Displaying items by tag: saratoga springs

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The highly anticipated grand opening of Universal Preservation Hall is set for Saturday, Feb. 29. 

Following a multi-million-dollar renovation to transform the 19th century hall into a flourishing 700-plus seat performance space, UPH also looks to fill a half-century-long need in Saratoga Springs.  The city’s downtown district has lacked a year-round, mid-sized venue since the 5,000-seat Convention Hall on Broadway was destroyed by fire in 1966.

UPH was built in 1871 and served as a Methodist church and a gathering place. Teddy Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass and William Howard Taft to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg have each taken a turn atop the main stage during the building’s 146-year history.

A century after its construction, the Victorian Gothic structure on Washington Street began to fall into disrepair and the church sat empty for several years. In 2000, the city condemned the building and members of the community rallied to save the structure from demolition. In 2015, UPH got an added boost when it became an affiliate of Proctors.

Proctors CEO Phillip Morris says he envisions UPH as a welcoming place to gather, and as a cultural heart of the city. After the Saratoga Springs venue reopens with its 45-foot-tall ceilings, bell tower and walnut and ash staircases that feed into the main hall, it is anticipated it will stage 200 or so annual events.

Opening Night features an appearance by singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, the eldest daughter of country legend Johnny Cash. 

Tickets are available by phone at 518-346-6204, online at universalpreservationhall.org and in person at the Box Office at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady.

Tickets to the following shows are now on sale:

Rosanne Cash
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29. The Great Hall at UPH, $65 - $150.

Sounds of the Hall
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4. The Great Hall at UPH, $20.

An Evening with Chris Botti
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6. The Great Hall at UPH, $79.50 - $179.50.

The Marvelous Marquise Family Circus
2 p.m. Sunday, March 8. The Great Hall at UPH, $10.

Megan Hilty
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 13. The Great Hall at UPH, $32.50 - $109.50.

Howard Jones Acoustic Trio
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14. The Great Hall at UPH, $29.50 - $69.50.

Irish Hooley with the Screaming Orphans
7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15. The Great Hall at UPH, $25.

Rochmon Record Club: Paul Simon’s Graceland
7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17. The Great Hall at UPH, $10.

One Night in Memphis
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 20. The Great Hall at UPH, $30 - $65.

Journeyman
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21. The Great Hall at UPH, $19.50 - $39.50.

Joey Alexander
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 27. The Great Hall at UPH, $39.50 - $89.50.

PB&J Café: The Stinky Cheese Man
11 a.m. & 1:30 p.m. Saturday. April 4, The Great Hall at UPH, $15.

THE HIT MEN…Legendary Rock Supergroup & Musicians Hall of Fame
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9. The Great Hall at UPH, $30 - $65.

Bakithi Kumalo & The Graceland Experience
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23. The Great Hall at UPH, $19.50 - $39.50.

The Okee Dokee Brothers
6 p.m. Friday, April 24. The Great Hall at UPH, $15 for students with ID, $25 for adults.

The Steep Canyon Rangers
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 29. The Great Hall at UPH, $20 - $79.50.

Top of the World – A Carpenters Tribute
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 9. The Great Hall at UPH, $25.50 - $59.50.

Yogapalooza with Bari Koral Quartet
2 p.m. Saturday, May 16. Great Hall at UPH, $10 students with ID, $20 Adults

Bee Gees Gold
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 22. The Great Hall at UPH, $20 - $55.50.

Published in News

When Theresa Agresta, the owner of Allegory Studios and CultureTalk, became the Chair of the Saratoga County Chamber’s Board of Directors earlier this year, she wanted our Chamber to do more than ever before for small business owners.

As a small business owner herself, she had a sense that business owners would value an opportunity to meet up to share their concerns, ideas and challenges privately with one another. 

So we established a new Business Owners Council and invited owners to meet up with one another once a month, at the Chamber.

We then invited local experts to these meetings to talk about employee benefits, cash flow projections, how to manage charitable giving, new sexual harassment training laws, developing sales goals, etc.

The creation of this new member benefit is a big accomplishment for the Chamber in 2019. 

This Council now meets on the first Tuesday, of every month, from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Chamber. 

Our goal will be to increase participation and to continue to bring in speakers on issues of relevance to local small business owners.

This accomplishment is a direct result of the leadership being provided by volunteers with the Chamber, like Theresa Agresta. 

On January 23, 2020, our Chamber will host our 102nd Annual Dinner. We will honor Theresa Agresta and other volunteer leaders for their service to the chamber and this community. 

Our Annual Dinner is also a time for our members and the community to celebrate all of the Chamber’s accomplishments from 2019 and to look ahead to 2020.

Now there is no way we can celebrate every accomplishment.

But there are three that demonstrate how our Chamber changes things for the benefit of our members and all of the communities we serve across Saratoga County.

For starters, we built a Field House for the benefit of US Navy Sailors and their families stationed in Saratoga County, on the US Navy’s Naval Support Activity Center base, in Saratoga Springs. 

The funding came via a grant secured by former State Senator Kathy Marchione. After working with local Navy leaders to determine what to build with these funds, the Chamber hired Munter Enterprises to build this 7,700 square foot facility. 

Now US Navy Sailors stationed in Saratoga County have a first-ever safe, secure, on-base, indoor location to play volleyball or basketball; to host graduations, movie nights, and educational workshops; to drill and to prepare so that they can succeed in all of their missions.

In 2019, we created the Saratoga County Institute for Management in collaboration with SUNY Empire State College. 

With the support of the Saratoga County Capital Resources Corporation, we were able to offer scholarships to small businesses and nonprofits so they could participate in the Institute’s classes. 

From scratch really, we had to create new curriculum, secure expert presenters, oversee the 21 classes, and support the participants and their employers who sponsored them. 

Graduates of the Institute will be better leaders within their organizations thereby helping these companies and nonprofits to succeed, grow and thrive.

In 2019, our community came together like never before to create ONE online community calendar. To get this done, we had to collaborate with Mannix Marketing, Discover Saratoga, the Saratoga Springs DBA, Skidmore College and the Saratoga Springs City Center. 

Now with one online events calendar in place, event organizers can enter information on any one of our seven top performing local websites and that information feeds to all of them. 

The goal is to make it easier for event organizers to promote their events and for people to find them.

And if you’d like to learn more about the many other accomplishments we had in 2019, we invite you to visit www.saratoga.org or to attend our Annual Dinner. 

Published in Business
Thursday, 19 December 2019 10:30

Walt and Whitman Opens in Old Saratogian Building

Photos by Veronica Zabala.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — After two years of planning, building and anticipation, Walt and Whitman has finally opened. The new coffee shop and brewery occupies the former Saratogian building on the corner Lake and Maple Avenues.

Co-founder Will Crager, who moved to Saratoga a few years ago from the Philadelphia area, came up with the idea with his family about two years ago. “We knew we wanted to do a fusion of coffee and beer in some way, and the old Saratogian building really fit perfectly for the vision,” said Crager.

Along with Shawna Jenks, Director of Operations, and a dedicated team, Crager officially opened the coffee shop on Monday, hosted a soft opening for the brewery on Sunday and Monday night, and officially opened the brewery on Thursday.

“We’ve had a consistent stream of people. Everyone seems really excited and happy about the space and the environment and atmosphere of the place,” said Crager about Monday’s opening.

The coffee shop and brewery are split on two different levels. The coffee area is upstairs and has a bright, minimalist theme: hardwood floors, exposed beams and brick, and lots of open seating on wooden stools. Customers can order different coffees and from a small selection of breakfast and lunch items.

In the basement, Elvis memorabilia, Bob Dylan album covers and other décor surround leather couches. This classic American culture inspires not only the theme, but also the name of the establishment: Walt and Whitman.

“We really view him [Walt Whitman] as the original American progressive thinker and a true American in every sense of the term,” explained Crager. “He chronicled the craftsmanship and work of a lot of really, really important American men and women, and we want to inspire that in this place. Things like attention to detail, craftsmanship; that’s really what we’re striving to focus on and shine a light on here. That’s the core of our culture and very central to our identity.”

The food is also heavily rooted in American culture. “It’s really an elevated street food menu, so there’s food you wouldn’t typically see on a brewpub menu. There are some really cool dishes like Detroit style pizza,” said Crager. Crager added that the brewery and food team are given creative liberty when coming up with menu items, including what they are called. Some of the beers listed include names like Shadows in my Room, The Kids Table, and Used Jet Ski.

The new space has had positive reviews from customers, and even former residents of the space have stopped by. “We’ve had a few people come in and try to figure out where their offices were upstairs,” laughed Crager. “We’re just excited to be in the building and feel lucky to be here.”

Crager adds that he hopes that Walt and Whitman can be adaptable to how people in Saratoga would like it grow. “We want everyone to feel really welcome and we want to be approachable to everyone.” For more information, visit their website at www.waltandwhitmanbrewing.com

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Approximately 70 different performing groups, 30 different venue stages, and a new stroke-of-midnight component inspired by the digital age will ring in the New Year in Saratoga Springs. 

There will be variety: live music – from symphonic to rock ‘n’ roll, dancing, theater, and comedy and skateboard demos will be among this year’s offerings. 

Billed as “First Night Saratoga 2020: A New Dimension,” the goal is to entertain and to inspire, while offering interactive possibilities for thousands of revelers of all ages. The Dec. 31 event will mark the 24th First Night gathering in Saratoga Springs and the 10th such event since it was taken on by Saratoga Arts. 

“We’re not just presenters of the arts, we encourage everyone to be engaged and to find the art within themselves.” - Joel Reed, executive director of Saratoga Arts, said Tuesday, unveiling this year’s event poster. First Night programmer Bobby Carlton stressed the desire to create an interactivity between performers and the public played a major role in organizing the Dec. 31 event, and to that point encouraged dialogue between festival attendees and performers when not on stage. There will also be a variety of dance events in which revelers can take part held in different locations.

The New Year’s Eve event will feature about 70 acts in more than 30 venues - about 230 sets over six hours - as well as a 5K road race which will kick off the night. New this year is an interactive “Digital Midnight” event that will replace the annual fireworks show. The audio-visual presentation will broadcast online and enable revelers to “enjoy midnight anywhere.” 

Typically, more than 10,000 people ring in the New Year with Saratoga Arts and First Night Saratoga in downtown Saratoga Springs.

Admission, by way of a special First Night Saratoga button – is $20. That cost is $15 if purchased online or at Saratoga Arts, located on Broadway, through Dec. 25. Free CDTA bus service will be available downtown. Children 12 and under are admitted to events free of charge. For more information, go to: www.saratoga-arts.org/first-night. For a more detailed list of performers and venues, please see next week’s edition of Saratoga TODAY.

More on First Night...

Saratoga Arts Seeks Volunteers for First Night Saratoga 2020
First Night Saratoga would not be possible without the help of over 250 volunteers. Last year, volunteers assisted in overseeing 30 performance venues, answering questions, and ensuring that over 10,000 revelers rang in the New Year in a fun and safe manner. Volunteers are required to attend a one-hour training session on one evening in December. All volunteers receive a free First Night Saratoga admission button, and a First Night poster. Area Managers and Site Captains also receive a complimentary membership to Saratoga Arts. Get the jump early this year, especially if you have a favorite venue in which you would like to be placed. If you have questions, please contact Mary Henninger, First Night Volunteer Coordinator, 518-584-4132, ext. 208 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Registration Open for First Night Saratoga 5K Run
The Saratoga Arts' First Night 5k - a family friendly event - begins at the Skidmore College gymnasium at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 and traces a 3.1 mile loop around the campus. This is a moderately challenging course, including both hills and downgrades. Registration is $30 through Dec. 25. To register, visit www.saratoga-arts.org/first-night/first-night-5k.

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 13 December 2019 10:15

Software Company Expanding in 2020

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A Canadian software company is expanding its Saratoga office in the coming year. Opin Software, founded in Ottawa in 2011, opened its first U.S. office in Saratoga Springs last year.

Opin Software is a digital agency specializing in web. The company uses an open source content management system called Drupel to build websites and web applications for both private and public sector organizations. “The open source mentality is really a core part of our identity as an organization,” said Chris Liko, a Marketing Manager in the Ottawa office. “It [open source system] enables us to provide better projects to our clients because they don’t have to waste money on licensing fees because Drupal is free software.”

When choosing the location for their first satellite office, Opin Software officials visited a few different Capital Region locations that they felt were similar to the city of Ottawa. “We wanted to find a location that best represented who we are as a business,” said Liko. “The CEO [Christopher Smith] had been visiting different office spaces in areas like Troy, Malta and Albany. As soon as he stepped foot in the office in Saratoga, he said right away, ‘This is the place.’”

One of the new hires brought on to the Saratoga office was Nicholas Longo, a Senior Account Executive. “I love the Saratoga office,” said Longo. “What really sold it for me was the culture and the city of Saratoga. The culture of the company really aligned with me.”

The company is hoping to add 5-7 new jobs in the coming year. “We operate in pods: people like project managers, designers and salespeople,” said Liko. “We’d like to organically create a new pod in that office.” Many of the current employees in the Saratoga office are from the Capital Region, and the company is recruiting at local colleges and job fairs for the new positions.

The bulk of Opin’s U.S. clients are in the Upstate region, meaning that an expansion will provide more web help and resources for local businesses. For more information on Opin Software, visit their website at opin.ca.

Published in Business
Thursday, 12 December 2019 14:06

A Gangster’s Paradise

Former City Police Chief Pens Historical Book About Saratoga’s Notorious Gangsters & Gamblers 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Former city Police Chief Greg Veitch has published a new book that documents the history of Saratoga gangsters and concludes in the 1950s - when 130 years of open illegal gambling in the city came to an end. The argument could be made that along with other mid-20th century events, such as the construction of the Northway and the sweeping project of Urban Renewal, going “legit” in a post-gangster Saratoga Springs contributed to the development of the prosperous city that exists in the present day. 

Veitch, whose family has resided in the Spa City for several generations, served in local law enforcement for a quarter-century, rising through the ranks to become Saratoga Springs’ police chief. Tuned in to a calling that insisted there were other things to do in his life, Veitch resigned his position as police chief in May. 

“Things have been good. I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would, but I felt called to go into the profession and I felt called to leave, so maybe that has made it easier,” he said, during a sit-down interview this week. “I don’t necessarily know what the future holds for me, but I was prepared to leave. In my life, I try to follow what I believe I’m hearing from above.”

One of the things he has worked on is continuing to historically document notorious gangster connections with the village and the city of Saratoga Springs during a period that spanned more than a century. 

His previously published debut book, “All the Law in the World Won’t Stop Them,” retells the history of the gamblers and gangsters of Saratoga from the early years as a village up through 1930.  The new edition, published by Shires Press, continues the history of Saratoga gamblers and gangsters with tales of bootlegging and liquor raids, gangland shootouts, political payoffs and police corruption.

The new book, “A Gangster’s Paradise: Saratoga Springs from Prohibition to Kefauver,” tells the story from the Prohibition Era t
o the Kefauver Committee hearings in the 1950s. In May 1950, the Senate established a five-member Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce. Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver was selected as its chairman.

“My intent was always to write the story from the beginning of the village through the early ‘50s when the Kefauver investigation put an end to the open gambling in Saratoga, to tell the story from beginning to end,” Veitch said. 

“How did the book thing get started?  When I was a little kid, 4 or 5 years old, The Veitch family had a reunion when we were selling the Old Bryan Inn. I can remember the older guys – my uncles and my father, telling me this story about my great-grandfather Sid and a mafia shooting, or a gangland shooting,” Veitch said.  “It was about this guy who got shot and dumped at the hospital. When the police came and interviewed Sid about it, he said, ‘Look I was sitting in the front seat of the car. They shot the guy in the back seat of the car, so I didn’t see ‘nothing, I can’t help you.’ 

“Now great grandpa Sid was kind of a rough-and-tumble guy, so the story’s believable. For years the only thing I knew about him was that story, and nothing else,” Veitch said. “So, I go away to college, I come back;  I become a policeman and I get promoted to be a detective lieutenant and a detective calls me up out of the blue one day and says: hey, can you go check on a case from the 1980s?”

While searching through the archives he discovered some information about the case he had heard about as a child. “The murder of Adam Parillo 1936. It was one sheet. My great-grandfather is not mentioned at all. He’s not part of the story in any way. And (Parillo) probably wasn’t even shot in the car. My great-grandfather probably just told people that to make himself look tough,” Veitch said. 

Nonetheless, he pulled together some newspaper clippings regarding the Parillo case for a presentation at the Saratoga Springs History Museum. 

“It was about the most famous unsolved murder in Saratoga Springs history. When I was done talking, a guy walked up front and said to me, ‘You should write a book.’ Before that, I hadn’t even thought anything about it, but I did know there were other fascinating stories about Saratoga, so I started piecing these stories together,” Veitch said. 

During his course of research – which was conducted strictly through historical resources like newspapers and not police files – it dawned on him that what he had was a 130-year story of open gambling and corruption. “Stories about what was going on: fixed horse races, bootleggers shooting at each other on Circular Street, just fascinating.  I had so much stuff, I thought, you know, maybe I should write a book; get it down and even if nobody ever reads it, at least there will be a place in the library where somebody can go and look at it,” Veitch said. 

“I love telling stories, I love talking to people from Saratoga. I like people stopping me on the street and saying, ‘Hey, my family did this during that time.’ I think I can write a couple of more books (in the future), but it won’t be about this.” 

The new book features chapters with titles like “A Spasm of Violence,” “Trouble at The Track,” and “Prohibition at The Spa.” It includes historic photos and research notes.

“A Gangster’s Paradise” sells for $25. It is available at Northshire Bookstore, on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. For more information, go to: gangstersofsaratoga.com. 

Published in News
Thursday, 14 November 2019 13:35

No Guys in Gymnastics

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Zander Hudak and Adam O’Connor spent a year on the Saratoga Springs High School Varsity Gymnastics team where they were able to be a part of a team that was dedicated to their passion. After trying out and making the team this season they were eager to begin another year of honing their skills and making new memories with their teammates. 

They attended the start of the season informational meeting and were excited for what they expected to be their first practice of their second varsity season. But before they set foot on the mat to train, the boys and their parents were informed that they could no longer practice with the rest of the team.

While at the Olympic level there are gymnastics teams for both men and women Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS) only has a varsity team for girls. SSHS is a Section 2 Division school and the Section 2 league does not allow for mixed gendered competition for the sports of volleyball and gymnastics, which means that the boys are not able to compete during official meets. There is a boys’ volleyball team at the high school; however, there is not one for gymnastics – which leaves both Zander and Adam without a team to join alongside their fellow Blue Streaks. 

Not being able to compete was not new information to Zander, Adam or their parents. While not ideal, the boys were still more than happy to attend practice and develop their skills with their peers.

“I didn’t really think much of it (not competing for points). I was just glad that we could practice at least,” said Zander Hudak.

“It was devastating,” said Jamie Hudak, Zander’s mother. “He came out almost at the same time (she got the call) - with the text message (from his teammates). So, he already knew as I had just heard this voicemail. It sucks. I don’t know how else to describe it really. It’s just awful on every level. It’s emotional, it’s sad, it’s unfair.”

This past summer, a group of gymnastics coaches and athletic administrators met with officials from Section 2 to discuss amending the Section 2 rules to allow for mixed gendered competition in gymnastics. The majority vote decided against it. 

Meanwhile, that summer the two boys were invited to register and enroll in an off campus summer camp instructed by SSHS varsity coach Deborah Smarro at World Class Gymnastics. There the boys continued to train alongside their teammates, and the excitement for the upcoming season grew.

That fall the parents learned that since their sons couldn’t compete as sharing practice spaces with the competing members of the team would be a liability – therefore, the boys can’t practice with the girl’s gymnastics team.

“I guess my thing was, why weren’t they a liability last year,” said Lisa O’connor, Adam’s mother. “They paid the dues that the team had to pay to be on the booster club and they did everything that the team did, except when it came to competitions the two boys sat up, sat and watched and helped them clean up. They were okay with just practicing. But now, it’s a whole different story.”

In July 2019, Nicholas McPartland stepped into the role as the new Athletic Director for SSHS.

“When Coach Smarro brought the whole scenario to my attention, I think last year she was comfortable bringing them as members of the team,” said McPartland. “Now that things haven’t changed at the section 2 level, (she) feels as though she’s no longer comfortable because that rule hasn’t changed... even if she was in support of those kids training, as the athletic administrator I couldn’t support that decision.”

To McPartland’s understanding, the boys were offered to be the team’s managers, as there isn’t a place on the SSHS varsity team for them to train at this time. McPartland stated that he is in support of having a boy’s gymnastics team, should there be enough interest.

“What I suggested to them was through World Class, was to start having conversations with other families, that are members of other school districts and if there are in the districts that offer gymnastics teams, start finding out if there are other boys in other districts that have a gymnastics team,” said McPartland. “I think that would encourage more conversation and I think that might generate a shift in the policy.”

The parents are willing to explore all possible avenues and navigate the system to appeal to Section 2 in favor of mixed gendered gymnastics. In the meantime, they hope to accomplish the primary goal, “To get them back to practicing and members of the team, minus competition,” said Hudak.

*Saratoga TODAY reached out to Coach Smarro for a comment. Coach Smaro said she was not at liberty to speak on the matter and instead deferred all questions to Athletic Director Nick McPartland.*

Published in Sports
Thursday, 14 November 2019 13:06

Students Strike for Climate Reform

SARATOGA SPRINGS — With calls to take action to address climate change sweeping the globe, a group of students from Saratoga Springs decided to take part in the revolution themselves. 

After students reached out suggesting that their school organize a protest centered around sustainability and climate change, Lily Rosen, President of the Young Democrats club, jumped on board with the idea. On September 20, three days before the United Nations Climate Summit, many students and adults across the nation took part in what was known as a Climate Strike. The strike was a call to action regarding the issue of climate change. 

Rosen said that The Saratoga Springs High School administration did not approve of organizing a protest, or striking during school hours, in an effort keep the school nonpartisan on the issue and to avoid disrupting the school day. Weeks later, the students devised another plan. 

“So we decided to do something that didn’t involve the school, so that they didn’t have to worry about any backlash and we could still have the freedom to organize the way we originally planned to,” said Rosen “We settled on the idea of doing a protest downtown outside of the school.”

Primarily through word of mouth, the students recruited more and more peers to drive the protest. Additionally, they created a Facebook page, and Instagram account to further publicize their events. 

Though the students have managed to remain the driving force behind their protest, due to being minors, they did need a bit of parental assistance when a permit from the city was needed. 

“My parents are very supportive. My parents have both said that they’ll be able to drive me cause, I can’t drive. They’ve been helpful,” said Rosen. “My father helped me with the permit from the city because they - since I’m under 18 - they needed an adult to sign the declaration to demonstrate and the city clean up agreements.”

As Rosen and some of her peers are minors, they were unable to vote this past election day, but are aware that many of their classmates will be able to vote in the upcoming election. This climate strike, and the advertising leading up to it will allow fellow students, and community members alike to keep the environment in mind while making political decisions. 

“We also really want to get the attention of law makers and politicians because there’s a lot of feeling that because a lot of people can’t vote, that we don’t necessarily care and we want to show that we really care a lot and we’re paying a lot of attention to what our representatives are going to do about the climate crisis.”

While political change does take some time, Rosen and her peers are working on making immediate changes within their school and how their fellow classmates can work to reduce their “carbon footprint.

“If there’s a way that we can, sort of maybe change something about the school’s energy use or carbon footprint to make it more sustainable and possibly then be cheaper for the school.”

The Climate Change strike will take place Friday, Nov. 22 at Saratoga Springs’ Congress Park at 8:30 a.m. To stay in the loop with these students and their upcoming protest, updates can be found on the Saratoga Students for Klimatet social media facebook.com/events/481805089086367/?ti=icl and instagram.com/studentsforklimatet.

Published in Education

 SARATOGA SPRINGS – Discussions have been held for several years regarding a third city firehouse/ EMS station – one which would better serve residents of the city’s east side. This week, a tentative agreement was announced, the result of which may see that long-sought goal come to fruition. 

On Oct. 29, the state Franchise Oversight Board reviewed a proposal to allow for the construction of a firehouse on the border of the Oklahoma racetrack. The Board voted “to authorize our permitting agency to engage the city and NYRA to best structure a land utilization that meets the needs of all properties.”

The proposal comes via a city request to use 2.36 acres in the northern portion of the Oklahoma Race Track along Henning Road, across from the Myers BOCES Educational facility. The city advised NYRA that it has the funding secured to promptly construct the facility should approval be granted.

In her Oct. 1, 2019 budget message, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan cited an East Side Fire & EMS station as one of the top city priorities moving forward.

 “When the 2020 Capital Budget was presented several weeks ago, a rough estimate of $6.6 million was allocated toward this project. As we still haven’t legally secured the parcel it is not financially prudent to include the full $6.6 million in the 2020 Comprehensive Budget and in turn pass the related debt costs on to City taxpayers. Still, an East Side Fire & EMS station is a priority, and the 2020 Comprehensive Capital Budget includes $600,000 toward the design of the facility,” Madigan said.

“In practice this means that as soon as the land is available the city can kick off the project. The design work will then provide a timeline and budget for the total project. Should land acquisition and design happen at a more rapid pace, the 2020 Capital Budget will be amended by the City Council so that funding and construction could begin as soon as feasible. Accordingly, the full project remains in the Capital Program. “

Mayor Meg Kelly said she is negotiating a land-use agreement for the parcel and that the potential station will serve “District 3,” including the eastern plateau.

The city currently has two fire stations - one on Lake Avenue just west of Broadway and near the center of the city, and on the other on the west side, near Saratoga Springs High School.

Residents, particularly some of whom live at or near the city’s eastern ridge have vocalized fears about longer response times to emergencies in their neighborhood from either of the two current locations, as opposed to having a third station close-by. 

Most recently, a pair of land transactions that proposed the city sell a parking lot adjacent to Broadway’s Collamer Building and subsequently purchase a Union Avenue parcel to build an East Side Fire/EMS station was declared a dead deal in 2013 after years of lengthy negotiations ended up mired in a lawsuit,  an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office,  and reportedly more than $50,000 in legal costs for the city.

Members of the Franchise Oversight Board reported Tuesday that given the city and racecourse’s similar interests, a fire/EMS station would “interlock nicely to address concerns of the state racing franchise,” and that NYRA “strongly advocates for its creation.”  

The potential location of the station along Henning Road was once used as a “speedway” trotting track - along with the adjacent road Fifth Avenue - and was thus named “Speedway Road” according to city directories in the mid-20th century. Its name was changed to Henning Road in 1958 and was named after Rudolph T. Henning, who reportedly had lived there.

The proposed station is anticipated to measure 10,000 to 15,000 square feet and support one ambulance and one fire apparatus. On-site professional staff will be present 24 hours per day.

“Additionally, the firehouse could be used as a command center and operations post for law enforcement during the Saratoga meet,” the Board advised, cautiously noting the mostly wood structures existing on Saratoga’s nearby backstretch, and citing historically destructive fires that occurred at Northfield Park in 1959, Garden State in 1977, and Arlington Park in 1985. 

According to the Board, any formal transfer of property interests to accommodate this proposed facility will be returned for full franchise oversight board consideration before finalization.

Published in News
Friday, 25 October 2019 13:10

2 Days, 8 Candidates

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. and up for vote in the City of Saratoga Springs: All five city council seats. Those positions are: mayor, and four commissioners — accounts commissioner, department of public works, finance, and department of public safety. Under the city’s commission form of government in matters of governing, the voting power of each of the five city council members is equal; each council member gets one vote. 

Also up for vote: Both supervisor seats. Supervisors represent the city of Saratoga Springs at the county level. 

The League of Women Voters of Saratoga County hosted a pair of Saratoga Springs Candidates Nights, which were staged Oct. 21-22 at the Saratoga Springs High School auditorium. The event featured contested races: eight candidates vying for four council seats, and three candidates vying for two supervisor seats. 

Candidates were allotted opening remarks, closing statements and were asked to respond to questions from the audience. LWV distributed cards to the audience to secure their questions as they entered the hall. The questions which were chosen to be read, were selected by two members of the LWV. The group defines itself as a political organization that encourages citizen participation in government but does not support or oppose any political candidate or party. The comments were made by the candidates during the two candidates nights. 

Campaign finance figures, which are a matter of public record, are available for viewing via the NYS Board of Elections. The financial disclosures come from the latest figures available, filed on Oct. 4. The final filing date prior to the election is Friday, Oct. 25. 

Each night was attended by approximately 200 people. Ann Krul, a resident of Wilton, acted as moderator. 

MAYOR 

Candidates: Incumbent Meg Kelly (D, WF, I) and challenger Timothy Holmes (R). Meg Kelly for Mayor 10,000. Friends of Tim Holmes $4,400. 

What is your response to city residents who are inconvenienced by ongoing development?

Holmes: There are a couple of things associated with that. Number one: How does it affect our quality of life here, and 2: What are the capacities of the city for managing the levels of traffic we’re attracting, not to mention the infrastructure to support many more residents. Those questions are very much at the top of the agenda I would like to go into as mayor. We have to look at our planning strategies and processes. Things are moving so fast today in development that I believe we have to streamline the planning process so that citizens can be heard more directly. It’s just imperative we have more feedback from people.

Kelly: I would first refer everyone to the Comprehensive Plan that was passed in 2015. That is our guiding document, along with the zoning ordinances. It’s also who you put on the Land Use boards as mayor. We have really been doing our due diligence to put the right people on, to see the right growth in the city and the right decisions being made. Comprehensive Plan, zoning ordinances and the Land Use boards are critical to be following. 

Will either of you pledge you will do away with free health care for life after 10 years of service?

Both candidates said it is something they would pledge to do. 

Charter Change is coming up for vote. Do you favor or oppose the proposal? 

Kelly: I’m not going to say for or against. I lived that nightmare once and I’m not going to do it again. I learned from my experience that it is up to the people. Let the people vote and if we’re going to have charter change the people of the city will do it, not Meg Kelly. 

Holmes: I understand that is on the ballot for November 2020. The people will decide, and I would absolutely adhere to their decision on that if I am in office. 

Explain your position on hospital expansion

Holmes: We all love our hospital and I would like to see it prosper and continue service to this community. The question is partly in the details of how they are going to grow. They have a substantial campus. There is a proposal about the zoning on a piece of land they just bought which lies in the middle of a residential neighborhood. I believe the hospital would do well to follow its future path to start building up on its own campus - it has 30 acres, 20 are blacktop and 10 are buildings – and they’ve got lots of opportunity to do that. I’d be in favor of them building on it according to the zoning that’s there. However, should they move to take that property off the tax rolls, I think that they would face an uproar from the taxpayers. Further, if they should turn it into a tax-free housing development, I believe that would be unfair competition to all of the housing that already exists in the city. 

 Kelly: On the hospital issue, what Meg Kelly thinks is irrelevant. My responsibility under the law is to see that the zoning ordinance is in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan. So, that’s what we will do.

What steps will you take to keep downtown beautiful for residents, visitors and businesses? 

Holmes: Regarding people in dire circumstances who come into the city who are homeless, there are ways to deal with this by working with the county and having the county do its fair share - distributing the resources for that and also facilities in other towns in this county, rather than this city taking it all on. 

Kelly: The parking garage is vital to the City Center. The City Center is the economic engine for Broadway, so those things go hand-in-hand. With those two things happening I think we’ll have the bigger conventions coming in. That’s why we need the parking garage. We lost 14 events due to parking issues. They’re going elsewhere and we want them to come back here. The music downtown at night is a constant problem, because I get the phone calls Monday morning.    

What are your goals the next two years in your position as mayor?

Holmes: We want to get hold of planning processes, we want to complete the Unified Development Ordinance – which would include an updated zoning map, and that would absorb the Comprehensive Plan that Meg referred to, because these documents are years out of date now. And that is, in part, what is causing confusion and turmoil in council chambers and for residents. We need to get those documents finished. 

Kelly: I have a few initiatives that I want to see finished. One is: I want to see that parking garage completed; I want to see Geyser Trail completed. One has broken ground, and the Geyser Trail will break ground this fall. We need an Eastern Ridge EMS station, and that’s critical. I’ve been working on that diligently since April and we should have something to announce soon. We need to finish the UDO as my opponent said; continue to work on our building and Planning departments to streamline the permit process; to reinvent our Recreation Department, because after the (City Hall) fire, we moved into the Rec Center, so we need to reinvent that recreation department. 

PUBLIC SAFETY

Candidates: Robin Dalton (R,C,I,L,SAM) and Kendall Hicks (D). Campaign funds: Dalton for Safety $24,400. Friends of Kendall Hicks $1,280.

Top Priorities

Dalton: my top priority is as a strong voice for city police and fire departments at the City Council table, while working to address public safety issues: adding officers to an understaffed police force, adding a fire/ems station to serve the eastern plateau, a comprehensive approach to helping the homeless population while ensuring a permanent location for Code Blue, and ensuring school safety and addressing opioid addiction.      

Hicks: Affordable housing and protecting the green belt, finding a permanent solution for Code Blue and a fire/ems station for the eastern plateau. 

In what way will you address the climate? (Note: In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the City Council on May 21 adopted a resolution in support of the Paris Climate Agreement). 

Dalton: I support every initiative in the Paris Climate Accord agreement and pursuing that to become a greener and more responsible community in terms of climate change and everything the Paris Climate Agreement stands for. 

Hicks: I also support the Paris Climate agreement. Our city is doing a fairly good job in developing our green space and maintaining our urban forestry. I think that’s really important, because we have a city that’s rapidly developing. 

Envisioning what  Problems May be Encountered

Hicks: The willingness for the other side of the table to come to the table with fairness; it takes two to come to the table and have a conversation that we have to have civilly, and to work through any issue that we have in our community.   

Dalton: Addressing schools, parents and educators and talking about what to look for in a child who may be suffering from an opioid issue, because they’re (authorities) going out and using Narcan far more often than I realized, and their concern is that the residents of our community are not aware that this problem has seeped into
our neighborhoods.

Describe your Position on Guns In School

Hicks: Weapons in schools, it becomes a great divide for our community as we’ve seen in the past, but my decision is weapons in schools is not the issue – it’s having the right people with weapons in our schools. We need officers with the proper training – the most up-to-date training, dealing with people with mental disabilities, with mass shootings. As a community we need to allow our school board to do their job and give them the latitude to be able to make decisions about what schools we have our weapons in, and to what capacity.    

Dalton: I think the most successful approach would be to use a school resource officer in every school, that school resource officer model as laid out by the Sheriff’s Department. That means an active duty sheriff’s department officer in every school. 

Biggest Problems to Solve in the Future?

Dalton: The most pressing issue to me is the understaffing of our police department. I’ve spent countless hours with our police department on patrol experiencing the various nuanced challenges that come with policing in Saratoga Springs. We need to increase the amount of officers we have on the police force and increase their funding if we want to make sure our city stays safe. We are, right now, extremely, extremely vulnerable. 

Hicks: As Robin said, our police force is limited in manpower, but manpower alone won’t help us if we are not up on the proper technology and training and proper policies in place to protect our citizens. 

FINANCE

Candidates: Incumbent Michele Madigan – (I, WF,SAM) and challenger Patty Morrison (D). Citizens for Madigan $12,275. Friends of Patty Morrison $4,725.

Opening Statements 

Morrison: I don’t consider myself an activist or a politician. I consider myself a concerned citizen who is watching another election cycle pass without a choice, and without representation for all Saratogians. 

Madigan: For eight years my adopted budgets have kept property taxes stable, two of those budgets decreased property taxes. All ensured the funds needed to function superbly – now and into the future. My administration has achieved and maintained a double-A-plus bond rating, due to my strong fiscal management policies. 

• Potential Future Projects 

Madigan: Having fiber (optics) on every single city street, to every single resident and businesses. This will bring healthy competition to our community. We have the incumbent – Time Warner Spectrum – and people are excited about the notion of competition, and additional Internet service providers. There are also some other sustainability projects I’m looking forward to working on. One is community choice aggregation – which should lower your energy costs but requires a city ordinance. Also: permanent solution to Code Blue. And a Fire/EMS station. 

Morrison: To end taxpayer-funded lifetime healthcare benefits for part-time politicians, and to push for term limits; To implement a nepotism disclosure policy, which council members must sign should the city hire a family member, and to implement a process to collect unpaid taxes.
To continue to look to make Code Blue shelter permanent. An Eastside EMS station.  I would look at shared services and have us as a resource for
other communities. 

What is the relationship between the school board and City Council as it pertains to the SRO vote and the City Council amendment regarding the training of official officers. 
(Note: During a special City Council meeting held Aug. 27, the City Council unanimously approved the signing of a two-year contract with the City of Saratoga Springs School district to ensure continuous School Resource Officer (“SRO”) coverage throughout the school year). 

Madigan: The vote that the school board took last year to remove the armed security guards, I had no issue with that whatsoever. It was kind of interesting that it looked like I was portrayed as wanting guns in the schools: absolutely not. What the City Council came out with and put forward was a resolution to support the hiring of additional school resource officers. Something that was accepted by N.Y. State government, something that our chief of police had recommended. The reason I like the notion of a school resource officer – and that’s all the City Council’s resolution said – is because we would pay 25% to 40% of that salary. They would still be hired by the city of Saratoga Springs. I have put the money in to train five additional school resource officers and the school board has actually now asked us for those resources. When (the current officer) takes a vacation or is sick, we now have people who are trained police officers who can step in for him.   

Morrison: As many of you know, I currently serve on the School Board. The City Council steered out of their lane to have a resolution. We are two separate governing bodies and when we caught wind there was going to be a resolution we had the superintendent (Michael Patton, Superintendent of Schools) and board members reach out to the City Council. And they were ignored. There is no reason why we needed to have that resolution, because it does state more than just hiring a school resource officer. 

Madigan: This is not true at all. I spoke to Michael Patton directly about the resolution. Of course, the city police department is involved in school safety, so when an SRO is being recommended and offered to the school board, the City Council is going to have to pay for that because they are active duty police officers. No one was ignored and we felt that we were in our right lane because it was going to cost city taxpayer dollars. 

Morrison: When I spoke to our superintendent, he said he reached out and did not get a response. I tend to believe our superintendent. It created an environment of negativity, and that is what I have the biggest problem with. There were residents there who didn’t felt heard in regards to this issue, asking the City Council to reconsider. 

Do you believe the hospital has a right to change their zoning and expand it to a residential neighborhood? 

Madigan: Yes, based on the Comprehensive Plan. 

Morrison: No. 

Do you agree there should be Charter Change? 

Morrison: Yes.

Madigan: That’s up to the voters through referendum. 

Will you pledge to serve out your full term before seeking another office? 

Madigan: Absolutely, yes. 

Morrison: Should I be elected commissioner of finance, I will step down from the school board and take on my new role. 

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS

Candidates: Incumbent Anthony “Skip” Scirocco (R,C,I) and challenger Dillon Moran (D). Citizens for Scirocco $11,200. Friends of Dillon Moran $3,500. 

Opening Statements

Scirocco: Since first being elected, I focused on rebuilding the infrastructure, working within our means to keep taxes low and making sure our city is beautiful year-round. This election, I’m running on my record and accomplishments. This includes over $10 million of investments to the city’s water system and a four-year plan that includes an addition $4 million investment to replace undersized water mains; it includes the creation of a new water source at Bog Meadow to meet water source capacity and the preservation of Saratoga Lake as a recreational natural resource, and the emergency renovation of City Hall and a 50-year plan for the building.

Moran:  I’ve been working in the field of water for over 25 years. We are at a point right now where there are some serious decisions that need to be made about the investment in our infrastructure. We are not on a good path right now. At a time where we are growing like we never have in our history, we are not making a reciprocal investment in our infrastructure. With growth comes a responsibility to maintain our infrastructure. Since 2014 we’re not collecting a single penny from that development to support the infrastructure going forward. That’s because of the choice Skip Scirocco made to eliminate connection fees. Connection fees are legal, they are used everywhere in the state including Clifton Park. They’re appropriate and it’s just. I will be looking to reinstate connection fees.   

Scirocco: The City Council was the one that eliminated connection fees, not Skip Scirocco. The connection fees were challenged in court two times and lost. It was a failed policy and the City Council looked at it and said: that’s the end of it, we need to figure out a different way to get the infrastructure up and running in the city. And, we instituted a Capital Improvement fee, which is working; $10 million we were able to put into infrastructure in the city – that says a lot. 

Moran: That fee that was eliminated from the developers was placed on all of you. If we’re talking about taxes, that’s the first thing to look at. It is entirely appropriate for developers to pay a connection fee when they connect themselves to our $500 million water system. 

If given $500,000 for infrastructure, where would you spend it? 

Moran: First of all, we have a source of water that has not had a Safe Yield study on it since 1988. That’s inadequate. We need to understand how much water we actually can and do produce because at key flow we’re at about 85 percent of our capacity. We don’t know if that’s a safe level because we haven’t done the testing. I’d also put that money directly into a study to solve the problems of flooding at Geyser Crest. 

Scirocco: I would look at stormwater, it’s obviously been an issue for a long time. At Geyser Crest, we are working on it with a consultant to come up with a solution to mitigate the issues. 

What would be the plan for backup water supply in the event Loughberry Lake is out of commission?

Moran: Our main water source, Loughberry Lake, is threatened. In terms of protecting our infrastructure, our water system, and keeping that ours, is essential to our future. There are taps along the county water pipe, in an emergency situation we can tap into them. Secondly, we’re going to change the way we treat our water. We use chlorine way too much and we’ve had problems because of that. 

Scirocco: The city has a backup we developed a few years ago. We drove four wells out to Bog Meadow and it seems to be sufficient based on the Department of Health. Regardless of what my opponent is saying, everything in that water treatment plan is regulated by the department of health. As far as the county water system is concerned, I say let’s stay independent. It’s not going anywhere, and we have plenty of water. I’m not in favor of going to the county unless it’s as a last resort. As for the chlorine, if you don’t like the chlorine in the water, get a filter and you can filter it out. We talked to the experts on that and that’s the answer. 

Published in News
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Blotter

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