This weekend a group of protesters marched to my family’s home. Before I delve into the proactive and comprehensive approach that this Village Board is taking to improve housing for Ossining, I must address the disturbing decision by this group to cross the line and violate my family space.
LoHud published one perspective of the Saturday event. The “journalist” did not reach out to me for comment, but I will share with you what I said to the CVH representatives that spoke with me at my front steps:
“By coming here today, to my home, my husband’s home, my children’s home, your attempts to bully, harass, and intimidate me have crossed a line. I wish you had not come. I will not discuss public policy in this forum. I wish you would leave my family alone.”
Then I left and took my son to soccer practice. On the drive to the field he said, “Mom, I know one of those kids. Can I still be friends with him?” The conversation that followed was difficult. My sons are more keenly aware than most kids of the value of taking public action to further something you believe is important. Having the judgement to know where to draw the line, is beyond what an 8-year-old can fully grasp. But we adults who live in a close knit community, should be able to recognize that line. A family’s space should not be violated as it was this weekend.
Serving as Mayor of Ossining is a great privilege that I take seriously and devote many hours of each day to performing to the best of my ability. However, when I am home with my family, I am a mother and a wife. And the home I live in belongs to my husband and sons as much as me. I make myself available to the public 24/7 by email. I hold Open Office Hours at Village Hall every Tuesday 10am-12pm. And the public is invited to speak at our legislative sessions on the first and third Wednesday every month. It is my fervent hope that this is the last time any politically motivated organization marches on the private home of a local Ossining official.
With regards to concerns related to affordable housing in Ossining, painting me and this Board as an obstacle to progressive housing policies is misguided. It is unfortunate that the leaders of the regional organization Community Voices Heard have dug in on a position regarding one narrow tool toward a goal we all share. A comprehensive approach to safe, fair and affordable housing in Ossining is a high priority for this Board. We have included money in the 2017 budget that is intended to be put toward a housing needs assessment–a critical tool in making informed decisions about housing, comp plan updates, and zoning code changes.
The Village is excited to have tenant advocate Geoff Smith on board as special legal counsel to help us craft local programs to expand affordable housing and tenant protections. We began discussions with Geoff weeks ago, and it took some back and forth to finalize his contract. We formally engaged him as special counsel late last week. Geoff is reaching out to stakeholders as he explores the potential for a creative approach to expanding the accessibility of affordable housing for the people of our community who need it most.
He is also working with the BOT subcommittee (Rika Levin and Quantel Bazemore) to assist them with their task of strengthening the Village’s Landlord Tenant Relations Council. This includes bringing forward legislative opportunities to provide greater tenant protections that can be enacted at a local level. Improvements we make on this front will benefit all tenants in the Village, regardless of whether they live in an ETPA eligible building.
This Village Board has dedicated significant time and resources toward improving affordable housing opportunities in Ossining. This multi-faceted approach to implement targeted programs at a local level is nuanced. CVH is a regional organization that has chosen the blunt political approach of staking out a position on ETPA, a NYS rent stabilization program that CVH organizers are familiar with.
Unfortunately, the bullying tactics of CVH serve only to undermine the hard work that is already underway by the Village. I certainly hope this is the last time a group of protesters crosses the line into family space. Serving in elected office is an honor, but there must be some boundaries respected for the families of public officials.