City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Does it feel like the first time, like the very first time?
Gorging on a setlist first unveiled between the years 1977 and 1984, Foreigner brought their 40th Anniversary Tour to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Tuesday night, for better or worse sticking to a menu of hits that ruled the pre-Google airwaves.
But, does it feel like the very first time?
That all depends upon what you felt about it then. Foreigner has always been a polarizing band. Even at the time of their founding they represented a symbolic continuum of a middle-of-the-road arena rock that ruled the American mainstream. The first time I saw Foreigner was on a June day in 1978, opening for the Rolling Stones (who were awful that night) with 100,000 other people in a Philadelphia stadium undoubtedly constructed during the Fred Flinstone Era and subsequently condemned and mercifully demolished at some later date.
Cheap Trick, who also performed at SPAC Tuesday night, I first saw on a stage at The Palladium in New York City that same year, in support of The Cars. So, it is through this historic lens, perhaps, that gave the evening the feel of a high school reunion. This despite the comments of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, who introduced his band’s recreation of its debut album tune “He’s a Whore” this way: “Here’s a song from an album that came out before 90 percent of you were born.” Nice sentiment, but likely not accurate.
Adding a touch of surrealism to the back-in-the-day feel of the concert, Jason Bonham - son of late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham - opened the show with a nine-song set consisting entirely of Zeppelin tunes. Flanked by bass player Dorian Heartsong – draped in a Leo glyph T-shirt reminiscent of Mick Jagger’s “Gimme Shelter” days, and guitar player Tony Catania – bearing a New York City T-shirt similar to the one John Lennon wore for Bob Gruen’s iconic photograph, Bonham pounded his drum kit with a befitting sense of his dad’s original work while singer James Dylan delivered an uncanny spot-on recreation of Robert Plant’s vinyl vocalizations. Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience: the best Led Zeppelin cover band in the world.
Cheap Trick, which mostly remains intact member-wise (drummer Bun E. Carlos was replaced by Rick Nielsen's son Daxx in 2010) hit several high points during its 55-minute set. They performed crowd favorites “I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police,” and “Surrender” – to the band’s credit the only three songs repeated compared to its show at the venue last September – and a passionately haunting rendition of “Heaven Tonight.”
Singer Robin Zander, bearing a cop’s hat and a “Dream Police” stitched leatherette jacket played to the crowd and guitarist Rick Nielsen was his usual gregarious self, perpetually swapping six-string machines from among his armada of guitars, flipping guitar picks into the crowd, and during the lyric in “Surrender” when Zander sings “Got my KISS records out,” flinging (presumably a KISS) album jacket, ninja-like 15 rows deep, and inspiring a mad dash of concert goers scrambling for the souvenir.
The intermission change-over on stage was accompanied by the inescapable bleating of ‘80s tunes by the likes of Supertramp and Billy Joel, eventually leading to a tear-away curtain that unveiled the night’s headliners. Foreigner – led by sole remaining founding member Mick Jones - kicked off its set with “Double Vision” and “Head Games” and didn’t veer off course from the identical dozen-song hit parade they’ve been performing on this 40th anniversary tour. Juke box heroes? Or, cold as ice? That all depends upon how you felt about it that very first time.
Challenging. Extremely nuanced. And very, very complicated.
The city’s recently formed Human Rights Task Force hosted a Town Hall at Skidmore College on a stormy Monday evening regarding the impact of immigration in Saratoga Springs. The moderated panel discussion included regional business owners, an attorney specializing in immigration employment matters relating and local and state community leaders and representatives.
The prevailing sentiment of the informational meeting – which was attended by about 175 people and included an audience Q&A session – is that even as Saratoga Springs strives to be “a welcoming and all-inclusive community,” there are limits to what the city can do regarding immigrant workers – both documented and undocumented - given that federal laws supersede local ones.
“What we have done is everything we can do,” said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen. “This is a federal agency. This is The White House. And we don’t have legal grounds.”
Earlier this year, the mayor founded a city Human Rights Task Force – which focuses mostly on education, programming such as Monday’s event, and providing referrals to local agencies that can assist in immigration issues. In March, city Police Chief Greg Veitch said while the department will work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E. if asked, local police will not detain anyone solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws.
In June, federal agents conducted two separate operations in Saratoga Springs, arresting a total of 26 “unlawfully present foreign nationals,” according to the agency.
In recent months, two city based churches stepped forward with a sanctuary pledge for undocumented immigrants who are targets of deportation. I.C.E. typically operates under guidelines that recognize places like churches and schools as sensitive locations where agents would not normally carry out enforcement actions. However, there are no guarantees.
“Designating oneself as a ‘sanctuary’ doesn’t mean that people without immigration status are immune from federal law,” notes attorney Brendan Venter, an immigrant specialist with the Whiteman Osterman & Hanna firm in Albany.
More than 11 countries are represented on the backstretch said Task Force member Diane Barnes said Monday, adding that besides the racecourse, high-profile employers such as Skidmore College and Global Foundries also employ a good number of immigrants.
Panelist and local business owner Patrick Pipino spoke about the large immigrant work force in the food and restaurant business. “Good people. Hard working people. Why Saratoga? I think it’s easy to pick off people because we’re a high-profile community, and in my opinion there’s a new sheriff in town and he wants to show he’s tough on immigration.” Business owners are required to turn over employment records to federal authorities when asked and when they arrive with warrant in hand. Those detained are held locally in Albany for only a couple of days before being sent to federal detention in Buffalo, which makes timeliness of representation difficult where they can plead their case.
One resource available to anyone with immigration questions is at the New York State Office for New Americans, which is funded by Catholic Charities and offers resources in 200 different languages.
“First it will help refer you to an organization that will provide assistance on any immigrant-related questions. It’s all free and confidential,” New York Department of State’s Laura González-Murphy - who directs the New York State Office for New Americans - said Monday night. “We’re also going to be using that as a resource to connect with legal assistance, for an attorney.” The agency can be reached by phone at 1-800-566-7636. “People who know an immigrant can call, immigrants themselves can call. It’s for anyone who needs assistance,” she said.
“I think there is a humanitarian effort to this, because families are being broken apart in ways we haven’t seen before,” Yepsen said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A project to site a permanent homeless shelter on the city’s west side is being challenged by a group of nearly two dozen people who are taking legal action to halt its development.
Slated to be built on Walworth Street - adjacent to the current Shelters of Saratoga which owns the property, and funded by local business owner Ed Mitzen, and his wife Lisa - the two-story Code Blue structure to house about 50 beds has moved through the city’s Land Use boards and was anticipated to open Nov. 1, in advance of the winter season.
During the past few months, many who have spoken at public hearings in opposition to siting the shelter have delicately tiptoed through a not-in-my-backyard verbalization to urge that a shelter be built elsewhere. The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday against the city Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, claims the project doesn’t fit into the neighborhood.
“The bottom line is it does not meet the definition of a neighborhood rooming house and it doesn’t meet the criteria for a special use permit – those are the two main claims,” said Glens Falls based attorney Claudia Braymer, who is representing those opposed to the chosen location chosen of the project.
“Obviously we want to help people who are homeless – most of my clients have expressed that to me - but it’s a matter of garnering good community support though, in finding the right location for it,” Braymer said.
Last month, city Republican mayoral candidate Mark Baker released a statement to say the shelter proposal “does not adequately respect our neighborhoods and current residents,” and suggested that a city shelter may bring more people in need from outside the community to Saratoga Springs.
Current Democrat City Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who in December 2013 helped spearhead the first temporary emergency shelter in the city, responded that Baker's accusation that the temporary shelter has contributed to the homeless problem was “misinformed, uncompassionate, and just plain mean spirited.”
Siting an emergency shelter at a permanent location has been a high priority following a series of temporary shelter venues that have been staged at St. Peter’s Parish Center, the Salvation Army building and the Soul Saving Station Church.
Officials at Shelters of Saratoga – who currently operate two other buildings on the Walworth Street property as well as a twice-a-week “drop-in” center – say having the Code Blue shelter in close proximity to the case-managed shelters maximizes the opportunity to provide a full continuum of services and more easily connect homeless individuals with the support services they need.
Between 2007 and 2015 homelessness in New York increased by 41 percent, according to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, New York State’s homeless population jumped by 7,660 - the largest increase in the nation for the one-year period.
The average number of overnight guests at the temporary Code Blue shelter this past winter season – 41 per night – was an all-time high. An executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo directs emergency shelters to operate when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
Who: Chuck Vosganian, AKA “Rochmon.”
Where are you from originally?
East Moriches, Long Island. I moved to the Saratoga area 30 years ago.
What’s changed in Saratoga since you’ve been here
A lot has changed in 30 years, but living right in town, being downtown, and being part of this community is really cool. My wife, Karen, teaches at Empire State College and when gets done at 5:30 we’ll take a half-hour, 45 minutes, and just walk around downtown. It’s just a vibrant downtown, there’s a lot to do.
What are you doing today?
Preparing for Rochmon Record Club, which takes place July 18 at Caffe Lena. What that is: one Tuesday a month we’ll get together and talk about a classic record. I do a breakdown about the history of the album, the history of the players, and I talk about the songs, play the songs, show pictures.
What are some of the records you’ve showcased?
David Bowie’s “Young Americans,” Creedence Clearwater’s “Cosmo’s Factory,” Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung,” Led Zeppelin “Houses of the Holy,” are some of them. In August, we’re going to do Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon,” and this month it’s Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” (Tuesday, July 18 at Caffe Lena). I’ve been doing music my whole life. My parents were musicians, I play drums, my son, Matteo, is in the band Wild Adriatic who are touring all over the place, and I’ve always been into the details. Doing this takes me right back to being a little kid sitting on the couch, in the sweet spot in the center the two speakers, holding the album cover and listening to the record.
CD, vinyl, tape - what’s your favorite format?
I love vinyl first. To my way of thinking there’s so much more information in there, you hear more things and it just sounds so much better.
Where did you get your nickname ?
It was a weird thing. Back when we got AOL Instant Messenger, my kids were all picking their aliases, and I picked Rochmon P. Nickname as an alias for myself. I don’t why I came up with it, but for some reason my kids held onto it and started calling me Rochmon.
What do you see in Saratoga’s future?
I would like Saratoga to continue to always be a good walking city. One of the things that makes it so much fun is walking down Broadway from one end of the street to the other. Parking is always going to be an issue; I’m not sure we can ever have enough parking, but just so it stays walking-friendly, so people can come and feel safe and see what there is to be seen. I love the diversity of the retailers on Broadway – I’d like to see a little bit more diversity there as well, but there’s a lot to do off Broadway as well, from Beekman Street all the way down to Congress Park.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city landscape is poised to look a vastly difference place in the near future as a variety of high-profile development projects draw closer to construction approval.
A good number of the projects listed below are in the Land Use Board approval phase and slated to be heard by the city Planning Board this week. A list of upcoming meetings – and in some cases, meeting agenda items - hosted by the Planning Board, Design Review Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as the City Council may be viewed at: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/.
West Avenue Mixed-Use Development
Ten new buildings, a five-story hotel, more than 400 residential units and nearly 30,000 square feet of retail space may soon rise from the rural landscape of the city’s west side, adjacent to the Saratoga Springs train station. A special use permit and a site plan review for the mixed-use development are being sought for the project. Two separate yet adjoining proposals have been submitted.
The Station Park project calls for two buildings to be dedicated as a mixed-use space with each building housing 36 residential units, and a total of 22,000 square feet of retail space. The 72 residential units would be for-sale condominiums. Additional development would include two buildings - each providing 57 units for senior housing and 33 units for senior assisted care, a 110-to-120 unit five-story hotel and spa, a pool and fitness center, and a free-standing building with an additional 6,200 square feet of retail space. Nearly 600 parking spaces would span across the location to cater to residents, retail workers and shoppers.
The second proposal, submitted by the Missouri-based Vecino Group seeks to develop one three-story building and three four-story buildings to stand just east of the Station Park proposal and near the Washington Street post office. The 160 apartment units contained within the proposal seem to fall in “workforce,” or “affordable” housing categories.
Code Blue Emergency Homeless Shelter
A proposed 6,400 square foot emergency homeless shelter is slated to be sited on Walworth Street, adjacent to the Shelters of Saratoga. Most recently, an appeal filed by nearly two dozen residents in opposition to the building of a permanent Code Blue emergency homeless shelter at that location was rejected in a 7-0 vote by the city ZBA. The project is seeking a special use permit for a neighborhood rooming house within the Urban Residential District.
South Broadway/ Saratoga Diner
The long-standing horse atop the Saratoga Diner on South Broadway has been removed for safekeeping and a proposal under consideration would see the demolition of the diner and the development on the three-acre parcel of 110 single and two-bedroom “affordable” apartment units, two floors of commercial space, and a new business incubator collaboratively partnered by Saratoga Economic Development Corporation and Saratoga CoWorks.
It is anticipated new construction will start next spring and the structure operational by the summer of 2019.
The project at the southern gateway to the city would include 46 one-bedroom units and 64 two-bedroom units, 7,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, 4,000 square feet of service establishment space and a 7,500 square-foot food beverage or brew pub, which will act as a visible anchor on South Broadway. Streetscape improvements will include street lamps, landscaping, and a total of 273 parking spaces for resident and commercial parking uses. The second floor will house 17,000 square feet of commercial space where two new tenants are expected to join SEDC’s 10,000 square foot “incubator,” a flexible co-working space to be inhabited by a rotating group of entrepreneurs and early-stage growth business teams.
Universal Preservation Hall Renovation
The historic building on Washington Street, constructed in 1871, is seeking a site plan approval. Plans call for UPH to close for renovations this fall and re-open one year later as an acoustically perfect theater-in-the-round showcase that will hold about 750 people.
Henry Street Condominiums
Preliminary plans call for the development of a five-story condominium building to house 30 units with 70 total bedrooms to be located at 120 Henry St., on subdivided land adjacent to the Four Seasons market.
Pink Palace Goes Condo
The Skidmore College dormitory commonly referred to as the “pink palace” has been demolished and the construction of The Residences on Union Avenue is in full swing. The five-building residential property with on-site parking will feature one, two and three-bedroom residences priced from $689,900 to $895,500 and are planned for occupancy by March 2018.
The Adelphi Hotel
“We aren’t just a hotel. We’re going for an upscale first-class hotel experience that currently doesn’t exist in Saratoga Springs,” Toby Mildé, president of Richbell Capital and RBC Construction said last November.
Richbell Capital purchased the building in 2012 for $4.5 million, and early renovations estimates ranged from $6 to $7 million. Five years later, that restoration cost is now about $30 million – offset by the use of state and federal rehabilitation credits. The date targeting the re-opening of the renovated 32-room luxury boutique hotel on Broadway has been delayed numerous times. The most recently scheduled opening was set for July 1, but this week laborers continued to work on the project.
Mildé could not be reached for comment. The July 10 issue of the Albany Business Review quoted Mildé as saying he anticipated opening the doors of the historic hotel during the second week of August.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Jorma Kaukonen stepped into the sunlight and rode an E chord for all it was worth:
“Down in the mine,
circled ‘round the diamond,
Serpent of your expectations,
Sleeps a nervous dream…”
Electric Hot Tuna – these days a power trio led by longtime bandmates Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, and aided amply by the grounding beats of drummer Justin Gulp, came to Saratoga July 3 and staged a show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in support of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and the Wood Brothers.
Hot Tuna delivered a seven-song, 45-minute set that came full circle, commencing with “Serpent of Dreams” and concluding with “Hit Single #1” – adjacent vinyl tracks on the band’s 1975 album “America’s Choice.”
It was 49 years, nearly to the day, when Kaukonen and Casady graced the front cover of Life Magazine beneath the headline: “Music That’s Hooked The Whole Vibrating World.” Perhaps best known for their respective roles in helping create the Jefferson Airplane’s signature sound – try imagining songs like “White Rabbit” sans Casady’s "Bolero" bass, or “Somebody To Love” and “Lather” without Kaukonen’s soaring guitaristry - the Hot Tuna duo has done well in creating their own legacy during the past 45-plus years, alternating between the moody electric wailing of Kaukonen’s wheezing guitar and elaborate acoustic fingerpickings, and Casady’s melody bass. Add to that hipping an entire generation of guitar players to the music of Robert Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmy Reed and Rev. Gary Davis.
Much of that legacy was on full display at SPAC, where the band’s set began with a pair of acoustic numbers and took off in earnest when Kaukonen strapped on his electric Firebird that bent through the wave of a Wah-Wah flange and delivered a string-bending swoon of vintage psychedelia, blown in on a breeze from the west coast of America.
The three-piece ensemble allows ample space for each instrument to be well-defined by the human ear, and as Kaukonen displayed a mental fixation on his fretboard delivering his searing notes, Casady plunked, boomed, slid and slapped out the low tones on his Wine Red hollow-body bass, his undulating eyebrows rising and falling with the plonk of the beat.
“The last time I remember that Jack and I were here was in ’89 on the (Jefferson) Airplane reunion tour,” announced Kaukonen, a black Harley T-shirt clinging to his 76-year-old frame. Truth be told, the band had been here with The Further Festival in the late ‘90s and on a bill with the Allman Brothers in 2000, but no one seemed to mind the historical misstep inside the amphitheater and out on the summer lawn where fans of the music swooned and grooved, transported to some heavenly place in a world of song.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - City police have issued the following travel advisories for July 4:
Firecracker 4: The race starts at 9 a.m. at Broadway at Ellsworth Jones.
The road closures will start with Broadway (Van Dam Street to Lake Ave) at 8:30 am. At about 8:50 am all of Broadway (Van Dam Street to Circular Street) will be closed. This should be until about 9:15 am. In addition, once the race has started, Excelsior Springs Ave, Excelsior Ave (from Veteran’s Way to High Rock), Maple Ave (High Rock to Lake Ave), and East Ave (Lake Ave to Rte 50) will be closed to accommodate runners. This will last from about 9 am until about 10:30 am. Lake Avenue traffic (both ways) in the area of Salem Drive can also expect delays during the race.
½ Mile Race & All- American Parade: Broadway, from Van Dam Street to Circular Street, will close at 10:45 am until about noon.
No traffic will be permitted on Broadway during that time frame. Travelers will find side streets intersecting Broadway in the affected area closed off. Minimal crossing will be allowed at the Lake Avenue/ Church Street intersection of Broadway, however travelers should expect delays there as well.
CDTA bus stops along Broadway will not be accessible.
Fireworks in Congress Park: Fireworks are slated to go off about 9:15 pm.
Spring Street (Circular to Broadway) and Putnam Street (Phila Street to Spring Street) will be closed from 6 pm until about 11 pm. The Spring Street parking lot will not be available for parking all day long.
WILTON – It is a weekday morning inside the Wilton Mall. Wedged between one shop that sports women’s summer fashions and another displaying torn men’s jeans, a series of piano rolls tumble into the hallway from behind the blackened windows of an abandoned retail space,
Inside the space where the piano melody flows, The Moll – portrayed by Ginger Costa-Jackson - and Bugs – played by Andy Papas - are rehearsing the opening scene of the controversial 1937 opera “The Cradle Will Rock.”
”I’d like to give you a hun-dred bucks, but I only got thir-tee cents,” Bugs proclaims in a speak-song voice, hoisting a cigar to his mouth beneath a brim-backwards baseball cap that rests atop his head.
“Make it a dollar,” sings The Moll, tugging at the fringes of her black shawl. There is no negotiating.
“That’s all I got. Thirty cents,” Bugs replies. Lawrence Edelson, the director, interrupts the scene.
“There needs to be more of a beat. There. Punctuation marks!” he says. A half-dozen or so others in the cavernous room fiddle with scripts, binders, the musical score. Rows of empty store shelves give off a yellow hue. A pair of benches sit in the middle of a floor spiked for blocking. Someone strikes the keys of the standup piano, and Bugs and The Moll begin again.
“That’s so much better,” Edelson says, finally pleased the scene is played to perfection. “Burning with tension!”
The show, “The Cradle Will Rock,” opens July 9 at the Spa Little Theater in the Saratoga Spa State Park. It is a piece that has historical implications.
“It’s remarkably timely considering it was written 80 years ago. It could have been written yesterday and you’d never know it,” says Edelson, matter-of-factly. “It speaks to contemporary audiences on its own terms in a vibrant way.”
Trained as a singer and having professionally performed as a dancer, this summer marks Edelson’s third as artistic and general director for Opera Saratoga. Edelson chooses the repertoire, puts all the production teams and the casting together, chooses the directors and conductors and casts all the singers. Opera Saratoga’s summer season – which opens this weekend - features performances of “Falstaff,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and Marc Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” – the latter which Edelson is personally directing and choreographing.
“It’s about a wealthy businessman who is buying his way up in society. He is buying off the church, he is buying off the newspaper, buying off the university and the hospital, buying off all these different parts of society for his own gain. At the same time, he’s fighting the unions. And when you look at the headlines today…”
Edelson resists the temptation that was engaged by his theatrical peers at The Public Theater in New York City, whose current staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” portrays a very modern-day character resembling Donald Trump.
“The main character, Mr. Mister, one could easily tie him into a Trumpian character. But, that’s not the approach I’m taking. My job as a director is to present the story and the music to the best of my abilities the way the authors intended it,” Edelson explains. As is, the piece set in Steeltown U.S.A. drew controversy all its own when it premiered in pre-World War II America when its pro-union plot was feared as being too radical.
“It was actually shut down by the government on its opening night in 1937. The government had locked up the theater with all the costumes and the orchestral parts which they couldn’t get out. Orson Welles was the original director and John Houseman the producer. They rented a piano and moved it north 20 blocks and put it on a stage,” Edelson said.
“In an incredibly ironic act, the actors’ union forbid the performers from performing onstage - in a show that was pro-union! So Blitzstein started to play the piece on the piano onstage, to sing through it himself. What was extraordinary was the members of the cast sitting in the audience rose up one-by-one and started to perform from their seats. It became one of the most legendary evenings in all of music theater history.”
Controversy aside, the artistic result is that the original orchestration created by Marc Blitzstein – a frequent resident of the Yaddo arts colony in Saratoga Springs – is often neglected and almost always presented with just a piano.
“It only been performed twice with Blitzstein’s original orchestration. It has been 57 years since this piece has been done anywhere in the world the way Blitzstein intended. It’s really going to be a historically significant event for Saratoga Springs,” Edelson said. “And I think this cast is quite extraordinary. I don’t know if the piece has ever been sung this well before, quite frankly. I think audiences are going to be electrified by what they hear onstage.”
“The Cradle Will Rock,” with music, book and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein will be staged 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 9, 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 11, 7:30 p.m. Thursday July 13 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.
“I don’t think about opera in a bubble. For me, opera is this amazing synthesis of the arts. as much theater as it is music and visual arts and dance, and for me that’s what makes opera exciting,” Edelson said. “We do one opera every year that is a masterpiece from the classical repertoire. This year that is ‘Falstaff’ – one of the greatest operas ever written. I think audiences whose tastes lean towards traditional opera are really going to love this but it’s also a great comic piece and a great introduction to opera. It’s one of the pieces you just laugh out loud at.” “Falstaff,” with music by Giuseppe Verdi and libretto by Arrigo Boito will be staged by Saratoga Opera on July 1, 6, 10 and 15.
“We’ve also been doing works that incorporate dance and movement – this being such a city that has an appreciation in dance. Last year we did the Philip Glass piece, ‘The Witches of Venice.’ This year we’ll be doing a piece by André Grétry, who was a Belgian composer. I chose it because it has dance and movement in it and it’s also a fairy tale which people know the story of. It’s a great introduction to opera for family audiences and a great way to introduce kids to opera. This particular production incorporates a lot of puppetry, which is a new element, something we haven’t done before.”
“Beauty and The Beast,” with music by André Grétry, libretto by Jean Francois Marmontel, will be staged July 2, 8 and 14. For tickets and more information of Opera Saratoga’s summer festival season, , go to: http://www.operasaratoga.org/.
Officials Provide Update of Three City “Workforce Housing” Projects
Saratoga Springs' Mayor Joanne Yepsen, County Chamber President Todd Shimkus and the city's Housing Task Force, led by Cheryl Hage-Perez, held a press conference Tuesday to provide an update regarding three “site-specific” workforce housing proposals in the city. The three projects, independent of one another, symbolize a starting point in addressing affordable housing needs for area residents who work in the city but are unable to secure housing within its borders.
The three workforce housing solutions are slated to be developed at: South Broadway on the site currently occupied by the Saratoga Diner (110 to 120 one and two-bedroom rental units); on vacant land adjacent to the rail station on West Avenue (120 units), and in a new building adjacent to the Stonequist Apartments on South Federal street (158 units).
The first two projects are currently being evaluated by the city’s Land Use boards. As proposed, the apartments will be offered to workers whose households earn approximately $36,000 to $80,000 annually.
It is important to note these are not low-income households, nor are they related to the “Inclusionary Zoning” or “SPA Housing Ordinance” currently being debated, which if approved would site “affordable” workforce apartments in all new developments citywide.
Code Blue Emergency Homeless Shelter Maintains Forward Track
An appeal filed by nearly two dozen residents in opposition to the building of a permanent Code Blue emergency homeless shelter on the city’s west side was rejected in a 7-0 vote by the city ZBA Monday night, in an overcrowded City Hall chamber attended by more than 70 people.
The proposed 6,400 square foot facility is slated to be sited on Walworth Street adjacent to the Shelters of Saratoga – which offers case management services, service referrals and resources and other programs to individuals who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness, since 1991. The project is believed to next be headed to the city Planning Board, which meets on July 13.
Voters to Decide on a New Form of Governing Nov. 7
The Charter Review Commission passed a resolution by an 11-2 vote at the Saratoga Music Hall Tuesday night, approving the final version of a Charter and proposing an alternative form of government.
Since its inception in 1915, the city has operated under a “commission” form of governing, comprised of four commissioners and one mayor each running separate departments and all having equal say. After 13 months of deliberation, the Commission concluded that a council-manager form of government would better serve the city. Voters will have their say at the polls on Nov. 7.
The proposal calls for a new City Council comprised of seven members, including the mayor, and the establishment of a professional City Manager to consolidate the city's administrative functions.
Tuesday night, the Commission adopted a handful of amendments to its draft plan. Among them is the suggested compensation of the mayor - an annual salary of $40,000 plus health and medical insurance coverage under the city’s plan – and the six other council members, stipulated as $14,500 annually with the option to purchase into the city medical at their own expense. Compensation would not be extended beyond the elected terms of any of the seven council members – each of whom must reside in the city.
"In our research, interviews and deliberations, we found that great benefit will come from consolidating the administration of city government under one professional manager, and giving the elected City Council powers of oversight, leadership, fiscal control and policy," said Commission Chairman Bob Turner.
July Paving Schedule
The following city roads will be under construction in July, according to the department of public works: Franklin Street - Washington Street to Division Street, mill Monday July 10 and pave Wednesday, July 12; Division Street - Clinton Street to Beekman Street, mill Tuesday, July 11 and pave Thursday, July 13; Pearl Street – van Dorn Street to Seward Street, mill Tuesday, July 11 and pave Thursday, July 13; pave Cobb Alley – Beekman Street to So. Franklin Street pave Wednesday, July 12.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - City Republican mayoral candidate Mark Baker released a statement Monday in advance of tonight’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting (7 p.m. at City Hall) where a discussion will be held regarding the proposed 61-bed homeless shelter on the city's west side.
In the statement, Baker says the current proposal “is not sufficient” in serving the homeless, and that “it does not adequately respect our neighborhoods and current residents,” suggesting that a city shelter may bring in more people in need from outside the community.
“As a community we have a moral obligation and responsibility to show compassion and to be responsive to those already in our city who are in need and homeless,” says Baker, adding the shelter “may in fact create an even greater need, by attracting additional folks in need to the community versus Saratoga Springs embracing those who are in the city already needing a helping hand.”
While no alternative plan is offered, Baker says, “I am personally committed to finding a solution to this issue.”
Current Democrat Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who is not running for re-election, issued a response to Baker’s statements late Monday, which read, in part: “Mr. Baker's accusation that the Mayor's office, along with the many volunteers who have helped and donated to Code Blue since I have taken office, have somehow contributed to the homeless problem is misinformed, uncompassionate, and just plain mean spirited.”
Baker's statement, in its entirety, immediately follows. Yepsen's statement, in its entirety, follows below.
Candidate Mark Baker:
“I trust and expect the Saratoga Springs Zoning Broad will be realistic and objective when they evaluate the merits and challenges of approving a "Code Blue" facility in the heart of one of Saratoga Springs’ historic and most densely populated residential areas.
“As a community we have a moral obligation and responsibility to show compassion and to be responsive to those already in our city who are in need and homeless, especially children. I am personally committed to finding a solution to this issue that is sensitive to those in need but is also responsible to our neighborhoods, schools and residents.
“The first step in finding a resolution and mutually acceptable solution is for city leaders, particularly the mayor, to listen and gather public input and guidance.
“The current proposal before the Zoning Board is not sufficient in how it will serve the homeless and it does not adequately respect our neighborhoods and current residents. A better solution needs to be investigated.
“It may, in fact, create an even greater need, by attracting additional folks in need to the community versus Saratoga Springs embracing those who are in the city already needing a helping hand.
“The past approach to these pressing questions and lack of public input, planning and thoughtfulness from the mayor’s office has led to real community problems of vagrancy, aggressive panhandling and encouraging the presence of homeless individuals downtown. In a tourist destination city, with a vibrant downtown residential community, these are problems for tourism, downtown business and public safety management of our community.
“The goal is to be responsive and compassionate to those who are homeless. The solution needs to be respectful and realistic. The current Zoning Board proposal is not the ‘best practice’ approach to addressing the question of how to help people to find shelter.”
Mayor Joanne Yepsen:
"Immediately after Nancy Pitts died on the winter streets of Saratoga Springs in December 2013 and before I was even sworn in as Mayor, I established Code Blue Saratoga with the help of many non-profits in our City stating, never would we allow anyone to die on the streets of Saratoga Springs due to exposure, under my administration. Since then, we have ended Veterans Homelessness with permanent housing and we are offering emergency shelter under the Code Blue Program. 95 % of Code Blue Saratoga guests are Saratogians. They are homeless, and in our community already and many are just temporarily down on their luck and need a helping hand. Not only does Code Blue save lives, but the guests are also receiving much needed support and services that they might not get otherwise. In fact, the Code Blue program is so successful that over 1/3 of all guests over the past few years have "graduated" and no longer need the emergency shelter.
“Since taking office, the Mayor's office has collaborated with the Chamber of Commerce, Shelters of Saratoga, neighborhoods, non-profits, places of worship, attended community meetings, and hosted countless meetings in my office with all who wanted to meet, discuss options, and help contribute to the solution. We even started a Code Blue Steering Committee made up of the community to work with me and Shelters throughout the program's existence. Wellspring, Giving Circle, Captain, Community Healthcare, Catholic Charities, EOC are all on board and have been involved since the beginning. This is a community collaboration.
“Since that snowy Christmas Eve in 2013 when we first opened our doors, a volunteer program organically developed of hundreds of caring and generous individuals and now have the added generosity of Ed and Lisa Mitzen. The leadership of Code Blue Saratoga is well-established and under the highly regarded and successful non-profit Shelters of Saratoga, which offered to oversee a solution to keep people from living off the streets, otherwise it's back on the streets for homeless.
“After much input, debate, and conversations, the question becomes very simple: "What kind of community do we want to be?" Do we want to be the kind of City that allows our most disadvantaged people to die on the streets? Or do we want to be the kind of City who come together, who collectively advocate and fund raise, who strategize and think through together as a community how to best approach our homeless issue both in the short term as well as the long term.
“Mr. Baker's accusation that the Mayor's office, along with the many volunteers who have helped and donated to Code Blue since I have taken office, have somehow contributed to the homeless problem is misinformed, uncompassionate, and just plain mean spirited. Based on Mark Baker's naive position, many will guess he's never attended a Code Blue Steering Committee meeting or volunteered in the shelter, as so many Saratogians have done. I would guess the question on many readers minds would be what has he done in the last four years to offer a solution or be a part of the conversation? He really ought to be ashamed of himself. I understand he is operating in campaign mode, we are trying to save lives here."