October is here and it is certainly exciting to see the autumn leaves brighten our days. This week we watched our first Presidential Debate and many people were reminded about the importance of participation in democracy. You may have even seen posts on social media telling you to plan how you are going to vote. This is because COVID-19 has impacted how we will vote this year. For example, your polling place may have moved or the bus passing your polling place may be operating on a different schedule. Your voice matters and you want to make sure your vote is counted.
The last day to register to vote for the November general election is October 9, in person or by postmark. You can register online now. It is simple and easy. Our Town Clerk’s office at 16 Croton Ave in Ossining also has plenty of voter registration forms and absentee ballot applications available to the public. Stop by the Clerk’s office in person Monday through Friday during our public office hours (9am to 2:30pm).
Registered voters in New York will have several options: voting by absentee ballot, voting in-person early, and voting in-person on Election Day. If you have questions about your voter registration or other voting concerns, please contact the Westchester Board of Elections.
Early voting, starts on October 24 and here’s something not many people know: this election, you can vote at any of the seventeen early voting locations throughout Westchester. For a complete list of locations and hours, visit the Board of Elections website. Find the one that is most convenient for you. The most local location for Town of Ossining residents will be the Ossining Community Center at 95 Broadway. You may also elect to drop off your absentee ballot at any one of these locations if you do not feel comfortable either voting in person or mailing back your ballot.
The first half of School Tax collection wrapped up this week. Tax Receiver Holly Perlowitz and her staff took calls and emails as last minute taxes came in. Some people even sent flowers thanking them for their work to go above and beyond to help them get their taxes paid on time. Holly also likes to say regularly, “Our Taxpayers ROCK!” and she said it again on September 30th, so thank you to all our taxpayers for continuing to support our institutions, even during this difficult time. In other news about Town Services, our Town Parks department continued their repairs to the Ryder Park tennis court this week. I stopped by to check out the work, and help a little bit! These repairs are Part 1 of a larger upgrade to our courts, led by our Park’s foreman Mario Velardo. The initial repairs just completed will seal the court for the winter in preparation for a full restoration in the Spring. We are hoping to open them up temporarily for a few more weeks if they get a thumbs up from Superintendent of Recreation and Parks, Bill Garrison. If so, they won’t be pretty, but they will be playable this year, for a little while at least.
This week, the New York State Department of Health launched the “COVID Alert NY” app in partnership with Google and Apple. The free app uses Bluetooth proximity-enabled technology to recognize other phones nearby. When a positive case is confirmed, phones that have been in close proximity will receive an alert. No personal information is shared. The app is voluntary, anonymous, and does not use location services, GPS, or geographical information. Knowing about a potential exposure allows you to self-quarantine immediately, get tested, and reduce the potential exposure risk to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others. You must be 18 or older to use the app. You can learn more through your phone’s App Store or by visiting https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-alert-ny
Case numbers this week increased across the State. These new cases appear to be related to Labor Day activity and the cooler weather driving people into shared spaces indoors. I know there are a lot balls we are all juggling in the air, but we cannot let our case numbers continue to rise. Wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, and wear your mask. Continue to seek out information from reputable sources. Contact Tracing is underway to reach people who have been exposed to positive cases. If you see an incoming call from NYS Contact Tracing, please pick up the phone. The callers have been trained to provide you with information about testing and other resources.
The cooler weather has also brought added stress to our local businesses. Typically, autumn temperatures are the beginning of a slower season for restaurant owners and other small businesses. Now more than ever, we need to #shoplocal whenever possible. Why buy online or in a big box store when you can support a neighbor?
Grants and other resources are available for businesses in response to the crisis. Westchester Catalyst and Westchester County are collaborating on a Business First Program, which offers grants to small businesses. The grants can be used toward any legitimate business expense. For more information about this program and others available for small businesses, please see the Business Resources Page on the Westchester County website. The LISC and Lowe's are managing a Rural Relief Small Business Grants program, which has grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. LISC will use the funding to provide grants to businesses facing immediate financial pressure because of Covid-19. These are grants, not loans, and do not need to be paid back.
The date for responding to the Census continues to change. You may have heard a recent court judgment out of California that ruled that people must be able to respond to the census through October 31. However, the Census Bureau has indicated it is prepared to cease operations by October 5. We are still waiting to hear if further court judgments will rule on this issue. But, don’t wait to find out when the cut off will be – fill out the Census now.
Town of Ossining currently has a response rate of 69.7% percent. We can do better than that! Ossining lost $2500 per resident per year since 2010 because of our response rate. Do not be one of the uncounted. It takes only ten minutes to complete the Census. Fill it out right now online or on the phone (844-330-2020 in English and 844-468-2020 in Spanish). Help us get the word out before the data collection period ends. Talk up the Census with friends and family, share Facebook posts, Instagram pics, and tweets. All Ossining residents deserve to be counted and deserve proper funding and representation.
The Westchester County Board of Elections is hiring! You can participate in the democratic process by coming on board for $350 a day (remember there are early voting days and training days available). You must be a registered voter and 18 or over to be hired. Polling places across the country are reporting a decrease in poll workers. Visit the Board of Elections website and scroll to the “Poll Worker Application Form.”
The Village of Ossining is hiring a crossing guard for an hourly position paying $18.60/hour. Crossing Guards assist school children in crossing traffic intersections at an assigned post during the hours when children are entering and leaving school. A school Crossing Guard stops traffic at crosswalks near school for the safety of school children only. Learn more about the position or download the application form.
Ossining Recreation is offering an After School Program for the 2020-2021 School Year for children in grades K-6. The program will include homework assistance, reading time, art projects, games, etc. You can choose from a one-, two-, four-, or five-days-a-week schedule for up to three hours of supervised care through the Community Pass Program.
The Ossining Recreation & Parks Department is offering a FREE Community Academy: Youth & Local Leaders Unite program. The program includes workshops and group activities. It also provides an opportunity for our young community members to have a voice in future programming for Ossining Recreation and Parks. Workshops and activities will focus on leadership, building positive relationships in the Community, and addressing risk factors affecting today’s Youth. This program is open to Ossining Youth, ages 13-18. Register through the Community Pass page.
Halloween is around the corner and our local institutions are getting excited. This season is going to look different this year, but there are lots of ways to celebrate - whether you prefer to celebrate festive Halloween or spooky Halloween. The CDC has released a list of guidelines to help people prepare for a safe Halloween. Ossining is certainly getting excited - I’m already loving the decorations around Town!
Some local Facebook groups have banned together to make Fall a little more fun. Decorate your home with a friendly autumn theme to help make the season more festive. Take a picture and share it on the Ossining Families, Positively Ossining, or Ossining Moms Facebook pages with the caption #fallossining2020 by October 15 to participate in the contest.
The Briarcliff Public Library is helping us get in the Halloween spirit with a special Halloween reading list. Check out their full collection of kid-friendly spooky fun on the Library Pinterest Page. Click on the book cover for a link to see the summary or place a hold. All the books shown in the collection are available for curbside pick-ups.
At 7pm tonight, the Ossining Public Library will show a spooky movie during their Friday Night Flix. You can register for the outdoor, socially distanced event.
Healthcare, like many other issues, has been at the forefront of conversations about equity in our society. This week, New York State took two major steps with equity in mind. As part of the Marijuana and Decriminalization and Expungements Bill, passed in July 2019, records of low-level marijuana convictions can now be destroyed upon request. The Bill sealed many of these records but they can still be viewed by certain agencies related to job applications or permits. Once the records are physically destroyed they will no longer be accessible to these agencies. Convictions under Penal Law section 221.10 or Penal Law section 221.05 are eligible for destruction. The application for the destruction of documents is available on the NY Court website.
The second major effort toward equity was in the banning of the so-called “Pink Tax.” The term reflects the common practice of selling products at a higher price when the target purchasers are women, and a lower price for men. The only major difference between these products – everything from children’s toys and swimming pools to phone cases and calculators - is often that one is sold in blue and the other is in pink. If you see a product or service available for sale in NY that does not comply with the new law, contact the Division of Consumer Protection from 8:30am to 4:30 pm (M-F) by calling 800-697-1220. You can also file a Consumer Complaint Form.
New York State also updated its Travel Advisory again this week. The list of Restricted States now includes Colorado. It is important to review the Travel Advisory before and after traveling. Case numbers continue to shift around the country, and New York’s strict guidelines are in place to help prevent a second wave across our state. Please remain vigilant and informed if you decide to travel.
One last Coronavirus reminder: please remember that COVID-19 symptoms can manifest differently in children. Speak to your healthcare provider if you are concerned about growing symptoms. Coronavirus tests are free in New York State. Search for the nearest testing site here.
The Rising Above Boundaries Mentoring Program is looking for Ossining mentors. Mentored teens statistically get better grades, are less likely to skip school, and are less likely to use illegal drugs. You can learn more about this program at https://homerunagainstdrugs.org/
Here’s a reminder for parents with high schooler’s preparing for college. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form for 2021-2022 is now available at http://fafsa.gov. Fill the form out ASAP to get as much financial aid as possible.
Now let’s get into some events!
Tonight at 7pm the Crossover Yoga Project will host its first virtual fundraiser. You may be familiar with CYP from their free calming and mindfulness classes held during the pandemic. They are also often hosts during our summer Mind, Body, Spirit Ossining program. They will be fundraising to help support their trauma-aware and socially conscious resources made available to girls who have been sexually trafficked, and youth involved in the criminal justice and child welfare systems. The organization has expanded its age and gender restrictions to accommodate more people during the Coronavirus Crisis. To learn more about their program and the fundraiser, please visit their Event Page.
On Sunday, October 4 Clearwater is hosting the Remastered Virtual Great Hudson River Revival. This online event will run from 11AM-11PM for a full day of music, storytelling, activism, education, and celebration. Scheduled performers include: Chapin Family, The Riks, Peter Yarrow, Matt Turk, Arm of the Sea, David and Jacob Bernz, Reggie Harris, The Mammals, John McCutcheon, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, and Andes Manta. To learn more about this event visit the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Facebook Event.
We have been alerted that New York State DOT Repaving of the northbound entrance and exit ramps for Exit #8 on the Taconic is now scheduled to begin on Tuesday, October 6. This project was postponed from an earlier date. Repaving will occur between 9am and 4pm and should be finished (weather permitting) by Thursday.
For music lovers missing their favorite venues and concerts, here’s something fun. On Wednesday, October 7th Carnegie Hall is hosting its first-ever Virtual Gala to celebrate the Opening Night of their 130th Anniversary Season. Music venues are some of the few business that still remain on PAUSE, so the livestreamed event on their YouTube and Facebook pages is a great way to support artists. The evening will have performances, including some historical throwbacks. Learn more at the Carnegie Hall website.
The Bethany Arts Community is hosting an Art in the Time of COVID features Ossining Schools’ art teachers Terrie Bentley, Catherine Ibanez, and Ron Whitehead. You can check out the artwork either virtually or in-person until the end of October. Ms. Ibanez was also recently recognized as the New York State Art Teachers Association Region 7 Elementary School Art Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020! Congratulations Ms. Ibanez, and definitely go check out her amazing artwork now!
Ossining Matters is hosting their 5K virtually this year. Run or walk anywhere with family, friends or neighbors (six feet apart) between Friday, October 9, 2020 from 3pm to Sunday, October 11, 2020. Log your miles because the trek must be completed all at one time. Finishers are invited to join us at the 'Finish and Photo Line' on Monday, October 12, 2020 (from 1pm-8pm) at Sing Sing Kill Brewery to enjoy a free draft beverage or a Saranac Soda of their choice - just bring your completed race form. The first 20 race entrants will also receive an Ossining Matters Touch Tool. Register now or learn more on the Ossining Matters website.
On October 13 at 6pm, join panelists and the Sing Sing Prison Museum to discuss "True Justice," which just won an Emmy for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary. Panelists include the film’s producers and criminal justice experts. Watch the trailer for the documentary and explore the film’s themes, exploring racial bias, and the death penalty by registering to receive the Zoom link.
On Thursday, October 15, Neighbor’s Link will host an evening of discussion with 60 Minutes’ Bill Whitaker. This is a free, virtual event, but registration is required. You can register here or learn more about the event on the Neighbor’s Link Facebook Event.
On Saturday, October 17th the annual Riverkeeper Sweep will take place along the Hudson River from Brooklyn to the Capitol District. Volunteers remove debris from the river’s edge and help keep our Hudson River beautiful. Visit the Riverkeeper Website to sign up as a volunteer. There are a few local spots you can participate in to help clean up along the Hudson and its tributaries in Ossining.
Beginning on October 19, the DEC will enforce the State’s ban on single-use plastic carryout bags. Originally scheduled for March, this ban was postponed until COVID-19 could be better understood. Many people used the pandemic to begin carrying their own bags or switch to delivered food. So remember to keep some extra canvas bags in your car or office as enforcement of the ban goes into effect. New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags annually - each for about 12 minutes - and approximately 85% of this staggering total ends up in landfills, recycling machines, waterways, and streets.
Now before I wrap up this (very long!) update, I’d like to take a moment to highlight an organization that stepped up to help the community during this Coronavirus Crisis. Gullotta House is quickly approaching their 100,000th distributed meal. Jumping into gear as the crisis unfolded, Gullotta House helped so many of our residents who could not access food, as well as our local businesses stay afloat by purchasing meals from them and then managing the distribution throughout the community. The organization is currently competing for a grant for additional funds, but they must raise $3000 by October 16th and meet weekly fundraising goals to eligible. You can support them and their generous meal distribution program by donating through the Gullotta House website.
We will be back on Tuesday, October 6 for a Work Session via Zoom. The Meeting ID and Zoom link are published on the Town of Ossining website on Fridays. We will continue to hold our meetings via Zoom for the time being, as we anticipate Governor Cuomo will continue to extend his Executive Orders monthly allowing us to conduct meetings via Zoom. We hope this platform continues to be accessible for our residents, perhaps more accessible than in-person meetings at 7:30pm on a weeknight, especially for our busiest families out there. See you on Zoom!