Hudson Valley Special Report:
The River Cities

First Quarter 2003

Marist College

Dr. Ann Davis, Director
Bureau of Economic Research
School of Management
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

June 2003

The assistance of Kevin Edson, Shivan Durbal, and Chris Trocino is gratefully acknowledged.

Trends in Agriculture

Based on statistics from the New York State Department of Agriculture, acreage in farms decreased by 70% for the region, including Albany and Rensselaer, while population increased by over 80%, from 1940 to 1998. For some counties, such as Putnam and Rockland, the acreage in farms decreased by over 90%. The counties with farm acreage exceeding 100,000 include Columbia, Dutchess, and Rensselaer. Columbia, Dutchess, Rensselaer, and Ulster had the greatest amount of farm acreage at the beginning of the period. While the loss of farmland can be partially explained by the growth in population, specific land use policies, such as farmland preservation, and clustered development, can preserve open space even with the steady growth of population. Support for the economic vitality of regional agriculture can also help sustain this aspect of the diverse regional economy.

Select River Cities

The comparison of select river cities with the relevant counties will help assess the equity of growth in the region, as well as efficiency of land use in the past thirty years, along with the promise and challenges of future urban development.


Most cities for which data is available grew from 1970 to 2000 except Yonkers and Poughkeepsie, while only Hyde Park and Hudson lost population in this most recent decade.

Yonkers remained the largest city, with a population more than six times greater than the next largest cities, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie.

The fastest growing city was Sleepy Hollow, with a population increase of 11.85%, roughly double the rate of growth of Westchester county, 5.55%. The fastest growing counties over this period, Orange and Rockland, followed closely by Dutchess and Ulster, grew more rapidly than their respective cities, suggesting that most of the growth took place in outer suburban areas.

All the cities gained in diversity, although Hyde Park retained the highest percent of white population, and Newburgh and Haverstraw had the lowest.

Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and Beacon had the highest percent of African American population, while Irvington had the lowest.

Education and Income

Irvington and Sleep Hollow had the highest average income per family, in 1990, the latest year for which data is available, while Haverstraw and Kingston had the lowest. The income level in Irvington was over five times as large as the family income in Haverstraw, a relatively wide differential. Irvington also had the most rapid growth in average income per family from 1980 to 1990, which more than doubled, while the lowest rate of growth was 85% in Haverstraw.

Irvington and Sleepy Hollow were the most educated, while Hudson was the least, measured by the portion of the population with more than high school. More than one half of the Irvington population and more than one third of Sleep Hollow have completed at least some college. In Hudson and Haverstraw, the portion was less than 10%. All areas showed an increase in educational attainment over the last decades.

Household Composition

A significant trend for all of the cities along the river was a dramatic decline in the portion of the population who are married with children less than eighteen years old present. For Hyde Park the decline was from nearly half of all occupied housing units to just above one quarter. For Sleepy Hollow, the decline was the smallest, and for Sleepy Hollow and Irvington, the share increased again from 1990 to 2000. In 2000, Sleepy Hollow and Irvington have the highest fraction of families with children, 34% and 29% respectively, while Poughkeepsie, Hudson, and Kingston have the lowest.

The cities show significant differences in the pattern of renter-occupied housing as well. Newburgh, Hudson, and Poughkeepsie have the highest share of renter-occupied housing, while Irvington and Hyde Park have the lowest. The share of renters has decreased dramatically in Beacon over this period, from over 72% in 1970 to 43% in 2000, while Yonkers and Irvington had slight declines for most this period. In Sleepy Hollow, the share has remained roughly constant in the range of just less than half, and increased for the other cities.

In Westchester, two cities had an increase in housing stock, which exceeded the rate of growth for the county from 1990 to 2000, Irvington and Sleepy Hollow, while there was a slower growth than the county average in Yonkers. In the remaining counties, the increase in housing stock in the county exceeded the growth rate in the respective cities. In Hudson, the number of occupied housing units declined.

From 1980 to 1990, the last period for which data is available, the value of owner-occupied housing stock increased most rapidly in Newburgh, and the slowest in Yonkers. For all the cities, however, the value of owner-occupied housing more than doubled. The average value of owner-occupied housing stock was greatest in Irvington and Sleepy Hollow, both exceeding $200,000, and the lowest in Hudson, just above $50,000. While the cities had rapid increases in housing stock, the average value of owner-occupied housing was higher in the counties as a whole than the cities, except for Sleepy Hollow and Irvington, which had higher values than the average for Westchester County.

Quality of Life

While urban schools have the reputation of higher minority enrollments, the pattern varies widely across the region. Hyde Park, Irvington, and Sleepy Hollow have less than 10% of school district enrollment as African American, compared with over 60% in Poughkeepsie. Irvington, Kingston, and Hyde Park have less than 5% Hispanic enrollment in the public schools, while Sleepy Hollow and Yonkers have more than 40% Hispanic. None of the relevant counties have more then 20% of either African American or Hispanic students.

The crime index dropped dramatically between 1990 and 2000 for all cities for which data is available. The index dropped less notably in the counties, and actually increased in Orange County. Still, the level of crime is much higher in the cities than the counties.

What is more difficult to measure, as an aspect of quality of life, is the access to sidewalks and mass transit, cultural amenities, waterfront access, and diversity.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Geolytics, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Commerce Department, New York State Department of Labor, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, U.S. Bankruptcy court, New York State Association of Realtors, Stewart Airport, Westchester County Airport, National Park Service, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Cooperation of the Council of Industry of Southeastern New York and the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center in the conduct of the business survey is greatly appreciated.