Mayor William R. Hanauer
(Current Term Expires December 2012)
2013 INAUGURAL ADDRESS
Happy New Year!
Today marks the dawning of the 200th anniversary of the issuance, by the State of New York, of the Charter founding the Corporation of Sing Sing.
A lot has happened along the Hudson’s shores since Frederick Philipse bought this plot of land from the Sint Sincks in 1685. By 1800, the Village of Sing Sing had become a thriving port and Sparta, then a separate hamlet, the shad fishing capital of the country. Food fish were plentiful in 1813. Late Nineteenth Century and Twentieth Century Pollution destroyed the Hudson as a source.
The Corporation of Sing Sing changed its name to the Village of Ossining in 1901 to distinguish itself and its manufactured goods from the prison and its products; Ossining and Sparta merged in 1906. If they had not, I could not be standing here!
Ossining continued to thrive until the end of World War II, when, with the departure of industry, creating post-industrial blight along the Waterfront and the ensuing middle class flight from Downtown, with the emergence of the car culture, shopping centers, and malls, the Village, especially Downtown deteriorated very rapidly. The infrastructure was allowed to deteriorate. Real Property taxes increasingly became a burden placed on residential property owners.
Then, in 1971, through the adoption of the Urban Renewal Plan, the stage was set for the construction of the 13th Wonder of the World: the magnificent parking lots of Downtown Ossining. The significant and horrendous fire on Main Street in 1995 added another.
From 2005 to today, we have worked hard to bring an expansive Renaissance to the Village; thousands of stakeholders, residents, and merchants, Village officials, and consultants collaborated for 4 years to create and adopt our vision for the future, the 2009 Comprehensive Plan, and significant amendments to our zoning code, to encourage development of our historic downtown and other neighborhoods, and to guarantee a vibrant, prosperous village for years to come. Many Comp Plan recommendations have already been implemented.
We have engaged a Downtown Economic Development Manager. We have published Architectural Design Guidelines and a Significant Sites and Structures Handbook to aid in Historic Preservation and in the design of new residences and commercial structures.
We have become a Certified Local Government and have transformed our previously advisory-only Historic Review Board into the Historic Preservation Commission with statutory powers to review proposed development in Historic Neighborhoods and issue Certificates of Appropriateness. Our two districts are Sparta and the new official Downtown Historic District.
For the future of Ossining, we have engaged a consulting group to advise the Board on the transformation of what are now the parking lots in the center of Downtown. We will consider mixed-use development, replacing Market Square with a Village Green, as recommended in the Comprehensive Plan; increased walkability, more efficient and calmer traffic patterns, and the provision for increased spaces but less visible parking lot, and not on our prime real estate. The “We Can Do It” property is already about to be sold to a mixed-use market-rate developer.
In the last 6 years, despite the economy, 737 units of new housing have been developed, are nearing completion, or have been approved by or are in front of the Planning Board. Usually, Commerce follows population, however about 40,000 square feet of new and 137,000 square feet of fully occupied, completely rehabilitated square feet of commercial space have been constructed since I became Mayor.
Today, as part of Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium, we are encouraging green new construction and home retro-fitting by providing free energy assessments and, soon, low-cost loans for implementing their recommendations. We have already assessed and have begun retrofitting Municipal buildings. Our next step is to identify Village-owned property for the construction of solar panels on roofs or on open spaces. Trustee Vitoria Gearity, who was sworn in today for the first time, will take a lead in the Village’s participation in the coalition.
In 1813, Hurricanes Irene and Sandy and the damage they wrought could hardly have been imagined. They could not have been foreseen, even after Hurricane Floyd, which was thought at the time to be the storm of the century.
Today, we must consider them, not as anomalies of the past, but as the model forerunners of the future of our environment. We must re-think our plans for the revival of the waterfront. Martin Ginsburg is reengineering the Harbor Square complex to be built on significantly higher fill.
In 1813, drinking water was drawn from the Hudson and the many ponds and streams of the area. We have completed rehabilitation of the Indian Brook Water Filtration Plant, originally built in the 20th Century, increasing production capacity from 4 million gallons of filtered water per day when the Comprehensive Plan was adopted to 6 million per day today, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in operating costs and in the purchase of supplemental water from New York City. We have also begun rehabilitation of the Indian Brook Reservoir Dam and the sewer main in the Sing Sing Kill.
We have also replaced or relined water and sewer mains throughout the Village and will continue so to do.
And, while we develop, we continue to preserve and improve open space. We have constructed 1.5 miles of RiverWalk though the Edward M. Wheeler Crawbuckie Nature Preserve -- much of it handicapped accessible -- and reached agreement with the County and Mariandale to continue RiverWalk through its property; we’ve also amended our zoning code to allow acceptance of 8.5 acres from the developing Avalon on Hudson, to be added to Crawbuckie as well; we’ve added a gazebo and children’s playground to Sparta Park; and have erected US Tennis Association-donated stadium lights at and reconstructed the baseball field in Nelson Park.
As you can see, “things are happening in Ossining.” The Village is thriving economically; with a fund balance strong enough to retain our Moody’s excellent double a2 rating, while vigilantly keeping within our restrained budgets and borrowing wisely to take advantage of historically low interest rates to fund our capital projects.
We have cut 16 positions by attrition. Additionally, we have replaced essential employees; for instance, we’re about to replace two retired police officers. (I swore them in on January 2.)
WESTCHESTER remains THE HIGHEST TAXED COUNTY IN THE COUNTRY! Most increases in local government expenses are those mandated by the State, such as, enormous annual increases to State-determined employee pension contributions, and to health insurance rates, as well as decreases in assessment roles and revenues from most non-property tax sources. Actually, after a few bad years, some non-tax revenues began to increase in 2012.
In view of growing local tax pressures – across New York State, there has been great interest in the consolidation of services at various levels of local governments and, in some cases, of the governments themselves, to solve economic problems of communities.
As well as our enactment of many inter-municipal agreements with the Town of Ossining since 1992 and the development of new ones that went into effect in 2012, the two communities have recently completed a study of the most efficient possible forms of municipal government for the 21st Century. Our independent consultant found that no significant savings would accompany the extreme disruption that would occur with the attempt to adopt a new form of government.
As many of you know, I believe that a municipal government’s primary duty is the provision for the safety and security of its residents and merchants and that such security includes not only a constantly-improving infrastructure, and an excellent economy, but also the finest first responder services possible: police, ambulance, fire and Coast Guard Auxiliary -- for which Ossining remains the envy of the all municipalities in the State.
Our Emergency Management Team meets monthly to prepare for all exigencies. It comprises Police, Fire and OVAC services, the Village Manager, the Treasurer, the Engineer, the Superintendent of Water and Sewers, Director of Information Technology and me. Because this team works so well together, we were so prepared to address emergencies and recover faster than most other communities from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
Village security also includes government’s vocal moral and bully pulpit support for not-for-profits that are the safety net of the community most needy. The safety of children is of major concern. Among the many organizations we support, Ossining Open Door provides affordable health care for all,
Ossining Communities That Care fights underage drinking and drug abuse, Ossining Matters raises funds to enrich the educational experience provided by the Schools, and Family Ties of Westchester provides advocacy and support services to families of children with social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties.
The need for this last service has recently been thrust into our consciousness by the murders in Newtown, CT, Rochester, NY, and on NYC subways. Such killings must never happen in Ossining!
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution reads:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
However, when the Second Amendment was enacted in 1791, no-one foresaw the invention of today’s automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The fire arms in use in 1791, or for that matter in 1813, were primarily, The Blunderbuss, Flint-lock and
Long Barrel Muzzle-loading Muskets, and Non-repeating Short-range Carbines.
Unfortunately, municipalities cannot enact much legislation regulating Alcohol, Tobacco, or Firearms -- that is the purview of the Federal and State Governments. Never-the-less
local governments can enact Gun Offender Registry Acts and laws governing Car confiscation and/or eviction for illegal gun crimes -- I intend to introduce such legislation this year.
Two years ago, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston and 723 other mayors across the country formed Mayors Against Illegal Guns, in which I am an active member. Our mission is the re-enactment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the enactment of legislation that bans the manufacture and sale of High Caliber Assault Weapons and large capacity ammunition clips as well as legislation that requires an identifying micro-strip be a component of ammunition shells; the enactment of measures to deny access to firearms to children or to unstable persons and to require a Federal Background Check with a reasonable Waiting Period before the purchase of firearms; as well as legislation against the attempts by some in Congress and their lobbying supporters to suppress the ability of regulating agencies or localities to act.
Yesterday, a report was released that such weapons and clips are selling out across the country! The time to act is now!
Our State Legislature must enact stronger permitting standards and more inclusive mental health laws.
I urge you to write to Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, to Congresswoman Lowey, to State Senator Carlucci, and to Assemblywoman Galef about fire arms control and mental health, and, while you have their undivided attention, remind them of your support for the Historic Sing Sing Prison Museum Project as a tourist attraction and an economic driver of enormous potential for the Village, the Town, the County, and the Region. Working with the Historic Hudson River Towns, of which I am Secretary-Treasurer, we have grant proposals percolating up through the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council.
On April 2nd, the Village will celebrate our 200th anniversary. We will publish a souvenir program and a cookbook; there will be parties, concerts, and a significant exhibit of contemporary outdoor sculpture, downtown and on the waterfront for 6 months. The Bi-Centennial Committee has been working for over a year to make 2013 a true Jubilee - another reason for me to be happy.
After three terms as Mayor, I still consider myself a very fortunate man and I thank all of those residents, who have, once again, given me the opportunity to continue to direct the pursuit of our common goals with my determined optimism so that we and generations to follow shall experience a thriving, more prosperous Ossining. I thank our talented, hard-working, dedicated, professional, and loyal Village Department heads, who, with their staffs and volunteers, make me look good by diligently performing the day-to-day work that make Ossining this wonderful place to live, work and raise our families and who daily make it possible to enter our next centenary financially sound and on the verge of an even greater future than could have been imagined 200 years ago.
While I thank Former Trustee Marlene Cheatham for her many years of service to the Village, I look forward, as we should all, to working with Deputy Mayor Manuel Quezada and Trustees John Codman, Bob Daraio & Victoria Gearity.
In conclusion, I look forward to two more years to prepare for the next two hundred. None of us will see that day, but let us work together so that those who follow will be better off because of the actions that we take.
View the Mayor's Past Messages.