On this rainy Friday the 13th, we need to focus on what is most critical right now: at Coronavirus cases continue to spike across the country. The colder weather has caused an increase in the number of indoor gatherings and relaxed behavior toward the health guidelines has contributed to a spike in cases. Contact Tracers in New York have identified three key commonalities in newly reported cases: gatherings at private residences, attendance at bars/restaurants, and visits to gyms. With the holidays around the corner and the climbing positivity rate in mind, Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health have put in place new restrictions. Starting tonight at 10pm, indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences cannot exceed 10 people (if your household is larger than 10 people it is not in itself considered a gathering), gyms/ fitness centers will be required to close from 10pm to 5am daily, and bars/restaurants as well as any State Liquor Authority-licensed establishment will be required to close from 10pm to 5am daily. Delivery and curbside pick-up without alcohol may continue after 10pm. I know this is not welcome news for local businesses or those of us looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with our families in the coming weeks. Health experts are recommending to only celebrate the upcoming holidays with your immediate household. Make your plans now. Even if it is going to be a quieter Thanksgiving, there are plenty of creative and fun ways to celebrate the holiday, here are just a few I found online!
This Wednesday was Veterans Day, our annual reminder to thank service members for their dedication to our country. Many of our holiday traditions were forced to adapt this year, including limits placed on gatherings. A livestreamed recording of this year’s ceremony, led by Honorable Michael G. O’Connor with the Ossining Centralized Committee of War Veterans, is available for viewing on the Town’s Facebook Page. Check out Village Historian Joyce Sharrock Cole’s story about her decorated uncle, Clarence Sharrock, who spent most of his adult life in military service for our country. We thank all our Veterans for their dedication to protecting us and our freedom.
This past weekend the Associated Press and major news organizations reported the projected winner of the United States Presidential Election as Joe Biden with Kamala Harris as Vice President. As stated in my past updates, there were a lot of positions on the ballot this year. Some of these races are still awaiting the outcome of all ballots being counted due to the large number of absentee ballots received. You can see the results to date of state and county elections on the Westchester County Board of Elections website.
We understand that discussion of the budget and volunteer service is not in everyone’s interest, but this next item is very important. Thursday, November 19 will be our first public workshop on the Comprehensive Plan. A municipality’s Comp Plan is used as a guide in making future decisions. Pop into the meeting to share what you love about the Town and what you would like to see change. This is a great opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas – let your voices be heard. The meeting will be held via Zoom (click for meeting link), the Meeting ID is 923 7228 9331 and the password is Ossining. If you would like to receive e-mail updates specific to the Comprehensive Plan, you can sign up for those here.
Do any of these intersections look familiar? In August, residents shared their support (or opposition) of a bill before the State Assembly. It is now the State Senate’s turn. Every day, 40,000 travelers drive on our local section of State Route 9A. The current bill would allow a study pertaining to proposed improvements of 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 Bill S8795/A11126. You must be over the age of 13 to submit a comment on this matter. Thank you again to Mayor Steve Vescio and the Village of Briarcliff for taking the lead on making recommendations that led to the drafting of this legislation which will hopefully ultimately lead to safer travels for all of us.
Have you changed the batteries in your smoke detector recently? The Ossining and Briarcliff Fire Departments remind us that the time change is an excellent time to change the batteries in your smoke detector. If you did not yet do that, we are still within your month window! Batteries should always be changed every six months and the smoke detector itself should be replaced every 10 years. Do not wait for an emergency to find out if your smoke alarms are working.
The Ossining Police Department would like to remind you to always lock your car at night. There were several larcenies reported Wednesday into Thursday night and some cars were also stolen. We have seen these stories throughout the summer in neighboring communities, it seems the thieves are in our neck of the woods right now. The best defense we have as a community is to practice the 9pm routine: before you leave your car for the night: take your valuables out of the car, close the overhead garage door, and lock the inner garage door, or if you have no garage, remember to lock your car door. Never leave your keys or fob in the car. This #9PMROUTINE will help protect you from being a victim of theft. The Police Department is requesting that residents review any footage that may show the recent break-ins, if anything stands out call OPD at (914) 941-4099 and ask to speak with detectives.
The new COVID restrictions will add another layer of responsibility for our local businesses. This year has been unimaginably difficult for business owners so I encourage you to support them as much as you can. Please buy local goods and request local services whenever you can. Share menus to your favorite restaurants online or write good reviews about positive experiences with local businesses. Every little bit helps. Cold weather is often the start of a slower season for many small businesses, whereas big box stores and online giants consider the post-Halloween season to be their most profitable of the year. Let’s turn the tables and put our local businesses first. #ShopSmall
Last week, the New York State Travel Advisory was updated to reduce the 14 day quarantine for some travelers. Travelers no longer have to refer to the ever-growing list of “Restricted States.” However, travelers are required to quarantine only until negative test results clear them. The details of the advisory are different depending on how long a traveler goes outside New York State (remember, the advisory applies to residents who are returning to NY as well). Essential workers, as well as residents from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut, are exempt from the advisory. You can learn more at the NYS Travel Advisory Website.
A few of our local schools shared news about positive cases being identified this past week. It is important to recognize that COVID-19 can manifest differently in children and adults. If your school-aged child or anyone in your immediate household tests positive, please notify their school district. Getting timely information can save lives, reduces the strain on Contact Tracing systems, and helps the districts appropriately respond to each case. If you have questions about coronavirus symptoms in children, please contact your healthcare provider. The enrollment period for NY State of Health has opened so that New Yorkers without health insurance can apply through the end of 2020.
For families with college-aged children, New York State has issued some helpful guidance. SUNY students will be offered a viral diagnostic test before leaving campus for the holidays. This will help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 from campuses to vulnerable family members back home. Students from private colleges are also encouraged to get a test before coming home. The Governor’s Office issued a reminder that students are not exempt from the Travel Advisory, and are required to quarantine. To get a test locally, visit the New York State website Find a Test Site Nearest You feature. There are several testing locations around town. All viral diagnostic tests are free for New Yorkers.
This week in the mail you may have received a letter from Westchester Power regarding the next round of Community Choice Aggregation. For the past several years, the Town of Ossining, along with over 25 of our municipal neighbors, has partnered with Sustainable Westchester to offer Community Choice Aggregation to our residents. By partnering with these communities and competitively bidding electricity rates, we are able to secure a low rate for green sourced electricity. The Town of Ossining has opted into the 100% renewable option, so our residents and businesses are able to be powered by renewable energy, while also saving money on their electric bill. Customers will be automatically renewed into this round of the program, unless you choose to opt-out. For more information, please visit the Westchester Power website.
The County’s Household Recycling Day is tomorrow from 9am to 3pm. Recycling Day is an excellent chance for residents to responsibly unload all those weird items that sit in the corner of the garage: old computers, tires, vehicle batteries, propane tanks – see the full list below. In 2019, residents delivered more than 307,000 pounds of household waste and 91,000 pounds of documents for shredding. For more details on this event please visit the County website.
On Sunday, the Westchester County Department of Health is offering free rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats, and ferrets. Advance appointments are required, so call 914-632-1269 to schedule your appointment.
Vendors at the Ossining Farmers Market are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Order Thanksgiving desserts through Meredith's Bread and turkeys through Sunset View Farm. The market does not close up in the winter, but that does not mean you have to shop in the cold. Get your orders in for regular Farmers Market goods by Thursday and they will be ready for your pick-up on Saturday. Learn more at the Ossining Farmers Market website.
On Wednesday, November 18, the Center at Mariandale is starting a monthly Zoom Book Club called Understanding Race in America. This is a four-part monthly book club being led by Dr. Diane Abatemarco. The book chosen for November is White Fragility: Why it's so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, by Robin Diangelo. The group will Zoom together from 7 to 8:30pm, with successive meetings on December 16, January 20, 2021, and February 10, 2021. The other books selected for the book club are The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, and My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem. You can register and learn more on the Mariandale website.
The Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce is offering gift cards for free meals at food distribution locations in Ossining. The gift cards are available through the Chamber’s Virtuous Collective, which helps bridge the financial gap between local restaurant meal prices and residents with food insecurity. This week’s participating restaurants include Las Americas, DD’s Diner, Aji Limo, and the Tasty Table. For more information or to donate to this program, go to the Virtuous Collective website.
The Ossining School District is engaging in a strategic planning process to establish key goals for the next three to five years. A brief electronic survey is open for community members who are residents without students currently in the school system. To participate, please follow this link or go to the link provided on the district website and complete the brief survey by November 24th.
As I wrap up this update, I am reminded of the days in March when the first COVID-19 shutdowns went into effect. Everyone was scared and no one knew how best to protect themselves. A lot of people are nervous seeing case numbers rise again, but we can take comfort in the fact that we have a lot more information now than we did back in March. Additionally, New York State continues to be a model in the country for COVID response and vigilance, and we can definitely find solace in that fact. By wearing your mask you considerably decrease your chances of contracting and transmitting COVID-19. By washing your hands often and avoiding gatherings you help protect essential workers and vulnerable populations. The efforts we made in March were made from a place of fear, but they also came from a place of love – a genuine interest to collectively protect each other. The past few weeks reflect some mistakes and misunderstandings, so we can definitely take a lesson from March: please follow the guidance, slow the spread, and we really can help save lives.