Jonathon Norcross

Jonathon Norcross

Thursday, 21 March 2024 14:12

Community Woodworking Shop Opens

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Joinery, a community woodworking shop on Caroline Street, had its grand opening last weekend. Visitors toured the new facilities to explore membership options (rates start at $89 per month or $918 per year), get a glimpse of the machinery, and chat with employees. A small display area up front showed off an elegant chair and nightstand. A lumber room in the back was filled with birch, cherry, maple, poplar, walnut, and other woods available for purchase.

Joinery members are given access to the space, their own area for storage, class discounts, and opportunities to sell or showcase their creations. Non-members can also take woodworking classes. “A big part of our mission is to bring people in who otherwise would have no touchpoint for woodworking,” said Executive Director Tori Colarusso in a statement. “There is definitely a need in this region. We have a lot of people who are members who live in an apartment, but have no space to engage in woodworking, despite having an interest in it.” 

“The idea is to create a safe, welcoming place for people to learn and develop skills,” said Founder John Haller. “There is a barrier to getting into woodworking, whether it’s not having the space, tools, or ability. The Saratoga Joinery’s goal is to meet people where they are at, while building a community at the same time.” 

To learn more about Saratoga Joinery, stop by their location at 69 Caroline Street, or visit

SCHUYLERVILLE — The Schuylerville Central School District (SCSD) is encouraging community members to send letters to local representatives in protest of Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive budget proposal. The district projects it will lose 17.23% of its foundation aid, leading to a 5.71% overall loss in revenue from the previous school year.

A letter template, posted to the SCSD website, states that the district is “frustrated and disappointed that the executive budget proposal reverses years of progress towards full funding of the Foundation Aid formula by eliminating the hold harmless provision for hundreds of school districts and lowering the inflationary factor.” 

The hold harmless provision would ensure that school districts receive at least the same amount of funding next year as they did the previous year. Hochul intends to get rid of the provision. 

“Now, more than ever, school districts are responsible for providing a variety of supports, services, and opportunities, in addition to academics, grades K-12,” the letter states. “We hope you will see that the proposed foundation cuts come at a time when the state should be supporting schools instead of cutting their funding.” 

Acting Superintendent James Ducharme participated in a roundtable discussion last month about the loss of foundation aid that included members of the New York State United Teachers union, Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, and State Senator James Tedisco. 

“What we’re hearing is, we need different pathways, we need different options,” Ducharme told the roundtable attendees. “The only way for a school district, especially a small school district like us, to create those options is through being properly funded through the state.”

Governor Hochul has argued that large foundation aid increases in recent years were an attempt to compensate for past “disinvestments” in education. “You may have gotten $5 million in one year to make up for the past, and if I don’t give you $5 million again, you think it’s a cut?” Hochul said in her budget address earlier this month. “I’m still thinking that’s pretty good. That’s still a lot of money.”

SARATOGA SPRINGS — New York Racing Association (NYRA) President & CEO David O’Rourke heaped praise on Saratoga Springs at an Industry Influencers event on Wednesday morning hosted by the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

O’Rourke said it was a “literal no-brainer” to host the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at the Saratoga Racecourse. “Saratoga has been an amazing partner for NYRA and horse racing period,” O’Rourke said. “In terms of Saratoga, since the 16 years I’ve been there, the growth has been phenomenal.” When asked how people outside New York are reacting to Belmont at Saratoga, O’Rourke replied that “everybody wants to be here.”

O’Rourke said that ticket sales for Belmont have “obviously gone well” and have attracted people from all over the country. He confirmed that Belmont would only be in Saratoga for two years: 2024 and 2025. In 2026, the new Belmont Park facilities on Long Island, which are currently under construction, should be ready to host racing events.

O’Rourke touched on a few other topics in his conversation with Chamber President Todd Shimkus, including NYRA’s partnership with television broadcaster Fox Sports. O’Rourke said that national coverage of horse racing at Saratoga would likely increase its emphasis on “the lifestyle aspect of Saratoga,” akin to coverage of Churchill Downs and Louisville during Kentucky Derby broadcasts. “That kind of allows us to really sell the whole package of Saratoga,” O’Rourke said. 

In terms of safety issues for the upcoming summer meet, O’Rourke said that NYRA was confident in the track surface last year and is still confident this year. He said the tracks are tested multiple times per day, and that there will be no change in their composition. “They are, every which way you could look at them, some of the best surfaces in the country,” he said. 

The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will be held at the Saratoga Racecourse from June 6 through June 9.  Belmont Stakes Day, on June 8, is sold out but some tickets are still available for the remaining three days. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Saratoga County’s Congressman is determined to rein in the sports betting industry.

Rep. Paul Tonko unveiled new legislation called the Supporting Affordability and Fairness with Every (S.A.F.E.) Bet Act in a virtual press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “The sports book industry has been operating in a Wild West, largely unregulated environment,” Tonko said. “I don’t get into issues lightly; this industry needs to change and change quickly.”

According to documents provided by Tonko’s office, the SAFE Bet Act would require states that offer sports betting to ensure that operators comply with federal standards in three different categories: advertising, affordability, and artificial intelligence.

The bill would prohibit sportsbook advertising during live sporting events, broadcast advertising between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., advertising that shows its audience how to gamble, and promotions that induce gambling with various types of bonus bets. Operators would no longer be able to accept more than five deposits from one customer in a 24-hour period. Operators would also be required to conduct “affordability checks” before accepting large wagers. The use of artificial intelligence to track gambling habits, offer individualized promotions, and create gambling products would be prohibited.

The SAFE Bet Act would also establish a general nationwide ban on sports betting, but create exceptions for states that acquire an approved application from the Department of Justice. States that already have sports betting programs would have one year to comply. Betting on amateur sports, with some exceptions for the Olympics, Paralympics, and college sports, would also be banned. 

Last year, Tonko introduced the Betting on Our Futures Act, which would have prohibited online and electronic advertising of sportsbooks. Since then, Tonko said he’s come to believe that the issue of gambling addiction “goes much deeper than just advertising.”

Tonko cited data showing that around 7 million people nationwide either have a problem with gambling or a full-blown addiction. An estimated 20%, or 1.4 million, of those individuals will attempt or have attempted suicide.

In the wake of the 2018 Supreme Court decision to strike down a federal ban on sports betting, Tonko has made several efforts to combat gambling addiction. In addition to the Betting on Our Futures Act, he also wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services advocating that gambling addiction be covered under the Affordable Care Act. 

In 2013, sports betting became legal in New York State, but mobile sports betting didn’t begin until early 2022. Earlier this year, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the state had collected more than $1.55 billion in taxes on sports wagers. “I look forward to this third year of our successful gaming policies that deliver top tier mobile sports wagering experiences,” Governor Hochul said in a statement. “We will continue to generate revenue that will enrich the lives of New Yorkers, all with important safeguards in place to help those who need it.”

NYRA Bets, the official betting partner of the New York Racing Association (which operates the Saratoga Racecourse), states on its website that it is “committed to promoting responsible wagering.” NYRA Bets has partnered with the National Council on Problem Gambling and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services “to address issues of compulsive and pathological gambling and have developed a comprehensive program to ensure account holders wager responsibly.” 

WASHINGTON D.C. — Kimberly Spica, an Equipment Engineering Technician at GlobalFoundries in Malta, attended President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address last week as a guest of New York Senator Chuck Schumer. 

“I feel like this is an amazing opportunity to be able to come here to Washington D.C. and have Senator Schumer invite me,” Spica said in a video posted to Schumer’s X account. “It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and it feels really amazing to be a GlobalFoundries representative and to be here.”

“I am proud to have Kim at my side for President Biden’s State of the Union to show how my CHIPS & Science Law is trailblazing a new path for Upstate New Yorkers,” said Senator Schumer in a statement.

Spica, a Wilton resident, is a product of the GlobalFoundries apprenticeship program. “As an apprentice, I worked full-time, earned a good salary, had on-the-job training; plus [GlobalFoundries] paid for my coursework at Hudson Valley Community College,” Spica said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the company and would encourage others considering a career change, or at the start of their careers, to take a serious look at GF and the semiconductor industry.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it would send $1.5 billion in funds to GlobalFoundries. The investment is part of the CHIPS and Science Act, which was signed into law by President Biden in August of 2022. GlobalFoundries will use the funds to expand its existing facility and build a new microchip fabrication plant in Malta. In support of these projects, Governor Kathy Hochul also announced $575 million in direct funding for New York State Green CHIPS. Additional $15 million and $30 million investments are planned for workforce development activities, as well as infrastructure upgrades and energy initiatives, respectively. All told, the investments are expected to create more than 10,000 jobs.

“When I wrote my CHIPS & Science Law, I had Upstate NY as my ‘North Star,’ to build the future of America’s industry here in the Capital Region,” Senator Schumer said in a statement.“Kim represents the best of that vision.” 

“Kim is a valued team member and her personal story is a testament to the importance and impact of GF’s apprenticeship program,” said Dr. Thomas Caulfield, President and CEO of GlobalFoundries. “We are incredibly proud of Kim, and we thank Senator Schumer for inviting her to attend the State of the Union Address to represent [GlobalFoundries], our team in New York, and the entire semiconductor industry.”

BALLSTON SPA — The Ballston Spa Central School District has $1.4 million budgeted for IT support services this year and anticipates spending another $1.5 million next year. 

Much of this increase in funds is due to cyber security enhancements, said Clerk of the Board and Records Access Officer Brian Sirianni during a budget development presentation at the March 6 Board of Education meeting. “Cybersecurity is just top of the mind, every day, every way,” Sirianni said.

To help with cybersecurity issues, the district hires multiple outside consultants. “We rotate through various groups to get more information from various companies,” Sirianni said, “so that we’re not just hearing the same things.” The district has nearly 4,600 Chromebooks and more than 1,000 desktop computers to safeguard. 

According to the Board of Education’s policy manual, the district is “committed to maintaining the security and privacy of student data and teacher and principal data and will follow all applicable laws and regulations for the handling and storage of this data in the district, and when disclosing or releasing it to others, including, but not limited to, third-party contractors.”

A November 2023 case study by the computer software company Faronics reported that the implementation of Deep Freeze, a software utility, resulted in an 80% reduction in software-related issues and system crashes across the district. Faronics called the Ballston Spa Central School District “a testament to strategic IT solutions’ power.”

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Skidmore College baseball team opened its season with a pair of victories against St. Joseph’s University Brooklyn at the Verrazano Babe Ruth Field in Staten Island on March 3. 

The first game featured a three-run home run from Sam Kornet. Reliever Christian Giresi notched six strikeouts while earning the save. The Thoroughbreads finished with a 6-5 win. In game two, Skidmore dominated, 17-1. Freshman outfielder Owen Roy hit a grand slam in his collegiate debut. St. Joseph’s pitching was unruly throughout the contest, resulting in 12 walks and 7 hit-by-pitches. 

The team next headed south for the Gene Cusic Classic in Fort Myers, Florida, where they lost both games of a double-header to Haverford College on March 10. The first game was a narrow 2-1 defeat, but Skidmore was blown out 20-6 in the second contest. 

On March 11, the Thoroughbreads eked out a razor-thin, extra-innings 10-9 victory against Wisconsin Lutheran. The game had a wild conclusion. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th, sophomore Eddie Galvo reached first base with a single, scrambled to second after a wild pitch, stole third, and then ran home for a walk-off win.

As of press time, Skidmore was 3-2 on the year. Sam Kornet had been stellar thus far, earning a 1.402 OPS across all five games. Jaden Torrado, a senior outfielder from the Bronx, was also off to a great start, with 2 doubles, a triple, and a 1.158 OPS. 

On the pitching front, senior Ameer Hasan has led the way with a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 innings. For his efforts, Hasan was named to the Liberty League Honor Roll.

Skidmore will have a busy schedule this week, playing a double-header against Rhode Island College on March 13, a game against Franklin and Marshall on the 14th, and two more games on the 15th against Wisconsin Lutheran and Ohio Wesleyan. The team will wrap up its trip to Florida against the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford on Saturday.

Skidmore’s first home game will be on Friday, March 22 against Bard College at the David Alexander Castle Diamond in Saratoga Springs.

Skidmore had been scheduled to begin their season on March 2 at Baruch College, but the game was canceled. Another scheduled game against SUNY Oneonta on March 6 was postponed.

TAMPA — Kevin Smith, a native of East Greenbush and a graduate of Columbia High School, grew up watching New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter on TV. Now, Smith may have a chance to play at Jeter’s position in the Bronx. 

“Every kid growing up in New York grows up watching the Yankees,” Smith told YES Network’s Jack Curry on Monday. “I was one of those kids watching Jeter every night.”

Smith has been with the Yankees throughout spring training in Tampa, but a recent injury suffered by Oswald Peraza has increased Smith’s odds of making the team as a backup shortstop. Smith is among a handful of infielders with major-league experience vying for the job. So far this spring, he’s gotten 20 at-bats, the seventh most of any Yankee. Last week, he hit an RBI single against the New York Mets.

Smith is primarily known for his defensive abilities, and has said he can play short, third, or second base. A 2022 Baseball America scouting report said that Smith’s “power and defensive skill set could allow him to stick around as a utility player.”

“I’m just trying to have the best spring that I can, have the best day and do the best work that I can, day in and day out, and let the chips fall where they may,” Smith told Curry.

BALLSTON SPA — As legendary (and fictional) dodgeball coach Patches O’Houlihan once said, “if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” Luckily, no wrenches were thrown at the Ballston Spa Middle School’s 8th Grade Dodgeball Tournament. 

More than 115 students across 19 teams participated in the event. This year’s winner had the creative team name, “I Paused My Game To Be Here!”

SARATOGA SPRINGS —In the wake of Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran’s proposed short-term rental regulations, an opposition group called the Saratoga Springs Rental Rights Alliance (SSRRA) has been formed. In a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Monday morning, the SSRRA said the city should “slow down, stop, and think before proceeding with proposed short-term rental regulations.” 

In a statement, the group called for a reconsideration of both the proposed $1,000 biannual registration fee and the requirement that rental units be “owner occupied.” The SSRRA also supported the creation of a “cross-sectional working group to examine the proposed regulations and propose agreeable changes.”

Spokesperson Anna Smith, a local mortgage broker, told Saratoga TODAY that her group was created by a dozen or so “passionate” speakers from a city council public hearing two weeks ago. Since then, the SSRRA Facebook group has accumulated more than 400 members, and its petition opposing “rushed” short-term rental legislation collected more than 1,100 signatures.

Smith disputed Commissioner Moran’s assertion that city law renders short-term rentals illegal. “The way that [the law] reads, it does not appear to apply to actual short-term rentals,” Smith said. “It would be more of a boarding house kind of situation.”

City law defines a “rooming house” as “a single-family or two-family private residential structure, owner-occupied or under the supervision of a resident manager, in which rooms are made available to lodgers for compensation. Rooming houses shall provide lodging to people for a rental period of no less than 28 consecutive days.”

Moran has said that this law means that any rental under 28 days is not allowed. The SSRRA said in its statement that “short-term rentals are not, and have never been, illegal in the City of Saratoga Springs.”

Smith also disputed Moran’s belief that the city would be better off regulating itself rather than waiting for state-mandated regulations. “If you read the state legislation, it’s actually more lax than what Dillon Moran is proposing,” Smith said. “Right now, I would rather go with the state rules.”

Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive budget plan called for sales taxes to be collected on vacation rentals. The proposal was supported by Airbnb, but it remains to be seen if or when it will become law. According to Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi, Saratoga Springs does not currently collect any sales or occupancy taxes on short-term rentals.

Other local organizations, such as the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, took a more moderate stance on Moran’s proposals. In a statement, Chamber President Todd Shimkus said he agreed that short-term rentals should be subjected to some regulations, but also said that the $1,000 registration fee was too high. “[Short-term rentals] are a business and city zoning must balance the legitimate concerns of people living in residential neighborhoods where some [short-term rentals] – mostly those operated by absentee landlords – cause nuisance issues related to traffic, parking, noise, and trash,” Shimkus said.

One study from the American Economic Association, which was established in Saratoga Springs in 1885, said “there is some evidence that short-term renters can create a nuisance and disrupt year-round residents.” But Smith said that laws are already in place that “can be leaned on in that situation.”

Commissioner Moran has previously promised to address some of the public’s concerns. For now, Moran said that public hearings on short-term rentals “will remain on the agenda until we vote and conclude this matter.”

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