Happy New Year! While we had a very short week in the office, we kept busy with our kick-off to the new year at the Joseph G. Caputo Community Center where the Village of Ossining hosted the annual Inauguration of Elected Officials, a visit to Albany to participate in the annual Governor’s State of the State address, and of course lots and lots of time on the roads keeping them as safe as we could with all the snow. Special thanks to the Town Highway and Parks Department, along with the Village DPW, the OPD, OFD, and the Ossining & Briarcliff ambulance corps for keeping us safe-- we are very lucky to live in a community that works together so seamlessly.
On Tuesday, January 9th at 7:30PM, the Town Board will be holding our Re-Organizational Meeting for 2018 at the Courthouse on Spring Street. I hope you can join us-- we will be getting everything in line for the coming year (appointments, policies and procedures), and it will also be Town Councilwoman Jackie Shaw's first meeting with us. It's going to be a long night, but an informative one. Even if you do not come down to the Courthouse, you can stream the meeting live through the Town's website.
The holiday shopping season may be over, but you still have a few more days to use your Ossining Bucks! The Village of Ossining partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to offer $5 coupons to participating local businesses instead of covering the parking meters this holiday season. If you don't have any Ossining Bucks coupons leftover, you can still pick them up in Town and Village offices at 16 Croton Avenue, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Ossining Public Library. Make sure to stop by one of the many participating businesses this weekend to take advantage of this great community offering and support local business owners!
Looking for ways to combat cabin fever? The Winter Recreation Program Brochure is available now, with many programs to keep the whole family occupied this winter, including many new art classes for artists of all and experience levels at the Cedar Lane Arts Center. Registration started this week, and the brochure is available here or at the Community Center.
We are expecting freezing temperatures to continue throughout the weekend, so please stay safe and warm, keep an eye out for ice, and check in on your neighbors.
In case you were not able to join us at the inauguration last Monday, where Town Board colleagues Jackie Shaw and Northern Wilcher, Town Tax Receiver Holly Perlowitz, Town Justice Nancy Quinn Koba, County Legislator Catherine Borgia, Village of Ossining Trustees Quantel Bazemore and Omar Herrera and I were sworn into office for our new terms. We were joined by many members of the Ossining community, but GO-TV was there to film, so you can catch it in re-runs on the government public access channel.
I am honored and humbled to serve another term as Town of Ossining Supervisor. We have accomplished so much together, and I look forward to building on that good work in the coming two years. I gave a speech at the swearing in reflecting my thoughts about the past two years, as well as how we can continue our progress, that I wanted to share with all of you-- thinking about what we've accomplished feels fantastic, but there's always more to do and I'm hopeful we can pursue those goals together!
"Thank you so much, people of the Town of Ossining, for supporting me for a second term. Special thanks to Assemblywoman Sandy Galef for swearing me in, and to my incredible husband Stephen, and sons Caleb and Eli for your constant and unwavering support, and always to Catherine Borgia for being my original and continuing inspiration and guiding light. Thank you to Thomasina Laidley Brown and the Democratic Committee for all the support you have given me, and do give to get strong candidates elected, and to Greg Meyer my campaign manager, and Andrew Ferris who also helped out in the beginning stages of the campaign but then went on to work on County Executive George Latimer’s campaign, to great success. Also a big shout out to the Village of Ossining, our new Village Manager Debbie McDonnell, and the Village staff for getting this event set up today, and partnering with the Town in so many ways. And of course to the wonderful Town staff and particularly the incredible Maddi Zachacz and Victoria Cafarelli in my office, my colleagues on the Town Board, our department heads and Village IMA partners, for making the Town run so smoothly.
I am so proud of our special place here in the heart of the Hudson Valley. We are fortunate to live in a spot on this earth that is so scenic. I have truly enjoyed finding ways to help more people discover its natural beauty and find new ways to appreciate it, while at the same time benefiting our Town’s economic, physical, and environmental health.
Recently I was honored, alongside the Mayor of Ossining, Victoria Gearity, to be awarded the Groundbreaker’s Award by the Pace Land Use Law Center. Pace recognized us for some of the many efforts we have made in the last two years to shift the way we approach community problems and planning, and to think more collaboratively. One of those efforts included the Town’s engagement in the Planners4Health challenge to work jointly with planners, health care organizations, neighbors and other stakeholders to find replicable avenues for communities to achieve greater health for all.
Our Planners4Health group adopted a definition of a Healthy Community which is something we have been working towards here in Ossining:
“A Healthy Community is one where people work together to improve the social and physical environment to achieve health for all. It:
–strives to improve the physical and mental health of its residents;
–embraces diversity, connects people and resources;
–works for health equity and eliminating disparities;
–offers a safe and nurturing environment for everyone to thrive;
–is designed and built to improve the quality of life for all people;
–provides accessible and affordable transportation, housing, healthcare services, nutritious food and physical activity opportunities."
When I reflect on our efforts over the last two years, the theme of collective health resonates with me as the overarching objective of what we have been working toward.
First, we worked to improve our physical commons themselves, starting with our Town Parks, community assets that benefit all. We fixed up pavilions, landscaping, and walking paths. We turned the Shine House at Cedar Lane Park into the thriving Cedar Lane Arts Center. We took a damaged tennis court and turned it into a basketball court, created picnic areas at Engel park for families to enjoy each other’s company along the river, renewed the historic Ossining Boat & Canoe club’s contract for the next 5 years to allow affordable access to the Hudson, fixed serious drainage problems at Cedar Lane Park to benefit the organic community garden and the pond area at the park. We have sought dollars to fix up historic physical assets in Dale Cemetery and on the old Kress Estate. And we’re just getting started.
Second, we looked for ways to bring more people into our commons. We introduced Mind Body Spirit Ossining to the community. Under this initiative, businesses that cater to health and wellness choose a park or public space in the Town, and offer free classes to anyone interested in learning new ways to get themselves in better shape for an hour or so on weekends. We have secured money from the Hudson Valley Greenway to explore safe bicycle routes that would connect downtown Ossining with the North County Trailway and open space trails in between. We have applied to the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge to develop an autonomous urban circulator or trolley system to make it easier for people to access our commercial districts and connect transportation nodes. We continue to look for ways to offer access to kayaking for all on our waterways. We have worked hard to expand resources to support the Sing Sing Prison Museum which will be a transformational project to make Ossining a center for tourism and criminal justice reform. All of these efforts are ones we plan to continue to work on and expand in 2018 and 2019 as well as look for new opportunities to bring in outside dollars to support Ossining’s overall health.
Finally, we worked to make sure that the very act of entering into our commons is an act that improves the mind, body, and spirit of our residents and visitors. We’ve taken steps to make sure our residents know that they will be safe and protected from daily threats even as ICE cracks down on communities with large immigrant populations. We partnered with organizations like the Ossining Police and Neighbors Link to bring resources and information to the public. And to show how much it meant to us, we adopted a resolution affirming our intent to do all we could to protect our hard-working immigrant community, which makes up the fabric of Ossining. We have worked with the schools, Open Door, and Neighbors Link to get money to support the Ossining Basics collective impact initiative to get our littlest ones ready to learn. We purchased and will soon install 3 electric charging stations in our parks to improve the ease of electric car usage in Ossining. We introduced 100% renewable energy-based Community Choice Aggregation so people could have another option for their energy supply at a reasonable rate since we were able to purchase in bulk with other Westchester communities. Other sustainability initiatives include being named a Clean Energy Community and benchmarking our energy use. This is part of a larger plan to reduce our carbon emissions for the long term that we will continue to work actively to achieve in the next two years.
Health is a nexus between government and community life. I said in my inaugural speech two years ago that local government gives us the opportunity to step up and be what we believe we are and can be. Ossining Represent, Represent, Ossining! Governance should be aspirational. And building a community where everyone is able to live their best lives is a worthy goal for a town’s leadership.
But at this moment, health is also an act of empowerment. The nature of our call as leaders to improve community health became particularly important as 2016 turned into 2017. So many of us, myself included, have been deeply worried about the direction our country and our politics has taken over this past year. For many of us, far too many of us, the mere act of existence, let alone the pursuit of equality, has somehow become a radical idea, rather than a simple expectation given our common humanity. The values of diversity and mutual respect, the aspirational goals our town government has pursued for so many years, feel under attack. Promoting community health in our little enclave, our little piece of the world which we call Ossining, is the first step to realizing the “for all” part of “liberty and justice”. And if working toward a healthy community is part of this larger fight, then it’s our duty as leaders to keep fighting.
I am proud of what we have already achieved to improve the health of our Ossining. I am excited for the continuation of the journey to really make Ossining a place that people feel good about, whether to make a home here, to work in, or to visit. We can and we will overcome challenges that impact us and make sure our Ossining remains a gem in the heart of the Hudson Valley. And we will keep fighting to make sure that the “our” in “our Ossining” truly extends to all residents.
Thank you again to all who challenge us and collaborate with us to make Ossining better—I look forward to our continued work together as we move forward into 2018 and 2019. So, back to work.
I look forward to sharing this adventure with all of you.
Happy 2018, and have a great (warm!) weekend!