Elect Candidates Who Reflect Your Values

I would like to join with my fellow members of the Town of Ossining Democratic Committee and Chairwoman Thomasina Laidley-Brown in denouncing the offensive tweets made by Working Families Party trustee candidate David Kezafrika.

Our community is one of hope, diversity, aspirations and families. We are a village that works together and is stronger because of our diversity. Comments that disparage women and those of different races have no place in Ossining Village government.

I will continue to focus on Ossining’s strengths, and engage all of our community in planning an even brighter future together. I am proud to stand on my record of leading a progressive government that is inclusive, fiscally responsible, and supportive of local businesses.

Let’s Plan Ossining’s Future Together

Engaging with all community partners is essential in planning Ossining’s future. Small businesses are thriving for local entrepreneurs. That’s great for all of Ossining. Now it’s time to make big decisions about what kind of development we will welcome in the coming years so that we have intelligent growth that benefits our whole community. That process demands candid in-depth engagement with residents and public institutions, especially the School District.

New housing moratoriums haven’t always worked around the county, state and nation, and no matter how loud proponents are, we need to research and decide what model of growth works best here. Investment in Ossining is something we have embraced, and, with proper parameters we want to continue to attract new people and businesses to settle in our beautiful and historic village.

Ossining LandscapeConcerned parents leading the group Ossining for Fair Funding, delved into data provided by the school demographer, the Town Tax Assessor, as well as information about residential housing available through the freedom of information act. Their findings demonstrate that the increasing school population reflects several factors—and we all have a role to play in the solution. I applaud this community group, and would welcome a public conversation of their findings.

We all need to do our part to ensure that students who live in our community are able to access a terrific education—now and for years to come.

To address our crowded schools, the Village has a role to play with proactive code enforcement and smart planning. The School District and neighboring local governments have critical roles to play in addressing this challenge as well. We all must work together for the greater good.

We need to find the right balance. Together we will continue to support our thriving community, maintain a sustainable population in our dense village, encourage development that includes mixed use as well as mixed income levels, and reflect the unique character of Ossining.

This budget season, the Village will determine how we can dedicate more resources to code enforcement.

This week we had our first public meeting with the new Village Planner Tracey Corbitt. It was a productive start to a process we anticipated embarking on ten months ago. Last year we put a quarter million dollars in the budget to help us update the Comprehensive Plan. Many of us are frustrated that priorities shifted in the new year, and derailed any comprehensive planning efforts. Now is the time to refocus on comprehensive planning. That starts with a community conversation to clarify our vision. Who does Ossining want to be in the next 5, 10 or 20 years?

Advocating for Drivers Licenses for All

I am actively involved in the Greenlight NY initiative advocating for all NY drivers to become eligible to be licensed and insured—regardless of documentation status. Leaders in law enforcement agree, ensuring that all drivers know the rules of the road and have insurance, is better for everyone’s safety.

Last week I spoke about this effort in a televised roundtable. In this segment I express why it is important for local governments to send a powerful message to Albany that the people of our communities would benefit from this legislation.

The Local Live Roundtable

During this next segment I point out that New York would not be blazing any trails by passing this legislation. There are already a dozen states that provide drivers licenses regardless of documentation status.

The day after recording this show, I had an opportunity to speak with Governor Cuomo and I asked him whether he would sign the legislation if it is passed by the Assembly and the Senate. He said he would, though it must be a law, not an executive order. In this segment we discuss a bit of the political landscape and how this proposed legislation is being used as a divisive issue in some NY Senate races. Our conversation goes on to remind folks of the importance of voting.

I am proud to stand with Croton, Greenburgh, Irvington, Mamaroneck Village and Town, Ossining Town, Peekskill, Port Chester, and Yonkers in having taken this first step in sending a clear message to Albany that, for the sake of our communities, they must pass this legislation. I will continue to reach out to fellow chief elected officials across Westchester so that we can grow this list.

We often feel removed from decisions about immigration policies coming from the White House. Fighting for residents to have access to drivers license, regardless of documentation status, is something a tangible that can make a difference in the lives of Ossining residents.


9/11 Remembrance Remarks

Thank you to the Firefighters who bring us together every year for this ceremony. Ossining is a community that deeply appreciates the service of our first responders. We rest easier safe in the knowledge that you all stand ready to protect us.

By bringing us together for this remembrance each year, you not only keep alive the memories of that tragic day 17 years ago, you nourish this community by reminding us of the universal story we all share.

9.11 CeremonyWe are like communities all across America today who gather to share and listen. Most of us today were alive in 2001, and we recall our own stories. When we come together we listen to each other, and with each story we hear, we deepen our connections to each other.

While each personal story of that day is unique, it most always is also a story with the same theme about the unifying spirit that shined so brilliantly in the wake of the towers falling.

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit three houses of worship—Episcopalian, Baptist, and Quaker. While these all share a common scripture, they have their own vocabulary for expressing the foundation of every religion and every culture. Whether you are Christian or Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist or Agnostic—you have a way of expressing the same universal thing that we all share.

Whether you call it the light within, the Holy Spirit, God, Christ, Allah, inner wisdom, life-force, the word, or simply humanity, you know that it shines most brightly when we face the greatest evil. And thank God it does. Because, we need those personal stories to be about more than the agonizing loss, the violence, the fury.

There’s a song that’s been stuck in my head since I attended the musical program at Trinity Church on Saturday afternoon. So I will close with a verse from the wise spiritual leader, Bette Midler:

From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope
Playing songs of peace
They are the songs of every man


A Brilliant Future

On Wednesday I voted against ETPA. The intentions of this program are good for Ossining—keeping the village affordable and protecting tenants. Unfortunately, in practice, ETPA has too many unintended consequences that will be detrimental for the majority of Ossining residents—homeowners, small businesses and tenants alike. It also undermines the progress we’ve been making on upgrading substandard housing—which is one of our greatest housing challenges. Unfortunately, three trustees on the Board saw things differently.

The best thing I can say about the ETPA vote is that at least now we can direct Village time and resources to important initiatives like reopening the Comprehensive Plan to envision the community we hope to be for the next decade and beyond. ETPA has demanded a lot of bandwidth this year, and I’m eager to focus our efforts on initiatives that are forward-thinking, and driven by and for Ossining.

ETPA is only one policy. If we have learned anything with our recent focus on housing, we know there are a lot of strategies for improving our local economy, keeping taxes low, and providing safe affordable housing. With the right leadership, Ossining has a brilliant future.

Our village is in a better position than we have been for many years. Under my Blurry Mainleadership, we are experiencing thriving new businesses and progressive policies, while holding the line on taxes. The next step for Ossining is smart mixed-income development that feeds our local economy and balances the needs of our crowded schools.

Like any important decision, I thoroughly researched the pros and cons of ETPA, and the impact it would have on our whole community. It is unfortunate that ETPA supporters often resorted to simplified rhetoric suggesting that if you support ETPA you care about tenants, and if you don’t support this policy, you don’t care about tenants. Understanding the comprehensive implications of tax assessment and heavily bureaucracy-laden state programs demands more than politically charged sound bites. I fought hard for the position I believed in. The votes were cast. We’ll see if there are legal challenges or implementation hiccups, but that’s unlikely. Now it’s time to look ahead.

The debate about ETPA has energized our community. I encourage voters to direct that energy to the voting booth on September 13 for the Democratic Primary Election. Primary elections in an off-year have notoriously low turnout. Off-year General Elections fair only marginally better. Perhaps this year can be different. Elections have consequences. I ask Ossining residents to get out and vote, and I hope you vote for me.

Responsible Governing in Planning the Village’s Future

It’s time to open up the Comprehensive Plan. That’s a collaborative process involving the whole community—residents, volunteer members of boards and committees, and our partners in the Schools and Town government. It means learning from experts in our community and our region. Now is the time for Ossining to work together to determine the blueprint for the next decade and beyond. Advocating for a short-sighted strategy that pits one group against another, is divisive.

During election season it may be tempting to make political statements to pander to a particular group of voters. But regardless of campaign rhetoric, as elected officials, we must exhibit the maturity needed to act responsibly on behalf of the people we serve.

“Moratorium” is a dramatic term that elicits strong reactions. To prospective developers, it can send a clear message that they should look to invest elsewhere. To residents concerned about school funding, it may be perceived as a welcome solution to overcrowded classrooms.

A municipality’s ability to temporarily suspend a property owner’s right to build or obtain development approvals is understandably limited. In reality, it is one strategy that may be beneficial as part of a well-conceived approach to planning and zoning updates.

Zoning MapIronically, in recent years, the Town of Ossining did implement a moratorium. Yet since that ended, Town developments have moved forward that have drawn significant concern from local residents particularly regarding the additional burden on our school district. Most folks aren’t aware of whether a given development is happening in the Village, or across an invisible border in the Unincorporated Town of Ossining.

My opponent’s claim that we “seem to be moving forward at a reckless pace to approve new projects” is either intended to perpetuate misinformation, or demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the Village planning approval process. There are a number of proposals in various stages of the planning process, and most of them have been in the pipeline for years. In fact, if you ask most commercial or residential investors about their experience, they are likely to site frustration over delays and bureaucracy. A number of these delays are unavoidable and essential parts of the process to protect the community.

The statement that surprised me most from my opponent was this thinly veiled reference to a potential zoning text amendment that could open the door to a proposal for a development known as Snowden Woods, “we risk spoiling not only one of the largest undeveloped natural landscapes on the Eastern shore of the Hudson River, but we also risk adding further stress to our already over-burdened school system.” There is only one large plot of land in the Village that fits this description.

If my opponent were merely a resident, this would be a perfectly fine, if somewhat inaccurate, opinion to express. However, as a member of the Village Board, he will be called upon to determine whether or not to approve a zoning text amendment that will directly impact this plot of land. My opponent taking a public position on a SEQRA matter that the Village Board will be required to vote on is, at best, political gamesmanship, and, at worst, undermining the integrity of the legal process.

Unlike large developments that we have seen proposed in nearby communities where officials have decided to skip over the environmental review process, in Ossining we go by the book to ensure we are making well informed decisions. On a parallel path, I have advocated for the Village Environmental Advisory Council to undertake an Open Space Inventory which will provide the Trustees and me with a clearer picture of the role that this area of land plays in our Village-wide landscape.

Being mayor is a job that requires dedication to learning about Village government, a commitment to honesty and accuracy, and the maturity to exhibit a level of restraint in casually expressing opinions of ongoing legal matters.

48 Hours of Reasons to Love Ossining

Last week began with some shocking incidents. But it was the people of our community that were the most remarkable. I wrote down some of my thoughts…

What a harrowing start to our week! But it wasn’t an oil spill or a wall collapse that tells the story of this community. Now that the immediate concerns have been contained, stabilized, and secured, I want to take a moment to highlight some of the positive things about the past 48 hours.

At the top of the list of things to be grateful for‑‑there were no injuries resulting from either of these incidents.

One thing that cannot be said often enough is what an amazing team of professionals and volunteers we have serving this Village. Thank you to the Ossining Police Department, Fire Department, Public Works, Engineering and Building Department. Your dedication to our community may go unnoticed on an ordinary day. Monday was no ordinary day. You are an extraordinary team that works incredibly well together to keep us safe. You kept the us all pointed in the right direction while the oil was contained, and later while the wall was assessed and stabilized. Thank you.

During the oil containment the regulatory agency, the DEC, was on-site. According to initial reports, it appears that the swift action to contain the spill prevented contamination of our storm water system. Thank you to all the Village departments who stepped in to make that happen. The Village team had support. Anyone on social media was moved by the photo of a man named Herman who saw what was happening and jumped in with rags to stem the oil. A person’s character shines through during a critical situation. Thank you Herman for your actions to help protect our community and our environment. Thank you also to Jim Drohan for sharing the inspiring image of the Herman at work absorbing oil on Main Street.

wall collapseThe unusually exciting day in Ossining drew the attention of officials beyond the Village. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and County Executive Latimer for both reaching out to ensure the wall collapse was able to be secured. It’s reassuring to know that before we even ask, these higher levels of government were ready to support a local municipality. In this case, the wall was on private property. Village officials, staff, first-responders, and engineers have been on-site to understand the conditions of the properties, and to facilitate communication between the owners of 60 Main Street and 80 Main Street. The property owners’ insurance companies and attorneys are coordinating next steps for stabilizing the wall. This afternoon’s reopening of Main Street was possible once the Village was satisfied by the stabilization plan presented by the property owner.

More good news is that no families were permanently displaced by either incident. On Monday night, in an abundance of caution, three families near the location of the wall collapse were evacuated from their homes. The Red Cross was on-site and assisted with some of the arrangements. All families will be back in their homes tonight. The new construction at 80 Main Street, the property above the wall, had received a partial certificate of occupancy, and the first tenant had moved in her boxes. Since she hadn’t yet unpacked, she’s able to adopt a wait-and-see approach to settling in.

I was not in town when all this transpired, so I’d like to offer special thanks to everyone who kept me informed of what was happening as events unfolded and stepped up in my absence. Thank you Deputy Mayor Codman for being on-site Monday night. Thank you to Chief Sylvester who not only kept me informed by phone, but also for his up-to-the-minute social media communication that helped folks get around with minimal frustration.

And final kudos to the Ossining community. You tuned in to Nixle, Facebook or Twitter to get information on alternate routes, and adjusted to temporary redirection with minimal delay. If you’d like to do one more thing to help with the aftermath of the Monday we’ll never forget, support a local business. With all the disruption, downtown businesses saw fewer customers. So, this week is a great time to go out for lunch or dinner, pick up a children’s toy or a ceramic vase, get your hair done or buy an egg sandwich, sip a coffee lemonade (my personal summer fave)—you can even buy a new kitchen sink.

Everyday serving this Village is an adventure. From great challenges comes ever greater appreciation for this community we love.

I am your mayor. Soy su alcalde.

At last week’s Village Board meeting I read the following statement. Click here to view the public statement.IMG_6484

In recent days, the immigration enforcement tactics happening at our southern border have shocked and appalled many of us, myself included. I am the mother of two young sons, and the thought of having them ripped away from my arms, perhaps never to see them again, is almost too much to bear.

We have heard statements expressing horror and shame from every living former First Lady, regardless of political party. We have heard from governors across the country, and across party lines, that are refusing to send National Guard troops to the border, and in some cases, recalling National Guard troops back to their home state. These governors want no part of the inhumane border practices, and what Congressman Elijah Cummings calls “Child Internment Camps.”

In a village like Ossining, where immigrants play such a large and vital role, these accounts are especially troubling. The Village Board has done its best to counter the federal administration’s anti-immigration sentiment. A year ago, in the wake of fears felt deeply in our community in response to new immigration enforcement practices and divisive rhetoric, we passed a resolution affirming our values as an inclusive and welcoming community. That Village resolution was translated into Spanish, and is hanging in a frame in the Ossining Public Library.

Last year the Village Board also passed a resolution encouraging state legislators to allow all New York drivers, regardless of immigration status, to be licensed. New York State would not blaze any trails—11 states plus Washington DC already have this ability. You may have seen that Peekskill recently passed a similar resolution of support. You will be hearing more about a renewed effort to get Governor Cuomo to publicly support this legislation, and for the New York State Senate to bring it to a vote. The Assembly is ready to make it happen. I am working with activists who are leading this effort, and I’m optimistic that it may become a reality in the not too distant future. I was grateful to Chief Sylvester for his thoughtful consideration of the impact this legislation this would have on his department’s work in Ossining. He provided helpful insights into how allowing New York State residents to be licensed, regardless of immigration status, would actually benefit local law enforcement.

In recent days, we have been reminded of past human atrocities, both in this country and abroad. So the question for us now is, what will our legacy be? Will we allow children to be kept in cages and torn from the arms of their parents? Will we tolerate our president referring to immigrants as an infestation? Or will we demand better of our country? Will future generations view our flag as a symbol of hope and opportunity, or one of hatred and atrocity?

I am reminded of a conversation I had a couple of years ago with an Ossining resident. We were discussing the complex challenges of code enforcement, and how that can result in the most vulnerable folks in our community being displaced from their homes. Often these are undocumented residents who have fewer housing options, and may be afraid to demand safer conditions from their landlord. In an act of willful ignorance or profound blindness of privilege, he asked me, “Are those really the people you represent?”

So let me state very clearly, I am a mayor that serves every person who lives in this Village. If you are a Village resident and you vote, yes, I am your mayor. If you are a Village resident and you are eligible to vote, but do not, I am still your mayor. And I ask you to please register and vote. If are a resident of the Village of Ossining and you are under the age of 18, I am also your mayor. If you live in the Village, and you are a documented resident who is not a US citizen, or perhaps not yet a citizen, I am your mayor. And if you live in the Village of Ossining and you are an undocumented resident, I am also your mayor. All of us who are elected to serve on the Village Board have an obligation and a responsibility to serve the needs and the interests of every person who lives of our Village.

I am grateful to work with so many leaders, volunteers, activists, and public servants who seek to support families that are contributing admirably to the success of Ossining. We are a nation of immigrants. We are a village of immigrants. We are a community that cares for our neighbors and serves a vision for America that is born out of hope and opportunity. All that said, right now, I might settle for some simple human decency.

En estos días, las tácticas de inmigración en nuestra frontera han horrorizado e impactado a muchos, incluyéndome a mí. Soy la madre de dos niños jóvenes, y el pensamiento que me los arranquen de los brazos, para tal vez nunca volver a verlos, es casi inaguantable.

Hemos escuchado declaraciones de horror y pena de todas las Primeras Damas vivientes, sin importar su partido político. Hemos escuchado de gobernadores de todo el país, y todo partido, que se rehúsan a mandar a la Guardia Nacional a la frontera, y en algunos casos, hasta han retirado a varias tropas de regreso a su estado.  Estos gobernadores no quieren formar parte de las practicas inhumanas de la frontera, prácticas que el Congresista Elijah Cummings ha llamado “Campos de Internamiento de Niños”. 

En un pueblo como Ossining, donde los inmigrantes forman una parte vital de la comunidad, las atrocidades de la frontera se sienten profundamente. Pero la Junta de la Villa ha hecho todo lo posible para contrarrestar el sentimiento anti-inmigrante de la administración federal. Hace un año, cuando había nuevos temores en nuestra comunidad causados por nuevas prácticas de inmigración y una retórica divisiva, pasamos una resolución afirmando nuestros valores como una comunidad inclusiva y acogedora. La resolución fue traducida al español, y está colgada y enmarcada en la Biblioteca Pública de Ossining.

El año pasado la Junta también paso una resolución alentando a los legisladores del estado de Nueva York a permitir que todos los conductores del estado, sin importar su estatus migratorio, tengan permiso a tener licencias. Esto no sería algo nuevo, ya hay 11 estados, así como Washington DC, que han permitido esto. Tal vez se dieron cuenta que hace poco, Peekskill paso una resolución similar. Pronto escucharan sobre nuevos esfuerzos pidiendo que el Gobernador Cuomo públicamente apoye esta legislación, y que la Asamblea del Estado de Nueva York vote en ella.  La Asamblea esta lista para que esto ocurra. Estoy trabajando con activistas liderando este esfuerzo, y soy optimista que se hará realidad en un futuro cercano. Doy gracias al Chief Sylvester por su consideración sobre el impacto que esta legislación tendría en el trabajo de su departamento en Ossining. Él nos brindó mucha ayuda sobre como permitir que residentes del estado de Nueva York tengan licencias, sin importar su estatus migratorio, beneficiaria a departamentos de policía locales.

En estos días nos hemos recordado de atrocidades humanas del pasado, en este país o globalmente. Asi que ahora nuestra pregunta es, cual será nuestro legado? ¿Permitiremos que niños sean enjaulados y arrancados de los brazos de sus padres? ¿Toleraremos que nuestro presidente se refiera a los inmigrantes como una infestación? ¿O demandaremos más de nuestro país? ¿Generaciones futuras verán nuestra bandera como un símbolo de esperanza y oportunidad, o una de odio y atrocidad?

Recuerdo una conversación que tuve hace unos años con un residente de Ossining. Estábamos discutiendo el difícil reto de la aplicación del Código de construcción y como eso puede resultar en el desplazamiento de algunos de las personas más vulnerables de nuestra comunidad. A menudo, estos pueden ser residentes indocumentados que no tienen muchas opciones de donde vivir y pueden tener temor de demandar condiciones más seguras de los dueños de sus viviendas. En un momento de ignorancia o de ceguera por su privilegio el me pregunto, ¿“Son en realidad esas las personas que usted representa?”

Permítanme decir claramente, soy un alcalde que sirve a toda persona que vive en este pueblo. Si usted es un residente de la villa de Ossining y vota, sí, soy su alcalde. Si usted es un residente de la villa y puede votar, pero no lo hace, aun así, soy su alcalde. Y le pido que por favor se registre para poder votar. Si es un residente de la Villa de Ossining y tiene menos de 18 años, también soy su alcalde. Si usted vive en la villa y es un residente documentado que no es ciudadano, yo soy su alcalde. Y si usted vive en la villa y es un residente indocumentado, también soy su alcalde. Todos los que somos elegidos para servir en la Junta de la Villa de Ossining tenemos una obligación y una responsabilidad de servir a todas las necesidades y los intereses de toda persona que vive aquí.

Estoy agradecida de trabajar con tantos líderes, voluntarios, activistas, y funcionarios públicos que buscan apoyar a familias que contribuyen admirablemente hacia el éxito de Ossining. Somos una nación de inmigrantes. Somos un pueblo de inmigrantes. Somos una comunidad que se preocupa por nuestros vecinos y cree en la visión que este país nació de la esperanza y la oportunidad. Todo esto dicho, en este momento, me conformaría con un poco de decencia humana.

A Welcoming Village

img_6486As thousands in the LGBTQ community prepare for Pride celebrations across the country, I’ll take a moment to reflect on what it means for a municipality to be welcoming and inclusive. On June 20, I proposed that the Village of Ossining become the first municipality in NYS to establish a Gender Neutral Signage Policy for restrooms. Village Corporation Counsel is drafting a resolution for us to vote on that will formalize the policy at an upcoming Village Board meeting.

For me, this is an example of when you know better, you do better. Gender neutral bathrooms came up as a topic during a recent Ossining Documentary & Discussion Series program. Panelists shared experiences of having to wait all day to find a bathroom option that welcomed them. I learned then that Ossining High School has committed to installing a gender neutral bathroom in their facility, and I realized that perhaps there is a role for Village government to play in improving the lives of transgender and gender neutral people.

We are identifying locations at Village facilities where we currently have single person bathrooms–typically these are either ADA or family bathrooms. The first signage to be updated will be in the lobby of Village Hall. As we upgrade municipal facilities going forward, when it is feasible to incorporate single person bathrooms, the gender neutral signage will be installed there as well.

This is a simple policy that sends a strong message to the LGBTQ community–all are welcome in Ossining.

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