This week was Primary Day across the state. Many votes came in by absentee ballot, but a lot of people also came out to vote in person. We know the safety practices put in place made voting a bit challenging this year. Thank you to everyone who took part in this vital democratic tradition. This was likely a dry-run for the November election, but we will await more direction from the State in the coming months. I am sure the Board of Elections is discussing adjustments that can be made to make the process happen more smoothly. Our Town Clerk, Sue Donnelly, serves as the liaison to the Board of Elections for all local, state, and federal elections, so we will keep you apprised of any updates she learns of in the coming months.
Ossining, and the Mid-Hudson region, entered Phase 3 this week. We are moving through the phases at a steady pace because so far, case numbers have remained low. There is a relatively common misunderstanding that Phase 4 will be a full return to normal. Unfortunately, we are not quite there yet. The phases introduced by the Governor offered guidance so businesses could prepare, however they do not include all businesses – as many have noticed. Phase 3 brought personal care services like nail salons and tattoo parlors. It also allowed for limited capacity indoor dining at restaurants. Phase 4 will hopefully start in early July. We do not currently have guidance from the state on how the re-opening will continue after Phase 4. The Governor announced this week (as some upstate regions entered Phase 4), that gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and casinos remain closed at the start of Phase 4. Most business will still have occupancy limits. Guidance is now available for all four phases on the New York Forward website.
Phase 3 has also brought some lifted restrictions on municipal operations. As we have shared, most non-essential Town staff members have been working from home since mid-March. For most departments, phones were being answered from home with staff making limited trips to the office to open mail, process payments or applications, and I am so proud of the level of customer service we have been able to provide during this extremely difficult time. This week, all Town departments have shifted main office functions back to the office, with some employees working from home on a staggered basis to still keep the capacity in our offices down. However, we are still not really allowing members of the public to enter our building for in-person service. This past week, we worked closely with our partners in the Village of Ossining to put the necessary protocols in place to allow for in-person service to resume. We will be sending out a joint notice early next week to share more details on re-opening. We greatly appreciate all of your patience as we navigate these uncharted waters. We hope all will recognize the hard work and consideration that have gone into establishing our re-opening protocols. Also, please note we do not anticipate re-starting in person Town Board meetings or volunteer board meetings any time soon, as long as Governor Cuomo continues to renew an Executive Order allowing meetings to be held via videoconferencing.
We have also been receiving many questions about our park offerings. At this time, the Spray Park at Louis Engel Park remains closed - we are working to get all that is necessary in place for a safe opening and hope that by early next week we can announce an opening date. All other playgrounds will officially reopen starting tomorrow! Permits for our park pavilions will be available starting on July 11th. Ballfields will re-open on July 6th. We are working closely with our Superintendent of Recreation, Bill Garrison, alongside our top notch Parks Department, led by Parks Foreman Mario Velardo, to be sure we do all we can to ensure the public’s safety while enjoying our parks. That being said, we are stressing that spending time in our parks, enjoying the amenities available, should all be done at your own risk. It would be simply impossible for playgrounds to be disinfected after each use. Parents and caregivers should remain vigilant, wear masks, and follow the recommended guidance from the CDC for visiting parks. We are also happy to share that bathrooms at Engel Park are now open – and look swankier than you might remember! Here are some pictures of them, outfitted with touchless fixtures and even door openers you use with your foot. We are hoping for touchless soap dispensers to arrive soon to replace these other ones. Our other comfort stations at Gerlach and Ryder which were also being upgraded should be complete in the next few weeks.
I am excited to see many of our businesses and restaurants have been allowed to reopen based on the State’s guidelines. I would like to remind everyone to be patient as businesses adapt to the new safety procedures. Businesses are run by people currently working under enormous stress. Be nice! We are all in this together. Although restaurants and food service establishments are allowed to re-open indoor dining, some have chosen not to quite yet. If you notice a business has chosen not to allow indoor dining yet, remember that they have their own families they are worried about too. Please continue to support local businesses.
New York’s case numbers are some of the best in the nation, so as other states infection numbers continue to rise, it is important for New Yorkers to stay vigilant. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Social distance. We have come so far – we do not want to take any steps backward. It is stressful to keep track of all the guidance and news as it rolls in. I remind you that physical health is not the only type of health we need to maintain. Take some time every day to check in on your mental health and emotional health as well. New York State extended health insurance registration until July 15th. Hotlines have been created for emotional support and general COVID information. A line has been created for healthcare workers too.
This week has been a tad bittersweet for all of us in Town and Village government, as we say goodbye to our Town Comptroller/Village Treasurer Thomas Warren. Tom recently announced that he would be retiring from this position starting July 1. Tom has served the Ossining community in this shared role since 2008, guiding us through some uncertain financial terrain, including the Great Recession, start of the Property Tax Cap era, and of course the COVID-19 Pandemic, among others. With Tom’s guidance, the Town also achieved a credit rating upgrade to Aa1 from Moody’s Investor Service just this past December. We are so appreciative of Tom’s guidance throughout the years, which he gives always with a little touch of humor! We are going to miss Tom, but he probably will not miss us too, too much, as he will be joining his wife Diane and cutest-dog-in-the-whole-world Hobe in Arizona for what will be a well-deserved, restful next chapter for their family. Tom joined us for our Town Board meeting Tuesday night and we “presented” him with a virtual proclamation over Zoom!
But don’t worry, Tom stopped up to the 3rd Floor for his proclamation in person yesterday – socially distanced of course.
We are also excited to share that Tom’s deputy, Dale Brennan, will be stepping up into the role of Town Comptroller and Village Treasurer. Dale has been Tom’s right hand woman for quite some time, so we are confident this is going to be a seamless transition. Congratulations to both Tom and Dale!
Tom and Dale have taught us not to miss out on any opportunity for funding, SO as a reminder, resources available to municipalities are often funded based on Census results! The data is used to allocate money for schools, highways, social service programs, and many other local necessities. Give Tom the best retirement gift by filling out the Census and getting the Town and Village of Ossining the money we deserve! Census responses are also used every ten years to redistribute all 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Starting soon, census workers will begin ringing doorbells and knocking doors. Avoid that hassle by answering today - it only takes about 10 minutes. Use the links below to complete the census in your preferred language. You can also complete the census over the phone in different languages as well.
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.
We know many people were disappointed to hear that the Town will not be hosting our annual fireworks show this year. While we certainly miss seeing everyone in person, we simply cannot justify bringing thousands of people together during this pandemic. As many of you are aware, we get nearly 4,000 attendees annually at our Independence Day fireworks celebration. We have been closely following Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders, and gatherings of over 25 are still not allowed through Phase 3. And even as we get to Phase 4, likely on July 7, that number only goes up to 50. As your Town government, we recognize we need to be a leader on this issue and do whatever we can to prevent large gatherings of people, continue to contain the spread of COVID-19, and protect public health. We recognize this is an important holiday when the Ossining community gathers together annually, some of us having done so for decades! I know I will definitely miss enjoying the early summer evening with my friends and family and food trucks! We know there is no true alternative to our amazing fireworks display, but we could all probably use some celebration as a community right now!
The Town and Village will be co-hosting a patriotic House Decorating Contest. Register here for your house to be considered! We hope this will be a small, but impactful way to remind us all that even if we cannot be together in person, we are certainly all in this together. We are hoping we will be able to gather next year, so mark your calendars for Independence Day 2021 – we will make sure that will be the best fireworks celebration to date!
That will be followed up with the launch of our virtual Friday Night Concert Series on Friday, July 3rd, featuring Marc Von Em, a favorite from last year’s waterfront concerts. We will announce winners of the House Decorating contest at the top of the show. The concert series is adapting to Coronavirus times, which means we'll have virtual concerts for July. Order from your favorite local restaurant, find a comfortable place to listen, and sign in to join us every Friday in July. Mike Risko will emcee the kickoff performance of singer and guitarist Marc Von Em. With influences from a mix of blues, folk & funk, Marc’s show is one you won’t want to miss. Mark your calendars now: 6pm of July 3rd and 7pm for all other July concerts!
Then, if you have the opportunity, I heard there’s a Hamilton watch party for those with Disney Plus, starting at 7pm on Friday, July 3rd, so you have lots of opportunities for safe celebration with your loved ones.
The Ossining Public Library has announced the start of the Summer Reading season. Check out what they’ve got prepped for us by visiting their website.
Books on the brain? Ossining students can request “book bundles” as part of an innovative solution to these trying times. Students or guardians can fill out the book bundle application to get a head start on their summer reading – and their new favorite stories.
If your child borrowed a book in March it is important to return it. Books should be brought back to your child’s school. Call the school building for drop off times.
The Crossover Yoga Project and Sing Sing Kill Brewery are collaborating on Poses 2 Pints, a fundraiser happening Sunday, June 28th at 11:30 am via Zoom. They are such an amazing organization, plus they are great yogis. I have participated in many of their live versions, and this one looks like it will be “virtually” as wonderful. Check it out!
Neighbor’s Link is hosting a DACA clinic via Zoom on Monday, June 29 from 2pm to 8pm. They are also hosting a Virtual Citizenship Clinic Thursday, July 2, from 9am to 4pm. Please call 914-502-3377 to schedule an appointment for either event.
On June 30th, join Riverkeeper in celebrating the 2020 Fishermen’s Ball Honorees. Learn about their work to stop toxic PFAS pollution in waterways in the Hudson Valley and across the country. This year’s Honorees are Newburg’s Ophra Wolf, who organized a community to fight against contamination of the City’s drinking water supply, Rob Bilott, the lawyer who famously took on DuPont Chemical in West Virginia. Mark Ruffalo, who portrayed Rob Bilott in the movie Dark Waters will make a cameo during the virtual event. Register on the Riverkeeper website.
Did you miss the Members Show from the Ossining Art’s Council? Check out their Virtual Gallery and learn more about the pieces and their creators.
Our Cedar Lane Arts Center is getting ready to reopen its doors. Health guidelines for New York State have made our popular classes even more exclusive so sign up now to get a spot! More detailed class descriptions are available on the Ossining Parks and Recreation website.
Information about what’s available right now to help people is included in our handy-dandy COVID-19. 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 cannot find what you need in this doc, you are welcome to reach out to the Town offices. Our Town staff is responding to all calls and emails.
Food distribution has continued throughout the Ossining, though it may change locations in the upcoming week so continue to look carefully. 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.
For more fun, theater-related activities, check out the Life is a Cabaret virtual musical theater program launched by the Mike Risko Music School.
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 Mario Cuomo 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.
Please continue to be safe out there and have a great week! Remember, there will be no Town Board meeting next Tuesday, as Tuesday, June 30 is a fifth Tuesday in the month of June.