In a prosperous region, the standard of living should rise for everyone.


By 2040, the tri-state region should create 2 million jobs in accessible locations, substantially increase real incomes for all households, and achieve a major boost in jobs and incomes for residents in the region’s poorer cities and neighborhoods.

The actions in Fourth Regional Plan will create the robust and broad-based economic growth needed to lift all incomes and support a healthier, more resilient region.

The region’s economy is stronger than it has been at any time since the 1960s. More than a million jobs have been created since the end of the 2008–2009 financial crisis, and the tri-state area is recognized as one of the world’s leading metropolitan economies.

Yet this hard-won success is fragile. The transportation infrastructure that keeps the economy moving is deteriorating, and has little capacity to handle more people or goods. The rising cost of housing threatens to make the region too unaffordable to support all but the highest-paying jobs. And land-use and financing regulations often make it too difficult to create new jobs where they are needed most.

Recent growth has also not resulted in broadly shared prosperity. As in the rest of the country, incomes at the top have soared while stagnating for low- and middle-income households. And while New York City has seen its fastest job growth in decades, growth has slowed markedly in the smaller cities and towns in Connecticut, New Jersey, and the New York suburbs.

From 1975-2005, nearly 9 out of every 10 new jobs in the region went to places outside of New York City. From 2005-2015, this was completely reversed with New York City capturing 87% of job growth. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Moody’, Regional Plan Association

Reconnecting growth and prosperity

An expanding economy is essential to reducing poverty, lifting household incomes, and improving infrastructure and public services. But simply growing the economy isn’t enough. Jobs need to pay enough for the average worker to get ahead. Low-income residents need the education, skills, and access to reach the middle class. Housing, taxes, and other expenses need to leave enough income left over to have a good quality of life. Public transportation, schools, health care, parks, and other public goods need to expand opportunity for those who can’t afford private services.

The growing disconnect between growth and prosperity is a global crisis with a wide range of causes, from the automation of jobs that used to pay a living wage and didn’t require a college degree to international markets that reduce the bargaining power of workers and suppliers. This changing nature of work is particularly acute in the tri-state region, where middle-skill jobs are declining even faster than in the U.S. as a whole. Technology is accelerating this trend, and future disruption is all but certain. Driverless cars, for example, could displace up to a quarter million workers who drive or park cars and trucks.

Reconnecting growth and prosperity will also strengthen the bonds between prosperity, health, and the environment. Economic prosperity can only be sustained with an environment that can support a healthy population. A prosperous economy, in turn, should promote good health and a resilient natural environment. The proposals in the Fourth Regional Plan would reinforce a virtuous cycle of prosperity, health, and sustainability. Its infrastructure and energy proposals would create a low-carbon economy that creates jobs as it lowers air pollution and improves health. The plan would build the economy around walkable, transit-friendly places that bring high value, promote physical activity, and help curb urban sprawl and preserve open spaces.

Fortunately, there is much the region can do to both increase economic growth and help more people benefit from that growth. While the region’s institutions can’t change the trajectory of the global economy, they can expand the number and diversity of job opportunities, and provide more residents with the resources and access necessary to benefit from those opportunities.

Invest in infrastructure.

States, municipalities, and regional authorities need to invest in infrastructure that both expands the growth potential of the economy and improves access to jobs and other opportunities.

  • Rebuild the subway system that anchors the region’s economy by adopting new technology for fast, reliable service, modernizing and refurbishing New York City’s subway stations, and extending and building new subway lines to give underserved neighborhoods greater access to jobs.
  • Create a fully integrated, regional transit system that includes a unified regional rail network that expands capacity for growth, greatly improves travel times and reliability, supports job growth in downtowns throughout the region, and makes commuter rail service available and affordable for riders with low-incomes.
  • Reduce the cost of building transit megaprojects to build needed projects faster and cheaper.
  • Create world-class airports and seaports, including the expansion and redesign of Kennedy and Newark airports, that will keep the region competitive with other world cities.
  • Expand affordable internet service across the region to help close the digital divide and equip more residents with the tools to thrive in a technologically advanced economy.
  • Modernize the energy grid to reliably supply an energy-efficient economy that will have a rapidly growing need for electric power.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a cap-and-trade market modeled on California’s program to spur energy-efficient industries and create a revenue stream to fund the region’s infrastructure needs.

Create more affordable homes.

Metropolitan regions that expand their supply of inexpensive housing have faster job growth and more equitable income distributions. Cities, towns, and villages in the tri-state region need to lift constraints on creating affordable homes to allow the region to support more middle-income jobs:

  • Remove barriers to transit-oriented and mixed-use development including zoning, financing, and other regulations that prevent the region from building enough homes to bring down the cost of housing.
  • Increase housing supply without constructing new buildings by making it easier to have second and third units in single-family homes and reducing disincentives to keep available homes off the market.
  • Remake underutilized auto-dependent landscapes to turn aging shopping malls, industrial parks, and commercial strips into vibrant corridors of transit-oriented jobs and housing.

Support diverse local economies.

The powerful economic forces that are disrupting industries and eliminating low-skill and mid-level jobs make it even more essential to support diverse local economies that provide a broad range of career opportunities.

  • Restore regional jobs centers outside of Manhattan to expand access to jobs and strengthen the economies of declining cities.
  • Make room for the next generation of industry to maintain essential industrial services and maximize the number of well-paying jobs in production and distribution.
  • Create partnerships between local communities and anchor institutions like hospitals and universities to create strong neighborhood economies.
  • Support and expand community-centered arts and culture to expand creative industries at both a regional and neighborhood scale.

Support racially and economically integrated schools and communities.

Educational attainment remains the strongest predictor of economic success for both individuals and metropolitan areas. Regional strategies can support improvements in education by promoting racially and economically integrated schools and communities that have closed the gap in academic achievement.

  • Build affordable housing throughout the region to promote mixed-income communities.
  • Strengthen and enforce fair-housing laws to ensure everyone has access to places with affordable housing, good schools, and safe streets.
  • Create regional school districts and services to facilitate high-performing, and racially and economically integrated schools that will improve educational outcomes.

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