With hundreds of millions of dollars in new development and thousands of residential housing units in jeopardy, the Business Council of Westchester (BCW), the county’s only business membership organization focusing on economic development and advocacy,brought together more than 50 leading developers with projects planned for Westchester to a top-level briefing and discussion with representatives of Con Edison of the utility company’s announced March 15 moratorium on accepting new natural gas customers. A lack of pipeline capacity necessary to supply the gas to the utility to meet increased demand is the root cause of the problem, Con Ed has explained.
The two-hour, closed-door session Monday facilitated an open, wide-ranging discussion of the natural gas supply shortage situation which poses a real threat to the future of economic development in most of Westchester including its major urban centers. Developers representing a cross-section of smaller, mid-sized and large companies, as well as affordable housing advocates, joined in the conversation and endorsed the BCW’s implementation of a task force to immediately begin exploration of both short and long-term ways of addressing the issue.
“While the gas shortage has been years in the making, it has now reached the point of a crisis that threatens our economy,” said BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon. “While there are no easy solutions,” she said, “there are potential steps that can be taken to ease the immediate problem that we will be carefully evaluating with the goal of recommending a plan of action steps as quickly as possible.”
Gordon added: “The level of participation and interest, and the strong sense of unity reflects how deeply this issue will affect not only the development community but the residents of Westchester County. After decades of struggling, our downtown areas of Yonkers, New Rochelle and other urban areas are seeing unprecedented new growth and renewal. To jeopardize this is simply not an option.”
The BCW taskforce will begin work immediately and will include outreach to local, county and state leaders to work together to address the immediate and long-term situation, and in May will hold a major energy conference.
“The major takeaway from our initial meeting is that the business and development community is ready, willing and able to step forward and work with Con Edison, the state government, the Public Service Commission and any and all other involved parties to tackle the issue head-on,” Gordon said. “This was a wake-up call that can’t be ignored, and we’re confident that working together we can and will find viable solutions. We have no choice.”