Most of the Town Board and other Town staff members started this week at the Association of Towns Annual Conference in New York City.
This conference is a great opportunity for us to learn about new ideas and programs available to municipalities and meet community leaders across the state. We also saw some familiar faces there this year-- on Tuesday morning, Maddi and I attended the Breakfast with the Association and listened to Senator Chuck Schumer speak about what is happening around our great state.
We also (unexpectedly) ran into our labor lawyers Craig and Hilary from Bond, Schoeneck & King-- they were giving a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) course that happened to be taking place in the classroom we were leaving, it was a happy surprise! Although, we shouldn't really be TOO surprised-- they are the best of the best, and it makes perfect sense that they would be telling other lawyers what's what!
We are already putting what we learned into practice, for example, Victoria from my office attended a session about Urban and Community Forestry and learned about a new program from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation called "Buffer in a Bag." This program is available to property owners with 50 feet or more of a stream running through their property and provides a mix of native shrubs to plant along stream banks to help improve water quality, reduce erosion, and introduce more native species into the area. With the help of our Parks Foreman Mario Velardo, Parks Groundskeeper Mark Gallagher, and our local tree guru Donna Sharrett, Victoria submitted an application on behalf of the Town to plant some new trees in Ryder Park along the stream near the ballfields which is a tributary of the Pocantico River. Buffer in a Bag is first come, first served, and is available for public and private property owners. Visit the DEC's website for more information.
Since our meeting last Tuesday was canceled due to snow, we ended up holding a meeting on Tuesday evening after we returned home from the conference (it was kind of a long day). However, we had some great items to look forward to on our meeting agenda. You may remember that this past weekend, Gullotta House hosted the 2nd Annual "Escape from Sing Sing" Polar Plunge at Louis Engel Park, and I decided to take the plunge for the second year in a row. We raised money for several worthy causes in the community, but I was especially proud to be able to present a check to Councilwoman Karen D'Attore who, in her day job, is the Executive Director of IFCA. Karen helps to coordinate the Emergency Shelter Partnership in Ossining, which helps individuals struggling with homelessness to find shelter and warm meals during the coldest months of the year. We were able to raise over $1700 for this protective community organization to go directly toward funding that program, and donations are still trickling in!
We were also joined by Matt Gullotta, founder of Gullotta House, at the meeting-- he came to say thank you to the community for the support and to the Town Board for allowing the event to take place in our Town Park.
Matt has shared with me that the event has now raised narly $11,500 for needy families-- great job, Ossining!
Later in the meeting, we were joined by Dr. Gerald Benjamin of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz to discuss the Homestead Study that the Town Board commissioned back in 2018. We have also linked the study in a box at the top of the Town website Homepage for easy reference.
Dr. Benjamin and his colleague, Tom Cetrino, walked us through their research in a comprehensive and accessible way, and we had a discussion about what our next steps might be. If you missed this part of the meeting, please check out the video footage, which can be found here (start at the 19 minute mark). The immediate next step for us is to hear from you, our community, about the study. Please join us on Tuesday, March 5th for our next Town Hall Meeting at the Ossining Public Library in the Budarz Theater on the lower level to share your thoughts on this. Before our Town Hall, we have one more scheduled Regular Meeting this Tuesday, February 26th and will be hearing from our Town Engineer, Paul Fraioli, who will be bringing us all up to speed on the planned improvements for McCarthy Drive, as well as the time table. Please join us at the Courthouse at 7:30PM if this topic is of interest to you.
Speaking of assessment, we are also working our way into exemption season, and you may have heard some news about changes to some tax exemptions. Our Assessor's Office is always happy to help, and can be reached at (914) 762-8274 with any questions.
“The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance reminded property owners age 65 and over who are applying or reapplying to receive the Enhanced STAR exemption in 2019 that they must now enroll in the Income Verification Program (IVP). Those already enrolled in the IVP don’t need to take any action to continue receiving their Enhanced STAR exemption. New IVP enrollees will likewise automatically receive the exemption each year they’re eligible.
In the first year of enrollment, the assessor will verify eligibility based on the income information provided by the homeowner. In subsequent years, the New York State Tax Department will automatically verify eligibility. As a result, homeowners will no longer need to renew the exemption or share income tax returns with their local assessor’s office.
This change applies only to seniors 65 or older applying for the Enhanced STAR exemption or those who have the exemption included in their property tax bills. This doesn’t affect those who receive a check for this exemption because New York State Tax Department already verifies income eligibility. If you already receive the Enhanced STAR exemption but aren’t yet enrolled in the IVP, you must renew your application for the Enhanced STAR exemption and enroll in the IVP. The forms were already mailed to you, please submit as soon as possible but prior to May 1, 2019.
If you’re also receiving the senior citizens exemption, you’ll still need to annually renew that benefit with your assessor. The renewal application will be mailed to you the first week of February.
In the past, seniors who qualified for the senior citizens exemption were automatically granted the Enhanced STAR exemption. Beginning in 2019, you must apply separately for both exemptions.
The deadline for all exemption (Veterans, senior, disability, county firefighter, clergy, nonprofit organizations, etc..) applications and renewals is May 1st 2019. Please call the Assessor’s office if you have any questions at 914-762-8274."
As busy as we've been at 16 Croton, there is a lot of work happening on the other side of Town. Our Parks crew continues to work at the Caretaker's Cottage at Ryder Park. Last we showed you, they were working in the basement and had started demo work in the kitchen. We have placed an order for new cabinetry and the guys have now begun ripping up the floors.
As is the case with most old homes (this one was built in 1900 and has seen very little renovation since), once you open things up, you find things you didn't expect. For example, they found some rot in the walls and in the floor, which means it all had to come out.
They re-supported the floor joist and the walls...
...and installed a new 3/4 inch plywood subfloor.
The next component will be the installation of the new cabinetry, along with some plumbing and heating work and new tiles for the floor. Then, we are looking to outfit the kitchen with some energy efficient appliances and move to the outside of the house-- the weather should be warm enough by then, or so said the groundhog! We are so excited to get all of this work done so that we can save on our heating and cooling bills going forward, not to mention that we will all sleep a bit easier knowing our asset is in better shape.
Are you looking forward to the weekend yet? Kick it off with a free screening of the film "A Star is Born" at the Budarz Theater tonight-- popcorn and drinks will be provided, and doors open at 6:45PM for the 7PM show. Don't miss it!
Looking for a family friendly activity for tomorrow morning? Head to Teatown. "Endangered," a program for everyone, will take place at 11AM and will offer some insight on what it means for a species to be extinct and what scientists are doing to help, as well as what challenges still lie ahead. Afterwards, you can "Rent-A-Bucket" and tap your own maple syrup (well, sap which will eventually become maple syrup!) from the beautiful trees on the Teatown property. Visit www.teatown.org/events to learn more about what the folks there have planned for you this weekend and year round!
The Ossining Farmers Market is still in full swing, with lots of fresh vegetables and more on Saturday morning at Market Square. Even though it's not quite March yet, Wave Hill Bread and Meredith's Bread have both brought back their Irish Soda Bread so you can get your St. Paddy's on a little early. Wave Hill and Meredith's both make all different types of great breads and baked goods too -- they are definitely worth a visit this Saturday!
Work off some of those carbs at Sing Sing Kill Brewery on Sunday at 11:45AM-- wear your comfy clothes and learn the fundamentals of West African dance. A cold brew will be the reward for your efforts! $20 per person.
Lorenzo Robinson, the Postmaster in Ossining, will be holding a Meet Your Postmaster Roundtable Discussion this Tuesday, February 26th from 11AM to 2PM at the Ossining Post Office. Come get your questions answered and discuss how the Postal Service can better serve Ossining's residents and businesses. This discussion will help Lorenzo and the rest of the Ossining Postal Team communicate with their customers, solicit community feedback, and help identify things they are doing right or need to improve.
Are your ukulele skills better than you thought? Keep this in mind-- the deadline to apply to be a part of this Summer's Concert Series is next Friday, March 1st. Please fill out the form on the Town's website here to get in the running for next summer's line-up.
Please be aware that Town and Village offices will be closed to the public on Thursday, March 7th for Records Retention Day. Although we will be closed to the public on that day, staff will be hard at work cleaning out files to archive records that need to be kept in perpetuity or for a few more years and disposing of records that have met their legal retention. Holding Records Retention days on a regular basis is an important aspect of maintaining a healthy records retention program in local government. Please be sure to plan ahead for this closure. Looking to do some records retention at home? Now is the time to get ready -- the Westchester County Mobile Shredder will be coming on Saturday, April 27th to the Community Center at 95 Broadway from 10AM to 1PM. Visit the Westchester County website for more information about what is and isn't accepted by the Mobile Shredder.
You can still take advantage of the Toilet Replacement Program, now available to Town residents. The Village of Ossining has invited the Town to take part in a water saving initiative that could help you buy a high-efficiency toilet with a $200 voucher. To see if your property is eligible, check here.
It's sounding like we may have some heavy rain late Sunday into Monday, so enjoy the sunshine while you can! Enjoy the weekend!