Town tackles influx of new development
There's change in the air in the town of Ossining.
New development is coming in a variety of forms that are likely to change the look and feel of the communities that lie within the town's borders.
The village of Ossining, the oldest incorporated municipality in Westchester, is coping with a wave of new development that will alter the character of the little riverside community for years to come.
Ossining once was labeled by a national newspaper as a place of "crumbling Victorian homes," but it has shed its image as a suburban backwater in recent years, with a new sense of local pride, renovation of older housing stock and a reawakened interest by developers. How it handles the new influx of development and investment has become a big issue for residents.
The loss of affordable housing is a major problem confronting local leaders and working people from Ossining, long known as one of the more affordable destinations in New York City's northern suburbs.
Rents are rising, state-funded apartment complexes offering subsidized leases are reverting back to market rates, and home prices have been climbing steadily.
In addition, development proposals are in the offing that could bring in new luxury housing. The most significant development plan would bring 150 high-end condominiums to the riverfront, a topic that has earned its share of debate and controversy through the years.
Ossining always has been a mosaic, racially and ethnically, and integrating new development into that mix will be a challenge.
The village is working to initiate a new zoning plan to preserve affordable housing and create new opportunities for businesses.
The village's best known local institution, the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, also may be coming up for renewed attention.
The town administration has been gaining allies in county and state government to implement its plan to build a visitors center and museum at a power house outside the prison's walls. Tourism promoters are hoping to market the fabled institution's nearly 200 years of history, legend and notoriety to the wider world.
The local merchant community has been particularly supportive of the concept, which promises to spin off business opportunities in town.
But others in Ossining call the concept macabre and distasteful, and a poor focal point for Ossining as it seeks to redevelop its image as an up-and-coming suburban community.
Ossining's neighbor, Briarcliff Manor, also is focused on growth and new development.
The merchant community has been seeking to restore some luster to the village's main thoroughfare, Pleasantville Road. A beautification committee is sprucing up the retail street, and merchants have come together to make it more friendly to shoppers.
The big issue for Briarcliff Manor in the years to come will be the creation of a new retirement residence for seniors at the old King's College campus. Briarcliff stands to receive $2.25 million for construction of a new library from Classic Residence by Hyatt, which is seeking approval to build 315 independent-living apartments for seniors, 27 villas and a care center with 70 units.
The community has been eager for a new library to replace its current cramped and outdated structure, which was converted from an old railroad station.
The villages of Ossining and Briarcliff, which also includes the hamlet of Scarborough, provide their residents with most municipal services.
The town government provides services to the nearly 5,000 residents who live outside of the two villages and owns and operates more than 130 acres of parkland for all residents.
Taxes for all town residents are assessed and primarily collected by the town. The unincorporated part of Ossining town consists mainly of homes and a small commercial area alongside North State Road.
How to integrate the new development as it works its way from the drawing board to the streets of Ossining and Briarcliff Manor will be "Topic A" for the foreseeable future, but it's also a sign of the area's health and desirability.

By ROBERT MARCHANT
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: October 30, 2005)
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