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Polish the Ossining Diamond

The image of Ossining as a distant prison town is hard to dispel but it is not an impossible task because Ossining is much more than that.

Mention to someone from New York City, Long Island and elsewhere in the State that you live in Ossining and you are sure to get one or all of these responses: “Oh that’s interesting,” so, how do you like living in upstate,” and, “aren’t you worried about prison breaks.” It seems that condescending, negative and plain wrong information about the Village of Ossining abounds and is grist for the bad rumor mill. Some time ago in an effort to separate Ossining from the prison, a former resident and Village Trustee, Jodine Wang, (now deceased) suggested that the Village change its name to North Briarcliff or failing that, that the prison be called “The North Briarcliff Correctional Facility. It was a tongue in cheek remark but the protest letters from our neighboring community flooded the local papers for weeks. The image of Ossining as a distant prison town is hard to dispel but it is not an impossible task because Ossining is much more than that. It is a diamond in the rough and all that is needed for this diamond to shine is a concerted effort to make its actual but hidden treasures known.

One of the ”polish the diamond efforts “ that I am most enthusiastic about is the “Holy Ossining Tours” that former Mayor Miguel Hernandez organized with the support of the backing of the Ossining Historical Society and the Ossining Parks and Recreation Department.  I have attended several of these events and can tell you that the participants’ just love them and keep coming back.  The idea behind them is that Ossining’s “sacred spaces and peaceful places’ (aka places of worship and cemeteries) are   underappreciated architecturally and historically significant sites that enrich our lives and should be seen by everyone.   Soon we will have a self-guided tour booklet for the Downtown Historic District and Miguel is working on a very interesting companion self-guided tour project called, “Museum in the Streets.”  In addition, Dale Cemetery is in the process of being nominated for inclusion in the prestigious National Register of Historic Places

Ossining is more than a gritty prison town and the Village Board on which I serve is making a full press charge to strengthen the economic engines of historic tourism and historic preservation.   Recently we published on our website the Significant Sites and Structures Guide designed to catalogue the Village of Ossining's numerous buildings, neighborhoods, and other locations that are of architectural, cultural, and historical significance.  The Guide, the first of its kind for Ossining, was drafted by a committee consisting of members of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Historic Preservation Commission, working closely with the Ossining Historical Society...

The Guide is intended to provide a resource for those seek information on historic structures located within the Village of Ossining.  The document contains sixty-two entries, each of which focuses on a particular landmark within Ossining.  The entries have been divided among five chapters, each corresponding to an era in Ossining's History.  The guide will show property owners, architects others how to maintain, repair and design properties in the historic and other districts in an appropriate manner that is consistent with the historic character of the Village of Ossining.

Ossining still has a long way to go but it is on the right path and I hope will join in the effort to “Polish the Ossining Diamond.”

robert kraft August 31, 2011 at 06:55 PM
we have lived in ossining for 49 years!!! why has our river not followed in tarrytown ,irvington ,hasting,and EVEN PEEKSKILL .in restoring the town THE MAYOR should take a small drive to this towns and see how nice and INVITING they are !!then look out his window and see the decline in our great town .its time to WAKE UP
CJAFHH August 31, 2011 at 07:24 PM
I've lived in Ossining for under a year, and I agree with Robert, there is so much left to be done in Ossining, but I have faith. Our riverfront is woefully vacant, and some of the buildings and homes are so decrepit that I'm sure no one would want to stop in for a visit to our village. Yes Mayor Hanauer, it's time to clean up Ossining, what about nice storefronts, clean-up those areas near Sara Street, Willow...and build-up the riverfront near Water Street with some nice stores / bars, etc,. Use Irvington and Hastings as a guide, and things will pick up.
changesoon September 01, 2011 at 12:06 AM
Hopefully the winery on the corner of Main and Highland will become a reality and not another stalled project like seems to happen so often in Ossining for some reason. This would really get things rolling-all it takes is one and others quickly follow.
Vincent September 01, 2011 at 01:15 AM
I've lived in Ossining for over thirty five years and I can't believe the trash and litter on our streets. I really think that the mayor should wake up early on Saturday and take a walk on main street and see for himself what a mess it is. Trash cans over filled and tree pits full of garbage. What are our DPW workers doing?????? Are they getting paid overtime for Saturdays???? Is anyone supervising them??????? Think not! downtown is the worst it ever been, no wonder businesses can't survive. Who wants to shop in filth???Wake up mayor and take pride in Ossining it starts with you.
J Philip Faranda September 01, 2011 at 11:31 PM
@ Vincent: "Downtown is the worst it has ever been" ? Downtown Beirut? Surely you aren't referring to Ossining. We are down to 1 vacant building on Main Street after decades of decay and blight from the urban renewal debacle of the 70's and 80's. The rest is vibrant and moving upward. It is better than it has been since the 60's when Arcadian poached all the commerce and created the ghost town that was an embarrassment. Those days are long gone, thank God.
CJAFHH September 02, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Are you serious J Philip? Yes, we are referring to Ossining, take a drive down South Highland and some of the corner streets, they are broken down, and in fact a bit scary. Main Street only has one bustling place, that being Docas, and when the Farmer's market is there! Most other places in Ossining really need help. I like the library, the Boathouse, Goldfish and Karma. The Arcadian makes me feel as if I'm at a strip mall in the midwest...Main street is the perfect groundwork to build up to an idyllic charming store front block, with boutiques, an Irish pub, upscale grocer, book store, flower shop, etc.,..but no small business owner in their right mind would want to rent there because of the neighboring blocks with unsavory characters and decrepit buildings. It's simply un-inviting. Driving through with visitors I tell them to avert their eyes from that area. We pay way too much in taxes for the places on Highland to be so unsavory, and unsightly...no one wants to enter Main street because of this, we instead escape to BriarCliff, Tarrytown, and Irvington, therefore the income the town of Ossining could be getting is going elsewhere because of the garbage, unsavory characters, and broken down homes that face the main streets.
J Philip Faranda September 02, 2011 at 02:52 PM
CJAFHH: Yes. I am serious. You have lived in Ossining under a year. I have lived here most of my life. You are entitled to your opinion but not your own facts. There is no comparison to downtown of 20 years ago whatsoever. It was blighted and mostly vacant. It no longer is, and is in fact far healthier than it has been since the 1960's. The comparison to other river towns still has Ossining lacking. No one is denying that. I was addressing Vincent's claim that downtown is "the worst it has ever been," which is specious. Downtown in the 70's and 80's was vacant, crumbling and horrid. No one would use those terms to characterize it today, even if it doesn't have fancy art galleries or boutiques like wealthier communities.
robert kraft September 02, 2011 at 05:44 PM
j.philip:you real should start being honest with yourself!!! most of my life Ihave lived in ossining.DOWNTOWN has no draw, just please open your eyes its going down so fast!!we need more honest people to start voicing HONEST comments to our mayor,not this return to the 70's that is happening now J.PHILIP TIME TO WAKE UP
CJAFHH September 04, 2011 at 02:05 AM
I don't really hear of stories such as these in other parts of Westchester either: http://ossining.patch.com/articles/crack-cocaine-bust-in-ossining
changesoon September 04, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Uh yes you do.....and many are much worse. All the way from Yorktown to white plains to Dobbs ferry... http://yorktown.patch.com/articles/police-bust-nets-pot-cash-on-springhurst-st http://scarsdale.patch.com/articles/feds-charge-65-in-gang-violence-drug-distribution http://scarsdale10583.com/201106281765/today-s-news/big-bust-in-hartsdale.html http://tarrytown.patch.com/articles/100-pounds-of-marijuana-found-in-dobbs-ferry-home http://www.lohud.com/article/20110904/NEWS02/109040366/1-man-arrested-White-Plains-shooting-boy-critical-after-surgery?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CNews
CJAFHH September 04, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Are those anomalies in the other towns, or the norm as is in Ossining? In any event, I appreciate your defense of Ossining, but you must come to terms with the fact that a beautification ritual is needed post haste, and not rest on the few stores that are barely thriving. I echo Robert Kraft's sentiments, time to wake up, the more you keep your heads in the sand, the longer it will take for any true revival. And as a newbie to the town, I think I have a bit more objectivity than those of you that have lived here umpteen years. I see the town in a way that a visitor might see it, and the town needs help.
changesoon September 04, 2011 at 12:36 PM
Look I don't live in Ossining but visit frequently for restaurants, and cafes. I do work in a VERY affluent area and have to say that you don't hear these stories because a lot of money circulates to keep it hush hush- trust me I know personally- but they defiantly occur. I don't know if you're from westchester but these crimes have been happening more and more around westchester over the years. As for Ossining my eyes are open sure it's not the most modern but has improved. There has been street scaping downtown, cafes and restaurants have opened up. It's a move in the right direction. Walgreens coming to croton ave, Avalon apartments in planning stages to open on highland, it's some progress. Regarding tarrytown have you stepped a block or two away from the main street- now that's scary-you walk right into the ghetto- drugs and violence are the norm there and have been for years!
CJAFHH September 04, 2011 at 06:12 PM
@changesoon - look, I live in Ossining, albeit for a short period of time, and I'm liking less and less of what I see. Which of these cafes and restaurants have "opened up"? When I moved to the area in January, Mauro's just closed, and there was little left from which to choose, so I would love to know which of these downtown cafes and restaurants have opened up! I already know of Karma, the BoatHouse, Docas, and Goldfish...they're not new. So I'm curious to which you're referring? Also, as far as crimes that occur and the "cover up" of reporting of said crimes, how would you know that this happens, do you work in law enforcement to know this? THat is a pretty hefty charge to levy against the neighboring towns simply to prove your point that it "occurs everywhere, you just don't hear about it." Do you have special priveleges into this knowledge that the rest of us do not? At the end of the day, Ossining is woefully in need of changes, and the many excuses proferred here do not give me, a homeowner and taxpayer, the assurance that Ossining is headed in the right direction.
changesoon September 04, 2011 at 07:38 PM
Within the last 2 or so years you have Cidade Cafe on Main st that has opened (great pastries, coffee, etc,) so has Del Sol Bakery on Highland (which makes very good cakes) On main st you also have Quimbaya Cafe which has wonderful smoothies, coffees, paninis, etc. Karma opened up within the last 2 years as well as Capri and Okinawa in Arcadian. Pon di River has great Jamaican food down by the water (opened about a year ago). Look I'm not saying that downtown is fabulous-I would LOVE to see a cold stone, Cosi, other restaurants or other national chains but at least it's not completely vacant like it used to be. Mauros closed because the owner of the building (which wasn't Mauros) went bankrupt. and if you look at restaurants like Boathouse and others you mentioned, they have only opened up within the last 3-5 years or so (not Docas they've been there for a while).
J Philip Faranda September 05, 2011 at 02:20 PM
I'd encourage any reader to get a picture of downtown Ossining from the 1970's and compare it today. There is no comparison. No one is saying that it rivals Bronxville or Irvington. It's just better than it was, significantly. Even Ossining High School was covered in grafitti. Walk down Main Street today and you'll see ONE building, the old AL Meyers furniture, is vacant. The rest is occupied and in business. These very same storefronts were boarded up and crumbling 20 years ago, sometimes even 5 years ago. I live with my wife and 4 children in Chilmark. My office is in the town.I don't hide behind a screen name and hurl anonymous assertions not based in fact. I walk the talk. If you disagree, man up and state your name and some facts.
CJAFHH September 06, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Thanks for the dine-out tips @changesoon, I will check those places out. And @J Philip Faranda, yes, that is exactly it, my opinion, and I can't man up, because quite frankly, I'm a woman. I don't place my full name or face on any postings, because there are entirely too many nut jobs out there for me to take that kind of a risk. And exactly, what difference would that make to you? It's quite scary to hear someone call someone out like that over someone's opinion. These blogs aren't meant to be a call to arms, they are simply a place to express ones opinions. So your insinuation about my cowardice (don't hide behind a screen name) or possibly a need for you to have a showdown at the Ossining OK corrale (man-up) is quite puzzling. And even if I, or anyone else "hiding" behind a screen name were to show his/her picture or name his/her names and addresses on this blog, it still doesn't change my opinion that Ossining, at face value (w/out a benchmark to the days of the 70's) is in need of a major face lift. I would hope that folks who post respect each other's opinions and not resort to insults because they're not able to change someone's mind about their personal opinions. Have a great day!
J Philip Faranda September 06, 2011 at 12:17 PM
Robert: your are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. There is no comparison between the downtown today and that of yesteryear, so how can it be going "down." Please tell me what was "better" in any building beside the one remaining vacant AL Meyers storefront and what is there now. Ossining National Bank was boarded up blight and is now renovated and ready for occupancy. The rest are occupied, with the exception of Mauro's, which is simply vacant but not boarded up/crumbling.
J Philip Faranda September 06, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Call to arms? It is simply a desire for people who say inflammatory things to not hide behind anonymity. There's no need to read anything else into it, as I am quite transparent. The fact of the matter is that the downtown area is head and shoulder better than it was in the 70's through the 90's where it was literally crumbling, vacant blight. They have finally gotten over the hump and in a poor economy at that. Of course there there is room for improvement, but compared to where we were it is night and day in a good way. It would be a shame for people who live out of our area to read this and assume that downtown is not what it is, which is open for business.
Linda Cabral Marrero September 06, 2011 at 01:23 PM
I have been in Ossining for four generations!!! I have never seen it in worse shape, with so many lost opportunities, the neighborhoods are a far cry from what they use to be, the taxes are also much higher than ever before and for what??? Empty promises and higher taxes thats seems to be the hallmark of Ossining! If you knew Ossining, we had a vibrant downtown with stores and shops not anymore. We were willed the riverfront and we gave it away, instead of developing it the way the community wanted it, we were given an opportunity to have a film/theater center by the we can do it wall, and it's still a parking lot. Examples of how to better Ossining are all around us, look at the other waterfront towns, look at the Burns Center and what it has done for Pleasantville. Let's tell it like it is, I would love to see Ossining return to the great place it once was, were legal immigrants abided by the laws and we truly had a melting pot of a community!
CJAFHH September 06, 2011 at 02:54 PM
No one is questioning your transparency (your statements are very clear). I'm simply questioning your inability to respect other people's opinions with your inflammatory statements and sarcasm: man-up, talk the talk, don't hide behind a screen name, ooh passive aggressive, etc.,....all of these statements do not change my opinion that Ossining needs help. Whether it is your intention or not to create a smoke screen about other's opinions, it is simply that, my opinion...you're not going to change that with insults. If others reading this blog assume that downtown is not what it is, then so be it. They have a right and ability to check it out for themselves and form their own opinion, I'm not going to lie about what I feel or hold my tongue about the town I live in because of that, it only hinders progress. My concern is the ability to voice what I see as a town not living up to its potential, whether my voice is one of anonymity or not.
robert kraft September 06, 2011 at 03:05 PM
j ;you truly might need a seeing EYE dog the town is getting worse BE HONEST!!!YOU MUST BE RUNNING FOR OFFICE

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