Before we get into the heart of what is happening now in our region, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some of our true heroes. This week is National EMS week. Emergency Medical Service members have been an incredible lifeline (literally) during this pandemic. We are all so thankful to our dedicated team. The Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps (OVAC) led by Chief Nick Franzoso, has not only been on the front lines of this crisis, they have also been an invaluable asset and source of information for the Town, and so many other organizations in Ossining as we all attempt to navigate these uncertain times. If you find yourself driving past their headquarters at 8 Clinton Avenue – honk your horn in support as you pass by! THANK YOU!
Also, last week was National Police week, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the great officers we have working in our communities round the clock, no days off, despite the risks of the virus. You may have seen a few of their parades over the past few weeks. The Ossining Police, led by Chief Kevin Sylvester, and the Briarcliff Manor PD, led by Chief Donald Gorey continue to foster strong relationships within our communities. Be sure to wave and thank them during their car parade this weekend (and at any other car parades as well)!
This year’s unprecedented changes to social gatherings have made typical Memorial Day parades impossible. This week, the Governor announced that only ceremonies of ten people or fewer will be allowed. The Ossining Central Committee of Organized War Veterans will be holding an appropriately sized ceremony, in accordance with New York State guidelines. It is my understanding that our very own former Highway Superintendent Michael G. O’Connor will be behind the camera (his favorite place, as we know!) on Monday so we can all share in this ceremony a little bit by viewing a video and photos afterwards. The Briarcliff Manor American Legion will also be holding a small ceremony, led by Commander Lawrence Reilly, at Law Park. I believe they will also be sharing it virtually. Please do not attempt to attend these ceremonies in person – I know we all miss our annual Memorial Day parades, but it is important to respect the strict social distancing guidelines in place. Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance, so I encourage you to find some time this weekend to pause and remember those in our own community who have died in service to our country.
This week, portions of New York State began Phase One of the reopening process. While NY PAUSE required the entire state to close under uniform guidelines, the NY FORWARD program has divided the state into regions for evaluation. Ossining is a part of the Mid-Hudson Region, which includes Westchester County, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, Sullivan, and Rockland. As a reminder, we are currently not eligible to re-open.
So here in Ossining, that means not too much has changed – you still must wear a face covering in public, maintain a six foot distance from others, remain home except for essential trips, and no Phase One businesses are eligible to re-open quite yet, including construction. A few changes did take place everywhere in New York as of May 15, which includes some additional landscaping and gardening (decorative plantings are now allowed to be done by landscaping businesses, for example), socially distanced light recreational activities like tennis, and drive-in movie theaters. So pick up your racquet, let your landscaper plant that tree, and get ye to a drive in! Here’s one in Poughkeepsie http://overlookdrivein.com/
Make sure you check out the online dashboard created by the governor’s office, showing the status for each region. There are seven benchmarks a region must meet to qualify for Phase One, which are:
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.
As excited as we are to see regions open, it means it is even more important to remain vigilant. Already we are seeing case numbers increase in states where restrictions have been relaxed. It is important not to forget the safety practices in place to protect those who are more vulnerable to the virus. Washing your hands for 20 seconds or more should not be a March-only trend! Continue to social distance, especially now as the warm weather is bringing more people outside. Because our region still does not meet the requirements to enter Phase One, we don’t want to risk backsliding and moving further away from our opening date, so please help each other and help our region by following the social distancing and sanitizing rules and recommendations.
Naturally, many businesses have questions about how they can prepare for the eventual reopening and when that date may come. Reopening is going to look different for every business. New York State has released guidelines for Phase One businesses, including templates for workplace safety plans, affirmations that are required to be signed by business owners, and a lot more helpful information. New York State will be releasing guidelines for businesses included past Phase One, but they are not available yet. The question of “when” is a little more concrete. Businesses have been divided across each of the four NY FORWARD phases to protect employees and customers. The current requirements place a two-week monitoring period between each phase so a sharp increase in case numbers can be prevented. Employers will be responsible for providing all necessary protection for employees and operate at reduced capacity in order to maintain social distancing practices. This will make our favorite places look different, but we will be excited to see them up and running again anyway!
We are continuing to learn exactly how our actions today will have an impact tomorrow. Until now, parents could find comfort in believing children were less susceptible to severe symptoms of this virus. Unfortunately, symptoms have been recognized in many kids across the world. As a parent myself, I know is it very upsetting and nerve-wracking for parents to learn that their kids may be at risk. If your child doesn’t feel well, contact your healthcare professional. As a reminder, Open Door Family Medical Clinic is in Ossining, ready for anyone who cannot access their regular doctor or does not have one.
Governor Cuomo unveiled the details of the contact tracing program this week. Once a positive test is confirmed, the positive individual will be asked to share information about who they may have come in contact with. Those exposed will receive a call from “NYS Contact Tracing” with information about quarantine procedures, safety measures, and other options. Early action is going to be increasingly important to protect your health and avoiding a second wave. Scams are on the rise nation-wide, so the Caller ID information registered by New York State will help keep your private information safe.
We have all been under a tremendous amount of stress since March. If you are struggling, please know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Westchester and New York State have each provided access to free healthcare services during this crisis. The Town and Village of Ossining have collaborated on a Resources Document for easy access to current information for all residents.
For those looking for a physical space to mourn lost loved ones, a Memorial was created in Lenior Park in Yonkers in honor of the victims of COVID-19. Family members can add the names of those lost to the Ribbons of Remembrance memorial during park hours. Social distancing practices are still in place and all visitors should wear a mask.
Fill out your Census. Fill out your Census. What are you waiting for?? Fill out your Census!! Let’s not leave money on the table when we know how critical it is to get Ossining’s allocation (yes, that includes you too, Briarcliff!) While we remain focused on the Coronavirus and its impact, so many of the resources we are so heavily relying on right now are allocated based on Census data. We cannot let the Census be brushed aside during this Crisis. The 2020 Census can be completed by mail, online, or by phone. Do not let language get in the way, help us reach your family and your friends who may not understand the importance of the Census.
English: https://my2020census.gov/ or 844-330-2020
TDD (Telephone Display Device): 844-467-2020
Portuguese: https://2020census.gov/pt.html or 844-474-2020
Spanish: https://my2020census.gov/ or 844-468-2020
Chinese: https://2020census.gov/zh-hans.html or 844-391-2020 (Mandarin) 844-398-2020 (Cantonese)
Vietnamese: https://2020census.gov/vi.html or 844-461-2020
Korean: https://2020census.gov/ko.html or 844-392-2020
Russian: https://2020census.gov/ru.html or 844-417-2020
Arabic: https://2020census.gov/ar.html or 844-416-2020
Tagalog: https://2020census.gov/tl.html or 844-478-2020
Polish: https://2020census.gov/pl.html or 844-479-2020
French: https://2020census.gov/fr.html or 844-494-2020
Haitian Creole: https://2020census.gov/ht.html or 844-477-2020
Japanese: https://2020census.gov/ja.html or 844-460-2020
For more language options, visit the US 2020 Census website’s language center: https://2020census.gov/en/languages.html. The Census is a new concept for many people. Remember: it is a count of each resident and is completely confidential by law.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has temporarily closed public access to the Croton Gorge Unique Area in Cortlandt. The State announced the decision was made due to the area’s distinct features, which inhibit the ability to properly social distance.
A great big thank you to everyone who participated in our first #MaskMonday on Facebook and Instagram! Share photos of yourself wearing your mask and to encourage mask-wearing in public spaces. Show off your creativity with pictures of your home-made masks, Ossining-themed masks, or sewing instructions. We want to see your masks!
Religious organizations have been restricted during this crisis, causing further strain for many. Starting yesterday, religious gatherings of up to 10 people are now permitted. Drive-in and parking lot services will be permitted. Social distancing measures must be enforced and all participants must wear masks. Reach out to your house of worship to see how they are adjusting to this new normal. Again, I know everyone is desperately seeking a return to normal, but please respect these guidelines in place to protect us all.
Our Parks Department has made some great improvements to kick-off our summer! Warm weather is here and we’re happy to see so many people enjoying our parks. This winter, our Parks Foreman Mario Velardo and his crew started a project to install new drainage at Ryder Park and we repaved the roads, and gave our comfort stations at Engel, Ryder and Gerlach parks much-needed updates. While they are not quite ready to be open (hardware still needs to be installed) nor do we know that they will open immediately, here is a little progress, as well as some pictures of work they did removing trees at beautiful Dale Cemetery in time for this Memorial Day weekend.
The Ossining Farmer’s Market has come up with a creative way to keep healthy food flowing without creating long wait times. Fill up a virtual shopping list by Thursday each week and pick-up, hassle-free on Saturday.
Every week we share a list of restaurants in Town that are open for takeout and/or delivery. There were only a few changes to the list this week. Do you see any of your favorite eateries missing? Let me know! We are all in this together and I am so happy to hear about families doing weekly take-out nights in an effort to support local businesses.
But wait there’s more! Not all Ossining businesses are restaurants and I’m proud to share this list of other businesses that have adapted to these difficult times. Do you know a business that has adapted to be open? Do not let their hard work go unnoticed! Share their info, here and beyond.
Unfortunately, food insecurity has continued to rise as financial hardships related to COVID-19 continue. Distribution times and locations are posted on the Town and Village Facebook pages to help get the word out, but ultimately it is up to each of us to make sure our friends and family know what resources are out there. The Resources Document mentioned earlier has a section on Groceries & Hot Meals, updated weekly to show current information. Distribution dates and times next week will be different due to the Memorial Day holiday.
Gullotta House has been connecting residents with hot meals through an innovative program. By partnering with restaurants that were struggling to bring in customers, Gullotta House is bringing our favorite meals to our neighbors for food distribution on Fridays from 4-5:30 at Stop n’ Shop. Donations to help support this effort are necessary to keep the program running and can be directed to www.gullottahouse.org
Around the country, millions in cities clap for healthcare workers at 7pm in honor of healthcare workers. The time corresponds with the daily shift change for frontline workers in hospitals. You may have heard the Maryknoll church bells join in each day. The bells can be heard far across Town, but if you cannot hear them at 7, you can listen via livestream on their Facebook page.
The weekly Open-Mic Nights from the Mike Risko Music School continue Thursday Nights! I know the days all seem to blend together now, so add this event to your calendar. Email the Riskos for Zoom log-in info and prep your set list for a good time.
The Ossining Documentary and Discussion Series is hosting a virtual showing! The live webcast runs from 6:30 to 8:10pm on Friday, May 29. Register here to learn more about our Hudson River and the climate-minded solutions being enacted by farms around it.
The Center of Mariandale is hosting virtual classes for homebound folks looking to learn something new. Their online catalogue includes classes about self-publishing, human-trafficking, religious connections, and more.
Now let’s all get to that three day weekend! As a reminder, please remain respectful of our parks and open spaces – no playing on playground equipment, wear a mask, try to bring out whatever you brought in with you, do not litter, and avoid overfilling our garbage cans. We can all do our part to make this tough situation a bit more relaxed and enjoyable for all. Also, Town staff will be taking the day off on Monday, May 25 in observance of Memorial Day. If you need us, leave a message, shoot us an e-mail, and we will be sure to get back to you on Tuesday.
I hope you enjoy this extra time to relax with your family and friends (only if you are quarantining with them, or stay six feet away, of course), remember our country’s heroes, and kick off summer! We will “see you” next week.