This morning, unfortunately, I was met by a hateful message containing a racial slur written in chalk in front of my house. It appears this message may have been in response to a lawn sign I have on my front lawn proclaiming “In this house, we believe Black Lives Matter.” I was shocked and stunned, not just because these hateful words appeared in my beloved Ossining community, but because of its close proximity to my home, which I have always considered to be a safe haven for myself, my husband, and my sons. I am grateful to Ossining Police Chief Kevin Sylvester and his team for initiating an investigation immediately.
This was a horrible way to start my day, in stark contrast to the good work my team and I have done this week, as you will read later on in my update. However, this afternoon at a press conference, I was joined by elected and appointed officials including my Town Board colleagues Jackie Shaw, Liz Feldman, and Northern Wilcher, Village of Ossining Mayor Victoria Gearity and Trustee Omar Lopez, Ossining Schools Superintendent Dr. Ray Sanchez, Chief Sylvester, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Assemblyman David Buchwald, as well as many community leaders including Reverend Shaun Jones and Bishop Joan Whittaker, Community Equity Task Force members Jermaine Smith and Kemi Pogue, Ossining Public Library Board President Matthew Weiss, Ossining High School Principal Stephen Hancock and members of his staff, among others. Unfortunately, Town Councilman Greg Meyer, State Senator David Carlucci, and County Legislator Catherine Borgia, were unable to attend in person, but I also appreciated their kind words shared during the press conference. I have also received messages from several members of the community expressing their sadness and frustration following this incident. This outpouring of support and solidarity has helped to show that in our beloved Ossining, those of us who love outnumber those of us who hate, and hope will always prevail against fear. In Ossining, we know there is no act of racism that is too innocuous or too small for us to speak out against, and it is our responsibility as community leaders to do so. In Ossining, Black lives do matter, and hate has no home here.
This continues to be an active investigation, so please if you saw something or have information call the Ossining Police at (914) 941-4099 and ask for detectives. All calls can be kept anonymous. Thank you to the Ossining community for your support and kind words following this upsetting event.
I cannot think of a better time to remind you that today is the last day to register to vote for the November general election is today, October 9, in person or by postmark. You can register online now. It is as important as ever to ensure that your voice is heard this November. This year, on a local, state, and federal level, we have a rare opportunity to tell all our leaders what matters most to us, and ensure they govern and lead on behalf of our beliefs and values by voting.
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.
Do you know your polling place? Do you know where you can vote early? Screenshot this information and other resources from the Westchester County Board of Elections to make sure you are prepared to vote in the General Election.
Team Ossining participated in Organ Donor Enrollment Day 2020 by hosting a Zoom-a-thon, complete with music and interviews. Though New Yorkers overwhelmingly support organ donation, only 32% are registered organ donors. We need to change this, especially because every 18 hours, someone in New York dies waiting for an organ. You can register right now to be an organ donor at https://donatelife.ny.gov/ref/LiveOnNYDD139/. I would like to thank all the elected officials, musicians, donors, healthcare professionals, and families for helping us get the word out on Thursday. We will be sharing encore videos until October 13th on the Town of Ossining Facebook page where you can also watch the full five-hour Zoom-a-thon.
I would like to thank everyone who participated in making yesterday a success – including everyone who tuned in. We will draw a raffle winner for the $150 Club Fit Gift Card on October 13. Videos from over 20 people were generously shared to help us raise awareness. Thank you to the elected officials NY State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, NY State Senator David Carlucci, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, County Legislator Catherine Borgia, and Ossining Village Mayor Gearity. Thank you to OVAC Chief Nick Franzoso, Karen LaRocca Fels and her team at the Ossining Public Library, and Lindsay Farrell and her team at the Open Door Family Medical Center. Thank you to Dr. Alan Gass, a cardiologist from Westchester Medical Center, Dr. Ophelia Byers, the Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President at NYP Hudson Valley Hospital and Dr. Craig Hametz, a cardiologist for the New York-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley. Thank you to musicians Mike and Miriam Risko who helped us coordinate performances and Alexis Cole, Johnny G and Organ Groove, and KJ Denhert. Shout out to Scott Wohl and Dr. Amy Friedman of LiveOnNY for their help and support in getting this project off the ground. And last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank all the people who shared their personal stories, including Phil Faranda and Liz Byle and her mom Shelley for speaking with me, Dominic for your conversation with Mayor Gearity, all six guests of Sandy Galef: Janet, Andrew, Susanne, Linda and Charlie, and Sandy’s Assembly aide Claire, advocate and transplant recipient Ron Cohen, and Senator Carlucci’s guests: Lauren, Roxane, and Diana Lemon with her daughter Dream. Thank you all.
Last 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 continue to increase across the State. The best defense we have against COVID-19 is a mask. Please wear your masks, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and social distance. Ossining made some amazing efforts in the spring to flatten the curve and again the summer to keep case numbers low. As the chilly weather brings us into shared indoor spaces, remember the importance of mask wearing in local businesses, in your office, and around anyone outside your household. We are truly all in this together. I know there is a lot of information coming at us at once. You can save yourself from the headache of carrying it all by filtering out the game-of-telephone rumors and sticking to reputable news 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 – from eldercare and childcare options to information about local testing sites and food deliveries.
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.
Have you completed the census yet? The Town of Ossining currently has a self-response rate of 69.8% percent. That is only a .1% increase since last week? 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.”
This week, Victoria from my office participated in a meeting with Westchester County Department of Transportation and municipal leaders from our neighbors in the Village of Ossining and Village of Tarrytown regarding the Westchester County Mobility & Transit Plan. This important project began earlier this year, and will continue through early 2021, with the goal of better aligning the county’s mobility network with the needs of its residents, workers, and visitors. Our communities experience similar challenges with mobility, including a lack of walkability, limited reliance on the Bee-Line bus system, and a need for more localized transit options to address first mile/last mile trips. Visit the project website at www.westchestermobility.org to review the project documents and submit your comments.
We also learned more information this week about Westchester County’s plans to provide food scrap recycling collection to municipalities across the county. Through this shared service, municipalities with existing food scrap recycling programs will realize significant savings in hauling fees. The cost now will be so negligible to municipalities, we also hope that more communities will jump on board and offer this program to their residents. Diverting food waste from our traditional garbage stream not only helps save costs but also reduces our impact on the environment. If you are a Town resident (yes, including both Villages!) visit our program webpage to purchase your kit and get started collecting your food scraps. We will share more in the near future if this new offering from the county will allow us to potentially expand the program soon. The Ossining Food Scrap program will continue over the winter, with a drop off point at the Farmers Market and Cedar Lane. There is no fee to participate, so consider joining in.
New York State also updated its Travel Advisory again this week. The list of Restricted States now includes New Mexico. 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.
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.
Now let’s get into some events!
Ossining Matters is hosting their 5K virtually this year. Run or walk anywhere with family, friends or neighbors (six feet apart) starting today at 3pm until 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 17, residents may bring confidential personal papers for shredding to the Ossining Community Center at 95 Broadway. Shredding personal documents serves a double purpose - to recycle paper as well as protect sensitive information against identity theft - the fastest growing crime in the nation. Residents can bring up to four file-sized (10”x12”x15”) boxes of confidential papers per household. Please remove all large binder clips and covers. Papers from businesses, institutions or commercial enterprises are not acceptable and will be rejected, as will any junk mail or newspapers.
Also 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.
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!
Sing Sing Kill Brewery is hosting a Mask-querade on October 30. In the spirit of Halloween and Covid, the contest prizes will be awarded to those with the best, coolest, or most creative masks. Whether they complement the costume or ARE the costume, showcase your best! If there are nose/mouth holes in your mask, a Covid-appropriate one must be worn underneath. This Halloween celebration is a tribute to “Masks of the Titans,” a taproom art exhibition by John “Twyg” Hyde. Visit the taproom between 8-10pm to chat with the artist, check out his 3D printed works and handcrafted Halloween costumes on display, and enter in the mask contest. Charlie Bennett of The Night Hobs will be performing provide some spooky tunes on the cello. SSKB, like all our local business, is operating under capacity restrictions due to COVID, so the taproom and sidewalk café will remain open during the Mask-querade to allow for social distancing.
As I wrap up this update, I would like to take a moment to talk about some resources available to local business owners. 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.
With Halloween and other autumn fun coming up, please remember that most things you buy online or a big box store could be purchased from a local business. Cooler weather brings a slower season for restaurant owners and other small businesses. COVID-19 has placed a lot of strain on businesses, so now more than ever, we need to #shoplocal whenever possible.
As a reminder, Monday is a federal holiday and Town offices will be closed. We will be back on Tuesday, October 13 for a full day and a Legislative Session public meeting 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 (he recently extended the order through November 3). 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!