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Thursday, 22 August 2019 12:54

City Notebook

City Streets

The City Council this week announced an experiment on Henry Street which will see the two-way road transformed into a one-way street for motor vehicles. The free lane space created will then be turned into a two-way cycle track. The pilot project – which will run from Saturday, Sept.14 through Sunday, Sept. 29 - will measure the impact of implementing this low-cost engineered design to create the urban segment of the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail from Lake Avenue to Spring Street.

Henry Street, which runs adjacent to the rear-side entry of the Saratoga Springs Public Library,  was named after Henry Walton – a man of high culture and polished manners who possessed the faculty of binding to himself close social ties to the educated and the refined, according to William Stone’s late 19th century writings, “Reminiscences Of Saratoga.” Walton was a judge and landowner during the early development of the local community.  

A Public Hearing was held Aug. 13 regarding traffic congestion and the safety of students being dropped off and picked up at the Lake Avenue School, which faces Lake Avenue and is bordered by Regent Street and Marion Place.  Potentially converting one of the two-way streets into a one-way street, as well as implementing “traffic calming-solutions” such as a large, billboard-esque electronic speed monitor were among the topics of discussion. The public hearing remains open and will be revisited by the council.  


City Salaries

A Public Hearing was scheduled and will take place at 6:40 p.m. during the Sept. 3 City Council meeting regarding a Local Law to amend the City Charter as it relates to terms of office, eligibility and salaries of officers. The law seeks to increase the compensation of the elected City Council members from $14,500 per year to $30,000 annually, beginning on Jan. 1, 2020. Member salaries have not increased since at least 2001, Mayor Meg Kelly said.


City Center Parking Garage Hearing Scheduled

A Public Hearing was scheduled to also take place Sept. 3 regarding the crafting of a lease between the City and the City Center Authority that will potentially see the City Center develop and operate a 600-space parking garage near High Rock Park.

The project proposal includes two phases of development along the city-owned 2-1/2-acre parcel that runs from High Rock Park to Lake Avenue, and Maple Avenue to High Rock Avenue, one block east of Broadway. The City Center Authority has applied for a building permit, and if the lease agreement is approved, the project may begin development this fall and be partially completed by next summer, according to a spokesman for the City Center. 

Current plans involve only Phase 1 of the project – on 1.75 acres directly east of the City Center and the Algonquin lot.

Phase 1 call for a multi-level, 600-space parking garage, a “pedestrian connector” atop Maple Avenue to run between the City Center and the parking structure, and an extension of the Green Belt Trail along High Rock Avenue, where there is 50 feet of space between the potential structure and the curb line. A small “pocket park” has also recently been added to the plans and will sit at the southeast corner of Phase 1 plans.


Capital Plan – Announcement on Code Blue Coming Oct. 1

City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan will bring the proposed 2020 comprehensive city budget to the council Oct. 1 and “will include a financial plan to move the city forward with a permanent Code Blue Shelter,” Mayor Kelly said this week. “Commissioner Madigan and I have been working very hard to find land for a permanent location and we are making great progress.” The city is working with Shelters of Saratoga on the emergency homeless shelter. 

A separate, six-year proposed capital plan totaling just under $17 million was also announced this week. The plan ranks 36 city projects according to importance. The highest ticket item is $6.6 million for an Eastside Fire/EMS Facility. The city currently has two stations – one just off Broadway and one on the west side. The potential of an east side facility has been discussed for several years. At present, no land where the station would specifically be sited has been determined. The fire/ems station ranks third highest in order of importance.

Other high-cost items include a Loughberry Lake Dam Embankment stabilization and spillway project – ranked 2nd overall and carrying a cost of $1.75 million, and the Geyser Road Trail construction – specifically related to the area in and around Route 50. The project would ultimately connect the Geyser Crest neighborhood with the Saratoga Spa State Park and Railroad Run.  The council will likely vote on the Capital Budget at its next meeting, Sept. 3.

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Members of the design team involved in the development of a 600-space parking garage project near High Rock Park made the rounds of the city Land Use boards and the City Council last week. The Goal: to provide project updates and secure additional feedback regarding the Phase 1 proposal of a construction project to take place adjacent to the Saratoga Springs City Center.  

“Our hope is to break ground this fall and have occupancy next year,” Mike Ingersoll, of the LA Group - which is part of the team advancing the project – told the Planning Board late last week. The Design Review Commission and City Council were also each provided with an in-person update by a group that included Ingersoll, Saratoga Springs City Center Executive Director Ryan McMahon, and City Center Authority Chairman Tom Roohan.

The project proposal includes two phases of development along a city-owned 2-1/2-acre parcel that runs from High Rock Park to Lake Avenue, and Maple Avenue to High Rock Avenue, one block east of Broadway.     

The city owns the land and a lease agreement between the city of Saratoga Springs and the City Center Authority regarding the parking structure is currently being negotiated. It is expected to be completed in short order. City Mayor Meg Kelly said she anticipates two public hearings will be held at upcoming City Council meetings in September – those meetings will take place Tuesday, Sept. 3 and Tuesday, Sept. 17, after which the City Council is expected to vote on the lease agreement.

The City Center Authority has applied for a building permit, and if all goes well the project may begin development this fall, and be partially completed by next summer, explained City Center Executive Director Ryan McMahon. The center will oversee management of the structure. That partial completion may allow drivers of vehicles to be capable of parking their vehicles on the new structure’s new first level, should it be completed in time, he added. 

Discussions regarding a parking garage behind the City Center initially began in 2013 and has been at times contentious.

Current plans involve only Phase 1 of the project – on 1.75 acres directly east of the City Center and the Algonquin lot.

Phase 1 call for a multi-level, 600-space parking garage, a “pedestrian connector” atop Maple Avenue to run between the City Center and the parking structure, and an extension of the Green Belt Trail along High Rock Avenue, where there is 50 feet of space between the potential structure and the curb line. A small “pocket park” has also recently been added to the plans,  and will sit at the southeast corner of Phase 1 plans.

The 600 spaces in the parking garage represent a net gain of about 380 spaces overall, as some currently existing spaces will require removal to make space for the structure and the trail. Vehicle access points to and from the structure will be on High Rock and Ellsworth Jones Place

The structure’s “facades respect the streetscape,” and the pedestrian connector bridge has been altered since initial plans to feature “a more transparent, open element (and) not as obtrusive and blocking as it was before,” Ingersoll said.  The pedestrian bridge will be closed when the City Center is not in use, although the parking garage will remain open.

The garage will house “flat” floors rather than “ramp” incline floors, so re-utilization is possible, and the lower level specifically may be used as an extension of the Farmers’ Market, or as an exhibition space for vendors. City Council member John Franck inquired whether a traffic light would be installed in conjunction with the increased activity anticipated with a new parking garage, but was told there are no plans for a traffic light at this time.

The remaining .85 acres of the lot will be part of Phase Two of the project – plans for which have not yet been determined, but will likely be addressed “over the next year or two,” Ingersoll said.

Published in News
Friday, 09 August 2019 10:03

City Democratic Committee Elects New Chair

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Several members of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee staged a walk-out last week, voicing their opposition to a candidate chosen by city voters for a seat on the City Council.

In this summer’s Democratic Primary for the party’s representation for Commissioner of Finance. challenger Patty Morrison defeated incumbent Michele Madigan by a 736-705 vote count. The city Democratic Committee (SSDC) had endorsed Madigan prior to the primary.

“We are resigning because we are unable to support Ms. Morrison for the position of Commissioner of Finance,” announced Charles Brown during an Aug. 1 press conference at High Rock Park, flanked by nearly a dozen others who presented themselves as resigning members of the SSDC. 

“We cannot support Patty Morrison for this position and stay on in the Committee,” Brown said, adding the resigning members believe Morrison “unqualified and ill-suited” for the office. “We’re all strong lifelong Democrats and plan to be Democrats, but we are Democrats that are independent of party (now), meaning therefore we can support a candidate without crossing the dictate of the party.”

The resignations follow last month’s walk-out of five members who served on the SSDC Executive Committee.  

Morrison countered that what matters most is the voice of resident city voters.  “Saratoga Springs citizens have spoken and the message is clear -- from what was said at the doors and most importantly at the ballot box in the recent election -- we are not happy with the current Commissioner of Finance, poor decisions at the Council table and we ultimately voted for change,” Morrison said in a statement.  

Morrison - on the Democratic line, and Madigan – who will appear on the Independence Party and Working Families Party lines, will face one another in the citywide general election on Nov. 5 when all five City Council positions, as well as two Saratoga Springs Supervisor seats, will be up for vote.

There is no Republican candidate challenging for the seat of Commissioner of Finance. 

“The June primary was about whose name will appear on the Democratic line for the office of Finance Commissioner this fall. But in November, every voter will be able to take part in choosing who actually wins this office,” Madigan said. 

“I have a strong record of achievement and a well-earned reputation for integrity, ethics, and transparency,” said Madigan, announcing the launch of a non-partisan coalition called One Saratoga, “to unite voters from across the political spectrum who share a common purpose of sustaining and enhancing the vibrancy of our great city.”

The Democratic Primary on June 25 returned 1,447 total ballots - there were 6 non-named write-in ballot votes - representing about 21.5 percent of the 6,730 registered city Democrats. The 1,447 number of votes represents an increase over the last Democratic Primary in Saratoga Springs, where a total of 913 voters participated in the 2015 vote for Public Safety Commissioner. 

The SSDC elected Sarah J. Burger as its new chair at an Aug. 7 meeting. A native of Saratoga Springs, Burger is founding partner at Burger Law Group PLLC and has been a longtime committee member. The committee also elected Cassandra Bagramian as its new treasurer. Bagramian is the Democratic deputy commissioner for Saratoga County Board of Elections.

Brown said the resigning members made a concerted effort to announce their departure as soon as was possible to allow remaining committee members “to follow through with the work that they needed to do. We’ve left them with $10,000 that we have earned over the years, we’ve left them with ramp-up manuals for procedures, and procedures for sub-committees.”   

Todd Kerner, chairman of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee, said “the Democratic Committee is like a family, we sometimes argue and disagree due to the passion we bring to public service. We want to thank those who are leaving for their hard work and dedication.  We continue to move ahead with an excellent slate of candidates and look forward to the November elections.”  

"There are a number of citizens eagerly waiting to join the committee and work in accordance to the will of the voters we are elected to serve,” Morrison said. “It is not unusual for there to be a change when leadership and the will of the electorate are misaligned. Our City Democratic Committee will be stronger going forward.    

Published in News
Friday, 02 August 2019 12:26

Saratoga: On The Backstretch

SARATOGA SPRINGS – It is sunrise at Saratoga Race Course. On either side of Union Avenue, the work of tending to the horses by members of the backstretch community is already underway.

Here at the barns, many will work through the morning. For some, there is a mid-day break before returning for a few more hours of work in the late afternoon and early evening. Others have second jobs at the main track across the street. They work in food service, as parking attendants, or among the cleaning crews.

It is a routine much like any other year, but in the summer of 2019 the normal rhythm of the week is different. For racing fans, racehorse owners, trainers, managers, and the community of backstretch workers who live temporarily on-site, an adjustment is underway.  

Saratoga as a thoroughbred racing mecca was inaugurated in August 1863 on the north side of Union Avenue as a four-day meet. By the early 1900’s the length of the meet was extended to five weeks, the dates mostly congregated during the month of August. Overall, there were 24 such days in the 1960s as the Northway extended through the Spa City. Three decades later the number of race days incrementally increased: first to 30, then 34, and eventually 36.  For the 2010 season, the New York Racing Association expanded racing days in Saratoga from 36 to 40 racing days – which is where it remains to this day. The racing goes on six days a week. Tuesday had been designated as the “dark” day off.

In February, NYRA announced it was adjusting the racing dates for both the 2019 Belmont Park spring/summer and the Saratoga summer meet. The adjustment was made to accommodate the construction of an arena for the National Hockey League's New York Islanders at Belmont Park. This week, Michael Anderson of the website Fansided, reported that groundbreaking for the arena will get underway after Labor Day, with a completion and opening for the start of the October 2021 hockey season.

The opening of the Saratoga meet, which typically has started July 20 or later, this year began July 11. The number of racing days – 40 – remain the same. To compensate for the extended time in the Spa City a second “dark” day was added, extending Tuesday’s typical off-day to Monday and Tuesday each week.    The changes, at least at this point, appear to be temporary. 

“It’s been a learning experience for us and for the people and for the agencies to learn what are people going to do and where are they going to be,” says Nick Caras. Caras helps coordinate events and activities, among other things, for the backstretch community as programs director of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America’s New York Division.  “But, so far, I haven’t seen one person who doesn’t like the two days off. Not one,” he says.  

Mother Nature has also provided her own kinks. Two weeks into the meet, live racing was shortened  to four races due to heavy rain on July 25, and the entire racing card was cancelled July 20 due to excessive heat.  

The NY Racetrack Chaplaincy assists with the challenges facing the community of backstretch workers and their families, and helps provide resources to address those challenges at all three N.Y. racetracks, providing extensive programs and daily one-on-one meetings and counseling. The backstretch community numbers more than 800 people.

“Right now people are just getting accustomed to the two days off, there’s no norm yet,” Caras says. This is only week two, so people are still testing the waters: what do I do with these extra days? I definitely see a lot of that.” 

Eduardo Roa works in the jockey silks room. He has used the extra day off to take a ride to Cooperstown with three of his friend, as well as make it back home downstate and see his family. “I’ve been coming to Saratoga a long time, maybe 20 years or more,” Roa says. “It’s a very big difference between last year and now. The six days of races (in the past) was a lot. To have two days off, now I can go back home to the Bronx and see the family.”

“We feel more comfortable now with two days off,” says worker Fausto Morrocho, who spent some down time in the backstretch Recreation Hall, flanked by a quartet of pool tables, a foosball game and  ping-pong table. Twenty chairs sit in a semi-circle aimed at a pair of wall-mounted TVs, framed by a two vending machines: one dispenses candy snacks, the other, sodas. A posted sheaf of paper tacked to the wall announces the Monday night soccer tournaments in red hand-written marker.

“I’ve been coming up here 16 years now,” Morrocho says. ”The two days off are nice because we can go back and see our families. My family - my wife and my step-daughter – are back in New York. So, it’s much better. And it helps the riding work with the horses.”

“This week, with the extra day off from the horses, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association paid for a bus for 55 people to go to New York. In the past, with one day off out of those 55, that may have been one person who was able to go back,” Caras says. “They’re able to schedule their day off and go home. So right there that’s a big difference.”

About 70 percent of the Saratoga backstretch population come up to work from the Belmont and Aqueduct areas, says Caras, who has been involved with the Race Track Chaplaincy for several years and previously worked for NYRA for more than a quarter-century. “They’re loving the extra day off. Whether they get to go home, just sleep an additional 10 hours or go shopping. Eight people I know of went over to Brown’s Beachand another group of people went up to Lake George. The biggest difference this year with years past is they’re doing things more – even recreation – with a relaxed frame of mind.”

Backstretch activities include soccer games on Mondays and learning English as a Second Language on Tuesdays and Thursdays – the latter run by Saratoga EOC. John Hendrickson and the late Marylou Whitney helped create backstretch programs that this year run through August. The backstretch calendar depicts trips to the bowling alley and the rodeo, bingo games, a cruise on Lake George and a series of Sunday dinners that range from Italian to Mexican and a night of hot BBQ.

Downstate racing with days off is a different scenario because the majority of the backstretch community people are home, Caras explains. “When you’re at Belmont or Aqueduct you’re home. You have familiar surroundings. You know where you’re going to go to shop, where you do your laundry, you know where the eateries are and when things are open, so the lifestyle and our role in activities is much different at Belmont and Aqueduct than it is here, because that’s home base for 70 percent of the people. And when you’re home base, you’re a lot more self-sufficient. While we still pitch in and create activities, it’s not as necessary,” he says.   

“Our Chaplaincy in New York is located in all three racetracks. As a matter of fact, right now I’m fine- tuning a trip today that’s going to leave Belmont and Aqueduct and go to South Street seaport and they’re going to ride that speedboat called The Beast,” Caras says. “Last week, 55 people from both those racetracks, families and those who work there, went to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night. We received some free tickets for that, and the Horsemen paid for the bus. On Thursday, 55 people went to Coney Island and used the beach. Friday night the families gathered, and there were 25 kids at a soccer clinic at Belmont. So, there’s still stuff going on down there, because while Daddy may be up here working, the majority of the families and kids by far are still there.”  

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS - His color-filled storytelling murals cling to the walls of Gaffney’s and Siro’s and the Old Bryan Inn, 9 Maple Ave., the Tin & Lint and inside of Saratoga Springs City Hall.

Hud Armstrong’s creations include those happy faces and local scenes brought to life - a different one each year - emblazoned across the annual Chowderfest T-shirts for the past generation. Then there is a near 20-feet-long mural that runs across the lobby of the Mabee Building on Church Street, depicting more than 200 local people – many of whom you’d recognize - done up in the Victorian Era stylings of the 19th century. 

“The purpose is to give a feeling of the era and some of the characters that lived here,” says Armstrong.

His newest project – which he displays in a series of carefully detailed scrapbooks – is coordinating about 300 pages illustrations and accompanying texts he created from 1991 to 2004 for Poor Richard’s Journal into book form, and has begun the process of exploring ways to make such a publication a possible. 

“The area where these take place is often Saratoga, but what’s happening is universal,” Armstrong explains, leafing through the pages of the catalogued works. 

Armstrong started drawing at the age of four while listening to the radio because he wanted to see what things looked like. Some of his earliest childhood memories growing up in South Glens Falls involve visits to Saratoga Springs and marveling at the vintage structures.

 “I remember when I was a kid, we would drive down Route 9 and into Saratoga. You’d take a left on North Broadway where the arterial is, come right into town and you’d see the mansions and the fire department and the theater.”

In the 1960s, he celebrated his 21st birthday by completing basic training, then going to see the company commander who would decide his next move.

“He looked over my file and saw I had a background in art. I don't know what it was about my dossier, but something in there made him think, 'Hey, this guy will be really good in amphibians!' So off I went for amphibian training and ended up being sent to Qui Nhon,” he remembered about his time on the Vietnam coast, south of Da Nang.

His works often straddle a timeline between future and past, offering a respectful nod to those who have come before, imagining what may lie up ahead, and in a few quick strokes of ink explaining the significance of what it all means to us today.   

One of the more playful sequences is a series of cartoons depicting vintage baseball fields - the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, the classic Yankee Stadium.

“What you’re looking at is centerfield,” he explains, gesturing to the latter. “On one side you’ve got Joe Torre and his group: Rivera and Jeter. On the other side you’ve got Casey Stengel and Mickey Mantle, Maris and Yogi, even Ruth and Gehrig. When you look further out into the field, from the centerfield flagpole is Yankee Stadium - the way that it was recently, and on the other side Yankee Stadium from the 1920s to the ‘70s.”  

Armstrong likes to keep simple the process of creating his cartoons. “You pretty much form an idea. From that idea you might have a punchline, you might not, but you work up to it, you play it back-and-forth,” he says. “When you get to the end sometimes the punchline will work. If it doesn’t? The best thing to do is flip the whole thing around, and then it becomes funny.”

Published in Entertainment

BALLSTON SPA – Patty Morrison, an elected Saratoga Springs School District Board Trustee, defeated sitting City Council member Michele Madigan in the city’s Democratic Primary race, which was decided this week.

Primary Elections were held June 25 but resulted in a too-close-to-call verdict, with Morrison holding a slight lead. The counting of absentee ballots at the Saratoga County Board of Elections on July 2 resulted in a 59-47 margin in favor of Morrison, and an overall lead of 765-733, unofficially.

“I’m honored and humbled to reach this point in the process,” Morrison said, in a statement released Tuesday, thanking supporters and volunteers. “This was a huge grassroots effort with my team knocking on over 3,300 doors and spending a small fraction of what my opponent did.”

The race between Morrison and Madigan is for the position of Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance – one of five City Council seats. All five council seats, as well as both City Supervisor positions, will be up for vote in November. 

Madigan issued a statement Tuesday and said she was “saddened and disappointed to have lost the Democratic primary for Commissioner of Finance, due to low voter turn-out.  I wish to thank my many friends and supporters for their hard work in the face of a very difficult and at times an ugly primary campaign.”

Total voter turnout for the Primary Election represents approximately 22 percent of all registered Democrats in Saratoga Springs.  

Prior to the Primary Election, Madigan received the endorsement of the Saratoga Springs City Democratic Committee, as well as the backing of the the Independence Party and Working Families Party lines. Despite the loss in the Primary, Madigan – who is a registered Democrat – appears poised to run for re-election under those lines in the November General Election.   

“I hope to serve another term and would be grateful for the support of all city voters, regardless of political persuasion, come November 5th,” Madigan said.

Given the city Democratic Committee’s endorsement of Madigan in the Primary, Morrison’s victory among Democrat voters nudges the Committee into unchartered territory: The candidate they had endorsed, and who is a registered Democrat, will potentially be running for re-election on a different party line in a race against the candidate chosen by city Democrat voters.

“We’ll be having an executive (meeting) to figure this out, because this is a unique position,” said Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee Chairwoman Courtney DeLeonardis. While the full Democratic Committee is not scheduled to meet until September, DeLeonardis said the seven-member executive committee may meet as soon as early next week to decide how to proceed moving forward.

Candidate statements, in their entirety, may be viewed below.  

Patty Morrison: I’m honored and humbled to reach this point in the process.  I want to thank all my supporters and volunteers.  This was a huge grassroots effort with my team knocking on over 3,300 doors and spending a small fraction of what my opponent did.

Our goal now is to listen and represent all voters in this city, despite their political affiliation.  I look forward to working with the City Democratic Committee to advance our Democratic principles such as quality of life issues for the residents of Saratoga Springs.  Issues such as open government, implementing transparent, ethical processes and exercising balanced development that aligns with the fragile historic character we all cherish.

I pledge to bring long term, prudent fiscal planning as your next Commissioner of Finance and look forward to meeting thousands more residents to discuss their thoughts and concerns.

I’m focused on running a positive and inclusive campaign.  

Michele Madigan: I am saddened and disappointed to have lost the Democratic primary for Commissioner of Finance, due to low voter turn-out.  I wish to thank my many friends and supporters for their hard work in the face of a very difficult and at times an ugly primary campaign.

 I am still on the general ballot in November on the Independence Party and Working Families Party lines, and while I would very much like to continue to serve all city voters - of all political parties - for another term, at this time the budget needs of the city are my priority.

 I must present the 2020 budget by the end of the summer, and get it adopted in November. Additionally, the city has several multi-million dollar matters I must continue to plan for: repairing and reopening city hall, the Loughberry Dam upgrade mandates, Fire/EMS needs of the Eastern Plateau, finding a permanent solution to code-blue and our homeless issues, cybersecurity threats that plague cities daily - for starters.  I owe it to the taxpayers to focus on this city business.

 I hope to serve another term and would be grateful for the support of all city voters, regardless of political persuasion, come November 5th. This election is not about partisan politics or any particular issue; it is about prudently managing our city’s finances through challenging times.

Published in News
Friday, 07 June 2019 13:50

Code Blue Eyes New Location

SARATOGA SPRINGS - She was 54 and without a home when she lay across a loading dock, not far from the school where she’d attended classes as a young girl. Her body was discovered the next day, on a frigid December morning on the city’s west side.

A community of residents and clergy, business leaders, politicians and everyday folks were motivated to action that winter of 2013. In quick order, they came together. Their goal: creating a space where people without a home can find shelter during frigid nights, get fed a warm meal, recharge their bodies, then head back out into the light of the next day to try and secure a more stable standing.

A temporary emergency shelter was launched that Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Parish Center. Since that time, a series of temporary winter shelters have been sited at a variety of venues across town.  From the west-of Broadway Salvation Army building, to the east-of Broadway Soul Saving Station Church, each move faced push-back from some residents who lived in the community where the shelter planned to relocate. Each group expressed a desire for a shelter to be sited, followed with the caveat: just not here.

Soul Saving Station church on Henry Street has hosted a temporary Code Blue shelter the past three years but soon will repurpose the space where the temporary shelter operated, making it not a viable winter option for Code Blue. Enter Presbyterian New England Congregational Church.

 “We are talking about a partnership with Shelters of Saratoga to turn our Nolan House – which is our big, Victorian brick house - into Code Blue,” said Rev. Kate Forer, a Massachusetts native who became Senior Pastor at Presbyterian New England Congregational Church in 2016. “We had a meeting with our congregation this past weekend to introduce the idea to them. And we also had a meeting with our neighbors to introduce the idea to them as well. “

A permanent shelter location was thought to be found in 2017 on Walworth Street, where a Code Blue structure would be built on property belonging to Shelters of Saratoga – the organization who operates the Code Blue program. Local business owner Ed Mitzen, and his wife Lisa announced they would pay the costs for the new, permanent shelter to be built. In September 2018, however, following a lawsuit filed by local residents challenging the proposed shelter expansion as not being in accordance with zoning regulation, a Saratoga County Supreme Court judge nullified previously granted approvals by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board which would have allowed the shelter to be built.

Meanwhile, the need for a shelter is strong. Since opening in the 2013-14 winter season and through 2017-18 – the latest figures available, the number of those seeking shelter has increased each year. During the 2017-18 winter season, Code Blue was open 162 nights, served more than 8,000 meals, and provided sleeping quarters for a total of 6,480 overnight stays – or on average, 40 nightly guests.  Presbyterian New England Congregational Church - or PNECC - was also open during 90 of those nights to care for “overflow” guests. 

“The congregation is open to the idea – this is part of the core mission of who we are as a church,” says Rev. Forer.  “For over 40 years, our mission has been about serving vulnerable populations. Our mission statement is that we are working to make God’s love and justice real in our world,” the pastor said.  “This homeless population is already here on our campus and Code Blue does not have a place to go for the 2019-2020 season. We feel it is our duty and obligation to care for our brothers and sisters and to care for them with the necessary services to – not only survive - but to thrive.”

An executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo directs emergency shelters to operate when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. Code Blue’s temporarily housing at the Soul Saving Station Church often found the 41-bed shelter at full capacity.

Any alterations required to site an emergency shelter at PNECC would be minimal. “The soup kitchen is right next door, so we wouldn’t need a kitchen,” said Karen Gregory, executive director of Shelters of Saratoga. “There would have to be some additions - bathrooms and showers – but there would be very limited changes.” 

The organization anticipates the facility will house 55 beds, which would likely eliminate the need for an off-site overflow emergency center.

“We’re having the conversation. Can this happen at the church? What does it look like, and how do we involve the community members in the conversation?” Gregory says. “We still have lots of steps and lots of conversations (to have) about it.” A preliminary schedule of future meetings is expected to be completed next week.

“We’re still in the talking phase, but I am reaching out to every member of the community, every member of the county, every member in the city in their government positions and saying: please come to the table, have a conversation with us and help us to find a permanent solution for Code Blue,” Gregory said. “It’s desperately needed and there’s a governor’s mandate directing the county do that, but I need the county’s support in order to really move that program and that project forward. There needs to be a collaboration.”

Earlier conversations to potentially site the shelter by Bethesda Episcopal Church on Washington Street didn’t pan out due to the shelter’s proposed location in the building - being on the fourth floor could create issues and obstacles, Gregory says - as well as the rent. “It’s not something we could financially endure and still keep our programming intact,” Gregory says.  The Mitzens remain on board, Gregory added.  “They are strongly supporting Code Blue and are staying on as donors and trying to help us find a solution. They’ve been incredibly generous, kind and patient.”

Discussions regarding PNECC have stipulated that the church would continue to own the Nolan House building and SOS would run the Code Blue program. At some point, a permanent location will still need to be secured.

“I think we have to see how this goes, but I am totally open to a collaboration anywhere in Saratoga that would support this, and I will continue to work to follow the governor’s mandate,” Gregory said. 

Published in News
Friday, 31 May 2019 14:50

Streb Pops into Action at the Tang

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College presents the exhibition Streb Action, June 1 through July 21, in which the acclaimed dance company Streb Extreme Action turns a gallery into a rehearsal and performance space, and an exhibition of its archive of cutting-edge work since its 1985 founding by choreographer Elizabeth Streb.

Streb and company will be in residence from June 4 through June 21, and will rehearse in the gallery on most afternoons. Those rehearsals are open to the public. The exhibition will feature notebooks that reveal Streb’s colorful, hand-drawn choreographic notes and ideas, and videos that show some of the company’s earliest recorded performances.

 In addition to open rehearsals, Streb and her dance company will offer a free public performance on June 14 at the museum, conduct public workshops during Frances Day, the museum’s annual community day on Saturday, June 15, and develop new work in collaboration with Anne Bogart, the Co-Artistic Director of SITI Company and Skidmore’s Summer Theater Workshop, called FALLING & LOVING.

Public events:

Thursday, June 6, 7 pm: Film and Discussion. Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb Vs. Gravity, a film by Catherine Gund
Join us for a screening of Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity, followed by a talk with Streb. The film by Catherine Gund traces the evolution of Streb’s movement philosophy as she pushes herself and her performers from the ground to the sky.

Thursday, June 13, 7 pm: Dialogue with Elizabeth Streb, Anne Bogart, and Ian Berry. Anne Bogart, Obie-winning director and co-artistic director of SITI Company, and Elizabeth Streb will discuss a new piece they are collaborating on while in residence at Skidmore College called FALLING & LOVING. The dialogue will be moderated by Dayton Director Ian Berry.

Friday, June 14, 7 pm: Streb Extreme Action in Performance
The Streb Extreme Action Company is known for physically demanding performances that combine virtuosity, technical skill, and popular appeal. Witness this company defy gravity in a program that features new and recent works including Molinette, Air, Tilt, Revolution, and Remain.

For more information, GO HERE

Published in Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The New York Racing Association, Inc. will host a two-day job fair on Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15 for those interested in working at Saratoga Race Course during the 2019 summer meet.

 The job fair will be held for the second consecutive year at the Embassy Suites at 86 Congress Street in downtown Saratoga Springs. Interviews will be conducted from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

 The annual meet at Saratoga supports the employment of approximately 2,350 full-time, part-time and seasonal workers.

Opportunities at this year's job fair will include: hospitality ambassadors; hosts/hostesses; guest services; cashiers; parking attendants; Bets Squad representatives; white caps/ushers; box office; betting clerks; turf work/general labor; security guards; porters; cooks; waitstaff; bussers; merchandise clerks; concessions supervisors and cashiers; cleaners; and warehouse workers. Positions are available with NYRA, Integrated Staffing, Centerplate, American Maintenance and Union Square Events.

 Applicants must be at least 15 years of age with New York State Certified Working Papers; prospective security guards, cashiers and betting clerks must be at least 18 years of age to apply. Security guards must have a high school degree or GED to apply. All applicants must bring a photo ID and social security card or I-9 alternative.

 The 2019 Saratoga meet begins on Thursday, July 11 and runs through Labor Day, Monday, September 2.

For more information about Saratoga Race Course, visit NYRA.com/Saratoga.

Published in News
Friday, 31 May 2019 14:31

Sit-down Chat with Elliott Masie

Elliott Masie is on the move, setting the GPS satellites to dancing across the constellation.

Masie left his home in Saratoga Springs and landed in Florida to deliver a keynote address. Two days later, he was in Shanghai to give a speech to 3,000 people about how the Internet affects daily learning. Next week, he will return to the island of his youth and take his seat at Radio City Music Hall to watch the 73rd Annual Tony Awards unfold. Two of productions with which he has been involved– “The Prom,” and “The Cher Show” – have collectively been nominated for 10 awards. 

“I like to do different things. The two things that drive me? Learning and curiosity,” says Masie, who moved in the mid-1990s to Saratoga Springs, where he built the 10,000 square foot Masie Center - a facility that serves as an international Learning lab and focused on how organizations can support learning and knowledge within the workforce.

“The Tony Awards are a fun, big deal and it’s an honor to be nominated. We’re excited and we’ll be there. Tuxes and gowns. And win or lose there’s a party afterwards,” says Masie, who with his wife, Cathy, has been involved in theater as a producing partner for several years. 

“We’ve always been theater audience fans and along the way we thought: Oh, I wonder what it would be like to be involved in a production. We started modestly and it kept growing. We grew more intrigued. And what happens in life is you do one thing and you suddenly start to hear from others.”

Among their show credits are “Kinky Boots,” “An American in Paris,” and “SpongeBob The Broadway Musical.”

This year, “The Prom” has received seven Tony nominations, including Best Musical. The show tells the story of an Indiana high schooler barred from bringing her girlfriend to the prom —and the group of eccentric Broadway folk who infiltrate the town in an earnest, misguided attempt to fight the injustice, according to Playbill

Masie has taken his turn as a producer meeting fans of the musical at the stage door following performances.  “The reason ‘The Prom’  is so important to us is that every day there’s an LGBTQ kid who comes to the stage door to say ‘hi’ to one of our actors and who then whispers in their ear: ‘that’s my story too,’ and often they’ll say, ‘and I’m now telling my parents my reality.’” 

By his own definition, Masie is a researcher, educator, analyst and speaker focused on the changing world of the workplace, learning and technology.

He is the editor of “Learning Trends by Elliott Masie,” an Internet newsletter read by over 52,000 business executives worldwide, the author of 12 books, and over the past 35 years estimates he has presented programs, courses and speeches to more than 2 million  professionals around the world. With his wife, Cathy, he had presented annual learning conferences in Florida whose past keynote speakers have included Bill Clinton and Laura Bush, Colin Powell, Anderson Cooper and Michelle Obama, among others. 

“At The Masie Center, we are a research and a learning organization that looks at how employees learn to their jobs, no matter what the job is. How are jobs changing? What new skills are employees needing to succeed in the world?” Masie explains. “We’re best known for having explored and advocated that the role of the Internet and of technology could be one of the things that could help people learn.”

Masie is credited in some circles as being among the earliest pioneers to use the term ‘eLearning.’ In the mid-1990s, at the Saratoga Springs City Center, he staged the first-ever conference in the world on elearning.

“At the center (in Saratoga Springs) we host seminars and sessions, so probably every month we’ll get 30 to 40 corporate leaders from around the world coming in.”

The $2 million facility is equipped with workstations, tablets and a platform network providing learning examples from organizations around the globe. There are dedicated rooms that function as virtual teaching studios and allow for audio, web-based and broadband video collaboration, as well as a wide range of mobile devices, video cameras and new and emerging robotic technologies.

“I feel very fortunate that we’ve been successful in different places and also been able to make a social difference, support things like Franklin Community Center,” he says.

Earlier this month, Cathy and Elliott Masie gifted a $50,000 donation to the Franklin Community Center to support the center, whose programs and services provide, among other things,  a food pantry, a free after-school prevention program for city School District children, and affordable housing for low-income individuals, as well as assistance with furniture, clothing, and household needs.

Masie was one of the prominent voices raised against siting an emergency homeless shelter at the nearby Shelters of Saratoga properties on the west side, whose residential properties provide affordable housing options for those in need.

“We were one of the first new commercial buildings there when we built on the corner of Franklin and Washington and we did it knowing and being supportive of our neighbors being Shelters of Saratoga and Franklin Community Center, so we were excited about putting a business there,” Masie says. “It was an interesting and difficult moment when the proposal was made to put the Code Blue right there in that space. We’ve always supported the shelter, but that was not the best place to do it, for lots of reasons. Do you want to put a shelter that’s open to anybody right next to a place where there are some pretty strict and good rules with people in recovery and transition?” he asks. “At the end of the day what were excited about is that there are a lot of entities – including the shelter and churches and what we see going on with the Mercy House and for building some creative solutions and alternatives coming downstream. “

“What drives me is two words: learning and curiosity. I worry when I see folks who go into business on the assumption or the theory that they’re going to get rich. Some people do and some people don’t. But most of the people who have been really successful, they didn’t do it to get rich. They did it because they had a curiosity, a desire to change something, to solve a problem. I think curiosity and learning are the two key words. And you have to be a good business person and not give it away.”

His dream gig?

“There are really two things. The first is I would love to be a conductor on a railroad train. Someday I’m going to have to find a way to do it. I think that would be incredible. The bigger dream gig is to look at how you creatively solve problems that are in front of us which involves people having to cooperate, collaborate, communicate. Look at an alternative way of doing something; Is there a different way?

“I’m drawn to seek how we create things in a place where people can communicate and collaborate. Even if we disagree, we can listen to each other, we can resolve problems. I love addressing things that are complicated and complex. And I think the other piece is you want to help make the world a slightly better place.”


Published in News
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