I am sick and tired of hearing about COVID, talking about COVID and worrying about COVID. I am tired of, and annoyed by, wearing a mask. I miss seeing family beyond my immediate family who live in my house. I miss seeing my friends, visiting with them, laughing with them at restaurants, at parties or just serendipitously on a Tuesday afternoon. I feel terribly for our great local restaurants as well as small businesses everywhere that have been so materially impacted, many to the point of never reopening, by this awful pandemic. The shorter daylight hours and the holiday season make all these issues seem magnified and, somedays, almost unbearable.
Despite everything I mentioned in my opening paragraph, there has never been a more important time to follow policies based on facts and science like wearing a mask in public, staying socially distanced and, frankly, using common sense. The days and weeks ahead are expected to be the worst of the pandemic, but we know so much more than we did in the terrible days of March and April. We must use this knowledge and associated protocols to eradicate the virus as much as possible.
When I get deep into my COVID funk, I keep reminding myself that better days are coming. With the great vaccine news that only seems to get better each day, there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. I firmly believe that by the time we get to the longest day of the year (daylight-wise) in June, those of us who want to be vaccinated will be vaccinated. Until those sunny, warm days of summer, I ask that all of you continue to be smart, cautious, and diligent. So, join me in continuing to wear your mask even when it is annoying, saying no to large gatherings (especially indoors) even though we want to get together with friends and loved ones. This holiday season will be different from anything we have experienced before, but if we all do the smart things now, we can all still be here, healthy and smiling, at the fireworks reflecting on the Hudson River this coming July 4th.
No Holiday Happening – Shop Local
As you probably guessed, due to the pandemic, we are unable to organize our traditional Holiday Happening event. For years, we’ve worked with the merchants and other community groups to give people a great reason to stop by our downtown. With a limit on gathering sizes and our desire to keep people from congregating, it just didn’t make sense to run any events this year.
And yet, the cancelation of the Holiday Happening event gives you one more reason to shop locally this year. As I mentioned above, many of our merchants and restaurants have struggled to survive. What better way to show your support than to do your holiday shopping right here in town? If you are not comfortable dining in a restaurant, even with reduced capacity, or going into a store, call the store to discuss contactless shopping options or consider buying a gift card. Consider it a down payment on a great experience when we return to normal.
Christmas Tree and Menorah Lightings
Speaking of the Holiday Happening, two of my favorite things to do as Mayor are to light the Christmas Tree in front of Village Hall and the large Menorah in front of the Fire House. While we are still working on details, I still hope we can keep these traditions alive, but we will likely have to film it and post it online. Although it is not perfect, even the folks at Rockefeller Center made their lighting event virtual!
You will notice that the Main Street area has been transformed to a festive holiday destination. This does not happen magically; It takes the work of many people. I would like to thank the Beautification Committee, the Garden Club, the Recreation and Parks Department staff, the Department of Public Works staff and Morabito Electric for their tremendous work on this project.
Police Policy Review Committee
At our next regular meeting on December 7, 2020, the Board of Trustees and I will be appointing a group of volunteers to the Irvington Police Policy Review Committee. While we had already committed to this review ourselves, the Committee’s work will also satisfy Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 203, requiring each local government in the State to adopt a policing reform plan by April 1, 2021. Details about the Executive Order along with the guidance issued to public officials and citizens can be found here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-guidance-police-reform-collaborative-reinvent-and-modernize
The initial meeting of the Police Policy Review Committee is scheduled for December 9, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. and will be held virtually. Viewing instructions will be posted to the Village’s web site and will be streamed live and archived on the Village’s YouTube Channel: youtube.com/irvingtonny
I am looking forward to working with our great police department and dedicated volunteers on this important project.
Also at the December 7 meeting, there will be a swearing in of the newly elected or appointed Village officials. This year’s group of dedicated public servants includes my colleagues and Trustees Larry Lonky and Mark Gilliland, Village Justice Desmond Lyons, and Associate Village Justice Mitchell Baker. It will be a virtual swearing in, so like everything in 2020, it should be interesting.
Lastly, I wanted to clarify where we are in the process of opening Matthiessen Park. At our last work session, the Board of Trustees and I unanimously expressed our desire to explore the possibility of opening up Matthiessen Park to everyone. In the coming weeks, we are going to be doing research that will include looking at other similar, nearby parks and explore what issues other municipalities encounter and see how they mitigate those issues. When we have this information, we will meet with the Recreation and Parks Commission and Recreation Department staff to see if we have similar issues and if there are ways to address issues raised. We will also reach out to the Police Department, the Fire Department, and the Irvington Volunteer Ambulance Corps to understand if they have any concerns or ideas. Then, we can come up with an estimated budget impact and make an informed decision. So, while the Board of Trustees is anxious to explore this important policy change, we still have a fair amount of work to do. I will note that we do not expect Matthiessen Park to reopen from its recent construction until mid-Spring and we hope to have this process completed by then.
Be well and mask up,
Brian C. Smith, Mayor
Village of Irvington, NY