Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS —A gathering of approximately 150 people enjoyed a night of creativity titled “The Future of Broadway: A Musical Showcase of Contemporary Composers,” on the campus lawn at Skidmore College July 11. 

The event was part of The Orchard Project’s 2024 Arts Festival presented July 11-13 in Saratoga Springs. The artistic development laboratory and accelerator for creators of performance and dramatic stories presents programs in New York City and in Saratoga Springs 

The event featured Ryan Miller (founding member of Guster), Nick Blaemire, Jesse J. Sanchez, Zack Zadek, Anna Denoia & Joshua Villa. 

Miller performed songs from his upcoming musical “Safety Not Guaranteed,” that will see its premiere in a five-week run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music beginning Sept 17. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The newly implemented seasonal parking program, which charges non-city residents up to $2 per hour to park in city owned parking garages and lots has thus far generated approximately $82,000 in new revenue. 

“We are still ramping up,” DPW Commissioner Jason Golub said this week. “We’ve only had one week into the track season, and I hope to see revenues continue to increase.”

The installation of pay stations as part of the seasonal parking program got underway in mid-June and will run through Labor Day. The pay plan is in effect in three city-owned parking garages - Walton/Woodlawn Parking Garage, Woodlawn Ave. Parking Garage, and Putnam St. Parking Garage, and three city surface parking lots – specifically located at Woodlawn Ave., Spring Street, and High Rock. 

“The launch was a bit chaotic, but I don’t have an issue with it and it was bound to happen,” says Dave Barker of Impressions of Saratoga – which is celebrating its 45th year in the Spa City. 

City residents, as well as downtown businesses and their employees, are allowed to park in the pay station areas without cost, via a permitting process. 

“As an employee, I don’t have to pay for parking and I appreciate they’re doing that for the employees downtown,” said Jericha Harriman, store lead at Northshire Bookstore on Broadway.   

The city has issued 11, 256 parking permits – and of those are 3,300 business permits, Golub said. A total of 266 businesses have registered for permits. The Saratoga Springs Public Library has also recently gone to a paid parking plan as well regarding its 75-or-so available spaces in its lot just off Henry Street. 

Not everyone is pleased with the seasonal paid parking plan. John Nemjo, owner of Broadway’s Saratoga Outdoors - formerly Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, and its sister store Life is Good Saratoga, has been in Saratoga Springs for more than 15 years. Nemjo was opposed to the seasonal parking plan since its conception and says he hasn’t seen anything to change his opinion. 

“A lot of people in Saratoga have avoided downtown for years during track season and this is just another incentive for people to not come downtown,” says Nemjo, adding that sales are down since June and attributing that downtick, at least in part, to the paid parking format implemented in city owned lots and garages. He also expressed displeasure with the lack of a clarity indicating that the program is operational only during the summer months. 

“All people know is: there’s paid parking in Saratoga Springs. We have a year-round customer base of locals who live in Saratoga Springs and locals who live beyond the city limits, the core and the bread-and-butter of this city’s retail community. All these people in surrounding communities – they don’t get free parking passes,” Nemjo says. “We’re locally supported 12 months a year, and you’re chasing those people away.”   

The City Council unanimously approved the plan in April, and the city anticipates nearly $1.6 million as first-year estimated revenue, with about $450,000 in expenses.

“We will continue to monitor the program through the summer and work with the DBA (Downtown Business Association), the City Council and residents on making sure that we understand where we’ve done a good job, and where we’ve done not such a good job and can make improvements,” Commissioner Golub said, crediting the city’s Public Works and Public Safety departments for getting the plan up and running in short order.   

When the seasonal parking program concludes in September, the pay machines will be removed. 

Residents or downtown businesses seeking a parking permit are directed to go to the city’s website – at saratoga-springs.org - or physically visit the Department of Public Works office at City Hall. Library patrons are directed to visit sspl.org to review the library’s permit process.   

Thursday, 18 July 2024 12:45

Changes Coming To City Council

SARATOGA SPRINGS — This week, the City Council began floating potential options about how they would go about hiring an interim member to fill a vacant governing seat. With elected officials currently holding nearly half the top seats in city government that could be vacated by January, it is a process the remaining members of the council might have to revisit in short order. 

The Saratoga Springs City Council is comprised of five members – the mayor and four commissioners, and two supervisors are additionally elected to represent the city of Saratoga Springs at the county level. Those seven seats are each up for vote every two years, next in November 2025. 

This week, DPW Commissioner Jason Golub announced he will be stepping off the City Council next month to accept a position with the State as General Counsel for the Department of Corrections. 

“It’s a really challenging role that I’m super excited for, but I will obviously miss the work that we’re doing here,” Golub said July 16 during a City Council meeting attended by about 20 people who had made their way inside City Hall shortly after a major summer storm blew through the region. 

“The people who work for DPW are amazing and have really made this job for me something special,” said Golub, adding that his new employment begins Aug. 19. “I will greatly miss the DPW employees, and they should get all the credit for everything we’ve done in Public Works the past few years.”   

 

 

In 2022, Golub, a Democrat, became the first black person to serve on the Saratoga Springs City Council. He was initially selected to the seat by unanimous City Council approval shortly following the April 2022 death of longtime Commissioner of Public Works Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. That November, Golub secured victory in an election specifically held for that seat to fill the remainder of the term – through the calendar year 2023. Golub was re-elected during normal council elections in November 2023 to serve through December 2025. 

The Public Works Department is responsible for the repair, replacement, and maintenance of all of the public ways, streets and highways in Saratoga Springs. 

In addition to leading their own respective departments, the five sitting City Council members - one mayor and four commissioners – each have one equal vote to decide city matters under the city’s Commission Form of Government. The seats are all up for vote every two years, next in November 2025 for a position that begins January 2026. 

It is unclear whether approval of an interim DPW Commissioner by the four remaining council members this year would extend for the duration of the term, which is slated through December 2025. 

City Charter states: In case of a vacancy caused by other than expiration of term, the Council shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy until the end of the official year in which said vacancy occurs. If the term of office of the officer vacating the office continues beyond the official year in which said vacancy occurs, a person shall be elected at a special election held after the occurrence of such vacancy to fill such vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.

In addition to Golub’s announced departure, two other Democrats - Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi and city Supervisor Michele Madigan – have announced their candidacy for new positions to be decided in elections held in November.   

Sanghvi is running against Republican incumbent James Tedisco to represent the 44th Senate District; Madigan is seeking to become Saratoga County Treasurer, a position which Republican Committee endorsed JoAnn Kupferman currently is seated as Acting County Treasurer. 

Should either City Council member Sanghvi or City Supervisor Madigan emerge victorious in their respective election bids, their new terms would not begin until calendar year 2025. As such, it is anticipated members of the Saratoga Springs City Council would vote to fill those potential vacancies on an interim basis for the duration of the term ending December 2025 with no “special” election necessary. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – City officers and employees are entitled to legal defense related to claims  made against them and alleged to have occurred while they were on official business. 

An Article in City Code enacted by the City Council in 1987 provides for the legal defense of city officers and employees should state or federal legal action arise related to an alleged act or omission that took place in the scope of official duty or public employment. 

This week the City Council began discussions aimed at potentially attempting to establish detailed policies for the documentation and processing of future requests made by city officers and employees. 

“We have been challenged to come up, as soon as possible, with a resolution to clarify our policy with regard to these issues” Saratoga Springs Mayor John Safford said this week. “We are working to come up with a resolution that will be acceptable to everyone and give us some guidance as we move into the future.” 

Some of the suggested policies were posted in advance of the July 16 City Council meeting, although it was unclear how many of the council members were involved in crafting the policies suggested. 

The suggested polices would include submitting in writing to the city attorney a statement containing hourly rates proposed by the employee’s legal defense team as well as an estimate of total fees, charges and other expenses. The proposal would then be considered at a public meeting with the council charged with authorizing payment for the services to begin. A Special Public Meeting may be called if a situation requires urgency to address the matter.  Should the amount exceed the estimate as the work progresses, a separate review and approval need to take place prior to those services taking place. 

It is anticipated the council will return to discussion regarding the matter in future meetings.    

SARATOGA SPRINGS —A new application filed with the city seeks an area variance to move forward with plans that would restore Sperry’s Restaurant on Caroline Street, build residential units above the restaurant, and combine the project with a recently approved mixed-use project just to its west. 

Sperry’s Restaurant operated in the Spa City for 91 years before closing in early 2023. New owner Louis Lazzinnaro told News 10 Albany earlier this year he was planning to keep the restaurant as Sperry’s with minimum interior redesigning that would match a new hotel proposed atop a lot he owns just west of the restaurant. 

The lot formerly housed a two-story commercial building constructed as a tannery in the late 1800s which was felled in the aftermath of a Thanksgiving Day 2016 blaze. 

The proposal appears as New Business on the Zoning Board of Appeals agenda, with a meeting scheduled to place 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 22 at Saratoga Springs City Hall. 

Thursday, 11 July 2024 13:48

FIRE STATION #3 OPENS

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Colors were presented, and anthems sung. Words of prayer were spoken, and local political leaders sat to join about 100 other attendees in the hot summer sun to celebrate the city’s unveiling of its long-awaited opening of Fire Station no. 3 this week. 

“It’s been over 20 years in the making – and some would argue it’s been over 30,” former Chief Joseph Dolan noted on an August afternoon in 2022 when the ceremonial shovels first broke ground on Henning Road. On July 9, 2024, the new fire station was officially declared open for business. 

Aaron Dyer, current Acting Chief of the Saratoga Springs Fire Department, watched as nine of his firefighters physically muscled a 38,000-pound engine truck back in to its bay. The activity is a practice that dates back to the early 19th century days of the then-Village of Saratoga Springs, when a group of local volunteers first got organized with a mission of fighting fires. 

“It’s a tradition that dates back to when fire equipment was pulled around by horse-drawn carriages,” Dyer explained. “When firefighters returned from service, they would unhook the horses and then have to manually push that fire carriage or trailer back into the fire station to get it prepared for the next call for service,” he said. 

The city’s two other existing stations were both built in the 20th century and are located, respectively, on Lake Avenue in the downtown district, and on West Avenue on the city’s west side. 

The location of Station 3, which stands directly behind Saratoga Race Course, provides rapid access to the north-and-south running Northway, the east-west running state Route 29, and will dramatically improve the response times to the city’s eastern ridge. 

 

 

The city of Saratoga Springs is comprised of approximately 29 total square miles, with about 13,400 housing units and a population of just under 29,000, according to the Department of Public Safety’s annual report released in March 2024.  In 2023, the Saratoga Springs Fire Department responded to 6,990 calls for service - a 9.2% increase compared to 2022.

The $8.7 million Station 3 stands on land donated by NYRA and includes an apparatus bay and support/administrative area with a 1,500 sq. ft. mezzanine, according to details provided by the Hueber-Breuer Construction Company. It includes a kitchen, a fitness room, a classroom and also houses the Saratoga County Hazmat vehicle.

“With this building we also have an emergency operation center which gives us the ability to oversee and handle any large incident in the city or the county if the need arises,” Dyer said. 

The station houses one engine and an ambulance staffed 24 hours a day, a reserve ladder truck as well as the county hazmat truck. Six firefighters work at the station daily. Overall, 84 firefighters work in the city’s three stations, which are open 24/7. To best provide coverage for the city, a total of 112 to 115 firefighters would be ideal, Dryer said, and the process of staffing the city’s three firehouses is ongoing. 

City Supervisor Michele Madigan served as Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner from 2012-2021, when the city made the push to turn thoughts of an eastside station into a reality.  “It was a long time coming,” Madigan said. “We put the financing in place in 2019, and we are finally now seeing the fruition of our labor coming true.” 

Regarding the county’s commitment, City Supervisor Matt Veitch said the county pays for the supplies and service calls made that involve the hazmat team. “With a little bit of negotiation and a little bit of discussion, the county board approved $300,000 toward this project – essentially the cost of a bay for one of the vehicles which would be our hazmat vehicle,” Veitch said. 

“The individuals who are called on to do the work, to face those things that are unknown, are willing to put their lives on the line for all of us,” city Mayor John Safford said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I think we need to keep in mind that it’s the willingness of people to do this that makes a city work.”

SARATOGA SPRINGS —The following proposed projects are under consideration for review by the Saratoga Springs Design Review Commission this week. 

-The proposed partial demolition and reconstruction of 140 Grand Ave., a Greek Revival-style home originally built in 1850. The proposed project includes tearing down two-thirds of the existing building, while preserving the original structure. The proposal was first brought to the DRC in December 2023. 

- The Saratoga Regional YMCA is seeking the demolition of a “vacant, dilapidated and dangerous house” it had acquired at 300 West Ave., according to documents filed with the city on July 3. The 1940s era bungalow with approximately 850 square feet of living space is described as being in extensive disrepair internally and externally and detrimental to the property value of neighbors.        

-A Historic Review is under review this week by the Saratoga Springs Design Review Board regarding the installation of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations alongside the Hilton. The applicant is 534 Saratoga Broadway, LP. 

-RISE Housing and Support Services is seeking Architectural Review of second floor addition / level 3 alteration of property at 127 Union Ave. RISE acquired the parcel in 1998, according to documents filed with the city.

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The wardrobe department for New York City Ballet works on the final costume preparations July 8 at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in preparation for New York City Ballet’s annual residency from July 9-13.

Among the costumes prepared at SPAC for the ballet’s Saratoga residency: dozens of swan tutus for George Balanchine’s Swan Lake designed by Alain Vaes; intricate men’s and women’s costumes for Balanchine’s Jewels and Stars and Stripes designed by the great Karinska; dozens of children’s skirts and tutus for Balanchine’s Coppelia designed by Karinska; a pink lace doll tutu and toy soldier costume designed by David Mitchell for Balanchine’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier;  striking red unitards designed by Holly Hynes for the return of Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels; bold streetstyle costumes designed by fashion designer Humberto Leon for Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing; beautiful flowing red designs by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung for the SPAC premiere of Pam Tanowitz’s Gustave Le Gray No. 1; and sweeping yellow tulle costumes designed by NYCB Director of Costumes Marc Happel for the SPAC premiere of Amy Hall Garner’s Underneath There is Light. 

Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s 2024 New York City Ballet season features four unique programs from July 9-13 as part of NYCB’s historic 75th anniversary and its 58th season in Saratoga.

New York City Ballet at SPAC:

Tuesday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. – NYCB On and Off Stage.

Wednesday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, July 11 at 2 p.m. – Jewels.

Thursday, July 11 and Saturday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m. – Contemporary Choreography.

Friday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 13 at 2 p.m. – Swan Lake & Stars and Stripes.   

For more information, go to: spac.org

BALLSTON SPA— For the first time in decades, the Village of Ballston Spa Zoning Advisory Committee is in the process of updating their Zoning Code and is seeking public input. 

In advance of the village’s Rezoning Workshop, planned to take place in early October, a public informational presentation on zoning basics will be presented 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 18 and again on Thursday, Aug. 15 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Auditorium, 50 West High St. 

The presentation builds on the 2023 Comprehensive Plan and the discussions of the Zoning Advisory Committee, or ZAC, an 11-member committee charged with updating zoning recommendations for Village Board consideration with the primary goal of preserving the village character, enhancing its quality of life, and promoting economic growth as per the village Comprehensive Plan.

The meeting space is accessible and there is ample parking on site. Attendees unable to meet in person can participate through a Zoom link posted to the village website at: ballstonspa.gov.

Wednesday, 03 July 2024 14:52

ICE, ICE, BABY? A SARATOGA FAMILY TRADITION

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The truck is currently in storage in an undisclosed location, the near century-old recipe a secret, known only to a select few. 

To this day, generations of Saratogians react with a hint of a smile or an expression of emotional delight in their memories of glimpsing that white 1954 International Harvester truck rolling down their street. 

In a place where nostalgia melts inside recollections of the warm summer days of childhood, descendants of the family who created a local 20th century tradition have undertaken an effort to preserve a tradition and potentially create new memories in the future by placing that 1954 truck back on the road.

To that point, the Grasso Family has initiated a crowdfunding effort on the Gofundme platform titled: “Help Revive Saratoga’s Iconic Grasso’s Italian Ice Truck.”

The story’s origins trace back to the 1920’s when Ralph Grasso emigrated from his native Tufino, Italy and settled in Brooklyn with his brother, landing in Saratoga Springs a few years later. Grasso worked in the construction and masonry trades and began making lemon ice which he sold on his off-days and weekends as a side business. 

“My great-grandfather, Ralph Sr., got the original recipe from a friend in Brooklyn when he came over from Italy,” says Sophia Grasso. “He would hand-crank the ice. Obviously, there weren't premade flavors back then, so he squeezed fresh lemons and oranges.”

After an accident at work left Grasso seeking other areas of employment, the side-business became a full-time venture. By the late 1930’s, he dispatched with the pull wagon from which he operated his ice business and purchased his first truck. 

The white 1954 Metro International truck would later follow.

“Their lemon ice was always part of our time at St. Michael’s back in the 1950’s. It was always part of our play time at St. Peter’s Academy,” says Mary Ann Fitzgerald, who grew up on the city’s west side and today serves as Saratoga Springs City Historian. “He used to pull up at the corner by Williams and Hamilton and park right there. We would be playing in the playground and always make sure we had five cents with us to go get lemon ice.”   

For several decades, the ice cream truck was an iconic fixture in the city, and while the frame of the truck is intact, years of wear and tear have left it in desperate need of restoration. Enter The Grasso Family and the gofundme effort. 

The Plan: Things like the brake system will be completely overhauled, with a 6V system changed to a 12V system, making possible better lighting options. The same motor will be rebuilt. The body will have all the dents removed and painted the colors that it has had for 50 years - red, white and blue. As far as the freezers, compressor, storage areas - things needed to make it fully operational - they will be incorporated into the project.

The cost of the project is $28,300. Just over $2,000 has been raised toward that goal.  Renovation is anticipated to start in the fall with the truck ready to roll in time for the 2025 season.

The Grassos used to make spumoni and ice cream sandwiches mostly from scratch in earlier days. The plan moving forward does not currently include serving ice cream, although the ice will return as per Ralph Grasso’s secret recipe.   

“He perfected the recipe and it's the same one we've been using in our family ever since,” says Sophia Grasso. “Only a few of us even know the recipe and those people are my father, Ralph the 3rd, my grandfather, Ralph Jr., and myself. It will be the only recipe we use.” 

Ralphy Grasso Sr. passed away on Christmas Eve in 1985 at the age of 86, and was still making and vending the 'lemon ice' the previous summer. Today, it is his grandchildren and great-grandchildren continuing to carry on the family tradition.

“When we went to the football game, we could count on it being there. When we went to the baseball game, we could count on it. Lemon ice,” recalls Fitzgerald, whose 1999 interview with Ralph Grasso, Jr. is preserved as valued source material as part of the West Side Oral Narrative Project, and housed at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. 

 Fitzgerald recounted a more recent event that occurred while the truck was still on the road. 

“I was going up Lake Avenue and saw the truck for the first time after many years. It was parked outside the East Side Rec and I just pulled right over. I got two lemon ices to go, for my husband and I. I could not just go by the truck,” she says. “If you see lemon ice you pull over! That’s just what you do.” 

For more information about the gofundme project to revive Saratoga’s Iconic Grasso’s Italian Ice Truck, GO HERE. .    

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  • Saratoga County Court  Sara N. Babinski, 35, of Schuylerville, was sentenced to 3 months incarceration/ 5 years probation, after pleading to felony DWAI, charged January 2024 in Saratoga Springs.  Thomas R. McCall, 35, of Rensselaer, pleaded to criminal possession of a weapon in the second-degree, in connection with a March 2024 incident in Saratoga Springs, when city police initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle on South Broadway and located a Magnum .357 revolver with ammunition underneath the driver’s seat, according to a statement by Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen. Further investigation determined that the firearm belonged to the defendant,…

Property Transactions

  •   BALLSTON  Frederick Wright sold property at 78 Beacon St to Jacqueline Zielinski for $361,000 Barbera Homes Kelley Farms sold property at 30 Paddock Pl to Erik Weiskopf for $716,959 Harold Tomlinson sold property at 429 Devils Lane to Amy Hotaling for $575,000 CORINTH Khalil Grant sold property at 5049 Rt 9N to Colin Murray for $239,500 Angela Wingle sold property at 83 Clothier Dr to Brittany Dunston for $249,900 Foothills Builders sold property at 49 Black Bear Path to Zachary Yetter for $455,605 Gwendoyln Matson sold property at 116 County Route 10 to Victoria Bourque for $169,000 MALTA  David…
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