Today is Juneteenth, a holiday of infinite importance that has remained ignored or unknown by many throughout the country. Juneteenth is celebrated every June 19th in honor of the day in 1865 that Union soldiers reached Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the slaves. Nearly two years after the historic signing, the Civil War had delayed the enforcement, and it took that long for the news to reach enslaved Texans. You may not have grown up hearing about Juneteenth, but the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn attention to the date across the country. It is a state-wide holiday in Texas, but has gained traction in recent years to be adopted elsewhere. Governor Cuomo announced that Juneteenth would be observed by state employees this year as a holiday, and endorsed legislation this week recommending Juneteenth be added as an official New York State holiday for 2021. This year, there were several events today around Westchester and New York City – many virtual – in celebration. There are at least two events occurring right here in Ossining, including one beginning this evening at around 7pm. Hopefully, you were able to take part in earlier events too. If not, we urge you to continue to join us in working for reforms and improvement of our institutions. These calls for action are what brought Juneteenth back into national focus.
And of course, as a very important reminder: if you take part in any in-person events, please remember your mask and exercise social distancing! Also, as the Governor recommends, take a COVID-19 test after being in large crowds. You owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and those you stood with in support of these incredibly important causes to be informed and do what you can to prevent further spread. We are seeing increases in over 20 states across the country and Puerto Rico – we do not want New York to backslide. All diagnostic coronavirus tests are free, whether or not you have insurance.
Sunday is Father’s Day and I want to extend warm wishes to all the fathers out there, including those who are parents of older kids, fur babies, screaming toddlers (it gets better!), and kids still working on their sixth grade math skills. We have got a sunny day ahead, go put on your masks and spend some time outdoors together with dads, uncles, grandpas and everyone they helped get to where they are today. Happy Father’s Day to one and all.
I know 2020 has been quite stressful for all of us, so I encourage you to take advantage of the Mind, Body, Spirit Ossining program which offers free classes to help us get healthier. Every summer, MBSO holds events hosted by professionals from local wellness businesses. This week, we’ll be celebrating the Summer Solstice and breathing in good intentions for the second half of 2020. The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and was traditionally celebrated by ancient cultures as a chance to regroup and restart.
Ossining, and the rest on the Mid-Hudson region, is on track to enter Phase 3 on Tuesday. Phase 3 will allow for low-risk youth sports, indoor dining at reduced capacity, nail salons, and gatherings of up to 25 people (if they all wear masks). It’s exciting to see our slow but steady return to normal. As case numbers in other states rise, we must work to avoid a second wave. Sanitize your phone screens, wash your hands, wear a fun mask, and social distance. Protect yourself and others today to help mitigate a second wave. We are doing our best to get our parks and open spaces ready for Phases 3 and 4, but we have lots of work to do to follow the protocols and make sure they are safe for use, so please be patient. Also, please remember that parks are under mega-strain right now with all the use they are getting so please carry out your trash if you see the receptacles are full. This makes it much safer and more pleasant for everyone. We will open our playgrounds when we can make sure hands can be sanitized and they can be cleaned. We are getting closer.
With Phase Three comes some restrictions lifted regarding limits on in-person municipal staff reporting to work. With the exception of our essential workers (HUGE shout out to our amazing Highway and Parks crews, Senior Nutrition program staff, and Clerk’s office!), most Town employees have been working remotely since March 17. This was done in accordance with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders limiting in-person municipal staff to essential employees. Unfortunately, we do not anticipate welcoming members of the public up to our offices on the 3rd Floor of 16 Croton anytime soon, and we will likely not be able to resume in-person services at the Town Justice Court, Senior Nutrition Program or Building Department until sometime in July. We will continue to update the community as we start phasing into our new normal. We are so proud of “Team Town” as they have navigated extremely difficult circumstances, while still providing top notch services to our residents, regardless of where they have been working for the past few months. As a reminder, we maintain a page on the Town website which is updated weekly and contains up to date information about Town services. We will continue to update this site as we move along to this new phase. Thank you for your patience!
Opening in Phases has kept our case numbers down, but has also put a lot of stress on businesses. Owners are required by NY Forward guidelines to post safety information and create plans to maintain safety for employees and clients. It is important for patrons to remember that businesses are made up of people – people with kids, elderly parents, and fears of their own. While we are happy to see many businesses across town welcome us back, we understand that some may not be ready. Please remember to support our local businesses. Like the rest of us, these have been especially hard months. Many of our restaurants – especially restaurants with ethnic cuisines – saw a downturn in the month before the Governor’s close-down orders. Below is our weekly list of food service businesses. Treat yourself to a takeout night or stop by for some outdoor dining.
Information about masks is also available in our handy-dandy COVID-19 Resources Document. Need info on legal assistance, WiFi access, or services for seniors? Check the doc. How about info on programs for Veterans or locations for hot meals? We’ve got that too. If you can’t find what you need in this doc, you’re welcome to reach out to the Town offices. The building may be closed to the public but Town staff is responding to calls and emails.
This week the results of our school boards, school budgets, and library budget votes were announced. Thank you to everyone who voted. Voting is an important part of driving change and progress in our community. Early voting for the June 23 primary has begun at Joseph G. Caputo Community Center at 95 Broadway. Vote between noon and 5pm this weekend. For those of you voting via Absentee Ballot, remember that it must be postmarked by June 23rd to be counted. If you are planning to vote on Tuesday, June 23rd for Primary Day you should receive a notice in the mail directing you to vote at either the Community Center or Roosevelt Elementary School. You must vote only at your designated location. If you requested an absentee ballot but did not receive one by the 23rd, you can vote in person, but you should tell the poll workers checking people in so they can void your absentee ballot. More information about the June 23 primary is also available on the Board of Elections website. We have taken precautions to help protect voters as they exercise this sacred practice of democracy. Hand sanitizer and gloves will be available. Remember to wear your masks. This helpful graphic shows just how important it is for everyone to wear a mask and social distance.
As we come into second half of the year, I want to bring another important issue to your attention. The U.S. Census is a count of all residents of the country, regardless of age, race, or immigration status. Getting an accurate count of all our country’s residents helps the federal government allocate funds to municipalities and allocate the 435 members of the House of Representatives. The Town and Village of Ossining’s census response rates are getting there, but could be better. We are both about 6% shy of our 2010 numbers, but we want to surpass that benchmark and make sure we get everyone counted! Please reach out to family and friends to ask them if they’ve completed their Census. Help keep people away from your front door by answering the census on line or by phone. It only takes about 10 minutes. 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.
As the pandemic extends past its 100th day, we have a continued need to connect the goods and services of our beloved businesses with customers. We are so grateful to Gullotta House who has distributed food from local restaurants to residents in need - over 50,000 meals throughout Westchester County and including right here in Ossining. Their work has inspired an initiative by the Ossining Chamber of Commerce to continue these efforts. Often after a period of time involving long-term tragedy, fewer donations come in to help charities, which is certainly the case now. The Chamber’s Virtuous Collective program hopes to offset that donor fatigue and help relieve charities that have supported residents through the pandemic.
Food distribution has continued throughout the Village. Check out the schedule below for the upcoming week. The food distributed is done in collaboration with multiple local agencies, so please see below for all those working hard to feed Ossining.
I am excited to share there are a lot of fun events coming up in the next few weeks. As a reminder, please wear a mask whenever you leave your home. Take some time outside to check out the Mario Cuomo Bridge walking path, which opened this week for walkers and bikers. The scenic trail stretches across the length of the entire bridge.
Yes, that's right! North State Road is finally striped, signed, and ready for bike lanes! We are looking at a (mostly) beautiful weekend, so I encourage you to grab your bikes and try it out for your maiden voyage. This road improvement was fully funded by two grants from NYSERDA's Clean Energy Communities Program and the Hudson River Valley Greenway. This bike lane is also the first phase implementation of the Millwood-Ossining Go! plan, and has been many years in the making. Sam Schwartz Engineers were also brought in on this project to fully evaluate the roadway and make recommendations for safety improvements necessary to bring this to fruition. This included reducing the speed limit on North State Road to 25 mph from the Town-wide speed limit of 30 mph, which was completed by local law earlier this year. We hope this new bike lane will bring new visitors to North State Road by highlighting connections to the Empire State Trail (North County Trail in our area), which is so important now, perhaps more than ever, as our restaurants and businesses have begun to re-open. I'm strapping on my helmet - I hope you will too!
As mentioned earlier in the Update, today is Juneteenth. A rally is being hosted at the waterfront tonight.
If you are uncomfortable attending an event in person, there is a virtual Juneteenth celebration being offered Friday evening. The lineup has Broadway’s Audra McDonald and Ossining residents Michael and Jordan Boatman (an OHS grad and rising star!), and other recognizable names.
Saturday, June 20 you can check out this Ancestry Workshop program being hosted by the Ossining Public Library. I know many people used quarantine to explore their family histories. Continue your project or start up now so you can learn how to trace your family through the ages.
Like many beloved local events, the Clearwater festival has gone virtual this year. Check out the Save the Sloop event happening Saturday June 20th for a day full of music, storytelling, activism, education, and celebration.
A Maze in Pottery is hosting a live sale of their pottery pieces for families. The store has held online classes throughout the pandemic, preparing kits for easy home use. You can get more information about the pottery projects on their Facebook page.
On Tuesday, June 30th learn how to maintain a Zero Waste kitchen. Food waste has a major impact on the environment and there are many steps you can take to reduce your personal impact. The Zoom lesson will focus on Zero Waste, sourcing and shopping for sustainable options, and cooking and entertaining with Zero Waste flair! Register here for the Zoom class.
Every Tuesday you can drop off donations of new or gently loved books at the Rec Center for the Book Harvest. Books will be quarantined and then distributed to local students! No textbooks please, also all donated books should be non-denominational. Recommended options include picture books, graphic novels, Junta, multicultural, young adult, bilingual, and chapter books. Stop by with book donations of all reading levels from 9am to 11am on Tuesdays to help support this program. For more information, visit the Book Harvest event page on Facebook.
The books collected at the Drop Off will be distributed for the summer. If your child borrowed a book in March it is important to return it to your child’s school.
On June 27 the Westchester Collaborative Theater is performing a series of vignettes about the effects COVID-19 on different aspects of our lives. The live-streamed production begins at 8.
While you’re in a theater-driven headspace, the Life is a Cabaret virtual musical theater program has launched at the Mike Risko Musical School.
Family members concerned about the seniors in their lives may be interested in these senior-specific classes. Stepwise Now is offering classes focused on balance and movement for seniors, with safety in mind.
The Ossining Farmer’s Market is helping keep you out of long lines in the heat by allowing pre-ordering! Fill up a virtual shopping list by Thursday each week and pick-up on Saturday.
Historic Hudson River Towns and all its member communities, which includes the Villages of Briarcliff, Ossining, and the Town of Ossining, worked with the company Travel Story to develop a driving tour of communities along the Hudson north of the bridge. The tour app is available for free via the TravelStorys app. We are excited to be a part of this program and hopefully with more families planning road trips this summer, we can highlight all the best Ossining has to offer virtually.
I would like to extend a special Thank You to our 2020 graduates. The end of this school year was certainly unconventional and I appreciate your efforts to stay positive in the face of these challenges. Over these last 100 days you have adapted to completely unexpected circumstances. I watched the Ossining High School car parade go by in celebration today. I know this year was not traditional, but your actions helped protect thousands of your neighbors, and for that we are truly grateful.
Please continue to be safe out there and have a great week!