Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Cage The Elephant last appeared onstage at SPAC in 2019, performing a memorable set on a memorable summer night while on a co-headlining tour with Beck. Five years later, Cage the Elephant, or CTE as they are known in some circles, return Aug. 18 to headline their own gig at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. 

Scribbles from this reporter’s notebook that night: 

Singer Matt Shultz, blessed with a seemingly unlimited amount of boundless energy, led Cage The Elephant through an entertaining hourlong set - crawling, taunting and exhibiting Jagger-esque dance moves in a mashed-up fury of dayglo mesh cloths. Accompanied by a strip of eternal flames and a rotisserie of flashing lights turning stage spectacle to the spectacular - yellow smoke here, green laser beams and strobes-a-plenty there – and showcasing the band at their post-Pixies singalong best, bringing the crowd to a standing cheer. 

Schultz concluded the set by crowd-surfing to the outer reaches of the amphitheater while Queen’s “We Are The Champions” played over the house PA, emerging 15 minutes later as the house lights burned bright for the intermission changeover, stripped down to a pair of red gym shorts, strips of black Velcro across his upper torso, and wearing a nude bodysuit...

Cage The Elephant last week announced the band’s 45-date North American U.S. tour with its Aug. 18 Saratoga Springs stopover that will include Young The Giant & Bakar as special guests. The band’s sixth studio album, titled “Neon Pill,” will drop via RCA Records on May 17.

This week, Shultz made a public revelation via an Instagram post that he has been suffering through a mental health crisis during the past few years and spent two months in a hospital followed by months of outpatient treatment. He thanked those close to him for their support in helping him get to a better place. 

“It’s a miracle that I’m here today,” he wrote. “Over the last three years, I was unknowingly fighting my way through an utter mental health crisis. In a short time, I had slipped into psychosis due to an iatrogenic response to a medication I was prescribed. It took the love and support of my brothers in the band, my community, and, most of all, my wife Eva to get me through it. Eva stayed by my side, and she saved my life countless times. To say she is a warrior and a queen is an understatement,” Schultz wrote. 

“Her unwavering love coupled with professional treatment helped me to regain my grip on reality and fully recover. Along the way, I learned a lot of hard lessons, and I thank God I was able to come out on the other side. I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to write this message. I owe my life to God and the support system of friends, family, and Cage The Elephant. I’ll just say it now once again, because it needs to be said, ‘Thank you.’”

The new album finds the Kentucky-bred six-member CTE forging new musical ground, while maintaining their uncompromising creativity and wildly cathartic performances, according to advance press for “Neon Pill.” 

“Everything is undoubtedly expressed through having settled into finding our own voice,” Schultz said, in a statement.  “With this album, having gone through so much, life had almost forced us into becoming more and more comfortable with ourselves. We weren’t reaching for much outside of the pure experience of self-expression, and simultaneously not necessarily settling either. We just found a uniqueness in simply existing.”

“Rightly viewed, the whole soul of man is a sort of picture gallery, a grand panorama, in which all great facts of the universe, in tracing things of time and things of eternity, are painted,” – Frederick Douglass "Lecture on Pictures," 1861. 

Frederick Douglass quote prominently depicted in the 272-page catalogue companion to the Lessons of the Hour Tang Museum exhibition, serving as a visual and literary meditation that juxtaposes artist Isaac Julien’s works with archival images of Douglass and essays that acts as a worthy introduction to the exhibition. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — He was considered the most photographed man of the 19th century, and among the finest of orators of his time. He last visited Saratoga more than a century-and-a-half ago and spoke publicly on multiple occasions. 

A new exhibition at The Tang Museum brings the life of Frederick Douglass back front-and-center, in a bedazzling film installation that features scenes from the life of the former slave and abolitionist. Created by London-based artist Isaac Julien, it is titled Lessons of the Hour.   

Inside the Tang Museum’s Malloy Wing - mapped out in configuration to the artist’s specs right down to the deep red carpet underfoot - 10 screens of varying dimensions flex across the massive space, depicting an abundance of moving images that dance in a multitude of ways. 

Speakers slung across the room punch-in from all directions with dialogue, music, and sonic ambience. The noisy hammering of a sewing machine meets the peaceful hum of a vanishing water tide. A gentle breeze flows through cotton fields. Train wheels steam violently across long roads of rail. 

Here, is Frederick Douglass (as portrayed by actor Ray Fearon), draped in along blue overcoat and accessorized by an ascot of brilliant color, speaking in sepia tones of our vintage past.

There, viewed from a variety of angles (if not alternating points of view), is the turbulence of our most recent days. It is a morphing overlap that embraces who we were, and what we are.   

“You get the sense that it’s not just about history,” says the museum’s Dayton Director Ian Berry, watching the dynamic juxtapositions of images of Douglass’s life unfold on the hanging salon-style screens. 

The 28-minute film, which runs continuously and invites multiple viewings, features the 19th century abolitionist, writer, and freed slave reciting passages from some of his most famous speeches. Open-ended narrative vignettes are set in Washington D.C, London, and Edinburgh and portray Douglass with influential women of his time—including Susan B. Anthony and Ottilie Assing—dramatizing ideas of racial and gender equality. 

“The work rewards repeat viewings, telling us that the hour is now, and lessons still need to be learned,” said Berry, who will give a curator’s tour of the exhibition at noon on Thursday, March 28.

Frederick Douglass In Saratoga

Douglass visited Saratoga to speak on multiple occasions. In 1849, he included Schuylerville, Quaker Springs, and Dean’s Corners on his speaking itinerary, according to the Saratoga County History Center, and returned decades later to speak to a large gathering in Saratoga Springs.  Newspaper reports published in early April 1870 by The Saratogian inform of Douglass’ upcoming lecture on the 15th amendment at the Congregational Church, adding “the building is likely to be crowded, and those who wish to make sure of a place should engage reserved seats.” 

The First Congregational Church of Saratoga Springs was “centrally situated on Phila street, just out of Broadway,” according to Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester’s “History of Saratoga County, New York.” An article published in late April 1870 provides a lengthy report of the daylong events that featured Douglass, including “a procession during the day and an address in the evening (at the Congregational Church) from one who ranks among the very first of living orators.” 

“I wished to use the distinctive language of filmmaking, photography and bookmaking to create artworks that would hopefully inspire others,” said Julien about his created Lessons of the Hour. His films and photography have been shown worldwide in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums. 

“Frederick Douglass’s belief in the importance and power of photography and picture-making in advocating for social justice is brought vividly into the 21st century through Julien’s poetic vision,” Berry said. 

Also On Exhibit

Also new on view is an exhibition of work from the Tang collection—many of them recent acquisitions—that explore studio portraiture and archives, from 19th century daguerreotypes and vernacular photography to contemporary portraiture and video, exploring themes of agency and visual representation as a tool for empathy and justice, and organized to complement Lessons of the Hour.

“This is the advent of photography,” Berry said, moving through the exhibition space in the museum’s lower-level gallery and gesturing to a tabletop display where photographs dating to the mid-19th century are housed in ornate cases. 

“With this (then) new invention of photography, Frederick Douglass said he would have his picture taken, it would hang on people’s walls and when they would see his face, they would see his humanity. So, he saw photography as a key to his abolitionist ambitions,” Berry said. “It’s history-telling, but it’s also using the portrait for power, to reveal something about oneself.”   

In the Mezzanine Gallery, artist Yvette Molina’s “A Promise to the Leaves” creates a museum community space devoted to art, conversation, and contemplation; In the Winter Gallery a student-curated group exhibition titled Abject Anatomy features a selection of two dozen photographs, prints, drawings, and paintings that asks viewers to reflect on deep-seated fears about their own bodily nonconformance and those around them, while instructing: “as you explore the exhibition lean into the unease.” 

Then, there is the Elevator. Elevator Music 48: “Alone, only in flesh,” is a site-specific, collaborative meditation on diaspora combining spoken word poetry, experimental cello, traditional Vietnamese garments, and Southeast Asian home goods. 

In this exhibition, artists Antonius-Tín Bui, MIZU, and Theresa-Xuan Bui create a space for all to commune with the unknown and untranslatable and meld the language of altars—spaces of presence, transcendence, and transmission—with the liminality of the shifting elevator and welcome all to commune with the unknown. Watch the elevator doors open, see mallet, bang a gong. 

Lessons of the Hour premiered in 2019 at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. It will be on view through May 19 at The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. The museum is open to the public Friday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and on Thursdays til 9 p.m. For more information, go to:

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Several hundred people queued up outside the 1863 Club on Feb. 21 in a line that spread across the grounds of Saratoga Race Course, where the New York Racing Association hosted a job fair to hire support for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. 

The four-day event - which stages at Saratoga this year - will run June 6-9, just about 100 days from now. 

“Many of the seasonal employees here at Saratoga make this a summer (employment) tradition, so we expect to see a number of those individuals who have spent many summers here,” said NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna.

McKenna said the public response since announcing the shifting of Belmont to Saratoga - at least for this year - has been “tremendous,” as witnessed by the number of applicants showing up for the job fair, to the high demand for tickets for the four-day racing meet. 

Tickets for the Belmont Stakes race June 8 sold out in nearly one day; tickets are still available for June 6,7 and 9. 

The Oklahoma Training Track across Union Avenue opposite the race course grounds will open in its normal mid-April time slot. With Belmont in Saratoga, an accelerated number of trainers and horses are anticipated to arrive earlier than normal - particularly after the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

The regular summer meet in Saratoga will take place July 11 - Sept. 2. 

SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga County Republican Committee this week made formal endorsements for two county-wide offices and a state Assembly contest, as well as announcing support for three incumbent candidates in the upcoming November 2024 election.

The committee endorsed Matthew Coseo for Saratoga County Court Judge. 

Current Judge James Murphy announced late last year that he will not seek re-election. At that time, Adele M. Kurtz, Principal Law Clerk to Saratoga County Court Judge, announced her candidacy for the seat and that she intended to seek the Republican and Conservative nominations. Coseo is currently the Wilton Town Judge and Principal Law Clerk for Hon. Dianne N. Freestone, Justice of the Supreme Court in the 4th Judicial District.

“My years of service as a judge in Wilton and as a court attorney to judges across our region will provide for a natural transition into this next step of public service,” Coseo said in a statement.

The county Republican Committee also endorsed JoAnn Kupferman for Saratoga County Treasurer. Kupferman this week will become Acting Saratoga County Treasurer, replacing county treasurer Andrew Jarosh (R, C) – who ran unopposed in 2022 - who has resigned.

County GOP endorsements for re-election included: 112th District Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh – Walsh defeated Democrat challenger Andrew McAdoo in 2022; Assemblyman Matt Simpson – who ran unopposed in the 114th district, and Sen. James Tedisco – who in 2022 secured the 44th District election by defeating Democrat challenger Michelle Ostrelich.  Minita Sanghvi, who currently serves as Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner, is running as a Democrat for NYS Senate District 44.

The Saratoga County Republican Committee also endorsed Jeremy Messina for state Assembly in the 113th Assembly district to contest for a seat long held by Democrat Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner. 

Thursday, 22 February 2024 14:35

Clear Skies Over Putnam

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Observant city dwellers may notice a change high above Putnam Street, where a long-standing radio tower has been removed, clearing a path to an uninterrupted skyline.

The tower stood 92-feet tall and was fixed to the roof of 63 Putnam St., a redbrick structure which sits opposite the Saratoga Springs Public Library and wraps around the drive of Gardner Lane. 

“It was a two-way radio tower from the old days, when the trucks of the Farone beer distributing business used two-way radios,” said Tom Roohan, who purchased The Diamond Brady Plaza, located at 63 Putnam St., in 2022. 

Given modern-day technology such as cellular phones, the tower had outlived its usefulness, and while some thought was given to re-purposing it as a flagpole, the idea didn’t gain much traction, Roohan said, adding that following its removal the tower was cut and recycled. 

BALLSTON SPA —The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors adopted its 2024 Saratoga County Legislative Program during its monthly Feb. 20 at the county complex in Ballston Spa. 

The 10-page document summarizes requested legislative action by state and federal officials, as well as identifying what the Board considers important priorities and initiatives for consideration at state and federal levels. 

Among the items under program’s General Government Services subhead is the county’s support of local municipal control to determine hours of retail sale of alcoholic beverages. 

Currently, the state’s Alcohol Beverage and Control Laws provide counties with an opportunity to submit a request to the State Liquor Authority to restrict hours of sale of alcoholic beverages on a county-wide basis. 

For more than a decade, officials in Saratoga Springs have attempted to initiate earlier bar closing times but with little success; As per current law, the county would need to advocate for earlier bar closing times across all county municipalities – which it has been reluctant to do. 

The Saratoga County Board this week pledged its support for a change to the ABC law to allow for local municipalities to make requests directly to the State Liquor Authority on their own, and for the SLA to determine hours of retail sale of alcoholic beverages based on municipality - without requiring county-wide actions and restricting sales in a neighboring town, city, or village.  The entry marks at least the second time in consecutive years the item has been adopted by the county Board of Supervisors.     

Even as the county may be open to local governments setting parameters for the hours of sale of alcoholic beverages within their own respective municipalities, cities and towns seeking to make any potential changes continue to face an arduous task as the ABC law would need to be amended in order for cities and towns to restrict hours. Consideration of such a law change would be up to the state legislature and there does not appear to be any pending legislation currently addressing the matter. 

• Saratoga County announced it was awarded $111,278 via a new fund created under the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to support youth team sports programs for underserved youth under age 18. The county was provided the award to disburse between 7 different Youth Team Sport programs. To that point, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve the execution of the subcontracts:  Mechanicville/Stillwater Little League - $15,000; MACSC Volleyball, Dodgeball League - $4,468; Mechanicville Stillwater United Soccer Club - $5,606; Schuylerville Youth Lacrosse $ 6,917; Department of Aging & Youth Services Administration 10% - $11,128. Agencies: Old Saratoga Athletic Association $31,999; Galway Baseball Softball League $18,160; Corinth Youth Hockey Association, Inc. $18,000. 

• County officials announced the creation of a school-based opioid and substance use disorder advocacy and support program to address and reduce the impact of addiction and opioid use disorder in Saratoga County schools. The new program will pair school resource officers with certified peer recovery advocates to help students in recovery. 

Tuesday, a resolution was approved for a two-year memorandum of understanding between the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office and the Saratoga County Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the use of $205,000 in regional abatement funds authorized from the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). The Sheriff’s Office will use the funds to contract with the Healthy Capital District Initiative (HCDI) and with two Certified Peer Recovery Advocates to launch the school-based opioid and substance use support program.

• The Board approved $48,837 in one-time funding as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to increase its capacity for provision of offsite services, one-on-one services, improvement of telehealth infrastructure, and other items. The top dollar amount appropriation increases are for:  Minor IT Equipment - $6,515, Office Equipment - $6,500, and Department Supplies- $5,200. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A ceremony at the Saratoga Music Hall will take place Feb. 29 when the 153-year-old hall will be re-dedicated as the Skip Scirocco Music Hall.

The hall will be named after Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, a lifelong Saratogian who served the city professionally - first as the animal control officer, then as elected Saratoga County Supervisor – from 1998 to 2005, and as a standing Commissioner of Public Works, starting in 2008.  Scirocco died in April 2022 at the age of 74 following a brief battle with cancer. 

Scirocco was born on Feb. 29, 1948, and Feb. 29 is why the date for dedication was selected, said current DPW Commissioner Jason Golub. 

In 2016, fear grew that the 300-seat hall was in its last days as a community gathering space, with the venue targeted by the city – in accordance with a state mandate - for conversion into a courtroom. At a public hearing hosted by the city, dozens of people spoke in protest of the council’s suggestion to turn the hall into a courtroom space, and an online petition titled “Save the Music Hall!” garnered more than 370 signatures in the three weeks in advance of the hearing. 

Saratoga Springs City Hall - which houses the music hall on its uppermost floor - sustained extensive damage following an August 2018 lightning strike, and the council subsequently determined a building-wide multi-million-dollar renovation and restoration project was appropriate. 

“The emergency following the lightning strike along with the mandates from the courts and legislature were circumstances outside of our control, but this Council has worked collaboratively to keep this project moving,” then-DPW Commissioner Scirocco said at the time. “It’s the largest and possibly the most important project the city will undertake in our lifetime… and I think the public will be pleased with all the improvements in their City Hall.”

The newly restored Saratoga Music Hall opened to the public in late 2020. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub and DPW Business Manager Mike Veitch provided an update Thursday of the city’s anticipated implementation of a summer 2024 downtown permit parking plan.

More than 50 people, most of whom are downtown business owners, attended the presentation at Saratoga Music Hall where the 25-minute presentation was followed by a 30-minute Q&A session.

The anticipated plan will affect more than 2,000 existing downtown parking spaces located in the downtown area and located both east and west of Broadway. Broadway itself will remain as is.

Specifically, the program – the name has been changed from “Tourism Parking” to “Seasonal Parking” - is looking to convert more than 1,300 on-street parking spaces to permit parking and 2-hour-free & permit parking spots, as well as taking the near-800 combined spots in the Walton, Putnam and Woodlawn city parking garages and converting them into 170 “permit” parking spaces, with the balance being set as “paid” spots. The City Center parking garage will remain as is.

Permit parking will be reserved for residents, business owners and their employees. Businesses will be able to register their employees for permits. Residents will be able to register for permits with proof of residency, and “guest passes” will also be made available for those visiting residents. Plans call for permits to be free to city residents and downtown business employees, accounting for an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 permits being issued.   

The plan includes pay stations and mobile pay options, but no traditional parking meters.

The city anticipates a projected first-season gross revenue of just over $2 million that would be offset by about $750,000 in costs; some of those costs would be first-year implementation expenses, so the city’s net income could conceivable be higher in future years.

The plan is tentatively slated to go into effect from May 1 to Sept. 30. Commissioner Golub stressed that the plan is fluid and community input is encouraged in advance of implementation.  

“This is an ongoing conversation. We want your input and we want to get this right before we roll it out,” Golub said.

There will be at least one public hearing – date TBA – before the City Council votes on the matter. The council will also be required to vote separately on the dollar amount of parking fees. Check next week’s edition of Saratoga TODAY for a deeper dive of the seasonal parking plan.        

SARATOGA SPRINGS - A city woman is dead and a 31- year-old Saratoga Springs man charged with murder, in connection with an alleged incident that occurred Feb. 6 at Vanderbilt Terrace.

The suspect, Sebastian P. Mabb, was known to the victim and had a prior relationship with her, according to police.

Mabb was charged with murder in the second-degree. He is accused of “intentionally (and) knowingly” causing the death of 25-year-old Brianna Craig, after engaging in a physical altercation with the victim, during the course of a domestic incident, according to court documents. The incident is believed to have occurred between 5 and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Vanderbilt Terrace on the city’s east side.  

An autopsy was conducted Feb. 9 and a preliminary report shows the cause of death to be by asphyxiation, police said, adding that the investigation is ongoing and evidence is still being collected. A final autopsy will be issued at the completion of the toxicology report.

Mabb is scheduled to appear in Saratoga Springs City Court March 5.

Wednesday, 07 February 2024 15:04

Mayor Safford Delivers State Of The City

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mayor John Safford delivered the 2024 State of the City Address, the first of his term as mayor of Saratoga Springs, on Tuesday, Jan. 30. 

The mayor riffed on “harmony” as a theme moving forward. 

“As we envision the Saratoga of tomorrow, I ponder: What will our city look like in a decade? Not merely in its architectural facets, but in its character—the essence of our Saratogian identity. Who will we be? At the core of this reflection lies the notion of harmony,” Safford said. 

“Much like an orchestra or a chorus, we are diverse yet interwoven—individual notes coalescing into a harmonious symphony. In an era marked by division, the concept of harmony beckons us to bridge divides and foster unity. Here, today, in this room, we sow the seeds of a harmonious future—a future where our collective melody transcends discord.”

Safford spoke of both 2023 city accomplishments and 2024 stated goals, offering general remarks related to some overall council topics – “a comprehensive, long-term plan is imperative as we strive towards achieving net-zero homelessness” – and applying more specificity to Mayor’s Department goals.      

The Goals of the City Attorney’s Office are: Complete a review of all litigation pending against the city; See if we can find a way to reduce litigation frequency and expense; Help the various law firms employed by the City manage their cases and to keep the City Council informed; Streamline & expedite responses to FOIL requests to avoid legal fees being granted against the City.

In 2023, the city Building Department conducted 2,157 Inspections, and issued 460 Certificates of Occupancy including approximately 70 new dwelling units. The department also issued 871 permits - generating over $500,000 in building department fees, with an estimated construction value of approximately $185 million, the mayor said. 

2024 Building Department Goals: reduce permit wait time to the range of 4 – 6 weeks for the majority of permit applications, streamline the process for third party review of commercial building permit applications to facilitate reduced permit times; evaluate and modify the process for intake and review of simple permits so minor projects can be permitted more quickly. A full integration of scanned digital records and improvement of digitization for projects was also stated. 

2023 was the first full calendar year since the adoption of the City’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Approximately 64 Land Use Board meetings were held and a total of 1,044 project applications were submitted to the Design Review Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Planning Board. 

Mayor Safford specifically pointed to a handful of “notable” projects that had been recently approved, including a pair of housing developments that will provide approximately 232 affordable housing units, a large fitness center at Skidmore College, the redevelopment of Longfellow’s Hotel and Restaurant, Canadian pipe maker Soleno’s warehouse and corporate office expansion into the U.S., and three retail marijuana dispensaries.

In 2024, the Office of Planning and Economic Development will kick-off the Climate Action Plan which will guide the city in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, Safford said. 

Page 5 of 104


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