adjust it for inflation. There have been some modest upticks, but the upticks don’t catch up to inflation. So, essentially the rate of investment has been flat. During the pandemic there was a little tapping of the brakes where some of the government agencies that help subsidize infrastructure projects sort of held onto their money as it wasn’t clear what the pandemic was going to do to government finances and so the disbursement of that money slowed down for a year. …

The rate of investment we see in infrastructure now is not even close to what we need to play catch up to the things that are past their useful life and their expected life cycle. Much of our infrastructure is past its expected life cycle. … There are some movements afoot, obviously the federal infrastructure bill should provide a shot in the arm in terms of some more money coming in for these things. I know the state has some bond issues that are going to come up for vote and other things where they are trying to inject more money into infrastructure to help play catch up.

Editor’s Note: Pattern for Progress CEO Bosch noted that there are 3,153 bridges in the Hudson Valley, of which 1,531 fall under local jurisdiction. A total of 17% of the locally maintained bridges are deemed in poor condition. It is estimated it will cost $493 million to fix the local bridges in the Hudson Valley that are rated in poor condition. That figure does not factor in the recent spike in inflation or the repairs needed for state-maintained spans.

I know the counties are getting this infrastructure money and they are starting to think about what to do with it. Addressing some of these poorly rated bridges is one place they could begin and allocate some of that money.

Another finding is on the jobs front. We hear anecdotally and through data that finding employees is becoming really hard for DPWs (Department of Public Works) and water and sewer utilities. You have all these workers from the baby-boomer generation that are beginning to retire. The younger cohorts coming up are smaller in number, so their recruitment field is smaller, they tend to be less interested in this type of work in general, and it is difficult to recruit. We are having difficulty in the engineering sector. We are having difficulty in finding certified water and wastewater operators… So, what you have is utilities stealing them (these workers) from each other… So, we are just shuffling the chairs around on the deck. We are not actually producing more of these employees. That leads to people to think should we utilize outside contractors to operate the plants and that comes with upside and downside (issues). … So, a big challenge when it comes to infrastructure is just where is the next generation of stewards of our infrastructure going to come from? …

Real Estate In-Depth: Pattern’s Center for Housing Solutions & Community Initiatives has held highly informative webinars and issued Regional Housing Market Reports on the state of the residential real estate sector in the Hudson Valley. With prices rising and inventory at record lows, what is Pattern suggesting can be done to make housing accessible to the region’s workforce?

Bosch: What we are seeing with housing right now is pretty wild. Over the past four to five years, we have seen the cost of single-family homes in some parts of the region double. The median single-family home price in the region over the past year has gone up by $50,000. What that is doing, especially for young families, it is making homeownership unattainable and because homeownership is unattainable, it is pushing more people into the rental market. And, when more people get pushed into the rental market, rents go up. So, now you have this cascading situation where housing prices go up, people are flooding the rental market, rental prices go up and for people who are at the bottom of the rental market, it makes it very hard for them to find an honorable place to live at a reasonable price. This results in more people paying a higher portion of their salary toward housing costs and that we know is bad for the economy because when you can only spend your money on things you absolutely need, you don’t have any money left to spend on things you want, like goods, dinner and other things that help the economy go round.

So, we are seeing that trend. While there are some signs the rates of increase are slowing or maybe even leveling off, that is what we are going to be watching this year. There has been this influx of people coming into the region as a result of the pandemic, escaping more urban areas and driving the price of these homes up and driving the rental market (and prices) up. We think we are likely to see the plateauing of that this year and then whether it comes down a little bit and back to reality or not is sort of an open question. But, it really has an effect on our workforce and the ability of our workforce to find a place to live that does not gobble up a significant portion of their income.

Inventory on the market is down by thousands and thousands of units. It is down by half as compared to what it normally is. So, when we look towards solutions, there is no silver bullet here, but there are a bunch of things we need to think about doing to help this problem. …

Editor’s Note: Bosch said that some potential solutions would be to increase the number of affordable housing units targeted for the region’s workforce, assistance for first-time buyers for their down payments, as well as possibly allowing accessory living units.

Real Estate In-Depth: What do you see are the key issues facing the Hudson Valley in the years ahead and how can Pattern for Progress highlight those needs and their potential solutions?

So, we talked about housing at length. The way we are going to highlight (the issues) is we are going to get out in front of the people that don’t know these issues and hear about them. I don’t have to tell you that local government officials change every few years. There is a very quick turnover rate in terms of our town, village and city boards. They actually have some tools at their disposal that can help with things like housing. So, we need to get the message about housing and the tools at their disposal out in front of them in a way that mixes education and advocacy. I talked to you about childcare already. The other thing that we are going to be doing over the course of the next year is we started this new program called “Main Street Hudson Valley.” New York State is one of the only states in the country that does not have a dedicated government office for issues related to Main Street revitalization. We are creating one for the Hudson Valley and it is going to start with some programs that begin this month. There will be a program each month that will be related to some topic that is important for Main Street revitalization. And again, you are going to hear this again from me, but you will begin to understand it is very important to me—it is not going to be academic; it is going to (feature) highly practical things.

The first program that we are going to do in March is called “People First—Main Street.” During the pandemic we saw a a lot of creativity on Main Streets. There were pedestrian plazas that popped up, street festivals, the utilization of sidewalks and streets differently for businesses. Main Streets really got creative in terms of how they drew people to the downtown areas. Essentially, how to put people on the street. … So, what we are doing is we will have a bunch of products that are going to come out of this resource center. One of them is called “Main Street Bulletins” and one of them is called “Sidewalk Talks.” The “Main Street Bulletins” are going to be small research papers that dive deep into the topic that we set aside each month and actually bring practical examples of ways that communities have, in one case, created a people magnet on their Main Street. We are going to walk people through how it was conceived, planned, funded and implemented so that you could actually see yourself doing a project like this in your community or giving it a try. “Sidewalk Talks” will feature guest speakers who are going to come and do webinars for the region’s government officials and businesses that are dealing with Main Streets. …

Real Estate In-Depth: While you worked at Pattern as vice president of research and external affairs, you have extensive experience in communications, first as a journalist, including stints at the Middletown Times-Herald Record and New York Times, and later with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection as its director of public affairs. How do you believe your background will serve you in your new position as Pattern CEO?

Bosch: I believe it will help in a couple of ways. I was really fortunate to have my time at DEP because it not only expanded my regional view of the world, but it also helped me understand how a very large government organization works—anything from funding and procurement, planning for huge infrastructure projects and planning for some small ones. I learned how that was done, the methodology behind it and the thinking that goes into it. When I talk to our government officials around the region, I understand the process they have to go through to do the work they need to do and (therefore) I am not coming at this with a skewed perspective…

When you are a journalist you would have to schedule the stories you would do for the week and when you do that, at least when it was at the (Middletown Times-Herald) Record, every story that we said we were going to do we were then forced to answer a really important question: “Why should the reader care?” And that is a guide stone that essentially said you are not working on hobby stuff. Let’s make sure you are working on something that really has a critical touch point to our readers. And I think of that from a Pattern perspective. As we choose the projects that we work on, as we choose the topics we are going to focus on, as we think about how to deliver that information to the people that need to hear it, I have to be constantly thinking about why do they care? In other words, how does it affect them in a real way?

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