Contact the Mayor - call (914) 941-3554 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Each new year, it’s beneficial to reflect on what our experience has taught us about how best to serve the people of Ossining. In 2018, we will build on the success, and lessons, of the past. The core responsibility of the Board of Trustees is to establish policies, enact legislation to enable those policies, and provide the funding needed to implement those policies.
As we enthusiastically embark on the challenges ahead, let’s also recognize the outstanding accomplishments of 2017, which will provide a foundation for what’s next.
The budget we passed a month ago is now being set into motion. It includes about a quarter of a million dollars directed toward economic development. This initiative includes updating our comprehensive plan, a new approach to parking, and establishing a clear economic strategy for how Ossining will move forward.
Economic development is a priority that encompasses everything from paving to parking, housing to streetlights, and taxes to zoning. I will begin by highlighting some of the tangible and most direct actions that we have taken to promote our local economy.
Maintaining a 0% tax rate increase for the second year in a row is emblematic of our commitment to making the most of every tax dollar, and doing what we can, to keep Ossining relatively affordable.
Extending the ability for Sidewalk Cafes to be open year-round was the first local law we passed in 2017. The Board also recently updated our cabaret license and fee structure to encourage a wider range of businesses to host events that draw people to Ossining venues.
Ossining sparkles year-round thanks to the lights that wrap trees throughout our downtown district. Individuals can still “adopt” a tree well, supporting the expanded plantings in high-visibility locations with locally crafted metal fencing.
The recommendations of the Downtown Redevelopment Working Committee serve as the foundation for major initiatives in 2018, most notably, engaging an economic development consultant, a parking implementation strategy, and the updating of the Comprehensive Plan. If you have not read their report, or watched the meeting where they presented their recommendations, you can find links for these resources front and center on the Village website. The mostly-volunteer DRWC did an outstanding job helping the Village Board prioritize our economic development goals. Several DRWC members have followed their service on that committee by stepping up to serve on permanent Village committees, and I anticipate some may contribute to the Comprehensive Plan update process.
In our multi-faceted approach to make housing in Ossining more safe, affordable and accessible, we have already begun the legislation, funding, appointing and implementing needed to move in the direction of our goals. And there is much more to come.
We feel it is vital to implement new ways to tackle this longstanding challenge. In 2017, we engaged Kevin Dwarka Consulting to undertake a housing needs assessment, which included an in-depth analysis of data and feedback solicited from community members through a number of methods. The recommendations from this study are already beginning to be moved forward, and more will be discussed further in upcoming work sessions.
A newly re-established and expanded Landlord Tenant Relations Council is an essential part of the housing effort. We had established a Landlord Tenant Relations Council Subcommittee, which resulted in recent legislation to strengthen the ability for the LTRC to improve housing conditions for Ossining.
One of the tools to support the work of the LTRC is a new approach to inspecting rental units using an outside firm that will provide us with much-needed insight and data.
Infrastructure is at the foundation of our safety, our quality of life, and the ability for our local economy to grow.
Municipal government’s job can be as rudimentary, and essential, as paving roads. We are increasing our investment in road paving by nearly 40% more than we spent in 2017. A good chunk of paving is paid for by grant money through the CHIPS program. And a number of projects are paid for by ConEd when they have road restoration to do, as we saw this summer on Croton Avenue, and most recently on Ryder Road. The list of 2017 Village-led paving projects included Waller Avenue, Croton Street, the Waller Street Parking lot, Linden Avenue, Glen Street, Snowden Avenue, and Sherman Place.
Upgrading the 100-plus year old earthen dam at the Indian Brook Reservoir was a major infrastructure project that the Village completed this year. Safe reliable drinking water is at the heart of a healthy and thriving community. Ossining is very fortunate to have our own drinking water source. Taking good care of it is not only fiscally wise, it’s the right thing for the environment and for the people of Ossining.
Receiving awards isn’t what motivates us to accomplish infrastructure projects, but it sure is nice to be recognized for great work. This year the Village took home the New York Planning Federation’s Heissenbuttel Award for the innovative Sing Sing Kill Greenway. Transforming a sanitary sewer project into a public greenway meandering through a magnificent gorge in the heart of our downtown, rightfully caught the attention of this statewide organization.
The Village and Town of Ossining already partner to share services for almost every municipal department. Still, we strive to find better pathways for serving Ossining in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Recently I was honored to accept the Groundbreakers Award from the Pace Land Use Law Center alongside my colleague Town Supervisor, Dana Levenberg. This award was in recognition of our efforts to increase connectivity between the business, residential and cultural hubs throughout Ossining. MOGO, the Millwood-Ossining-GO cycling trail now in the planning stages, is at the forefront of this effort. Meanwhile, we continue to seek innovative transportation solutions to meet the needs of our community.
The Ossining Volunteer Fire Department continues to be a leader among departments in our region. And they are a busy department—responding to 702 calls last year. To support OFD’s ability to keep our community safe, for 2018 the Board increased funding of OFD’s budget line dedicated to recruitment and retention.
The Joseph G. Caputo Community Center serves thousands of residents of all ages. One of its most high profile upgrades since the indoor pool was installed more than a decade ago, is the new gym floor.
2018 is the year with the Village will reengage with the NYS DOT so that we can change the way that state roads divide Ossining and wreak havoc on our traffic flow. This is a process that will take years to accomplish, so the time to begin that effort is now.
Improving communication and transparency between local government and the community has been a priority for me as Mayor. We have expanded our community engagement greatly in recent years, and will continue to make strides in this area this coming year.
There was a time when the camera was turned off for the Visitor Recognition portion of the legislative sessions. We turned the cameras back on starting with my first meeting as Mayor. We are always pleased to have community members speak at public meetings. This face-to-face opportunity for people to be heard is an essential component to open government.
The Monday Mayor’s Message arrives in your inbox every week, providing insight into Village government happenings for the past week and the coming week. If you aren’t already receiving this email, just send your email address to me at email@example.com, and I’ll add you to the list.
I continue to hold Open Office Hours every Tuesday from 10am-12noon. This is a practice I began when I became Mayor three years ago. No appointment is necessary, and each week is a new fascinating and enlightening experience. The next time you are available on a Tuesday morning and have something to ask, explain or recommend about the Village, join me in the Board of Trustees office at Village Hall.
While each of the previous initiatives for community engagement are ongoing, the Weekly Walks I initiated a year ago will soon wrap up. I have nearly accomplished my goal of walking every block of the Village. Stay tuned for my reflections on that lengthy and insightful exercise, as well as the announcement for what activity I have in store next.
Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account wasn’t surprised to learn that the Ossining Police Department was honored this year with the Best of New York, Best Use of Social Media & Community Engagement Award. Community policing is core to how OPD operates, and they are the leader in social media communications among departments in our region.
The Village Management office has increased our email communications with Constant Contact. You may have seen the most recent message inviting you to go skating at the rink in Veterans Memorial Park.
One of the most effective tools we have for sharing information with the community is the Village website. And we are very excited to announce that the new Village website will launch later this month.
The final category I will highlight is the reason we are here: the people. Both the people of the community, and the people who make up Village government.
Ossining is a highly engaged community. We are delighted to have appointed new members to several boards/committees. We have a couple of applicants in the queue left to interview this month. All volunteer boards/committees are now nearly filled. The goal of Local law 9, the last one of 2017, was to strengthen the ability for these committees to optimally serve the Village with training and attendance requirements, and encourages new members to be appointed.
The Board of Ethics Subcommittee was created to adopt recommendations to improve the functionality of the BOE. We are very pleased to now have a fully constituted five-member BOE. This board serves to provide us with objective and thoughtful opinions.
One excellent example of making staffing changes that benefit the Village is hiring Stuart Kahan to become our Corporation Counsel. In just his first year with the Village, Stuart has guided us to pass a record high number of local laws, including critical steps toward proactively addressing the challenge of effective code enforcement to improve housing safety.
Debbie McDonnell joined us as Village Manager just in time to lead us through the budget process. It provided her with a powerful and tangible way to delve into how our Village government ticks. And if you watched her budget presentation in November, you see how she is able to distill tens of millions of dollars, and thousands of budget items, into an illustration of how Village government serves the people of Ossining. But it was Debbie’s extensive experience in economic and community development that led us to select her to be Ossining’s Village Manager.
In summary, the Trustees and I are thrilled to continue building on the positive changes of the past few years. Thanks to you, our diverse and engaged residents, we can do this together.