Even if you're a resident of the Village of Briarcliff Manor, figuring out which town you fall under—Mount Pleasant or Ossining—and where your kids will go to school can be is a dizzying puzzle for old timers and newcomers alike.
Case in point—as broken down with help from former Village of Ossining Mayor Miguel Hernandez, who is also a historian/preservationist (though he may not want to preserve all this):
The Town of Ossining contains the villages of Ossining and Briarcliff Manor as well as the unincorporated area called the “ Town Outside.”
- The Village of Briarcliff Manor in turn is divided between the Town of Ossining and the Town of Mount Pleasant.
- Then there are the U.S. post office districts such as the one in Ossining that extends into the western edge of New Castle.
- The Maryknoll Missions have their own postal district. There are two within the Village of Briarcliff Manor—one in the village proper and another in the “Hamlet” of Scarborough.
- The Ossining School District boundaries extend beyond Ossining into parts of New Castle and include some Briarcliff Manor residents.
You could be in a condo unit and live in Ossining Town (under the jurisdiction of Westchester County police) while the condo unit next to you lies in Ossining Village (Village police).
Westchester County's police spokesperson Kieran O'Leary said he lived in Croton after being a reporter in Connecticut and found himself startled the first time he tried to go to the wrong library. In Connecticut, he recalls with nostalgia the simplicity and clarity of one town/one school district/one fire department.
"Everything in my life had a different name,” O’Leary, now a Croton resident, said. “It’s a pretty wacky system.”
Now, working with the county police and overseeing information coming out of the Town of Ossining, he's getting used to the weird mapping that goes on there as well, when sometimes people don't know who to call for help in times of emergency.
When it comes down to it, O’Leary said emergency responders don't get territorial, but will just go and help.
Hernandez has heard other “apocryphal” stories, however. “There have been instances of border accidents and deaths where it takes a while to figure out which jurisdiction has to investigate and do the paperwork,” he said. “There have been apocryphal stories about bodies being found straddling town borders and it is alleged that the responding police officer moved the body into the neighboring jurisdiction so as to avoid the paperwork.”
How did all this mess come to be? Hernandez says no one really remembers but it likely dates back to colonial times when the Dutch and then English settlers starting acquiring territory from the Native Americans. Then, “in the wake of the American Revolution lands that once belong to English Loyalists were then confiscated and turned over to Patriots, many of them who served in the American Army and Militia and received these lands as bounties in lieu of payment for their services. In sum, the boundaries have tangled historical precedents.”
While Hernandez agrees these jurisdictional boundaries are “very, very confusing,” he doesn’t see any fixes in the near (or far) future. “I rather doubt that thee will ever be a political merger of these jurisdictions,” he said. “At most there may be a consolidation of services on a case by case basis. Aside from the fact that there is a duplication/triplication of services in some instances.”
And to make matters slightly more complicated for Town Outside and Briarcliff Manor residents, there have been discussions in recent years of the Village annexing two of the unincorporated town's election districts.
Does all this confusion and duplication impact or annoy you? Did it influence why you chose your home? Share in the comments.