On Thursday this week, areas in Ossining were designated a Yellow Zone along with several other municipalities across the state, including locally in Westchester County, Yonkers, Tarrytown, and New Rochelle. This designation is a reflection of a recent rise in the local positivity rate. Our rise in cases follows a national trend of increasing COVID-19 cases, which health experts are attributing to small and large household gatherings and parties, often associated with Halloween. A Yellow Zone designation is a warning and does not come with many additional guidelines for the public. Yellow Zone nursing home personnel will receive more frequent testing and school districts will test 20% of in-person faculty and students.
We should take this designation as a warning. By taking steps now to slow the spread we can protect our local businesses from additional restrictions and our essential workers from unnecessary risk.
Rest assured, the Ossining community is poised to meet this challenge. Throughout the week, we have been meeting with our community partners including the Village of Ossining, Ossining School District, Ossining Public Library, Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Open Door, Neighbors Link, faith groups, parent groups, and many more to make sure we reach out to as many people as possible to encourage safe behaviors to reduce spread. Additionally, we have been working with our liaisons in the State and County government to deploy necessary resources to increase access to testing, distribute masks, and assist our community members as best we can. We know many of our neighbors struggle with balancing their family’s financial needs and going to work, with potential contacts to positive cases or mild symptoms. No one should have to compromise their health and the health of their family with paying rent, putting food on the table, and meeting other basic needs. We are committed to doing all we can to help all Ossining families remain healthy, safe, and cared for during this incredibly challenging time.
Please be reminded that the new cases registering are a reflection of behavior two weeks ago and the actions we take today to slow the spread will not be seen for two weeks more. I know we are all feeling a little COVID fatigue, but now is not the time to ease our vigilance. Experts are extremely concerned about spread over the Thanksgiving holiday. Like everything else this year, Thanksgiving has to adapt. The CDC recommends that Thanksgiving celebrations be limited to those within an immediate household. The New York State Department of Health and Governor Cuomo have limited gatherings at private residences to 10 people. This includes both indoor and outdoor private gatherings. These gatherings can be prohibited completely in Orange and Red Zones. Contact Tracers are consistently citing small, private gatherings as a source of spread. We all want to believe our family and friends are healthy and are not carrying the virus, but our love is more important and we all want to be here next Thanksgiving to celebrate together! We must protect each other from possible exposure. Be wary of relying heavily on negative test results to let down your guard over Thanksgiving -- rapid tests can provide false negatives, people can spread the virus without experiencing any symptoms, and you can still develop the virus in between taking a test and receiving the results of that test. I encourage all residents to follow the new guidelines and prepare celebrate the holiday only with your household. I will be doing the same in my household -- we may end up with more leftovers than we bargained for, but we know we are doing what we can to prevent spread.
Zoom, the video conferencing service many of us have relied on during this pandemic, expanded their service for Thanksgiving Day. The 40 minute limit has been removed, meaning you no longer need to pay for an account to have a full holiday with far-flung family members. It is comforting to see companies like Zoom make such generous decisions for this holiday.
In addition to our designation as a yellow zone, many businesses are still adapting to the new state-wide restrictions put in place by Governor Cuomo a week ago. Gyms and fitness centers close from 10pm to 5am. Bars, restaurants, and any establishment with a liquor license (like a County Club or wedding venue) must also close at 10pm to 5am, however they can continue to offer takeout and curbside service as long as no alcohol is served. As part of our yellow zone designation, although indoor and outdoor dining is still allowed, there is a four person per table limit. These new restrictions are difficult for businesses during an already difficult time. Now is the time to patronize our small businesses – grab some takeout and get a head start on your holiday shopping. These are local gems managed by our neighbors. It is easy to support local businesses, even if you are not able to purchase anything - post a positive review, share a pic of the menu for your favorite place, or recommend a particular meal to a friend.
The Coronavirus Crisis is not outweighing the need for other Town responsibilities to be addressed. Last night, the Town hosted its first public workshop on the Comprehensive Plan via Zoom. I was amazed to see our virtual turnout – we had almost 100 participants! That is incredible, and a testament to our incredibly engaged community. We also know that even before COVID, a late night meeting at the library or courthouse is difficult for many of our residents, especially working families. COVID has helped us realize that perhaps a Zoom meeting, where you can still be cooking dinner or helping your child with homework while engaging with your local government, may be an important alternative we need to continue to provide into the future. That being said, this Comprehensive Plan process will be continuing well into 2021, and we hope to hold some more traditional engagement experiences for those who may not be able to access Zoom. If you did not know, a Comprehensive Plan is a community’s blueprint for the future. We are very early on in the process, and last night’s workshop focused on our existing conditions analysis and included facilitated breakout rooms for the community to share what they love about living in Ossining, what they wish was different, and how we can achieve sustainability and public health goals through this plan. Our next public workshop will likely be held in early spring 2021, once our consultant, WXY Studios, has synthesized feedback from the public and produced a couple of potential goals and objectives for the community to evaluate. If you were unable to join us last night, the introduction and existing conditions presentation was recorded and will be posted to the Town’s YouTube page shortly. Although the break out rooms were not recorded, we plan on sharing notes and additional materials on the project’s webpage soon as well. Between now and our next public meeting we plan on holding additional community engagement efforts, so please stay tuned for more information very soon. Your voice can shape the future of the Town. If you would like to receive e-mail updates specific to the Comprehensive Plan, you can sign up for those here.
Please join me in congratulating Obi Toppin, an Ossining High School alum who was drafted to the New York Knicks this week. Obi’s college career took him out of New York, so it is very exciting to see him come home. As the 8th overall draft pick, Obi is exceptionally skilled and we look forward to watching him play in the upcoming season.
NYS has launched a program to help New Yorkers find state services and benefits. The Find Services Feature provides an easy-to-use starting point for community members in need of social services, including Paid Family Leave, tax relief, accessing addiction services, Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline, Mental Health Resources, Child Health Plus, COVID-19 resources for New Americans, NY State of Health (Official Healthcare Marketplace), Medicaid, and the NYS Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Hotline.
The Ossining Police Department would like to remind you to always lock your car. 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 Caretaker’s House in the Town’s Dale Cemetery is undergoing a restoration to preserve the structure and make it a more comfortable place for our staff to meet with grieving families, and the Ossining Historic Cemeteries Conservancy to continue their great work. This planned project allows the building to be refitted with a new roof, chimney, and porch. Dale Cemetery is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Special thanks to the local team with Clemco Construction as they work through this chilly, and often rainy, weather.
This week, the Town of Ossining and Village of Ossining officially joined a local initiative to further our climate-smart goals. Ossining 100, a relative of the Communities United to Reduce Emissions 100% (CURE 100), positions our community to lower our greenhouse gas emissions and fulfill our local responsibility as part of the Governor’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which sets out the most aggressive carbon emissions reduction goals of any state in the US . The initiative also focuses on educating residents about climate conscious opportunities we can each personally avail ourselves of. Ossining already participates in many environmentally friendly programs, including many that are cost-saving. The launch of Ossining 100/CURE 100 is an exciting continuation of our commitment to a sustainable future. Thank you again to Suzie Ross from Green Ossining for your presentation about the program and your leadership in sustainability. As a reminder, if you miss our Board Meetings, they can be viewed on the Town of Ossining Youtube Page.
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. Residents who are in another ESCO or have opted out will not get the letter or be opted in.
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.
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.
Briarcliff High School Students are participating in the 12th Annual Westchester Polar Plunge to support Special Olympics New York. They will not be running into the freezing waters of the Long Island Sound like last year, but everyone is invited to raise money from family and friends that sponsor you. Participate at home by taking a dip in a baby pool, soaking teammates with a supersoaker from six feet away, or take an ice bath or freezing shower. Send Special Olympics your photos/videos so they can post on their social media. In addition, Carvel in Chilmark Shopping Center has generously agreed to give a free ice cream cone to everyone who donates $30 or more (bring proof of donation)!
The Ossining School District is accepting volunteers for a number of fun projects. You can help create new book bundles for students from the collections donated over the summer. You may also have school supplies items needed. Take a few minutes to check out their Google Form for how you can get involved. The District is also 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.
The Center at Mariandale has started a monthly Zoom Book Club called Understanding Race in America. This is a 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 Villarina’s, Lucy’s Pizza, Cravin’ Jamaican, and Brother Fish ‘n Chips. For more information or to donate to this program, go to the Virtuous Collective website.
Westchester County is offering Black Friday deals a little early this year. Get an extra 10% value FREE on golf gift cards purchased between Monday, November 16 and Thursday, December 31. Visit golf.westchestergov.com for more information.
Congratulations to Mike Risko Music on being named a Top 100 Music School/Store in the world for the 7th year in a row. This award is granted by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). This has been an incredibly challenging time for local businesses, so this is quite an achievement. Next time you stop by the store for a curbside pickup or zoom in for a lesson be sure to pass along your congrats.
Westchester Medical Center has established a treatment program for those who have recovered from COVID-19 but are still experiencing additional symptoms. This Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program is available now at the WMC campus in Valhalla. There is an increase in evidence that a COVID-19 infection can result in lingering symptoms such as fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, headache, muscle weakness, and joint pain, as well as impact to the heart, lungs, brain, and blood cells. Some patients recovering from COVID-19 infection also continue to experience mental “fogginess,” confusion, anxiety, depression, and other psychological and emotional issues for months after initially becoming infected. Do not hesitate to get care if you are having ongoing health. You can contact the WMCHealth Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program at 1-833-329-0095 or visit them online for more information and to request an evaluation.
Looking for a way to support local artists? The Fall Pottery Pop Up takes place on November 21st and 22nd on the Hudson River Potters website. Check it out and you might find the perfect holiday gift before the holiday rush even starts.
The Ossining Girl Scouts are coordinating donation drop offs for the Ossining Food Pantry. The Pantry, which is open to both Briarcliff and Ossining residents, has been an important lifeline during the Coronavirus Crisis. Until December 3rd, drop off select items at Mike Risko Music School (144 Croton Ave, Ossining) or Logrea Dance Academy (2 Dale Ave, Ossining).
The Marine Corps Reserve is hosting their annual Toys for Tots collection. New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the Municipal Building by the Clerk’s Office. The office is on the first floor and our screener will greet you at the front door. See the list of suggested items below and stop by between 9am – 2:30 pm (M-F) to drop them off.
Also helping make the holidays special, Open Door Family Medical Center is hosting a Toy Drive too! Their goal this year is to collect 5000 new, unwrapped toys and gift cards. The target age for toys ranges from newborn to 14 years and should be valued around $20. Check out their wish list below and help make the season magical for a local child.
The house decorating contests of the 4th of July and Fall are sure to be outdone soon. If you plan to make your home a festive escape, snap a few pictures and enter the Holiday House Decorating Contest hosted by the Ossining Families, Positively Ossining, and Ossining Moms Facebook groups. Be sure to post your photos with the caption #winterossining2020 by December 21st.
We received a lot of calls this week about our Fall leaf pick up. Our Highway Department started their pickups in mid-October and will continue their loops around the Unincorporated Town until the end of the year, weather permitting. We do not publish a specific schedule for pickups because we often adjust due to the weather or fallen piles causing dangerous conditions. Please be patient with our crews as they make their way up and down every street in the entire Town. As a reminder, leaves should be raked to the curb or bagged in paper bags (no plastic). Residents on State Roads (Route 133 or 134) should bag their leaves. Please keep your leaves out of the road as much as possible. We hope to get to them all soon.