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A Measure of Justice for Amy Stock and Her Family
ALBANY – These are the hardest stories to write. The stories where empathy and anger outweigh journalistic objectivity. Stories where you know the victim - cut down senselessly in the prime of life. Stories where you know several members of a tight-knit family, who have had to cope with unspeakable pain at the loss of a loved one.
But these are the most important stories to write. They are written with the hope that we will never have to write stories like this again – though we realistically know that the best we can hope for is to write them less often.
This is ultimately a story about choices. Bad choices. And worse consequences.
During the early morning hours of July 19, 2015, Amy Stock was driving home from babysitting in Albany when a drunk driver struck her vehicle. A drunk driver who sped into Amy’s car at the intersection of First Street and Henry Johnson Boulevard at 75 miles per hour – more than double the speed limit – after being observed driving through three stop signs. A drunk driver who did this after first sideswiping several parked cars and made the bad choice to keep going, despite officers on patrol’s commands to stop. A driver who made the bad choice, the fatal choice, to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .27 percent; nearly three times the legal limit.
In so doing, he took the life of Amy Stock – a woman in the prime of her life. A woman whose life was dedicated to enrich lives, not just those of Saratoga residents (for activities such as the co-founding of Sustainable Saratoga) but also the lives of many in the greater Capital Region and beyond. This is a story about choices, and we make the choice to not call the killer by his name. He is the drunk driver who became the killer.
At the killer’s sentencing in Albany County Court on Tuesday, January 12, he got to hear about all this and more – he got to hear about the damage he had done. He got to hear the truth – from a family who was severely wounded, but found, through each other, the strength to see the process through, and make sure that the killer – the drunk driver who made bad choices – faced the consequences for his actions.
The Stock family members read statements that were united in loss, yet each came from a personal perspective. One by one the statements came: From sisters that grieved that they could have “no last goodbye”; that the anguish of a broken heart outweighs struggling with cancer; from brother Charles, who told how he now regards driving through an intersection as “Russian roulette,” of discovering an email his son Brandon wrote to Amy after the tragedy, with the subject line: Goodbye. “You were an awesome aunt,” the email said; from another brother, Matthew, who used to work in an ambulance but could not now – lest he come upon another DWI scene. The killer heard from brother Tom, who first read the statements from Amy’s anguished parents (Mary Ann and Arthur) and then showed a video that captured Amy’s spirit: Pictures of her from childhood as the sixth of seven siblings through adulthood, coupled with voicemail messages from Amy that captured both her zest for life and the dramatic sense of loss at this moment.
After hearing all of this, and more, Prosecutor and Vehicular Crimes Unit Bureau Chief Mary Tanner-Richter asked that the maximum sentence be given under the plea arrangement guidelines. The Honorable Judge Stephen W. Herrick then handed down the first sentence for a conviction for Aggravated Vehicular Homicide in Albany County to the person who made bad choices on July 19.
The drunk driver, who became a killer, is now a number. He was given 8 to 24 years in State Prison.
Afterwards, Tom Stock, speaking on behalf of the family, expressed the family’s gratitude for the work of several agencies including the Albany Police, District Attorney and Vehicular Crimes Unit as well as Judge Herrick for providing a measure of justice for Amy. Perhaps someday, it will provide a measure of closure, as well.
One of Amy Stock’s goals for this year was to publish her book. The family has published River Stories: Healing Through Nature and Rivers posthumously on October 15. All proceeds from the sale of this book are going to the Amy Stock Memorial Scholarship in Sustainability at SUNY Empire State and/or a scholarship in Amy’s memory at Gloversville High School. It is available at Northshire Bookstore and via amazon.com.
City Honors Blue Streaks Football
In recognition of their historic season, The Saratoga Springs City Council presented the Saratoga Springs High School Football Team Members and their Coach, Terry Jones, with a Special Certificate of Achievement on Tuesday, January 5.
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce Announces 2016 Health & Wellness Week
Six Days - Seven Events - Thirty-plus participating local organizations
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce's Second Annual Health & Wellness Week (January 19-24) features a series of free events open to anyone interested in meeting up with local wellness professionals and exploring how they might achieve their wellness goals in 2016.
Each of the Health & Wellness Week events includes the chance to meet with a variety of experts in one place while also sampling various activities as well as healthy food, water and juice, wine, and perhaps even a beer. Attendees are advised to dress comfortably to take part in the voluntary activities and to bring a friend to join them. Besides a range of activities, participants will also be able to find a time to chat with health and wellness experts one-on-one. Pre-registration for all these events is encouraged at www.saratoga.org/pages/healthy-saratoga.
The events are:
Healthy & Happy
Tuesday, January 19, 5 – 7:30 p.m. at the Saratoga City Tavern
19-21 Caroline Street, Saratoga Springs
During this event, you will have the opportunity to sample healthier beer and food options, learn ways to improve your mental health, and how to deal with stress in the moment.
Health & Wellness Expo,
Wednesday, January 20, 5:30- 7 p.m. at Clifton Park-Halfmoon EMS, 15 Crossing Boulevard, Clifton Park
You are invited to meet members in the health and wellness field at the Clifton Park Halfmoon EMS. On display will be 20 member exhibitors displaying products and services and conducting short demos for those in attendance.
Healthy Activities Circuit,
Wednesday, January 20, 5:30 – 7 p.m.at Saratoga Cycling Studio The Washington Building, 422 Broadway, Suite 3 Saratoga Springs
The Saratoga Cycling Studio invites you to come out and challenge yourself to a cycling session while enjoying food and juice samples. Also, you will have the opportunity to receive an alignment and massage to help recovery after the session.
Healthy Food, Wine and Yoga,
Thursday, January 21, 5:30 – 7 p.m. at Cornell Cooperative Extension, 50 West High Street, Ballston Spa
Cooking demonstrations with food samples, yoga, and wine samples will be available for those in attendance. For those looking to bring their children, there will be a 4H educator on hand to help lead kids in making an afterschool healthy snack.
Freebie & Discount Friday,
Friday, January 22
Members of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce will partner to offer deals and discounts to the community in an effort to encourage healthy practices.
Event Sponsors Include:
Reform. A True Pilates Studio
Family Vision Care Center
Saratoga Regional YMCA
Capital District YMCA- Southern Saratoga
Alpine Sport Shop
Medical Thermography Associates
For details on each sponsor’s deals and discounts, visit chamber.saratoga.org/events/details/healthysaratoga-freebee-discount-friday-13168
Saratoga Farmers’ Market and Health Fair,
Saturday, January 23, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Lincoln Baths Building, Saratoga Spa State Park
Come out and support local business while meeting with 24 Chamber members that focus on health and wellness while learning more about the products and services that they have to offer.
Hops & Yoga,
Sunday, January 24, 11 a.m. - noon at Common Roots Brewery,
58 Saratoga Avenue, South Glens Falls
A $10 suggested donation payable at the door, with proceeds benefiting Moreau Community Center. Take part in a one-hour yoga session and reward yourself with a beer tasting at the completion of the event.
"The mission of the Chamber's #healthysaratoga movement is to ensure that Saratoga County is one of the healthiest places to live and work," said Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. "For us to succeed, we need more individuals to do what they can to improve their own health and wellness. That is why we are again hosting a Health and Wellness Week in January as over 30 participating health and wellness experts look to share their expertise and to help those who attend any of these free events."
The Health and Wellness Week is one of four signature events the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce will run in 2016 to encourage and help people living and working in Saratoga County to achieve their health and wellness goals. Besides this Health & Wellness Week, the Chamber will host a #HealthySaratoga HORSE Basketball Tournament, in March; a month long celebration of Employee Wellness, in June; and a #HealthySaratoga Silent Disco, in October.
The #HealthySaratoga movement is being sponsored in 2016 by the Adirondack Trust Company and Blue Shield of Northeastern New York. For more information, visit www.saratoga.org
You Go, Galway!
GALWAY – Galway Central School District proudly announced that all of their Fall Varsity Teams qualified as New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Scholar/Athlete Teams including:
- Boys Varsity Soccer
- Girls Varsity Soccer
- Boys Varsity Cross Country
- Girls Varsity Cross Country
- Girls Varsity Volleyball
- Boys Varsity Golf
Each student athlete received a pin to recognize his/her achievement, and the school received a certificate to celebrate these accomplishments.
"The achievement of our fall athletes means our district is eligible for NYSPHSAA’s prestigious Scholar/Athlete Team “School of Achievement” award, which is given to schools who have all their teams qualify for all three sports seasons of the school year," said Galway CSD Athletic Director/Dean of Students Lucas LaBarre. "The athletic program at Galway is founded on the principle that the playing field is an extension of the classroom, and participation in interscholastic athletics is a privilege earned by being a good student and a good citizen. The Galway school community is very proud of this group of young men and women who have demonstrated, through their achievement, their dedication to these guiding principles. Congratulations to all the athletes who succeed both on the field and in the classroom, and to the coaches, parents, volunteers, and community members who make our sports programs possible."
At the end of each sport season, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) honors those teams that excel in the classroom. The minimum team grade average needed to qualify for the NYSPHSAA Scholar/Athlete Team Award is 90.
For more information, visit www.galwaycsd.org.
Local "King" Goes To The White House!
GREENFIELD – Business owner and Christmas décor designer Claire Henderson learned last week that she and her company, Christmas Night, Inc., had received a special honor. Her giant 12-foot-tall Nutcracker King decoration, which Claire designed, is now standing tall in the White House State Dining Room as part of the annual holiday decorations that deck the White House halls.
Claire and her husband Donald are owners of Christmas Night, Inc., a designer and seller of nativity scenes and all-weather Christmas decorations (www.ChristmasNightInc.com). They reside in Greenfield, and ship their decorations worldwide from a facility in Amsterdam, NY. They have had many large clients and celebrities that have purchased their decorations since incorporating the business in 1999. But nothing like this.
“I was extremely pleased to learn that my work was selected,” Claire Henderson said. “It is a great acknowledgement of our Christmas décor and a true honor that the White House would select one of my pieces to sit alongside so many other beautiful holiday ornaments.” They learned that one of the designers that represented the White House had bought the Nutcracker King, which Claire originally designed five years ago, when one of their manufacturing partners had seen photos and video of this year’s holiday decorations.
The Henderson’s Nutcracker King joins a long tradition of decorating the White House for the holidays, dating back to 1800, during the administration of John Adams. More recently, in 1961 First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy made “The Nutcracker” her first theme for the White House’s holiday décor.
An estimated 68,000 visitors will view the Henderson’s Nutcracker King at the White House this holiday season. The King looms large (12 feet tall, weighing 284 pounds) over the State Dining Room. Video of the holiday décor can be viewed at www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house/holidays-2015.
While their business is all about the holidays, it is anything but seasonal. Claire noted that they start bringing in products in the spring, and most designers and churches start planning their holiday décor in the summer. One of their most popular items through the years has been “Santa’s Sleigh and Reindeer,” which is big enough for the jolly one, along with two children and plenty of gifts. Claire is already at work on a new design for next year – a 10-foot toy soldier.
The Hendersons have been married for 24 years, and have resided in Saratoga County since emigrating to the U.S. from Canada in 1997. Claire is a native of Ireland, and you can sense that she was warmed and gratified by becoming a big part of one of the most American of traditions.
“It’s an honor. Not just the honor to have a product in the White House - it’s an honor to start a company in the U.S., and to be a U.S. Citizen,” she said.
For more information, visit www.ChristmasNightInc.com
Top Sports Stories of 2015
It was a great year to be a local sports fan, with many teams and athletes having unprecedented success – making it a wealth of riches for a Sports Editor. Trying to pick the Best of the Best is like asking someone to pick their favorite child, but in a year of standouts, these stars shined the brightest. Call it the lucky seven if you will, but the truth is I was the lucky one who got to write about all these folks. Congrats to everyone on this list – you are all winners!
1)Spa Catholic Golf – We called them “UNSTOPPABLE” in our cover story of October 2, and that’s what they proved to be…. The Saints’ linksters grab the top spot because of their unprecedented three-year run of excellence: a 59-0 record and three straight Section 2, class C/D Championships.
2)Saratoga and Schuylerville Football (tie) – Call it 2A and 2B, and don’t ask me which is which is which…. Both teams dominated on both sides of the ball, running rampant through their respective divisions, undefeated all the way to their first state title games, giving their fans thrills that they will long remember.
4)Alexa Rahman – This young equestrian champion gets my vote for local sportsperson of the year. Our November 13 cover story, Alexa at age 13 has already run roughshod over the show horse world – capturing 13 regional, national and world equestrian titles. We can’t wait to see what she has in store next! By virtue of her consistent winning record, she just noses out…
5) American Pharoah – OK, what’s a good sports story without a little controversy? Perhaps this award should go to the Saratoga Race Course itself (which solidified its rep as the ‘graveyard’) or to the fans that turned out in droves to see the first Triple-Crown winner in 37 years, inspiring a hashtag (#Pharoahtoga) in the process. Finishing second in the Travers, after a grueling race schedule and multiple cross-country trips to various tracks was certainly no disgrace, and credit should go to “the people’s horse” and his connections for even trying. A rested Pharoah showed he was a true champion, vanquishing all comers by 6 ½ lengths in the Breeders Cup Classic on October 31.
6)Ballston Spa Soccer – We caught these guys early, on a September 18 cover story and rode with them as they rolled through the regular season undefeated (a big improvement from the previous years’ 8-8-2 record), capturing the Section 2, Class AA title in heart-stopping fashion as they bested Shaker on penalty kicks on November 2…. They came from behind to defeat top-ranked Ithaca in the state semi’s and finished 20-1-1, their only loss coming to Walt Whitman in the state final… In many other years, this would easily be the top local sports story.
7)Hugh Dempsey – A 14-year-old skiing prodigy (ninth grade at SSHS) who will be part of a team from the Lake Placid/Adirondack region that will venture to Innsbruck, Austria next month, to participate in the 2016 Winter International Children’s Games – making him an early favorite for a spot on 2016’s best list!
Happy Holidays to everyone, see you next year!
Will Less Be Moore?
New Proposal Responds to Neighborhood Density Concerns
SARATOGA SPRINGS – “We’re in the people pleasing business.”
So stated Attorney Michael J. Toohey, representing Bonacio Construction, in announcing a second proposal to develop the Moore Hall property, at the Saratoga Springs Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting on Monday, December 14.
The dramatic announcement came as a pleasant surprise to most, if not all, of those in attendance. Residents of the surrounding neighborhood had organized intense opposition to the first proposal – which would have converted the existing building to 53 micro-apartments. The applicants requested that the first proposal be tabled and requested to present the detailed aspects of the new proposal at a January 2016 ZBA meeting.
Principal and Vice President C. Michael Ingersoll of the LA Group, was forthcoming, however, with the broad details of the second proposal, which he and President/Owner Sonny Bonacio of Bonacio Construction said was directly responsive to the nearby neighborhood resident’s concerns, which included density, parking and safety.
A major change in the second proposal is to demolish, rather than convert Moore Hall – a decaying former dormitory that was part of the old Skidmore College campus. A previous variance in 2006 had allowed up to 18 residential units on the parcel. Bonacio noted that this number would not work because of the current market forces. If it were to stay at 18, that would necessitate building units that sold for over $900,000. Those units are averaging 1,947 days on the market, and Bonacio said that if 18 more were built, the inventory of housing at that level would take about 12.9 years to be sold.
Instead, the second proposal detailed construction of 28 units, which would enable the sale price to be just under $700,000 ($699,418), which Bonacio said would make it more attractive and easier to sell to potential buyers. This increased number of units would still require a variance, although not as large as the first proposal’s request to increase it to 53.
The first proposal had requested a second variance on parking, from 1.5 spaces per unit to 1. Under the new proposal, 52 parking places, the bulk of which are anticipated to be underground, will be provided. Since that will provide 1.8 spaces per unit, a second variance will not need to be requested.
The applicants noted that their new proposal was similar in many ways, in terms of visual components such as setbacks for instance, to a plan that had received approval in 2008. At Monday’s meeting, they presented preliminary drawings that showed a comparison of their new proposed development to the one from 2008.
A new application will be filed, and detailed plans need to be developed. The project will still have to go through a site plan review and receive approval from the Design Review Commission. However, it was obvious from comments, from both ZBA members and members of the public who spoke, that this latest proposal was extremely more palatable. Many thanked the applicants for their work in coming forward with something that it was hoped would be acceptable to everyone. “This is just what the neighborhood wanted,” one said. Another wondered if it was appropriate to sing “Kumbaya.”
So, residents came to Monday’s meeting prepared for more conflict, and came away with at least the beginning of a happy ending to the saga of the Pink Palace. Call it an early holiday gift, with an O. Henry surprise thrown in for good measure.
Hall Brothers Making Their Mark Nationally
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Two young men, who are brothers and Saratoga Springs natives, have the distinction of attaining high levels of achievement at the national level in the sport of Taekwando.
The Hall brothers – Patrick, age 22, and Brian, 19 both third degree black belts, coach each other in collegiate and national tournaments and have compiled an impressive collection of credentials.
Patrick won the USAT (USA Taekwondo) New York State Championship last March, and the New England Open this past October. He competed at the Collegiate Nationals in Delaware this past April, and the USAT Nationals in Austin this July with his brother Brian as his National Level 1 Coach.
The two reverse the coaching roles depending on who is competing! Most recently, Brian coached Patrick to win the New England Open at M.I.T. The same weekend, they flipped roles and
Patrick coached Brian to a 15-6 win at the M.I.T. Sport Taekwando taeTournament.
Both boys have studied at Pai’s Tae Kwan Do. Patrick, a Siena graduate, is an instructor there. Patrick earned his first-degree black belt at Pai’s, at age 13. Brian, a Skidmore student, achieved his first-degree black belt as a 10-year-old.
The boys have been encouraged since their childhood by their parents, Maura (a third degree black belt) and Gary Hall (first degree black belt). The boys coach their mother in intramural competitions. Both brothers attended St. Clements Elementary School and Saratoga Central Catholic School, where Brian was a member of the 2014 WAC champion basketball team.
Off To A Flying Start!
Saratoga Springs Gymnastics Opens Year With Three Wins
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs High School Varsity Gymnastics team has served notice that they intend to be a force to be reckoned with again, as they paced to their third win to open the season in a meet against Shaker on Tuesday, December 15, at the Wilton branch of the Saratoga Regional YMCA.
Saratoga swept the high marks in all events, as well as second place in all categories and third in all but one. Reigning Section 2 vault champ Julia VanHorne took that event and the bars. Kate Della Ratta finished first on the beam and Laura Eberlein was first in the floor event. The all-around high score was posted by Courtney Kirsche.
Their next match at home will be on Tuesday, December 22 – the start of a two-day series against Guilderland.
Saratoga vs. Shaker
1. Julia VanHorne - 9.0
2. Courtney Kirshe - 8.85
3. Sophie Hrebenach - 8.7
1. Julia VanHorne - 8.8
2. Abby Zabielski - 8.4
3. Kelsey Jackowitz - 8.3
1. Kate Della Ratta - 8.8
2. Courtney Kirshe - 8.6
3. Kayla Morris (Shaker) - 8.55
1. Laura Eberlein - 9.15
2. Courtney Kirshe - 9.1
3. Carmen Cusick - 9.0
1. Courtney Kirshe - 34.6
2. Julia VanHorne - 34.35
3. Laura Eberlein and Sophie Hrebenach - 32.7
Pink Palace In Limbo
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Moore to come.
In other words, the fate of Moore Hall, AKA the Pink Palace, remains uncertain following a flurry of developments in the past week.
An item on the agenda for the City of Saratoga Springs’ Zoning Board of Appeals meeting last Monday, December 7th, was adjourned to next Monday, the 14th. It is possible that the ZBA will vote on applicant Bonacio Construction’s request for variances at that time.
The parcel at 28 Union Avenue has been the subject of intense scrutiny and concern by residents in the neighborhood, as well as members of the Saratoga Springs City Council. The Council held a special off-site meeting on Saturday morning, December 5, to do a walking tour of the site, and to hear concerned citizens’ opinions. This took place in the meeting room at Empire State College, which is adjacent to the parcel.
The applicant’s request for variance has two main components. The first was to allow conversion of the existing building to a 53-unit apartment building. The building had previously been granted a zoning variance from its original use – a dormitory on the old Skidmore College campus and zoned educational – and allowed conversion to up to 18 residential units, in 2006. The second request was seeking relief from the parking space requirement of 1.5 to 1 parking space per unit as required in the UR-4 (Urban Residential – 4) District.
At Saturday’s well-attended meeting, City Attorney Tony Izzo made it clear at the beginning of the meeting that the Council could not overrule a land-use board’s decisions once that board was properly created – the only remedies available would be to disband that board, or litigate against it, which are both unlikely possibilities. Nonetheless, the Council came to hear the residents’ opinions, and hear them they certainly did.
Those who spoke expressed a wide variety of concerns should the new variances be granted. Over 450 citizens had signed a petition against granting further variances, and speakers at the meeting expressed unease about subjects involving parking, traffic, pedestrian safety and the impact on nearby schools in the neighborhood, as well as other concerns. The general mood of the group in attendance was best summarized by neighborhood resident John Kaufmann, who said the proposed development was “…too large a project for too small an area.”
At this point, Moore Hall sits deteriorating, occupying a prime parcel and visible from the city grandest boulevard. Perhaps one of the very few things that all parties can agree on is that the Pink Palace’s current state is undesirable. What it transforms to in the future, however, still remains in question.
In other words, stay tuned. For there is still Moore to come.