- Last Updated: 25 April 2020 25 April 2020
Relief is on the way! The Town is continuing to offer programs, services, and support to residents during the Coronavirus crisis. This week we coordinated with the County to ensure a reduction in penalties or waiver of all penalties for taxpayers with specific or no specific hardships, hopefully providing some extra flexibility in cashflow for you. We have provided more detail (and an easy visual) later in the Update. Also included, mask making programs to help essential services workers, meal train options for those on the front lines, exemption application info, absentee ballot information, and more!
Before jumping in to the Coronavirus numbers for this week, I would like to remind everyone of the importance of the Census. The resources we use to combat the current crisis are tied directly to the results of the last Census. Each decade this national survey helps distribute more than $400 billion per year in federal and state funding, all allocated to communities for neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation, and much more. In 2010, Ossining lost nearly $2500 for each uncounted resident – per year. Now more than ever, an accurate count is a necessity. The fourth and final mail reminder was received by many residents this week. You can also complete the census online or by phone (844-330-2020 for English, 844-468-2020 for Spanish, 844-474-2020 for Portuguese) even if you have not received your mailing. If you know someone who needs to view the Census information in another language I recommend visiting the Census Website’s Language Support page. The Census is available in approximately 60 different languages, with the survey also available in Braille and large print. The Census should be completed by each household and account for every resident, regardless of citizenship or age. College students and preschoolers are consistently under counted nationwide, and all Census responses are confidential. If your college student should have been at school this semester, they will have already been counted by their school so you should not included them in your count.
Coronavirus remains in the forefront of our minds. The number of cases in Ossining grew to 101 in the Town of Ossining, 706 in the Village of Ossining, and 65 in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, as of yesterday, which are the latest numbers we have received thus far. Please bear in mind these numbers are cumulative and reflect both active and inactive cases. It is likely the number of active cases are approximately 50% less than these numbers. Thankfully, it appears the State has finally turned a corner and flattened the curve, meaning that valuable healthcare services will not become overwhelmed. Of course, we are not out of the woods yet. Healthcare workers are still working around the clock and our efforts to social distance and stay home are what is keeping the system afloat. Governor Cuomo is coordinating with neighboring states in crafting a plan for the downward slope of the curve and the eventual reopening. A few states with lower case numbers have lifted some restrictions, we are closely monitoring how their numbers react. Please join me in continuing to adhere to the guidelines in place until an official all-clear is issued from the Governor. It takes the participation of the entire community to keep us healthy.
The County Legislature approved a Tax Penalty Reduction option this week. The Town Board and I wrote a formal letter of support along with several other Supervisors asking the Legislature to adopt the option for taxpayers. The money received from these taxes is used by the County to pay for the much-needed essential services and ongoing emergency response. However, to offer relief to anyone, the following structure is now in place (see chart below). Penalties for late payment have been reduced for all taxpayers. Penalties are reduced to .5% until May 30, with penalties rising to 1% from the first of June to July 15. So, on an average Town/County tax bill of $4000 if you pay by May 30 you would owe an additional $20, or by July 15 an additional $40. You do not need to apply for this reduction in penalties, it is automatically available to all taxpayers.
Additionally, earlier this week, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.22 suspending some of the laws regarding penalties for Real Property Taxes in Westchester County, empowering the County Executive to establish hardship criteria for some taxpayers to receive a complete waiver of penalties through July 15, including residents, landlords, and small businesses. For those who require further flexibility, the taxpayer can apply for the elimination of all penalties until July 15 under specific "Hardship Requirements." The hardship requirements are different for individuals, businesses, and individuals with rental properties. Please review the requirements to see if you are eligible. I am happy to report that the Town of Ossining has indicated to the County Executive's office that we will participate in this opportunity for our taxpayers, and our participation will be formalized via a resolution at next Tuesday's Legislative Session.
We have begun to see many questions from taxpayers asking how these new relief programs will be implemented. Those requesting hardship will be required to complete a certification form to be submitted with payment, received and/or postmarked by July 15. You do not need to request the hardship exemption prior to April 30. Certification forms will be available to taxpayers that meet the criteria for hardship in the near future.
I know these past few weeks have been particularly difficult for seniors and their families. If you’re nervous about isolation, or travel, or any number of things during this pandemic, we’ve come across a wonderful Resource Guide full of senior services and entertainment options. With information coming at us from all different angles, it’s important to have a central place with reliable and straightforward information.
Last night, I attended a Zoom meeting of the Mid-Hudson Ambulance District. We hold these meetings quarterly, primarily to review various statistics generated by the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps and discuss ways to better serve the communities within and served by the District -- Ossining (Town and Village), New Castle, Croton, and Sleepy Hollow. I was encouraged to hear from Captain Nick Franzoso how the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps has been extraordinarily well-equipped to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. They have been working tirelessly to respond to medical emergencies, with most attributed to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 these days, as well as to support many other community organizations at the same time. We are so lucky to have dedicated first responders, under the great leadership of Captain Franzoso. Thank you OVAC!
This past week marked a number of important holidays, some of which we usually get to celebrate as a community. Tuesday, April 22 was Earth Day 50 years since the first one!) and today, Friday, April 24 is Arbor Day. Of course, that does not mean we cannot continue to celebrate with our families at home! The tenets of environmentalism, individual and collective action to make this world a better place to live, ring true today, and perhaps even more so, as we grapple with the impacts of a pandemic. Get outside (maybe bring your rain boots and umbrella along today!) to celebrate the great outdoors and even educate your children about the importance of Earth Day and Arbor Day. Here are some great ideas for celebrating Arbor Day at home, and some for Earth Day as well. Before you know it, we will be back together for belated celebrations -- we have planned a tree planting in the fall, stay tuned. Sing Sing Kill Brewery also has a special Earth Day beer release and virtual tasting party scheduled for tonight, what a fun way for those 21+ in your household celebrate Earth Day!
Holocaust Remembrance Day was also this past week. This was a day to pause and remember the senseless killing of groups of people who somehow represented a threat to those in power, and their followers. I know I lost relatives, and others, including my mother and grandparents, had to go into hiding to remain safe. As we think about what is going on in our world today and how people are coming together at a distance to help their neighbors or others imperiled by this disease, even as we fear those who are sick, we can recognize the hope we have that humanity can rise above demagoguery and hate. We must always remember.
We also celebrate the beginning of the month of Ramadan this week, a peaceful and reflective time with family. I know this is an incredibly difficult time to be unable to share with our extended family, friends, and faith communities. I hope Ramadan in the environment of Coronavirus remains a spiritual time of reflection and retreat for Muslims in our community and throughout the world, and serves as a reminder to all of us that our time of isolation can also be a time of seeking inner peace, gratitude, and comradery.
Though money may be tight for some, anyone who can support our local businesses should check out some of the amazing options throughout town! This week we've updated our restaurant list for the fourth time - including some that were closed that reopened for take out and delivery. Thanks for your input.
But wait, there's more! Restaurants are not the only places that have adapted to these unprecedented times. Thank you to everyone who emailed and commented to help us expand our list of businesses offering no-contact deliveries, phone consultations, and remote learning.
Mask maker, Mask maker, Make me a mask. We're proud to share two growing initiatives by our residents to help keep our neighbors healthy. For anyone skilled with a needle and thread, a team is creating masks for EMTS, nursing homes, and those in vulnerable populations (like homeless residents). Check out their GoFundMe page to see how to get involved or donate. The second initiative is a wonderful Meal Train designed to provide meals to hospital workers and OVAC. Check out their food-fastic plan to see how to contribute.
I know money has been tight for a lot of residents. Please know, we do not intend to let any resident go hungry. Every Tuesday, the Village and Feeding Westchester host a food distribution program across several locations. Also, the not for profit Gullotta House has been amazing in helping to coordinate volunteers for these efforts and additionally, has provided hot meals to the Ossining Community and beyond, here in Ossining on Fridays from 4-6pm at Stop & Shop. So far they've distributed over 12,000 meals. To help support them, please visit www.gullottahouse.org. The dates and locations change weekly, so we recommend residents follow them on Facebook to get specific information. We're also sharing the info on our Town of Ossining Facebook page.
As we keep our eyes on the future, I know a lot of you have questions about the primary election. Governor Cuomo moved the primary date to June 23rd and expanded the voting by mail criteria. Registered voters affected by the Coronavirus crisis can now request an absentee ballot based on the "temporary illness or physical disability." Additionally, the Governor has just announced today that absentee ballot application will be mailed to every registered voter in New York for the primaries (with postage for envelope to mail back to Boards of Elections). Please note, this option has been extended for the June primary election only, not the November general election. To request an absentee ballot today, if you do not want to wait please fill out the application here.You can email your application in too.
Stay safe Ossining -- and enjoy the weekend!
- Last Updated: 23 April 2020 23 April 2020
- Last Updated: 17 April 2020 17 April 2020
Town Board Work Session
Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 7:30pm
THIS MEETING WILL BE HELD VIA VIDEO CONFERENCING ONLY
Pursuant to Governor’s Executive Order 202.1 dated March 12, 2020
Members of the public can view the meeting via computer or mobile app:
Members of the public can listen to the meeting by dialing in via phone:
1 (929) 205-6099
Meeting ID: 896 5935 0024
**Please note that by dialing in, your phone number will be visible to the host, participants, and attendees of the meeting.**
Work Session Agenda:
1. Departmental Report: Kathy Asaro, Nutrition Site Director
2. Update from Town Clerk re: Software: Susanne Donnelly, Town/Village Clerk
3. Departmental Report: Valerie Monastra, Town Planning Consultant
4. Coronavirus Budgetary Update: Supervisor Dana Levenberg, Deputy Comptroller Dale Brennan, and Budget Officer Victoria Cafarelli
- Last Updated: 17 April 2020 17 April 2020
Stopping the spread of Coronavirus remains our top priority in the Town, but I would like to start today's update with an important reminder about the Census. Our Census response rate for the Town of Ossining remains significantly under our total response rate for the 2010 Census. Three reminders to participate have already been sent in the mail, and you should be receiving your fourth and final reminder in the mail shortly. There are three ways to respond -- online, via phone, or by paper form by request. You can still respond today online, but now the paper response forms should also show up in your mailbox to complete. Westchester County Department of Planning reported to us that this week, we started to see numbers of paper responses increase throughout the County, indicating that those forms have indeed reached people's mailboxes. An accurate count in the Census is extremely important, so we have continued to partner with the Village of Ossining and the Ossining Counts committee to get that message out. The flyer below will be distributed with next week's Feeding Westchester food distribution, mailed with all receipts for tax payments starting today, sent home with children picking up breakfasts and lunches at Park School, and incorporated into any other appropriate messaging from the Town and Village. It is also important to educate your children about the Census because in 2030, they will be ten years older and may be responding for themselves for the first time as independent, young adults. Westchester County Planning Commissioner Norma Drummond shared with us how many people who were school aged children in 2010 are now young adults but are nevertheless unaware of the importance of the Census, or even what it is! The Census Bureau has a YouTube page with helpful videos for adults, but also with educational videos for students. I think this is a great resource for all the parents out there who have suddenly become remote learning teachers. Now you can incorporate educational videos from the Census into your math and statistics lessons for all ages!
This week has brought some encouraging, yet still sobering news. As of yesterday (we have not yet received updated numbers today), the number of confirmed cases are 79 in the Town of Ossining, 54 in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, and 547 in the Village of Ossining. However, as County Executive George Latimer reminds us, this number is cumulative. It is likely that a good portion of those individuals included in this count are no longer active cases, hopefully having recovered. Unfortunately, also as the County has noted, it is clear that this pandemic has hit hardest our minority communities, which is so devastating. I have been in touch with Neighbors Link and Open Door about how we may partner to continue to improve those statistics and hope to have information about that in the not too distant future. These organizations are working around the clock to get personalized information and education, as well as resources to our local communities. It remains important to be vigilant in our efforts to stay home as much as possible, only going out for absolutely essential trips, and to isolate or quarantine when any symptoms present themselves in ourselves or our families, plus seek medical assistance if needed. We owe it to our entire community to make these sacrifices to ultimately save lives. These families that have been impacted by this virus, especially those that have lost loved ones, remain in my thoughts every day.
Governor Cuomo continues to issue regular Executive Orders, including those issued within the past week or so that apply to the functions of the Town -- extending New York PAUSE through May 15 and closing boat launches, including the Town-operated launch at Louis Engel Park. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo also announced that all New Yorkers are now required to wear face masks or coverings when outside and when social distancing measures are not possible. See below for a refresher on social distancing when getting outside for solitary exercise. Again, masks are not an alternative to staying home! This follows an Executive Order from earlier this week that all essential employees must be provided masks free of charge by their employers when interacting with the public. The Town does still have essential employees working in the field, with limited contact with the public. Through our channels, we have been able to secure masks to make sure we keep everyone safe, and we thank all those who were able to help us with that.
This upcoming week we will be resuming our normal meeting schedule for all Town Boards and Committees via Zoom. Our Environmental Advisory Committee held their first virtual meeting last night, we have planned a meeting of the Mid-Hudson Ambulance District board coming up next Thursday, and all of our remaining Land Use Boards are gearing up their agendas for May. We hope that this new platform will help us regain some sense of normalcy, and continue to allow us to engage our public for these meetings. We recognize that Zoom may be a new concept for most, so I would encourage you to check out these video tutorials from Zoom to help familiarize yourself with this new platform. On a personal note, I have used Zoom to gather with my own family remotely, as well as my gym buddies who I now work out with a couple times a week, and my girlfriends who connect to relax and rewind Friday evenings, so I hope that by learning Zoom to engage with your Town Board, you will also look to use video conferencing to connect with your family and friends near and far while we are all in isolation. Many of our local businesses have also started using Zoom or other similar platforms to continue to provide their services virtually now (check them out below), so you should also consider using your new skills to support our local businesses!
At last Tuesday's Board Meeting, we discussed legislation that is currently before the Westchester County Board of Legislators and aims to provide relief to taxpayers currently experiencing hardship due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and may be finding it difficult to pay their Town and County taxes on time. You can view our meeting on the Town's YouTube page, if you were unable to join us live. I hope that our discussion of this legislation, which reduces the current penalty structure from 2% to one-half of 1% if taxes are paid in May and from 5% to 1% if taxes pare paid between June 1 and July 15, clarifies why my fellow Town Supervisors and I have stood in support of this legislation. The Town Board also submitted a letter of support as part of the Board of Legislator's public record on this legislation. The existing penalty structure would resume as of July 16, with the penalty raising back up to 5% for the rest of July. To put this in terms of real numbers, on the average tax bill of about $3,000, the penalty in May amounts to $15 and in June to $30. In essence, this legislation effectively extends the deadline to July 15, aligning with the extension of the State and Federal tax filing deadline. However, at the same time, by keeping the actual deadline of April 30 in place, we hope this encourages taxpayers that can pay their taxes on time to do so. As a reminder, only the Governor by Executive Order has the authority to extend the deadline for taxes, but some of the laws governing penalty structures for late payment of taxes are governed by Westchester County law. This tax bill due in April directly pays for many of the essential services we are relying on so heavily right now, including the Mid-Hudson Ambulance District, our sewer infrastructure, and many of the Westchester County agencies like the Department of Health and Department of Senior Services that are truly on the front lines of the pandemic. It is possibly more important than ever to pay your taxes on time (if you can) so these much needed services, agencies, and programs remain fully funded and ready to serve us all during these trying times.
We also discussed briefly in last week's meeting how this pandemic has begun to impact our budget and the budget of many of our neighbors and Westchester County. Over the past week, Deputy Comptroller Dale Brennan, Budget Officer Victoria Cafarelli, and I have met with nearly all Town Department Heads to evaluate our budgets, identify potential cost savings, and discuss continuity of essential services. At next Tuesday's Work Session, Dale, Victoria, and I will summarize these meetings for the Town Board and the public, to hopefully reassure all that we are doing everything we can do save to taxpayer dollars, put off nonessential projects, and more to ensure the Town remains operational to the fullest extent possible. We will also discuss information we have learned from our State and Federal partners about disaster relief programs hopefully coming soon to help local municipalities recoup what we have lost.
Also at next Tuesday's Work Session, we will be joined by some staff for departmental reports. Valerie Monastra, the Town's Planning Consultant, will join us to discuss all she has been working on since joining the Town team in January, as well as some strategies she has observed elsewhere for Land Use Boards to adapt to our new normal. Kathy Asaro, our Senior Nutrition Program Site Director, will also be joining us for a quick update on what her hardworking team has been doing for the past few weeks to ensure that our community's senior citizens do not go hungry during these difficult times. Town Clerk Sue Donnelly will also present to the Board some new online platforms she hopes to implement in her office to make even more services available remotely to our residents. I hope you will join us via Zoom to hear more, or catch the video on YouTube later.
The rest of our departments continue to chug along, working hard to continue to provide the services we have all come to depend upon. As a reminder, you can always check the Coronavirus Page on the Town's website to learn of any changes in our departmental offerings, as well as ways you can get in touch with our departments or conduct business online. For example, our Assessor's Office has been hard at work continuing to further this year's Town-wide revaluation of properties. Next week, property owners should begin to see a Preliminary Change of Assessment Notices in the mail. If you do not agree with the value assigned to your property, you can schedule a remote informal meeting with Tyler Technologies to review. Remember to do your homework! Check out recent sales in your neighborhood as comparisons. The Assessor's Office continues to process exemption applications. Please remember to file your exemption applications before the deadline of May 1 and applications are also being accepted via e-mail. Give the Assessor's Office a call at (914) 762-8274 if you need any help or have questions. You will find possibly our nicest and most helpful Town staff member on the other end of the phone, our paralegal Jerry Sullivan! Jerry loves to hear from our residents and help in any way he can, so he has been answering all phone calls to the Assessor's Office at home, while he also prepares legal documents and resolutions for tax certioraris and small claims cases. Thanks Jerry!
We are so grateful to our departments that are essential workers, still reporting to work on a regular basis. Together with the Village of Ossining Manager's Office, we have placed "We Heart our Essential Workers" window clings on the buildings where our essential workers are still hard at work. For the Town that includes our Senior Nutrition Program, Highway Department, Parks Department, Building Department, and Clerk's Office. Thank YOU! Please join us in expressing your appreciation for these amazing individuals any time you interact with them.
In the meantime, the Ossining Recreation Program has launched many virtual events and sends out daily "Boredom Busters." Sign-up for these daily fun ideas here. You can also check out past offerings and other upcoming events, including today's family handprints collage idea.
There are also local efforts to donate meals to our first responders and healthcare heroes. There are two Meal Trains being organized, one for the staff at the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps and one for the staff at Phelps Hospital. This is a great opportunity to show your appreciation for those on the front lines, while also supporting local restaurants with food delivery! Thank you to our friends and coworkers Sue Donnelly and Maddi Zachacz for organizing these efforts.
Tonight, join Sing Sing Kill Brewery for a virtual happy hour from 6pm to 7pm. Get those ghost stories ready!
The Ossining Farmers Market will be open again tomorrow, Saturday, April 18. Please remember the social distancing guidelines for the market and be sure to don your masks before you go out!
The Ossining School District and PTA have launched a Virtual Learning Academy with many fun classes for children. There are many ways to have fun and secretly learn about important topics at the same time!
The Ossining Public Library has launched a number of live and virtual offerings to get your library fix from home. Via Instagram and Facebook, you and your children -- from littlest ones to teens -- will be able foster their love of reading thanks to our friends at the Ossining Public Library.
Remember to continue to support as many local businesses as you can during these tough times. Many of our restaurants and cafes are still open for delivery and/or takeout -- please let us know if we are missing any on our list!
These events are just a sampling of all that has been going on in the greater Ossining community to provide some entertainment and relief from the current environment. I encourage you to sign up for e-mail blasts from other organizations to learn of even more resources. One that I have found very interesting is ArtsWestchester. There are many virtual arts events scheduled throughout the County, from poetry readings to film screenings, and everything in between, plus resources for local artists.
Finally, I would like to remind you once again to sign up for updates direct from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo -- it is one of the best ways to remain up to date on the almost daily changes to the pandemic response, as well as some fun reminders. Yesterday's message highlighted a virtual visit to the Bronx Zoo via Instagram, did you know there is such thing as a Tree Kangaroo? Maybe you can also take a quiet moment this weekend to engage in one of the State's many innovative partnerships by listening to a meditation from Headspace's "A NY State of Mind" free playlist. I know we could all use a practice with mindfulness right now, thank you Governor Cuomo for thinking about or mental wellbeing in addition to our physical wellbeing during this incredibly difficult time.
Stay safe -- and enjoy the weekend!