RPA Poll Finds Guarded Optimism, but Jobs, Taxes, Storms Weigh on Outlook

Residents of the New York metropolitan area are more optimistic about their quality of life than they were two decades ago, but problems including unemployment, the cost of housing, property taxes and the threat of natural disasters are casting a significant shadow on their hope for progress in the coming years, results of a new poll show.

Across the Greater New York region, 28% of residents believe that their community will be a better place to live 10 or 15 years from now, while 48% expect their communities to remain the same as they are now, according to a survey conducted in March by Regional Plan Association. When a similar survey was conducted in 1995, only 19% of residents expected their communities to be better places to live in 10 or 15 years.

New York City stood out from the surrounding suburbs, with the share of city residents who believe that their community will be a better place to live 10 or 15 years from now rising from 21% to 37%. Property taxes, the cost of housing and a lack of jobs were all described as either a somewhat serious or very serious problem by more than 60% of the region’s residents. More than one-third of the region’s residents, or 35%, described the lack of jobs in their local community as a very serious issue. Nearly two-thirds of Long Islanders viewed property taxes as a very serious concern, a much higher share than elsewhere in the region.

Six in 10 residents say that climate change is likely to affect them or their local community in their lifetime. While that share is fairly consistent throughout the region, specific climate-change concerns varied widely by location. Residents of New Jersey and Connecticut say hurricanes are of greatest concern. On Long Island, people are most concerned with coastal flooding. In the Hudson Valley, the top concern is flooding from heavy rain.

While roughly one-third (36%) of residents said they would like to move out of their community, twice as many of those inclined to leave would prefer to move to an urban area than those surveyed in 1995. That change is being driven by young adults: Nearly half (45%) of those 18-29 years old who said they want to move want to move to an urban area.

Younger adults also are much more likely to ride the rails: More than one-third of the region’s 18-29 year-old residents use trains or subways to get to work, compared with just 17% of older adults. In a region that has been ranked among the most traffic-congested in the U.S., traffic was seen as a very serious problem by only 23% of residents overall, and by 30% of those who live on Long Island.

Overall, 38% of the region’s residents are very satisfied with the quality of life in their local community, an increase of three percentage points over 1995. An additional 45% are somewhat satisfied with their quality of life.

The biggest jump in overall satisfaction occurred in New York City, where the share of people who are very satisfied with the quality of life in their community increased five percentage points to 30% in 2013, from 25% in 1995. Only in Connecticut did people appear to be less happy with the quality of life in their community than in 1995, with 33% very satisfied with their quality of life in 2013, compared with 43% in 1995.

RPA commissioned the poll to help inform the Fourth Regional Plan, a multiyear research effort that the organization announced today at its annual Assembly in New York City. The Fourth Regional Plan will examine the tri-state area’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, fiscal uncertainty and declining economic opportunity for many residents, and propose policies and investments to ensure our prosperity and quality of life for the coming decades.

The project will produce the first long-range regional plan for the Greater New York area in more than a generation. RPA has produced three previous regional plans, in 1929, 1968 and 1996. Each led to major changes in transportation, community development, environmental protection and social welfare.

The findings are based on telephone surveys conducted from March 15-25, 2013, of 1,300 adults in the 31-county New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region. The poll, which has an overall margin of error of +/-2.7%, was conducted for RPA by Global Strategy Group.

In 1995, a survey conducted for RPA by Quinnipiac polled 1,500 adults in the tri-state region. That poll had a margin of error of +/-2.5%.

View the full poll results.