Well, the highlight of the week was undeniably the snow - it’s here, it’s there, it’s everywhere! The BIGGEST shout-out to our Highway Department and Parks Department, who worked 41 hours straight to keep the roads clear. This was the largest storm our town has seen in a few years, and our teams rose to the challenge. Thank you also to our emergency first responders, who posted updates and made sure drivers were being safe.
I would also like to extend thanks to our Clerk’s Office, the Village Finance Office, and the Tax Receiver’s Office. These teams came in on Saturday last week to help residents beat the deadline ahead of the storm. Not to be outdone, they were back again Monday – through the height of the storm – in case anyone came by.
We may be getting more snow this weekend and next week. Wave hello to our highway team as they salt and plow the roads. Be sure to drive slowly and clear the snow from the top of your car (and windshield!) before going out on the road. Please also remember to dig out any nearby fire hydrants, and do not shovel or plow snow from your driveway into the road.
Behind the scenes, Town departments were working from home during the snowstorm. This week was also the preliminary phase of our annual audit, with the team from PFK O’Connor Davies visiting virtually, as we close out our books for 2020. The two phases of our audit are always busy days for the finance office, as well as our Tax Receiver and Budget Officer, but this process helps ensure fiscal responsibility and accountability here in the Town. We have been pleased to receive “clean bills of health” for many, many years in a row now, but it is always good to review annually.
The Assessor’s Office has been hard at work mailing out exemption applications this week to those who require some information or action, with May 1 as the deadline for all exemption applications and renewals. Please make sure to open and address this mailing, if you receive it. Our Assessor Fernando Gonzalez asked that I share a quick refresher on some of the most common exemptions. If you recently purchased a home you need to call New York State at 518-457-2036 in order to apply for your STAR credit check for Basic or Enhanced Star, or online at www.tax.ny.gov/star (it is a pretty easy process, but be sure to have your most recent tax return on hand!)
If you are getting the Senior Exemption or Disability Exemption, the NYS Legislature adopted legislation to waive the requirement to have to file a renewal application with our office for the 2021 assessment, but please note this is for 2021 only. Residents that turn 65 by December 31st, 2021 are eligible for either the Enhanced STAR, if you have a maximum adjusted gross income of $90,550 (2019 Tax Returns), or Senior Exemption, if you have a maximum income of $37,400 (2020 Tax Returns). This includes all sources of income including Social Security. If you are currently getting the Basic STAR exemption as a reduction in your tax bill and have turned 65 and qualify, you need to file with the Assessor’s Office to apply for Enhanced STAR. If you are getting the tax credit check from Tax & Finance and have turned 65, you need to call NYS at 518-457-2036 to apply for Enhanced STAR. For renewals, if you are now eligible for the Senior Exemption (Max income $37,400) as a result of an income drop, you need to file with the Assessor’s Office. If you are getting the Enhanced STAR exemption via a credit check, the verification and renewal is done automatically by NYS Tax & Finance. For Veterans exemptions, there are no renewals, it is a one-time application at the Assessor’s Office. New Veterans applications should be filed prior to May 1st with the Assessor’s Office. If you have any questions, please give our Assessor’s Office a call at (914) 762-8274. They are happy to help!
The Briarcliff Manor PTA wrapped up their 7th Annual Souper Bowl today, an annual food drive. Thank you to the organizing parents and teachers, as well as the students who participated. This school year has truly been like no other, and the PTA’s decision to continue with this tradition shows their commitment to their mission. If you missed the Souper Bowl, you can make donations directly to Feeding Westchester, but follow the Briarcliff PTA for more future campaigns.
Of course, many other traditions have been forced to adapt this year. The Super Bowl parties of February 2020 just barely slipped in before COVID-19 health guidelines were put into effect. Help keep case numbers down by watching from home with only your immediate household. If you interact with anyone outside your household you should wear a mask and do not eat or drink in the same room, as these are high risk activities. The UK strain has been detected in New York State and it is far more contagious. Mask-wearing is a must if you will be within 6 feet of anyone outside of those you already live with.
A bright side for Super Bowl 2021? The SPCA of Westchester will be represented in the Puppy Bowl by adoptable pup Lucy! The Puppy Bowl will air on Sunday, February 7 at 2pm on Animal Planet. Watch and cheer for Lucy! If the cuteness is just too much to handle and you find yourself needing a four-legged addition to your quarantine team, the SPCA of Westchester has many adoptable animals available now. Although they are temporarily not at their location on North State Road, visit their website to learn about adoptions at their current location in Cortlandt Manor. Or follow their Instagram for a daily dose of cuteness and virtually meet Lucy and her other adoptable friends!
Vaccines are still arriving in New York in a week-to-week allocation. We continue to read stories in the news of people attempting to skip ahead of others to get the vaccine. Governor Cuomo has promised a $1 million fine for facilities that distribute the vaccine to anyone ineligible. Steep penalties are being considered for individuals who misrepresent themselves to receive one early. Right now, eligibility is limited to those in the 1a and 1b category, which include doctors, nurses, health care workers, people aged 65 and over, first responders, teachers, public transit workers, grocery store workers, and public safety workers. Please do not make an appointment – even for months in advance – if you are not yet eligible. If you have questions about the vaccine you can call the New York State helpline by dialing 1-833-NYS-4-VAX. New York State has also created a hotline for reports of vaccine fraud and abuse. That number is 1-833-VAX-SCAM. As a reminder, vaccines are free for all residents and you cannot pay to reserve an appointment to receive one.
The positivity rate in New York is finally going down after the holiday spike. With luck, and cooperation, we hope our case numbers continue to decrease. Contact Tracers continue to be a critical part of keeping our numbers in check, as they are reaching out within the community to inform residents when they have been exposed. Please remember that if you see a call from NYS Contact Tracing, you should pick up the phone. Contact Tracers can connect you with valuable services, and they will never ask about your immigration status, financial information, or to install software on your phone or computer.
Many of you have continued to request information about the EnergySmart Homes program. Last week, residents were invited to learn how they can heat and cool their homes more efficiently and reduce the use of fossil fuels. Neighbors that have already made the switch spoke to residents along with contractors who specialize in these money-saving technologies. You can look over an introductory brochure here or watch the full presentation here. The EnergySmart Homes campaign is the result of a partnership between Sustainable Westchester and the Town, and the Villages of Ossining and Briarcliff, along with Green Ossining, the Briarcliff Sustainability Committee, and other municipalities and organizations. Following the success of our Solarize and Energize campaigns a few years ago, we feel this program is the perfect fit for many of our homeowners and renters. We will be hosting another event like this one later in February – so stay tuned for more info.
The Ossining PTA’s Little Free Libraries project has converted their mission for the winter into Little Free Food Pantries. This week at our Board Meeting we heard from some Town Residents who want to donate an additional library to the Town, this one in Gerlach Park. This library will probably not be ready in time for this year’s pantries program, but you can check out some of these other sites using the map below. Donations for the mini food pantries should avoid glassware and be cognizant of size (cereal boxes do not fit).
Job alert! Metalized Carbon (by the Ossining Train Station) is looking to hire for a number of positions, including maintenance mechanics, production operators, and for administrative roles. This local manufacturing plant has an international reach and may be the perfect place for you or someone you know. You can check out the company and the job postings on their website.
Neighbor’s Link is hiring a bilingual community engagement manager. Neighbor’s Link has been a dedicated partner throughout the pandemic and has offered great local programs. The Manager will be responsible for community outreach and engagement efforts, ensuring that programs and services reach those who need them the most. You can learn more about the open position here.
Bethany Arts Community is celebrating Black History Month with a star-studded exploration of Ossining’s history, complete with musical performances, artists talks, an art history class, and an exhibition of Black History & Culture. Check out their calendar for a list of upcoming virtual and in-person events.
Teatown’s famous EagleFest is in full swing! EagleFest celebrates the migration of bald eagles to our beautiful Hudson River. The weeklong event started last week and wraps up on Sunday. There are no programs at Croton Point Park this year, but other in-person locations have been adapted. Virtual presentations will also be offered. You can learn more about EagleFest on the Teatown website.
Ossining Innovates is continuing their “Meet the Entrepreneur Next Door” series with Elmer Oliveros, a co-owner of the beloved Brothers Fish & Chips restaurant. Join them via Zoom on Tuesday, February 9th starting at 7pm.
Our newly elected State Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick is hosting a Hearts for Healthcare Heroes initiative for all the healthcare heroes who will miss out on a holiday with their families. Our healthcare workers went through a lot in 2020 and are still struggling in 2021. Send your love and thanks! Drop off or mail your cards to the Senator’s office by Thursday, February 11th (be sure to leave some time for mail in transit).
Stop by Ossining High School for the Spread Love Drive Thru on Thursday, February 11 from 3:30 to 5:30 or until supplies last. Pajamas, books, art supplies, and more will be distributed. Masks and social distancing are required. Walk ups are allowed and drivers should enter from Wolden Road through the bus lane.
Fable is hosting a Valentine’s Day cooking class led by Ossining’s own Beylka Krupp. Formerly of Wobble Café, Beylka will teach two classes, both over Zoom. Visit the Fable: From Farm to Table Facebook page for information about how to register.
The Loft LGBT Community Center is hosting an online "Share The Love" Social on Saturday, February from 11:30am-1:00pm. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the conversation will center around the notion of self-love, love for your community, loving friendship, and more. Register to join virtually by selecting “Unity Table Intergenerational Share The Love Valentine's Social” via the google form here. The Loft is hosting a number of other events, including "Raising Voices," a Celebration of Black LGBTQ+ Identities for Black History Month.
Many local venues have been closed or under severe restrictions since March. Peekskill’s Dramatic Hall Theater will be celebrating Violintine’s Day without an in-person audience, but you can watch a livestreamed concert and participate in a virtual cocktail hour too. Sunday, February 14th from 5:30 - 8pm, join world renowned classical and rock violinist, Daisy Jopling, cofounder of the Daisy Jopling Music Mentorship Foundation (DJMMF), and her band for an evening of music. Learn more at the Dramatic Hall website.
The Sing Sing Prison Museum is celebrating Black History Month with a look at the stories of the town’s Black community. This month's webinar offers a look at prominent business owners, women leaders, and those that have been employed by the historic prison. Register here.
Bethany Arts Community is offering after school classes for children ages 6 and up. The classes include both in-person and virtual options. You can learn more about the classes and registration on the Bethany website. Classes for adults are also available, including one for art history with Dr. Jill Kiefer.
The Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative is holding several meetings in February. There is a public feedback general session tomorrow at 10 am, a session focused on the needs of the Black community on February 20 at 10am, and a Spanish-language session on February 27th at 10am. These are just some of the many opportunities to weigh in on the Ossining Police Department.
Art classes for winter session are also available at the Cedar Lane Arts Center. Visit the Community Pass page to learn about arts and athletic programs being offered by the Ossining Recreation Department (open to Village of Ossining residents, unincorporated town residents, and residents of the Village of Briarcliff).
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I know many couples are unsure how to safely celebrate. Typically, there is a rush to secure a reservation, but this year people are opting for takeout of their favorite meals. Our local businesses are stepping up the challenge! Many have created special menus and designed pre-order options for residents. Call today to pre-order your meal, this way you are ahead of the game when the holiday rolls around.
With Board Meetings online these days, they don’t get cancelled during snow storms. No matter the weather next week, we are expecting to hold our Legislative Session on Zoom at the regular 7:30pm time. Join us with Meeting ID 892 4003 9163 and passcode 399181. You can also dial in to hear the live audio by calling 929-205-6099. Meetings are recorded and uploaded to Facebook and YouTube in case our residents are interested in catching up on anything they missed.
We may be getting more snow this weekend and next week – although it feels like it never really stopped in the first place. My office will send updates if there are changes to the sanitation schedule or if warming centers open in town. To get sanitation alerts sent directly to your phone or email, if you live in unincorporated Ossining, download the Recycle Right Westchester App (trust me, you will love it).
Enjoy the Super Bowl, the half-time show, the commercials, or the Puppy Bowl, and of course the snack food from our local food purveyors you ordered to go with it! Whatever you choose, please remember to stay safe.