City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A new six-story building is being proposed to fill a vacant lot on Caroline Street, and a century-old building on the Yaddo grounds is under consideration for demolition.
The city’s Design Review Board is anticipated to review both proposals during its 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall, on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
On Caroline Street, an Architectural Review has been requested for the proposed mixed-use project to be sited in between Sperry’s, and Hamlet & Ghost. The location formerly housed a two-story commercial building that was constructed as a tannery in the late 1800s, but which was felled in the aftermath of a Thanksgiving Day 2016 blaze which started at a neighboring restaurant.
The proposed six-story multi-use building is to feature a restaurant or retail business at the street level consisting of 1,825 square-feet, and a total of 15 apartments on floors two through six, with an approximate per-floor size of 3,025 square-feet. The applicant is Louis Lazzinaro, and the owner GM 30 Caroline Street Corp., of Brooklyn, who had acquired the property in June 2014.
On the grounds of the Yaddo estate, a determination of the architectural/historic significance of the East House building and potential review of the demolition of the structure is under consideration by the board.
The Yaddo estate, off Union Avenue, is fitted with dozens of artist studios and residences, which includes the main manor home or Mansion, West House, Pine Garde, Stone Studios, Pigeon and Dairy/Courtyard studios, and Stone Tower Studio – each of which is considered among the most “sacred” of the estate’s grounds.
East House was built by Spencer Trask sometime before 1903 for the families of his coachmen living on premises. Sometime after 1923, the building was converted into an apartment and the executive director’s office. Location-wise, the 1-1/2 story, Tudor-style structure stands in between the current office building/Trask garage, and the Archway Studio.
An engineer’s inspection in March determined the structure to be “unfit for human habitation,” unsafe, and “in condition of imminent collapse,” according to a report to the city by Ernest Gailor, of Harlan-McGee of North America. “The structure is hereby condemned (and) the building will need to be demolished.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Nearly 20 years to the date since last staging a show in Saratoga Springs, Kronos Quartet will be coming to town early in the new year to perform at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023 in the Great Hall at Universal Preservation Hall.
Their last Spa City appearance took place February 2003 at Filene Recital Hall at Skidmore College where Kronos’ international program ranged from the sweet, eyebrow-arching melodies of Portuguese guitarist Carlos Paredes to the eerie, heart-pounding tension of the Romanian-influenced “Doina.” They showcased a a sorrowful string adaptation of Tony MacMahon’s Celtic tune “The Fair-Haired Boy,” a cacophonous ode to Icelandic rock group Sigur Ros, and and the sensual Cubano-throbbing beat of “Tabu” to the salacious Esquivel tune “Miniskirt,” complete with humorous wolf whistles and cat calls.
Kronos has performed live with the likes of Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, and Tom Waits, appeared on recordings by Nine Inch Nails, and Dave Matthews Band, and in dance with famed choreographers Merce Cunningham, and Twyla Tharp.
Tickets are available through the Box Office at Proctors, in person or via phone at 518-346-6204 Monday-Friday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. or online at UniversalPreservationHall.org starting Tuesday, Sept. 6.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city last week released new maps updating its 2016 Complete Street Plan.
“How can we make streets safer and more comfortable for all users, regardless of age or availability,” said Tina Carton, Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, Historic Preservation, and Sustainability for the City of Saratoga Springs. “This incorporates vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and transit users.”
Carton delivered a presentation featuring updated maps to the City Council on Aug. 16.
The plan created GIS mapping, and included updated Bicycle and Trail maps, updated Safe Routes to School maps, and updated Bicycle and Pedestrians Crash maps.
One of the points, Carton said, was to identify deficiencies within the community. “We hear from residents about safety and it’s a really good idea to understand where these crashes have happened,” she said.
The two crash maps detail incidents from 2004 - 2013 and provide an updated “heat map” of the period from 2017-2020.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — On November 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law a bipartisan infrastructure law aimed at, among other things, rebuilding the country’s roads, bridges and rails, expanding access to clean drinking water, ensuring access to high-speed internet for all and tackling the climate crisis.
Eight weeks later, newly minted Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim announced as one of his first actions in office the initiation of a city Infrastructure Committee. The group would be tasked with prioritizing a list of city projects with needs that could be addressed by those federal funding opportunities. Kim appointed former city Mayor Joanne Yepsen as chair of the city Infrastructure Committee and requested each council member propose appointments to staff the committee.
“It’s really a generational opportunity where monies from the federal government can address some substantial projects and infrastructure,” Kim told the City Council last week, during a presentation by Yepsen.
“Our goal is to not miss opportunities, and to be shovel-ready for as many of these projects and funding applications as possible,” Yepsen explained.
The Infrastructure Task Force held its inaugural meeting on March 2, identifying city priorities and grant-fundable projects. Subgroup categories were organized based on the way the funding is divided in the bill, Yepsen said. Those subcategories: Transportation, Water-Sewer, Climate, Energy and the Environment, and Health & Human Services.
More than 70 potential projects were identified, and following an RFP process the city selected the Delta Development Group as its consultant to assist in securing potential funding. Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Pennsylvania, Delta specializes in community planning and funding strategies with a core focus on economic growth.
The contract between Delta and the city in the amount of $25,000 began Aug. 1 and runs through the end of this calendar year. “They’re really grant writers and more importantly they’re right on top of how and when the funds will be released and going to flow for the areas through the legislative action,” Yepsen said. “We have a real opportunity to garner the significant amount of funds from the federal and state level. It’s a five-year program and we’re well into the first year.”
According to an Aug. 19 report by Reuters, the Biden administration has funded more than 5,000 projects to date and released around $113 billion. The administration will award billions of dollars in additional grants through the end of 2022.
Regarding Saratoga Springs, five grant applications have been submitted and one awarded; Rise Housing and Support Services received more than $2 million from the U.S. House’s Transportation HUD Appropriations Bill, through Congressman Paul Tonko’s office.
RISE Housing and Support Services is a human service agency that has been serving people in Saratoga and the surrounding counties since 1978. The funds will be used to construct a homebase day center.
“To put a little more detail on what was funded already - many of you have contacted our office because of the homeless situation in our downtown area,” Mayor Kim said. “One of the needs that we have not had an answer to for several years is a Day Facility for homelessness, for people who don’t have an alternative place to go. The funding Congressman Tonko has secured through the federal government is going to create a Day Program Facility at the RISE off of South Broadway,” the mayor said. “So, this is one of the very concrete uses of the funds that the federal government has offered, and it’s just the first of what we think are going to be many needs that we’ll be able to address through the various programs being offered.”
Consultants from the Delta Development Group will visit Saratoga Springs next month to tour the city and visit various need projects identified by the task force, Yepsen said.
An open-to-the-public meeting with the Task Force will take place at 4 p.m. on Sept. 21 at City Hall.
SARATOGA COUNTY — Incumbent Democrat Congressman Paul Tonko, and Republican State Sen. James Tedisco each emerged with Primary Election victories on Aug. 23, solidifying the list of candidates and challengers of their respective races in the November election.
The 20th Congressional District – which counts just over 203,000 active enrolled Democrats – includes Saratoga, Albany, and Schenectady counties, and parts of Rensselaer. With 505 of 509 election districts reporting Wednesday morning, Tonko led Democrat challenger Rostislav Rar by an 87.5% to 11.6% margin. In all, just under 20,000 total votes were counted, according to the NYS Board of Elections unofficial Election Night results.
Tonko will face Republican challenger Liz Lemery Joy for the 20th Congressional District seat in November.
The 44th Senate District – which counts just under 70,000 active enrolled Republicans – includes Saratoga County, and parts of Schenectady County. With 123 of 125 election districts reporting Wednesday morning, Tedisco led State Sen. Daphne Jordan by a 77.1% to 22.4% margin. Jordan received nearly one-quarter of the 6,400 total votes despite announcing earlier this year that she would not campaign for re-election, after redistricting pitted the two GOP state senators against one another.
Tedisco will face Democrat challenger Michelle Ostrelich for New York’s 44th Senate District seat in November.
The General Election takes place Nov. 8. Early voting will take place Oct. 29 to Nov. 6.
For new voters: you must register by mid-October to be eligible to vote in the General Election. You can call the BOE’s 1-800-FOR-VOTE hotline to request a voter application.
If you are unsure if you are already registered to vote, you can check at: voterlookup.elections.ny.gov.
Conservative Party: 44th State Senate District candidates: Daphne Jordan, James Tedisco.
BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 16 unanimously authorized the acceptance of a second tranche of federal aid under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or ARPA.
That second disbursement, in amount is $22,325,096.50, results in a total of approximately $44.65 million in ARPA monies received by Saratoga County since the Federal Government passed the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package in March 2021.
The plan is intended to assist the U.S. in its recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession. Locally, 20th District Democrat Congressman Paul Tonko voted in favor of the economic stimulus package; 21st District Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik voted against the package.
Saratoga County had received its first tranche in August 2021. This week the board authorized that acceptance of the second disbursement and created a liability account – titled “A-0688.ARPA” – where the funds will be held until the Board determines appropriate funding expenditures, in accordance with the guidance and rules of the U.S. treasury department.
Of the total ARPA monies received, $28.3 million has been allocated through August 2022, according to a listing of ARPA fund expenditures released Aug. 16 by county administrator Steve Bulger.
That allocation includes nearly $6.7 million to upgrade radio transmission equipment for Saratoga County emergency services and first responders, a $6 million target to expand and upgrade county sewer infrastructure (including assisting with projects related to the Global Foundries Chip Fab expansion); more than $3.5 million for highway infrastructure improvements, an additional $3.3 million to leverage additional state and federal funding for highway and bridge infrastructure upgrades.
About $3 million in ARPA funds has been allocated for costs associated with Saratoga County’s conversion to a full-service health department, and $2.1 million set aside to identify and bring high-speed Internet broadband service to underserved county areas.
• The county Board of Supervisors on Aug. 16 approved an amended agreement with a number of area school districts for the provision of Road Patrol Deputy Sheriffs to serve as School Resource Officer from Sept. 1, 2022 to Aug. 31, 2023. The cost to be paid by each school district is $75,419.87 per assigned Deputy Sheriff.
Those school districts are: Ballston Spa Central School District, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District, Corinth Central School District, Galway Central School District, Mechanicville City School District, Saratoga Springs City School District, Schuylerville Central School District, Shenendehowa Central School District, South Glens Falls Central School District and Stillwater Central School District.
Road Patrol Deputies were also authorized to provide overtime security services at school activities and events outside of normal school hours at an additional cost to the school district of $50 per hour.
• No vote was taken regarding a resolution related to the proposed lease of county owned property at the Saratoga County Airport to Prime Group Holdings, LLC. The board voted to instead send the measure back to the county’s Buildings & Grounds Committee for further review.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A generation’s worth of false starts and hard stops, public discourse at City Hall, attempted council negotiations, floated land-swaps and a lawsuit were all tossed like dirt-mottled memories on a shovel’s blade Tuesday morning when local officials staged a ceremonial groundbreaking of the city’s new fire station.
“Today marks a milestone,” city Fire Chief Joseph Dolan told city council members present and past, public safety officials and regional political leaders gathered at the Aug. 16 event on Henning Road. “It’s been over 20 years in the making – and some would argue it’s been over 30.”
The station – the city’s third – will improve emergency response to the eastern plateau in Saratoga Springs specifically, as well as provide added coverage for the city in general.
Dolan traced the history of the city’s two existing stations - one located in the downtown district and one on the west side. Station 1 was built in the 1930s; Station 2 in the 1970s. A group of fire-fighting locals first organized as a group of volunteers in 1823, shortly after the then-Village of Saratoga Springs was formed.
“Now here we are in 2022. It shows the growth, the investment the city has in its fire and emergency services and the delivery of service we can improve on by adding this third station,” Dolan said. “We’ve had higher incidences of overlapping calls that require more service, more apparatus, more personnel to provide the quality of service this city deserves. This station is going to improve overall services to the community, as a whole.”
The efforts to develop Station 3 date back several city councils. Dolan who has been chief since 2019, recognized previous chiefs - Robert Cogan (1995-2009) and Robert Williams (2009-2019), among them – as the “predecessors to me who worked very diligently to get this third station going. Thank you, Chiefs, for all the work you did.”
The location of the station provides rapid access to the north-and-south running Northway at exit 14, and the east-west running state Route 29. As such, the station will also house the county hazmat team and include both, vehicle and personnel.
“This is also a place where we’re going to have an emergency operations center. In the event of disaster within the city of Saratoga Springs, key figures will be able to operate in an environment conducive to making good and important decisions to mitigate anything that’s brought to this city – whether it be natural, or man-made,” Dolan said.
Saratoga Fire Station No. 3 will be developed at 16 Henning Road and is anticipated to be operational by late spring 2023.
Saratoga County Monkeypox Clinics Highest in Upstate; Prepping for new COVID-19 Booster This Fall
BALLSTON SPA — Last week, Saratoga County hosted its seventh first-dose Monkeypox clinic, counting for more clinics than any other health department in the state outside New York City, said Saratoga County Commissioner of Health Daniel Kuhles.
“We were asked to do this by the state Health Department because of the very large number of tourists we have this time of year,” Dr. Kuhles said.
On July 28, New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Mary T. Bassett declared monkeypox an Imminent Threat to Public Health (ITPH) in New York State, and The Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Aug. 4.
Approximately 525 people had been vaccinated through the county clinics, with nearly 450 of those who had received their first dose residing outside the county. Second-dose clinics were due to get underway this week. “The recommended period of time between the first and second dose is four weeks. Importantly, we remain without any reported cases among Saratoga County residents.”
While Kuhles did not discuss specific costs-to-date to the county, he said it is anticipated the county health department will recoup 50% of its costs through state reimbursement. Local clinics are held at Paul E. Lent Public Safety Building, 6012 County Farm Road in Ballston Spa. Clinic days, times and appointment schedules may be found at saratogacounty.ny.gov.
According to the NY State Department of Health, two cases were reported in Albany County. No cases have been reported to date in Saratoga, Washington or Warren counties. As of Aug. 12, a total of 2,295 confirmed monkeypox cases have been reported across the state. For the most current updates, go here: health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/monkeypox/.
“For the foreseeable future, we’ll be receiving more doses and getting them out to people who want them; that’s not going to stop any time soon,” said county Health & Human Services Chairman Phil Barrett.
New, Potentially Improved COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Anticipated This Fall
Regarding COVID-19, Dr. Kuhles said the county is preparing to offer mass vaccination booster clinics heading into the fall.
“We’ll be using many of the same outreach methods, the same kind of registration (as prior COVID vaccination offerings), not only here in the public safety building but as we did previously – we’ll be going out to communities and bringing it to those who choose to get themselves boosted with the newly formulated vaccine,” he said.
The new vaccine formulation takes pieces of the omicron virus currently circulating (different subvariants). With the new boosters, “the thinking, the science, the theory of it is that it will provide a little better protection against infection and certainly even strengthen the very good protection against severe illness and death,” said Dr. Kuhles.
The Biden administration announced on July 29 it reached an agreement to purchase 66 million doses of Moderna’s bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster candidate. That is in addition to the 105 million bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster doses the U.S. government previously agreed to purchase from Pfizer.
The new “bivalent” boosters follow the early summer recommendation by the FDA that vaccine manufacturers update their existing COVID-19 vaccines to create a bivalent booster that can target BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants.
Pending FDA authorization and a recommendation by CDC, the first deliveries of the new Moderna and Pfizer vaccine booster doses are anticipated “in early fall,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare, viral infection that does not usually cause serious illness. However, it can result in hospitalization or death.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of monkeypox can include: Rashes, bumps, or blisters on or around the genitals or in other areas like your hands, feet, chest, or face. Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, and fatigue. These symptoms may occur before or after the rash appears, or not at all.
How Does Monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is spread through close, physical contact between individuals. This includes:
Direct contact with monkeypox sores or rashes on an individual who has monkeypox.
Respiratory droplets or oral fluids from someone with monkeypox, particularly for those who have close contact with someone or are around them for a long period of time.
It can also be spread through contact with objects or fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding, towels) that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
Who is at risk for contracting monkeypox?
Monkeypox spreads through close, physical contact between people. This means anyone can get monkeypox. However, based on the current outbreak, certain populations are being affected by monkeypox more than others, including men who have sex with men (MSM).
Based on previous outbreaks of monkeypox around the world, some groups may also be at heightened risk for severe outcomes if they contract monkeypox. This includes people with weakened immune systems, elderly New Yorkers, young children under 8 years of age, and pregnant people.
Are there treatments available?
Antiviral medications exist to treat monkeypox, which may be appropriate for some people. Vaccines exist that can help reduce the chance and severity of infection in those who have been exposed.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A long-standing city practice that normally passes smoothly and without incident screeched to a halt this week during a 30-minute, at-times heated discussion among members of the City Council.
At issue: a $25,000 cost allegedly “hidden” among several other items of a “Consent Agenda” for the council to simply pay and approve without knowledge or discussion.
That one item aside, council members expressed even greater concern when questioning whether the practice had similarly occurred in other instances, and over a longer period of time.
“It seems like somebody purposely tried to hide it... this decision to spend $25,000 of taxpayer money without our knowledge,” city Mayor Ron Kim said.
The “Consent Agenda” is typically part of the City Council meeting agenda tended to near the start of the twice-a-month meetings.
Robert’s Rules of Order refer to the “Consent Calendar” as one which allows for the grouping of items together. It is usually comprised of miscellaneous payments and non-controversial routine matters which may be approved in its entirety as a time-saving feature by a board.
A deep-dive into two decades-worth of City Council meetings seems to indicate those routine matters used to appear on council members’ individual agendas as separate entries. At some point during the summer of 2006, and specifically beginning with the Aug. 1, 2006 council meeting, a grouped “Consent Agenda” appears on its own at the meeting start and includes notice of accepted donations, the approval of previous meeting minutes, budget amendments and budget transfers.
Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino said he learned of the $25,000 payment cost - which is related to an insurance deductible settlement of a long-pending lawsuit against the city - after aggressively seeking answers to many questions the evening before this week’s council meeting.
“I made a number of phone calls and inquiries and I didn’t find out until seven o’clock last night (Aug. 1) that this $25,000 deductible was a part of the settlement of the case – and it appeared tucked in on page 52 of an 80-page consent agenda,” he said.
“It seems to me, if this kind of thing is occurring, it’s now incumbent of me as a member of the City Council to have to comb through the thousand-or-more items on individual lines of the consent agenda just to make sure that somebody’s not pulling a fast one and slipping something by us,” Montagnino said.
“If I hadn’t asked those questions yesterday, this consent agenda would have been passed without discussion and I would have found out later that I’m now roped into a problem (and having to explain) how I as a City Council member could have allowed that to slip by without discussion, without transparency and by not even knowing,” Montagnino said. “This is totally reprehensible; this is unacceptable.”
“The way this issue came up… this was not even known to us, and was (simply) placed on the consent agenda,” Mayor Kim said.
There are a variety of people who work for the city - not just council members - who have the authority to place bill-paying items on the consent agenda.
During the meeting, the council moved to remove the item from the Consent Agenda. It also authorized the mayor to send letters to the insurance carrier, the court and to counselors ausking for a detailed explanation of how the deductable arose and why the City Council wasn’t informed it is to pay $25,000.
Questioning whether there had been previous settlements similarly placed on the consent agenda in the past, the council additionally requested a detailed report from the city’s Risk and Safety Department as to “how many times this kind of activity has occurred in the consent agenda.” The remaining items on the consent agenda were approved.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A proposed city ordinance aimed at “aggressive” panhandling was narrowly defeated in a 3-2 vote by the City Council on Aug. 2.
The vote followed a 35-minute public hearing – during which 12 citizens voiced opinion about the issue – and a 45-minute discussion among the council.
Council members were in general agreement that the proposal had certain merits – prohibiting solicitation outright near bank entrances or ATMs, or when directed at an occupant of a vehicle while standing on a sidewalk, among them. But concerns were raised over a lack of specific data regarding the measure’s effectiveness in municipalities where it has been in use, such as Rochester, as well as a murky subjectiveness regarding what constitutes the feeling of annoyance on behalf of the one being solicited.
The Rochester law prohibiting aggressive panhandling, upon which the Saratoga Springs measure is based, went into effect in July 2004 with fines ranging from $25 to $250. But in Rochester, that ordinance is rarely used, the council reported.
Not Panhandling, But “Aggressive” Panhandling
The simple act of “panhandling” by itself – that is, asking for money – was never an issue in the proposed ordinance; that action alone has repeatedly been ruled as protected by the First Amendment’s free speech provisions in courts across the country.
“For someone to walk up to you on the sidewalk and say, ‘Buddy, can you spare a dime?’ – that’s not violating any law doing that,” Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino said during the council’s Aug. 2 meeting. “If it’s not aggressive solicitation, then it’s not prohibited.”
Asked whether there already are statutes on the books that could be applied, such as harassment, Montagnino clarified differences between harassment and the proposed aggressive solicitation ordinance.
“The harassment statute requires proof of an intent to harass, annoy or alarm another. The aggressive solicitation statute doesn’t have that element in it - the city wouldn’t have to prove that you intended to bother anybody,” he said. Ultimately, that subjectiveness was one of the sticking points that tilted the vote against the proposal.
Votes in favor: Mayor Ron Kim and Commissioner Montagnino voted in favor of the proposal; Commissioners Jason Golub, Dillon Moran, and Minita Sanghvi voted against.
A modified measure may be revisited in the future.