Supervisor's Update – Friday, August 14, 2020
More than a week after Tropical Storm Isaias, many Ossining residents are just now able to start cleaning up debris. Several areas, including portions of Morningside Drive, Gordon Avenue, and Hawkes Avenue neighborhoods did not have their power restored until midway through this week. While we know we fared better than most, even with extended outages, it does seem that the preparation and response provided by Con Ed and major communication companies was less than adequate. This was a difficult-to-predict storm, and certainly a challenging recovery. Please know, we felt our immediate responsibility was to advocate for full restoration of power to Town residents. Now we must take the second step to help ensure fewer and shorter service interruptions in the future.
As you may have read, the Public Service Commission (PSC) did impose fines on ConEd due to their response the 2018 back-to-back storms. ConEd and the communications companies will be the subject of hearings in Albany, and we know there will be meetings convened in Westchester County specifically to review what went wrong and how it can be corrected in the future. Governor Cuomo has directed the PSC to launch an investigation into several companies to determine what caused their response failures. Westchester County Executive George Latimer has proposed a Utility Reserve Corps to act like the National Guard and help repair service lines after natural disasters. As we expect other storms this season, we are dedicated to working with the county, state, and other local municipalities to ensure our residents get accurate, timely information as well as support during recovery. Stay tuned as we work to ensure better storm outcomes by working together.
2020 has been a rough year. As we get ready to launch into budget season, we have a lot to think about and concerns about what the future holds. The Federal Government’s decision to withhold Coronavirus-related funding has made State and County distributions difficult to predict, not to mention the uncertainties felt by so many who are out of work right now, and our businesses. Once it was clear the initial federal response had not adequately addressed the Coronavirus situation, we took actions to reduce the impact on our residents. We reviewed our staff assignments, scaled back planned projects, and began to track virus-related expenses (which we believe we may be able to recoup a portion of through funding available via FEMA). We supported the County’s option to delay late-payment penalties on Town/County taxes and reduced penalties for those who did not fit into their established criteria. While we had some exciting projects to look forward to this year, many of those schedules have been delayed.
You may have thought that since our office buildings were closed to the public, we would have realized some significant savings. However, while some of our buildings were empty or held many fewer employees, our staff continued working from home, and our priorities certainly shifted and we adapted to the situation to ensure continued services. Demands placed on our Parks and Senior Service Departments increased. Supplies were needed to disinfect playgrounds, public spaces, vehicles and parts of buildings that remained in use. Signs were needed to bring safety information to the public. Personal protective gear was needed for funerals. Technology needs shifted so we could continue to serve the public and make sure we did everything we could to help support safety and public health as we did. 2020 certainly was not what anyone expected. Thankfully, our budget was already very conservative, which means the Town budget for this year is fairly well insulated from the crisis’ fallout. For a more detailed look at how the Town expected coronavirus shut-downs would impact our budget, you can see a presentation by our Town Comptroller Dale Brennan and Budget Officer Victoria Cafarelli at the April 21, 2020 Town Board Meeting (starting around at the 1 hour 35 minute mark). We are also lucky to have both Dale and Victoria on “Team Town” – we could not survive without Dale’s expertise and sage advice, or Victoria’s grant writing which saved us money on many special projects and leveraged your tax dollars to go much farther.
Our budget creation process is a robust, lengthy process. We coordinate with all our departments, every year, to assess where money should be allocated. As budget season kicks off I want to assure everyone that we will continue making decisions with our residents’ health and safety and general well-being in mind, and fiscal responsibility, understanding the stresses we all face in this new normal.
Town services are still operating under revised schedules due to COVID. Our Town Planning Board Meeting was postponed after the storm to allow residents more time to get back up online and take care of storm-related issues. The Public Hearing has been rescheduled for Wednesday, August 19. Zoom information is listed on our website.
Our Court has expanded its walk-up window hours. Please note, there are different times for each day of the week: Monday 9:30-11:30am, Tuesday 9:30am-1pm, Wednesday 9:30-11:30am, Thursday 11am-2:00pm, Friday 11am-2pm. We have taken many additional steps to keep our Court employees and the public safe, so please follow the directions shared with you if you are visiting the Town Court.
Town Offices at 16 Croton Avenue are still open on a reduced schedule. Our office hours are 9am to 2:30pm, Monday through Friday, and public access is limited to just the first floor. However, our departments on the second and third floor – including the Receiver of Taxes, Assessors, and Finance Offices – are available to assist you on the first floor. If you are looking to meet with the Supervisor’s Office we recommend you make an appointment, or schedule a virtual meeting or conference call as an alternative. Masks are a must, you will be screened for COVID symptoms at the door, as well as asked to submit contact information for contact tracing purposes by our greeter. Here is one of our two greeters, Bridget, whose last day was today working for the Town and Village of Ossining. She is virtually heading off to college, and we wish her all the best!
Speaking of which – are you looking to join our team here at 16 Croton Avenue? The Village of Ossining is currently hiring for a part-time intermediate clerk! The main job responsibility for this position will be greeting and screening visitors at the door. This is a fun and dynamic job, and you will definitely learn all there is to know about local government very quickly. To learn more about this job opportunity, visit the webpage for the Village Personnel Office.
If you are still limiting trips out to essential travel, first thank you, and second, you will be happy to hear our Clerk’s Office has digitized many of the Town’s most popular forms. From marriage license applications, dog licenses – yes, they are legally required in New York State -- and much more, check out the Clerk’s page on the Town website. Many of our other departments continue to offer virtual services – just ask, we are happy to help!
The Ossining Community Center is operating as a Cooling Center for anyone who needs a break from the heat. The Cooling Center is open from 9am to 6pm, Monday through Friday, throughout the summer. Social distancing and masks are required.
If you have noticed an increase in disposable masks and gloves on the ground, you are not alone. The increase in used single-use products are being seen all over the world. The good news is that if you handle your mask properly you reduce the chance of getting sick and you are less likely to “lose” it. Per the CDC, you should not fiddle with your mask, touch it, or take it on and off unless you can immediately wash your hands. That means your mask should not have the chance to fall on the ground outside and get lost. Masks should only be removed by the strings or ear loops. You should never touch the cloth portion of the mask unless you can immediately wash your hands, even for a quick snack or lunch.
Speaking of masks, if you are only wearing a triangle folded bandana or a neck gaiter you need to consider a permanent replacement. Duke University researchers tested the effectiveness of the most common masks being used today. The N95 remains the most protective, but please be reminded that these are still desperately needed by medical personnel. Triangle folded bandanas, neck fleeces, and neck gaiters were found to be the least protective – in fact, neck gaiters were actually found to be counterproductive entirely. There is an easy way to test the effectiveness of your mask: hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, you need a new one. Once you are wearing the mask, if you can blow air through it, you also need a replacement. To learn more, this Boston Globe Article covered the story well. To read the research results directly, see here.
People looking to travel this summer should pay special attention to the New York State Travel Advisory. New York has created a list of “Restricted States” based on their current positive case numbers that balances active cases and total population. Restricted States should be avoided unless travel is essential. The Travel Advisory requires a 14 day quarantine for anyone returning from a Restricted State, even if you are a New York resident returning home. I know there has been some confusion about the advisory and which states and territories specifically are included. I encourage you to review the COVID-19 Travel Advisory section of the New York State website before and after traveling.
For everyone in the community, information about what is available right now to help people is included in our easy-to-access COVID-19 Resources Document. This is a joint effort by the Town and Village to organize information during this hectic time. The document lists information on legal assistance, WiFi access, services for seniors, and much more. If you cannot find what you need in this doc, you are welcome to reach out to the Town offices. Our Town staff will respond to all calls and emails.
Food distribution also continues here in Ossining to help families keep food on their tables. Right now, weekly on Tuesdays, there are three pickup food distribution locations running during the day. A number of organizations are coordinating together to keep these distributions ongoing.
For children under 18, the Ossining School District is continuing its summer food program Monday through Friday at Park School (22 Edward St, Ossining).
Gullotta House has distributed over 75,000 meals throughout Westchester, and will be hosting their weekly Food Distribution today at 4pm at the Ossining Stop & Shop. Through this program, the Gullotta House has been able to help restaurants too, by purchasing meals direct from local restaurants for distribution.
I know many people are looking for information about school re-opening plans. I have been so impressed by our school leaders as they navigate this complicated task. Ossining School District has a Reopening Website with updates and information. Briarcliff Schools have released a Reopening Document on their website, detailing their plans for the school year.
Many experts have urged the importance of maintaining normalcy for young kids. Just like every year, it’s time to transition from the relaxed schedule of summer (with maybe just a few too many hours of screentime – no judgment!), to the more busy school year. Get your kids in the right frame of mind, by reading! An easy way to do this is to meet the OUFSD bookmobile on its Summer Tour. Ossining schools have launched their Ossining Loves to Read Program where students can request books, leave book reviews, and set up book deliveries to their home. Check out the program at the Ossining Loves to Read site.
Browsing hours are back at the Ossining Public Library! And for books for the whole family to increase your “reading hours,” the Ossining Public Library is here to help! For any true crime loving adults out there, Victoria in my office highly recommends I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (follow up your reading time by checking out the HBO documentary on the book too – it’s all about balance here!) All the pandemic-style services they adopted will remain in place (yay for curbside pickup) and the indoor browsing visits will be limited to 30 minutes. They also have age appropriate kits of books for all ages, if you are looking for a quick pick up option. Some areas of the building will be restricted or by appointment only, and no computers will be available for use. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, or make an appointment to browse. Masks are required for everyone over 2, and we will ask that everyone be mindful of social distancing.
Throughout August, the Ossining Public Library will be hosting interactive workshops via Zoom to help the class of 2020 in their job hunts. The initiative is a collaboration between #GrowWithGoogle, the American Library Association, and the Public Library Association. The workshops are available as both morning and evening sessions, each week focusing on one of four topics: online job searching, resumes / cover letters, interviews, and networking. Sign up on the Library’s Website to get ahead of the curve.
The Open Door Medical Center is hosting FREE digital literacy classes with one-on-one, personalized training sessions to meet your needs and goals. To learn more or to set up a virtual training time, please call 914-772-0057.
Green Ossining volunteers will be at the Farmers Market every Saturday from 9:30am - 11:30am. We now have two locations for food scraps drop offs: the Farmers Market and Cedar Lane Park. You can pick-up your pre-purchased food scrap recycling kits at the Farmers Market. Kits are not available for sale in-person at the Market, but learn more about getting your own and the Ossining Composts program by visiting: www.ossiningcomposts.org. It is a little late for placing your order for pick up tomorrow, but if you place your order earlier in the week, it will be ready for next Saturday!
Sing Sing Kill Brewery is holding an event this weekend as part of the Peace, Love, Beer, and Music Festival. Starting at 3 and hosted by Greg Jacquin, the show will feature Alex Cano, Dan Zlotnick, Alice Brightsky, and some still unannounced surprise guests. Visit the SSKB Facebook Event for more info.
Ossining Matters will be holding a drive-in movie fundraiser this Saturday, August 15 (rain date Sunday) at Brookside Elementary School (30 Ryder Rd, Ossining). The featured film is Sonic the Hedgehog, a family-friendly movie. Each ticket will allow entry for one vehicle and you can add a snack bag which consists of one medium bag of popcorn as well as one or more of the following: Airheads, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, or Cracker Jacks. There may be a few spots left.
Join Elissa Schilmeister at Cliffdale Farm on Monday, August 17 for morning explorations of field and forest. Perfect for children aged 8 to 12, the program requires registration to secure your spot. August is a sticky month but there is so much nature to appreciate out there, including singing cicadas, monarchs on milkweed, cool forest retreats and the fullness of late summer. Registration opens at noon on August 16th on the Teatown website.
On Wednesday, August 19 the Ossining Camp Meeting Association is hosting the Cassatt String Quartet. This outdoor, socially-distanced concert is free and open to everyone. Bring your mask and a picnic blanket to 37 Campwoods Grounds.
On August 20th, 2020 from 3PM to 7:30PM the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corp will be sponsoring a Blood Drive at 8 Clinton Ave, Ossining NY. Blood supplies are very low due to cancellations of large donation events at colleges and offices. If you would like to donate please go to NYBC.org or NYbloodcenter.org and search for location or "Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps." Once you set up an account you can schedule your donation time. If you have any questions you can direct them to OVAC through their Facebook page.
Grab your yoga mats - the Mind, Body, Spirit Ossining program is holding its third in-person event of the 2020 summer season! Join in for some socially distanced relaxation at the waterfront’s Engel Park on Saturday, August 22 at 9am. Register for this encore FREE class through the Community Pass section of the Recreation and Parks site.
Remember when everything shut down in March and you thought of all the artistic things you suddenly wanted to do? Cedar Lane Arts Center is up and running, just waiting for your enrollment. Classes are open to beginners and more experienced artists.
Home Run Against Drugs is looking for sponsors to help provide desks for their new space. Kemi Pogue, the Program Facilitator, has been helping with local food distribution efforts and other crucial services during the Coronavirus crisis. To support her cause, you can donate and visit: https://homerunagainstdrugs.org/
The IFCA thrift store at 138 Spring Street has reopened and donations are now being accepted. The thrift store sells new and gently used clothing, shoes, bedding, dishes, pot/pans, costume jewelry and handbags. It is a great find for new parents, new homeowners, and just-moved families.
If long lines on Election Day are something you want to help prevent, you can sign up to be a Poll Worker or Election Inspector on Election Day! The Westchester Board of Elections is hiring workers for $350 a day to help voters at polling stations. You must be a registered voter and over 18 to be hired.
As you probably noticed, our parks have seen an increase in activity since the start of the pandemic. This love for our parks grew in recent weeks during the heat wave. Thankfully, we decided in recent years to make some updates to our parks. Renovations to our comfort stations began last year, and even before any of us had heard the word “Coronavirus” we began looking for hands free options. As our parks crew wrapped up this spring, it became even more important that when it came to shared indoor spaces we made sure to keep current health guidelines in place. At the Cedar Lane Arts Center, all bathroom fixtures are now hands-free. At Gerlach Park, our updated ADA bathroom is ready for use. The newest features added to Town bathrooms are ones you may have noticed already – an increase in the number of garbage cans and newly added foot operated door openers. Special thanks to our Park Foreman Mario Velardo and his crew for their hard work.
We are heading into another beautiful weekend! I am sure many of you are making your weekend plans, which may include a relaxing walk or family picnic in one of our parks, or maybe looking for someplace to let the kids run around and cool off from the heat. As a reminder, the Louis Engel Park Beach – while an awesome place to launch a kayak or paddle board – is not open to swimming. If you are looking to launch out on the Hudson this weekend, also remember to wear a safety vest and only venture out on your own if you are an experienced kayaker or paddle boarder. The Hudson has currents running in both directions, so a nice afternoon on the river can get unsafe and scary very quickly if you do not know what you are doing. Additionally, there is no lifeguard on duty, so it is really not safe to swim or allow your child to swim without the proper safety protocols in place. For a great place to cool off, check out our Spray Park instead which is open every day from noon to 7pm with an attendant on site. Also, be sure to properly dispose of any garbage you create, or even better, carry out what you carried in with you. Our Parks crew also just installed a number of additional garbage and recycling bins at Louis Engel Park. We can all do our part to keep our Ossining parks clean and enjoyable!
Please continue to be safe out there and have a great weekend.