Friday Report: Tappan Zee funding questions; Westchester home sales up in 3rd Q; Armonk Square approved

Inside Track sincerely apologizes for the radio silence of the past couple days – it was particularly hectic in the newsroom. We’re back with a chock-full of topics this morning, and then later today we’ll wrap up the work week with a recap of what has made news in Westchester during the past week.

Driving the Week: This week, the Obama administration effectively fast-tracked the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project in an executive memorandum that expedited environmental reviews and permitting the Tappan Zee and fourteen other so-called “shovel ready” infrastructure projects from around the country. However, I challenge the presumption that right now, the bridge is, in fact, shovel ready.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation have told the Business Journal that $3 billion of the estimated total $5.2 billion cost of replacing just the bridge would come from bonds purchased by NY state and backed by toll dollars. The two problems with that are (1) How much would that require raising toll fees? and (2) Where is the remaining $2.2 billion coming from?

I just returned from a conversation with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and he said that while he is happy the project was put on the fast-track and that it is moving ahead, he too has concerns about the lack of communication from Albany and Governor Andrew Cuomo, about the lack of certainty over the project’s funding, and about the apparent lack of public transit being oriented into the bridge’s design.

Driving the Week (Part II): In the Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors’ third-quarter residential real estate report that was released this week, we saw some notable increases in sales from the second quarter of this year. In fact, the 1,944 sales in Westchester County during the third quarter of 2011 represented the highest number of 3Q sales since 2008.

A decline in the home prices may have impacted the increase: for the third quarter, the median sales price for one-family homes was down six percent from 3Q 2010. More on the residential and commercial real estate markets in the next couple of weeks.

Driving the Week (Part III): On Wednesday, the town of North Castle Planning Board gave the Armonk Square development the last remaining approval that was needed before development on the 3+ acre project could begin. More on this coming in the weekly wrap-up this afternoon, but great news for a development that has been delayed for literally decades due to a number of economic and political reasons.

Outlook: Slowly but surely, the markets are clawing back, with both the DJIA and S&P 500 posting strong weeks and noticeable gains. Also, one area to watch is always commodity prices, and crude oil hit a three-week high today in New York (crude oil on the NY Mercantile Exchange is up 4.3 percent this week). A hint from the experts (I am not one of the experts, for clarification): the best indicators of the economy are not the stock indexes but instead are commodities, namely oil and copper (which is present in a really wide range of goods).  

Headlines:

National retail sales rose by 1.1 percent in September; biggest gains in seven months (Bloomberg).

Apple poised for record-breaking iPhone 4S sales this weekend following today’s release (Bloomberg).

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