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Monday, 27 April 2015 11:57

The City’s Big Economic Engine

City Center Reports Banner Year 

SARATOGA SPRINGS –The Saratoga Springs City Center hosted a record 157 events, among several other highlights, in its 30th anniversary year. The City Center’s 2014 annual report, delivered to the Saratoga Springs City Council this past Tuesday, April 21 by City Center President Mark Baker, detailed several other pieces of good news, including: 

  • -The 157 events represented a new record in building use days; the City Center was in use for 314.5 days in the last calendar year. This translates into overall occupancy of 86 percent. They hosted 68 conventions and conferences. 

 

“This is a testament to the investment the community made in our recent expansion,” Baker noted. The facility grew by over 12,000 square feet to a total of 32,000 feet of meeting and event space. “With our new facilities we are now able to host larger events, and two or three groups at a time; sometimes each with a different caterer.” He said. 

  • -They welcomed 150, 931 guests to its facility in 2014. Of these, 19,947 were convention guests that would stay over one or more nights at area hotels. Each of these guests (and their associations) would spend an average of $910.16 locally during their stay, according to estimates provided by The Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau. This translated into a minimum of $18 million in sales. 
  • -Day guests, a total of 130,984, spent an average of $88.94 per person. These guests added over $11.6 million in sales. The total sales impact of $29,804,678.48 does not include sales at non-City Center hosted businesses (such as motor coach tours and sporting events).
  • -The City Center generated $576,000 in rental income, as well as $447,000 in sales tax revenue to both the City of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County.
  • -In 2014, the City Center and the Saratoga Springs area demonstrated its enduring appeal, as 76 percent of the events it hosted were returning for the second time or more. The annual report listed 19 groups that had the City Center host their event for 20 or more years.  

A key reason frequently cited for these groups’ ongoing loyalty has been the remarkable tenure of the City Center’s staff. Of their 13 full-time employees, eight have been with the City Center for 10 or more years, four of those for over 25! This employee consistency allows the staff to become and remain familiar with the unique nuances and needs of each event and group. 

 

  • -The City Center also hosted 37 events for the first time. Overall, 20 events were hosted as a public service to the community, including not-for-profit and civic organizations, as well as the City Center’s Family Day last September.

 

Perhaps the best news that Mark Baker delivered to the city council is that the 2014 numbers were by no means a high-water mark for the Saratoga Springs City Center. He noted that for the first quarter of 2015, data for both events and guests were trending ahead of 2014’s record figures.

 

“The days of a ‘slow’ or ‘shoulder’ season are a thing of the past in Saratoga Springs.” Baker said. 

 

The complete 2014 annual report can be read online. Visit SaratogaCityCenter.com.  Click on ‘governance’, then 2014 annual report.

 

Published in News

SARATOGA COUNTY – The Sage Colleges is expanding its Capital Region footprint. The private, liberal arts college has announced it will soon begin offering a Master of Business Administration program at the Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) TEC-SMART facility in Malta this fall.

Aside from Empire State College, no other higher education institution offers MBA programs in the Saratoga area.

“There really aren’t a lot of choices, particularly for an MBA, up towards the North Country,” explained Kimberly Fredericks, Ph.D., associate dean of Sage’s School of Management. “We know that there’s a niche up there. It’s a growing community – Saratoga, Malta…really Saratoga County in its entirety is a growing community, and we wanted to make education accessible and flexible.”

Administrators say classes will be offered in an accelerated format – two classes one night a week- evenings from 6 to 10 p.m. The fall 2015 classes will include “Management of Change and Innovation” and “Human Resource Management.” It is the same MBA program offered at Sage’s Albany location, only now it’s accessible in Malta. 

“So many kids and adults are driving a long distance, so I’m going to either catch them on their way to work or next door to their employers so education can be accessible, affordable and flexible,” said Frederickson. “We cater to working adults in all of our graduate programs currently. We have night classes and sometimes once a week or even once a month because everybody works.”

The professional MBA program is designed to develop leaders who can manage complex organizations and who have the desire and capability to move into high-level positions. For nearly three decades, Sage MBA graduates have taken major leadership roles in business, government, health care and non-profit organizations. The program is accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

Fredericks says the college may add coursework for additional programs in the future, but wanted to start with an MBA program because of Malta’s growing business community; like the Luther Forest Technology Campus (LFTC) for example.

“Because we’re a smaller institution, we can be flexible. We have some skill sets in our faculty that not everybody has,” says Fredericks. “For example, we have an intellectual property attorney who can do things with patents, intellectual property or tech transfer that might be attractive to that market up in Malta.” 

Due to its location at HVCC TEC-SMART, Fredericks also explained it puts the college in a good position to potentially offer continuing education coursework or seminars to the more than 3,000 employees at LFTC.

“We love being part of the community. We listen to the business community and adapt to what skill sets they want employees to have and we listen to our students and I’m able to put on electives and try certain courses out, because we’re smaller,” said Frederickson.

So far it seems as though Sage’s MBA program in Saratoga County is being well-received. The program has reached its cap at 30 students for the upcoming fall semester. However, applications are still being accepted and Frederickson says adjustments can be made to fit a high demand. 

In the next year, school administrators say they hope to see the program grow and become a partner in the Saratoga County community.  The five-year goal for the college’s “Sage in Saratoga” initiative is to offer more graduate- and undergraduate-level programs.

The Sage Colleges is the university to have a presence in three counties – Albany, Rensselaer and now Saratoga.

 

To learn more about The Sage Colleges MBA program in Malta, visit sage.edu/management

Published in News
Thursday, 09 April 2015 12:01

City Starts Second Century

“One Hundred Years is Only the Beginning”

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city that has “history” at the core of its motto: Health, History, Horses, celebrated a major milestone on Tuesday, April 7 as a large contingent of citizens gathered to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Saratoga Springs. 

 

“One hundred years is only the beginning,” noted Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who noted how proud she was to be serving as mayor at this particular time. Looking forward, the mayor listed a number of significant centennial events to come during the year long celebration, including:

  • -June 1: Dedication of Centennial Park in Congress Park 
  • -June 22: A reenactment of the first city council meeting
  • -June 26: Rededication of the Spirit of Life and Trask Memorial

 

Everything surrounding this event touched upon the city’s rich history. The official act that made Saratoga Springs a city was signed into law on April 7, 1915 by Governor Charles S. Whitman, following a vote of the state legislature. Mayor Yepsen introduced some descendants of the first city council members, as well as former members of the council themselves, in addition current office holders (or their representatives) from local, state and national government.

 

The historic site of the gathering, the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center, was opened in 1915 as a station for the Hudson Valley Railway. It later became used as known as the Drink Hall in the 1940s, where people would gather to taste the waters from the city’s many mineral springs. 

 

Mayor Yepsen introduced Assistant City Attorney (and history aficionado) Tony Izzo, who further painted a picture of the fledgling city a century ago. Dressed authentically for a century ago (down to the bowler hat and pocket watch) Izzo stated that in 1915, a gallon of gas was 15 cents, a good steak might cost you 20 cents a pound, and one of the earliest ordinances the first city council passed was that “No chickens or pigs could run free in the City of Saratoga Springs. Izzo noted that this piece of groundbreaking legislation “…was still in effect today.” 

 

He also spoke about the architectural appearance of the city 100 years ago, saying that if you walked down Broadway, many of the buildings of that era, such as City Hall (which was originally Town Hall, built in 1871) and the Adirondack Trust building were standing at that time. However, once you got off Broadway the character of the city appeared to be much more agricultural in nature than it is today.

 

What followed could be called nothing less than a parade of proclamations, presented to the mayor from officials and representatives of political officials at all levels of government. Sean Shortell represented U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko and noted how, as a native to the area, he was thrilled to be here on this day. 

 

Mark Streb, Capital District Regional Representative for Governor Andrew Cuomo, took note of the large turnout at the Visitor Center, saying that he has been to several similar anniversary celebrations throughout the state, but none were as well attended. “The true greatness of a community comes from the people that live there,” he said. 

From the State Senate, Tom Lewis represented Kathy Marchione and Mike Manson spoke on behalf of Hugh Farley. 

 

Assemblyperson Carrie Woerner was in attendance. Her proclamation called Saratoga Springs “a place of singular renown.” County Supervisor Peter Martin then read portions of a proclamation from the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. 

 

After the proclamations and ceremony, Mayor Yepsen reached back again into the city’s history – inviting attendees to sample the waters from the springs, as people did in the old Drink Hall – along with learning the details and history about each from expert Trent Millet, who leads tours of the springs and lectures on the subject. 

 

For a complete calendar of centennial events and more information, visit saratogacentennial.com

Published in News
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 14:11

Skidmore Observes Autism Awareness Month

SARATOGA SPRINGSSkidmore College will again observe Autism Awareness Month with a program titled “Autism Awareness and Acceptance,” scheduled April 13-21 on campus.

 

The schedule is completely coordinated by students of Professor Rachel Mann Rosan in the course titled “PS 212B:  Developmental Disabilities and Autism.” Each year Rosan assigns her students the task of developing programming for the community to increase awareness about autism, including research and services that are available in the region.

 

All events are free and open to the public. 

 

Schedule of Events

 

Monday, April 13th at 6:30 p.m.

Susan Parrillo, Philosophy & Religion, Skidmore College

Philosophical Perspectives on Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Susan Parrillo will discuss various philosophical perspectives of ASD from the perspective of the philosophy of disability.

Tisch 301

  

Tuesday, April 14th at 6:30 p.m.

Valerie Bolivar, Ph.D., Wadsworth Center

Using Mouse Models to Test Hypotheses about the Etiology of Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Dr. Bolivar will discuss the current research on her laboratory examining autism-relevant behaviors in a variety of inbred strains of mice (e.g., BTBR T+ Itpr3tf/J, C57BL/6J, FVB/NJ).

Tisch 202

  

Wednesday, April 15th at 6:30 p.m.

Beth McLaughlin, MSE, LCAT, MT-BC & Karli Powers, MAT, Wildwood School

Infusing the Arts in Learning with Students on the Autism Spectrum

Attendees will learn how music & the visual arts are used collaboratively at the Wildwood School to engage students in experiences that enrich their learning while reinforcing academic, social, motor, & management skills.

Tisch 202

  

Thursday, April 16th at 6:15 p.m.

Julie Marks, Tara Ham, Loretta Longo, Laureen Faulkner, Sue Reiter

Panel Discussion with Parents

A panel presentation of parents sharing their stories of raising and loving children with ASD.

Palamountain 301

  

Sunday April, 19th from 12:00 –3:00 p.m.

4th Annual Autism Informational Fair & Carnival

 

Saratoga Bridges, Inc. & The Parent Network of the Capital Region With The Skidmore College Psychology Department  

Presented by: The Law Office of Wilcenski & Pleat, PLLC

Saratoga Springs City Center

  

Monday April 20th at 6:15 p.m.

Eric Olefson, Therase Faulkner, Melanie Hecker, Marcie Reiter

What is it Like to Have ASD?

Individuals with ASD will speak frankly about their experiences regarding all facets of life and their perspectives

Palamountain 301

  

Tuesday April 21st at 7:00 p.m.

Wretches & Jabberers

Growing up, two men with ASD, Tracy Thresher & Larry Bissonnette were presumed “retarded” & excluded from normal school.  Now able to communicate by typing, Thresher & Bissonnette put a new face of autism as they travel and meet others with autism in Sri Lanka, Japan, & Finland

 

 

Emerson Auditorium

Published in News
Friday, 03 April 2015 10:21

Grab Your Hat, Cat!

And Head To Saratoga Children’s Theatre’s Seussical Family Fun Festival 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – An evening of activities that the whole family can enjoy will await you at Saratoga Children’s Theatre’s (SCT) Seussical Family Fun Festival. The event will take place on Friday, Apr. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Saratoga Music Hall, above City Hall at 474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.

 

This event is to help fund a great cause and serves as the kickoff to a campaign to send SCT’s teen troupe to perform at The National Performing Arts Festival at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida next February 18 to 22. Admission to the festival is $15 for adults, $5 for kids and one child admission is free with each paid adult admission.  

 

A special appearance by the local family friendly music group Seth and the Moody Melix is part of the activities at the Music Hall. Their music was recently featured on the Food Network and they helped Chef Paula Deen during the first two dates of her live cooking tour in Tennessee. 

 

Now back home in Saratoga Springs, front man Seth Warden, a father of three, is busy with activities for his kids, which led to a desire to help SCT. 

 

“Our daughters have been involved in the Saratoga Children's Theater now for two years, and each year I’ve watched them become more and more confident and proud of the work they've put in with SCT,” Seth said. “It was really just a matter of time before SCT and Seth and the

Moody Melix became acquainted and we are thrilled to join them in their fundraising efforts.” 

 

Seth and the Moody Melix will be performing music from their debut CD; “Hi, Hello, How do you do?” along with a handful of new songs which will be featured on their second release which is anticipated to be released this summer. 

 

SCT’s teen troupe members, no doubt in full Dr. Seuss regalia, will administer the other activities including face painting, a cake walk contest and a dance party. Also, the entire teen troupe will perform the opening number from Seussical. 

 

In addition to the admission proceeds, the family fun festival will also have an additional opportunity to donate with a Disney theme. This will mark the debut of a Mickey Mouse pledge card – which will be placed on a traveling “wall of fame” that will tour with SCT throughout its performances and campaign events as they seek to fund their trip to Florida. 

 

This trip is certainly an ambitious undertaking. According to Meg Kelly, SCT’s executive director, the cost for travel, lodging and workshop fees to attend the National Performance Arts Festival is about $1,500 per child, with many members of the teen troupe in need of either full or partial funding to attend. 

 

But once there, members of the SCT teen troupe will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience to perform before Disney casting personnel against other drama student groups and receive feedback from some of the best in the business. They will also have the opportunity to participate in workshops and clinics in areas such as audition and vocal techniques, stage movement and scene development.

 

During the Performance Arts Festival, the SCT teen troupe’s group performance competition will take place at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort Performance Hall, which hopefully will give them a “home-field advantage” of sorts. There will be opportunities for troupe members to participate in solo and duo competitions as well. 

 

At the end of the National Performing Arts Festival, an awards ceremony will take place at Disney’s Superstar Television Theater, with a showcase performance for the winning performers on The Waterside Stage at Downtown Disney. 

So the Apr. 10 Seussical Family Fun Festival is not only an opportunity for you and your family to have a great time, but a chance to help young performers who do so much to enrich the cultural fabric in our community “wish upon a star” and maybe grab a few for themselves. 

 For more information, visit saratogachildrenstheatre.org

Published in News
Friday, 03 April 2015 10:08

Pain In The Pothole

City, County Try To Catch Up On Road Patch Up

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Take it from a person in a position to know:

 

“This winter was definitely worse than last year, which happened to be the worst in a long time.” 

 

So stated Commissioner of Public Works for Saratoga County Keith Manz regarding the current pothole outbreak through our region. Of course, anyone need only drive a couple of blocks to conclude the same thing. 

 

We are bouncing around, ruining alignments and losing hubcaps all over the place – increasing the stress of driving under less than ideal conditions. One who experienced this firsthand is lifelong Saratoga Springs resident Anne Proulx.

 

“In the beginning of February we were heading to Wal-Mart along Weibel Avenue. I made a turn and – boom – right into a hole.” She said. “I thought I was just running through some water, but I had no idea that the water was covering a huge gap in the road until I looked at it closely later on. I didn’t learn until I returned home that I had lost my second hubcap of the winter.” 

 

“The road in front of Saratoga TODAY (Case Street) is an absolute mess because of potholes every winter. I called and left a message for the head of the DPW a few months ago but never heard back or saw any progress.” Said Chad Beatty, Publisher of Saratoga TODAY.

 

“This road has been an ongoing issue. It’s ironic because the road leads into Fasig-Tipton. They do $20+ million in horse sales on a single summer weekend but there is a low budget road out front all year.” Beatty said.

 

Generally, winter potholes form after precipitation permeates the pavement, causing the soil and sub-base layers underneath to freeze and expand leading to cracks in the pavement. As thawing occurs, sub-base and soil recede, often leaving a hole underneath the cracked pavement, which breaks further under the weight of vehicular traffic. 

 

There you have pothole pain in a paragraph. Each pothole can deepen or widen over time as more vehicles travel over it if not repaired.

 

According to Manz, what makes this winter so tough is that we never really got a mid-winter thaw. “Consistent frozen ground is much worse than a typical freeze/thaw cycle,” he said. “Eventually the thawing occurs and leads to a more severe effect.” 

 

Kathy Moran, office manager for Saratoga Springs’ Department of Public Works (DPW) said that they have three crews out each day in the city: covering Geyser Crest, Westside and Eastside. They are marking locations and a truck is dispatched to nearby asphalt providers in the city (Pompa Brothers or Palette Stone) to employ a process called “cold patch,” which is a temporary fix until repaving can occur. 

 

Why this intermediate step? Manz explained that the ground should be above 40 degrees to properly repave the road’s blacktop. He estimates that it is about 32 degrees currently. In the short-term, the prospect is for the pothole outbreak to get worse. 

 

“There is certainly more to come,” Manz said. “A 55-60 degree day or two will make the pavement even more pliable” as the ground thaws further. In fact, the forecast on the day this issue is published calls for a high of 62 degrees, with rain.

 

Moran said that the crews are aware of most pothole locations by now, but if city residents want to report a particular pothole, they are welcome to call the DPW office at (518) 587-3550 ext. 2555.

 

Manz said that up to four of his eight crews are consistently out each day now, rotating through the county to make pothole repairs. He also noted that the county has a repair hotline to report potholes and other road hazards – (518) 885-9020. When they receive a complaint, they dispatch a foreman to inspect the location and, if deemed necessary, will divert a crew to that spot, usually by the next day. 

 

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen doesn’t control the paving budget items under the city’s commission form of government, but she certainly hears about citizen’s discontent. 

 

“We do recommend that their first call go to DPW. Many people do call us though as a secondary measure, feeling that it will lead to a quicker response and we want to be attentive to that and not give them ‘the city hall shuffle.’” She said.  

 

Mayor Yepsen said she was pleased that some relief came from the state in the form of increased money from the Department of Transportation’s CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Plan) fund. A total of $40 million extra was allocated for “Extreme Winter Recovery” statewide, with the city receiving over $57,000 (Saratoga County also received over $209,000) according to the New York State Conference of Mayors website (nycom.org). This represents just under a 10 percent increase over the initial CHIPS funding levels. 

 

The money certainly will help this region recover from the ravages of nature’s wrath this past winter, but there is likely long road ahead to getting us all “patched up,” let alone paved. 

 

“There’s an image component, of course. You don’t want people to have a miserable experience driving around our city.” Mayor Yepsen said. “But even more important are safety issues, not to mention the potential for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in damage to our citizens’ and visitors’ vehicles.”

Published in News
Tuesday, 31 March 2015 08:46

On SNGC and the City Center Parking Garage

By Michele Madigan

Commissioner of Finance

City of Saratoga Springs

 

There has been much discussion lately about a request by Saratoga National Golf Club (SNGC) to create a Resort Overlay District within what is known as “the greenbelt”, and the proposed City Center parking garage.

SNGC’s request would allow them to pursue some interesting, exciting plans for their property.  The major point of contention has nothing to do with the specific development that SNGC hopes to complete (which many enthusiastically support), but that it would require a fundamental alteration to our Comprehensive Plan - one that may not even be necessary given what may be allowable to SNGC. Such a change would render the greenbelt extremely vulnerable to development that may not be in the best interests of the City, its residents and taxpayers, and the local business community.

The argument is made that a high-end resort would be beneficial not only to SNGC, but also to our downtown businesses, the Raceway & Casino, and residents, and would simultaneously help protect the greenbelt. This misses the larger point that the requested change would leave us vulnerable to other resort developments that are not so friendly to all constituencies. For example, suppose another group would like to develop a resort hotel with an ice cream parlor and confectionary shop, high-end clothing and jewelry stores, a bowling alley, a movie theater, and/or a live performance venue? No doubt this would draw a large number of visitors who would spend little time or money at any of our other establishments (with the possible exception of the race track).  Would this be in the best interests of our downtown business district or the Raceway & Casino?  Similar high-end resorts are nearby in Lake Placid (Whiteface Lodge) and throughout New York/New England.  Are there other commercial development models we have not contemplated that would inadvertently be allowed under the guise of a Resort Overlay District?

We must cautiously consider all reasonably foreseeable outcomes before making sweeping changes to our city’s thoughtful, rich, well-developed Comprehensive Plan and concomitant zoning. These have served us well by encouraging dense development in our walkable and vibrant urban core with a thriving economically viable commercial district, and low to modest density development in other areas of the city, fostering and protecting our greenbelt and providing us a true “city in the country” that so many find desirable.  

 

As for the City Center parking garage, I am disappointed that the Zoning Board of Appeals denied its request due to nearby solar panels installed long after parking garage plans were announced.  This decision renders the City property practically worthless, as any development that casts the proscribed shadow will be blocked, and puts many properties at risk of the possibly capricious placement of solar panels.  Furthermore, the City Center has a real, pressing, immediate need they are trying to meet with a plan that would benefit the broader downtown business community.  I plan to continue working with my fellow council members and the City Center Authority to reach an agreement that the majority can embrace.

Published in News
Friday, 27 March 2015 11:52

“Success Feels Awesome!”

Saratoga Bridges Client is a Story of Triumph

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Meet Amanda Baillargeon. She’s got a lot of things going for herself: A sunny disposition, stunning artistic talent and a future that is brighter not just because of the assistance she was able to receive, but also because of her own drive. Amanda is an example that shows that people with learning disabilities can do more than just survive – they can thrive and achieve great things. 

 

As March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month it’s a perfect time to tell her story. A success story that exhibits how important local, not-for-profit social service organizations like Saratoga Bridges are to their client’s lives – enabling them to maximize their potential. How, in a proper nurturing environment, great things are possible. But that’s only half the story. 

 

The other half is the spirit of people like Amanda Baillargeon. You talk to her and you can’t help but be touched and inspired. 

 

She is an extremely talented artist, who has maximized her talents since coming to Saratoga Bridges’ Creative Endeavors facility in Ballston Spa in 2004. Amanda’s mentor was Barbara Grey. “I love it! I’m in my own world!” Amanda says with a smile, and given the chance to develop that world, Amanda has received great acclaim. 

 

Amanda said she gets her primary inspiration from photographs and Beatrix Potter prints. Her pieces have been featured in innumerable shows and exhibits. In particular, she has been recognized as a standout at the prestigious The Arc Otsego’s Voice! Annual juried art exhibition opening, which contains works by artists with developmental disabilities from across New York State.  Amanda’s watercolor painting ‘Love Birds’ was featured in Voice!5.  Her piece “Reflections” was selected for the cover for Voice! 6. She had a piece included in Voice!7.  At the Voice!9 Art Show, Amanda won 1st place for her painting “The Wait” and received a $300 prize. The painting sold during the opening reception for $125. Additionally, at the Creative Endeavors “Through My Eyes” juried art show, her piece “Garden of Wild Flowers” won 3rd Place and received $100.

 

“I’ve been her instructor for seven years, and Amanda has come incredibly far,” said Darlene Petralia, an instructor at Creative Endeavors. “Not just in her technical artwork abilities, but in how it has made a huge difference in her ability to relate and socialize with others. She has just really blossomed. I can see her developing a great following.” 

 

Art is a cornerstone of Amanda’s life, but her success is evident in other areas of life as well. She is particularly fond of swimming, receiving two silver and one bronze medal at the Special Olympics. You can find her at the Skidmore pool each week, and participating as a Walking Buddy at Saratoga Bridges, which pairs up an individual with a staff member. Amanda’s partner is Executive Director, Valerie Muratori. 

 

“Amanda and I have enjoyed being Walking Buddies. We motivate each other with the goal of staying fit even throughout the cold winter.” Muratori said. Amanda stated that they walk three times around the building each possible day, and with great pride noted that she has lost 30 pounds through her commitment to health and wellness. She is now a member of Saratoga Bridges’ wellness committee. 

 

The programs at Saratoga Bridges have also given Amanda the skill set to work in various capacities. She assists Bridges’ Communications Specialist Pamela Polacsek.

 

“Amanda truly makes my job rewarding. “It’s a sincere privilege to provide an opportunity for Amanda to fulfill her life’s aspirations, interests and dreams. It is especially rewarding to see her accomplishing some of these goals.” Polacsek said. 

 

Also, last July Amanda began working at TJMaxx. Since being trained and learning the requirements of the job, she works with a team as a backroom clerk to process new merchandise. “Saratoga Bridges is proud of our relationships with businesses throughout Saratoga County.  We work very hard to understand each of our business partner’s expectations so the best possible employee is placed in that best position. TJ Maxx is an prime example of a longstanding, strong supporter of hiring people with disabilities and for that we are most grateful.” Polacsek comments. “Also, Amanda has been a hostess at our two of our largest fundraisers - The White Party Gala and Travers Day at the Races.”

 

It doesn’t end there. Amanda is a 2011 graduate of “Bridges to Skidmore,” a modified college experience, and was a student mentor in 2013-14. Participants from Saratoga Bridges are brought to the Skidmore campus on a weekly basis and are paired with a Skidmore student for the duration of the semester. At the end of each semester, a celebratory luncheon is held. Saratoga Bridges participants invite staff and family. They graduate from the program after four continuous semesters of participation. Amanda credits her parents for their support in all these areas, “They’re my best friends!” She said.

 

Amanda is now living in a community-based home with five women in Saratoga Springs, where she enjoys activities like cooking, going to the library, movies and shopping. But though she has come far, Amanda is not without several goals for the future. 

 

With five women and three bathrooms in her apartment, it’s no surprise that she has a goal of getting her own apartment. Saratoga Bridges has access to six “supportive apartments” which would afford her more autonomy. Also, her big dream is “to start an art camp for kids with developmental disabilities.” She said. 

 

Once you get to know Amanda, you learn that you wouldn’t want to bet against her accomplishing anything she has her mind set to. And that’s why the work Saratoga Bridges does is so important. 

 

“Success feels awesome!” Amanda says.

Published in News
Friday, 20 March 2015 10:59

Making the Case

Saratoga National Proposes ‘Destination Resort’

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga National Golf Club is proposing to expand its facilities over 15 additional acres on its property. This would provide additional amenities that would make it a year-round destination resort. They made their case for the expansion, supplemented with supporting data from business and civic leaders, at a panel presentation on Monday, Mar. 16 at the Gideon Putnam Hotel. 

 

However, in order for this plan to proceed through the city’s land use review boards, the City Council will have to approve a motion in the Saratoga Springs Comprehensive Plan for a zoning change: Making an “Open Space Resort Overlay” exemption at the site, as it is inside the city’s Conservation Development District, or Greenbelt area where this is currently prohibited. 

 

The plan, as detailed by Tom Newkirk, CEO of Saratoga National, represented what he called a “once in a lifetime opportunity” would add several new facilities, including: 

 

  • -A hotel with up to 100 new lodging rooms with related amenities
  • -A Spa and Fitness/Wellness center with expanded locker facilities
  • -Up to four golf cottage units for group overnight accommodations
  • -Up to 100 residential condominium units
  • -Connection to the Greenbelt Trail system and other nature trails
  • -Year-round amenities to attract destination tourism, such as winter sports and kayaking

 

Additionally, the plan calls for enhancements to existing facilities, such as Prime restaurant. 

 

In return for the ability to develop the additional 15 acres, Saratoga National proposed to put the remainder of its property, a total of 378 acres, or about 93 percent of their property (including the existing golf course) into a Conservation Easement Agreement that will prevent any future development or change to the current open space unless approved by both the city council and a (to be) designated environmental group.

 

Newkirk noted that 80 percent of his customers and revenues come from outside Saratoga Springs and that Saratoga National was not seeking any tax breaks. Their presentation listed the following estimate of potential benefits arising out of getting the Resort Overlay approved:

 

• Create an additional $10 million of economic impact within the City of Saratoga Springs

• Generate an additional $2.5 million in annual tax revenue

• Create an additional 260 jobs and payroll of $2.8+ million

 

Each member of the panel offered a range of perspectives that made a case as to why they felt this project deserved support.

 

Michael J. Toohey, Esq. brought up the ironic point that under current zoning, Saratoga National is permitted to build 50 to 73 houses on the property, which would obviously have a more intrusive visual and sprawl impact than what Saratoga National was proposing. This was not an option being considered at this time, Toohey noted, and the proposed development would be set back a minimum of 3000 feet from Union Avenue. 

 

Michael Phinney, president of Phinney Design Group, detailed the proposed phases in which the project would be rolled out. He also detailed how resorts in outlying areas of cities successfully interfaced with historic downtowns, citing Lenox, MA as an example. He emphasized the sustainable design of this project, with significant wetland remediation at its core. 

 

The need for a destination resort in Saratoga Springs to be competitive was emphasized by Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau. He noted that in 2014, Saratoga Springs lost 20 group opportunities to neighboring destinations (such as the Sagamore in Lake George or Equinox in Manchester, Vermont) that were looking for a luxury golf/spa resort location. This resulted in the loss of 13,000 room nights and over $7 million in economic impact. 

 

Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, noted that both the primary and secondary target audiences that they have identified for external marketing have prime interests in the exact amenities the proposed destination resort would provide or enhance: Sports and cultural attractions including bicycling and resort golf opportunities. 

 

Jeff Olson, a principal at Alta Planning and Design, spoke about Saratoga National’s investment in a key link of the 24 mile Greenbelt trail system on it’s property and the benefits to all residents. Once completed, the Greenbelt trail system will place Saratoga Springs “at the hub of a county-wide trail system” that will yield health and mobility benefits for all residents in addition to economic ones. He concluded by asking if someone were proposing a major community asset, such as SPAC or Skidmore College today “would they be allowed to build it?”

 

And that is the ultimate question: will the City Council approve a zoning amendment that allows this project to even be considered? Right now, it’s a plan with admittedly widespread support from several sectors. But without a pathway to proceed, it stays on the drawing board. 

 

The public comments from the audience were mostly supportive of the project, with minor concerns expressed. For instance, Pat Izzo, a resident of Piping Rock Circle, was not opposed to the project, but felt that the traffic impact on the intersections of nearby Gilbert Road with Union and Lake Avenues should be addressed. 

But significant public comment against the concept of any encroachment in the Greenbelt led the City Council to unanimously approve a resolution prohibiting any Planned Unit Developments (PUD) in the Conservation Development District on Dec. 2, 2014. Whether they will consider a Resort Overlay proposal remains to be seen. 

 

A leading organization in opposition to any Greenbelt development is Sustainable Saratoga. Their representatives were invited to participate in Monday’s forum, but declined to attend. In a release, Harry Moran, chair of Sustainable Saratoga characterized the meeting as  “…a marketing event to launch a specific development project which is exactly the opposite of the comprehensive perspective we find appropriate for this level of planning.” Several members of Monday’s panel expressed regret that Sustainable Saratoga declined to participate, noting that they were seeking a balanced, open discussion on the topic. 

 

 

However, there is no doubt that the discussion is far from over, and ultimately this subject may do as much to define the character and direction of the current City Council as the casino issue. 

 

Published in News
Friday, 13 March 2015 12:13

The Real People Behind Homelessness

Shelters of Saratoga Gala’s Exhibit Shows the Humanity of Struggle, Hope and Success

SARATOGA SPRINGS – For it’s fifth annual gala, Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) will be adding an extra, dramatic dimension – a showcase of the individuals impacted by homelessness through a series of intimate portraits and their stories that go beyond the stereotypes – and are the most powerful reasons why you should consider attending.

 

The gala is next Thursday, Mar. 19 from 6-9 p.m. at Longfellows Restaurant. Admission is $100; visit sheltersofsaratoga.com/events/shelters-of-saratoga-gala-2015 for more information and reservations. At the event there will be a series of 60 live and silent auction items available, a cocktail reception and live music by Jeff Brisbin. 

 

But it is the people themselves – people whose lives have been positively impacted by the work of the shelter, and their stories, that will be front and center for gala attendees. Included are a series of powerful images from the lens of Mark McCarty showing SOS clients and houseguests in a way that cuts through the stereotypes and allow you to view the full spectrum of humanity of the people who have been helped by SOS. 

 

And stories. “I became homeless when I lost my home due to foreclosure,” says Stanley Peters, SOS houseguest. “Living in a motel used what little money I had and there was no one that I could stay with locally. A friend suggested that I call SOS.” 

 

“People who are homeless are stereotyped as panhandlers bumming spare change or pushing around a shopping cart filled with everything they own,” says Peters. “That’s not who I am. I’m married, have children and two jobs. I like art, reading, sculpting and metalwork. When I leave SOS, I hope to have a place to bring my children to visit me that I can proudly say is mine.”

 

In 2014, SOS helped over 400 men and women through their sheltering program and had over 1,500 face-to-face contacts through their Mobile Outreach unit with youth, adults and families.

 

Real people receiving real help. Like Hial Hall, another SOS houseguest. 

 

“I almost didn’t go to SOS because of the way that homeless shelters are portrayed. However, I have found this to be an atmosphere that’s more like a family. We help one another get back on track. I’ve had nothing but good fortune since coming here.”

 

Hall has been sober since July 2008 and noted that his other accomplishments include finding and maintaining work and accepting staff’s help to find the resources that have gotten him back on his feet. Hall currently works two jobs and has recently moved into one of SOS’ affordable housing apartments.

 

When asked to what he attributes his success, Hall stated, “You can’t stay in the past, you have to keep looking forward.”

 

The Honorary Committee Chair for the Gala is Laura Chodos. Title sponsors for the event include Vince, Patty, Ron and Michele Riggi and Saratoga Casino and Raceway. Saratoga TODAY Publisher Chad Beatty will oversee the live auction, with items available such as Saratoga Race Course Track Box seats, VIP tickets to Electric City Couture Fashion Show and after-party, tickets to Les Miserables on Broadway and many other items. 

 

“I am very pleased to celebrate the good work of Shelters of Saratoga and the support we provide to those who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness in our community,” says Michael Finocchi, SOS executive director.

 

For more information, visit sheltersofsaratoga.org

Published in News
Page 8 of 25

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