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Will Less Be Moore?
New Proposal Responds to Neighborhood Density Concerns
SARATOGA SPRINGS – “We’re in the people pleasing business.”
So stated Attorney Michael J. Toohey, representing Bonacio Construction, in announcing a second proposal to develop the Moore Hall property, at the Saratoga Springs Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting on Monday, December 14.
The dramatic announcement came as a pleasant surprise to most, if not all, of those in attendance. Residents of the surrounding neighborhood had organized intense opposition to the first proposal – which would have converted the existing building to 53 micro-apartments. The applicants requested that the first proposal be tabled and requested to present the detailed aspects of the new proposal at a January 2016 ZBA meeting.
Principal and Vice President C. Michael Ingersoll of the LA Group, was forthcoming, however, with the broad details of the second proposal, which he and President/Owner Sonny Bonacio of Bonacio Construction said was directly responsive to the nearby neighborhood resident’s concerns, which included density, parking and safety.
A major change in the second proposal is to demolish, rather than convert Moore Hall – a decaying former dormitory that was part of the old Skidmore College campus. A previous variance in 2006 had allowed up to 18 residential units on the parcel. Bonacio noted that this number would not work because of the current market forces. If it were to stay at 18, that would necessitate building units that sold for over $900,000. Those units are averaging 1,947 days on the market, and Bonacio said that if 18 more were built, the inventory of housing at that level would take about 12.9 years to be sold.
Instead, the second proposal detailed construction of 28 units, which would enable the sale price to be just under $700,000 ($699,418), which Bonacio said would make it more attractive and easier to sell to potential buyers. This increased number of units would still require a variance, although not as large as the first proposal’s request to increase it to 53.
The first proposal had requested a second variance on parking, from 1.5 spaces per unit to 1. Under the new proposal, 52 parking places, the bulk of which are anticipated to be underground, will be provided. Since that will provide 1.8 spaces per unit, a second variance will not need to be requested.
The applicants noted that their new proposal was similar in many ways, in terms of visual components such as setbacks for instance, to a plan that had received approval in 2008. At Monday’s meeting, they presented preliminary drawings that showed a comparison of their new proposed development to the one from 2008.
A new application will be filed, and detailed plans need to be developed. The project will still have to go through a site plan review and receive approval from the Design Review Commission. However, it was obvious from comments, from both ZBA members and members of the public who spoke, that this latest proposal was extremely more palatable. Many thanked the applicants for their work in coming forward with something that it was hoped would be acceptable to everyone. “This is just what the neighborhood wanted,” one said. Another wondered if it was appropriate to sing “Kumbaya.”
So, residents came to Monday’s meeting prepared for more conflict, and came away with at least the beginning of a happy ending to the saga of the Pink Palace. Call it an early holiday gift, with an O. Henry surprise thrown in for good measure.
Pink Palace In Limbo
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Moore to come.
In other words, the fate of Moore Hall, AKA the Pink Palace, remains uncertain following a flurry of developments in the past week.
An item on the agenda for the City of Saratoga Springs’ Zoning Board of Appeals meeting last Monday, December 7th, was adjourned to next Monday, the 14th. It is possible that the ZBA will vote on applicant Bonacio Construction’s request for variances at that time.
The parcel at 28 Union Avenue has been the subject of intense scrutiny and concern by residents in the neighborhood, as well as members of the Saratoga Springs City Council. The Council held a special off-site meeting on Saturday morning, December 5, to do a walking tour of the site, and to hear concerned citizens’ opinions. This took place in the meeting room at Empire State College, which is adjacent to the parcel.
The applicant’s request for variance has two main components. The first was to allow conversion of the existing building to a 53-unit apartment building. The building had previously been granted a zoning variance from its original use – a dormitory on the old Skidmore College campus and zoned educational – and allowed conversion to up to 18 residential units, in 2006. The second request was seeking relief from the parking space requirement of 1.5 to 1 parking space per unit as required in the UR-4 (Urban Residential – 4) District.
At Saturday’s well-attended meeting, City Attorney Tony Izzo made it clear at the beginning of the meeting that the Council could not overrule a land-use board’s decisions once that board was properly created – the only remedies available would be to disband that board, or litigate against it, which are both unlikely possibilities. Nonetheless, the Council came to hear the residents’ opinions, and hear them they certainly did.
Those who spoke expressed a wide variety of concerns should the new variances be granted. Over 450 citizens had signed a petition against granting further variances, and speakers at the meeting expressed unease about subjects involving parking, traffic, pedestrian safety and the impact on nearby schools in the neighborhood, as well as other concerns. The general mood of the group in attendance was best summarized by neighborhood resident John Kaufmann, who said the proposed development was “…too large a project for too small an area.”
At this point, Moore Hall sits deteriorating, occupying a prime parcel and visible from the city grandest boulevard. Perhaps one of the very few things that all parties can agree on is that the Pink Palace’s current state is undesirable. What it transforms to in the future, however, still remains in question.
In other words, stay tuned. For there is still Moore to come.
Winter Restaurant Week Returns for 11th Year
SARATOGA SPRINGS –The 11th Annual Saratoga County Winter Restaurant Week is set to take place Friday, December 4 through Thursday, December 10. This year, over 50 restaurants are participating in the event.
Saratoga County Winter Restaurant Week is a seven day celebration of culinary creativity presented by the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau and Driscoll Foods in collaboration with local restaurant owners. Winter Restaurant Week allows dining patrons an opportunity to enjoy a three course, prix-fixe dinner for $10, $20 or $30 (plus tax and tip). Several restaurants are also offering lunch specials for $5 or $10.
During Restaurant Week many lodging properties are offering special rates for hotel rooms so diners can create an overnight package and experience more than one great dining venue.
“We are proud to partner with Driscoll Foods, and all of our sponsors, to bring back Saratoga County Winter Restaurant Week for its 11th year,” said Todd Garofano, President of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau. “With such a diverse offering of dining experiences available, visitors and locals alike can choose from over 50 participating restaurants throughout Saratoga County. With several area hotels offering special rates, visitors come from all over the northeast to dine, stay and shop Saratoga during this popular week.”
Winter Restaurant Week Participants:
Four Seasons National Food Store & Cafe
Izumi Asian Bistro & Lounge
Park Side Eatery
Saratoga 5 Points Market & Deli
Mingle on the Avenue
Park Side Eatery
Sweet Mimi’s Cafe
Thirsty Owl Bistro
Park Side Eatery
Alaturco Mediterranean Grill
The Brook Tavern
Chianti Il Ristorante
Diamond Club Grill at Embassy Suites
Druthers Brewing Company
Jacob & Anthony’s American Grille
Karavalli Regional Cuisine of India
Mingle on the Avenue
Olde Bryan Inn
One Caroline Street Bistro
Three Vines Bistro
Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar
Inn at Saratoga
Jacob & Anthony’s American Grille
One Caroline Street Bistro
Prime at Saratoga National Golf Club
Putnam’s at The Gideon Putnam
Thirsty Owl Bistro
Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar
For more details about Saratoga County Winter Restaurant Week and for the list of lodging promotions, visit DiscoverSaratoga.org/RestaurantWeek or call the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau at 518-584-1531.
Saratoga Film Forum on Hiatus
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Film Forum has made the announcement this week that the non-profit will be taking a hiatus for a few months from its usual program and schedule.
Several factors were involved in making the decision to take the break. Attendance to the films was down significantly this fall, and has been steadily declining since the opening of Bow Tie Cinemas. The primary expenses, such as theater rental, movie rental and projection, are such that the Film Forum doesn’t break even unless about 135 people attend a film each weekend, which was nowhere near the attendance seen over the last two seasons.
“Our attendance was more than not good, it became really low. Unnaturally low. We’re trying to dig into that in addition to other factors in the film industry,” said Carol Maxwell, President of the Board at Saratoga Film Forum. “New films are going straight to Netflix and to other venues. It has a lot to do with the economics of the film distribution business.”
Another aspect is that the Film Forum is having trouble booking films because film distributors want them to be “open-ended engagements,” meaning the show must be on-going and able to run indefinitely.
“We’ve been taking a look at different formats, and we would have done it smoother and in a more gradual way, but we’ve been forced to address it front and center. Our goal is finding a niche that will be the most beneficial for the Film Forum and our audiences,” said Maxwell. “We know deep down there is a lot of interest in quality films that you just don’t get to see at the multiplexes.”
In order to better understand what the community wants, Maxwell is going to talk to many different people to get their take on the Film Forum and its future. She hopes to talk to loyal patrons of the Film Forum, as well as people who have never been there or used to go but then stopped going.
“This is a big town and a growing town so this is a great time to find out more about the community’s media habits and the emotions surrounding those habits. We’re trying to find out where we could connect with them,” Maxwell said.
The Film Forum may be taking a hiatus from business-as-usual but they will still be holding special events at least monthly. The goal is to make the events more enhanced through speakers and other activities. Recently, the Film Forum has initiated “meet the filmmaker” nights, which gives audiences the chance to ask questions and talk to the directors and producers directly.
In terms of the future, Maxwell is planning on more cross-collaborations with other organizations. For the release of Harper Lee’s latest book, “Go Set a Watchman,” the sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Film Forum collaborated with Northshire Bookstore for a popular event that brought the two organizations together.
After she has a thorough, open dialogue with community members, Maxwell hopes that the Film Forum will be back to its usual programming by late spring.
Maxwell concluded positively: “Tell readers I said ‘We’ll see you soon.’”
Sitting Down with Stone Phillips
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Canfield Casino, glittering light radiating from its grand windows, seemed to be welcoming me. I walked down into Congress Park with my back straight, but my mind flying in all different directions. All I could think was, “I’m going to meet Stone Phillips – is this real?”
As the entertainment editor for Saratoga TODAY, I have been blessed with the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with a diverse group of people, both residents of Saratoga Springs and those visiting. On this special occasion, I was invited to attend the 60th anniversary gala for the Adult and Senior Center of Saratoga, where Phillips was serving as Honorary Chair. Phillips is best known for his career in television journalism, including 15 years as a co-anchor on “Dateline NBC.” When I was little, I didn’t watch music videos or cartoons after dinner like a lot of kids. I watched “Dateline NBC” instead. My grandmother and I would have deep conversations after the show about the news and the world, which undoubtedly sparked my interest in pursuing a career in journalism.
As I made my way into the Canfield Casino where the gala was being held, I was surprised to find I was one of the first people there and the first member of the press. Punctuality has its perks, I thought, gazing around the room at the warm golden décor and the elegant high ceilings. For six decades, the Senior Center has been empowering seniors to achieve independence and fulfillment through their many programs and services, and I was thankful and honored to be a part of it.
Phillips was easy to spot. Tall and statuesque, I found him in the middle of a conversation with Traci Jersen, the marketing coordinator for the Senior Center. I anxiously approached, first introducing myself to Jersen, before turning to Phillips. When I was visualizing the gala beforehand, I imagined him surrounded by the media and by fans, but since I was so early, it was just us. He had a kind and genuine smile as he introduced himself. When I asked if we could sit and chat, he responded with, “of course!” and led me over to a small sofa.
As I prepared to ask my questions, I sat next to Phillips and pictured all the people I had seen him interview, all the world leaders, celebrities, heroes and notorious criminals. For a moment, I felt as though I was sitting next to all of them. I channeled my inner Stone Phillips, and began. H
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
A: As with most journalists, I feel it’s telling important stories that have an impact on people’s lives. That can be an interview, a feature, a human interest story or a hard news investigation. One of the things I loved about Dateline for many, many years was the variety. We were doing all of those kinds of stories. Those were some great years.
Q: What is the difference between a good piece of journalism and a great one?
A: I think a great piece of journalism is original, it’s built on the facts, and I think, if you don’t care about a story, why report it? I think you ought to care about a story, and I think that often carries you to the next level. I think it’s about having an impact on people. It’s about opening their eyes, maybe challenging them to think about something in a way they didn’t think about before. It’s certainly not following the pack.
Q: If you could go back and interview someone one more time, whom would it be?
A: The interviews that are coming to mind I can’t interview anymore because they’ve deceased. But I would say Boris Yeltsin. I found him very interesting and I would be interested in sitting down with him again if that was possible. Often times when you circle back around to a story, to a person or to an interview much later, you often get more depth, more perspective and sometimes, a completely different take than you did in the moment when news is breaking. In that case, Yeltsin was on a plane. I flew with him from Moscow to Washington for his first summit with George Bush. He was really being very mindful about his agenda during the summit, and to talk with him 20 years later, you’d get a different perspective about his experiences. He was such a pivotal figure in Russian history at that point.
You know, I’d be interested in talking to Lynndie England, one of the soldiers involved in Abu Ghraib. Lynndie was caught in the middle with that. I think there were forces much greater than she at work there. I’m interested in talking to her. Scott Waddle, the submarine commander who was at the helm during that horrible accident with the vessel carrying the Japanese students in Hawaii. Circling around back to that would be interesting.
Q: How did you get involved with the Senior Center?
A: I got a cold call actually, just an e-mail from the director here. She came into my website and wrote me. I was very moved by the e-mail. I’ve never met her or set foot into the Senior Center until today. I had been to Saratoga before, and I think it’s beautiful here. I salute a center like this that has been serving seniors for 60 years, and I just thought well, what can I do to tip my hat and celebrate with them? So I signed on to serve as the Honorary Chair here and I am really happy I did. I went to the Senior Center today for the first time and I am so impressed with what’s going on there. It’s active, it’s vital; I saw smiling faces everywhere I went. It’s a place to take a class, meet a friend, or grab a meal. It’s just got a wonderful feel to it. This evening is going to benefit the Community Connection Program which trains volunteers to help out with transportation or shopping, home visits, respites for Alzheimer’s caregivers, very important work. It’s near and dear to my heart.
Q: What issues facing the aging population are you most concerned with and passionate about?
A: I think isolation and loneliness, as well as homelessness amongst the elderly. There are a host of problems. My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s. We have a lot of work to do there. We need more support for caregivers, families, for loved ones struggling. Those are the issues I’m passionate about.
After our interview, Phillips gave me some excellent advice and wished me the best of luck in my career. Later, as I was leaving the gala, he took time out of the group he was speaking with to say goodbye and wish me well. You wouldn’t think this humble and soft-spoken man once sat across from serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer or the remorseless “subway vigilante” Bernie Goetz. Though I’m only at the beginning of my journalism career, my conversation with seasoned veteran Stone Phillips has inspired me to work hard, stay original, and most importantly, continue to love what I do.
Council, Public Hear RFP Responder’s Presentations
Seeking to Develop High Rock Parcel
SARATOGA SPRINGS – At a special Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, November 10, the only agenda item was presentations by the two groups seeking to develop the last large parcel in Downtown Saratoga Springs. The 2.6-acre site bordered by Lake, High Rock and Maple Avenues adjacent to High Rock Park has been the subject of intense interest, and the meeting was moved upstairs from the Council room to the larger Music Hall.
Community Builders/Paramount Realty and a team led by Hyman Hemispheric, LLC delivered presentations. Both proposed development scenarios involved mixed use: Combining parking with residential and commercial applications and both noted that they were attempting to respond to the needs of the community which they indicated had desired more than just a parking garage in this location, while attempting to respond to the need for more parking for the Saratoga Springs City Center, as well as being sensitive to the impact on the adjacent Mouzon House Restaurant. They did differ on several key points as to how best to accomplish these varied goals.
Community / Paramount presented first and detailed a $77 million mixed-use plan called High Rock Village that had 607 parking places (259 earmarked for the City Center, 30 for City Hall use, 140 for the development’s residents and 178 for the public) and presented a financial scenario that assumed the first hour of parking would be free, $1.50/hr. thereafter; and 166 mixed housing units: 64 senior, 42 “workforce housing” for young professionals and families, 36 condominiums and 24 market rate apartments. The plan anticipated about 50,000 square feet of retail space. The plan had several design features detailed including a pedestrian promenade running North/South and a possible water feature, perhaps including a ‘living wall’ fed by the water along the High Rock Park side of the development. Overall, their financial plan anticipated 50 percent of all revenue from the development going to the City, with about $2 million in annual tax revenue.
Hyman Hemispheric presented their team, which included Sequence Development, Phinney Design, Consigli Construction and JCJ Architecture. They noted that the team had worked together before and involved a local presence (e.g.: Phinney and Consigli). Their plan involved an outright purchase of the land for $2.6 million and would have 656 parking spaces, of which 350 would be reserved for the needs of the new development; 106,000 square feet of housing – a mix of market and workforce; 65,000 sq. ft. of office space in a four-level structure and retail. Mike Phinney noted that much of the actual design of the development would best be reserved until a charette (a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions) was conducted among concerned interest groups (such as the Downtown Business Association) and the public. Phinney indicated that the best projects are those placed before the land use boards with the public already supportive of the design detail.
However, their presentation did have some important broad design elements, such as setting aside 35,400 sq. ft. for open space, ‘green notes’ such as pocket parks and other pedestrian oriented features, including a park space facing the Mouzon House. The presenters stressed the primacy on an east-west flow of people, from the development to Downtown and the City Center, as well as retail across High Rock Avenue. The philosophy of the development was to use retail and housing to minimize the “garage presence”, concealing the parking portion to the greatest extent possible.
While generally appreciative of the two presenting teams’ efforts, some of the Council’s comments following the two presentations indicated that they had concerns that the two proposals did not adequately address the amount of parking space needs for the City Center, and did not provide for direct connectivity to the City Center from the parking area. Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan expressed concern with the overall magnitude of the two projects for the area available, and called for a comprehensive traffic study involving traffic flow, congestion and parking requirements in the immediate and surrounding areas. Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen raised the point that part of the parcel might best be reserved for a City Hall annex to alleviate overcrowding and satisfy the need for a mandated second courtroom in the city.
Best In Show
Maple Ave Middle School’s Alexa Rahman is Conquering the Equestrian World
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Let’s begin with a little exercise:
- Start by thinking of all the 13 year-olds that you know.
- Next, eliminate all but those who can look you in the eye with a quiet, yet determined, confidence and convince you that they have found their life’s profession.
- Now, subtract all but those 13 year-olds who have already reached the absolute pinnacle of that calling.
What are you left with? Meet Alexa Rahman. Multiple World Champion Morgan (show) horse equestrian. Also, an eighth grader at Maple Avenue Middle School.
This season, Alexa has a championship for each year of her existence: A stunning 13 titles in various aspects of show horse riding ( see record at end of story), culminating in two world championships and one reserve (runner-up) championship at last month’s Morgan Grand Nationals in Oklahoma City.
When discussing her performances and techniques, Alexa has acquired so much knowledge, so fast, that you forget her young age. It’s only when she credits her “Nana and Papa,” as well as her parents, Marisa and Bernard, with instilling a love for riding in her at a young age, that are you jolted back to reality and realize that she’s just a nice young lady.
“I started riding at about age 3½,” Alexa noted. “I always had a love for animals, even having big stuffed horses all around my room. My Nana gave me riding lessons for my fourth birthday.” Her first instructor was Barbara Diamond at Clover Ridge Farms on Middle Grove Road. Alexa showed quite a bit of aptitude, competing in her first show at age seven, and garnering ribbons at local shows in Saratoga Springs, Fonda and Cobleskill. Eventually, she was referred to Rolling Oaks Stable in Gansevoort. Her first instructor was Sue Friday, the owner’s mother and she is now trained by Owner Keith Friday and Assistant Trainer Maggie Smith. The team at Rolling Oaks further developed Alexa’s techniques and she made her first Grand National appearance in 2012.
As rare as Alexa’s accomplishments are, it is further unusual in the manner it gets done. Simply put, she competes primarily in two sub-categories: Equitation and Pleasure. Each involves a precise list of gaits and the rider controlling their positions atop the horse as well as the horse’s posture while competing. “In terms of control, I would say Equitation involves 60 percent rider, 40 percent horse. Pleasure is more like 60 percent horse, 40 percent rider,” Alexa said.
Also rare is the fact that she uses two different horses to compete: Baxter (which the Rahmans own) and Zoe. The competitors are in the ring at the same time, working against an ideal performance for the judges, rather than each other. This fosters an atmosphere that is more collegial than competitive, and Alexa notes that she has made many friends on the Morgan show horse circuit.
“It’s fun, but I have to be focused,” Alexa said when asked how it feels to be competing in a disciplined routine. Indeed, when you see her perform (see link at end), she accomplishes the difficult feat of appearing effortless, but in fact she assures you that she is working hard at keeping control of her movements as well as the horse’s.
This is an area of equine competition that is primarily purely for the love of sport. Prize money, if any, is minimal. Marisa Rahman estimated that the cost of everything: stabling, transporting, lodging and competing both for horse and rider to be about $55,000 per year. So consider it an entire family commitment to allow a champion to excel.
As central as show horse competition is to Alexa’s life, she is a well-rounded individual who is an honor class student at Maple Avenue, a member of the Select Chorus, and plays First Violin in the Chamber Orchestra. She has ambitions to perhaps become a veterinarian, or perhaps a horse owner/trainer – but all with an eye to fund her first love.
This is a sport that has no Michael Jordan with a record for her to aim at, although Alexa Rahman looks up to the accomplishments of her trainers Friday and Smith as inspirations. For her, like the competitions themselves, she is competing only against an ideal.
So what’s next when you’re a world champion at age 13?
“I’d like to have a year where I go undefeated,” Alexa says with a giggle. The nice young lady in her would half-like to take it back, but the competitor that wants a challenge wins out.
Here’s a tip: Don’t bet against her.
To view Alexa Rahman’s performance at the Oklahoma City Morgan Grand Nationals, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhJ0fvuASVg&sns=em
A CHAMPION’S RECORD
This year, Alexa Rahman has captured 13 show horse championships, culminating with World Championships in Oklahoma City:
Morgan Grand Nationals and World Championship October OKC
Hunter Pleasure 13 and Under Championship World Champion
Hunter Pleasure 12 and Under Qualifier Reserve Champion
Huntseat on the Flat Championship World Champion
New York Morgan Regional - September Syracuse
Huntseat Equitation 13 and Under Qualifier Champion
Huntseat Equitation 17 and Under Championship Champion
Hunter Pleasure Youth (21 and Under) Champion
Hunter Pleasure Junior Exhibitor 13 and Under Qualifier Champion
Hunter Pleasure Jr. Ex 17 and Under Championship Champion
Mass Morgan - August - Massachusetts
Huntseat Equitation 13 and Under Qualifier Reserve Champion
Hunter Pleasure Jr. Exhibitor 13 and Under Qualifier Champion
Hunter Pleasure Jr. Ex 13 and Under Championship Champion
N. England Morgan Horse Show – July
UPHA Jr. Challenge Cup Saddleseat - Champion
Syracuse International June Syracuse
Huntseat Equitation 17 and Under Qualifier Champion
Huntseat Equitation 17 and Under Championship Champion
Hunter Pleasure Jr. Ex Championship Champion
Protecting Against Backyard Predators
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Wild animals observed in their natural habitat can be a fascinating sight. A deer spotted on a morning walk, squirrels seen playing in the trees, and birds soaring the skies above are looked at with wonder and curiosity. But what happens when wild species begin encroaching into where people live, in particular, species that can pose a dangerous threat? In the last month alone, there have been two bear sightings in Saratoga Springs, locals are distraught over losing livestock to coyotes and, though there is no proof for certain that coyotes are the culprits, there is a noticeable increase in the number of cats going missing in the Clifton Park area.
Without a doubt, people often consider bears and coyotes two nuisance species worth avoiding at all costs.
Unfortunately, there are certain species in general that are thriving living among humans. “Those are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, deer and geese. Those five are the big ones. But bears and coyotes are the scary ones, because there is a predatory component to them; they have big teeth, and because they do kill pets and bite people,” said Allen Gosser, the State Director for Wildlife Services at the United States Department of Agriculture.
Now, while coyotes and bears may be dangerous, Gosser points out that they are not lurking behind every tree. In fact, most coyote nuisance calls come from down state, in Westchester County, and bear disturbances are more common in the Catskills. However, residents upstate still need to be prepared as there is still a possibility of a coyote or bear encounter.
But why are these species coming into residential, urban environments in the first place?
“There is really good cover in residential areas. A lot of wild animals, like coyotes, are very secretive,” said Gosser. “They’re living among us, except we just don’t know it, usually because they are nocturnal.”
Good hiding places are not the only thing drawing in wild animals; they are also attracted by human food. Garbage cans and pet food left out are easily smelled and picked up.
“Coyotes are omnivore and bears are the same way. There is a wide range of what they do eat. Coyotes in particular will exploit any food they can,” said Gosser. “Some people that see coyotes will start feeding them, and that’s the worst thing you could do. You’re going to get them habituated. You’re not only inviting an unnatural situation, but these animals are also known rabies carriers.”
One of the most dangerous threats wild animals pose in close proximity to humans is the possibility of spreading the rabies virus. Though attacks are rare, frightened or aggressive animals can bite pets, children, and adults alike, which always carries with it the risk of rabies infection. Rabies can only be detected post-mortem by examining the brain, which means that the bite victim will most likely have to undergo post-exposure therapy as a preventative measure.
“If anyone gets bitten by any sort of wild animal, they should immediately see a health professional,” said Gosser. Wildlife Services at USDA seeks to prevent rabies by trapping and vaccinating wild animals, preventing further exposure.
Homeowners have several options when it comes to protecting their home from coyotes, bears and other wild nuisance species. If animal activity is suspected on your property, it is best to remove all attractants to the animals (see “Prevention Tips”). They can also call a local, licensed trapper or a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO) to come and remove the animal from the property. These professionals are trained in how to best deal with and handle potentially threatening animals.
But what do you do if you find yourself face to face with a wild animal expectantly?
“Stand your ground and be big. Some people even say flap your arms. Personally, I think it’s important to remain calm,” advises Gosser.
If the nuisance animal is also a game animal (goes into season for hunting), licensed hunters are allowed to take them if they are in season. Always check the local hunting regulations and guidelines first to determine which animals can be hunted and when. Self-defense is also taken into consideration if the animal poses a direct threat of harm to you or your family.
Knowing when certain wild animals will be most abundant and prominent is another important part in avoiding them. Be on the lookout for bears in late winter and early spring, as well as harvest times when crops are in the field. Coyotes are often spotted in mid to late summer.
For more information about nuisance species, including coyotes and bears, visit the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s website at dec.ny.gov or the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s website at aphis.usda.gov.
Prevention Tips to Keep Nuisance Animals off your Property:
-Make sure that garbage bags are securely tied and that trash can lids are placed on firmly. Locking trash bins are also available that are made specifically to keep out wildlife.
-Do not leave food out. When possible, feed domestic animals indoors so their food does not attract predators.
-Do not operate refrigerators or freezers outside or on porches.
-Limit or eliminate bird seed, which is known to attract bears and coyotes.
-Do not let domestic pets run free without supervision.
-Block off and seal crawl spaces where animals could find their way in.
-Fencing the yard may be a solution for keeping out wildlife, preferably one that is set at least 6 inches into the ground and four feet high or taller.
-Advise community members to take the same precautions.
10,000+ Heading To Head of the Fish!
New: Free shuttle between Downtown and Fish Creek
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A two-day spectacle celebrating the sport of rowing, featuring over 2,100 entrants, and representing over 200 organizations from all over the Eastern United States and Canada, is coming to town this weekend. The shores of Fish Creek will be lined with spectators for the 29th Annual Head of the Fish Regatta on Saturday and Sunday, October 31 and November 1. Given good weather, the races will be viewed by an estimated 10-12,000 people over those two days.
This is the largest of three major regattas hosted annually by the Saratoga Rowing Association (SRA) and has grown steadily over the years in every category imaginable. This year, with five weekends in October, the Head of the Fish has been moved back one week, and now will not conflict with the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta (another major regatta in the Philadelphia, PA area) as it has in previous years. While that may explain part of the increase in participation, SRA’s Regatta Director Chris Chase believes a general advance in the popularity of rowing is the key to the Head of the Fish’s growth.
“The highest concentration of junior (middle and high school) rowers is right here between Albany and Saratoga,” Chase noted, “at SRA, the number of participants is up to 205 from 175 last year, and this is something we are seeing with many other teams in the region.” The impact extends beyond the region, as evidenced by the fact that, year after year, regatta weekends generate the highest hotel/motel occupancy of any weekend outside of the “traditional” summer tourist season.
As one might expect, moving all these rowers, buses, cars and fans in and out of the area around the Lee’s Park boat launch area always presents unique challenges. Chase noted, “The actual racing is the easiest part of the whole regatta. We’re very glad that we are able to put this on for the kids and the participants each year, but with a regatta of this size, it’s always the logistics that take up most of our time and effort.” Indeed, Katherine Smith, President of SRA’s Board of Directors also has the key role of managing the volunteer staff, whose ranks also grow each year. “This year, we’ll have the assistance of about 210 volunteers, not including the EMS and Sheriff’s department, which always does a great job on our behalf. We estimate that over 1,800 volunteer hours will be logged during the weekend.”
In an effort to both alleviate traffic pressure around Fish Creek and enhance the overall fan experience, SRA has combined with the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau (SCTB) to offer continuous shuttle buses on both days between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Two free shuttle buses, underwritten by SCTB, will make stops at Saratoga Lake and Downtown Saratoga Springs. The two stops will be in front of the state boat launch next to the site of SRA’s future headquarters, and at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center on Broadway.
Announcing the new shuttle, Todd Garofano, President of SCTB said, “It really is a win-win. Parents and fans here to watch their athletes compete often have long periods of time in between races and search for things to do. They can take advantage of the shuttle now to come downtown to shop, dine or stroll. And for those folks here visiting that are interested in watching an amazing free event, they can take the shuttle to the regatta site and not worry about finding a place to park.”
Smith echoed those thoughts, “The shuttle service will provide an efficient way for visitors to experience a little more of Saratoga and I also really hope local families will use the shuttle as an opportunity to come see what a regatta is all about. First timers are always amazed at the size, the excitement and the camaraderie at Saratoga Regattas and this fascinating sport!”
Also, SRA will be drawing the winning ticket for its raffle of a 2015 Audi A3 convertible, or $30,000 in cash, at the regatta on Sunday at 1 p.m. The proceeds from this raffle will be used to support SRA’s Capital Campaign, which includes the construction of a new Regatta Headquarters and Training Facility, which is now underway and scheduled to be completed next spring (see Saratoga TODAY - September 25, 2015). Raffle tickets may be purchased at SRA’s Headquarters, or during regatta weekend up until the drawing on Sunday.
At press time, the weather forecast is calling for moderate winds, highs in the 50s and next to no chance for rain. In other words -ideal viewing conditions should be in effect. Saturday’s schedule will begin at 8 a.m. and the day’s racing will showcase the Masters (adult), Collegiate, and Open Divisions, as well as some Junior single’s events. Sunday’s races begin at 7:30 a.m. (Note: This takes into account Daylight Savings Time – set your clocks back!), and are dedicated to Juniors in different divisions, in boats with varying numbers of rowers from two to eight.
Whenever you decide to go, by all means make it a point to put this one on your calendar. The Head of the Fish Regatta is always a highlight of the fall, and yet another example of a world-class event that occurs in our region.
For more information, visit SaratogaRowing.com
City Candidates Square Off
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The League of Women Voters (LWV) hosted their second ‘Meet the Candidates’ forum on Tuesday, October 27, at Saratoga Springs High School. With one week before Election Day on November 3, this was an opportunity for voters to hear the contrasting viewpoints of candidates vying for important offices in the city: Saratoga Springs Mayor and Commissioner of Finance.
The forum, which was moderated by Deb Peck Kelleher of LWV, began with statements from the unopposed candidates for the two County Board of Supervisor positions that represent the city. Matthew Veitch (R, C, I) recapped the initiatives he helped to bring about in his year as Chairman of the Board, including funds for trails in the city. Peter Martin (D, I) reviewed some of the services that the county (such as emergency and social services) provides to city residents. Both candidates briefly touched upon their priorities for the coming two-year terms and thanked their supporters.
In the race for Commissioner of Finance, the candidates are incumbent Commissioner Michele Madigan (D, WF, I) and challenger Ken Ivins (R, Ref) who is a former occupant of that position. Therefore, both candidates had compiled a record in office that could be scrutinized by their opponent, and lets just say that neither passed on an opportunity to do so throughout the segment. If you wish to view a video of the exchanges, LWV has posted the entire candidate forum on its website (as well as the first forum, with candidates for Commissioners of Accounts, Public Safety and Public Works), visit www.lwvsaratoga.org.
In addition to completely different perspectives on each candidate’s records while in office, the two candidates expressed differing views on water connection fees for developers, the best plan to provide increased parking for the Saratoga Springs City Center (both candidates used their ‘red cards’ – providing them extra time to speak on a given subject - on this question), civility at City Council meetings, and paid parking in general.
In the race for Saratoga Springs Mayor, the candidates are incumbent Joanne Yepsen (D, WF), seeking a second term, and challenger John Safford (R, C, I). There were several points of differences between these two candidates as well. In his opening statement, Safford stated that he hoped those differences would be made clear. He made his case around the fact that he was not a career politician and hoped to bring transparency and civility to the office. Mayor Yepsen cited her two years of accomplishments in office, 14 years of running her own business, and articulated a record that was centered around balancing growth and open space and doing so in a manner that was both inclusive and transparent.
The candidates differed on a variety of issues. Like the Finance candidates, they had different approaches about the best way to satisfy the City Center’s parking needs; and they also offered differing perspectives on many issues, including the Saratoga PAC, pending litigation against the city, investigating the sale of a contaminated parcel of land adjacent to the city’s landfill site, the Mayor’s role in city government, the Greenbelt and Saratoga National’s expansion plans.
Clearly, in both the Finance and Mayor races, voters are being offered a choice. It appears unlikely that many minds were changed this evening, but that is really not the point of these forums. All the candidate’s supporters did have plenty to feel good about at the end, and if it intensified more people’s intent to get out to the polls next Tuesday, then all parties can agree that the League has performed a valuable service.
Having said that, and as a veteran of attending several candidate forums, I would be remiss if I did not divert to discuss the structure of these programs. This is not meant to be critical of LWV and the fine, often unappreciated and certainly important work it does.
Throughout the evening, candidates, unfortunately, had to entertain questions on subjects that were improperly vetted and therefore not germane – such as Finance Commissioner candidates being asked their views on the Mayor proposing a tax on rainwater (they both looked perplexed before responding that they knew of no such plans). Also, the candidates and the audience were not well served on those occasions where several people submitted questions about the same topic (which would tend to indicate an increased level of interest); these were attempted to be combined “on the fly” by the moderator.
The League is wise to choose someone to moderate these forums that is a resident from outside the city, as that would tend to make that person more objective. But that same strength becomes a weakness when they are less familiar with a given topic. It is also clear that the moderator has a host of other important tasks (e.g.: enforcing timekeeping) and this task, as well as screening questions for relevancy, should be the responsibility of people who have some knowledge about a given topic and still be objective. The result, on this evening, was too often a vague, watered-down version of the question – (e.g.: “tell me your views about transparency”) that end up being too generic to be useful.