There has been a lot of discussion this week about an event held in Louis Engel Park on Saturday. As you know, the coronavirus crisis has altered how events are managed across the country. The Town has scaled down or cancelled local events since March that are a mainstay in our community, including the fireworks show, parades, and our summer concerts. While we know these events could be constructive, safe, and valuable to our community, we are beholden to the Governor’s Executive Orders regarding events. The Town Board issued a statement earlier this week, which can be found here. Additionally, Police Chief Kevin Sylvester joined us for a conversation during our Town Board meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the situation in more detail. The Ossining Police Department was forced to make some difficult decisions Saturday in order to maintain safety in this public space, but ultimately, we know their professional and measured approach yielded the best decision available at the time. We appreciate the community’s patience as we navigate this complicated issue.
We look forward to hopefully receiving guidance from the Governor’s office regarding which types of events are permissible at this time. We also plan on holding a public discussion at Work Session in the future regarding events in our parks following receipt of additional guidance from the Governor’s office. In the meantime, we plan on communicating with anyone attempting to plan events to reschedule them for when we can be sure they are in compliance with these orders.
2020-2021 School Tax bills for both the Ossining and Briarcliff School Taxes are now on their way to taxpayers in the mail. Additionally, bills are available for payment now on the Town’s website. If you have ever used Xpress-pay in the past to pay your taxes, you should have also received an e-mail directly from Xpress-pay to inform you that a new bill has been uploaded and available for payment. The first half is due September 30, 2020 and the second half is due January 31, 2020. Before I go any further with information about tax collection, we recognize this continues to be a difficult time for many of our residents. However, the Town as a fiscal collection agent for the School Districts has no power to delay or extend due dates for property taxes, or waive penalties for late payment. Any change to deadlines or penalty schedules must be handed down by Governor Cuomo via an Executive Order, or legislation by the State or County legislature. As you might remember, relief programs were offered by the State and County for the 2020 Town and County taxes and deadlines were extended for payment of Village taxes in some municipalities. We will certainly keep you informed if we learn of any opportunities to assist our taxpayers during this difficult time, but in the meantime, we must prepare for a September 30 deadline for the first half school tax.
The remnants of Hurricane Laura will be passing through our area this weekend. Con Ed hosted a call for municipalities today to confirm their plans for any potentially dangerous weather the storm may bring. Winds and rain are forecast for tomorrow, with some leftover on Sunday. They are also watching for thunderstorms, which would have higher winds accompanying them. Crews are on hand to help manage any damage caused to wires by trees. Municipal aid crews have also already been called in and are on their way. This storm may be nothing, but following the response to Tropical Storm Isaias we are pleased to hear Con Ed is planning to be over-prepared rather than under. If you experience an outage, please report the issue directly to the company. You can report outages to Con Ed here and to Verizon here. Optimum/Altice can be reached by phone (866) 950-3278, by tweet to @Optimumhelp, or online at https://www.optimum.net/support/contact-us. In an emergency, always call 911.
This upcoming weather system is certainly not welcome news to the many of us who experienced prolonged outages following Tropical Storm Isaias. The Governor spoke again this week about the impact of Isaias on residents. He highlighted the limitation of the current penalty faced by utility companies for failing to respond efficiently to power outages: up to $100,000 or .02 of 1% of gross operating cost. He stated that the penalty is so low that it is more economical for the utility companies to absorb the penalty as a cost of business than to make changes. He is proposing legislation to expand the penalties and therefore reduce the likelihood of long-lasting outages after disasters. Many Ossining residents also experienced internet and phone outages during Tropical Storm Isaias. If you are an Altice/Optimum customer and lost service during the tropical storm, you should be seeing a credit automatically applied on your next bill.
This week gyms reopened across the state. The health guidelines in place require municipalities to provide inspections and the facilities have adapted like many other businesses. Our Building Inspector, John Hamilton, participated in a training earlier this week with the Westchester County Department of Health regarding these new protocols. Gym owners must first contact the Westchester County Department of Health, who will then forward to the individual municipalities any businesses seeking to re-open and in need of an inspection. So any gym owners out there, do not delay if you are looking to open your doors, and give the Westchester County Department of Health a call right away. For patrons, of course, masks are required (John will also want to see any business owners who are present for the inspection with their masks donned too!). We are excited for our health and wellness facilities, which have been closed since March. Working out is a key component for many people’s mental health and the disruption to routine was tough on a lot of people. Please continue to check in with yourself and take advantage of the resources available to you.
Recently, we have received a lot of questions about voting, especially related to mail-in voting, early voting, and absentee ballots. Mail-in voting and absentee ballots are interchangeable terms in New York State, referring to ballots received by the Board of Elections by mail. Typically, voters can apply for an absentee ballot under a limited set of circumstances. But we all know, 2020 is certainly full of unprecedented challenges. This year, the circumstances for requesting an absentee ballot have been expanded: registered New York State voters can now cite fear of contracting or spreading an illness (including COVID-19) as a reason they cannot vote in person.
To receive an absentee ballot, you must complete an application and select the “unable to appear at the polls due to illness or disability” criteria. You can apply for a ballot on the Westchester County Board of Elections website. The Board of Elections is taking steps to maintain health-conscious options for voters, therefore in-person voting is still allowed for all registered voters. Early voting will be available for Ossining voters for ten days prior to Election Day, and we will share more details as we get closer. We do not know what the Coronavirus Crisis will look like in November, but this new law expands your access to this crucial process of democracy. Our Town Clerk’s office also has plenty of voter registration forms and absentee ballot forms available is happy to help you get these important documents completed. Make sure your voice is heard this November!
If long lines on Election Day are something you want to help prevent, you can sign up to be a Poll Worker 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. Visit the Board of Elections website and scroll to the “Poll Worker Application Form.”
The Governor’s office continues to update the New York State Travel Advisory. As a reminder, the list of “Restricted States” is based on the state’s current positive case numbers. 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. The Advisory is updated often, since cases numbers across the states and territories change daily. I encourage you to review the COVID-19 Travel Advisory section of the New York State website before and after traveling.
Locally, if any of these intersections look familiar, than you are probably one of the 40,000 daily travelers who drive on our local section of 9A. There is currently a bill before the New York State Senate that would allow a study pertaining to proposed improvements of State Route 9A in the Towns of Ossining and Mount Pleasant. The bill would authorize the Department of Transportation to conduct the study of (at minimum) the costs of new guardrail installations, underpass renovation, and the impact of such improvements on local traffic patterns and the environment. Submit your comments on Senate Bill S8795 here. You must be over the age of 13 to submit a comment on this matter. We thank the Village of Briarcliff for taking the lead on this legislation, which we are all hoping will add critical safety improvements to one of our well traveled byways.
We are expecting heavy rainfall as the remnants of Hurricane Laura move through our area. As a reminder, you should always dump out standing water found after rainfall to avoid attracting mosquitoes. Standing water, including unchlorinated pools, can create a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can carry dangerous diseases. Thankfully, COVID-19 is not transmitted by mosquitoes, but they can carry the West Nile Virus. The Westchester County Health Department announced that this season’s first batches of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus in Westchester were detected in Elmsford, Hastings, Mount Vernon and Rye. Symptoms of West Nile can be very serious and the best way to prevent a bite from an infected mosquito is to be proactive: wear long sleeves and pants when temperature allows, wear insect repellant, and disrupt standing water.
I know many people are looking for information about school re-opening plans. This week, we learned that the Ossining School District will be opening only with virtual learning, at least through September 21. This is certainly going to be a challenge for many families, but this is an extremely uncertain time and this decision will hopefully help keep children in our schools and their families healthy and safe this fall. 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.
Browsing hours are back at the Ossining Public Library! The curbside pickup program is continuing if you already know what story you want. 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 are 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 everyone should be mindful of social distancing.
Residents of Briarcliff Village should also be aware that curbside pickup is available at the Briarcliff Public Library as well, and has been in place for several weeks, so we are excited to share that news. Residents should check out Briarcliff Public Library’s other great programs and pandemic services by visiting the Briarcliff Public Library website for more information.
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.
The Briarcliff Police Department would like to remind residents to lock their cars at night. Rummaging through unlocked cars for valuables has been reported in several neighboring towns. Before you leave your car, cover any valuables – or better yet, bring them inside. Always lock your car and never leave your keys or fob in the car. This #9PMROUTINE will help protect you from being a victim of theft.
And now for some events! The Farmer’s Market is on schedule for Saturday in Market Square (at the corner of Main Street and Spring Street). I have noticed a lot of people waiting on a long line to “get in.” While we appreciate everyone’s efforts to respect health and safety practices, the line is actually for one of the produce vendors in the center of the market. They are a very popular vendor, so naturally a line forms pretty quickly. Many of the vendors do offer pre-ordering online which you can check out here, for next week (you have to order by the Thursday prior). However, if you do find yourself waiting on line, the good news for you is that you can use the time to complete the Census. It only takes 10 minutes and it is the key determinate for the number of representatives we get to represent us in the House of Representatives. It also is used to secure funding. Ossining loses $2500 for each resident each year they go uncounted. It adds up quickly. To complete the census please visit www.2020census.gov. We need everyone’s participation in this, so talk about it with your neighbors, friends, enemies, frenemies, and everyone in between.
Also at the Farmer’s Market? Green Ossining volunteers staff the Food Scraps booth every Saturday from 9:30am - 11:30am. We now have two locations for food scraps drop off: 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.
Until 7:30 tonight, the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corp will be sponsoring a Blood Drive at 8 Clinton Ave, Ossining NY. Help save a life! Blood supplies are very low due to the cancellation 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.
The popular Blaze pumpkin festival will be taking place this year with limited crowd sizes and staggered entrance times. The heat has made it difficult to imagine a fall event, but September starts next week (can you believe it?) As a reminder, events like this can only take place when everyone cooperates, so grab your autumn-themed masks and reserve tickets. Tickets will not be sold on site this year.
The IFCA thrift store at 138 Spring Street has reopened and will be hosting an outdoor sidewalk sale on Thursday, September 27th. Add this date to your calendar. 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. The store is also accepting item donations for everyone who needs to clean out their closets.
I know we are all anxiously watching our calendars and seeing these summer weekends fly by, and yes next week IS September -- when did that happen?? Even though we have a crummy forecast on Saturday, the weather for Sunday looks pretty good. If you are looking to soak up as much summer as possible by getting outside in our parks this weekend, please be reminded to wear your masks, keep your distance, leave your garbage in the appropriate receptacles, and most importantly have fun! If your favorite gym is still working on re-opening, why not try an outdoor workout using equipment in our Town parks? The Town recently installed workout equipment for adults at Louis Engel Park and Buck Johnson Park, complete with access to workout videos and instructions via your phone, using a QR Code and a free app. Louis Engel Park can get pretty crowded, so if you can, take a short drive over to Buck Johnson Park on Blue Lantern Road which is right off of North State Road (turn by Sunrise Solar). I can just about guarantee you will find some peace and quiet, and you are just a hop, skip and a jump away from the North County Trailway if you want to end your workout with a run or bike ride. If you are toting little ones with you, there is also super cute playground equipment to keep them busy while you get your workout in. Buck Johnson Park is a little known gem in the Town of Ossining, so I hope you enjoy.