Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs’ role in the fight for women’s suffrage was honored in a series of events on July 13.   

Two National Votes for Women Trail (NVWT) markers were dedicated to commemorate the role that Saratoga Springs had in giving women the right to vote. 

The first was placed at 11 Fifth Ave. the childhood home of local suffragist Kathryn Starbuck. A march from Fifth Avenue to Congress Park followed. Many attendees wore suffragist white to show support. 

A marker celebrating Matilda Joslyn Gage and her role starting the New York State Woman Suffrage Association in Saratoga Springs was subsequently unveiled outside Congress Park, and an afternoon of   dedications followed at Canfield Casino. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Swedish born artist Claes Oldenburg died this week at the age of 93. Oldenburg moved to New York City in the mid-1950s, when he became part of the Happenings and performance art scene. 

In 2002, shortly after the opening of the Tang Museum on the campus of Skidmore College, the renowned artist’s work was featured in the exhibit “From Pop to Now: Selections from the Sonnabend Collection.” 

Oldenburg’s “Giant Ice Cream Cone” grew from a series of painted plaster and soft sculpture creations displayed as “merchandise” (priced to sell for as little as $69.95!) in a storefront performance space in the East Village in the early 1960s. 

“My intention is to make an everyday object that eludes definition,” he once said. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Matt Witten will return to Saratoga Springs this week to make an in-store appearance at Northshire Bookstore. 

Witten, known to longtime Saratogians for penning his 1998 published book “’Breakfast At Madeline’s” – which was partially written at the former Saratoga Broadway cafe – is in town with his most recent novel, “The Necklace.” The story has been optioned for film—with Leonardo DiCaprio attached as producer. 

Set in Lake Luzerne, “The Necklace” is showcased as a fast-paced thriller starring a small-town waitress from upstate New York who fights to prove that the man who’s about to be executed for killing her daughter is actually innocent. The real killer is still free and as the clock ticks down, the woman takes on the FBI in a heart-pounding crusade for justice. 

Witten wrote a number of books under the Jacob Burns mystery novel series and worked writing for television shows for about 20 years - Law & Order, House, Pretty Little Liars, and CSI: Miami, among them. 

“My first book signing was at the mall in downtown (Saratoga Springs) a couple of blocks over from Madeline’s and there were about 200 people there,” Witten said, during an interview published in Saratoga TODAY last August. “It was such a good feeling, and all kinds of funny things happened. Dee Sarno – who was the head of Saratoga Arts Council - was very gracious that I had a character in there who was the head of Saratoga Arts Council, even though I kind of lampooned the Arts Council. Just a joyful experience.” 

Witten will be at Northshire Bookstore on Broadway in Saratoga Springs at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27. 

Thursday, 21 July 2022 12:52

David Greenberger - New CD Out This Week

SARATOGA SPRINGS — David Greenberger, one of the community’s great creative treasures, releases his latest CD, “David Greenberger & The Waldameer Players: TODAY!” 

The release weighs in with 40 tracks that mixes music and monologues, with text based on Greenberger’s conversations at the Duplex Nursing Home (of Greenberger’s Duplex Planet zine fame), and senior centers from Los Angeles to Schenectady. Also included is the percussive work of Michael Evans, who died in 2021. 

“Given the number of players involved at different times, I knew this was going to exist solely as a recording, not as a performance piece,” Greenberger explains. “I just didn’t know Michael wouldn’t be here to celebrate this result of our long friendship.”

For more information about David Greenberger, go to: davidgreenberger.com.      

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Members of the New York Racing Association joined philanthropist John Hendrickson and representatives from the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST), Saratoga Hospital and the New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association (NYTHA) in a ceremonial event to celebrate the construction of a new backstretch healthcare clinic at Saratoga Race Course.

Hendrickson has pledged $1.2 million for construction of the permanent clinic - $400,000 of which was raised in an auction of possessions belonging to late wife Marylou Whitney, who died in 2019. 

“Marylou always thought that Saratoga should be the summer place to be for everyone, including the backstretch workers (and) saw the need for a better backstretch clinic,” Hendrickson said during Wednesday’s event. 

“A lot has been accomplished the past few years to improve the lives of the backstretch workers – the unsung heroes,” Hendickson said, noting the development of the backstretch pavilion, daycare center and new NYRA dorms, as well as critical services provided by BEST and The New York Race Track Chaplaincy.    

The event was staged in front of a concrete foundation where the clinic, which will include four exam rooms and a lab for blood work, is slated to open next spring. 

Sen. Daphne Jordan and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner respectively delivered proclamations and citations honoring those involved with the clinic. Dr. Alexander Cardiel, Medical Director of the Backstretch Clinic, Saratoga Hospital, said 600 to 700 workers are provided medical care each summer – providing many workers the first time that they’ve seen a physician in the country. The new building will provide a large space and offer the opportunity for additional health services for the backstretch community.   

SARATOGA COUNTY — The county Board of Supervisors will vote this week on a measure to secure a temporary emergency shelter in Saratoga Springs for the upcoming season and is involved in discussions to potentially site a permanent shelter for the homeless community starting in winter 2023. 

“It’s an investment that’s important to make,” said Health & Human Services Chair Phil Barrett following last week’s committee vote to authorize a lease agreement to secure the 4 Adelphi St. building in Saratoga Springs as a facility to provide Code Blue Services. That same building, just off South Broadway, had previously been used as temporary shelter, but the two-year lease with the owners had expired. 

The proposed term of the lease for the Adelphi Street building runs from July 19, 2022, through April 30, 2023 at a cost of $8,000 per month. The proposal is expected to be green-lighted by the county Law & Finance Committee and on July 19 move to the county Board of Supervisors who are charged with the ultimate approval of the measure. 

“Once it’s approved (on July 19) we can sign the lease – which we want to do sooner rather than later because it’s important we secure the facility,“ Barrett said. “The date in the lease agreement (begins) July 19 because that’s the date of the board meeting and that’s when I expect there will be approval by the full board so we can sign the lease.” A portion of the $8,000 per month cost – specifically the building’s usage during the winter months - is anticipated to be potentially reimbursed to the county by the state’s Department of Social Services. 

Motivated to action in the wake of the death of a city woman exposed to a winter’s elements on a December night in 2013, a temporary homeless emergency shelter was launched in Saratoga Springs that Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Parish Center. 

A series of temporary winter shelters, sited at a variety of venues across town, have followed: the Salvation Army building west of Broadway and Soul Saving Station Church east of Broadway, among them. The latter, having a 41-bed capacity, required the addition of the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church also open for extended periods to care for the “overflow” of guests. 

In 2020, Shelters of Saratoga - which oversees the Code Blue shelter program – operated the latest temporary venue at 4 Adelphi St., a 61-bed facility just west of South Broadway which it leased through 2021. 

For that Adelphi Street venue, the city of Saratoga Springs provided $50,000 towards the upkeep of the building as well as for paying rent in the off-season for two years. To that point, neither the county or the state had provided financial reimbursement, and then-S.O.S. Executive Director Karen Gregory expressed concern over expenses. S.O.S. subsequently secured a bridge loan for $200,000 by a non-profit bank to stem prolonged reimbursement for services. 

Shelter and shelter services are provided to the homeless community whenever inclement winter weather temperatures are at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, inclusive of National Weather Service calculations for windchill. 

“It is the only space that we’re able to find that’s vacant for homeless individuals to go to, but it’s a difficult space. We’re continuing to try and work on a permanent location so we can connect the homeless to services and work with care managers,” current S.O.S. Executive Director Duane J. Vaughn said this week. “That’s what we’re really striving for.” 

A permanent shelter site was thought to be secured in 2017 after local business owner Ed Mitzen offered to pay the costs of a new Code Blue homeless shelter to be built on Shelters of Saratoga property on Walworth Street. Initial plans call for a two-story building with a large kitchen, laundry room, men’s and women’s sleeping rooms, multiple showers and bathrooms, a large storage area for donated food and clothing, and a small Code Blue office. Local firms Bonacio Construction and the LA Group were to be involved in the development of the building and both agreed to forego any profits to keep the costs as low as possible.

Those plans were scrapped, however, following a lawsuit filed by local residents challenging the proposed shelter expansion as not being in accordance with zoning regulation. A Saratoga County Supreme Court judge subsequently nullified approvals granted by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board which would have allowed the shelter to be built.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in Saratoga Springs recently where the homeless situation is the most evident in the county,” said Barrett, who also serves on the county Board of Supervisors, representing Clifton Park.    

“I think we need to all work together to be more aggressive than we have been with outreach to people who are homeless. We’re taking right now about options and how to use some of the opioid settlement money toward that effort because many people who are homeless have addiction problems,” Barrett said.   

“I think next year we’ll be in an even better place to offer consistent and quality services to people who are homeless. We are working on a more permanent solution - but what you have in front of you here gets us through 2022-23 with the current facility being used,” he said. “Hopefully when we get into 2023 there will be another facility that will be even more conducive to assisting a larger number of people.” 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs is considering initiating a civic position recognizing an exceptional local poet to serve as Poet Laureate of Saratoga Springs. 

“Why should we have one in Saratoga Springs? Well, why shouldn’t we,” city resident and past NY Library Association President Rachel Baum explained during a presentation to the City Council July 5.   

“We’re not just health, history and horses. We have Yaddo. We have SPAC School of the Arts. For 20 years we have had an Open Mic for Poets at Caffe Lena, Saratoga Reads, the (NYS) Summer Writers’ Institute.” Baum said, stressing the financial benefit to local businesses in cities hosting art-related events. 

The title of Poet Laureate was first granted in England in the 17th century for poetic excellence, and its holder a salaried member of the British royal household. The title stems from tradition dating to the earliest Greek and Roman times, when achievement was honored with a crown of laurel, a tree sacred to Apollo, patron of poets, according to Britannica. 

 

In the U.S., a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress was initiated in the mid-1930s. The title of the position officially changed to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1985. The U.S. poet laureate, appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress, receives a $35,000 annual stipend plus $5,000 for travel expenses, all of which is funded by a private gift and not the U.S. government. Some poets previously appointed to the posts include Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Pinsky, William Carlos Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Frost.   

Locally, representatives from local organizations would form a committee this summer and later in the year evaluate nominations for the title. The tentative suggested deadlines are the Posting of the Nomination Form by Aug.15 and a deadline for submissions on Sept. 15. Committee evaluations would follow, and the Mayor would announce the 2023 Poet Laureate in December of this year.      

In other council news, a Public Hearing was set to take place July 19 regarding additional funding needed - over the 2022 Capital Budget amounts - for the construction of the East Side Fire/EMS facility. That additional amount is $1.348 million and is due to increases in costs of material and services needed to complete the project, according to city documents. 

On May 3, Jason Golub was unanimously selected by the four sitting members of the City Council to temporarily fill the vacancy as the council’s fifth member and as Commissioner of Public Works. 

Golub grew up New Haven, Connecticut and moved to this area about a decade ago in connection with a job with GE where he ran government investigations and compliance. He currently works with tech startup Kahilla – a women’s leadership platform that develops women leaders in corporate America.         

The vacant seat is a result of the death last month of longtime DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. Golub will serve as commissioner through calendar year 2022. He will be running as Democratic candidate in a November election to fill the remainder of the term – which goes through the calendar year 2023. A profile of Republican candidate Anthony Scirocco, Jr., who is also vying for the seat, was published by Saratoga TODAY on June 23. 

Q: What has surprised you the most since taking the position in May? 

A: I’m a big idea guy. I have a vision about where I want DPW to go and one of my biggest concerns was whether the employees of DPW would buy into that. Are they open to doing things in a different way to help solve the problems of the city? And I’ve been super pleasantly surprised how open, how receptive and eager the team has been to tackle things in a different way, and innovate. That’s been a real pleasant surprise. 

Q: There are different ways that a person may approach a new position – come in and clean house, or take time to learn a bit about what already exists, and evaluate afterwards. What has been your approach?

 A: During my first 100 days, I think the most important thing I can do is listen. Listen to the employees, to the people in the field, and most importantly, listen to people in the community to understand where the pain-points are in terms of how we provide service - what we can do better and how can I help the team do their job better. Gutting the team was never on my radar. There are amazing people who work here.      

 Q: You’re a Democrat going into a position that has long been a Republican seat. Has that created a challenging political climate? How have you dealt with that? 

A: Maybe I’m jaded, but I think in some ways Public Works is the least political of the offices on the City Council. Everybody needs the services Public Works provides. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat. I’m making sure you have good streets. So, in that way there’s no divisiveness in this department. We’re all rowing in the same direction. 

Q: Moving forward, what is your vision or goals you want to accomplish? 

A: The overall approach that I have as the leader of DPW now and that I will have if I’m elected (in November) has three components: service, vision and impact. Service to the community is my goal that has to be the core of DPW. How do we provide the best service? How do we leverage technology and tools and good old-fashioned listening to improve communication with the public, and then how do we develop tools for transparency? For example: plowing streets. There are tools and apps that we can very easily implement to provide transparency into when your street is going to get plowed, when a pothole will be fixed, and it will also provide the public an opportunity to tell us when there’s a problem. 

The second is having a bold vision on where the department can go. For me that’s drawing on my experience on everything from Columbia Law to my experience in large, complicated organizations like GE, and as compliance leader and a lawyer. 

Specifically, parks and playgrounds is a big area for me. Creating and protecting green space and parks. I would love there to be green space within five minutes walking distance of every kid in our city. We’re already building Flat Rock Park next to the City Center garage, we’re expanding the outdoor facilities at the Rec Center and we’re working with Saratoga Shredders to make a mountain bike park. 

I also think DPW plays a role in bringing solutions to the homeless problem. We have a growing homeless problem, it’s getting worse and I think we need to come up with better solutions as a government. So, this summer we’re rolling out a DPW work program with the homeless – providing an opportunity for work, for food and support through DPW. 

Q: How would that work? 

A: We’re one component of a program which is essentially putting members of the homeless who are willing on DPW projects. They’ll be paid for the work they do, food will be provided and support provided through (the human service agency) RISE. We’re working out the details right now, but they would be put on a DPW work crew for the summer. Look, it isn’t a solution to the entire problem, but it’s bringing innovation and new ideas to a problem that’s getting worse in our community. 

Q: How do you feel about development growth in the city?

A: I’m not against growth, I’m not against development. I think it needs to be thoughtful and it needs to be balanced. For example, if you’re going to build a City Center garage, the balance to me is creating green space next to it, rather than having a parking lot next to a parking lot, next to a parking lot - because eventually the historic charm of our downtown disappears if all you do is continue to develop and develop without balancing it with green space. I also think we need more workforce housing, more affordable housing. That has to be part of the future of our development. The people who work here – the firemen the police, the nurses – they can’t afford to live here. That’s a problem. 

Other areas of focus: Clean Energy and a Connected City; expanding our recycling program; connecting our bike lanes and neighborhood-focused solutions: going into every neighborhood and understanding what are the unique problems of each neighborhood. We need to be more pro-active in DPW about learning of the problems in Geyser Crest or wherever they may be. It might be flooding, or sidewalks, walkability, street improvements. I think as we improve our communication and our outreach, we become a better partner with each of our neighborhoods in solving the problems.   

BALLSTON SPA — County Officials have unveiled the official brand, America’s Turning Point, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War Era events that happened in Saratoga County. 

The anniversary marks the British Army surrender in 1777 in present-day Schuylerville, following the battles at Saratoga, and has been nicknamed the Turning Point of the American Revolution.

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors have committed $150,000 in seed money to a newly formed Saratoga County 250th American Revolution Commission, to help advance its mission of promoting education, historic preservation and heritage tourism of the Revolutionary War era events, people, and places throughout Saratoga County. 

The anniversary will be commemorated through the fall of 2027 with a multi-faceted public education and marketing effort, and the creation of a logo and brand was a crucial first step in that effort. 

The Commission consists of 13 official members  - in honor of the 13 original colonies - tasked with planning and organizing ceremonies, events, activities, and celebrations recognizing the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution in Saratoga County.

Currently, there are 11 Commission members, which includes Saratoga County Historian Lauren Roberts (Chair); SNHP Superintendent Leslie Morlock; Town of Saratoga Supervisor Wood; Town of Stillwater Supervisor Kinowski; Michael Companion, Educator; Sean Kelleher, Saratoga County History Center Vice President and Town of Saratoga Historian; Heather Mabee, DAR Representative; Saratoga County Administrator Steve Bulger; Director of Veterans Services Frank McClement; Chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, Todd Kusnierz; and Paul Novotny, Reenactor and liaison to the living history community. 

The Commission is actively seeking members for the remaining two vacancies. For more information, go to: www.saratoga250.com 

Thursday, 30 June 2022 14:05

Spa City Carousel Celebrates 20th Year

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A ceremony staged in Congress Park this week celebrated the 20th anniversary of the opening of the carousel in Congress Park and served to commemorate former DPW Commissioner Thomas McTygue’s 32 years of service on the City Council as well as his leadership role to save the carousel. 

In its 20-year existence in Congress Park, the carousel has played host to about 850,000 rides. “To me, that’s (more than) 800,000 kids’ smiles, laughs, or who like my daughter, feel like they’ve found something magical. It brought us joy and happiness. I imagine that’s how everyone else feels who rides it for the first time,” said current DPW Commissioner Jason Golub. 

“As with many things in Saratoga Springs, there had to be a long-term fight first, before getting anything done,” Golub added. It is a project that nearly didn’t happen. Following the closure of Kaydeross Park on Saratoga Lake, the historic Illions Carousel was slated to be auctioned off and dismantled. 

Saratoga Springs City Council Minutes: Aug. 4, 1986: Mayor Jones received a letter from Robert Kohn, a partner in the Vista project at Saratoga Lake, offering to donate to the city the carousel at Kaydeross Park contingent upon their taking title to the property. Mayor Jones felt it would be imprudent to accept a gift of this magnitude - $250,000 if restored – and since we are in negotiations with them over this project, he would oppose the acceptance of any gift. There are many liabilities concerned. Comm. McTygue stated he would like to discuss this if it is going to leave the area rather than stay here in Saratoga Springs. He does not want to close the door on this at this time. The offer is contingent on the approval of his project. 

In 1987, McTygue and former Finance Commissioner Ted Butler led a community fundraising campaign for the city to purchase the Carousel at the negotiated price of $150,000. An at-times heated community discussion about where to site the carousel followed for the next 15 years. McTygue remained adamant that it belonged in Congress Park. 

“One of the main reasons I fought to keep this in the downtown business district is it opened up a whole new entrance to our park here,” McTygue said during this week’s ceremony. “People come here from other communities, to bring their children and grandchildren to ride the carousel and then being here they would shop in our downtown businesses.” 

The Saratogian: Sept 1987, by Paul Cloos: The Saratoga Springs City Council Tuesday pledged to help buy the Kaydeross Park carousel at an auction later this month. If bought by the city, Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue said a likely spot for the carousel would be Congress Park. The 1904 carousel at Kaydeross Park changed hands as part of the $3.1 million sale of the park to the developers of Vista on Saratoga Lake. Vista developers plan 349 town houses and single-family houses in place of the park, which closes in two weeks. 

“There are so many things I wanted to say…” McTygue told the assembled crowd of more than 100 at this week’s ceremony in front of the carousel, flanked by rows of towering trees and the vibrant hue of tiger lilies. 

“I had a lot of help, and I couldn’t do this without leaning over to the other side. I know it upset some of my Democrat friends, but I really had to. When I first was elected in the ‘70s this community was predominantly Republican,” said McTygue, served on the city council for a total of 32 years from the early 1970s to 2008. 

“When I first took over, this place was loaded with drugs, people sleeping under the tress, it was all overgrown. We decided we were going to get involved and clean this place up and that’s what we did.” He more than doubled his father’s 15-year tenure as councilmember. It is an achievement he never could have imagined. “Thirty-two years! But I’ll tell you with the Internet today, I probably wouldn’t have lasted three years,” McTygue said with a laugh. 

The Gazette, May 30, 1998, by Rik Stevens: It’s an issue that comes around and goes around every couple of years, but this time, a city official thinks he’s found a home for the historic Kaydeross Carousel. Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue has plans to put the 93-year-old carousel in a new pavilion on the Spring Street side of the Canfield Casino in Congress Park. The city bought the carousel for $150,000 in 1987 from the new owners at Kaydeross Park, using a last-minute fund drive, corporate donations and city money. The horses were restored and have been stashed in an office in the Public Works Department, awaiting a new home.   

The donations came in from everywhere. “The support we got from everybody…it was unbelievable,” McTygue said, whose eldest daughter, Lisa, read from a lengthy list of donors who had donated $5,000 for each carousel horse, those who donated funds to restore the horses, and those who helped fund the design and construction of the carousel pavilion. 

Gordon Boyd read a list compiled of achievements accomplished while in office by McTygue, whom Boyd called “a native son and true friend of Saratoga Springs.” Boyd first met the then-newly elected McTygue in 1972. “I saw someone who had the desire and leadership capacity to make the city better. But he also showed a rootedness in the community stretching back generations, and the authenticity to rally the community behind his major initiatives,” Boyd said.  “The common element of all his ideas for Saratoga Springs was he approached them out of love for the community, and a joy in having the opportunity to serve. So that is why we are here today.”      

To mark the event, the Saratoga Springs City Council approved a motion to offer free carousel rides for the day. Boyd stressed the carousel be seen as both a joy-filled experience in a special place as well as a metaphor of civic leadership and commitment that takes on all challenges for the betterment of
the community. 

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner read a citation that recognized McTygue’s contributions to the community in general and specifically for his “valiant, prescient and ultimately successful efforts to bring this carousel to this place.” The carousel was installed in Congress Park in 2002.

The event also honored the memory of late DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco whom, despite being a political competitor, reached out to McTygue last year with the idea of acknowledging McTygue’s leadership at the 20th anniversary of the carousel. 

“It was Skip’s gracious idea to celebrate Commissioner McTygue’s significant contribution to our community, and I know he would be proud to see us follow through on his wish,” current DPW Commissioner Golub said during the unveiling of a plaque detailing the history of the carousel and commemorating McTygue’s leadership. 

McTygue looked at the plaque. “That’ll be here for a while,” he said. 

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