Warning

JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 766

JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 776

Displaying items by tag: charlie samuels

Thursday, 10 March 2016 11:23

Viewpoint: City Center and High Rock Parking

By Michele Madigan

For Saratoga TODAY 

 

I want to clarify certain facts regarding the City Center's plans to build a parking structure, and clear up any confusion amongst members of the public regarding the City's RFP to develop the entire High Rock parking lot.  It is important to note that the City Center Authority is not a private entity; it was created by a legislative act of New York State to carry out governmental functions. The Mayor is an ex-officio member, and the Finance Commissioner acts as its agent, empowered to examine its accounts, finances, contracts, and leases, among other things. As such, the City Center and the City have a very close working relationship that is written into New York State law.

 

The City Center approached the City Council on November 20, 2012 with a proposal to lease a portion of the High Rock lot upon which they would build - at their expense - a facility to provide much needed parking. The lack of covered and connected parking for vendors and exhibitors to unload marketing materials and wares at City Center events places them at a competitive disadvantage, which will worsen once competing local convention facilities are open for business. This is unfortunate, as the City Center is a vital part of our local economy, drawing thousands of visitors each year to our hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments, supporting local businesses and generating tax revenues that fund our government and help keep our property tax rates stable.  

 

At that meeting, the Council agreed unanimously to allow the City Center to move forward with its plans. Although questioning the proposed $1 lease payment and resulting financials, I did offer my support, as did Commissioners Scirocco and Mathiesen, and Mayor Johnson. Commissioner Franck said that this was the best High Rock lot proposal that he had ever seen; hed "worked the numbers" and was in full support. Soon thereafter, the City Center issued an RFP (Request for Proposal), receiving several responses and selecting one. Their plans have been subject to numerous public discussions, which resulted in several modifications. The current plan to lease approximately two-thirds of the lot and build a parking structure (that includes space for community events) on half of the leased land, with the City retaining development rights for the other half, has received all of the necessary approvals from the City's various land use boards.

 

While the above was transpiring, several local residents expressed reservations about these plans, suggesting a grander multi-use development of the entire High Rock lot that would simultaneously meet the needs of the City Center and provide other opportunities. The Council unanimously agreed to explore this alternative, and in the summer of 2015 the City issued an RFP soliciting proposals to develop the entire lot. The City Center's original RFP was focused on meeting the demonstrated downtown parking needs, with a structure occupying a portion of the High Rock lot, which they would pay to build. The purpose of the subsequent RFP issued by the City was to solicit plans to develop the entire High Rock lot while meeting those parking needs, which the City Center would not fund. The Council clearly stated that while we were issuing this RFP, and would be reviewing subsequent proposals, the City Center should continue to move forward with its plans. The City received two responses to this RFP, and the Council appointed the Technical Review Committee to review the proposals. At a special City Council meeting on February 25, 2016 the Technical Review Committee said they could not recommend either proposal due to parking, financing, urban form, and engineering concerns.

 

The City has been negotiating the aforementioned lease with the City Center since 2013; I assumed responsibility for these negotiations in September 2014.  Given that the City Center has received all necessary approvals for their plans, and the Technical Review Committee's concerns regarding the two High Rock lot development proposals, I presented this lease to the public and the Council on March 1, 2016. I plan to ask the Council to make a decision regarding the lease in April. If the Council approves this lease then the City Center will be able to move forward with their plans  - leaving approximately two-thirds of the High Rock lot available for future development.   

 

Michele Madigan is the Commissioner of Finance for the City of Saratoga Springs

Published in News
Thursday, 03 March 2016 10:36

A Great Place to Race – For 75 Years!

Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s 75th Racing Season begins this Weekend 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Happy birthday to one of the best-looking and healthiest 75-year-olds we know! 

 

Friday, March 4 will mark the beginning of Saratoga Raceway’s 75th anniversary season of live harness racing. The first post for Friday is set for 6:45 p.m. In honor of the 75th anniversary, 75-cent deals on hot dogs, sodas and programs will be featured on Friday and Saturday of opening weekend. Those two days will also feature $75 mutuel voucher giveaways after each race to patrons who submit an entry form found in their racing program. Sunday, March 6 will feature a commemorative t-shirt giveaway for fans. Guests will receive a coupon in each racing program, which can be redeemed for a free “75th Year of Racing” shirt.

 

In 75 years, this historic half-mile oval has accumulated a lot of highlights. Here are some of the brightest:

 

On June 26, 1941, the first night of live racing, 4,048 patrons attended the first race program at what was then called Saratoga Harness. Historically, Saratoga Harness is now the third oldest harness track – and the first ever specifically constructed for that purpose - in pari-mutuel harness racing. ‘Lucile Glow,’ a three-year old trotting filly, won the first ever race at the track with a time of 2:12.1. Since then, the harness track has featured almost 11,000 racing programs that have created a tremendous amount of historic moments with racing fans spanning generations. 

 

As Saratoga Harness grew and prospered, so did the sport of harness racing. In 1941, Saratoga Harness conducted 26 racing programs, with racing fans wagering an average of $27,050 on each program. Each year, the attendance and handle continued to grow as the popularity of harness racing increased. With the exception of 1943, when racing was cancelled because of World War II, racing at Saratoga Harness experienced unparalleled growth. Total handle grew from $9.5 million in 1950 to $17.2 million in 1960 to an even more impressive $45.7 million in 1970. The number of racing programs soared from 90 in 1950 to triple digits in 1960 and close to 200 in 1970.

 

The quality of racing also improved mightily, as Saratoga Harness attracted the top standardbreds in the country with the arrival of Grand Circuit racing. Darn Safe became the first trotter to break the two minute mile mark on a half-mile track in 1957 with a 1:59.4 mile, and Laverne Hanover became the first two-year-old to better the (then) magic two minute mark with a sparkling 1:59.4 effort, as Saratoga Harness began to earn its moniker as “the world’s fastest half mile track”. 

 

The great Nevele Pride graced the Spa oval on September 6, 1969, and trotted a mile in 1:56.4, at the time the fastest mile in history on a half-mile track. Hall of Famer Stanley Dancer was in the sulky that afternoon, and that mark would stand up until 1988, when Mack Lobell won a Breeders Crown event at Saratoga Harness in 1:56 for John Campbell.

 

It is estimated that Saratoga Raceway has welcomed over 24 million guests over the course of their 75 racing years, and throughout that span of racing, total on-track handle has exceeded $1.5 billion. 

 

Simulcast of the Saratoga Harness signal also continues to increase in popularity, reaching an all-time record of $36 million wagered worldwide in 2015. Over 300 venues across the world will carry the simulcast signal in 2016.

 

“We couldn’t be more proud of the past 75 years of racing,” said Director of Racing Operations, John Matarazzo. “It’s an incredible milestone for us, and we look forward to continuing the tradition of excellence that has been the track’s hallmark from the beginning.”

 

A highlight of the upcoming race season will be the eighth annual Joe Gerrity, Jr. Memorial Pace, which will feature one dash for a $260,000 purse on July 23. The Gerrity Memorial Pace always attracts the best pacers in the Northeast. Last year’s pace was won by ‘PH Supercam,’ who finished in an impressive 1:50.1. Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s 2016 racing season will offer $14 million in purses, and their spring schedule will consist of live racing Fridays and Saturdays at 6:45 p.m., Sunday matinees at 12:45 p.m. and a 4 p.m. twilight post for the Thursday cards.

 

In keeping with another long-standing tradition, parking and admission on all race days are free.

 

For a full racing schedule and additional information, visit www.saratogacasino.com or call 800-727-2990.

 

Published in News
Thursday, 18 February 2016 17:18

A Brighter Day For Blue

Code Blue Partnership with United Way Announced

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Always nice to report progress - particularly when the community and its leadership come together to solve a problem. Three weeks ago (Issue dated January 29), we reported that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, in requiring local shelters to be in operation when the temperature reaches 32 degrees or below, issued an unfunded mandate, Executive Order 151. 

 

The City of Saratoga Springs’ Code Blue Shelter had its “triggering” temperature at 20 degrees - a benchmark that has been used by many similar organizations throughout the state. The Code Blue Shelter, which is operated by Shelters of Saratoga at the Salvation Army on Woodlawn Avenue had not been resisting the State mandate, but was struggling to secure the funds it would need to operate for the many extra nights this would involve, as well as volunteers to work at the facility. Shelters of Saratoga’s (SOS) Executive Director Mike Finocchi had estimated that it would take an estimated $32,000 to make up the cost difference. 

 

All this changed, and for the better, on Tuesday, February 16, when Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced the formation of a partnership between the City of Saratoga Springs and the United Way of the Greater Capital Region (UWGCR) to benefit Code Blue. A drive has been launched to raise the necessary $32,000, and UWGCR President and CEO Brian Hassett was on hand to present Code Blue for the first $8,000 on Tuesday. 

 

“This is why we exist,” Hassett stated. “We have four platforms that we focus on and one is basic needs – food, shelter, safety. We’ve been working in the community for 90 years and when there is a need or a problem, we’re here. We are the friend you can call in the middle of the night.” 

 

Mayor Yepsen, who was instrumental in establishing the city’s Code Blue facility just prior to taking office in 2014, stated that the eventual goal is to have a year-round operational emergency shelter. This phase and the campaign to raise the funds for the goal of having Code Blue open every winter evening when the temperature drops to 32 degrees, is a very important step towards that goal. Noting last weekend’s frigid temperatures, well below zero, the Mayor spoke to the ongoing need, “without Code Blue, people would have likely died on our streets,” she said. 

 

“We are thankful to Mayor Yepsen and the United Way of the Greater Capital Region for stepping up and help make a difference,” Finocchi said, “it’s amazing how much the community gets involved.” He cited statistics showing what a difference Code Blue actually makes. “Last year, we had 14 people transition from Code Blue into our program at Shelters of Saratoga. None of these people have been back this winter,” he said. 

 

Here’s the part where you can make a difference too. Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help Code Blue reach its goal may go to a special webpage set up by the United Way. Visit www.unitedtoconquer.org. All donations made through this page will go to Code Blue. 

 

Also, if you are already contributing to the United Way through payroll deductions or other methods, Hassett told me that the United Way staff would be delighted to assist anyone who wants to designate that their contributions be earmarked for Code Blue. Call the UWGCR staff at 518-456-2200, or visit www.unitedwaygcr.org to do this. 

 

And, of course, volunteers are always needed. Visit www.codebluesaratoga.org to sign up for daily shift schedules. 

 

With the United Way contribution, and it’s fundraising support, a major step was taken towards a better life for many in need on the streets of our community. Like Code Blue itself, this is something every citizen should be proud of.

Published in News
Thursday, 18 February 2016 17:06

Toward A “Smart City”

Presentation Sets Roadmap For Saratoga Springs to Be High-Speed Broadband Leader

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A city that is doing well can reach for an even better quality of life for all it’s citizens, by investing in its infrastructure. Two weeks ago (Issue of February 5), we detailed the commitment that the City of Saratoga Springs was making to develop and promote solar technology for itself and its citizenry. In the same vein, a presentation made to the Saratoga Springs City Council by Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan on Tuesday, February 16 detailed a path where the city would become a leader in developing and providing high-speed broadband to all stakeholders in businesses, schools, government, hospitals and the public at large.

 

Commissioner Madigan announced the formation of a “Smart-City Commission,” that is composed of representatives of a diverse community that would benefit from access to broadband. The Commission’s mission statement detailed the broad goals they hope to accomplish. Stating that, “…Broadband and Internet access at globally competitive speeds are no longer optional luxuries, but have become essential resources for residents, businesses, service providers, and government,” the new Commission will work towards making Saratoga Springs become a model intelligent Community. 

 

The concept of a “Smart City” is one of the core ideas of the Intelligent Communities Forum (IC). IC hosts an annual competition each year known as the “Intelligent Community of the Year Awards: Smart21 Communities of the Year”. As the members of the “Smart-City” Commission work through the application, the hope is for a specific, detailed pathway that accounts for the unique needs of our community will emerge, and further help strengthen and inform the “Smart City” Commission about its vision, mission, objectives, and our region’s strengths and challenges. Completing the application is thus a near term goal of this Commission.

 

This will entail a detailed assessment of broad indicators that provide communities with a framework for future planning and development, as they work to build prosperous local economies in the Broadband Economy, and are a cornerstone for attaining Smart City status. These will include:

 

- Broadband: Intelligent Communities express a strong vision of their broadband future, develop strategies to encourage deployment and adoption, and may construct infrastructure of their own.

- Knowledge Workforce: Intelligent Communities exhibit the determination and ability to develop a workforce qualified to perform knowledge work in every area of the economy. 

- Innovation: Intelligent Communities pursue innovation through the Innovation Triangle or “Triple Helix” – relationships between business, government and institutions such as universities and hospitals, help keep the economic benefits of innovation local, and create an innovation ecosystem that can engage the entire community in positive change.

- Digital Equality: Intelligent Communities promote digital equality by creating policies and programs that provide offline citizens with access to computers and broadband, by providing skills training and by promoting a vision of the benefits that the broadband economy can bring to their lives.

- Sustainability: Communities that use fewer resources to create products and provide services are also more efficient and productive, which is key to continued improvements in their standard of living. 

- Advocacy: A community’s leaders and citizens can be a barrier to progress or can become its most powerful advocates for a better future. Intelligent Communities work to engage leaders, citizens and organizations as champions of change.

 

The “Smart City” Commission has an impressive composition, including some of our City’s best and brightest leaders in information technology, diversely drawn from the City’s schools, colleges, medical facilities and business, as well as government. Some appointments are still pending, but as currently constituted, the members have more than enough intellectual power to put the City of Saratoga Springs on the road to become a Smart City in the near future: 

 

- John Mangona –Vice President, Chief Information and Compliance Officer, Saratoga Hospital

- Martin Vanags- President, Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership

- David L’hommedieu- Assistant Superintendent of Information Technology and Operational Innovation, Saratoga Springs City School District

- William Duffy, Chief Technology Officer, Skidmore College

- Christopher R. Markham, Chief Technology Officer, SUNY Empire State College

- Donald Flinton - Computer Services Manager
, Saratoga Springs Public Library

- Kevin Kling- Director, Information Technology, City of Saratoga Springs

- Art Ware- Member at Large

- Tim Holmes – President, Saratoga Springs DBA

- Matt Veitch - Saratoga Springs County Supervisor

- A member of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Committee (TBA)

- Lynn Bachner - Deputy Commissioner of Finance

- Michele Madigan- Commissioner of Finance

Published in News
Thursday, 11 February 2016 12:34

Illegal Housing – Next Door

City Starts to Move Against Airbnb Outbreak

SARATOGA SPRINGS – No neighborhood is immune. 

 

On any given day, hundreds of properties in the City of Saratoga Springs are listed on sites such as VRBO.com (which stands for Vacation Rental By Owner). VRBO had 198 Saratoga Springs area listings as of Monday, and the popular Airbnb.com site had over 300. These properties are being offered to people - individual rooms or up to an entire household - for short stays (one night or more). 

 

In a desirable tourist location such as Saratoga Springs, the popularity of having your family take over an entire house for a wedding, graduation, music festival, etc. is apparent. The only problem is that, according to the City Code – it is also illegal. 

 

As such, Saratoga Springs is but one example of a growing statewide, nationwide, and even international new market phenomenon rising out of the internet age: through these sites, property owners are finding it easy to list, and potential visitors have a larger universe of choices. Buyer meets seller, and everyone’s happy. So what’s the problem?

 

The problem is that housing used for this type of rental units is being offered in many city neighborhoods where only single or perhaps two-family homes (zoned urban residential or UR-1, 2, or 3) are permitted. Further, the length of guest stays, being frequently short-term – a few days or more – goes against the City Code, which specifies that in these neighborhoods a length of stay that is less than 30 days is considered “transient,” and can only be offered by licensed rooming houses, bed and breakfasts, and hotel/motels. (Note: the city code is crafted so as to specifically exempt track rentals and stays that are longer than 30 days for people vacationing, college students or similar longer-term arrangements).  

 

In Saratoga Springs, the City Code in this case exists not for the purpose of imposing an extra level of bureaucracy. Rather, it attempts to address legitimate concerns, which might be classified into three main areas – security, safety and economic. 

 

The security component: one big reason people buy homes in one/two family neighborhoods is so they will know who their neighbors are. In this context, there is also a public safety component, in that resources must be dedicated to areas all over the city, instead of centralized in a lesser number of places where licensed multi-unit short-term rental properties exist. 

 

The overall market condition regarding the outbreak of short-term rentals was brought to our attention by a reader, who we will call Cece. She owns a house in a quiet neighborhood in the Southeastern end of the city. Cece filed a formal complaint with the City’s Building Department last summer, and enlisted the aid of City Council members to help. In her complaint, she spoke about her neighbor engaging in short-term rentals and the impact on her neighborhood’s quality of life: 

 

“Have you ever tried to sleep with spotlights shining in your bedroom window? Have you ever gone to bed with the windows wide open… only to be inundated with cigarette or cigar smoke blowing into your sleeping quarters? How about drinking parties in the backyard after concerts? This wouldn’t happen if you knew your neighbors. But when the house next door is rented on VRBO at a two-night minimum, you never know who is going to be your neighbor. I live in a UR 2 residential zone, so this shouldn’t happen, right? Wrong. People/tourists do not always behave in the same manner as permanent residents.”

 

In this case, Cece received a response from Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen, who was sympathetic. In an email, he wrote, “Private units in residential neighborhoods should not be able to be operated as de facto hotel rooms.  If the ordinance as presently written does not address this problem, we need to revise it so that these instances do not occur.  You are not the first person to complain about such imposition.”

 

Later, the City’s Building Department issued a ‘cease and desist’ letter to Cece’s neighbor. She is concerned that when next summer comes around she will have to cope with this again, though, as it is not clear what will be done to enforce the order should the neighbor violate it again. 

 

In truth, there are enforcement provisions that exist in the city code that are quite severe, calling for fines of up to $1,000/day in some cases. Yet, as Saratoga Springs officials struggle with several hundred potential violating properties, they said they were mindful that historically, judges have been reluctant to impose fines on property owners. Further complicating the problem is that the City’s Code Enforcement Department has just two people – with their other responsibilities, they have only been able to respond to complaints such as Cece’s, and are mindful about facing an accusation of selectively enforcing a code provision.  

 

This situation has recently changed. A committee comprised of Head Building Inspector Steve Shaw, Code Enforcers Dan Cogan and John Donnelly, City Attorneys Vincent J. DeLeonardis and Tony Izzo, and Deputy Mayor Joseph Ogden, has been meeting for months in an attempt to formulate a strategy about this issue. As a result last week, Cogan indicated the City has sent out a letter to about a dozen property owners (a sample has been obtained by Saratoga TODAY – see graphic) as a first step with an eye toward reaching out to all those who are in violation. Included with the letter that states the property owner is in violation, is a licensing package from the Accounts Department for them to become “legal” – conforming to the guidelines for a special use permit that would allow the owner to operate a short-term rental dwelling. 

 

There would be costs involved in doing this. The permits themselves are not expensive (Code Enforcer Dan Cogan said that it is $25/year for up to five rooms, $50 for up to 10), but in order to qualify for a permit there may be more substantial costs involved in bringing a given building up to the requirements that would be needed to pass a fire inspection for units of this type, as well as carrying extra insurance, and other items. “For us, the primary concern is the safety of the travelling public,” Cogan said. “We have other concerns – such as the impact on the quality of life in the neighborhood and making sure sales and room (bed) taxes are collected. But safety is by far the main priority. We hope the property owner’s contact us to work it out. ” 

 

The issue of lost sales and room taxes are a substantial issue nonetheless. The New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association’s President Jan Chesterton noted that nationwide, the hotel and lodging industry provides nearly 2 million jobs nationwide and supports $141.5 billion in annual business travel tax revenue for state and local governments. Chesterton has been representing the lodging and hospitality industry in a battle to get some State legislation to supplement and strengthen local governments’ efforts to grapple with this situation. “We want to level the playing field,” Chesterton said. A committee, of which Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau is a member, has been educating members of the Legislature and has formulated several key points that they advocate should be part of a legal solution to the short-term online rental universe that they say are compromising consumer safety, endangering the character and security of residential neighborhoods, and avoiding their tax and regulatory obligations. 

 

These provisions include:

• hosts register and obtain a business license;

• short-term online companies are not facilitating illegal activity;

• all taxes are paid;

• basic health, safety and cleanliness standards are met;

• communities and residents of multi-unit buildings are not subject to a revolving door of strangers; 

• zoning laws and condominium, co-op, and apartment building rules are followed;

• illegal hotels do not continue to operate; and

• appropriate levels of insurance are in place to protect homeowners, guests and communities. 

 

Chesterton made it clear that safety was also her association’s top priority. “The biggest thing is assuring standardized inspections for all lodging facilities,” she said. “However, there is no doubt that the Capital Region is losing thousands of room/nights per year to these short-term rentals, with all the lost revenue associated with it.” Chesterton expressed confidence that “we will get something done in this legislative session,” which ends in June.

 

So, the battle lines have become more clearly drawn. This remains a story in process, which should prove to be interesting to see how it plays out locally. 

 

 

Published in News

By Dr. Joel Goodman

For Saratoga TODAY

 

He was out of this world… and also very down to earth. He was Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the Moon… 45 years ago this week. Edgar was also here in Saratoga Springs 15 years ago on the 30th anniversary of Apollo 14. 

 

I felt connected with Edgar for a long time — my father had worked for many years at NACA (The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics - a forerunner of NASA)… and my uncle had actually worked on the Lunar Module back in the 60’s and 70’s. I had the pleasure of meeting Edgar at the Creative Problem Solving Institute’s President’s Convocation years ago. Although he passed away this week at the age of 85, Edgar’s creative accomplishments and imprint will be with us for a long time.

 

Over the decades, The HUMOR Project has sponsored 55 international conferences on “The Positive Power of Humor and Creativity,” including 20 years in a row here in Saratoga Springs. This conference has honored laughter luminaries like Steve Allen, Sid Caesar, Victor Borge, Bob Newhart, Jay Leno, Gilda Radner, Art Buchwald, the Smothers Brothers, Lucie Arnaz, Al Roker, Soupy Sales, Teri Garr, Carol Channing, David Hyde Pierce, Meadowlark Lemon (see January 15 edition of Saratoga TODAY), and others.  

 

These programs attracted people to our city from all 50 states, 6 continents, and the Moon (thanks to Edgar). As the title of our conference suggests, I really believe there is a link between humor and creativity (I call it the HAHA-AHA alliance). I was delighted to honor Edgar at our Saratoga Springs conference by presenting him with the  “Creativity in Action: Making a Difference Award.” 

 

Dr. Edgar Mitchell had a resume that must be unique in the entire history of the universe. He held a Doctor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and four honorary doctorates.  On February 4, 1971, he piloted the Lunar Module to a landing on the Moon with Alan Shepard. Two years later, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, an organization dedicated to sponsoring research into the nature of consciousness. This career and life-changing transition was inspired by his trip back to Earth after his walk on the Moon: 

 

“Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth… home. My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity. We went to the Moon as technicians; we returned as humanitarians.” 

 

As a lecturer and prime mover in the field of consciousness research, he delivered addresses throughout the world on cosmology, human potential, and the implications of recent discoveries in science as they affect our individual lives in the home, the workplace, and society at large. He was a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows. Dr. Mitchell received many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. He was the author of Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science and The Way of the Explorer, which traces the progress of two remarkable journeys: his life-changing space flight and his exploration of the mystery of consciousness and being.

 

In fact, at our 2001 Saratoga Springs conference, he made two presentations that are described below:

 

The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journeys Through Outer Space and Inner Space: 

From January 31-February 9, 1971, Dr. Mitchell embarked on a journey through space of some 500,000 miles that resulted in his walking on the Moon with Alan Shepard. Of that journey, he has written, “On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.” Scientist, test pilot, naval officer, Apollo 14 astronaut, entrepreneur, author, and lecturer, Dr. Mitchell’s varied career personifies humankind’s eternal thrust to widen its horizons as well as to explore its inner soul. In this session, you’ll have a chance to take your mind for a ride in this intellectually stimulating, provocative lecture on his experiences in outer space and his exploration of the inner space of consciousness.  

 

2001: (Inner) Space Odyssey: On the Frontiers of Creativity:

Guided by Dr. Edgar Mitchell and Dr. Roger Firestien, this is a unique, brain-stretching opportunity to focus on such topics as:

*Cutting-edge research on creativity and innovation:  what works, what doesn't in business, education, health care, human services, parenting, and life

* Strategies for developing a climate for creativity and innovation in your own organization or classroom

* The four critical behaviors needed to be consistently creative

*Research of 30 years in consciousness studies

* The connection between understanding the universe and understanding your Self

* The lessons of Apollo 13: creativity under pressure, solving unsolvable problems

 

Edgar’s pioneering planetary paradigm provides powerful perspective on the universe around us… and the universe within each of us. I feel honored that this very well traveled astronaut landed in Saratoga Springs and had another out-of-this-world experience while he was here.

 

Recipient of the International Lifetime of Laughter Award, Dr. Joel Goodman is founder and director of The HUMOR Project, Inc. in Saratoga Springs (www.HumorProject.com). Although he has not yet been to the Moon, Joel is a globetrotter himself: One of only two professional speakers on the planet to present in all 50 states and on all 7 continents.

 

Published in News
Thursday, 04 February 2016 11:46

Saratoga Springs’ Solar: Towards a Brighter Future

Committee Report Details Roadmap for City to Become Solar Leader

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Solar power is becoming more viable each day, and a Solar Committee, formed last summer by Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan, delivered a comprehensive report to the Saratoga Springs City Council at their Tuesday, February 2 meeting. The report surveyed the “state of the local solar landscape” and made several recommendations how the City can take action itself and encourage others to increase its usage.

 

Solar Committee Chairperson Larry Toole delivered a summary of the report, which began by examining current local solar situations from environmental, technological and financial perspectives – all trending towards increased favorability for solar power. As a result, the report cited research that “more solar {was} installed in one week during 2015 than was installed in all of 2006.” This is due to a variety of factors including improved efficiencies in solar panels and equipment, leading to the lowered cost of generating solar power, which Toole noted had dropped significantly: from $12/watt in 1998 to around $4.50/watt in 2013. 

 

The report also discussed various solar implementation models, from individual residence/businesses, community solar parks (where the solar array or panels are shared by a group of people, such as the inhabitants of a community or an apartment building, much the same way community gardens work), and larger “Utility Scale” installations, such as the city’s proposed Weibel Avenue Solar Park, which, when built out, could have the potential to generate 40-50 percent of city building energy needs. Commissioner Madigan has forecasted that the groundbreaking on this will occur this year. The report also listed opportunities for financial assistance from Federal and State sources to encourage solar installations.

 

The Solar Committee made seven action recommendations to the City Council to help encourage, emphasize and incentivize continued and increased utilization of solar in all areas of Saratoga Springs’ economy:

 

1- Replace the current Solar Access Ordinance 6.4.8 with the New York State Unified Solar Permit or a variation. By standardizing the process, the goal would be to encourage easier and a greater number of solar permit applications. 

2- Ensure that consideration for solar will be pervasive across all of the City’s decision making bodies, including City Council, and its Land Use Boards.

3- Encourage the City to offer “incentives” (monetary or otherwise) to encourage the inclusion of solar and other clean energy options within proposed development projects. Such incentives could be above and beyond what is available at the state and federal level.

4- The City should participate in the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program (an elective program administered by the State’s Energy Improvement Corporation. This provides financing for eligible clean energy projects) for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to buildings.

5- Encourage builders to include a solar component within all new development proposals. Such encouragement should be included at all process gateways to ensure that at least adequate consideration be given to solar and/or other renewable energy or energy efficiency options.

6- Pursue community solar as an alternative option, especially when the installation of solar directly on a consumer’s property creates a negative impact for adjacent properties or to the community as a whole.

7. The City should adopt policies and promote actions that recognize and are sensitive to balancing the growth of solar with competing interests within the community (such as historic preservation or the environment). For example, under most circumstances it is self-defeating to advance solar installations by removal of the tree canopy.

 

The complete committee report is on the city website. Visit www.saratoga-springs.org. A copy is also in the City Clerk’s office at City Hall.

 

Published in News
Friday, 29 January 2016 13:53

Hot Potato at the Freezing Point:

Homeless Seek Shelter at Saratoga Hospital ER

SARATOGA SPRINGS – What you have here is a textbook case about an unfunded government mandate in action. Well intentioned, perhaps, but in this case it has to date led local organizations, also well intentioned, but in some cases underfunded, in others under-equipped, to scramble for an effective solution to fulfill the mandate. Meanwhile, the weakest segment of our society – our homeless – has their safety and very lives in limbo.

 

On Sunday, January 3, in advance of an anticipated drop in New York City’s temperature and large snowfall amounts, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order requiring local governments to take identified homeless people off the streets and into shelters, by force, if necessary, once the temperature reaches 32 degrees or below. While many statewide were quick to criticize the force component of the order, it became an economic issue locally this week. 

 

The City of Saratoga Springs Code Blue Shelter is operated by Shelters of Saratoga at the Salvation Army on Woodlawn Avenue. The shelter is “triggered,” or goes into operation, when the temperature is expected to drop below 20 degrees, or when a foot of snowfall is expected.  It should be noted that this is a benchmark that has been used by many similar organizations throughout the state. After the Governor’s mandate, the local Code Blue Shelter continued to operate under that same threshold, as they had no immediate way to secure the funding to keep it open more often.

 

“We’re certainly willing to look at (raising the threshold),” said Shelters of Saratoga’s (SOS) Executive Director Mike Finocchi. “We actually did raise it once, from 10 to 20 degrees. The issue with us is securing funding for the costs involved, and of course staffing. We are primarily a volunteer organization, and though we get some grant money, we are principally funded through generous donations from the community.” Finocchi said that the Code Blue Shelter accommodates an average of 38 people when open.

 

During the overnight hours of Tuesday/Wednesday, January 22/23, the temperature was below freezing, but not cold enough to activate the Code Blue Facility. A subset of the homeless population, 10 to 12 people, was transported to the emergency room at Saratoga Hospital to seek an alternative shelter. Some have speculated that a homeless volunteer transported this group; other sources have told Saratoga TODAY that a part time resident of the shelter had organized the group of people. Regardless, the people appeared on the hospital’s doorstep.

 

For it’s part, Saratoga Hospital did all it could to accommodate the unexpected people, despite the fact that it’s Emergency Department is not set up to do this kind of hosting. A statement released by Saratoga Hospital’s Vice President for Community Engagement, Amy Raimo on Wednesday, January 27 seemed to strike a proper chord: Caring and yet not possessing the proper facilities. The statement read in part:

 

“Last night, approximately 10 to 12 people from the homeless community were brought to our Emergency Department…. We have had this occur before, but this is the largest number we have accommodated.

 

The Hospital has a long-standing practice: If someone from the community comes to the Hospital, we will not turn them away. We will be as responsive as we can be to meet their needs. However, we are not equipped to be a shelter, and refer anyone in need to the local community organizations best prepared to help. As always, our primary focus is to take care of our patients, but we will continue to work closely with local authorities and organizations to identify the best solutions when there is a need and we can help.”

 

As stated above, Shelters of Saratoga’s people have more than expressed willingness to raise the threshold to activate Code Blue. Perhaps this is a good time to enlist the reader to consider making, or making another, donation to help fund this worthy cause. Visit SheltersOfSaratoga.org for information. Meanwhile, this remains a story in progress that is frustrating to well-meaning people that are seeking a solution. And the homeless remain in limbo.

 

Finocchi added a note of irony. “On that night,” he said, “we actually had six rooms available at our regular shelter (on Walworth Street), which operates year-round. But nobody called us.”

Published in News
Friday, 22 January 2016 17:11

Saratoga: a New Golden Age?

SEDC and the Partnership See Great Promise in County’s Future

This is the second in a three-part series on economic development in Saratoga County. The first in the series, "Taxpayers Triple Down on Saratoga," can be read here.

SARATOGA COUNTY – While the rest of the nation is still pulling slowly out of the Great Recession, Saratoga County has been holding its own and growing. 

According to Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, the prognosis and outlook is good. “Last year was one of the first years since I have been here that everyone around the table [local CEO’s] expected growth. Anecdotally, I think every sector I’m aware of saw job growth.” 

Dennis Brobston, president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), a nonprofit 501(c)3, agrees. “Saratoga County is known in upstate New York as one of the best counties for economic development,” said Brobston, who has been dedicated to growing the local economy for over three decades. “It has one of the lowest unemployment rates across the state across all sectors, and is in the top three fastest growing. You can see it in the boom of jobs, housing, low county taxes and more. We’re really blessed we have such great product to sell [Saratoga County], and there are plenty of ancillary jobs created because of what we do.” 

Marty Vanags, president of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, is also working to build on the strengths of the county to multiply the economic development efforts here. The Partnership’s Saratoga Strategic Plan is focused on four main objectives: 

First, the Partnership will engage in a proactive, targeted and collaborative campaign to attract new business to Saratoga County in key clusters and industries, including: Advanced Manufacturing; Agriculture; Financial Business Process Outsourcing; Research and Development; and Specialized Distribution. According to Vanags, he intends to bring trade shows here so CEO’s can experience everything Saratoga has to offer, and use those events to encourage them to explore staying.

Secondly, the Partnership will engage existing businesses, stakeholders, partners and other economic development agencies in an all-inclusive, multi-year Business Retention and Expansion Campaign that will help the private sector secure new jobs and capital investment in Saratoga County. Vanags will work with local partners on branding and awareness campaigns to get the news out about the benefits of the county.

The Partnership shall leverage the investment of GlobalFoundries and the presence of Luther Forest Technology Park to attract new advanced manufacturing businesses, suppliers and allied industries to increase employment and capital investment in Saratoga County. One aspect of this is an area that SEDC is working on, too, creating a supply chain to feed the work at GlobalFoundries. 

The Partnership will build and expand relationships with appointed and elected officials at the local, state and federal government levels to enhance investments in Saratoga County, and the next article in this series will touch more on the impact of state and national government on our local economy. 

Both the Prosperity Partnership and SEDC are providing decades of expertise and national relationships to build on the county’s current growth and tremendous economic potential. 

“The role of an economic development agency is to create jobs, good paying jobs,” said Brobston. “It enables a person to live a decent life, pay bills, and contribute to the investment in a community. And, our role is to get companies to invest in the community, because that investment brings dollars in taxes which helps our schools, existing local businesses, and more.”

SEDC’s goals for the county’s future include much of what they have been working on already – encouraging businesses to locate here that provide a supply chain for GlobalFoundries; that manufacture advanced technologies like medical supplies and sensors; building on the hotbed SEDC’s created here for warehouse distribution; and working on relocating corporate headquarters here. 

“Saratoga County is a wonderful place to live and have a business,” said Brobston. It offers a lot of access to the world through Boston, Montreal, Buffalo – just jump on a plane and be anywhere. Within a day’s drive of here is 54 percent of the population of North America.” 

Shimkus sees a benefit to having both SEDC and the Partnership out marketing Saratoga County to industries to relocate here. “There’s so much interest in moving into Saratoga County that having two organizations selling with more feet on the street doing sales is helpful,” said Shimkus. “When you could have a lot of demand, you want to make sure you’re doing as much prospecting as possible.”

And that double-prospecting can help fill in the employment gaps that exist in the county. Brobston acknowledged that the northern end of the county has a higher unemployment rate than the southern, partly due to access to Albany and government jobs at that end of the Northway, but he foresees change for the northern end, as well. The addition of Dollar General’s new warehouse in Wilton, should that come through, would make a big difference. 

“We’re a county that’s been growing a lot later than other counties,” said Brobston. “These were bedroom communities in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Saratoga Springs was a resort that was busy only five months out of the year. We’re maturing, now. We’re less transient than when GE and the paper mill were moving their employees in and out. People are staying and we’re seeing a need for senior housing like we never had before.” 

Brobston described the impact of Ball Corporation, one of SEDC’s first projects. The company is celebrating retirees now, people who moved here 35 years ago due to SEDC’s efforts to relocated Ball Corporation in Saratoga Springs.  

“Now we have people who want to stay because their families are here,” said Brobston. “I was here at age 27, moved away, moved back, and now I have grandkids here. I’m never leaving – first my wife would shoot me and then my grandchildren would,” he joked. “I’m not the only one. According to census estimates, the brain drain has slowed down a bit. People who’ve left are coming back. Once you add in the GlobalFoundries personnel into the numbers, we’ve got a great mix of all ages and people are staying, aging in place. We’ve never had that before, and it began with Ball. They were a great success story. We have many of those success stories. Ball, Quad Graphics, Saratoga Eagle, Ace Hardware, Delmar Thomas, all corporations from somewhere else.” 

Brobston had some thoughts about how county citizens can contribute to job growth beyond showing up with welcome signs at planning board meetings. “Local residents can help by paying attention to what the world needs,” he said. “It’s okay to say if they aren’t thrilled with a new project, but also say let’s figure out a way to do this together.” 

He described the proposed expansion of Saratoga Hospital as an example, saying that community could use some of the corresponding road improvements that would go along with the project, but those improvements will be slower coming without the investment dollars a hospital expansion would bring. 

“Some people are worried about traffic, others are more worried about access to healthcare,” said Brobston, “but they might be afraid to speak out in fear of being ostracized. We need to be thoughtful, vocal, and positive. Be more willing to find compromise. I believe there’s hope and ways to do this. The individual is what this country was built on, and home rule is what this state was built on, but we can’t forget that what we say and do has an impact on others. It’s not always about us.”

Shimkus adds, “It’s easy to tell people to shop and go to independent local stores, but I think the bigger issue is that we need the community to always support efforts to grow the economy. You have to always be trying to create new jobs, local jobs, so there are jobs here for their kids to come back to. We can’t be complacent in Saratoga and believe we have it all. We have to always be focused on growing the economy like what SEDC and the Partnership are doing. 

The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is located at 2911 Route 9 in Malta. They can be reached at 518-871-1887. The Saratoga Economic Development Corporation is located at 28 Clinton St, Saratoga Springs and can be reached at 518-587-0945. The economic development plans for both agencies can be found on their respective websites. 

Published in News
Thursday, 21 January 2016 10:28

MOO-vers And Shakers!

City Center to Host Holstein Convention

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Please forgive me, but I want to milk this for all it’s worth. 

 

The Saratoga Springs City Center will join such luminary cities such as Calgary, Alberta and Fort Worth, Texas as it transforms Saratoga Springs into a version of “Cowtown,” when it will be the site of the annual National Holstein Convention from June 27 to July 1. The Co-chairs of the event are Jeff and Becky King from King Brothers Dairy and Kings-Ransom Farm, located in Bacon Hill just outside of Saratoga Springs. 

 

“We’re excited at the buzz this is already generating,” said Becky King, who had just attended statewide convention in Utica. “We can wait to show off our hometown area at our industry’s National Convention!”

 

The theme of this year’s convention is “New York Charm – City to Farm” and the estimated 800 -1,200 attendees, according to City Center President Mark Baker, will get a taste of some of the great attractions the Saratoga region has to offer – including the Saratoga Battlefield and The National Museum of Racing; fun stops like the Saratoga Strike Zone and Great Escape, in addition to Holstein breeder farm tours such as Kings-Ransom. 

 

The convention attendees are potential buyers for the approximately 80 head of Holstein cattle that will be auctioned. “These are the most prized breed in the dairy industry,” Baker said. “The highest quality stock is here in the Northeast, and we anticipate interested parties coming in from all 50 states, as well as from Europe, South America and Asia.” 

 

In explaining how this particular convention deal came about, Mark Baker cited several factors. “Our staff, in conjunction with the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, are always on the lookout for new events. In this case, Jeff King was a key person – he and Kings-Ransom stepped up about six years ago; due to our recent expansion he said he believed that we were now big enough to host an event of this magnitude, and lobbied hard to get Saratoga on the schedule, which is planned years in advance.” He said. Baker also cited the emphasis that Saratoga County places on its agricultural industry as a factor in the decision to locate the convention here. 

 

The economic impact on the local area, which Baker estimates could run upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars during the conventioneer’s stay, should udder-ly delight local hoteliers and merchants. Sorry. 

 

But the convention attendees will also be here for serious business, and will spend from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars themselves on the prized dairy cattle. “Holsteins are the go-to breed in the dairy industry,” Baker said. While many of the events surrounding the convention are for attendees, Baker noted that there are several portions that the local residents could participate and enjoy. 

 

The day before the convention, on Sunday June 26, the public will be able to view the prized Holsteins as they arrive, are groomed and loaded into the City Center facility. This will take place in the Maple Avenue parking lot – across from the City Center loading dock. During the conference, in the hotel pavilion area, organizations including the local 4-H and area dairy farms will have an exposition booth. 

 

Then there is the live auction and sale itself, scheduled to be Thursday afternoon, June 30. The public can attend this, but much like Fasig-Tipton, you are advised to keep your hands in your pockets, lest you end up an unexpected houseguest. 

 

But at least, it will bring the milk. I herd that!

 

For more information about the 2016 Convention nyholsteins.com/2016convention/index.html 

 

Published in News
Page 3 of 25

Blotter

  • Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office  A 20-year-old Watervliet man was charged with first degree manslaughter after allegedly “striking another person with a large wrench and causing that person’s death,” according to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office said they received a call of a fight in progress on Sparrow Drive in the town of Malta and the Investigation into the complaint led to the arrest of Cyrus J. Tetreault, 20, of Watervliet.  The victim was identified as 53-year-old Malta resident Brian M. Miller.  “It is truly tragic that this situation resulted in a loss of life,” county Sheriff Michael Zurlo…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON  Richard Burt sold property at 921 Route 50 to 921 Route 50 LLC for $173,000 GALWAY Rita Werner and Erin Forlenza sold property at 1064 West Galway Road to Karen Crandall for $145,000 GREENFIELD John Mishoe sold property at 463 Allen Road to Michael Forlini for $390,000 John Duffney sold property at 288 North Greenfield to Kelly Rozembersky for $270,000 MALTA  Timothy Albright sold property at 54 Shore Ave to Joseph DiDonna for $800,000 Jennifer Hogan sold property at 5 Plum Poppy South to Dustin Mullen for $475,000 Nicolas Aragosa sold property at 10 Scotch Mist Way to Steven…
  • NYPA
  • Saratoga County Chamber
  • BBB Accredited Business
  • Discover Saratoga
  • Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association