Following an often-contentious debate, the Village of Ossining Board of Trustees voted 3-2 Wednesday night to delay any possible decision to change the longtime village seal.
The proposed change from a Native American head to a Double Arch was spearheaded by outgoing Mayor Victoria Gearity, who was overseeing her last voting meeting as mayor.
After being showered with praise and pleasantries and given a proclamation declaring Saturday, December 19 Victoria Gearity Day in the village, Gearity was heavily criticized by mayor-elect and current Deputy Mayor Rika Levin and Trustee Robert Fritsche for leaving the majority of the board out of the process of pursuing the seal change and not adequately seeking public opinion.
“For a government official to send that out without vetting wasn’t appropriate. It wasn’t good government,” Levin remarked, referring to a survey circulated to residents on social media in late November where 77% of the 1,817 respondents favored the Double Arch.
“No one on this board asked for this to be an initiative. A choice of one is not a choice,” Levin continued. “This is not a minor deal. This is a big deal. These seals are about as permanent an item as things get.”
Fritsche, an Ossining High School graduate who noted he had deep roots to the former Indians mascot that was eliminated by the school district in 2002, said he felt “blindsided” by the seal campaign by Gearity, saying, “A choice was made and we had nothing to say about it.”
The Native American head currently associated with the village was adopted in 1950. The Double Arch seal, a version of which the Town of Ossining utilizes, was designed by Ossining High School graduate Daniel Aviles, who was one of a handful of residents who urged the board Wednesday night to support the Double Arch, the only one of its kind in New York State.
The Double Arch seal is already being used in correspondence and communications from the Parks and Recreation, Police and Fire departments and was used during village’s bicentennial and in the Master Plan.
A clearly perturbed Gearity stressed the recent decision by the Cleveland Indians baseball team to change its name was another indication the Native American symbol was no longer accepted in society.
“Leaders advocate for what they believe is in the best interest of the community. Now is the moment for this update. Public opinion overwhelmingly supports this design,” Gearity argued. “The iconic Double Arch is the symbol of Ossining that we turn to again and again. To me the path forward is clear. Eventually our leaders need to demonstrate leadership.”
Trustee Omar Lopez was the lone board member to side with Gearity, saying, “I think in this case we did a pretty good job getting the temperature in the room. There’s a pretty good sentiment to want to change it.”
However, Trustee Manuel Quezada, who conceded he liked the Double Arch seal, said he was “troubled” by the process and made the successful motion to table discussion on the seal to the first work session in January.
“It is a big change. It has to represent Ossining for many years,” he said. “I would like to hear the feedback of the public. We’ll put a time frame on this.”