It is an exciting moment to participate actively in shaping the change we wish to see for our Village
· This Village can turn a sanitary sewer project into a glorious greenway.
· We have seen empty storefronts become thriving local gathering spaces.
· The decrease in our energy demand by upgrading to LED streetlights offers enough savings to keep our tax rate increase this year at 0%.
· We have passed laws to expand opportunities for entrepreneurs to open their businesses of tomorrow right here in Ossining.
· We have invited hundreds of people to live in luxury on our waterfront, and thousands to enjoy sunsets from the new Henry Gourdine Park on the Hudson.
Ossining is poised to see major change happen in our downtown. We have a thoughtful and collaborative Board of Trustees, with a willingness to make big decisions about the Village's future. Critical leaders of our staff are capable of implementing big projects for Ossining. And we have the solid fiscal standing to invest in infrastructure that will benefit our community for generations to come.
As we enter this exciting year with a focus on bringing into view big changes for development in our downtown, I am going to add a new commitment to my weekly mayoral schedule.
When I took office as Mayor two years ago, I established Open Office Hours every Tuesday from 10AM to 12 noon. That routine has been a very successful way to meet with residents who have concerns, questions, suggestions, or once in a while, just want to have a friendly chat. I will continue to be at Village Hall every Tuesday for Open Office Hours. Emailing me any time is also an effective way to get my attention (email@example.com).
For my second term, as we shift into a focus on planning, zoning, housing, and development of land that is currently owned by the Village, I will be taking a weekly walk. I'll keep up the routine until I've walked every block of the Village. I'll post my starting place and time on FB and the Village website so that you can join me if you'd like.
A Thriving Downtown
In 2016 we engaged in a public discussion about safe, affordable housing that inspired hundreds of tenants, property owners, housing advocates, attorneys, taxpayers, and elected officials to deepen our understanding of the realities and needs of our community. In 2017, the Village will undertake a Housing Needs Assessment that will provide us with not just an accurate inventory of our existing housing stock and conditions, but one of the tools that will help us make well-informed modifications to our Comprehensive Plan, which drives all local zoning regulations. The discussion about safe and affordable housing will continue, and will be part of a larger discussion about economic development.
Ossining today is, in part, a result of decisions made by past Village administrations. Elected officials in the 1970s bought into the prevailing wisdom of their day, and decided that Urban Renewal was a wise idea for our downtown. The results of Urban Renewal, which demolished two of the five corners at the heart of our downtown, have been mixed, at best. The people living in those buildings lost their homes, and our downtown lost beautiful architecture, as well as a whole side of the street which completes the balance needed for a truly thriving downtown.
But as with any major change, there comes opportunity. I am grateful to be Mayor in a moment when we are poised to capitalize on the space that was left by Urban Renewal. Rather than perceiving it as a scar on our downtown business district, I recognize it as an incredible gift for the Village. Where there were once buildings filling each block, we have an opportunity to create a welcoming public gathering space in the heart of the Village. Today these spaces provide parking, and host our weekly farmer's market and a number of festivals and events throughout the year. But the potential for these open spaces to inspire people to spend time in our downtown is nowhere close to being fully realized. At this stage, let's not limit our vision to any particular size and scope of what structures may be built in these spaces, or how parking will be expanded.
Our goal as we actively shape the future we wish to experience for Ossining, must be to create a public gathering place where a mother wants to sit and read a book to her child; a place where high school students gather in the afternoon to share smoothies with their friends; a place where seniors from Maple House rest on their way home from a little shopping up the block; a place where families enjoy ice cream on a hot summer night; a place where co-workers sip coffee during a break from their second story Main St business that thrives in tomorrow's economy—and it’s a business that we could not even conceive of when we drafted our most recent Comprehensive Plan. And yes, sometimes it will be a place that hosts cultural festivals and holiday tree lightings. But to be a success, this public gathering place must be an essential component of a whole downtown that is buzzing with activity on any given Tuesday—with no festival required to make people want to show up.
In recent years, we've laid the groundwork for what's next. A few years ago, the Village commissioned a study by consultants to inform the Board and the community of what a developer would seek to build on the Market Square properties to maximize their profitability. It was almost two years ago, that several community members joined me in workshops and online venues to gather feedback from the community of what we'd like to see happen for these properties. And right now the Sing Sing Prison Museum is closer than ever to becoming a reality. It is exciting to explore how that major institution could impact our local landscape and economy.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the topic of public discussion that elicited an intensity of passion among community members this year, second perhaps only to housing—the roundabout. Construction of the new intersection is planned for the summer of 2017. Ossining will become the only Hudson River community to have a modern roundabout at the heart of its downtown. Because of the dramatically improved safety that roundabouts provide, they are the go-to recommendation by the NYS DOT, and many other states, for any new and upgraded intersection construction. Since even small single-lane roundabouts like the one we will have, require a larger footprint than an electrified signal, roundabouts are often not an option in densely built downtowns. It is only because of the negative space left by Urban Renewal that the roundabout was an option for us to consider in our decision making for this necessary infrastructure upgrade. The infrastructure engineering for this project is underway, but safely guiding vehicles and pedestrians through an intersection is just the foundation. Fully integrating the roundabout as a key component in a vision of place-making as described above, will demand that we consider how to take full advantage of the increased sidewalks, green space, and gathering space, as well as optimal connectivity for pedestrians with the new positions of the crosswalks.
So, our job today as a community, is to actively participate in shaping the change we wish to see for our downtown.
I look forward to seeing you at Village Hall on a Tuesday, on one of my Weekly Walks, or hearing from you by email any time.
View the Mayor's Past Messages.