There are no two ways about it: a whole lot has happened since last week's update!
When I wrote to you last Friday, we were headed over to Cedar Lane Park for the grand re-opening of the Shine House and Ice House buildings as what is now the Cedar Lane Arts Center. We knew we would get a crowd, but there was no way we could have anticipated such an enthusiastic showing! More than 200 friends, neighbors and art lovers joined us throughout the afternoon for Cathy Carabee-Faiella's kids craft project, for Good Choice Kitchen's delicious vegan snacks (and the not-so-vegan but oh-so-yummy jalapeno poppers provided by the Ossining Elks and Johnny G), for the unveiling of our beautiful new branding for the CLAC, and to cut the ribbon on this monumental project that we have all watched progress over the past four years.
We followed the ribbon cutting with a toast and brought everyone inside for "birth" / "birthday" cake-- the birth of our Arts Center, and the birthday of our fantastic Parks Foreman, Mario Velardo, who has been the heart and soul of this project since its inception. Del Sol blew our minds with their beautiful interpretation of our park in cake form; it was almost a shame to eat it, but you'd better believe we did!
Once everyone enjoyed their sparkling cider and cake, many of us joined Keith Gordon, who will be managing CLAC, for a pottery demo. It was a beautiful night to be in Ossining, and we have so many people to thank for making it a memory I know I will carry with me forever.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not thank the families of our employees who have been working practically around the clock for the last few weeks to get us to the big day-- hopefully, now that the opening is behind us, they can slow down a little-- at least until the next project begins!
Believe it or not, that next project is not so far away. We are getting ready to start work on 2 of our 3 pavilions over the next several weeks, and much of this week was spent ordering new barbeque grills, hot ash cans, and other supplies to get the Ryder Park and Cedar Lane Park pavilions ready to rent this summer. We will also be blocking out three new picnic areas down at Louis Engel Park, each with it's own grill and picnic tables, which we think will add quite a bit of value to what is perhaps our most used park in the summertime. We haven't forgotten about Gerlach! Gerlach's pavilion is probably in the best shape and will require some special additions (re-paving the access road, repairing the retaining wall, and engineering a path from the restrooms, etc.), so we are going to work on that one after the rental season has passed. This is all part of our Open Space Revitalization Capital project, focused on our Town Parks and Dale Cemetery, that the Town Board authorized earlier this year. There is no shortage of work to be done, so we are working with our Parks Foreman and Superintendent of Cemeteries to decide on a schedule that works for everyone (and with Mother Nature.) Stay tuned for more information about these transformational projects.
Our other big event this week was the Arbor Day Celebration this morning at Anne M. Dorner Middle School. My office coordinated this special day with Ms. Regina Cellio, Principal, and Ms. Dulce Barker, Assistant Principal at AMD, and the staff at AMD took care of the rest! We had several hundred students join us, many of whom read poems, drew posters, and gave great information on the environmental value of trees, and there was even an orchestra who treated us to some live music!
We were joined by Councilwoman Liz Feldman, Superintendent Raymond Sanchez and School Board Trustee Felix Flores, as well as some members of the grounds staff who helped us position the tree.
It was a wonderful way to celebrate one of our greatest natural resources, and we were in good company- today, communities all over the nation celebrated in very much the same way, and I feel proud to be part of a community that values our trees. After all, the Town of Ossining is a Tree City!
(We did hit one "tiny" snag, though-- the trees that we ordered were delivered yesterday, and lo and behold, they were saplings... very, very, small saplings. The folks at AMD had to scurry out to buy a bigger tree, but the good news is that the students at the middle school can now watch the saplings grow and change inside the building until they are ready for the big time outdoors!
Additionally, we celebrated Earth Day, hosted by Green Ossining and the unstoppable Suzie Ross. Even though the weather wasn’t as perfect as was ordered, we still had an amazing turnout, and the addition of the Farmers Market was well received, especially with the focus of the festival on Food Sustainability. We also announced the winners of the Anne M. Dorner Middle School Poster Contest. The grand prize went to Aaron Song, with Sofia Rajput the Runner Up, and Honorable Mentions to Kate Lowenthal and Alexandra Beckford. So many people made this event possible, including the wonderful volunteers from the Green Ossining committee, as well as Town and Village Parks and DPW staff. We are so grateful for the teamwork that makes these events seem effortless.
Sunday, Honorable former Village Mayor Miguel Hernandez put together a wonderful event at Market Square to celebrate the 240th birthday of the New York State Constitution. The Matatuck Fife and Drum band came to serenade us with patriotic tunes popular since the founding of our country and our state, and church bells rang out throughout the town to mark the occasion. Many of us participated by wishing New York State a happy birthday. I was honored to be able to share that message in Spanish and in Dutch.
Monday night I attended a friend-raiser at the home of Jeanette Gerber and Matko Peckay, hosted by Stephanie Lynn Kleiman to hear more about the Sing Sing Prison Museum and all the promise it holds for the Town and Village of Ossining as well as the surrounding region. This project was recognized in 2014 as a Priority Project in the Mid Hudson Region for economic development. It has continued to evolve and we are hopeful the charter for the museum will be approved next week by the State Education Department. Further funding is needed, so see below for more information about how the Town might be involved in helping facilitate.
Wednesday morning we had the opportunity to celebrate another ribbon cutting, that of Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT) at 23 Main Street right behind 6 Degrees of Separation (who had their ribbon cutting last week!) Having a black box theater available for performances of all kinds in Ossining is so exciting. WCT has already performed a main stage theater production there, to much acclaim (Lot’s Wife), and since then has hosted Cabaret Nights (another one will happen tomorrow night—see the announcements below for more info), and will have other music and art events in the near future. Our Village and Town are just hopping with exciting new places and spaces and opportunities to engage in the arts, good food, great conversation, and generally a good time.
On Wednesday we visited the Town of New Castle to further discuss and develop a plan for identifying a bike lane connectivity between the Village of Ossining, the Town of Ossining and Millwood/Town of New Castle/North County Trailway. We were lucky to have had Jane Daniels, co-author of Walkable Westchester and member of Yorktown Trail Town committee, as well as a representative from the NYS DOT, and advisors from our Environmental Advisory Committee to discuss next steps to take to make sure we consider all the possibilities, from low hanging fruit to “Cadillac” routes, before we bring in additional stakeholders. A Village of Ossining Resident, Kate Marshall, was able to identify bike routes she believed might be the most viable by using a special map application for cyclists, and we worked off of her maps and those the Westchester County Planning Department developed so we can now drive these routes together to start to eliminate or refine them. Our next meeting in early June will be a mini-bus tour of the routes we are considering. Meanwhile, NYSDOT has offered to study the straightest of routes, 133, to see what the feasibility and costs might be to make the road safely bike-able. We anticipate a draft report from the State in October.
On Thursday, I had an opportunity to join many of my women colleagues in local, state and county government at the annual League of Women Voters sponsored event Running & Winning at the YWCA in White Plains, to work with young women in high schools throughout Westchester County to inspire them to consider running for public office. I enjoyed the opportunity to share with these young women the great honor it is to serve the public, as well as why I think they were hand selected by staff in their schools to attend the event and how that should work as impetus for them to seriously consider running for elected office. I think that collectively all the inspirational stories they heard from the many elected officials, including Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Westchester County Legislator and Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, and NY State Senator and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins really did have an impact on these women and I look forward to hearing of their future successes.
Also on Thursday, I attended a board meeting of the Sing Sing Prison Museum and am pleased to report that they have secured office space on Main Street in Downtown Ossining, as well as have added board members to the museum board. They have also recently completed an incredible printed document which will be the case for support they will use to secure private dollars to match the public investment the state is making in this project. Tune in to our Work Session this Tuesday to hear from Jerry Faiella, Historic Hudson River Towns Executive Director, to learn more about what has transpired with this project over the last few months and to consider how the Town may be able to help propel the project forward to enhance economic development opportunities for our area.
Before I tell you about the exciting weekend ahead, I want to give an update on the Town Board's progress with our Zoning Law. This past Tuesday evening, the Board held a Work Session before the Regular Meeting to discuss where we are and where we are headed on this work. We had many members of the public attend the meeting, most of whom are residents of the Crotonville neighborhood. The Board adjourned this Public Hearing until the next Regular Meeting on May 9th, and we are going to be discussing the topic again at the Town Board Work Session this coming Tuesday, May 2nd, but I did want to take a moment to clarify some misinformation that has gotten back to the Board about some rumors swirling around the Unincorporated Area.
A document has been circulated to many Ossining homeowners in the Crotonville neighborhood which seems to imply that the Town Board's public hearings about the potential re-zoning of parcels in Crotonville is somehow related to the Sunshine Home expansion and the proposed Hudson Education and Wellness Center on Quaker Ridge Road. While we have been hearing from some Ossining residents about these proposed projects, I want to stress that they are not under our jurisdiction and are in no way related to the local law on which the Town has been working. We have asked the Town of Ossining Planning Board to give the Town Board an advisory opinion on the proposed development of the former Hudson Institute property, and once received, we will decide if or how to proceed. I know I speak for my Board colleagues when I say that the Town of Ossining is happy to hear from our residents about issues, even if they are not within our boundaries, that impact the quality of life here in Ossining, but it is crucial not to confuse issues in which we have a say with issues in which we do not. If you have any questions or concerns about the above, feel free to call my office at (914) 762-6001 and I will be happy to clarify.
Why not kick off the weekend with some great live music? Ossining's own The Soul Projekt will be playing tonight at Maya Riviera on North State Road, starting at 9PM. As for tomorrow? The weather is warming up, and we are going to be well over 80 degrees on Saturday. I hope you will join me and Superintendent Ray Sanchez tomorrow for our hike at Teatown starting at 10AM on Saturday morning, and also at some of the other great events happening around Ossining.
Also on Saturday, May 6th? Green Ossining's Semi-Annual Tag Sale! Get more information here. As you travel around Town to the various tag sale sites, you could also stop by The Lantern Gift Shop's Spring Fling (between 10AM and 3PM) and Spring Tea Luncheon (between 11:30AM and 2:30PM) at St. Pauls on the Hill to pick up a beautiful gift for the important moms in your life.
A great compliment to this program is "Demystifying Medicare for Seniors" on Saturday, May 6th at 1PM, also at the Ossining Public Library. If you or someone you love are getting close to 65 and feeling overwhelmed by how your healthcare provision may change, be sure to check out this free program presented by Livable Communites and the Cedar Manor Nursing & Rehab Center. You can register by calling (914) 231-3236.
Also, last minute reminder: the last day to turn in Town/County tax payments without penalty is Monday, May 1st. Monday is also the last day to file your exemptions with the Assessor's Office. I suspect we will see many of you on the 3rd floor of 16 Croton!