RPA COVID-19 Updates

As the global community continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis, all in-person RPA events have been postponed, in accordance with the recommendations of the CDC and the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. We encourage everyone to follow the recommendations of public health officials to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable communities.

RPA Assembly

RPA Assembly is going virtual. Beginning in late Spring, we will be hosting a series of online panels, featured speakers, and interviews, addressing the immediate and long term effects of COVID-19 on our regional health, economy and infrastructure. They will be free and open to the public. Stay up-to-date on assembly.rpa.org and sign up for our mailing list.

From RPA President and CEO Tom Wright

March 26, 2020

As I write this letter, everyone at RPA is in their second full week of social distancing. We’ve been working from home -- some of us alone, many with roommates, others caring for elderly parents or young children. We all worry about the health and safety of loved ones and friends, and are preparing ourselves for the new realities and challenges that each day brings.

But we know that this will turn around. Experts tell us that we will likely have a vaccine in 12 to 18 months. Social distancing and other safety precautions will dramatically slow the spread of the disease -- indeed they probably already have -- but we’re still in the lag time between when the measures went into effect and when we will see the benefits. Medical researchers around the globe are working on better treatments for those who have fallen critically ill, and the warmer spring weather may slow transmission. 

And of course, New York City and the tri-state region has survived terrible things before, including 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008, and Superstrom Sandy. Each time we came back better, stronger and more resilient than before. We will this time too. The heroes of this crisis are the healthcare workers on the front line, the transit workers driving our trains and buses, the retail workers making sure we have food and emergency supplies, and the suppliers who keep our delivery chains working -- all at great personal risk to themselves. We will remember their bravery and sacrifice, and honor their commitment by doing our best to help out now and prevent something like this from happening again. 

The region is already mobilizing and cooperating across political boundaries. The coordinated leadership of our three governors in particular -- Andrew Cuomo, Ned Lamont and Phil Murphy -- has shown us how important regional collaboration is in the face of a disease that does not care which side of the Hudson River or Long Island Sound you are living on. We appreciate their leadership, even as we look to the federal government for the immediate and long-term support we are going to need to recover from this tragedy. 

We now know that just as we have regional structures in place for transportation, economic development, environmental and land use planning, we need to have stronger regional coordination around public health. Our strained healthcare system functions best when it can shore up over-taxed facilities and workers with regional resources. Our safety guidelines for public convenings, or which businesses may remain open, are only effective when they encompass our entire regional community, rather than piecemeal sections. We were not adequately prepared for this global pandemic -- not even nearly prepared enough -- so we need to do better next time, especially since we know this crisis will hit some harder than others. 

Just as you are, RPA is responding to this unprecedented situation. Part of RPA’s mission is to bring people together in conversation. Today, we stay safely apart and find new ways of connecting online. Usually we promote transit ridership, and worry when it declines. Today, we urge everyone who doesn’t need to be on the system to get off, so the healthcare workers and providers of vital services can use the system safely. Usually we provide a voice for long-term planning. Today we are focused on getting through the next hour, the next day, the next week, and these coming months. But we look forward to restarting and leading the conversation on planning for a post-C-19 world and what that looks like for the region.

As you’ll read below, we’re moving our events online, and will continue to provide civic forums to address the challenges facing our region. And even as we self-isolate, this crisis has reminded us that we are part of a single, unified metropolitan region that is connected by millions of daily interactions between human beings. Our physical lives may have shrunk to our immediate living space and surrounding parks and public spaces, but our economy and society remain deeply interconnected thanks to our incredible telecommunications network and social media. 

On behalf of the staff and board of RPA, we hope that everyone reading this is safe and healthy and being careful not to spread the virus, and thank you for being part of the regional community. This is a global crisis, but we can defeat it with regional action. 

Stay safe,

Tom