Happy New Year!
Although the Town offices were closed on Monday, we had an action-packed week in the Town of Ossining.
Before I get into the week’s activities, I want to congratulate Mayor Victoria Gearity, Village Trustees John Codman and Rika Levin, Senator David Carlucci and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef on their re-election, made official at the swearing in at the Joseph G. Caputo Community Center on January 1st, 2017. It was a beautiful ceremony, and a testament to the incredible work being done by those who represent Ossining.
On Wednesday and Thursday this week, we were visited by our independent auditors, who began the preliminary work for the audit of 2016 financials, which will commence in early spring. We, too, are taking a hard look at our finances, as we are preparing a submission to the Town Board for part one of a three part bond for equipment and facilities work at our Town Parks and at Dale Cemetery. We are hoping to have the Board vote on this at the end of January, so that we can begin work in late March. The plan for phase one? Besides the purchase of some equipment that our departments have gone without for too long, we also plan to restore all three pavilions (Ryder, Gerlach and Cedar Lane), do substantial repairs to the restrooms in Cedar Lane and Gerlach Park, repave the service road at Gerlach Park, and have the stone wall at Dale Cemetery re-pointed and restored. Because of the nature of these improvements, borrowing the money at a low interest rate and paying it back over several years makes much more sense than trying to do it piecemeal out of the operating budget. We look forward to sharing more about this project later in January.
Tuesday, January 10th, 2017- 7:30PM
Birdsall-Fagan Police/Court Facility
86-88 Spring Street, Ossining NY 10562
pdf 1-10-2017 Reorganizational Meeting Agenda (155 KB) (Updated 1/9)
All Board Meetings are televised LIVE on GO-TV, on Channel 78. Taped shows are repeated every Thursday at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Channels 78 and 18.
Looking back on this time last year, I was just preparing to take office this weekend—the year has truly flown past by here the Town of Ossining! This year's Elected Officials Inauguration will take place on New Year's Day, Sunday, January 1st at 12 Noon at the Community Center—we had no elections in the Town this year, but I hope you will join me in celebrating the election of our Village and State representatives who were re-elected for 2017, including Ossining Village Mayor Victoria Gearity, Village Trustees Rika Levin and John Codman, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Senator David Carlucci. A Community Reception will be held following the ceremony, and all are welcome to attend. It will be a Happy New Year indeed.
We have another short week this week in the Town—the offices were closed on Monday in observance of the Christmas holiday, and our offices will be closing at Noon today for the New Year’s holiday. We will also be closed on Monday, January 2nd. We look forward to returning to work on Tuesday, January 3rd, rested and ready to take on 2017.
(If you are a resident of the Unincorporated Area and have not yet received your 2017 Sanitation Schedule in the mail, do not fear-- we have it posted pdf here (391 KB) ! A hard copy should reach your mailbox this weekend.)
A big part of this week was spent reflecting on 2016 and looking at where we need to go in 2017. The Town has undergone some significant changes this year in a lot of areas, ranging from the budget structure to department staffing to technological upgrades and of course, our Town-wide revaluation of properties.
We will also have a new memory care facility-- Artis Senior Living--, an arts community-- Bethanny--, and 53 rental units including affordable ones-- Parth Knolls--, under construction in 2017, as these projects were approved by the Planning Board at the end of the year. We hope they will bring additional opportunities for housing across the spectrum of housing needs and care, as well as recreation, gallery space, arts classes and more to our community, as well as opportunities for our local tradespeople and businesses to secure work locally, and to provide jobs and create demand for supporting businesses as well.
However, our work is never done and we know we still have a lot yet to do.
As we looked at all of the primary goals we have identified, we found that the thread tying them all together is economic development. How do we get people to come to Ossining to start families, open businesses, and spend their spare time (and money) in our Town?
One way? Making Ossining a more affordable place to live would go a long way to bring families and businesses here. We are holding down taxes to the best of our ability, but there is always room to improve, and we are ready to focus on finding more shared service efficiencies with our Villages and other municipalities. We provide so many similar services to those provided by our neighbors, and we must find ways to join forces for everyone's sake. It will be a tough road to hoe, but the savings we could realize will be well worth it. I look forward to working with our partners in the Villages of Ossining and Briarcliff Manor to make some more headway on this goal in 2017.
Another way we can building our local economy is through environmental improvements. Ossining is already at the forefront of all things "green:" we participate in Community Choice Aggregation with 100% renewable energy sources, we have had dozens of homeowners participate in the Energize and Solarize programs, we have installed LED streetlights, we allow businesses to pay for energy upgrades on their Town tax bill through PACE financing. We are ready to take things to the next level in 2017 through a series of grant-funded initiatives-- we will start working on adding electric vehicles to our fleet, placing electric charging stations and solar car ports, installing solar panels on our municipal buildings, and working with our Building Department to make solar power a more accessible option for homeowners. We have already been awarded a $30,000 grant to design a bike/walking path to connect our open spaces with our retail throughout the Village of Ossining, Town of Ossining and Town of New Castle, which will help to reduce the need for automobiles on our streets while having the added benefit of connecting residents with economic opportunities not previously reachable for them. Combining all of these projects will not only lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and lower our energy bills, but will also help us to brand Ossining as a "green" place to live and serve as a model for our neighbors, all while saving taxpayer money and moving towards cleaner, safer air and water.
Our final major priority in 2017 will be widespread work in our Town Parks and in Dale Cemetery. While we have secured grant funding to complete a lot of work in our Town Parks, including the restoration of electricity to our Cedar Lane Pavilion and rebuilding the docks and path around the pond at Cedar Lane, we have taken an inventory of the unavoidable repair necessary in our public spaces and have concluded that borrowing is the only way to get this work done in a timely fashion and return our parks to the quality that our residents deserve. We have presented our ideas to the Board and the public throughout 2016, and we are preparing to take a final account of the project costs and start work with bond counsel to structure a borrow. In case you missed it, the plan is to break the project into three phases: the first will address our Park pavilions, restrooms, and the office building at Dale Cemetery, along with some equipment purchases that are long overdue, while the second and third phases will address our recreation facilities (such as sport fields and tennis courts) and extensive paving work in the parks. We do not take these expenses lightly—this will be a large project that will take some time to pay off and the borrowing will be staggered-- but investing in our Parks and public spaces is something that this Board, and our residents, have indicated should be a top priority for our Town. Our open spaces are perhaps our greatest asset, and with a little TLC, we know they will bring more added value to Ossining for visitors and residents alike, and dramatically improve the recreational experiences of those who call Ossining home.
Speaking of parks, we had a chance to visit the Shine House on Wednesday with our Parks Foreman, Mario Velardo, and I am pleased to share that we are nearing the finish line—the building is nearly ready to open! We have floated a late April date for the grand re-opening, and we are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to make it happen. The final steps are to finish the floors, install door handles and bathroom fixtures, and the final electrical inspection… and then we will be off to the races! We are looking forward to turning over the reins to Superintendent of Recreation Chris Soi, who will be incorporating the site into his activity calendar with pottery classes for children and adults. There is a bit of work yet to do at the Ice House, the building just across the street, which will hold our kilns, but you will not believe your eyes once we get up and running. Special thanks to our Parks and Highway staff for all their dedication and expertise-- they have saved us money by allowing us to tackle so much of this project with our in house staff--, along with our Engineering Team, Paul Fraioli and Andy Tiess, for all of their advice and collective knowledge that has gotten us to see the light at the end of what has been a very (very) long tunnel.
As we move into January, I have a few quick reminders to share. The Ossining Basics program is off to a great start, and the first five months of 2017 will each be assigned one of the five tenets of the program. January will be "Maximize Love, Manage Stress" Month; this principle of the program is meant to encourage adults to find ways to manage the stressors in their own lives so as to be more present around little ones. Young children, whether we realize it or not, can sense the stress we may be experiencing, so it is important we find ways to express affection, establish routines, and demonstrate love to help them feel safer, loved and supported, and therefore ready to learn. Wondering how you can reflect this behavior at home or with the small children in your life? Check out the Boston Basics video to learn about this important facet of the Ossining Basics program.
I would also like to call your attention to an event on January 10th, 2017 at the Ossining Public Library, where the New York State Department of Health and the United Way will be partnering to host a community forum about what works, and what doesn't, in healthcare. It promises to be an interesting event, and an opportunity to have some input in a system that impacts all of us.
Finally, I want to mention that the Town Board will be holding a Work Session on Tuesday, January 3rd in the 1st Floor Boardroom at 16 Croton Avenue, where we will be preparing for the 2017 Re-Organizational Meeting on January 10th. I hope you will tune in or join us in person for our first meeting of 2017.
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year,
- Setting Meeting Schedule for 2017
- 2017 Liaison Assignments
- Greenway Compact Grant for Watershed Mapping- Discussion
Executive Session: Contracts
The Town staff is on their way out for the holiday weekend, and we are closing up 16 Croton Avenue until Tuesday morning. Coincidentally, that is when the Town Board will next be meeting: Tuesday, December 27th, at 8:30AM in the 1st Floor Boardroom. I hope you will join me and my colleagues on the Board for our final meeting of 2016.
This past weekend, I attended the “soft opening” of Six Degrees of Separation Restaurant and Brewery. Have you visited yet? They are at 35 Main Street by the Ossining Train Station, and while they are still waiting for their liquor license to be approved, they are serving up delicious crab cakes, burgers and more. Stop in and pay them a visit next week, it was a great time.
On Monday, Town employees were trained in how to administer NARCAN, or Naloxone, the life-saving antidote to opiate overdose. One of our Town Court employees had mentioned that he went through the training and found it to be incredibly educational and suggested we take it up on a Town-wide level, and we agreed. Senator David Carlucci’s office organized three training sessions at 16 Croton Avenue, and it was truly eye opening. Everyone was engaged and had many questions throughout the presentations, and it became apparent how close to home this epidemic truly hits with so many pain relief medications containing opioids-- we learned that it only takes 4 days to develop an addiction . We are looking to set up more trainings in January to ensure that all Town employees have had an opportunity to learn about this and how to use this life-saving technique in an emergency.
Town/ Village Hall gets dozens of visitors each day who stop by for a variety of reasons, and we are happy to see them all. However, on Tuesday afternoon, I was joined by some of he youngest visitors I have seen in a while-- 11 fourth grade girls from Girl Scout Troop 2065 in Ossining came in to meet me to learn about powerful positions that women hold in our community. I was so very impressed by this group of soon-to-be female leaders who had some great questions to ask-- I would not be surprised if I were sitting with a Town Supervisor To Be!
On Tuesday evening at the Town Board Work Session, we were joined by a very special guest. Longtime Ossining resident Bobby Williams passed away in September of 2016, and his wife of 46 years, Malissia Williams, attended our meeting to accept posthumous honors on Bobby's behalf. For those who did not know Bobby, he was a regular guest at Town, Village, and School Board meetings for many years, and could always be counted on to offer thoughtful insight on issues affecting our community, ranging from race relations in the Village to the health of the Hudson River. We were also joined by County Legislator Catherine Borgia, and Ossining Village Mayor Victoria Gearity and Village Trustee Quantel Bazemore, and we concluded by presenting Malissia with a proclamation from the Town Board naming December 23rd, 2016 as Bobby Williams Day in the Town of Ossining. We still have a few hours left, so there is time to take a walk by the waterfront and admire the Hudson in Bobby's honor.
Later in the Work Session, we did a final review of what will now be Local Law #1 of 2017, which will make changes to the Town Zoning Code in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan’s recommendations. We have worked hard with our Planning Consultant David Stolman on this project, and we believe we are finally at the point where we are ready to open it up to our advisory boards and to the public to get everyone's input. We will be calling for a Public Hearing to happen at our January 10th Re-Organizational Meeting, and we plan to keep it open for awhile to make sure we get input from our residents, specifically those in the affected neighborhoods. You can check out the final iteration of the law and the accompanying maps here. There are some options we are considering, so we hope you will weigh in.
At that same meeting, we discussed, and were able to adopt, what we are calling our Unity Resolution. As we have mentioned, many of our neighboring communities have passed resolutions of support with varying degrees of detail in response to concerns following the national election. After trying a few different styles, we finally started from scratch and wrote something from the heart that feels right for Ossining, and I am eager to be able to share it with you.
"Whereas, an increase in hate crimes targeted towards minority groups, specifically immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and those who observe Islam and Judaism, have increased significantly in the wake of the national election; and
Whereas, administration changes at the Federal level have caused persons from minority groups, specifically immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and those who observe Islam and Judaism, to feel genuine concern over possible challenges to their civil rights, such as forced registration, an increase in white supremacy sentiments being expressed outwardly, as well as the proposed reversal of the hard-fought battle to legalize gay marriage nationwide; and
Whereas, the United States of America was founded on the principle that all are created equal, and extending the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to ALL those who call this great nation home, regardless of who they love or what they believe; and
Whereas, the Town of Ossining is, and always has been, an inclusive community, unified around the belief that all strive for the same goals: to live in happiness, peace, prosperity and safety; and
Whereas, as elected representatives by and for all of the residents of the Town of Ossining, we have a special obligation to stand up for our constituents and speak out against hate, violence and discrimination against all persons; and
Whereas, now therefore be it Resolved, that the Town Board of the Town of Ossining hereby condemns all hateful speech and violent action directed at Jews, Muslims or those perceived to be Jews or Muslims, immigrants, people of color, or those who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender or questioning; and
Be it further Resolved, that we hereby commit to pursuing a policy agenda that affirms all civil and human rights and ensures that those targeted on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or immigration status can turn to government without fear of recrimination; and
Be it further Resolved, that we reaffirm the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of a community composed of multiple cultures co-existing peacefully, and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear."
Thank you to my Board colleagues for partnering with me in making this powerful statement to our residents and to all who visit or do business in Ossining.
Finally, we were so sorry to hear about the fire at Kemeys Cove this past week and are sending our best to the families who have been displaced. I want to offer a special thank you to the Ossining Fire Department for their impressive response and doing their best to get everyone to safety and get the fire under control. If you are interested in making a donation to help the families at Kemeys Cove who have been affected, please contact our office and we will try to connect you.
As 2016 comes to a close, we have so much to celebrate. We have accomplished a great deal this year, including most notably a shift to a full value assessment of all the properties in the Town of Ossining, which will make the property rolls much more transparent and easier to navigate for those buying and selling here. We also managed to stay within the tax cap for another year when many of our neighbors did not, and still provide the services on which everyone counts each day. We have been making steady improvements and upgrades to our parks as well as Dale Cemetery. We started a Town team for Relay for Life. We hosted a fantastic fireworks celebration in July, and a diverse concert series throughout the summer. We hope to open art space at the Shine House in 2017. We were awarded a $30,000 grant to work with the Town of New Castle and the Village of Ossining to develop a bike path to connect all the way from the Village downtown to the North County Trailway and work will get underway to start planning this out at the beginning of the new year. We have continued to evaluate our town code and our planning to make sure we are well prepared for all the new opportunities that planning and development afford us, while supporting our businesses and our homeowners, and our economy at the same time as we protect public parks and open spaces. Our Mind, Body, Spirit- Ossining initiative was an example of how businesses and government could partner to maximize our opportunities. We signed up 90 new donors on Organ Donor Enrollment Day. We have worked hard to find ways to make ourselves more efficient and will be working even harder on that in 2017. We are all proud of our accomplishments and look forward to achieving even more, together with you, in the year ahead. Thank you to my board colleagues, my right hand woman, Maddi Zachacz, and the entire staff for all your good work.
I also want to thank all of you, our residents, for engaging with us, for working alongside us, and for the effort you make at every turn to contribute to making Ossining a better place to live, work and play. We couldn't do it without you, and I am humbled by the opportunity to serve you in 2017.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and peace to all--