Today in Saratoga (3)
Notes from City Hall: Police Officer Recognized For ActionsWritten by Thomas Dimopoulos
Jerry Carpenter Jr. died in June, a few hours shy of his 21st birthday, his family by his side.
In an emotionally moving ceremony Tuesday night at City Hall, Carpenter’s family thanked Saratoga Springs Police Officer Bill Arpei for answering the call to tend to the Saratoga Springs High School graduate in his time of need.
“On that day, June 2, that afternoon, the call was received by an officer for a young man in cardiac arrest,” family friend Donna Flinton told a chamber room crowded with residents and council members gathered to decide the city’s business. The call was placed by Carpenter’s sister. From Jefferson Terrace, the emergency was reported as a young man in severe medical distress.
“Officer Arpei responded within minutes of the call and assessed everything. He started chest compressions and continued to do so even after EMS came to take over,” Flinton said. “Unbeknownst to the officer, Jerry had only one working lung as well as a host of other complications. With Officer Arpei’s CPR, his not giving up on our boy and EMS’ help, Jerry was resuscitated.”
Although resuscitated, the young man whose obituary remembers him as an innocent soul with a brave heart who spread love to all who knew him, passed away a week later.
“The officer was asked to be kept in the loop, and we did,” Flinton said. “We informed Officer Arpei that Jerry had passed, and of the funeral arrangements, hoping he would perhaps come. He sure did. And in full uniform. It gave the family and myself great pride to know the Saratoga Springs Police Department would allow Officer Arpei not just to attend, but to salute as we passed by,” she recalled. “With that, my friends, everyone just cried. That was our time. And that was the time he gave us. He not only refused to give up on him, but he cared - and caring and compassion is not always prevalent in today’s society.”
One of the young man’s sisters handed Arpei a keychain, to signify the day her life forever was changed and the moment the officer was welcomed as a member of the family. With the presentation of a statue she noted how they would never forget the officer’s actions.
“When we look at you, we see Jerry,” Flinton said. “Because of you, his mother was able to sit with him for the last few days he had, hold his hand and tell him he could go dance in heaven with his grandfather. His grandmother was able to kiss him one last time and tell him that she loved him. His sisters were able to say goodbye and lay with him as he took his last breath - and we celebrated his birthday - because in some country he was 21,” she told the officer, who joined the city police department five years ago. “These are the moments the family will cherish forever and they know they wouldn’t have had them if it wasn’t for you.” In the crowded council chamber overcome by silence some in the crowd choked back tears.
“We feel it was time to express our family’s gratitude towards one of our own,” she said. “Saying just thanks, we think, is not appropriate. But that’s all we’ve got.” Residents and council members alike stood up and the chamber erupted in a lengthy ovation.
City Approves Purchase of Pitney Farm: Westside Farm to Stay a Farm Forever
After much deliberation, the council unanimously approved the city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm on West Avenue.
The city is spending $1.165 million - $1.13 million outright and $35,000 in closing costs – to purchase the development rights to ensure the farm land will remain a farm in perpetuity.
Members of the council had expressed hope that a portion of the 166-acre farm could be used to house recreation fields for youth sports such as soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco was especially adamant that the city may have done a better job negotiating the fields into the land contract, as the city lacks those resources.
The closing is scheduled to take place in mid-December. At the same time, the city will issue a bond anticipation note. The interest will be 0.95 percent, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.
A contract of sale for the farm was signed between the Pitney Family and the newly created 501(c)(3), Pitney Meadows Community Farm. The vision for the farm includes the creation of a community agricultural resource center to function as a teaching facility and incubator, as well as offering access to the community to cultivate gardens and enjoy nature trails on the property.
City Amends Sidewalk Sitting Ordinance – Penalties Reduced, Law Still in Effect
The city's controversial “sit and lie ordinance,” which was adopted in June and makes it unlawful for any person to sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk, was amended by the City Council this week. The changes include a streamlining of exceptions to the law; those exceptions allow for medical emergencies, or in curbside areas permitted for street performers, as well as easing penalties for code violators.
The previously adopted penalties called for a minimum $50 fine for first offenders, escalating to misdemeanor charges with the potential of up to 30 days of jail time and fines of up to $500 for repeat offenders. The new penalties call for a maximum $50 fine for first offenders. Subsequent offenders would be subject to a fine not exceeding $250 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 days, according to the city’s general penalties for offenses, posted on the city website.
The New York Civil Liberties Union submitted testimony alleging both the original law and the amended proposal targets homeless people and is unconstitutional and should be rescinded altogether. Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen – who brought forward both the original and amended proposals – argued that the ordinance was based on other municipalities’ existing ordinances and that “it does pass constitutional muster.” The council members were in general agreement in expressing belief that the ordinance is related to pedestrian safety issues and does not target the city’s homeless population. The amended ordinance was approved 4-1, with city Mayor Joanne Yepsen casting the lone vote against. “I don’t like this law and I don’t see a need for it,” said Yepsen, who also cast the lone voted against the initial proposal in June.
On a High Note, City Center President Says Goodbye
Longtime Saratoga Springs City Center President Mark Baker delivered the City Center Authority’s annual report for 2015 to the council on Tuesday. In 2015, the City Center hosted 154 events and secured 252 days of paid activities - marking the highest number of annual paid events in the building’s history. The 2016 schedule already tops that number, Baker added, and reported $2.1 million in sales tax revenue was generated in 2015 for the local community. More than 155,000 people attended events last year.
“For 33 years it’s been a pleasure to serve for you and with you,” said Baker, who last week announced he will retire as the organization’s president at year’s end. “In the last 33 years I think it’s become most obvious that there is no place like Saratoga Springs – our history, our style, our grace,” Baker said..
‘Eyesore’ at Interlaken to be Demolished, Replaced by Single-Family Homes
The council unanimously voted to support a Planned Unit Development SEQRA determination regarding a property on Crescent Avenue in the Interlaken community. The long-abandoned home will be demolished and the land subdivided into four parcels where four single-family homes will be developed. Residents of the neighborhood addressed the council, alternately referring to the existing building as “an eyesore” and “a neighborhood blight,” and outnumbered those opposed to the building’s demolition by a 10-1 margin.
City Public Art Policy Approved; Changes Coming for City Arts Commission
The council unanimously approved a public art policy that will provide a civic planning process for the acceptance and placement of artwork in public areas.
The city Arts Commission – a 20-member advisory board appointed by the mayor in 2015 - will review submissions using artwork and site selection criteria and may recommend to accept or reject an artwork. The Commission is tasked with reviewing proposals for consistency with the city’s goals and where appropriate, recommending acceptance or rejection of such acquisitions for the city. “Public art,” in this scope, is defined as publicly accessible artwork that enriches the city through its aesthetic qualities, considers the social and physical context of the site, and addresses the goals of the city.
The Arts Commission will also undergo changes to its member bylaws. Starting in January 2018, the committee will be comprised of a maximum of 11 members; four will be selected by the commissioners and the balance appointed by the mayor. Currently, all 20 members have been selected by the mayor.
Sage of Saratoga Honored with National Literary LandmarkWritten by Thomas Dimopoulos
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Lincoln Avenue home of Saratoga Springs native Frank Sullivan will be designated a national literary landmark and his writings selected as the focus for the SaratogaReads! community-wide reading and discussion initiative in 2017.
Affectionately known as the “Sage of Saratoga,” Sullivan was born in 1892 and graduated from Saratoga Springs High School in 1910. After graduating from Cornell University and serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War 1, Sullivan relocated to New York City where he worked as a journalist and contributor to the New York World and The Saturday Evening Post. As a humorist, his annual Christmas poems and articles appeared in The New Yorker magazine for a half-century.
“He was a great wit and he was part of the Algonquin Round Table,” said William Kennedy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for his “Albany Cycle” of novels. “He started off a newspaper man like I did and he wound up working for the New York World. He loved The World. That was a newspaper that produced guys like Heywood Broun and Franklin P. Adams and its editor was Herbert Bayard Swope.”
Swope played a key role in launching Sullivan’s life work as a humorist, rather than in hard news. Early in his career, Sullivan had “scooped” the rest of the New York media by reporting the death of a popular society woman. As it turned out, the woman was not dead after all. “You’re too emotional for the news columns,” Swope supposedly told Sullivan. “From now on, you’re writing funny stuff exclusively.”
“It was a great newspaper and when it died in 1931, he was devastated by it,” Kennedy said. “He wrote a piece about it called ‘Thoughts Before the Undertaker Came,’ and he closed out by saying, ‘When I die I want to go where The World has gone, and work on it again.’ That’s a lovely quote.”
Sullivan grew up in Saratoga Springs on White Street and on Lincoln Avenue, where he played rubber ball games like Roly-Poly on the then-unpaved sidewalks of the neighborhood, and worked as a pump boy carrying water to bookmakers and earning $10 to $15 a day, tax-free.
Sullivan’s childhood home was at Lincoln Avenue and High Street – just east of present-day Siro’s. It was one of a half-dozen homes either moved to different locations, or torn down altogether to expand the racecourse. In 1975, city Mayor Ray Watkin introduced a resolution that recognized Sullivan’s contribution “making Saratoga Springs famous all over the world,” and authorized the renaming of High Street to Frank Sullivan Place.
Sullivan returned to Saratoga Springs and settled down at his home at 135 Lincoln Ave., where he lived for several decades. He was a regular shopper at the Five Points grocery store, found relaxation in visits to the Yaddo Gardens, and frequented the Saratoga Race Course, where in the summer of 1967 a race was named in his honor.
“We’re very excited to be part of a revival in interest in one of Saratoga Springs’ own literary luminaries,” said Saratoga Springs Public Library Director Issac Pulver. “Given the current state of civil discourse, we believe a little levity in the form of Frank Sullivan’s gentle but incisive wit, is exactly what’s called for at the moment.” A series of SaratogaReads! related performances, discussions, lectures, and film presentations will take place between December 2016 and March 2017.
At the same time, United for Libraries, in partnership with Empire State Center for the Book, will dedicate Sullivan’s adult home on Lincoln Avenue as a literary landmark. More than 150 Literary Landmarks have been dedicated across the country since the program began in the 1980s; Tennessee Williams’ home in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Edgar Allen Poe home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were among the first.
Perhaps Sullivan’s most celebrated character was his creation of the noted cliche expert, Mr. Arbuthnot. Asked what he did for exercise, Mr. Arbuthnot replied, “I keep the wolf from the door, let the cat out of the bag, take the bull by the horns, count my chickens before they are hatched, and see that the horse isn't put behind the cart or stolen before I lock the barn door.”
“He accumulated all the clichés of the world,” Kennedy said. “It was hilarious.”
Sullivan, a lifelong bachelor, died in early 1976 at Saratoga Hospital at the age of 83.