Jul 30, 2014

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.

Polish the Ossining Diamond

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.”

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