I would like to start this week by wishing you all a Happy Mother’s Day. There is never an easy time to be a mom – even without a global pandemic. Thank you to all the moms – and that includes biological moms, adoptive moms, step-moms, grandmothers, furry moms, aunts, big sisters, role models, and all other mom-figures -- making this work.
I would also like to extend my thanks to teachers and nurses this week. Teacher Appreciation Week and Nurses Appreciation Week is especially noteworthy this year, with our dedicated teachers and nurses going the extra mile during this crisis.
This week, Governor Cuomo announced his re-opening strategy. No area of New York is currently prepared to open, but the plan will allow businesses to prepare before the start date. We are expecting the finalized version of the re-opening strategy will be released soon. The preliminary blueprint laid out by the Governor divided the State into distinct regions, aligned with the regions some of us are familiar with from the Regional Economic Development Councils. Each region will be judged independently of the others, and based upon specific, data-guided measures. Since New York City was a hotspot, and is its own REDC region, it will be judged as its own region. Ossining is included in a region, Mid-Hudson, with Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, Sullivan, and Westchester. Reopening comes with its own challenges, especially since schools remain closed. The plan is structured into four phases, with different businesses in each phase. Between the phases are a strict set of criteria the region must meet. Before entering Phase 1 our region must demonstrate a steady, consistent decline in new cases. Among other guidelines, we must also build a security net into our hospitals by giving them time to restock supplies, as well as increased testing capacity and contact tracing. The phases are anticipating a potential second wave. In the absence of a second wave, hotspots are expected as people begin to interact again. The Governor has stressed the need for continued social distancing and mask-wearing to avoid losing the progress we have made.
The State has also announced opportunities for contact tracers to be hired. This is an essential aspect of any region in New York State being able to be reopened – we must have a better handle on evaluating positive cases and those with whom they may have come in contact. You can learn more about this opportunity and apply online.
As cases increase nationwide, new evidence shows that New Yorkers have successfully flattened our curve and are on the down slope. However, we must bear in mind that 231 New Yorkers died from this virus just on Thursday this week alone. That is 231 families, neighborhoods, communities, workplaces, and more with a tremendous loss to face. Now is not the time to become less vigilant. As the weather warms I am happy to get to see your faces again in our public spaces. Please be respectful of your neighbors, and those that we have lost during this pandemic, by wearing a mask if you are moving through spaces where social distancing is not possible (which, in my opinion, is pretty much anywhere you go! At the very least, have the mask around your next so you can put it on if you have to get within six feet of another).
There is virtually no reason to not wear a mask. If you do not have one at home, they are super easy to make! All you need is an old t-shirt and a paper towel, and you are good to go. Not so crafty? Grab a bandana or scarf you have lying around and use that instead. For those of us not in the medical industry, and who are just looking for some protection while going out for a walk or run, that should be sufficient.
Governor Cuomo has also announced a fun challenge – make a video about why it is so important to wear a mask, tag #NewYorkTough on your social media channels, and New Yorkers will be able to vote for their favorite! The winning video will be used as a Public Service Announcement. Come on Ossining – can we do this? Submissions are due May 15 – get on our creative juices to help promote healthy practices in New York State! Learn more here.
Local Coronavirus cases across the County appeared to increase this week after a backlog of unsorted results were appropriately distributed. A large number of cases state-wide were not properly filed upon initial intake or required additional information to be confirmed. These newly sorted cases reflect additional results spanning back to the March tests. As the backlog continues to be sorted, our numbers will become more accurate and more aligned with the State Health Department’s information. The filing error resulted at the State level from tests processed without attaching an address to a resident’s name. New York State made a significant dent in the backlog this week – we are expecting case numbers all across the county to rise to reflect this newly allocated information. We are, however, also backing out cases that were active for more than 14 days to try to show a more accurate picture of how many cases are presumably still active, of the total positives. The County is now supplying those numbers to us, which is helpful as a guiding document.
This week County Executive George Latimer unveiled a Ribbons of Remembrance memorial at Leonoir Preserve in Yonkers. I know the restrictions on funerals have been a burden on grieving families. Ribbons of Remembrance allows families to write the name of a lost loved one on a purple ribbon and then add it to the memorial site, hopefully offering some solace. If extended family will be joining you at the memorial, please continue to wear masks and social distance to protect others.
The Deadline for Paying your 2020 Town and County taxes due April 30th has passed. However, if paying by April 30th posed a financial hardship, please take advantage of the reduced penalty options:
- Pay between now and May 31st - .5% penalty (previous penalty 2%)
- Pay between June 1 and July 15th – 1% penalty (previous penalty 5%)
PAY ONLINE at https://www.townofossining.com/cms/receiver-of-taxes/tax-bill-online-payment or through the mail or at Ossining Post Office mail slot.
Additionally, you may be eligible to defer payment until July 15th 2020 without any penalty if you are suffering through a financial hardship directly caused by COVID-19 crisis. Please see the qualifications here. The forms necessary to be submitted WITH your payment by mail can be retrieved here. Please note that the form is due with your payment and did not have to be submitted by April 30th.
Calls to our Assessor’s Office continued this week following the mailing of the Preliminary Change of Assessment Notices for property owners. The re-appraisal process of properties maintains the accuracy of our tax roll and is coordinated by our Assessor’s Office and Tyler Technologies.
I would like to reiterate, an increase in assessed value does not necessarily mean a proportionate increase, or even an increase at all, in taxes. Taxes are determined by many factors, including the budgets of the various taxing jurisdictions. Property owners know their properties better than anyone, so participating in an informal review if you feel we might have been off in the valuation will help ensure the accuracy of our roll. If you feel your preliminary assessment does not accurately reflect the value of your property as of July 1, 2019, we encourage you to schedule a remote informal meeting with Tyler Technologies by calling 800-829-4235 Monday through Friday 9:00AM to 4:00PM or by logging on to www.tylertech.com/schedule to schedule an appointment. Prepare by looking online to compare your property to sale prices (within the past year) for similar properties.
As we have mentioned before, the first step should be an informal review with Tyler Technologies before the Tentative Roll is filed, normally June 1. Tyler Technologies may determine it is appropriate to lower the assessed value you received in your notice. However, if you are still not satisfied with the accuracy of your assessed value, you may file a grievance prior to Grievance Day, normally the third Tuesday in June, or June 16 this year. These deadlines are set by New York State law, and normally not able to be changed at the local level. However, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.22 on April 20, allowing individual municipalities to extend deadlines associated with the Assessment roll by 30 days. Following our discussion last week, the Town Board intends on extending the Tentative Roll filing date from June 1 to June 30, 2020, and holding Grievance Day on July 21, 2020, instead of June 16. We hope this extension will allow property owners ample time to review, investigate, and challenge their preliminary assessed value, if necessary. This extension will be formally adopted by the Town Board at our next Legislative Session, scheduled for May 12, 2020. You can call the Assessor's Office at (914) 762-8274 if you need any help or have questions.
Also, I would like to remind everyone to be vigilant of scams during this difficult time. Unfortunately, tough times can also bring out the worst in people, as much as it brings out the best, too. We received a report this week from a resident of a potential scammer masking their caller ID to read “Town of Ossining” – so scary! As a reminder, do not give out personal information over the phone and verify any call that does not seem legitimate, even if it may seem like the call is coming from someone you know or a trusted source. Unfortunately, people are able to spoof phone numbers with easily accessible apps these days. Also be wary of phishing attempts via e-mail. Do not open links or attachments from e-mail addresses you do not recognize, or seem a little bit off. Use your best judgment, and if you suspect you may have fallen victim to a scam, you can always contact the Ossining Police Department at (914) 941-4099. If you receive a phone call from someone who may be pretending to be a Town of Ossining staff member, you can always call the Supervisor’s Office directly at (914) 762-6001 to verify the caller.
Census outreach also continued this week. If you have received your Census mailing, please complete the survey and return it right away. We currently have not quite reached a 60% response rate and are way behind many of our neighbors who have surpassed 70%. C’mon Ossiningites! Get your Census on!!! Remember: more than 400 billion dollars in federal and state funding can be traced back to Census results and in the last Census Ossining lost nearly $2500 for each uncounted resident. Now more than ever we see the importance of programs and services we rely on every day. If you haven’t completed your Census by mail, you can fill it out online or by phone (844-330-2020 for English, 844-468-2020 for Spanish, 844-474-2020 for Portuguese). The Census is available in approximately 60 different languages, with the survey also available in Braille and large print. All Census responses are confidential. They should be completed by each household and account for every resident, regardless of citizenship or age. Preschoolers remain consistently under counted nationwide, so don’t forget the little ones. If your college student would have been away at school this semester, they will have already been counted by their college (so there’s no need to include them in your count). my2020census.com gets you started!
Many of us are used to kicking off the month of May with I Love My Parks Day, helping with park clean-ups throughout the State, or locally along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail and Louis Engel Park. It is so hard to believe we are unable to gather this year for this fun, educational, and helpful initiative! But I guess it might even be better this year, since the New York State Parks has deemed all of May I Love My Parks Month! Join in the virtual photo challenge and tag #ShowParksLove. There are weekly themes and prizes from retailers like LL Bean and Patagonia. As we have all begun to see, our parks definitely need some extra love this year. Next week’s theme is “Give Back,” through volunteering, donating, and speaking out. Get more details online, and get your submission ready for next week! And please, if you see an overflowing garbage can, or even one about to, carry out your refuse and bring it home, and safely deposit it to reduce to possibility of contagion spread, and to help keep our parks looking beautiful.
We are expecting some chilly weather this weekend -- and maybe some severe winds and possibly even snow tonight into tomorrow -- but next week is supposed to have a few nice days. Our Mind Body Spirit - Ossining (MBSO) program was designed to invite local residents into our beautiful parks. Local wellness businesses host free events in the parks for group participation. We have had to adapt a bit this year, but you can still enjoy the beauty of the parks and participate in solitary wellness activities like hiking, yoga, mediation, and more. Check our this mindfulness instruction class from the Crossover Yoga Project filmed in Crawbuckie park!
Restaurants continue to open this week – and we are so glad to have them back! We update the color of this list weekly to help the current version stand out. Help us circulate this list by posting on your Facebook page.
While you are sharing posts to help support local businesses, let’s boost this one too! While restaurants were deemed essential services, other businesses have also had to adapt for their homebound customers. Your input is imperative to keeping this list updated. Quarantine can be stressful, these businesses are prepared to help by offering their amazing services. You will notice we don’t change the background color on this graphic – that’s because each business has a distinct type of adaptive service available and we want you to see that first!
I am thrilled to see the community coming together to support each other. Sewing groups have sprung up all around the country – and quite a few locally – to teach residents how to make their own masks and masks for others in need. Nancy Adelman and her team are organizing mask sewing for EMTs, nursing homes, and those in vulnerable populations (like homeless residents). Check out their GoFundMe page to see how to get involved or donate.
An increased interest in sending food to first responders also warms my heart! As a reminder, always contact an organization before making food donations (having pizzas anonymously delivered to a hospital is a lovely gesture but can be overwhelming for staff and does not account for schedules already in place). Hop on board this Meal Train designed to provide meals to hospital workers and OVAC.
As financial hardships grow due to the Coronavirus crisis, food insecurity rises with it. There are a lot of options available for hot meals in Ossining and Briarcliff – many meals cooked by our favorite restaurants and donated! The Village and Feeding Westchester host a food distribution program every Tuesday across several locations.
Gullotta House serves hot meals in Ossining from local restaurants on Fridays from 4-6pm at Stop & Shop. Donations keep the engine in motion so please support if you can, by visiting www.gullottahouse.org. The dates and locations for food distribution change weekly, so we recommend residents follow them on Facebook to get specific information. We are also sharing the info on our Town of Ossining Facebook page.
The Ossining Farmer’s Market has shifted to allow for pre-orders! Add to your cart throughout the week and pick-up on Saturday.
May is Membership Month for one local fitness center. Like many others, they have converted to an online regiment during the NY PAUSE orders.
Finally, in our virtual world, there are fun events to remote into! Locally, celebrate Mother’s Day with a livestreamed Cabaret presented by the Bethany Arts Center.
The fan-favorite Mike Risko Band is offering Singing Telegrams for local Moms! Performances on the front lawn keep everyone safe – and having a good time.
There are many fun and creative ways to celebrate Mother’s Day in quarantine. Here are some fun ideas, but make yours personal!