You may have heard that today is the day when New York PAUSE expires. However, as of yesterday, much of the PAUSE has been extended to May 28, with other requirements extended until June 13th for our region. There are a few relaxed restrictions for our area, but otherwise, our region is not quite ready to enter Phase one of New York Forward. The Governor’s regional approach to re-opening is based upon specific criteria and metrics. The Town of Ossining is located within the Mid-Hudson Region, which is comprised of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange Counties. So just to clarify, at this time, the Mid-Hudson Region is NOT eligible to re-open today, May 15 pursuant to the directives of New York Forward.
New York Forward establishes seven criteria which an entire region must meet in order to advance to phases of re-opening. These criteria include:
1. Decline in hospitalizations;
2. Decline in deaths;
3. Reduced new hospitalizations;
4. Hospital bed capacity;
5. ICU bed capacity;
6. Diagnostic testing capacity; and
7. Contact tracing capacity.
More specific information regarding this criteria and our region’s progress on these metrics can be found online. At this time, the Mid-Hudson Region meets five out of the seven criteria, and is therefore not in a position to re-open business. We must experience more days of declined hospital deaths and reduced new hospitalizations prior to moving to Phase One of New York Forward. Each region has been assigned a “regional control room,” largely comprised of County Executives and other stakeholders, tasked with closely monitoring these metrics and reopening efforts.
We have received a number of inquiries from residents and business owners asking how this impacts the Ossining community. When New York PAUSE expires for upstate regions today, the underlying restrictions of New York PAUSE for our area will not change. Most businesses that have been closed, will remain closed. If you are a non-essential employee, you will continue to work from home. You must maintain a six foot distance from others when in public and wear face coverings when not able to do so (also, specifically, these distance restrictions have been extended through June 13). The only state-wide change that will go into effect on May 15 which includes our region is the re-opening of certain low-risk businesses including landscaping and gardening, outdoor low-risk recreational activities like tennis (subject to certain restrictions), and drive-in movie theaters.
Once the Mid-Hudson region meets the benchmark required to enter Phase One, only certain businesses will be allowed to open. The State is gradually releasing templates for workplace safety guidelines and FAQs for businesses owners and employees, which include what the mandatory requirements will be. Any business that opens is required to institute health and safety practices to protect the public. We strongly recommend starting now to prepare a plan for how to institute these practices. We will be sharing guides and guidance for businesses in the coming weeks to help businesses before Phase One begins. The graphic below details the following phases of the plan. According to New York Forward, we must wait at least two weeks in between phases to closely monitor how that phase of reopening impacts the various public health metrics we must continue to meet. We are still a long while out before a full reopening, so I would not recommend booking reservations yet for your favorite restaurant or an appointment with your hair stylist (I know, I know, we are all so tempted at this point!). Instead, order some takeout tonight, buy a gift card to support your favorite local business, but still maybe avoid breaking out the kitchen scissors to cut your own hair! I promise it will be worth the wait – especially for my fellow curly girls out there!
I know this is a lot of information to navigate and fully understand. We will remain in close contact with our County Executive, George Latimer, as he begins his new role as our representative to the “regional control room.” We will also be watching closely as some other regions in New York State enter Phase One today, including the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, the North Country, and Central NY. The Town is also in the process of developing its own safety plan, as we plan for slowly introducing more of our employees back to reporting to work in person. We will also continue to keep our community apprised of developments as we learn them. I encourage you to share with your neighbors how to receive e-mail updates from us, and sign up for daily e-mail updates directly from New York State. They really are so informative.
One of the core tenets of the re-opening phases is the establishment of teams of contact tracers. Tracers will help monitor spread of the virus and are the first step in connecting those exposed to the virus to the New York State Health Department for information and testing. The state is now hiring contact tracers. You can learn more about this opportunity and apply online.
As we are constantly reminded, COVID-19 is not a virus we fully understand yet. As we consider re-opening, it is imperative that we continue to seek information from official news sources and follow health experts’ advice to avoid a second wave of the outbreak. We learned about a disturbing new trend this week regarding children. While initial impressions of the virus seemed to spare children from severe symptoms, the Governor has noted a series of symptoms parents should carefully review. Information is still incoming and not all the symptoms are necessarily a sign of immediate urgency. Parents that notice symptoms should contact their healthcare provider and actively monitor the symptoms.
In order to protect children, vulnerable populations, and essential workers, it is important to continue to wear masks when in shared public spaces. Masks are easy to make and we are proud to announce we will be taking part in the #MaskMonday initiative, sharing pictures of our community members showing off their masks.
This is also the time to share those great how-to videos. Nancy Adelman, who has been coordinating a team to make masks for a variety of those who need them (everyone!), shared this helpful graphic showing how to make a mask from a t-shirt. [I should have two videos from her later today too!] Not so crafty? Health experts have indicated that those bandanas lying around will do the trick for most of us – as long as you are not a first responder or healthcare worker.
I would like to pass along a sentiment to everyone who is struggling with the emotional toll this pandemic has taken. Time homebound, in social isolation, can be draining and feel overwhelming. Last week, Westchester County unveiled a memorial commemorating our collective loss during this outbreak. Families, many of whom have not been able to mourn under traditional circumstances, can add a purple ribbon with the written name of a loved one. The Ribbons of Remembrance memorial is at Lenoir Preserve in Yonkers.
It has now been a few weeks since property owners received preliminary change of assessment notices in the mail. I would like to remind everyone that you can still schedule an informal review 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. These meetings will help clarify any concerns you may have if you feel your assessed value does not accurately reflect your property value as of July 1, 2019. This informal meeting may result in the lowering of your preliminary assessed value. Prepare by looking online to compare your property to sale prices (within the past year) for similar properties. These informal reviews are essential to the re-appraisal process – we recognize you know your property better than anyone, so these meetings help ensure the accuracy of our roll. This week, the Town voted to extend the Tentative Roll filing date from June 1 to June 30, 2020, and moved Grievance Day to 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. You can call the Assessor's Office at (914) 762-8274 if you need any help or have questions.
As you know, the Town worked with the County Board of Legislators and the County Executive to find ways to ease the burden of paying property taxes at this time. However, the actual date that taxes were due was not extended. Therefore, those who were not able to pay their 2020 Town and County taxes by April 30th will receive late payment notices from the Tax Receiver’s office in the coming days. Remember: the two options available are to pay late with greatly reduced penalties (.5% if paid by May 30, and 1% if paid by July 15), or for those property owners who meet the hardship criteria established by the Westchester County Executive, a full waiver of penalties if paid by July 15. Learn more and download the request for hardship exemption on our website.
In Census news – the unincorporated Town broke 60% response rate this week. Woohoo! Ok that’s all the celebrating we are going to allow ourselves – that still means 40% of you still have not responded! Now is the time to get on it – you can respond today by visiting the Census website, 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. So basically that means no excuses! As a reminder, all Census responses are confidential and a citizenship question is not included. The Village of Briarcliff Manor is up in the top 6 municipalities at 74% (go Briarcliff!) and the Village of Ossining is at 56%. Please encourage all of your family, friends, neighbors, Zoom happy hour attendees, Instagram followers, Facebook friends, co-workers via conference call – did I leave anyone out? – yes basically everyone you know, to respond to the Census today.
We are so glad to share this weekly restaurant list. Help us keep our beloved restaurants in business by circulating this list and supporting them when you can.
While restaurants have been some of the more visible businesses adapting to the crisis, other businesses have risen to the challenge as well. Be sure to support these neighbors too – they are part of what makes Ossining an amazing place to live.
I am thrilled to see the community coming together to support one another. Sewing groups have sprung up all around the country – and quite a few locally – to teach residents how to make their own masks and make masks for others in need. Local volunteer 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! Hop on board this Meal Train designed to provide meals to hospital workers and OVAC. This is even more appreciated as we prepare for EMS week next week. This program may be winding down soon, so jump in before the train leaves the station.
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 Town 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.
In their continued effort to balance great food with health and safety, the Ossining Farmer’s market rolled out a preorder option. Treat your cart like a virtual shopping list throughout the week and pick-up on Saturday.
The Mike Risko Music School is hosting Thursday Open-Mic Nights! Email the school for Zoom log-in info and prep your set list for a good time.
For those of you whose New Year’s Resolutions were adapted into Quarantine Resolutions, the Mind, Body, Spirit – Ossining program may be right up your alley! This program is designed to connect you with local wellness businesses and highlight how you can use our local parks and open spaces to stay fit in mind, body and spirit, help ease stress, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Now more than ever, health is in the national spotlight and in the forefront of our minds. Check out this week’s mindfulness lesson from the Crossover Yoga Project, recorded at the Crawbuckie Nature Preserve.
The Ossining Schools made an announcement this week regarding events for High School Seniors. The end of the year is full of milestones for Seniors and I know it has been particularly difficult to see those traditions be postponed, cancelled, or downsized. I want to take a moment to thank all our students for their dedication to public health – even at the expense of their prom, graduation, and end of year goodbyes. Parents should review a copy of Superintendent Sanchez’s letter here in English and Spanish.
I know many of us look forward to our great summer events – many of which are going to have to adapt this year. I held a meeting today to brainstorm some ideas for a fun summer in Ossining. Stay tuned!