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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Check, one. Check, two. Check. Check. Check.
If Bobby Carlton was trying to confuse the wait staff inside the redbrick bistro that boasts creative food, craft drinks and live music, it clearly wasn’t working.
Armed with their three Fender instruments – two guitars and a bass, their boxes of special effects – seven soundwave bending foot-pedals, and the back-beat thwomps of a drummer gluing it all together, Dryer celebrated the release of their new five-song EP at One Caroline last weekend, showcasing the harmonious weavings of punk-driven power chords and melodious hooks that the band has brought to the nation’s stages the past 24 years.
“We’re still a dirty bar venue kind of band playing loud rock music,” said Carlton, who co-founded Dryer with bassist Rachael Sunday in 1992, soon after she had left Skidmore College and was working at Strawberries record shop on Broadway. Drummer Joel Lilley joined the group in 1993.
“It’s really crazy. I didn’t know a band could go that long,” the guitar player said, laughing. “We did what we could do in the time we were a touring band, and we had some great experiences. We were able to tour the U.S. several times and we slept on a lot of floors, played a lot of clubs and got to meet some shady people.”
After a decade of touring and recording, the threesome broke up in 2002. The owner of a New Jersey-based record label convinced them to reform for what was to be a one-off show at Putnam Den in 2010. “At that time it meant calling Rachael, who I hadn’t talked to in eight years, and asking if she’d be into it. So, I threw it out there and surprisingly Joel and Rachael were both on board to do the show. The turnout was so huge that we were like: Oh, people really do enjoy Dryer. So we just started playing together again.”
In 2014, the band added guitar player Brian Akey, who had played with the Massachusetts based band Winterpills. “They were the darlings of the New York Times for a while. Brian moved to Saratoga Springs and someone introduced us,” recalled Carlton. “He just came up one night and expressed interest in playing with Dryer. We’d been a three-piece band for 20 years and never strayed from that, but when Brian came in I was excited about the idea of having another guitar player,” Carlton explained. “Here’s the thing: I know exactly what kind of guitar player I am. I’m not real proficient, but I know about power chords, so I like the idea of having this whole other layer of guitars – and it really works.” The showcase of sound blends raw riffs, sweet vocals and an underlay of melody-laced guitaristry. “The moment Brian came in it opened things up quite a bit and changed the landscape. It makes it more fun.”
The band’s four-member interplay is evident in both their live sets and the new five-song EP. “Bright Moon, Bright Sun,” which marks Dryer’s first issue as a quartet and its first overall release of new music since 2002. Now nearing the quarter-century mark since the band’s formation means finding a new way for the creative mind. “You have to adjust. For me, I cut my teeth on punk rock music coming out of the city – basement shows and CBGB’s in the early days and the whole D.C. scene, so that part still is there for me. I think if I didn’t have that, I probably wouldn’t want to be playing music anymore in this capacity,” Carlton said. “I might stay at home, Instagram a photo here and there of me playing a song. But, I’m still playing shows, I’m still traveling to clubs and I think that comes from the fact that I grew up in that era of punk rock music. The Ramones and The Descendants were huge inspirations for me. They had that ‘Get out and do it, no matter how old you are’ attitude.
“You know you can choose to sit home and do nothing – which is fine – but that’s not me. We’re still doing it at a capacity that’s good for us,” he said. “When I was in my twenties and Dryer was touring, I was sleeping on a dirty floor and thinking: oh man, I’m in Michigan, playing a rock show. I made it! But now, I’m still being creative and I’m sleeping in my own bed at night. That to me is making it.”
“Bright Moon, Bright Sun” is available on a variety of digital streaming sites, and the band has plans to release the tracks on a vinyl format in the future. For more information, visit: https://dryerrockmusic.com/
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Ten thousand days of newspapers. More than a million published words.
Barbara Lombardo has served as a leading voice in the community for more than a generation - her words educating, entertaining, and often inspiring open dialogue of a variety of issues among political leaders and city residents alike.
“I got into journalism during the era of Watergate,” the longtime journalist and managing editor of The Saratogian explained to a crowd gathered at the Saratoga Springs Public Library to hear her speak about her 38-year career in the local news business. “There was a great feeling of what you could do – and not just tearing down a president – but in your own community.” She joined The Saratogian staff in June 1977 working the City Hall beat and by age 30 became the newspaper’s managing editor, directly supervising the newspaper’s day-to-day operations, overseeing editors, writing her column “Fresh Ink,” and helping to launch a countless number of journalists’ careers. The origins of Lombardo’s own career were founded in a series of serendipitous moments.
“I took journalism classes as a lark and got hooked. As it turned out, someone at The Saratogian had died and I was offered a job to start as soon as I finished grad school,” she said during the discussion at the library, moderated by longtime area writer Maria McBride Bucciferro. “I fell in love with Saratoga. I married my college boyfriend and we raised our children here. Things just worked out wonderfully.”
Lombardo cited a lengthy list of a dozen publishers she worked with during her five-decade career that alternated between collaborative camaraderie and ethical conflict. “There was one publisher - and I won’t name him - but a story in the Associated Press his first day on the job was about one of the big department stores that was being sued for discrimination against its workers and having to pay a big fine. That department store was one of our biggest advertisers,” said Lombardo, recalling pressure that was placed on her to stifle the news piece. “The publisher didn’t want me to put that story in the paper at all, let alone where I did put it: on the front page,” she said.
She spoke about memorable stints alongside publisher Linda Glazer Toohey in the 1970s - at the time one of the youngest female publishers in the country - and a decade later with Monte Trammer, whose actions Lombardo cited as a role models for newspaper ethics. “Monte was at a session with a publisher of another paper when somebody asked: ‘If I buy an ad for your company what do you get in exchange for news coverage?’ The publisher of the other paper said that if you buy an ad, you get a story. Monte said that our news columns were not for sale. That’s just as true today,” Lombardo said. “It’s not like you don’t get some pressure, but say you’re doing a story about apple picking and you go to three or four apple orchards to get comments. I believe strongly that you should go to the orchards that are advertising with you, because it’s an opportunity for you to support the companies that are supporting you. But it doesn’t mean you would only go to them, or give somebody special preference.”
These days she teaches a journalism class at the University of Albany, which she’s been doing since 2008, and maintains an online blog, titled “Done with Deadlines,” at: http://www.donewithdeadlines.com/. “One of the things I always loved about journalism in Saratoga was that we were in a competitive market,” she said, explaining that the competitive scramble for scoops, sources and stories in the pre-Internet days had a definitive timeline that no longer exists. “Once that deadline came it was over. Now, it’s never over. You constantly have to be out there - and with fewer and fewer resources. I’m also concerned now with things being archived online on some cloud somewhere and not in newspapers, or microfilm like they used to be.”
During her time at the Saratogian, Lombardo saw the American newsroom transform from a bricks-and-mortar foundation that housed journalists skillfully trained at scribing barrels of ink, to an open-air market of unfettered opinions, blurring the lines of reality and cluttering cyberspace. The Internet has, at least in part, posed a slew of challenges for the industry.
“The biggest challenge is how to make money out of the way people are getting their news now – which is on their phone. Newspapers have traditionally relied on their advertising from print and they have not succeeded in raising the same amount of revenue from advertising online. That’s been the crux of problem,” Lombardo said. Allowing public commentary alongside articles in real time can be both a blessing and a curse, at times providing new leads and sources while at other times allowing a forum for anonymous posters to verbally skewer public figures and private citizens alike.
“There’s a responsibility to try to avoid some of the comments and on some stories cut the comments off, because they can be so heartless or personal. I believe that’s part of the downside of the Internet: the ability to say things anonymously,” she said. “What I personally enjoyed was the thrill of the chase, pursuing a story that sometimes could be a bad event, but you feel that you’re doing something good,” Lombardo said. “Things that make a difference in the community. Sometimes that might make some people unhappy, but overall it can make peoples’ lives better.”
Jerry Carpenter Jr. died in June, a few hours shy of his 21st birthday, his family by his side.
In an emotionally moving ceremony Tuesday night at City Hall, Carpenter’s family thanked Saratoga Springs Police Officer Bill Arpei for answering the call to tend to the Saratoga Springs High School graduate in his time of need.
“On that day, June 2, that afternoon, the call was received by an officer for a young man in cardiac arrest,” family friend Donna Flinton told a chamber room crowded with residents and council members gathered to decide the city’s business. The call was placed by Carpenter’s sister. From Jefferson Terrace, the emergency was reported as a young man in severe medical distress.
“Officer Arpei responded within minutes of the call and assessed everything. He started chest compressions and continued to do so even after EMS came to take over,” Flinton said. “Unbeknownst to the officer, Jerry had only one working lung as well as a host of other complications. With Officer Arpei’s CPR, his not giving up on our boy and EMS’ help, Jerry was resuscitated.”
Although resuscitated, the young man whose obituary remembers him as an innocent soul with a brave heart who spread love to all who knew him, passed away a week later.
“The officer was asked to be kept in the loop, and we did,” Flinton said. “We informed Officer Arpei that Jerry had passed, and of the funeral arrangements, hoping he would perhaps come. He sure did. And in full uniform. It gave the family and myself great pride to know the Saratoga Springs Police Department would allow Officer Arpei not just to attend, but to salute as we passed by,” she recalled. “With that, my friends, everyone just cried. That was our time. And that was the time he gave us. He not only refused to give up on him, but he cared - and caring and compassion is not always prevalent in today’s society.”
One of the young man’s sisters handed Arpei a keychain, to signify the day her life forever was changed and the moment the officer was welcomed as a member of the family. With the presentation of a statue she noted how they would never forget the officer’s actions.
“When we look at you, we see Jerry,” Flinton said. “Because of you, his mother was able to sit with him for the last few days he had, hold his hand and tell him he could go dance in heaven with his grandfather. His grandmother was able to kiss him one last time and tell him that she loved him. His sisters were able to say goodbye and lay with him as he took his last breath - and we celebrated his birthday - because in some country he was 21,” she told the officer, who joined the city police department five years ago. “These are the moments the family will cherish forever and they know they wouldn’t have had them if it wasn’t for you.” In the crowded council chamber overcome by silence some in the crowd choked back tears.
“We feel it was time to express our family’s gratitude towards one of our own,” she said. “Saying just thanks, we think, is not appropriate. But that’s all we’ve got.” Residents and council members alike stood up and the chamber erupted in a lengthy ovation.
City Approves Purchase of Pitney Farm: Westside Farm to Stay a Farm Forever
After much deliberation, the council unanimously approved the city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm on West Avenue.
The city is spending $1.165 million - $1.13 million outright and $35,000 in closing costs – to purchase the development rights to ensure the farm land will remain a farm in perpetuity.
Members of the council had expressed hope that a portion of the 166-acre farm could be used to house recreation fields for youth sports such as soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco was especially adamant that the city may have done a better job negotiating the fields into the land contract, as the city lacks those resources.
The closing is scheduled to take place in mid-December. At the same time, the city will issue a bond anticipation note. The interest will be 0.95 percent, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.
A contract of sale for the farm was signed between the Pitney Family and the newly created 501(c)(3), Pitney Meadows Community Farm. The vision for the farm includes the creation of a community agricultural resource center to function as a teaching facility and incubator, as well as offering access to the community to cultivate gardens and enjoy nature trails on the property.
City Amends Sidewalk Sitting Ordinance – Penalties Reduced, Law Still in Effect
The city's controversial “sit and lie ordinance,” which was adopted in June and makes it unlawful for any person to sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk, was amended by the City Council this week. The changes include a streamlining of exceptions to the law; those exceptions allow for medical emergencies, or in curbside areas permitted for street performers, as well as easing penalties for code violators.
The previously adopted penalties called for a minimum $50 fine for first offenders, escalating to misdemeanor charges with the potential of up to 30 days of jail time and fines of up to $500 for repeat offenders. The new penalties call for a maximum $50 fine for first offenders. Subsequent offenders would be subject to a fine not exceeding $250 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 days, according to the city’s general penalties for offenses, posted on the city website.
The New York Civil Liberties Union submitted testimony alleging both the original law and the amended proposal targets homeless people and is unconstitutional and should be rescinded altogether. Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen – who brought forward both the original and amended proposals – argued that the ordinance was based on other municipalities’ existing ordinances and that “it does pass constitutional muster.” The council members were in general agreement in expressing belief that the ordinance is related to pedestrian safety issues and does not target the city’s homeless population. The amended ordinance was approved 4-1, with city Mayor Joanne Yepsen casting the lone vote against. “I don’t like this law and I don’t see a need for it,” said Yepsen, who also cast the lone voted against the initial proposal in June.
On a High Note, City Center President Says Goodbye
Longtime Saratoga Springs City Center President Mark Baker delivered the City Center Authority’s annual report for 2015 to the council on Tuesday. In 2015, the City Center hosted 154 events and secured 252 days of paid activities - marking the highest number of annual paid events in the building’s history. The 2016 schedule already tops that number, Baker added, and reported $2.1 million in sales tax revenue was generated in 2015 for the local community. More than 155,000 people attended events last year.
“For 33 years it’s been a pleasure to serve for you and with you,” said Baker, who last week announced he will retire as the organization’s president at year’s end. “In the last 33 years I think it’s become most obvious that there is no place like Saratoga Springs – our history, our style, our grace,” Baker said..
‘Eyesore’ at Interlaken to be Demolished, Replaced by Single-Family Homes
The council unanimously voted to support a Planned Unit Development SEQRA determination regarding a property on Crescent Avenue in the Interlaken community. The long-abandoned home will be demolished and the land subdivided into four parcels where four single-family homes will be developed. Residents of the neighborhood addressed the council, alternately referring to the existing building as “an eyesore” and “a neighborhood blight,” and outnumbered those opposed to the building’s demolition by a 10-1 margin.
City Public Art Policy Approved; Changes Coming for City Arts Commission
The council unanimously approved a public art policy that will provide a civic planning process for the acceptance and placement of artwork in public areas.
The city Arts Commission – a 20-member advisory board appointed by the mayor in 2015 - will review submissions using artwork and site selection criteria and may recommend to accept or reject an artwork. The Commission is tasked with reviewing proposals for consistency with the city’s goals and where appropriate, recommending acceptance or rejection of such acquisitions for the city. “Public art,” in this scope, is defined as publicly accessible artwork that enriches the city through its aesthetic qualities, considers the social and physical context of the site, and addresses the goals of the city.
The Arts Commission will also undergo changes to its member bylaws. Starting in January 2018, the committee will be comprised of a maximum of 11 members; four will be selected by the commissioners and the balance appointed by the mayor. Currently, all 20 members have been selected by the mayor.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Inside the office on a sublevel of the Collamer Building, a pair of couches sit in a comfortable corner. A toy kitchen patiently awaits the attention of a child’s playing hands, and rows of books line the far wall.
“We have the easiest door to walk in,” says Maggie Fronk, executive director of the Wellspring office, which opens its doors five days a week and hosts seminars that are confidential and free of charge. A hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, annually fields about 1,400 calls that come in from across Saratoga County.
“When somebody comes in, we talk to them about what their situation is and about what domestic violence is. It’s a pattern of power and control,” says Fronk, who joined Wellspring 14 years ago. The organization has supported survivors and strived to end relationship and sexual abuse for the past 35 years.
“There are many different forms of abuse. There’s emotional control, psychological control, financial control, social isolation, sexual victimization. So many times people will call us and say, ‘But I’ve never been hit.’ In their mind they’re saying, ‘this is not domestic violence.’ Well, it is,” Fronk says. “We have a ‘power and control wheel’ that talks about all kinds of abuse and we’ll show that to them. The person that says, ‘I don’t know if I even should be calling,’ will look at that and say, ‘Oh, I do have all those other kinds, I’ve just never been hit.”
Wellspring’s crisis intervention and survivor services provide safe housing to adults and children either fleeing or homeless because of domestic violence, as well as comprehensive support in the form of counseling, legal advocacy, and case management. In 2015, the organization provided almost 15,000 safe bed nights of shelter and supportive housing, counseled 700 individuals escaping their abuse, and provided education about the signs of relationship and sexual abuse to 6,500 members of school, and community groups.
“Wellspring gave me a new lease on life and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” said Tina, who married at 18, divorced at 21, and was forced to give up on her dream of going to college after graduating high school. For three years, she endured an abusive marriage. She married her second husband in 2001 and gave birth to her first of three children in 2007. “Unfortunately, women who are victims of domestic violence tend to attract predatory mates,” Tina said.
“My first husband was an alcoholic and here it was, like a bad dream, happening all over again. He began drinking very heavily and the abuse began to get worse.” Pregnant with her second child in 2008, Tina temporarily moved back to her parents’ home and gave her husband an ultimatum. “I told him he had to rehab.” Things seemed to work for a while, but it would not last. “The police were called to our house several times. He punched me in the face and gave me a black eye. It took me a long time to realize I couldn’t fix him, that my love couldn’t carry it through. A lot of women think that if they’re nice enough, if they’re pretty enough, then they can fix things,” she said. “But they can’t.”
An incident involving child neglect that was brought on by her husband’s drinking convinced her the marriage was over. Tina wasn’t working and when the child support payments stopped coming, she became involved in a child custody conflict which continues to this day.
“The psychological effect of that spun me into a dark, life-threatening world of depression. I was in a state of turmoil and didn’t know what to do.” By chance, she came across a Wellspring business card. “I was a mess,” Tina recalled. “I reached out and called their hotline. Immediately, I felt there was a glimmer of hope.” Through Wellspring, she began picking up the pieces of her shattered life. The organization helped with housing, and she recently secured a job at a retail store on Broadway.
“At times it’s been a nightmare of a life, but I’ve realized my true value, my true worth and I have three little kids who I have to make a new path for, so they don’t follow in my footsteps,” she said. “Yes, there will be stumbling blocks, but you have to persevere. I’m not going to let my life be stopped by an abuser who I’d given 22 years of my life. I’m not going to give up on my education. I’m not going to give up on my kids. I’m humbled by these experiences. And I don’t take for granted one minute of my life.”
“We have a commitment to end relationship and sexual abuse in the community and I see that happening,” Fronk says. “We do that by involving the whole community. If you see something, talk to somebody. Tell them there’s a place to get help. Make the call.“
Wellspring maintains office hours Monday through Friday in Saratoga Springs. To reach the office during business hours, call 518-583-0280. To reach the 24-Hour Hotline, call 518-584-8188. For more information, visit: http://www.wellspringcares.org/.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A lifelong city resident who led efforts to preserve and enhance the oldest cemetery in Saratoga Springs was posthumously honored with the placement of a plaque and the planting of a tree in the Gideon Putnam Burying Ground.
The tree, an American beech, is expected to rise to a height of greater than 50 feet, grow to a spread at maturity of about 40 feet and for generations overlook the west side neighborhood where Eugene Corsale made his home. Corsale engaged the help of the Department of Public Works, local businesses and volunteers, and is credited with providing the leadership through which $120,000 in grant funding was secured to underwrite the restoration of the burial grounds, which had fallen into disrepair.
Graffiti marred the stone wall of the Putnam family plot and trash was strewn about. Broken tombstones were used as skate board ramps and some residents used the dirt paths of the overgrown landscape as a short-cut to Broadway. “The cemetery was ignored, overgrown, and misused,” explained Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.
The cemetery was established in 1810 by Gideon Putnam. The Massachusetts-born visionary relocated to the area in his twenties. He laid out a wide street scheme for a broad way, built Saratoga’s first boarding house hotel, and donated a plot of land to be used as a public burial ground. While working atop scaffolding during the construction of nearby Congress Hall, Putnam fell and suffered severe injury. He died a year later. In 1812, he became the first person interred at the cemetery named for him.
In addition to the walled enclosure of the Putnam family plot, hundreds of Saratoga Springs residents were laid to rest at the cemetery through the 1840s. A century later, fewer than half of the original 232 stone markers remained. Accurate records of those buried within were not kept, and the cemetery fell into disrepair. With Corsale’s leadership, stone walls were restored, gravestones cleaned, the landscape trimmed and grass reseeded, and a perimeter fence installed to prevent vandalism.
“What we see here today is in large part (due to) Gene’s legacy,” said Bosshart, choking back tears as she recalled many purposeful visits to her office by Corsale, who died in March 2014 at the age of 85. “Gene would come by, usually with some butterscotch candy or a lollipop he got from the bank, and say: ‘You know what we have to do.’ It was a privilege and an honor to know him.”
The Gideon Putnam burying ground is the city’s oldest cemetery in the city and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being designated a City Landmark. It was preceded by the Sadler Cemetery, where bodies were first interred in the 18th century, but those bodies were mostly relocated to other cemeteries. The memorial tree was purchased and planted by the Heritage Garden Club with the assistance from Sustainable Saratoga, and a bronze plaque recognizing Corsale was provided by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Elizabeth Sobol leaned against a marble column outside the Hall of Springs. She glanced up at the architecture - detailed more than three-quarters of a century ago by Russian iron-workers, Italian plasterers and Austrian stone cutters - and searched for the words to best express the thoughts inside her head.
“It’s only been a month since my husband and I moved from Miami Beach to Saratoga. And it’s only been eight days since I walked into my office, but the overwhelming sense of magic, the cultural vibrancy I first felt in the city has only deepened,” said the newly minted president and CEO of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “I want to make sure more people experience the epiphany that I’ve had coming here.”
Moments later, the self-described “newcomer with fresh eyes” was formally introduced by SPAC Board chairman Ron Riggi to about two dozen board members and department heads gathered inside the hall’s Gold Room for their annual fall meeting. Sobol told them that she didn’t foresee radical changes taking place in the near future, but wanted to enhance what already exists by both deepening SPAC’s roots in the local community and extending the venue’s presence and visibility beyond the borders of the Capital Region.
“I feel fortunate coming in at this auspicious moment,” Sobol said in succeeding Marcia White, who earlier this year announced she would be retiring after 11 years at SPAC. “It has been a privilege to begin my new role at SPAC fresh off the heels of the 50th anniversary celebration.”
“2016 was very successful with the 50th anniversary and some beautiful weather,” treasurer Tony Ianniello added. No less than 35 special events were staged in conjunction with the venue’s golden anniversary, and audience attendance during the classical season of performances increased 3.4 percent, compared to the previous year. SPAC received more than $5.22 million in capital campaign gifts in honor of the anniversary. The funds will be used to support programming, capital improvements, and SPAC’s endowment fund, according to the organization. “Now we want to dig down and drill deep on how we can improve the numbers – raise more money and decrease expenses,” Ianniello said.
The Board announced membership rates in 2017 will remain at 2016 levels, and next year’s classical season ticket pricing will include a $30 amphitheater ticket, a $10 reduction in select seating from previous seasons. “As we move into the future, we hope to engage new and younger audiences in order to fulfill our mission of sharing world-class performances with the Capital Region community,” Sobol said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A portrait of ladies lunching at a Broadway café stood near a framed sketch of a pair of pink ballet slippers.
Landscapes of Yaddo, the racecourse and Universal Preservation Hall were accompanied by displays of Caffe Lena, Congress Park and an abundance of thoroughbreds portrayed in oil, watercolor, and digital print.
More than 140 different art works inspired by the spirit of Saratoga Springs were exhibited inside the historic Canfield Casino, depicting a varied vision through the eyes of 60 different artists. The inspiration of the exhibit was the 2016 TRASK Art Show and Sale, a popular art auction that provides vital funding for the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation in their ongoing efforts to preserve Saratoga Springs through restoration projects. Those efforts include the recent successful completion of the restoration of the Spirit of Life and Spencer Trask Memorial in Congress Park – a piece initially commissioned by Katrina and George Foster Peabody, after Spencer Trask’s death in 1909.
Spencer is largely credited with preserving the Spa’s spring waters, and along with wife Katrina bequeathed their 55-room mansion and adjoining grounds on Union Avenue to artists of all kinds. Since 1926, their Yaddo estate has welcomed more than 6,000 visiting artists.
Ironically, Trask’s anti-gambling stance put him at odds with John Morrissey, who established his gaming house in Congress Park and the venue where the TRASK Art Show and Sale was staged. A $500 prize for Best in Show was awarded to Matt Chinian for his oil and canvas display titled: Juniper Swamp.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and selling paintings is nearly impossible, so this is a big boost,” said the artist from Cambridge, who specializes in painting outdoor scenes. Artists Robert Whiting Chris O’Leary and Dave Papa each received honorable mention. Ian Berry, director of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, and Kathy Greenwood, director of the Art and Culture Program at Albany International Airport, served as show judges. Artists received 50 percent of their artwork’s sale price, with the balance of sales benefiting restoration projects and ongoing efforts to preserve Saratoga Springs. The event was attended by 250 people. A final tally of funds raised during the event was not yet available.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Mike Finocchi cast his eyes across the big room which stands on the corner where Henry and Caroline streets meet.
The executive director at Shelters of Saratoga took stock of the kitchen, where wood cabinets bookend a stove and microwave, a refrigerator and a freezer. He noted the spacious women’s and men’s restrooms, strolled through the large adjacent room where supplies and clothing will be stored, and imagined the dozens of cots that will be placed in the main room and made available to the city’s homeless population as a place to shelter during the harshest days of the impending winter.
After setting up shop at the Salvation Army building during the past two years, Code Blue Saratoga – which is under the guidance of S.O.S. – was in need of a new temporary center to house its emergency shelter. A lease agreement with Soul Saving Station, in effect from Nov. 1, 2016 to April 1, 2017, was announced this week. S.O.S. will pay the organization monthly rent. Finocchi declined to specify the amount, but called the cost “fair.”
“Thank God they stepped up,” said Finocchi. “It got to the point in the summer when you’re thinking: gosh, what are we going to do? We were running out of options.”
The need for a city emergency shelter during the winter months is great. In its first abbreviated winter season in 2013-2014, the emergency shelter was open 58 nights and housed 928 overnight stays. In each of the past two years, the shelter was open more than 80 nights providing more than 3,054 and 3,344 overnight stays, respectively, in addition to more than 1,700 others who were provided dinner during the winter seasons of 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Between 2007 and 2015, although homelessness nationwide decreased by 11 percent, it increased in New York, rising by 41 percent, according to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, New York State’s homeless population jumped by 7,660 - the largest increase in the nation for the one-year period.
“You never know what leads one to being homeless,” Finocchi said. “It could be a bitter divorce, or someone who may have lost everything. You just never know.”
The Code Blue Saratoga program was born from the tragic death of Nancy Pitts. The 54-year-old mother of two sought shelter on a Williams Street porch during a frigid December night in 2013. She was discovered by police the next morning. Within days of the homeless woman’s death, a cooperative partnership between then mayor-elect Joanne Yepsen, non-profit organizations, and members of the community was initiated and a plan set in motion to site an emergency shelter in the city.
"After Nancy Pitts, I was determined no one would die on the streets of Saratoga Springs ever again," Yepsen said Thursday. No city funds have been used in connection with the shelter.
The shelter initially opened when temperature dipped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order which directed emergency shelters to operate when temperatures dropped below 32 degrees. The new threshold – likely to mark an increase in the number of days the shelter would operate - complicated the process for the largely volunteer staff in Saratoga. Code Blue’s previous hosts - the Salvation Army Worship and Community Center on Woodlawn Avenue – could no longer house the shelter on site because the increased days would interfere with their own programming.
“It’s easier for places in Albany, Schenectady and Troy who have mission type places to run that kind of program, but we don’t have that here,” said Finocchi, who added he was thankful Soul Saving Station stepped forward to make their Fellowship Hall available.
“As soon as they reached out to us, we said, ‘we have available space,’” said Arnold Byrd II, church pastor at Soul Saving Station. “It made sense to us. It’s something we should be doing. You have to be supportive of those who need help.”
Whereas the Salvation Army housed up to 100 cots, the new venue is slightly smaller. “It’s going to be a little tighter here, but the bottom line is no one needs to be sleeping on the street,” Finocchi said. “If it’s a little more snug than the Salvation Army, so be it, but at least people have an option other than the parking garage, or the woods and a tent.”
Given the geographic proximity to the plethora of bars and taverns along Caroline Street, Finocchi said the organization will be diligent in monitoring the shelter and will institute a midnight curfew, after which people may come in, but not go out.
Code Blue Saratoga will host a meeting and offer training for volunteers in October. Those interested in volunteering their time can sign up at: https://www.codebluesaratoga.org/wordpress/volunteer/how-to-volunteer/
For those interested in donating items, Code Blue Saratoga Director Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant said the emergency shelter’s largest needs are men’s socks and underwear, canned food, and individually-wrapped snacks.
NORTHUMBERLAND – On April 22, Saratoga P.L.A.N. (P.L.A.N.) opened the 65-acre Coldbrook Preserve in the Town of Northumberland. The Preserve, located off Homestead Road, includes a mile of public trails that meander through a beautifully wooded area that includes overlooks of the Cold Brook. While the public is invited to walk, ski, snowshoe, and learn about the outdoors on the new trails, all pets must be leashed.