The past few months have been unprecedented, not just for Ossining and New York, but also across the entire world.  As Town Supervisor and Town Board, our primary focus since early March has been curbing the spread of COVID-19.  The fear, stress, and anxiety caused by this pandemic, we know has been felt by all.  And yet, our suffering has not been borne equally.   Across the country, and yes, here in Ossining, our experiences with COVID-19 have been divided by the differences in the color of our skin, our age, and the places we call home.       

 

This chasm has only become more palpable following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, while other officers stood by. This horror, in addition to the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahamaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and David McAtee, continues to throw into stark relief the ugly realities of racism that our Black community members live with. Each of these people should be alive. When the people in our government who we trust to protect life instead take life, when we as government officials fail to confront our country’s legacy of racism, or fail to invest in raising up our community members, we fail our public.  We cannot allow this. We believe that Black Lives Matter. Black futures matter. We are committed to amplifying the voices of our Black community members who are advocating for change that is long overdue.

 

This weekend, young people from our Ossining community came together to remind us of how important it is to listen, educate, and advocate against racism. The horrific and violent actions that led to Mr. Floyd's death cannot go unnoticed anywhere. Here in Ossining where we strive to be inclusive and recognize the beauty of our differences, where we celebrate our diversity, where many come to live, specifically because they believe this is a place of acceptance, we know we are not immune. We must fight this scourge by standing up to hate. We must and we will continue to assert that we will not tolerate it here or anywhere.

 

President Obama recently shared some compelling thoughts on how, as a country, we can help capture this moment and capitalize on the opportunity to inspire real change.  Mr. Obama noted that elected officials on the local level across the country really are the ones who matter most when it comes to reforming the criminal justice system.  As your local elected officials, it is humbling to read his words, and we want our constituents to know that we take that responsibility very seriously.  We see on a daily basis how important local government is to the real life issues our residents face. It is our responsibility as policy makers, even in a Town such as Ossining whose board is not the direct policy setting agency for the police department that serves us, to demand that law enforcement professionals face the same accountability to the public as we expect from all other public servants.

 

We are confident that our partners in Village government, including Police Chief Kevin Sylvester, take their responsibility to the Ossining community very seriously. We are inspired by our colleagues in the Village of Ossining, the Ossining School District, and so many other organizations in our community who work hard to build on the aspects that make a community thrive.  As Ossining School Superintendent Dr. Ray Sanchez noted in his recent message to the community, we all must challenge ourselves to confront racism and root out hate within our own circles and our own spheres of influence.  The Town Board and I aim to rise to this challenge. Earlier this year, we announced that we were forming a Community Equity Task Force with the goals of sharing resources and beginning the uncomfortable, yet necessary, conversations surrounding racial inequality with the community as a whole.  The Community Equity Task Force, which is currently comprised of representatives from Town and Village government, Ossining Public Library, Ossining NAACP, former educators, and members of the faith community, will be meeting this week to discuss ways to galvanize the current climate and move towards real change within our own community.  If you, or an organization you are affiliated with, are interested in joining this effort, please do not hesitate to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

 

As always, I remain so proud of the Ossining community in the face of extreme challenges.  We look forward to working closely together with our entire community as we look towards a brighter and more equitable future for all.

 

Sincerely,

Supervisor Dana Levenberg

On behalf of the Town Board: Deputy Supervisor Jackie Shaw, Councilmembers Elizabeth Feldman, Gregory Meyer, and Northern Wilcher, Jr.