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By Megan Irene Kretz

For Saratoga TODAY 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – It takes a special (some might even say crazy…) person to wake up early on a holiday morning and voluntarily slog through four miles in the mid-Summer humidity. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person who thought this might be a good idea. As I sidled up to the start line on the morning of July 4th, several thousand other runners joined me. As a recent transplant to the Saratoga Springs area, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to the running community. I knew the high school teams were of national caliber, but I wasn’t sure if that talent translated into interest for the rest of the population. 

 

Fortunately, as race day drew closer, it became clear that Saratoga Springs is a city for runners of all ages. I found myself pleasantly surprised and impressed with the Firecracker4 race organizers. From the streamlined bib pick-up to the dozens of vendor tents on race morning, it was obvious that this was not your usual small town race. The race featured electronic bib timing, goodie bags chock full of freebies and samples and frequent email communication. My only complaint was that the race did not have a starting mat or net chip timing. This means that your race time began when the gun went off, not when you actually crossed the starting line. Despite this minor gripe, I thought the race was otherwise executed superbly.

 

In February when I signed up for the Firecracker4, I barely gave it much thought. I ran competitively in college and I’m no stranger to the marathon distance, so four miles should be a piece of cake, right? I should know better. Unfortunately, a shorter race distance doesn’t guarantee a lack of nervousness or an easy effort. As the national anthem was sung and opening remarks were made, the crowd began anxiously pressing toward the start line. I looked around at my fellow competitors, many of them whippet thin and decked out in the latest running gear, and found myself second-questioning my training. Did I run enough miles? Have I done enough hill work? Did I really need that second glass of sangria last night? Despite being a runner for nearly fifteen years, that starting line nervousness never seems to ebb. Fortunately, the gun went off just a few minutes after 9 o’clock and my nerves vanished as adrenaline carried me across the starting line.

 

The beginning mile took us south on Broadway, familiar territory even for a new resident like myself. The terrain was flat and the crowd’s energy was contagious. Before I knew it, I was cruising past the first mile marker in 7:15. Shortly after the turn on to Caroline Street, I began noticing the spectators lining the streets. Some sprayed us with hoses (heaven on a warm July morning), some sipped mimosas (this seemed both cruel and wonderful at the same time) and others held signs and yelled encouraging words. If you ever want to feel like you’re part of a community, sign up for a local race. Perfect strangers will wake up early, hand you water, and tell you you’re awesome.  If that’s not worth the twenty-five dollar entry fee, I don’t know what is. 

 

Alas, despite the strong crowd support, I started to feel the hurt around mile two. I wasn’t running particularly fast, but a few months of low mileage and the morning’s humidity were catching up with me. Just past mile three, we faced a steep incline. I knew the last mile included a hill, but what seemed to be a small bump in my car, felt like Mount Everest to my burning legs. 

 

As I approached the crest of the hill, I spotted Saratoga TODAY’s photographer Francesco and did my best to look like I was having fun. From there, it was less than a half-mile and downhill to the finish. I bypassed the volunteers handing out popsicles (but, oh, how I wanted one….) and sprinted toward the finish line. My final time was 29:27, a few minutes slower than my PR (personal record), but an effort I’m content with. I wobbled through the finish area and meandered through the crowd of runners and for the first time in months, I felt like I belonged. To the city of Saratoga Springs, of course, but also to the thriving running community that calls these streets and trails home.  As I drove back to my apartment, I was already scheming and thinking about the next race or group run that I could add to my calendar. 

 

This year marked the eight annual running of the Firecracker4, for results and information on next year’s race, visit firecracker4.com

Friday, 11 July 2014 10:23

A Star Is Made – By Hard Work!

Local Actress Julie Davis’ Career Is Poised To Take Off

NISKAYUNA—If you see local Actress Julie Davis at any of the benefits or galas up here this summer, you can start a conversation with her by asking what P. Diddy is really like. Or Anjelica Huston. Or even William Jefferson Clinton for that matter. 

 

But if you want to show her that you are up on current events, ask her about Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton or Rob Reiner. For if all goes well, Julie will be sharing the silver screen with these Hollywood luminaries in a new movie titled “And So It Goes,” which is scheduled for worldwide release next Friday, July 18 after its New York/Hollywood premieres two nights earlier. 

 

Pretty heady stuff, yet Julie won’t celebrate until she sees the final cut. 

 

“It’s interesting,” she said. “You get paid a per diem for the day’s work whether they use you in the final edit or not. With television, they pretty much use everything they shoot.” So there will probably be a little bit of butterflies fluttering in a regional Bowtie next Friday. 

 

“I’m pretty confident though.” Julie noted, “while I didn’t see myself in the trailer, I did see a few snippets of the scene I shot.” So keep your fingers crossed. 

 

Her scene in “And So It Goes” was shot on location in Westport, CT and the Rob Reiner produced/directed film plot centers around a curmudgeon eccentric realtor (Douglas) and the mayhem that happens around a real estate office. Julie plays one of the agents. To view the trailer, visit youtube.com/watch?v=QHFkp5IpKNo 

 

Following this film’s release, Julie’s got a few other exciting projects in the works. You can be sure to see her in an upcoming episode of the recently released HBO series The Leftovers. She is in episode number 10, which is already in the can, and due to debut at the end of August. Also, “I’m also looking forward to being in a 2015 movie, Sleeping With Other People, an R-rated comedywhich stars Jason Sudeikis.” Julie said.

 

Julie has been acting professionally since graduation from Niskayuna High School and has been a member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors GuildAmerican Federation of Television and Radio Artists) for nine years. This, by the way, is not something you just join like AAA. “Your (acting) credits earn you credits towards your membership.” She said. “Of course, like any union, they take a percentage of your income, but that percentage is based on earnings. Overall, it’s a fair trade-off, because your membership gives you access to really great acting classes and workshops.” Not to mention, members only events where networking is key.

 

Her credit list includes roles in TV series like Gossip Girl and several branches of the Law and Order tree; movies like Salt and Life of Crime. I asked her about live performances such as on stage.

 

“Obviously, I like the option of having a few takes.” She said. “But this is probably something I should explore, getting a little bit out of my comfort zone.” 

 

But don’t ask her to sing, on stage, film, anywhere. “Oh, no!” Julie said, with a laugh. “That would not be a good idea at all!”

 

It’s important to note that all these roles to date have been secured primarily with self-management, referrals and good old-fashioned hustle. “An agent can have hundreds of clients, so it’s important that you take care of business yourself.” Julie noted, and “In the modern era, with Skype, video and the Internet, you can audition from anywhere, and I’m happy that I still can live in this area. It’s would be helpful to be located in NYC or Hollywood, and in fact I stay with friends 1-2 days a week in the New York metro area. But that’s more for access and networking than formal auditioning per se`.”

 

Her short-term goals include netting a recurring role in a TV series and Julie said she would enjoy doing more commercials. 

 

That makes sense here. Julie would be a great spokesperson for any company wanting a professional image, as she is a fine representative of our region’s rich talent pool.

 

Aspiring Saratoga Children’s Theatre actress Sarah Bolles contributed questions for this article. To read Julie E. Davis’ IMDb biography, visit imdb.com/name/nm4112874/ 

Thursday, 03 July 2014 14:04

Go Fourth And Party!

Saratoga’s All-American Celebration: Three Days of “Happy Birthday USA” 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – What makes a great Fourth of July? 

 

Whatever your answer, Saratoga’s All-American Celebration has you covered. There’s so much to do, it’s hard to fathom how you will get to it all. Fortunately, the organizers have centralized the activities, primarily in and around Congress Park and along Broadway from Van Dam Street to the Holiday Inn. 

 

The exception to this, of course, is the Firecracker4 road race, which by its nature will be all over the place. See a preview article about the race on page 28.

 

So, what are your key ingredients to a great Fourth?

 

Fireworks? There’s no more magically incendiary name in these parts than Alonzo, who will be blasting off on schedule at 9:30 p.m., accompanied by full John Phillip Sousa soundtrack regalia.

 

Food? The Seventh-Annual All-American BBQ & Dessert Fest will sport no less than 17 participants (plus two doggie-Q vendors) competing for your culinary affection (and votes).

 

Music? How about the best in the business at the top of their game? That would be The Audiostars, ladies and gents.

 

History? Publisher Beatty’s favorite subject (see page 8) is covered in spades. From General Burgoyne and a Declaration of Independence reading, from gangsters to classic cars to historical tours, ours is a town that always looks back as a springboard to looking forward.

 

Here’s a wild card: How about no tax dollars spent? Yes, kudos to Saratoga’s All-American Celebration, Inc. It is an independent, non-profit 501(c)3 organization composed entirely of volunteers; dedicated to bringing family fun and patriotic pride to residents and visitors. They proudly state in their mission statement that they are not affiliated with nor funded by the City of Saratoga Springs.

 

Now that’s a category of independence we can all get behind. So happy birthday USA! Here’s the schedule of events. Detailed descriptions, map and more information is at SaratogaJuly4th.com.

 

Schedule of Events

Thursday, July 3

 

Saratoga Springs History Museum Exhibit Grand Opening  "Vice"

6 to 8 p.m.

Canfield Casino, Congress Park

 

Fireside Chat with “General Burgoyne”

Thursday, July 3

7 to 8 p.m.

Bookmaker’s Fireplace Patio at the Holiday Inn

 

Friday, July 4

 

Firecracker4 Road Race

(See page 28 for preview)

9 to 10:30 a.m.

Broadway in front of the City Center

 

All-American Parade & Patriotic Pooches

11 to 11:30 a.m.

Broadway from Van Dam Street to Spring Street

 

Family Day in Congress Park

11a.m. to 3 p.m.

Congress Park

 

Parade Characters Family Photo-Op

11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Congress Park at the Carousel

 

Seventh-Annual All-American BBQ & Dessert Fest

11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Various locations throughout downtown and outside the Holiday Inn

 

Each tasting is $1, paid to each participant on location.  

 

Vote for your favorites and get a commemorative T-Shirt for only $10 when you turn in your stamped ballot at the Ballot Turn-in Tent in Congress Park.


Participants:

Around the Corner/Dolce Cafe

Grasso's Italian Ice

Park Side Eatery

Backstretch BBQ

Hampton Inn & Suites Saratoga

The Parting Glass

Bookmakers at the Holiday Inn

Hattie’s

Plum Dandy Cookies & Milk

Henry Street Taproom

Saratoga Olive Oil Company

Fifty South Restaurant

Saratoga Salsa & Spice Company

Gaffney's

Kilwins

Seven Horse Pub

The Merry Monk

Dawgdom  (Doggie BBQ)

Impressions (Doggie BBQ)

 

All-American Classic Car Show

Noon to 4 p.m.

Congress Park Plaza

 

Historic City Tour

Congress Park: Statues and Stories

1:00pm to 2:30pm

Meet at the Congress Spring Pavilion in Congress Park

 

Family Time in Saratoga

4 to 6:30 p.m.

 

Party in the Park

with the Audiostars

6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Congress Park

 

Live Reading of the Declaration of Independence

9:15 p.m.

Congress Park

 

Fireworks / Patriotic Music

Sponsored by

Saratoga Casino & Raceway

9:30 p.m.

Congress Park

 

Saturday, July 5

Closing Ceremony 

BBQ & Dessert Fest Winners

Awards Presentation 

Noon

Congress Park

 

Thursday, 03 July 2014 13:49

At The Top Of The Spinning Cycle

Saratoga Cycling Studio Has Many Options For A Healthier You

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Jerry and Angela Amedio have a brand-new 1-month-old they are dying to show off to you! 

 

Yes, behold their new, cheerful (complete with a festive purple color scheme and an in-studio mirrored disco ball), expanded location at 422 Broadway. The Saratoga Cycling Studio (SCS) is Saratoga Springs only official Spinning® facility – originally established at 24 Hamilton Street in 2012. 

 

In addition to extra cycles, the new studio has, or is moving in equipment to deliver a variety of workout options, including:

 

- One hour spinning: Where an instructor guides you, but where you go at your own pace and resistance

TRX suspension trainer: A workout system that leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform hundreds of exercises

- Yoga

- Powerhouse spin: 45 minutes on a bike combined with floor exercises 

- Spin fit total body: 30 minutes on the bike and 30 minutes off the bike with exercises that incorporate weights, bands and balls

 

And there are other combinations and class offerings as well. See saratogacyclingstudio.com/class-descriptions for all the options. 

 

In just their first month since opening the new facility and due to increased demand, Angela reports that she has hired four new instructors since we sat down for this interview just three days earlier! So the instructors page on the website will have to be updated, but the current roster as is includes some highly credentialed local fitness professionals including: Brie Cramer, Diane Ryan, Gail Picillo, Jennifer Giuttari, Laura Newell, Lyndsay Meilleur and MacKenzie Liptak – in addition to Jerry and Angela themselves. 

 

Angela is about to enter some rarified company. She recently returned from Miami where she took classes and is now classified as a Spinning® Master Instructor Candidate. “I still have one more thing to complete, but I’m almost there!” She said. “Hopefully, I’ll be training the trainers by this fall.”

 

To give you an idea what this means, when certified, Angela will be just one of only 150 Master Instructors in the world! Not bad for someone who says on her bio that “ten years ago I found myself signed up for my first cycling class. I snuck into the back corner and was scared to death!”

 

By comparison, Angela estimated that there were perhaps 200,000 certified instructors worldwide – one of who is her husband (of six years) Jerry, who is also a local attorney. Interestingly, Angela is a paralegal who helps in the office, making this a family affair times two.

 

The modern equipment of the Saratoga Cycling Studio is complimented by their website’s online reservation and payment system. “While walk-ins are available when there is space, the best way to assure your spot in one of the more popular classes is to reserve it,” Angela advises. 

 

The studio is running some special programs in concert with their new location. For individuals, if you buy a summer unlimited monthly program (at $69.99/month) you will get an extra week free. For businesses, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce has named SCS a “Healthy Saratoga Initiative Ambassador,” and there are sliding scale discounts for chamber members depending on the number of employees in a given firm. Discounts are also available for sports teams and other groups.

 

Also, the low-impact aspects of much of SCS’s workouts make it ideal for physical therapy and rehabilitation applications. “We are also able to verify for insurance purposes,” Angela said, so this may be covered depending on your policy. 

 

On the horizon for SCS is the official grand opening, which we’ll be happy to announce, as well as a schedule of – wait for it – rooftop workouts on top of the beautiful Washington building!

 

Can you say photo op?

 

Saratoga Cycling Studio

422 Broadway, Suite 3

Saratoga Springs

Priority Reservations: SaratogaCyclingStudio.com

Friday, 27 June 2014 17:28

A ‘Fresh’ Look For Bo

SARATOGA SPRINGS – ‘Fresh,’ a classic jazz standards trio with a repertoire that is spiced up with sultry blues and soulful vocals, will be returning for their second appearance at the Crown Grill (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs) next Wednesday, July 2. 

 

Their first gig, on Wednesday, June 4, wowed those in attendance to such an extent that the owners have established them in a first Wednesday residency slot.

 

 “Colin and I are huge music fans and we love Jazz. When we heard the renditions that Bo Goliber and Fresh did of songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall and other classic Jazz greats; we knew they were a perfect fit for The Crown Grill. Their vibe perfectly matches the ambience of The Crown. We are thrilled to have them on the first Wednesday of each month as well as for special events,” says Christel MacLean, co-owner of The Crown Grill.

 

The band is composed of Tommy Miller on Guitar, Joe Lattanzio on piano and “one-person horn section” – I kid you not – and is fronted by the vocal power and elegance of one Bo Goliber. 

“I am happy to gush over these guys,” Bo says of her band mates. “They are veterans of so many big bands and, having played together for over 20 years, they read each other’s minds musically.”

 

The professionalism of Tommy and Joe recognizes that while they are going to get plenty of chances to be in the spotlight in the course of the evening, it is the singer in these combos that is called lead singer for a reason. 

 

And, in Bo, they’ve got a triple threat. 

 

- First, as a devoted supermom and wife, who also found time to gather this year’s “Spirit Award” for her efforts as part of her recent 10-week LLS (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society campaign.

 

- Second, she works full-time as a “Heavy Hitter” (they are too cool for school with the titles there – so this is one I gave her) in Community Relations and Philanthropy for Fingerpaint Marketing, across Broadway from the Crown Grill. So, if you see someone flying out of Fingerpaint’s office at 6:57 p.m., crossing Broadway while warming up her voice doing scales, you’ll have a good idea who that is. 

 

Third, she has the musical background: singing at church weddings, classical voice training since her pre-teen years, as well as bands throughout college. “Those periods where I wasn’t singing, I truly missed it. It becomes part of your soul.” Bo said. 

 

“I love this band, and the idea that none of us really want to play more than maybe twice a month,” Bo says. “I don’t have the time and the guys want to enjoy their well-deserved free time.”

 

With a wide playlist to choose from, the band will be, well, ‘Fresh’ each time you see them. But there are some staples: expect to hear Summertime, A Change is Gonna Come and Fever (where Joe gets to do his human horn section thing).

 

So Bo knows a lot. But what Bo knows best is gratitude. She’s a confident woman at the top of her game on several levels, but thankful for her family, teammates and friends. “It’s great to be able to share and receive feedback.” She said. 

 

Which it’s why she’s so easy to root for. In this section of the paper, you get chances to tout the reader to something that is going to be a ‘thing’ – a place to be – and give it a wider showcase. 

 

They are all-too-rare - but this is one of them. 

 

Recommended without reservation. Though I do recommend you MAKE a reservation (see below). 

 

Here’s an idea: take that cute guy or gal jazz-lover who you are no doubt about to meet this weekend at SPAC and score some points because you now know Bo! I think I’ll leave it there.

 

The Crown Grill’s phone number is (518) 583- 1105. For more information about ‘Fresh’ visit facebook.com/freshbandcapitalregion

 

‘Fresh’

Wednesdays, July 2 

and August 6

7-10 p.m.

The Crown Grill at Circus Cafe  

390 Broadway - Saratoga Springs 

crowngrillsaratoga.com

Friday, 27 June 2014 17:05

Putnam Den: Alive at Five!

Ain’t No Jive… They’ve Done More Than Survive 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Any business that makes it to five years deserves props. But in the music business, you have to count it like it’s dog years. 

 

Suffice to say, Putnam Den (63A Putnam Street, Saratoga Springs), has in five short years, established something that was not seen in this town in, well maybe, forever. 

 

A music venue where the emphasis is on original artists. 

 

Notice that we did not state a genre. Putnam Den welcomes them all – from rock to reggae (and yes, even hip-hop sometimes). Notice further that we said artists, not just musicians – Co-owners Tiffany and Jonathan Albert have welcomed painters, poets and probably Papier-mâché practitioners inside their roomy, comfy confines. 

 

“There’s still a lot of misconceptions about what we do,” Tiffany said. “People think we’re a dance club, a hippie club, a this club, a that. They think we’re only a high-cover price venue, when in fact on those nights we have a national touring act the ticket price goes to the band. We have a very-high percentage of absolutely free shows.” 

 

Putnam Den is impossible to pigeonhole, and that’s by design. An example of a superior original free show series would be beginning on July 9, when Gubbulidis, a duo from Castleton, VT that featuring members from Twiddle Zdenek Gubb and Mihali Savoulidis establish a Wednesday residency throughout the summer. During track season local legends Half-Step will also perform on Thursday evenings – also free.

 

It would have never happened, let alone reach the precipice of a fifth anniversary, without the shared vision and acumen of Tiffany and Jonathan. Tiffany is one of the most discerning, dedicated evaluators of talent I have ever met; Jonathan has a background that is a mélange of expertise that ranges from hospitality management to the performing arts. But even with that going for them, they credit (more than) a little help from their friends. 

 

But not the banks. It was 2009. The recession. Banks weren’t lending money to hospitals, let alone a fledgling dream involving music; don’t even waste the paper and ink filling out the application! “We got our liquor license on a Thursday, opened the night after.” Jonathan said. “We had exactly $16 in our checking account” after they emptied their savings on permits, sound equipment, paint and supplies. 

“When we put our financial plan together,” Tiffany said, “our accountant at the time said ‘it’s my professional obligation to talk you out of this’, but I told him: ‘this ship is going to sail!’”

 

You don’t get to five, though, without some help, and the Albert’s received a lot from both the business and local government communities. They rattled off names in such rapid fashion I could barely keep up; some might be a surprise:

 

“Jake Hogan, Tony Ianello, Peter Beames, Bruce Levinsky, Patricia Berry, Kevin Saxton, Dan Cogan in the building department, Stephanie in the city clerk’s office, Steve Ellwanger our C.P.A., Dave Harper, Julie Francis…” they said. If I left anyone out, the fault is mine, not theirs. 

 

In addition to this, they salute the loyalty of their staff. “We have had surprising little turnover.” Tiffany said. “What makes me happy is that they make it more than a ‘bar job’. They buy into what we are doing, and use there work here as a platform to achieve their life’s goals.” 

 

An example of this is Brian Petroski, one of the “core four” on the staff during their five years. Brian is one of the most accomplished abstract painters you will ever see, and he’s living right here. In fact, he deserves a plug of his own: visit brianpetroski.artspan.com. 

 

Further, they have bona-fide crowd pleasers like Sam Bottini (who has been there from the beginning) and Lauren Cognato, as well as Emily Hill, who just had her second baby yet keeps coming back to the ‘Den’ family.

 

And so they have a lot of people in their crowd to thank. But this is a crowd that gives back. It’s a rare month on the Putnam Den calendar that you don’t see several benefits for one local cause or another, from fundraisers for established charities like Jake’s Help From Heaven to a neighbor family struggling to pay some enormous hospital bill. 

 

When I ask Tiffany and Jonathan about a vignette that describes their quintessential Putnam Den moment, neither of them gave me what I expected. 

 

Tiffany touched on the spirit and energy she felt “…when people say thanks. Thanks for bringing in this band, or that, yes. But, more importantly, thanks for opening our home to their cause. Often, we get out of there at 5 a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and re-open for a charity event at 11 a.m. But it’s at the only way I would do this.”

 

For Jonathan, that moment involves “hanging out with my son (Zion, age 3. They also have Anthony, who just graduated from Saratoga H.S. and Violet, 10 months) during the afternoons. We play with the soundboard, sometimes help with a band’s load-in.” 

 

He continued, “One time, Donna Jean Godchaux (a member of the Grateful Dead from 1972 to 1979) came in with her son’s band: Her son was named Zion too. He was maybe 45 at the time; my son was 2. They bonded big time- the eldest said it was the first time he had met another Zion.” 

 

These examples are instructive because, much like Putnam Den itself, it is often not what you think it’s going to be. 

 

If you’re a regular visitor, you already know that. If not, my advice is to suspend disbelief, don’t wait five more years to help them blow out the candles, and thank them for their seminal contribution to Saratoga’s cultural scene.

 

Putnam Den has a slew of events planned for their anniversary on Wednesday, July 2, throughout the summer and beyond. For more information on everything, visit PutnamDen.com or call (518) 584-8066. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga TODAY Newspaper has learned that there is potential pending litigation against the City of Saratoga Springs’ Department of Public Safety, seeking relief and potential damages against the pending imposition of a one-way street plan in a neighborhood that borders Saratoga Race Course, during the six weeks the Race Course is in operation. 

 

The affected area will involve Wright Street, Frank Sullivan Place and a portion of Lincoln Avenue between the Race Course and Nelson Avenue. The portion on Lincoln Avenue fronts Siro’s Restaurant and a handful of private residences. Some of these residences have provided parking on their lawns/driveways to race goers for decades.

 

The information was derived from on-the-record conversations with Mr. Keith Kantrowitz, owner of Siro’s; Mr. Kantrowitz’s attorney, Bob Sweeney a partner in the Albany law firm Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna; and Ms. Rose Tait, a resident of Lincoln Avenue for decades.

 

Mr. Sweeney would only confirm that “my client has retained me to explore all legal options” at press time. 

 

But there is no doubt that Mr. Kantrowitz is drawing a line in the sand. “They (the city) are playing with the wrong guy.” He said. “This is another example of a vicious and malicious attempt by government to interfere with private enterprise. I’m more than ready to push back this time.”  

 

The “this time” Kantrowitz refers to concerns an earlier battle with the city over noise levels for live music. Mr. Sweeney confirmed that his client agreed to install a sound barrier to mitigate the noise, at a cost of about $500,000. The barrier has to be put up and removed each season as well. 

 

At that time “I enlisted the aid of the downtown business community and others.” Kantrowitz said. “I told them: Siro’s fight today is yours tomorrow. Now look what the city is doing with live music noise ordinances. I even agreed to a lower level than they did.” (Downtown music venues are supposed to adhere to a 90-decibel limit.)

 

In the current case, Kantrowitz takes issue on two broad-levels: The one-way streets plan itself; and the way it passed through the city council.

 

The one-way street plan, in short, would have traffic routed from Nelson along Wright Street (which is the site of the Trackside Grill and other vendors in addition to pedestrians and vehicles). Traffic would then turn left in front of the drop-off point at the Racecourse’s clubhouse entrance onto Frank Sullivan Place, and then left again onto Lincoln and out of the neighborhood.  

 

The stated goal is to make things safer for all, yet Kantrowitz believes it may have the opposite impact.

 

“Look, first of all, there have been no accidents here for five years. It’s not like people are speeding around the corners.” He said. “But now, cars are going to have to go through this storm of traffic, with pinch points and backups as the clubhouse cars attempt to merge, people walking from the gates, and what used to be a smooth easy ride along Lincoln to get to our entrance is now a nightmare!”

 

He continued. “I’m putting the city on notice. They will be responsible for all that happens going forward. And I’m warning all visitors, pedestrians particularly: Be careful!” 

 

“This has worked just fine since the 40s. Why are they messing with this now?” Kantrowitz concludes.

 

The second issue involves the timing of the plan’s adoption and the way it was done. Back on February 18, an item on the city council’s official agenda appeared for a public hearing to “Amend Chapter 225-72 Schedule VII -One Way Streets.” There was nothing specific to one area or another. As it turns out, the area was revealed to be the area around Siro’s. No one from the public spoke at that hearing. 

 

The city is required to do certain things to notify the public of these hearings; putting legal notices in the daily press for instance, and there is no allegation that they did anything less than they are legally required to do. 

 

Yet, in the modern online era, is this sufficient. Note well that these notices are not carried onto most newspaper websites. In any event, Kantrowitz, who has his business headquarters downstate, said he did not know this was on the agenda. 

 

“Of course I would have come up had I known.” He said. “Why wouldn’t I? This is going to have a big impact on my business. But I ask you, why does something like this have to be decided in February? It wasn’t just me who wasn’t here at that time.”

-------

 

“I came back from my winter home in South Carolina in April, and the first thing my friend said to me is: ‘Rose, they sure screwed you!’” Rose Tait said.

 

Yes, if you are having trouble mustering up sympathy for the rich, flamboyant owner of Siro’s, consider the plight of his neighbor (and friend) Rose, who has the property two doors down beyond Siro’s, closer to Nelson Avenue. 

 

On that property, she parks cars, as it has been done since the 1930s. It’s a pretty good-sized lot, I would estimate you could get about 40 cars in it, and while she didn’t want to reveal how much money she makes from parking cars, she did indicate that “it pays my city taxes” most years, although in recent years it would be a rare day that it would be filled to capacity. By the way, the house on the property is paid for – she’s not in danger of losing it.

 

Rose added this perspective to the mix:

 

On the notice: “I think they should have come and met with us.” She said. “Wasn’t there was some precedent set for this?”   

 

“Back when Ron Kim was commissioner, they were looking to do something similar,” she explained. “A whole contingent met with us at Siro’s, including Kim, Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton, City Attorney Tony Izzo, representatives from police and code enforcement.” 

 

“Even Eileen Finneran was there. She was Kim’s deputy then.” Ms. Finneran is also the current deputy of public safety under Commissioner Chris Mathiesen. “So I would think something similar is in order.” 

 

The economic impact: “It’s going to hurt, no doubt. It used to be an easy way for people to get a convenient space near the track. Now it’s going to be like navigating through a sea of cars and people.” 

 

“But more to the point, I have tenants on my property that I’m worried about. They are going to have to drive down some dimly lit streets after dark to get home. What people do not realize is that this isn’t just going to be during track hours. It’s for the whole six weeks.”

 

Rose and other affected neighbors have spoken out at recent council meetings asking that the whole idea be revisited. Commissioner Chris Mathiesen had indicated that he was willing to meet and discuss this, but Rose is skeptical. “Sure, he’ll meet. But only to give his side of things. He’s not going to change his plan unless he is forced to.”

 

With the Race Course meet just two weeks away, the only recourse the neighborhood may have is injunctive relief. Certainly Keith Kantrowitz is ready to do battle: 

 

“If this kind of thing happened in Russia, we’d be sending over troops and demanding democracy.” He said. “How about democracy beginning at home?”

Friday, 20 June 2014 10:49

Country Idolatry!

Who Am I To Judge?

SARATOGA SPRINGS— What started out as a simple request—to interview the winner of this year’s WGNA Country Idol competition at Vapor Nite Club (the finals took place on Thursday, June 12) – took a somewhat different and strange bend in the road. I was asked to take one of the best seats in the house and be a member of the judge’s panel.  

 

Well, fit me for a powdered wig and robe – ‘cause here comes da’ judge! Calling me ‘Your Honor’ is something I could certainly get used to…

 

First, some atmospherics: The doors opened at 7 p.m. that night. By 7:02 the placed was packed! Attendees loosened up with about 1/2 hour of line dancing and boot scootin’ before the competition got underway at 7:30. What was noticeable is how few in the crowd I recognized (maybe 3 friends). Where did these people come from?

 

Handling the dual role of DJ and MC of the festivities was WGNA’s Kevin Richards, who juggled a million details with good-natured verve and élan. Joining me at the judge’s table were the lovely Sabrina Gogan, who was the 2012 ‘Idol’ winner; the equally lovely Casey Danton from ‘GNA and PopCrush radio; and the human energy pill that is Dave Tokarowski, lead singer for Body & Soul, an eight-piece regional horn band. 

 

The format was for 28 contestants – chosen from prelim rounds earlier this year – to sing one song. They would be scored a maximum of 50 points: 25 for vocals, 10 for appearance and 15 for “stage presence.” In addition to scoring, the judge’s challenge was to be pithy, supportive and helpful. The field would be cut down to six— 1 song apiece for all the ($5,000) marbles.

 

“When Kevin Richards got a hold of me to ask if I wanted to be a judge for the finals this year I was beyond excited and incredibly honored that they would trust my opinion.” 

Sabrina noted. “I’ve spent a lot of time being on that stage trying to win over judges so it was an entirely different experience being on the other side.”

 

“This was tough. All the finalists were really talented.” Dave said. “We had a tough time cutting down the field – in fact, we could have picked six completely different finalists and it would have fit.”

 

Sabrina concurred. During the final round, she said in aside to me “this is tough! I’m sure glad I’m not competing in this field!”

 

High praise coming from professionals who are living the dream of making a living doing just what many of these contestants aspire to: making their music and performing.  

 

Sabrina acknowledges the boost this contest gave her. “I’m currently fronting a four piece cover band based out of Springfield, MA called Madison Avenue. I also do a lot to songwriting on my own. Country Idol has given my voice a lot of exposure throughout my hometown and nearby areas. I'm so thankful for the experience, the relationships I've made and the opportunities I've received because of this awesome competition!” 

 

As for Dave, he and Body & Soul generally play private parties and special events – but I’ll tout you to one upcoming public appearance so you can enjoy his energy: On Friday, June 27 at 7 p.m. Body & Soul will be playing at Hattie’s (45 Phila Street) as part of a special Jazz Festival Weekend… be there – the Judge has spoken! (I could get used to this….) 

 

Last year’s winner, Kayla Sarro, is a Saratoga Springs native and a “Blue Streak through and through.” Winning the 2013 County Idol competition spurred her on to a Platinum Voice competition at Vapor (which she won). Kayla just auditioned for the NBC show The Voice in Washington D.C. earlier this month and has her ticket punched for NYC for the big one – American Idol in late July. “Country Idol gave me a boost and the drive to strive for more,” she said. 

 

In the meantime, in classic country folklore fashion, she works hard at three jobs counting music. Currently, she is looking to form a backing band that plays country and classic rock– all positions are open – Kayla has a Facebook fan page, so the line forms to the right guys and gals. In the meantime, she keeps her pipes in perfect pitch at various Karaoke venues – her faves are the Saratoga City Tavern on Thursday and The Rusty Nail on Wednesday/Saturday. 

 

Onto the winners—yes, plural.  For the first time in the Country Idol competition, the final round was so contentious that two contestants got a perfect score – 200 out of 200; they split the $5,000 grand prize. 

 

What is interesting is how they took completely different paths to victory:

 

Kara Aird has the country lineage (Gloversville born, Speculator raised), the look; the “in yo’ face” attitude – the whole ‘you go girl!’—inducing persona and of course, the vocal chops to back it up. 

 

She credits her friend Traci for taking her to a prelim round and pushing her on stage “I had never even heard about this prior to walking into Vapor.” Kara has decided that Traci gets half her winnings for backing the right horse, so to speak. 

 

But Kara is not looking to parlay this into anything more than it is: “This is fun, and I want it to stay that way… I have a full-time career in another field that is very satisfying.” She said. 

 

So for now, if you want to catch her act, the best bet is to venture up to Logan’s Bar & Grill in Speculator on a night that they do “Gary-oke” – Gary being the MC. But, having seen her act, it says here that it’s worth the trip to see a talent like Kara in her native habitat. 

 

In contrast, co-winner Renee Lussier is already a pro. She has been the lead singer of the regional band Skeeter Creek for four years now. “I do other things, but this is my full-time gig.” She said. “I wouldn’t do anything else—you get paid for having fun!”

 

When asked about the difference between the band-fronting vs. the “solo idol” vibe, she said “I like both. Normally, you have challenges with different groups, personalities, but Skeeter Creek is a like family, so that makes all the difference.”

 

This is her first Country Idol competition “I couldn’t even get into Vapor last year!” She said. Oh, by the way, she’s 22 years old. “My fiancé, David, signed me up for this.”

 

David and Renee are to be married on September 12, and no, Skeeter Creek will not be playing. “We’ll be partying.” She said. Yet it would come as no surprise if their DJ didn’t summon up a certain lady in a white dress to belt out one or two tunes – for the photo op, of course. 

 

This was an eye-opener on several levels: the crowd, the talent, the degree of difficulty in judging, but also the laughter and fun. I feel like I made some new friends for life on the judge’s panel. They asked me to come back next year, and you can bet I am there! 

 

But you don’t have to wait until then. The talent of the top six were so uniformly excellent that Kevin Richards asked them all back to perform at another WGNA-sponsored event at Vapor this summer. 

 

Until then—court is adjourned. All rise…

 

 

Friday, 20 June 2014 10:37

The Last Downtown Parcel

A Fresh Approach To Urban Planning?

“It would be shortsighted to rush something through.”

   - Bill Sprengether, Cardinal Direction Landscape Architecture

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The reveal of the Saratoga Springs City Center parking structure plans last week has brought about a mixed bag of reactions. 

 

Some like it, others don’t. Some, like the Pedinotti family, owners of the Mouzon House, a beloved restaurant housed in a historic building (home to Saratoga Springs’ first family of color) believe that the placement of the structure literally squashes them in the shadow of progress and places their future viability in jeopardy. 

 

“If this goes through as is, we don’t think it’s likely that we’ll make it to next summer.” Co-owner Diane Pedinotti said. 

 

Whether this is the case or not remains to be seen, but no one denies that there will be a negative effect on their business – a five-story structure 75 feet away that literally blocks out the sun at times cannot help but have an impact.

 

For his part, Mark Baker, President of the Saratoga Springs City Center, has expressed that he has reached out to the Pedinotti’s to try to modify the plans for the structure to the extent possible, yet he acknowledged that their were both economic and engineering restraints that needed consideration.

 

Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan, reached by phone, indicated that she intended to look at all aspects of the parking structure proposal: from a financial, design and residual impact standpoints. “By no means should anyone consider this a done deal at this point.”

 

If that is the case, perhaps the citizenry of the city should participate. Perhaps, since the entire parcel (bordered by Lake, York, High Rock and Maple Avenues) is on city owned land, and represents the last great parcel in the Downtown core, a fresh look at this important parcel is in order. 

 

Certainly Bill Sprengether thinks so. 

 

On his own, Mr. Sprengether (a landscape architect whose firm, Cardinal Direction, is on Catherine Street) developed a few conceptual designs that were shared (via Harry Moran of Sustainable Saratoga) with both Mark Baker and the City Council at its Tuesday, June 17 meeting.  

 

Mr. Sprengether noted “…these concepts are simply to be used to start a public conversation within the City of Saratoga Springs in order to identify how to best utilize this vital piece city owned property so that it contributes to the positive growth our city's urban fabric and economy.” 

 

Sprengether’s concepts incorporate increased parking, which everyone recognizes as a necessity. It also includes park increased parkland, in some cases retail space and one iteration even includes reclaiming the original water source that was covered up nearly a half-century ago in the name of “urban renewal.”

 

The Pedinotti’s have reviewed these concepts and have stated that each incorporates elements that would be more favorable to the Mouzon House’s future viability. Yet, Sprengether admits that these concepts have not been costed out, and that they might be unfeasible either from an engineering or economic standpoint, yet “…the intent of these drawings is to illustrate a few of the wide range of potential site plans for the project site…. development of the current surface lots offers a tremendous opportunity to our City and we should make informed choices as to the direction we want our City to grow.”

 

At this point, we truly have more questions than definitive answers, but given the critical location of the city’s last great downtown parcel, many citizens have expressed the desire that these questions be asked – in order to determine the best solutions for development. Development that is done in a manner that incorporates critical needs like parking – yet is done in a manner that Saratoga Springs would be proud of.

 

Along that exploratory path are relevant issues such as whether retail could and should be part of the mix. There is the benefit of increased sales tax from this, yet it is obvious that neither the City nor the City Center has the desire or the wherewithal to be a retail landlord. A commercial developer would have to be brought into the mix. 

 

As far as the park extension scenario’s, the reclaiming of the water underneath, there is support for this, from what might be surprising quarters to some:

 

“I like them.” said Mark Baker, referring to the park concepts. “I hope the City looks into doing some of them.” In fact, it must be remembered that this is all City land – in effect, the people’s land, which represents an opportunity. 

 

Mr. Baker speaks from the perspective of a forthright advocate for the City Center, yet, as both a member of Sustainable Saratoga and a past President of the Downtown Business Association he balances his advocacy with a larger view. A view of a complete downtown everyone can be proud of, with amenities like parking and parks in sufficient supply. 

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If in fact, as Commissioner Madigan states, it’s not a “done deal,” the time to make your voices heard on downtown’s last great parcel is at hand. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS-- ­ The Board of Directors of Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) has announced that New York City Ballet's annual summer season at SPAC will return to two weeks in 2015. One of the world¹s foremost ballet companies, NYCB has had a residency at SPAC since the venue¹s opening season in 1966. Officials from both organizations expressed pride in the historic partnership and enthusiasm for a longer season.

 

"New York City Ballet has been a treasured presence on our stage every summer since SPAC's opening in 1966," said Marcia J. White, SPAC¹s President and Executive Director. "The partnership has given rise to an extraordinary dance tradition here in the Capital Region and enriched the lives of countless people who were first introduced to New York City Ballet here at SPAC. Against this backdrop, we are proud and excited to share the news that the company's 2015 season will expand to two weeks."

 

White noted that the expenses associated with the residency mean that fundraising and community support will remain key factors going forward. Yet, efficiencies implemented over the past two years have put both organizations in a stronger position.

 

"My gratitude goes out to New York City Ballet¹s Executive Director Katherine Brown and the Company¹s Board of Directors for working with us towards this goal," said White. "Just as George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein envisioned, the impact of this five-decade partnership has been profound for both of our organizations and the audiences we serve. As we move ever closer to our 50th Anniversary celebration in 2016, the magnitude of their achievements stands out along with a realization that what they started all those years ago needs our continuing support today." 

 

In commenting on the agreement Brown said, ³as the only dance company in the world with a permanent summer home, the New York City Ballet is extraordinarily proud of its long relationship with SPAC, and we are very grateful to Marcia White and the SPAC leadership for their commitment to this residency and for making it possible for NYCB to return to a longer season in 2015.²

 

White extended special thanks to NYCB¹s Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins for championing the Saratoga residency, and for upholding the Company¹s artistic standards. She noted that his efforts have given SPAC audiences a ³front row seat to unparalleled excellence.²

 

"The New York City Ballet treasures its historic partnership with SPAC, and we are thrilled to restore our residency to two weeks for the 2015 season," said Martins. "The Company has spent nearly 50 years at SPAC, building a loyal audience in the Capital Region, and we are very grateful for their support."

 

New York City Ballet will kick off its 2014 Saratoga residency on Tuesday, July 8; the company will present seven performances over the course of a week concluding with the Saturday, July 12 fundraising Ballet Gala: A Tribute to Great Britain, featuring works choreographed by the British choreographers Christopher Wheeldon and Liam Scarlett, as well as George Balanchine¹s tribute to all things British, Union Jack. During the course of the 2014 season the Company will showcase a diverse repertory of 14 stunning ballets, including selected works from its spring "Festival of 21st Century Choreographers" and the SPAC premiere of Justin Peck's critically acclaimed new ballet, Everywhere We Go. The season will include classics by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins and contemporary ballets by choreographers including Peter Martins, Mauro Bigonzetti, and Angelin Preljocaj, as well as the Ballet Gala works by Scarlett and Wheeldon.

 

"As we prepare to launch our 2014 Season, today¹s news is a reminder of how fortunate we are to have New York City Ballet - and all of our artistic partners ­ bringing the world¹s finest programming to our doorstep," said White. "These are opportunities to be embraced, supported and most of all, enjoyed. SPAC is America¹s summer place and we are open for business; we invite everyone to join us."

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