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SARATOGA SPRINGS – This year, Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) is celebrating 25 years of helping the homeless take back their lives and get back on their feet. On Thursday, April 7, the anniversary will be officially commemorated at SOS’s Brighter Days Gala at Longfellows, where the “Help, Hope, Humanity” award will be presented to members of the community that have contributed to SOS’s success and progress over the years.
One of the awardees is former mayor Ken Klotz, who has been involved with SOS since almost the very beginning. Klotz has a unique prospective on the 25 year anniversary of SOS – his involvement in the growth of the organization for over two decades makes him the ideal witness to SOS’s development and achievements.
“What has been really remarkable for me is to see how the services of the shelter have expanded to meet the needs of the community,” said Klotz, who started working with SOS as a member of their board in the early 90’s. “It was small scale in the beginning. Now, if you go to the gala, it fills Longfellows. The community acceptance and support of it is just really striking to me when I look back over the years.”
SOS began at St. Clements Church in January 1992 with just six beds after members of the community and the church decided they had the power to help those who live on the streets. Later that year, SOS moved to a trailer home on East Beekman Street, which had eight available beds.
“I volunteered for overnights there at that point,” said Klotz in regards to the location on East Beekman. “It was an interesting experience. It was a small space, and when it was filled it was claustrophobic.”
Klotz continued helping SOS as a volunteer and in 1995 was able to help even more after getting elected to the city council. In 1997, when SOS did not finish constructing their building at 14 Walworth Street on time, the grant they were supposed to receive from the state was in danger of being pulled. Since it was being built on a city lot, Klotz stepped in, and through the city council and fellow colleagues, was able to steer the grant through. “I was in a position to do something about it,” he said.
Furthermore, Klotz used his position as mayor from 2000 to 2003 as a platform for raising awareness to homelessness. “You have an audience because people are always asking your opinion when you represent the city, so you can bring attention to issues you think are important,” he said. “I want people to know that street life is not attractive. These are not people that want to live miserable lives.”
After serving his two terms as mayor, Klotz was approached by SOS once again in 2006 to be a part of an advisory committee that was focusing on development and fundraising. He has now been on the committee for eight years.
In the last 25 years, SOS has grown and expanded its services exponentially. Starting at just six beds at St. Clements, SOS’s shelters can now house up to 35 men and women at once. SOS has expanded its outreach to local motels and the streets, as well as providing adult and youth drop-in centers for hot meals and showers. Code Blue, which began in 2013, offers shelter for homeless individuals during harsh weather conditions. SOS uses the term “continuum of care” as part of their mission – in other words, not only providing short-term help, but also long-term support for finding housing, jobs and education.
“I think Saratoga Springs, for a small city, has handled this difficult problem as well as you could imagine a city responding,” said Klotz. “We have really good leadership, members of the community that step up, and an enormous number of volunteers. These are the people that are really putting in the work and hours because they don’t think this should be a place where people die on the streets. To me, that says volumes about our community and what a wonderful community it is to live in.”
When asked how he felt about getting the “Help, Hope, Humanity” award, Klotz responded: “I really was floored by it because there are probably 300 people more deserving than I am. I just know how dependent the shelter is on the committed volunteer efforts so many people in the community give to it. I’m just a volunteer like anybody else.”
Klotz will be honored at the Brighter Days Gala on April 7, along with Mark Bertrand, founder of The Giving Circle, and Vincent, Patty, Ronald and Michele Riggi for their philanthropy toward SOS. Tickets to the gala are $100 and proceeds will benefit the over 1,000 men and women SOS helps each year. For more information about Shelters of Saratoga, and to make reservations for the Brighter Days Gala, visit sheltersofsaratoga.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – This past winter in Upstate New York was one for the record books. According to data from the National Weather Service, Albany was one of the fourteen cities in the United States that had its warmest winter to date. Upstate New York also broke its record for least amount of snow – just 10.3 inches, three feet below average.
While the unseasonably warm weather may have been great for getting outdoors, warm winters and early springs can have a serious impact on wildlife. What is concerning is that certain species that spread diseases to humans, such as ticks, flourish in these conditions.
The most recent New York ClimAID study, conducted by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to monitor the impacts of climate change, shows how rising temperatures are affecting ticks and other pests.
“Vector (disease-carrying) species, such as mosquitoes, ticks, midges (gnats), and other biting insects, respond dramatically to small changes in climate, which in turn alters the occurrence of diseases they carry,” read a quote from the NY ClimAID study. “For example, Lyme disease, erlichiosis, and other tick-borne diseases are spreading as temperatures increase, allowing ticks to move northward and increase in abundance.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) details the geographic location of different species of ticks across the United States (CDC.gov/ticks). While many in the southeast and on the west coast have to worry about ticks spreading diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, New York’s main tick-borne illness is Lyme disease.
“We haven’t seen anyone yet come in with a tick, but it’s right around the corner, so we’ve been warning people,” said Raveen Saluja M.D., an internal medicine practitioner at Saratoga Family Physicians at Saratoga Hospital. “During peak season, ticks are an everyday conversation in our office. But we’re already out in our shorts some days, so it’s already time to be careful.”
Dr. Saluja urges people to check themselves immediately after spending any time outdoors.
“You have got to check your body. Get naked, get a mirror, and look for ticks,” said Dr. Saluja. “Then call the doctor immediately if you find one.”
It’s vital to contact your doctor as soon as possible because time-sensitive measures can be taken to prevent Lyme disease. Within 72 hours after being infected, patients can get a one-time dose of the antibiotic Doxycycline that acts as a prophylaxis again Lyme. After that 72 hour window, Lyme disease must be treated with a regular, full-course of antibiotics.
According to Dr. Saluja, the most common identifier for Lyme disease is a bull’s-eye rash, which occurs in most, but not all cases. While a bull’s-eye rash is a sure sign of Lyme, other symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms. Lyme disease can also have long-term consequences called Post-Treatment Lyme Syndrome, which can cause chronic symptoms – even more of a reason to prevent ticks in the first place (see sidebar for more prevention tips.)
Dr. Saluja recommends using a repellent with 20-30 percent DEET, and reapplying it regularly. She also noted that some prefer more natural methods of tick repellent. Oils that contain rosemary, geranium, lemongrass, cedar or lavender are an excellent way of repelling ticks, and many natural oil recipes are available online.
For more information about ticks, the diseases they spread, and how to prevent them, visit cdc.gov/ticks. To learn more about how climate change is impacting wildlife, including harmful pests like ticks, and to read the full New York ClimAID study, visit dec.ny.gov under “Energy and Climate.”
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Use repellents that contain 20 to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin.
- Use products that contain Permethrin on clothing
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
- If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
- Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam
- There are certain products that can kill and repel ticks on dogs. Talk to your veterinarian first about these options.
Protecting your Yard
- Pesticides can be used to prevent ticks on your property. Identify rules and regulations related to pesticide application on residential properties in your area first (Environmental Protection Agency).
- Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
- Mow the lawn frequently.
- Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas, and always keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.
How to Remove a Tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers
Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/index.html)
Swimmer Caroline Conboy Concludes Banner Year – In and Out of the Pool!
GENEVA – Saratoga Springs High School graduate Caroline Conboy, now a junior at William Smith College, has been named a Division III All-American off her performances at the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships, which took place on March 18 - 20 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“I was completely surprised that I made it to the top eight finishers,” said Conboy, referring to her performance in the 100-yard breaststroke final. “My goal going in was to place in the top 16.” The eighth-place finish clinched her All-American status, and came off a preliminary in which she bested her own school and Liberty League record by over a half-second. Conboy also reached the consolation finals in the 200-yard breaststroke event, finishing sixteenth in her last event of the year.
One person who was very enthusiastic, but not at all surprised by Caroline’s performance was her High School Coach, Josh Muldner.
“Caroline is an all-around outstanding individual that deserves any praise or recognition that comes her way. She was our record holder, a state finalist two years in a row, our team MVP three years in a row, and our team captain as a senior.” Coach Muldner said.
“And that extends to life out of the pool. While at Saratoga, Caroline was selected by her peers to be the Homecoming Queen and she was the Student Government President. Just a great, great, great individual!”
For her part, Conboy, who is a psychology major / education minor and currently obtaining her teaching certificate, had nothing but fond memories about her high school. “Coach Muldner is the reason why I’m accomplishing so much today. He instilled in me a very positive spirit in addition to refining my technique,” she said.
“I’m so proud of Saratoga Springs swimmers and divers and what they’ve been able to continue to achieve,” she added. “I’m also thankful for the support I have received from home. So many people reached out (after the NCAA tournament), it’s very gratifying.” She also has a William Smith teammate from home – senior CeCe Carsky-Bush – to keep her motivated.
Caroline, who comes from an athletic family (brother Tom recently finished as a State champion in pole vault – See Saratoga TODAY March 11, 2016), had also played softball while a Blue Streak, but now concentrates on swimming and academics.
Looking to her senior year, “I’m going to stick to my goals,” Conboy said, “I hope to make the Nationals again, while making improvements in my times. If I’m successful in doing that, the awards and recognition will take care of themselves.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS –For over 55 years, Saratoga Bridges has been providing optimum services for people with disabilities, from their residential programs to their day services and beyond. As March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, it’s important to highlight how vital Saratoga Bridges has been in integrating those with disabilities into the community. Volunteering is a big part of these efforts, and individuals at Saratoga Bridges volunteer at dozens of non-profits across the county. One of these volunteer opportunities is with the Saratoga County Office for the Aging’s Home Delivered Meals program.
“Saratoga Bridges helps us to deliver hot, nutritious meals to seniors in Saratoga County,” said Billie Jo McConkey, County Nutrition Coordinator at Office for the Aging. “With the help of the Bridges groups we are able to exist on mainly volunteers to deliver to our 39 meal routes throughout Saratoga County.”
Currently, there are 9 groups of volunteers from Saratoga Bridges that help with Home Delivered Meals –roughly 100 volunteers total. They deliver meals every day, except for weekends, holidays and during extreme weather.
“Our site managers and clients enjoy seeing the Saratoga Bridges folks,” continued McConkey. “We have a symbiotic relationship that helps both of our organizations and we are thankful for their help.”
Dacia Saville, one of the volunteers from Saratoga Bridges, enjoys making the rounds to seniors’ homes and ensuring that they have healthy meals.
“It makes me feel good,” she said. “I love to help the people, they’re so nice.”
Another volunteer, Brian Burnett, is equally glad to be a part of something that helps so many people.
“Elderly people are sometimes unable to cook and do grocery shopping,” said Burnett. “So you’re given the chance to make someone’s day.”
For Catherine Holbrook, a recipient of the Home Delivered Meals, the volunteers that deliver to her home are a godsend. Holbrook had spinal surgery several years ago, which is when she first found out about Home Delivered Meals. Holbrook lives by herself in her apartment, and finds it hard to cook on her own because of her bad eyesight.
“It makes it very easy to have a complete nourishing meal without having to struggle over the stove,” said Holbrook. “If it wasn’t for the delivered meals, I’d probably have to go to a nursing home or rely on my family more for help.”
When it comes to the volunteers from Saratoga Bridges, Holbrook loves how friendly and helpful they are.
“They’re just pleasant people, a happy group that enjoys helping me,” she said. “I’m very content with the services they give. It has helped me stay more independent and live in my apartment by myself. It’s a life-saver for me, that is for sure.”
Individuals from Saratoga Bridges not only help with the Home Delivered Meals program, they engage in volunteerism at many local charitable organizations. For example, Saville and Burnett both regularly volunteer at local animal shelters, firehouses, ambulance rescue squads, the Elks Club, and more.
“My favorite part is giving back to the community,” said Burnett. “People should volunteer because it makes you feel good about yourself.”
When they not volunteering, they like to create artwork for Saratoga Bridges’ own art gallery and studio, Creative Endeavors, as well as practice their Special Olympics events. Saville particularly likes swimming and track and field, while Burnett focuses on cross-country skiing, horseback riding, track and field, and bowling. With their wide range of hobbies, volunteer work, and activism, people at Saratoga Bridges are shattering stereotypes of people living with a disability.
“People with disabilities can do all kinds of things. There may be certain limitations, but it does not mean we’re dumb. We just have a different way of doing things,” remarked Burnett. “Disabled doesn’t mean unable.”
Volunteer opportunities also provide individuals at Saratoga Bridges the skills and training they need for employment. Saratoga Bridges has programs, such as Alpha Career Options, that help people with disabilities find jobs in the community. They can be found working at businesses such as Stewart’s, Walmart, Price Chopper and more – all places where they can be directly involved in the community, interacting and building those necessary skills.
“The individuals we support are blended into the fabric of the community. They have a variety of disabilities, and also a variety of abilities and talents,” said Pamela Polacsek, communications specialist at Saratoga Bridges. “They never fail to impress me with how profound they are and explicit in the way they express themselves. They value and appreciate what life is all about.”
Polacsek, as well as the other staff members at Saratoga Bridges, are passionate about the work they do and the individuals they serve daily.
“I work with a bunch of dedicated, compassionate staff members whose goal is to give people the opportunities to succeed,” continued Polacsek. “Giving support within our agency, as well as through these volunteer sites and businesses that employ our individuals, is encouraging, it’s enriching. I think it enhances the whole community when people are accepted for who they are.”
For more information about Saratoga Bridges, including their services and extensive charitable work, visit saratogabridges.org. For more information about Home Delivered Meals, or if interested in being a volunteer in the program, call the Office for the Aging at 518-363-4020.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – On Tuesday, March 15, The Saratoga Springs Police Lieutenant’s Police Benevolent Association (PBA) named Sergeant Tyler McIntosh as the 2015 Officer of the Year. This award is given each year by the Saratoga Springs Police Lieutenants to an officer that displays excellence in policing and dedication to duty throughout the year.
The award ceremony, which took place in City Hall late Tuesday afternoon, was attended by fellow officers, as well as Police Chief Greg Veitch and Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathieson.
Lt. Sean Briscoe presented Sgt. McIntosh with his award and praised him for his accomplishments in the Department over the years, calling him a “proactive officer” and complimenting his “high standard of duty and professionalism.”
“It’s an honor to be selected, it means a lot to me,” said Sgt. McIntosh after the ceremony. “[This award] reinforces the hard work that I’ve done. It’s nice to be recognized for my positive influence and my role in the department.”
Sergeant McIntosh was hired as a patrol officer in July 2012, and graduated from the Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Academy on January 11, 2013. After graduating from Zone 5, Sgt. McIntosh attended the United States Army’s Officer Candidate School. Upon completion of his training there, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant.
Before becoming a police officer, McIntosh joined the Army National Guard when he was 18, where he became First Lieutenant.
“Military and law enforcement have always intrigued me,” said McIntosh, who knew back in high school what he wanted his career to be.
McIntosh’s favorite part of the job is being out on the road, and doing what he is known for: DWI enforcement. Knowing the amount of innocent people injured and killed by drunk drivers fuels McIntosh’s dedication for enforcing this problem. In 2015, while assigned as patrol officer on the midnight shift, McIntosh made 40 arrests for Driving While Intoxicated. On several occasions, he was given praise from prosecuting attorneys.
Lt. Briscoe called his DWI arrests an “exceptional feat” and that it “frames his work ethic quite well.”
In September 2015, McIntosh accepted a promotion to the rank of Sergeant, an exceptional accomplishment for an officer with such a short tenure in the department. Currently, McIntosh is assigned as a first line patrol supervisor on the evening shift.
When asked what makes him proud in his line of work, Sgt. McIntosh replied, “Knowing that I give 100 percent effort in everything I do and seeing that impact through training and developing relationships with other officers. Putting in the time and effort to make the department the best it can be gives me pride.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS –It will remain until the next Saratoga Springs City Council meeting (on April 5) for a scheduled vote (after a second public hearing) on the Saratoga City Center’s proposed lease of the High Rock parcel. The Council at its Tuesday, March 15 meeting did take action on a matter that recognized, regardless of what gets developed at High Rock - inevitably an invitation will be extended to have more cars on the city’s streets. Therefore, any action that the Council takes to preserve and increase Saratoga Springs’ standing as a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly town is worthy of note.
Through a series of motions and capital budget amendments, the Council funded a project that, when built out, will provide a pedestrian/bicycle trail for about five miles along the northern side of Geyser Road. The trail is forecast to be about eight feet wide from Spa State Park west to Cady Hill Road, and then widening to 10 feet to the Town of Milton. A total of $96,790 was dedicated to the project. It will entail new engineering and will impact 12 property owners, with about $50,000 of these funds pledged for right-of-way acquisition for the trail and buffer along Geyser Road.
While the primary beneficiary of this is the Geyser Road neighborhood, where access has been historically limited to motor vehicles and some bus service, this is a significant event for all city residents. When completed, this will provide another key link in the overall plan to have the city completely connected via a series of pedestrian and bicycle accessible trails, along the greenbelt and through the downtown core.
Attorney Matt Jones offered up an interesting gambit, speaking on behalf of Saratoga Hospital, during a public hearing about amending the new comprehensive plan’s designation of a parcel, upon which the Hospital wished to expand, back to the 2001 zoning as residential. Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Commissioner of Accounts John Franck have recused themselves from all discussions and votes on this matter. With Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathieson’s stated opposition, it had appeared to make any plan approval impossible (three votes are required to pass any Council measure according to the City’s charter).
Jones stated that the Hospital’s application will be kept open, and advocated that a mechanism be developed, similar to Courts of Appeals, in which replacements are appointed for those who recuse themselves due to conflicts – in effect, giving all applicants an opportunity to obtain a three-vote majority from a full five-person “council”.
It remains to be seen if this idea develops any traction, as it would involve at least some City Charter amendments. Yet, what appeared to be dead issue is anything but that, at least for now.
Finally, a shout-out to city resident Bonnie Sellers, who always provides some pithy perspectives during public comment time. Bonnie contributed the idea of the day when she suggested the City look into developing a night court as an alternative to building an annex, potentially on the valuable High Rock parcel. Commissioner Mathiesen said it was an excellent idea and the City was already looking into it, and though there may be some (unidentified) logistics difficulties, it was certainly worth pursuing.
My Night on a Police Ride Along
SARATOGA SPRINGS —Sergeant Mark Leffler’s experienced ears responded quickly to the voice I hardly noticed on the radio, breaking off our conversation about local DWI incidents. The lights and siren went on, and I could feel a slight increase in G’s as our vehicle sped down Broadway, traffic quickly moving out of our way.
“Ambulance in route,” came dispatcher Aneisha Liska’s calm voice into the unmarked vehicle. That, I heard. It was about 3:15 a.m. on Saturday morning, March 5, about the time my ride-along shift with the Saratoga Springs Police Department was about to end, and it sounded like it was about to end on a sober note.
Up until this point, it had been fairly quiet, a routine night in Saratoga. I had arrived at the double doors on Lake Avenue leading to both the police station and the department of public works at around 8 p.m. Friday, March 4. The air was country-crisp and clean, wrapped in the welcoming twilight of the city lights that held the cold night at bay. I remember thinking, no wonder people make the drive from Albany up here after the bars close there. Saratoga Springs is quite pretty at any hour, and it smells nice.
I paused at the security window of the Saratoga Springs Police Department and was welcomed by Officer Jonathan VanWie, 29, who wore his uniform with the ease of someone twice his age. “I love it here,” he told me. “It’s a great department to work for – very much community-based policing.”
We started in the dispatch office, where I met Aaron Deuel and Aneisha Liska, who field the calls as they come in. The room was softly lit, with most of the glow coming from the multiple monitors at each desk. One wall was lined with a glass partition between the front of the office and dispatch, and Sergeant Robert Dennis leaned in through the window to sing the praises of the dispatch department.
“There aren’t that many cities left that still have local dispatchers,” he said. “The 911 calls are routed through the county sheriff’s office directly to the officers, but our calls are routed here.”
Dennis explained that local dispatchers are supreme multitaskers. They not only dispatch the call quickly, but they simultaneously research the call and keep the officers updated with their findings, such as whether there might be a gun registered to the homeowner on a domestic dispute call. According to Dennis, county dispatchers don’t have time to provide that level of background, and that work provided by local dispatch has saved time, money, and lives.
The station was bigger than it appeared, and tours are commonly held for schools and other groups. I was taken to the interview rooms where suspects and victims were questioned. We then visited the initial intake area where the personal belongings of suspects were inventoried and their photos taken. Hanging on the wall were sturdy shackles that made me immediately think of every prison movie I’d ever seen. I saw the digital fingerprinting station, the breathalyzer that was set and ready to go, the roll-call room that doubles for training, and the storage area for firearms. We also visited the room where the body cameras were recharged and downloaded for future review or to be deleted, as the case may be.
VanWie drove a marked police vehicle that was equipped with the standard dashboard camera, computer monitor and printer for checking license plates and inputting traffic tickets, and secure places for firearms. As we drove along, he demonstrated how he could flip a switch to see the speeds of all the cars coming toward us or going away from us, easily distinguishable at a glance.
We drove through different areas of the city as a standard check, pulling through the train station, down Broadway and through different neighborhoods. We spoke about his training at the police academy, and the regular firearm training all officers receive throughout the year, even though state law does not require additional training for officers beyond initial firearm certification. VanWie’s training has prepared him for everything from domestic disputes to active shooter situations, and even to notice, in the few seconds that a car drove past us, that its inspection sticker was out of date.
Around 11:30 p.m., after a few routine calls, I was handed over to the care of Sergeant Mark Leffler, well-known for his numerous DWI arrests and named 2014 Officer of the Year by the Saratoga Springs Police Lieutenant’s Police Benevolent Association. He had a hand in the background checks and training of some of the young officers working that night, and in his capacity as patrol supervisor on the midnight shift, we took his unmarked vehicle to back up some of the traffic stops of other officers.
Just as VanWie did, we took a tour of various neighborhoods and businesses, checking that all is normal. By 1 a.m., Caroline Street had a strolling crowd of laughing people enjoying a relaxing Friday night with friends and coworkers. I couldn’t help but smile as we slowly pulled past the wave of people out having a good time.
Some, however, were having too good of a time. Leffler and I pulled in behind one DWI stop, watching while Officer Joe Hughes put a driver through a sobriety field test. The sergeant explained each step to me as the driver walked a line, balanced on one foot, and finally turned and put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed with a rueful smile, knowing he’d been caught fair and square. Leffler inventoried the vehicle before the tow truck took it away, and as I watched him pull open the door, we were both hit by the smell of alcohol pouring invisibly out of the SUV.
There was a domestic dispute call that also looked like it involved alcohol, as the man on the front lawn could barely stand. There were two other cars on the scene, and after checking with the officers, we went on our way. Another call came in about a man seemingly asleep behind the wheel of a parked car, and we drove up in time to see one of the patrol officers stepping back from the man as he bent over and lost his dinner. “At least he had the good sense to not start his car,” said Leffler, after he confirmed the officer didn’t need his help and we moved on.
The dispatcher called us to back up one of the officers who had stopped a car with a handgun in it. Protocol requires backup in such cases, even for licensed guns. As the officer put the driver through a sobriety field test, Leffler removed the handgun from the car. “There’s a passenger,” he told me, so they couldn’t leave the gun in the car in that case. It occurred to me that much of police protocol was based in the common sense adage, better safe than sorry.
And then it was after 3 a.m. and we were being called, along with an ambulance, onto Caroline Street.
Leffler was assessing the situation well before he stopped the vehicle, and he decided he could allow me to get out. There was a crowd of about 30 people on the south side of the street, and a few onlookers on the north side, where I first went to find out what was going on.
The temperature had dropped considerably, and angry voices bounced like a thousand ping pongs through the cold night air, mingled with the lower but firm responses of the officers.
“He’s bleeding, can’t you see he’s bleeding?”
“You get your hands off me – don’t you tell me what to do!”
“Ma’am, I need you to stand back.”
I counted five police officers, including Leffler, and two first responders from the ambulance that had arrived. The officers were trying to separate the crowd, asking the onlookers to disburse so they could get to the heart of the problem, which appeared to be a group of women of various ages who were angry about the treatment of a young man who was sitting on the steps of a vestibule holding his head. He appeared to be okay except for something on his head that I couldn’t see because his hand was over it.
The onlookers on the north side of the street told me they hadn’t seen a thing, so I moved back across the street to see and hear better. The young man was taken to the back of the ambulance and when next I saw him, he was holding a square white bandage to his head and yelling at the EMT who had a clipboard, “I’m only 17. I’m not signing nothing!”
The group looked like family and friends dressed to celebrate something, and the party got out of hand. One of the bouncers at a nearby bar told me that the group had tried to get into one of the bars and the bouncer refused to let the young man in, and got punched in the face for his trouble. Another bouncer pulled the kid off the first bouncer, and somehow the youth ended up on the ground. It wasn’t clear if he was pushed, thrown, or fell, but he hit his head on the way down.
The crowd had grown as people were leaving the bars either to find out what was going on or to end their evenings. I was shivering and had to put my gloves on to keep writing, but the crowd didn’t seem to notice the cold. Men and women with varying degrees of delight or disgust on their faces passed by, watching as the officers continued to move the original party further down the street away from the spectators, who weren’t making things any easier for them.
One sandy-blonde haired man of about 30 years old was practically skipping through the crowd, laughing and shouting something in slurred words with his arms out for balance, weaving in and out among the onlookers and the angry partiers. I could see the officers looking at each other to see who could get a handle on this guy, but there wasn’t one to spare – they each had their hands full with an angry person in their faces, refusing to go home or calmly explain what happened.
Another onlooker, who smelled strongly of stale beer, began jeering and chanting at the top of his voice. The way the sound bounced between the buildings on the narrow street, I’m not sure people could really hear him above all the other voices crowding the night, but it suddenly occurred to me that there were not enough police officers to handle all these people if things did get ugly by something like the incendiary words this drunk was throwing. Looking at the officers’ faces again, it was clear they knew that, too, and I could see all their energies were concentrated on keeping the crowd calm.
The scene appeared to be a lesson in the consequences of too much to drink. Caroline Street at 4 in the morning was filled with people stumbling, designated drivers supporting them out the doors, bouncers standing firmly with their arms crossed but ready, people shouting for cabs that couldn’t get through because of the police cars and ambulance, and the original group of about seven or eight women who would not disburse after the officers arrested and took away their young suspect.
I glanced down at my notes for a second and looked back up to see an officer had pinned one of the women against the trunk of a police vehicle, having cuffed one hand and was trying to cuff the other. She was yelling and fighting with all her strength, and it took three officers to hold her down and get her cuffed.
The bouncer near me said the officer who had initially tried to handcuff her had the patience of a saint. It was hard to see much beyond their shadowed forms with the bright, flashing police lights behind them, but it looked to me like they were just trying to hold her still to get the cuffs on, but she used her whole body to fight them off. It was a far cry from the drunk driver earlier who ruefully smiled and gave himself up easily.
I would later speak with Police Chief Gregory Veitch, who told me that it was standard procedure to hold an internal investigation with every use of force to assure that those incidents were being conducted appropriately. “I’m very proud of the officers and how we handle things,” said Veitch. “They could lose their tempers, and we train them not to. I’m very proud at how well they handle themselves in these situations.”
Once the cuffs finally fastened, the middle-aged woman slipped between the officers down to the ground and huddled there, laying at the edge of the cold sidewalk next to the police car. At least four smartphones appeared in the crowd and began shooting video. The officers tried to help her to her feet, but she refused, saying she couldn’t breathe and had asthma. They immediately signaled for the EMTs to step forward and the ambulance rolled up closer so she could be placed in a stretcher and taken to the hospital.
The street began to clear, then. It was as if it were the end of a movie, with all the tension suddenly drained as people walked away in different directions, chatting about what they’d seen. I was so cold my teeth were chattering, but I didn’t want to get back in the car just yet. Caroline Street had changed. Officers were getting into their cars or ushering onlookers on their way, bars were shutting doors and locking up, and the noise and smell were beginning to fade in the pre-dawn. This was the street that hours earlier was filled with people taking a break from everyday life to enjoy each other’s company, the same street that became a tinderbox waiting for a match by 4 a.m., a match that never lit because of a thin blue line.
By Matthew E. Veitch
For Saratoga TODAY
It has been a great honor serving you. As I begin my fifth term as your Supervisor, I continue to be impressed that so many residents care enough about their City and its government, and want to be involved in the civic life of our great City.
In 2015, I served as the Chairman of the Saratoga County board of Supervisors, and it was a great honor, in what was a fantastic Centennial year for the City of Saratoga Springs. Looking at issues and concerns at the County level gave me a unique perspective on the role our City plays in relation to its neighbors, both locally, and at the State and National level. Using that perspective, I will focus on some important local issues going forward – and none is more important to us all than open space.
Last year, Saratoga County re-established the Open Space Grant program, as part of my initiatives as Chairman in 2015. Additionally, I was appointed to the City’s Open Space Committee at the end of 2013. This committee was dormant for many years, and was re-started in 2015. For the past year we have been developing a plan for the City’s Open Space Program. My colleagues on the committee have elected me the Chairman of this committee, and I believe we are ready to start moving forward in a more public way over the next two years. I want to thank my fellow committee members for their confidence in me, and specifically to thank member Charlie Morrison for temporarily chairing our committee over the past year, and getting us focused on our priorities.
There are several issues to work on, including updating the City’s Open Space Plan, which was last updated in 2002. We have spent much of the past 14 years working on preserving various open space parcels in the City’s greenbelt, and have some great lands to show for it. The committee will continue to identify those parcels in the outer district that will be strategic to our City’s goals. Our Recreation department has enlisted our committee to assist in finding some new lands for recreation fields and other recreation uses, and we have been looking at the map of the City to see if there are any potential parcels available for this use.
What we need to start focusing on, in my opinion, are smaller parcels within the inner district to preserve as well. As part of our plan update, we will look to develop a policy for criteria of preserving lots within the inner district, or ‘pocket parks’ that can either provide passive recreation within a neighborhood, act as a buffer between different land uses. The City currently has no program for doing this, and with continued building within the City’s core, we must evaluate where we may want to have some open lots to provide some respite from a more intensely developed area. Additionally, the $5 million bond act voted on by our residents in 2002 is almost depleted, so our committee will work on finding new ways of funding open space purchases for the City’s future.
I have always said important issues that come up aren’t Democrat or Republican issues; they are issues and problems that you elect us to work together to solve. We live in the greatest City and County in the State of New York, and we should be proud of our successes. So many communities wished they had some of the problems that we have. I am so proud to be a native Saratoga Springs resident, and will act in a positive way to move our community forward, and continue our great success as a community, over the next two years in my term as your Supervisor.
Matthew Veitch is one of two Saratoga County Supervisors representing the City of Saratoga Springs.