OSSINING, N.Y. – Ingrid Richards is fighting to bring the Village of Ossining’s economy back from the brink.
As the village’s new Downtown and Economic Development manager, Richards is a one-person department aimed at ensuring local businesses thrive and new businesses put Ossining on the top of their lists. The village board hired Richards in January using funds from Harbor Square developers Ginsburg and Cappelli allotted for downtown development. The department is the village’s youngest and Richards knows it is going to take time before major projects come to fruition.
“It’s not an overnight process but it’s an everyday process,” Richards said. “I work every day to keep in touch with our businesses to make sure they have everything they need to sustain themselves.
Richards noted the challenges of bringing in new businesses during a turbulent economic climate.
“There are some big economic challenges, especially for up and coming businesses. But that’s why we’re here,” she said. “Before we can bring in businesses, we have to make sure that the ones that are here can sustain themselves economically.”
To help businesses connect better with community members, Richards created “Live Ossining.” The web-based initiative began on Facebook as a way to promote local businesses directly to local customers in Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Cortland and surrounding areas of Westchester. Richards also started new movements to clean up downtown areas by adding new benches, recycling containers and cleaning up the sidewalks.
There are roughly 20 vacant retail spaces up for sale or lease in downtown Ossining, and Richards is working to get those spaces filled by making that list available on the Village of Ossining’s website.
“We’ve spoken to a few (independent) businesses that want to take advantage of the economically diverse population and beautiful historic area we have,” Richards said, adding that some strengths and weaknesses of Ossining depend on who you ask. “Some businesses feel like we’re closed off by the Hudson River while others think having a riverfront community is an asset. So it’s about finding who would be the best fit.”
Village of Ossining Mayor William Hanauer said the road ahead will present challenges, but he is glad the village is taking it.
“The village has suffered economically since World War II with post-industrial blight. But this could be the break that brings back that transit-oriented development,” Hanauer said. “Opening up a business in this economy is a gamble. Opening up a business in downtown Manhattan is a gamble. If she can convince one good business to open here, it will set us on a major path forward.”