Village of Ossining, New York
History on the Hudson
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of the Village of Ossining, New York for our focus on Economic Development in U.S. Communities
Sitting pretty in the Town of Ossining, New York, the Village of Ossining brings a wealth of heritage, cultural diversity, and natural beauty to Westchester County. Seventeenth-century Dutch maps show “Sint Sinck” village – “stone upon stone” – referencing the limestone beds in the southern part of the Village. The Sint Sincks sold land to Frederick Philipse in 1685, and remained part of Philipsburg Manor until the end of the Revolutionary War. “Sing Sing” hamlet became a port for sending produce to NYC in the early 1800s, and on April 2, 1813, it became the first incorporated village in the County to be state-chartered. Construction on the famous Sing Sing Prison began in 1825 and the Village name officially changed from “Sing Sing” to “Ossining” in 1901.
Today, the delightful Village is home to about 25,000 people who reside in the 3.5 square miles of this historic community on the Hudson River. Visitors, residents, and businesses, alike, tout the Village of Ossining as a mecca for shopping, recreation, education, and excellent municipal services.
Maddi Zachacz, Assistant Village Manager, has lived in Ossining most of her life. She shares, “One of the most wonderful things about living here is the diversity we experience every day. For someone like me, who is a bit of a foodie, we have so many different kinds of restaurants thanks to the various cultures who call Ossining home. Also, being a product of the school system here, where not everybody looks exactly alike, helped me acclimate to a world outside of Ossining, where that is also true.”
Village of Ossining Mayor, Rika Levin, notes, “I’m thankful and excited to be living in Ossining. My husband and I chose to start our married life here over 28 years ago, so by some standards I’m still a newbie. The Village still has the beauty and the active lifestyle that we looked for in a forever home to raise our children. It’s also a great hub for commuting. You can cross the Hudson to New Jersey for work and access other cities in Westchester for growing job opportunities in pharmaceuticals, telecom, and hospitals. We also have great access to outdoor activities, including miles of hiking and biking trails, boating, and fishing. The Hudson Valley is just a gorgeous place to live and is highly desired.”
Along with professionals, entrepreneurs, and industries, the Village is also ideal for people who are aging in place, which is a growing part of the New York population. In Ossining, they’re able to find comfortable apartments and small houses, while large single family homes are available, as well. Something for everyone. Levin notes, “Not every community in Westchester has that diversity of livability and cultures. We are a big open tent of inclusiveness which prepares us well for the future.”
Karen D’Attore, Ossining Village Manager, adds, “There are so many recreational opportunities, such as learning to sail. We’ve even run a sailing club out of the Community Center, so a sport that is sometimes identified as expensive is really accessible to all. During the summer we offer kayak and paddleboard lessons to youth and we have a myriad of nature trails.” Education-wise, the Ossining School District is a testament to how well things can be done in a very socio-economically diverse community. The school system has award-winning STEM and music programs, and increasing opportunities for children to be in dual-language classes. D’Attore adds, “The education available here is outstanding for preparing students for life both academically and socially.”
To expand its housing inventory, Ossining is working with a preferred developer on a Village-owned site adjacent to the waterfront. The property was used for 40 years as an organic waste yard and is now slated for redevelopment as a mixed income, mixed-use development that would add 109 units of rental apartments – guaranteed at various levels of affordability. “That’s a big boon to have quality, affordable housing developed,” says D’Attore. “And there is a lot of interest from smaller developers who are doing infill development and rehabilitating older homes. The Village has many grand Victorian homes that were built along the river and are well over 100 years old. All this adds up to a village that has something for everyone.”
“We have a lot of interest in Ossining because lifestyles are changing due to COVID, but also longer term because it’s a 47-minute commute on the express train to Manhattan. In our Village, you have access to the riverfront, and a lot of entrepreneurial businesses that are contributing to good places to eat, to grab a beer, have a coffee, and a wide range of interesting shops. The Board of Trustees is very committed to addressing housing needs in a smart growth way to make sure we’re balancing the needs of the community as a whole. I think we’re in a good position moving forward,” D’Attore notes.
Making prime use of the waterfront location, a ferry dock runs from the Village across the river to Haverstraw where the train station is located – another plus for commuters. The Ossining Boat and Canoe Club, also on the riverfront, is town-owned and very accessible. In addition, Westerly Marina (founded in 1959), and the Shattemuc Yacht Club (established in1858) are privately-owned, long-standing assets in the community. The Yacht Club recently did a pier extension with wave attenuators to mitigate impacts of climate change and redid their docks. All of this improves public access to the Hudson and encourages waterfront recreation.
In terms of infrastructure, the Village is going to bid on a new water treatment plant, among the largest capital projects in Village history. The facility was last remodeled in the 1980s, so it’s time for an update, especially in keeping with technology that’s needed to purify and ensure a high quality water source. The Mayor candidly admits, “Water is a big issue for municipalities in light of what we have seen transpire when elected officials do not pay attention to their water: It can create disasters. So from the political end, I am trying to get the word out that every municipality should look at where they’re getting their water from and the quality of that water. Because technology has leap-frogged in the last three decades, municipalities have to be on top of the existing infrastructure needs for a healthy future.”
On the environmental front, Ossining has always been at the forefront of environmental initiatives and justice. They have just finished planting 80 trees in two local parks as part of an Urban Forestry initiative, as well as ‘greening’ the Village fleet and buildings. But that’s just scratching the surface, as Mayor Levin explains, “Ossining is fortunate to have a deep bench of environmental advocates that make recommendations to us when they see something we could be doing better. We have our Environmental Advisory Committee, as well as Green Ossining, which operates the annual Earth Day Festival at our waterfront – the biggest of its kind in Westchester County. The 4,000 people who might come for the music and activities walk away more environmentally educated with tasks that they can take on immediately to improve the environment. Education with the best in class solutions to reduce the carbon footprint is one of the core elements of the event.”
The Village is currently working closely with Sustainable Westchester on an Energy Smart Homes project. It involves creating community campaigns to inform people who live in the Town and Village of Ossining, as well as the nearby Village of Briarcliff Manor, about what options they have for clean heating/cooling and energy efficiency. Sustainable Westchester vets contractors who do this kind of work to make sure residents can work with contractors they trust. They also worked together on a community solar initiative that helps residents conserve energy.
Community Choice Aggregation is another successful program, where Westchester County communities banded together to work with Westchester Power to offer a lower cost, all-renewable energy supply. Con Edison still does the delivery but everyone has access to 100 percent green energy at a reliable rate.
Looking to the future, Mayor Levin, says, “Post-pandemic, we think that our varying housing stock allows young people with families to come here because they’re able to buy smaller houses than you can typically buy in Westchester. They can work from home more and do the hybrid model which seems to be the next wave in the modern workplace and which we predict will be the commuting of the future. This same environment is ideal for the baby boomers and beyond. We are also working on sidewalks and bike paths to make the whole Village walkable and reachable from the waterfront up into our main corridor.”
Growing arts and cultural attractions such as the Sing Sing Prison Museum, the Westchester Collaborative Theatre, and the nearby Bethany Arts Center, along with an international array of stellar dining experiences and outdoor recreational opportunities makes the Village of Ossining a destination of choice, for the young and the “oldish” – to spend a day or a lifetime.
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AT A GLANCE
Village of Ossining, New York
What: A culturally diverse, welcoming community; population approx. 25,000
Where: On the Hudson River, Westchester County, New York
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