In June, New York protestors told NBC News that they were fighting two pandemics: the coronavirus and racism. During these difficult times, New Castle residents have banded together to stay #CommunityStrong.
At the foot of the Quaker Road Bridge, there have been local peaceful protests and “parades” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 13, over 100 people committed to sparking change in New Castle attended “A Rally for Change-Stand Up Against Racial Injustice,” an event held by New Castle Against Racism, a group of Horace Greeley students and alumni.
Members of the community created several Facebook pages to combat racism. One, for example, Chappaqua Anti-Racism Dialogue Group: Reconciling Privilege, provides a space for people to educate themselves, their friends and their families, according to the group’s page description.
Additionally, on Monday, August 3, dozens of community members congregated downtown for a peaceful Black Lives Matter march. People marched with such signs as “SAY THEIR NAMES,” “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” and “YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE BLACK TO BE OUTRAGED.”
Also looking to ignite change in New Castle are sisters and former Horace Greeley High School students, Bhavya and Divya Gopinath They collected video accounts from current students and alumni who shared stories about racism they faced within the school district.
They edited the stories into a compilation and sent the video to the Board of Education and Chappaqua Central School District administrators. Said the Gopinath sisters: “It’s easy to turn a blind eye to this and say that racism doesn’t exist in this privileged community, so we made this video, so the stories don’t go unnoticed.”
These efforts to combat racism in New Castle will continue to strengthen this community.
Chappaqua Central School District Superintendent Christine Ackerman sent an email to all members of the district that said, “The events described by our former students are appalling and illustrate why we must continue to take meaningful and deliberate action to effectuate change to address racism in our society. We understand there is a gap between our espoused values and current reality. We are committed to change.”
Bhavya and Divya Gopinath also received an email from Board of Education President Victoria Tipp on behalf of the Board of Education. The Board authorized the formation of a Community Advisory Committee on Anti-Racism, Equity and Social Justice to enact change in the district.
“We believe that these steps will make a significant and positive difference, and we are committed to seeing these actions through as we keep social justice at the center of our work moving forward,” said Ackerman.
Simultaneously, Chappaqua residents have been coping with the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges that the virus presents. However, throughout it, small businesses, families and individuals have found ways to stay strong.
“In over 13 years of business, we have never faced a more challenging and uncertain time as this past March. What kept us strong was the commitment and passion of our team and the loyalty of our patients. In a matter of days, we were able to pivot the practice to Telehealth,” said Matt Marucci of New Castle Physical Therapy & Personal Training. “This took persistence and ingenuity on the part of therapists and patients alike. We are up and running now with stringent COVID-19 precautions, but we continue to offer the Telehealth sessions we developed back in March. We are deeply grateful for all of the community support we have received during this challenging time.”
Another local business trying to provide access to physical activity while also staying safe is Armonk Tennis Club/Armonk Indoor. They modified their protocols with the safety of their clients as their top priority.
“We at Armonk Tennis Club and Armonk Indoor Sports Center realized soon into the quarantine how important sports are to our physical and mental well-being. As summer approached, we knew that people would want to get active again but in a safe manner. The rules and guidelines we implemented showed our tennis players and campers that their safety is our top priority, and the result has been a great summer. We understand that procedures must be modified in the fall as people come indoors, but we’re still excited about providing a safe environment for the community to learn, play, and compete in,” said Armonk Indoor representative Beau Shea.
Ultimately staying safe is a priority for many businesses. Bill Flooks from Beecher Funeral Home said that despite all the special challenges, “We have managed to get this far with Covid-19.” On behalf of the Flooks Family, he stated: “Keep up the good work, be smart, be prudent, be safe.”
Several area photographers including Donna Mueller, Carolyn Simpson and Randi Childs are still bringing smiles to families’ faces through the acclaimed #TheFrontPorchProject.
Local chambers throughout the area have been sharing news from the county regarding federal and regional grant and loan options, about available personal protective equipment (‘PPE’) and producing e-newsletters to the community in which businesses post their services. The Chappaqua Millwood Chamber most recently launched ‘New Castle Restart’ to fundraise for grants to small businesses impacted.
Additionally, during the spike in the number of coronavirus cases in Westchester County, community members banded together and rose to the occasion. Individuals and groups made masks for essential workers, those on the frontlines and the immunocompromised. A series of articles for theinsidepress.com spotlighted these extraordinary efforts.
There was also never a shortage of pizza and other welcome meals distributed to front line health care workers at local hospitals and to first responders thanks to an extraordinary response to a Chappaqua Moms fundraiser.
The Food Pantry at the Community Center of Northern Westchester donated over 7,400 pounds of food and necessities to those in need since late March according to Reverend Martha Jacobs, Senior Minister at the First Congregational Church in Chappaqua.
To stay community strong during the thick of the coronavirus pandemic, people searched for ways to help.
“I am deeply grateful to serve such a caring and engaged community as ours. While we clergy are used to checking in on our congregants, I have been humbled by the number of congregants who have turned the tables and reached out to inquire how we staff members are holding up,” said Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester Jonathan Jaffe. “Similarly, we were overwhelmed with offers by individuals seeking to volunteer and help in any way possible. Such moments underscore the sense of covenantal relationship within our community.”
New Castle Town Supervisor Ivy Pool is impressed by the leadership she has seen both at town hall and among the residents.
“New Castle is a smart, agile community that has time and again demonstrated our leadership in a range of areas. The coronavirus cluster that occurred at the HGHS graduation and related events was a wakeup call for all of us. To defeat the outbreak, we needed to come together as a community and double-down on our social distancing efforts and enforcement,” said Pool. “The outbreak didn’t happen just anywhere–it happened in New Castle, a community of leaders and achievers who were determined to do something.”
Determined to stop the spread, Pool and the rest of the town board passed the first local legislation in the state that required people to wear face masks whenever social distancing is not possible.
“With this new law in place, our police officers have a tool to enforce social distancing, and our community has responded beautifully to our calls to “mask up!” said Pool. “Coming together in the face of adversity is who we are; leading by example is what we do. We are #CommunityStrong.”
White Plains, NY— Westchester County Executive George Latimer yesterday reported 19 active cases of COVID-19 in New Castle, up one case since the day before and from the five cases initially reported on a Sunday following a June 20th Horace Greeley High School graduation. The cases in New Castle have been traced back to two students’ travel to Florida, where it is believed they became infected, and to a break with social distancing and mask wearing protocol at both a subsequent graduation drive in ceremony and ‘field nights’ events following graduation. In a prior briefing, Latimer called the resulting cluster “a cautionary tale.” He also noted that the outlook for containment is different today than it was earlier in this pandemic “with the widespread availability of Covid testing” and resident cooperation with a mandated quarantine and cooperation with contact tracers. One active case was also recently reported in Bronxville.
The Governor has since ordered everyone who attended the New Castle events to self-quarantine until July 5, and a group of Westchester based contact tracers are calling households to track more possible infection and guide residents further. Kids from other communities also attended field night events which apparently spread infection further. “Greeley covers the Pleasantville post office and has numbers from other communities who might have gone out… Students from neighboring high schools came as well.”
Meanwhile, in an e-newsletter to the community last night entitled “Our Actions Today Will Save Lives,” the Town of New Castle sternly addressed those who flouted the rules or would consider doing so again; the letter included ample warning of potential civil and even criminal consequences. “We have reached out to and spoken with the Governor’s Office and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office for guidance on how to best enforce social distancing orders whether through civil sanctions and fines or criminal prosecutions,” the letter stated. Chappaqua’s Police Department Chief James Carroll outlined a series of potential fines and even potential jail time for flouting rules and violating the order.
At the afternoon briefing, which streamed live, Latimer noted 408 active cases across the county; he noted the significant progress in those numbers, too. “We once had 12,000 cases, so being down to under 500 is a very good sign.”
“We want to open up our society, responsibly, to avoid people losing their life over this,” Latimer said.
In Westchester, 266,962 people have been tested for COVID, which is about 27% of the population. 34,338 tested positive since the beginning of March. Last night, while only one Westchester resident died due to COVID (compared to ’45-50 some nights’), Latimer reminded, “That’s somebody’s loved one.”
Latimer also shared news of park closures around the county, most prominently, the closing of Rye’s Playland Amusement Park for the first time in the park’s 92-year history (Playland Amusement Park opened in 1928). He described the closure as ‘emotional’ for him. “There was a lot of drive and determination to make Playland come alive, so it’s the last thing I wanted to do…” The decision comes in tandem with an executive order “to shutter all amusement parks in New York.” The north part of Playland, including its beach area, will remain open. (Note, the Inside Press has inquired for an official list of closures and openings and will update to here as received.)
The closures around the county, Latimer said, come with an approximate price tag of about $130 million in lost revenue.
“Sales tax is a big loser, hotel tax revenue is lost, summer parks revenue is down dramatically…although six golf courses will remain open (due to ‘natural social distancing’ associated with this activity)…we have had more revenue from our golf courses in the past.”
As for the total impact of the budget: “We won’t be spending as much, so it may not be as dramatic as we think.”
North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas representing the Town of North Salem was invited to this briefing; he spoke proudly of a historic and bucolic northern Westchester town and its 1200 acres of open land and trails. There have been complaints., he said, of visitors flouting social distancing rules, too. “At the beginning of this, my biggest question was “when can the horse shows start up again…I’m glad for the opportunity to talk about this town.” He mentioned the town’s work with Feeding Westchester and members of the local Lion’s Club and high school volunteers who are reaching out to those in town, who financially speaking, “have run out of funds.” Today, Latimer plans a briefing focused on the economic impact of COVID and “how to deal with the work force impacted… and the fiscal impact on small businesses, large businesses and not for profits.”
He also said he plans an update about a county task force formed to address police reform since the death of George Floyd, and to continue the work toward racial justice.
Every year on the last Monday of May, the streets of downtown Chappaqua are filled with children and adults all ready to honor those who have served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. The Memorial Day parade has always represented one of the hallmarks of our town, bringing together the community in a way unlike any other. However, the town of New Castle did not let the current situation dissuade from the spirit of this holiday. Working with the Memorial Day Committee and the New Castle Community Media Center, a virtual Memorial Day parade ceremony was born which compiled images of the parade from past years, too.
U.S. Army Captain Peter Gaudet opened the ceremony and set the tone for the 2020 virtual New Castle Memorial Day Parade. He acknowledged that “while we’d all prefer to be together, we will do what Americans always do so very well: we will adapt and overcome… and go virtual.” He thanked the New Castle town board and town supervisor Ivy Pool, elected officials along with Captain James McCauley (the decades long Marshall of the Parade), David Egerton, Jill Shapiro and Carrie Krams, and all those “whose hard work and dedication make Memorial Day so special in our great town, in our great country, every year.”
Memorial Day Clarity
“With crisis always comes much confusion, but also in crisis, there are moments of great clarity,” he continued, “clarity in principles, clarity in purpose, clarity in commitment and service, clarity in resilience… Memorial Day provides clarity as to the true purpose of this holiday, for all of us to remember and reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for and giving their lives for our country and our freedom.”
Captain Gaudet offered words of encouragement regarding the challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis, calling it “just another enemy that our country will defeat.. Let’s take counsel of our courage; let’s not take counsel of our fears. We will survive. We will thrive. We are Americans. We are not American-nots.”
“As we virtually gather to remember those who have died in service of the United States of America, may we be mindful that the sacrifices made by these brave women and men continue to this day,” Reverend Dr. Martha Jacobs of the First Congregational Church passionately explained. “They remind us that America is a great country, but we cannot take that for granted. We need to be willing to place personal needs aside in order to promote a greater good for all, just as those who have fought and died for our country showed us through their ultimate sacrifice.”
Following Reverend Dr. Martha Jacobs’ prayer was Jordana Lichtenthal singing the national anthem with videos of past Memorial Day parades playing. This year, World War II veteran Ronald A. Freeman was honored. Training as a radio officer, Mr. Freeman served in France and Italy, eventually earning the American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal.
The names of fallen U.S. veterans over the years were read by Captain James McCauley. Frank Huber of the Chappaqua Orchestra then played “Taps” to honor the military service men and women who have fought for our country.
President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton each praised the soldiers and community during this tumultuous time. “This Memorial Day is unlike any other, but in many ways it makes it even more important for us to thank those who have served our country in the past,” stated President Clinton, who have put their lives at risk to ensure our freedom…” Secretary Clinton continued, exclaiming, “Although we will miss marching with everyone to pay tribute to our veterans on Memorial Day, our hearts will be with all of you and we also want to extend our gratitude to everyone serving now throughout the world.”
Senator Charles Schumer also made an appearance, praising the active soldiers and veterans of our country. “It has been a difficult few months for all of us, but today I draw strength from all of you – all of you who have sacrificed for our nation so we can enjoy the blessings of liberty. I promise that as we fight back against this disease that you are safe and you are cared for, just as you have cared for us.”
“This Memorial Day looks a little different. We aren’t able to stand together for our ceremony in New Castle, but it remains our solemn duty to honor our fallen heroes and mark this moment despite the uncertainty of this time,” asserted Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey. “Today we pay tribute to those who have demonstrated the highest form of selflessness remembering those who have served our country around the world and honoring the families and communities they left behind.”
New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald also celebrated those who have sacrificed themselves in service to our country. “This Memorial Day is unlike any in history, but if there is something we need to hold onto is those things that make life truly precious and those who have given themselves so that the rest of us might be free are deserving of tremendous gratitude. Please reach out to their families and convey your appreciation.”
New York State Senator Peter Harckham also joined in on those commending the servicemen and women of our country. “This Memorial Day, it is important that all Americans pause to honor the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms. Normally this takes the form of parades and large civic gatherings to honor their sacrifice. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, that’s not possible. I’m urging all New Yorkers to take a moment to honor our fallen heroes in their own way. It’s so important that we not take our freedoms for granted and we remember all of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.”
“The COVID-19 virus has cost us many familiar events over the course of the spring – opening day for the Little League, celebration of Easter, Passover, Ramadan, Cinco De Mayo and in certain ways, Mother’s Day, but New Castle never forgets its veterans,” Westchester County Executive George Latimer declared. “Memorial Day is not one day a year – it is everyday in our hearts and those men and women who went off to war and those who didn’t come back will never be forgotten for the great sacrifice they made. We thank the New Castle community, Chappaqua, Millwood and all of us for making sure this Memorial Day, although different, is still special.”
Westchester County Legislator, Vedat Gashi added:“Right now we are celebrating our holidays differently, but the meaning behind our celebrations are more important than ever. Memorial Day remains a time to remember the heroes whose sacrifices made these moments possible. Every single one of us owes our fallen heroes a profound debt of gratitude.
The New Castle Town Board, comprised of Town Supervisor Ivy Pool, Deputy Town Supervisor Jeremy Saland, Town Board Member Lauren Levin, Town Council Member Jason Lichtenthal and Town Council Member Lisa Katz, also delivered heartening messages for the veterans of our country and to praise the enduring spirit of the community.
Jane Shepardson, President of the Board of Education, and Christine Ackerman, Superintendent of the Chappaqua Central School District each applauded the community and the soldiers of our country for their sacrifice and service. The Seven Bridges Middle School Morning Crew then expressed their sincere gratitude to the past and active veterans, as well as to the town of Chappaqua. Troop 1 of the Boy Scouts of America saluted those who gave their life and fought for our freedoms.
The ceremony concluded in song with narration by Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester who expressed gratitude to those fallen, to health care heroes, to first responders and more–and also with a blessing to the entire community.
The full 2020 New Castle Memorial Day Ceremony may be viewed on:
Just Between Us: The Inside Press and its various contributors over the years have rarely missed covering the Town of New Castle’s always moving and most memorable Memorial Day parades, so we were heartened to learn there will be at least a virtual commemoration working with the New Castle Community Media Center. Here’s the town’s news of what’s planned; what follows are just the past three years of Inside Press coverage, which I hope offers a small glimpse into what a future parade might look like here again, once we are on the other side of the coronavirus crisis. To all who have served our country: eternal gratitude from everyone at the Inside Press, too. — Grace Bennett
The Town of New Castle has announced in its Community e-letter “that due to the current health crisis, it will be unable to hold the town’s traditional Memorial Day parade. “However, working with the Memorial Day Committee and New Castle Community Media Center, we have planned a virtual Memorial Day celebration that will honor the soldiers from New Castle who lost their lives in service to their country and celebrate our community and its enduring spirit. On Monday, May 25th at 11AM, please join honorable local veterans, your friends and neighbors, and some special guests for a one-of-a-kind virtual commemoration and celebration.”
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