Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS – A new City Council for a new two-year term staged its first night meeting Jan. 4 at Saratoga Music Hall. The cordial meeting lasted just over an hour and included four new council members.

Mayor Ron Kim announced the appointment of Angela Rella as his deputy mayor, and provided guidelines for Public Comment period, during which speakers may address concerns or issues for up to two minutes’ time: Be kind; We’re a community; Speak to each other in a way that community members speak, Kim said. “Bickering and fighting, we prefer you not to do that, but, it’s your time. Be factual. We don’t want alternative facts. We want to hear the truth, as you see it, and we’re happy to hear it.”

One meeting change will be in the order of addressing the council. Returning City Supervisors Matthew Veitch, and Tara Gaston – who normally address the council at the end of the agenda – will speak first.

Limited Number of COVID-19 Rapid Tests Available for Residents

During her comment period on Tuesday, Gaston announced the city had earlier that day received “a small number” of at-home rapid COVID tests that were distributed from the state to the county, and then on to county-based municipalities. The city will be distributing their portion of at-home tests to city residents, while supplies last, from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday at Geyser Road Elementary School. The kits have two tests per box. Proof of city residence is required.

Outside of Saratoga Springs, county municipalities are distributing their allotment of at-home tests in a variety of ways. For specific distribution information, residents should contact their respective town or city hall. A list of municipal phone numbers and websites may be found HERE

The city had previously received 19,000 K95 masks from the state, which Gaston said she has been distributing to city residents. Masks continue to be available at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, the Saratoga Springs Visitors Center, and the city Recreation Center.

The seven-day positive infection rate of Saratoga County residents is currently 18.6 %. 

New Methods, New Appointments

Mayor Kim explained a new “Question Period” segment will be launched in the near future during which community members in advance submit any questions they have for a specific council member. Those questions will typically be discussed and answered at the end of council meetings. Those inquiries will employ a pre-registration tool, and more information will be forthcoming in the near future.

Also soon forthcoming, perhaps later this month, will be a cost/expense tally presentation regarding the vacant city attorney position. The mayor said a discussion will take place regarding a plan aimed at both - reducing city costs and making the position more effective, while meeting the needs provided by a city attorney.

Kim also announced the establishment of a city Infrastructure Committee, which will be tasked with organizing a priority list of city infrastructure projects. The mayor said he has had discussions with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko regarding federal funds targeting local infrastructure projects, and the local plan is to reach out to experts as well as the local community to initiate a list of needs and potential projects. Kim appointed former Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen as chair of the city Infrastructure Committee and requested each council member propose appointments to staff the committee during the next couple of weeks.

New Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran started his first term and announced Stacy Connors as his deputy commissioner.

New Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi started her first term and announced Heather Crocker as her deputy commissioner.

Returning Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco re-appointed Joe O’Neil as his deputy commissioner.

Mayor Kim, a Democrat, complemented DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, a Republican, on the “exceptional job” Scirocco and his department has done on the recent renovations to City Hall. Commissioner Scirocco, during his agenda time, made an announcement commemorating the work of former DPW Commissioner and political rival Thomas McTygue on the work McTygue conducted in Congress Park specifically on the Carousel.

Public Hearing on Civilian Review Board Set for Feb. 1

New Public Safety Commissioner announced the appointment of Jason Tetu as Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety. Tetu spent a quarter of a century as a member of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

Montagnino set a 30-minute Public Hearing to take place prior to the Feb. 1 council meeting regarding the creation of a Civilian Review Board, as per the recommendations of the city Police Reform Task Force. “Promises were made and now is the time for promises to be kept. I want to shepherd into existence a Civilian Review Board that is meaningful, that has authority and that is there to answer the questions that people have about the way our city is policed,” said the public safety commissioner.

The council unanimously approved that a letter be sent to the Saratoga County District Attorney requesting a grand jury investigation regarding the Darryl Mount matter. Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said on Jan. 5 she would not be able to discuss the matter until she is in receipt of the letter.

Montagnino added he anticipates hosting an oral presentation regarding the Mount case in mid-February. Previously announced to take place as soon as he took office on Jan. 1, Montagnino said the delay was due to his being stricken and recovering from COVID-19, which recently landed him in the hospital for nine days. Montagnino said he was released from the hospital on Dec. 31.

“From what we heard tonight, it seems like there is progress and things are moving in the right direction,” said Saratoga BLM activist Lexis Figuereo, at the conclusion of Tuesday’s council meeting. “It seems that we may be able to have some actual answers in the community and maybe see some actual change, and not just talk about it. It was a very peaceful meeting and we’re looking forward to meetings being more like this, and to have dialogue with the council members,” he said.

Saratoga Springs City Council meetings are typically held the first and the third Tuesday of each month at City Hall.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The post-election campaign financial disclosure statement regarding newly elected city Mayor Ron Kim has been posted by the state Board of Elections.

The disclosure statement was due 27 days following the Nov. 2, 2021 election. When that period passed without the post report, two attorneys filed a formal complaint against Kim with the state Board of Elections. Michael Brandi was one of the attorneys who had sent a letter to the state Board of Elections Enforcement Counsel.

Tuesday morning, following the posting of the report, Brandi said: "the complaint has been made and the Board of Elections has the ability to look at the facts and pursue enforcement. What that looks like, the ball is in their court.”
On Jan. 5, the state BOE Enforcement Counsel responded to an email from Saratoga TODAY seeking comment about the status of the matter.  “The disclosure of Enforcement Division materials not only has the potential to impede or obstruct investigations, but potentially undermines principles of fundamental fairness in investigations and prosecutions. Therefore, we do not comment concerning whether the Division received complaints, the status of complaints, or whether investigations are undertaken.” Signed: Michael L. Johnson, Chief Enforcement Counsel.  

Late last month Kim told the Times Union that he had filed his post-election report, but a technical issue prevented it from being viewed.

Campaign finance disclosure statements for candidates may be found at: the NYS Board of Elections campaign finance page.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — It was one year ago, nearly to the day, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the first confirmed case of the so-called UK strain of COVID-19 virus has been detected in Saratoga Springs. The strain was traced back to an individual affiliated with a Saratoga Springs jewelry store and all individuals who visited the store from Dec. 18 through Dec. 24, 2020 were encouraged to contact the Department of Health and immediately receive a COVID-19 test.

Additional variants have appeared in 2021 – “Delta” and “Omicron” (titled after letters of the Greek alphabet) among them. 

As 2021 draws to a close, Saratoga County Public Health Services reports more than 27,000 known cases of COVID-19 among county residents since the first infections due to the original virus were tracked in early 2020, and more than 250 deaths among county residents since that time. 

The chart depicts month-to-month deaths in Saratoga County in 2021. 

In mid-January 2021, Saratoga County Public Health Services reported they were “investigating an issue with the county COVID dashboard,” and as such, to provide the most accurate portrayal of 2021 data, the description begins in February 2021. 

The first death of a county resident linked to COVID-19 was reported in late March 2020.  On Feb. 1, 2021, the SCPHS reported 10,604 confirmed cases in all, and 120 total deaths. Today, nearly 11 months later, those total numbers are 27,915 and 258, respectively, through Dec. 21, 2021.    

Saratoga County 2021 COVID

Wednesday, 22 December 2021 16:42

Charging Into the New Year

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Four new “fast-charging” stations for electric vehicles were amped-up in Saratoga Springs this week. 

The EVolveNY EV charging stations were installed at the Saratoga Springs City Center parking lot on Maple Avenue, and join four other operational fast chargers in the immediate region, located at Stewart's Shops’ Spier Falls location, just off exit 17 of the Northway. Stewarts plans to install 4 more fast chargers at its Clifton Park, and at its Latham locations in the near future. 

The New York Power Authority is dedicating $250 million through 2025 to the EVolve NY program, with the goal of making electric vehicles easy to own in New York State and decarbonizing the state’s transportation sector, and is part of the state’s broader goal to have at least 800 new EV fast charging stations installed through 2025.

The fast chargers will be located along major state highway corridors, usually within five minutes of the roadway exit, and will be compatible for all types of current EV models.

Charging will generally take between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on how empty the EV battery is at the beginning of the charge event, the desired battery charge level and the vehicle’s charging speed, according to the state Department of Transportation. 

The recharging process of electric vehicles varies, with different levels of EV charging and different EVs charging at different speeds on each level. Level 3  -DC Fast Charging, Tesla Supercharging - gets the job done in under an hour at public charging stations, according to an Oct. 4, 2021 article published by Forbes titled: “What Are The Different Levels Of Electric Vehicle Charging?” 

For information about Saratoga Springs’ city-operated Public Charging Stations, go to:  For more information specifically about the fast-charging stations and an interactive national Electric Vehicle Station Locator map, go to:

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week that masks would be required to be worn in all indoor public places statewide starting Monday Dec. 13. Businesses and venues could alternately implement a vaccine requirement, and the action was directed to address the “winter surge” with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising across the state, Hochul said

On Monday morning, a great number of store windows fronting Broadway shops had been fitted with signs instructing all who enter to wear a mask.  Late Monday, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Kusnierz, Jr. released a statement to say the county’s Public Health Department and law enforcement agency would not enforce “New York State’s misguided and unrealistic
mask mandate.” 

“The best way to protect the health and safety of Saratoga County residents, families, schools and businesses is to continue to focus public health resources on rapidly providing booster vaccinations to the public, which our Public Health team continues to do,” Kusnierz said, in his prepared remarks.  “Asking already thin-stretched local health departments to enforce mask or vaccination mandates only detracts from this critical endeavor.” 

Saratoga County joins more than a dozen New York counties refusing to enforce the mask mandate.

Saratoga Springs City Supervisor Tara Gaston pushed back on the statement issued by Board Chair Kusnierz. 

“While I admit that there are a number of issues with mask mandates, including concerns about possible violence against business owners and employees, I strongly disagree with the tone of the statement, and worry for its impact on our community,” Gaston said.  “There will never be a true account of the number of non-fatal losses, the businesses we’ve seen all over town, the domestic violence that our Sheriff and the DA have seen.” 

More than 1,000 Saratoga County residents had tested positive for COVID over the previous 7 days, and seven-day average positivity rate in Saratoga County was 6.7%, compared to a 4.8% average rate statewide. Since the start of December, 23 county residents had died of COVID. Current hospitalizations, as of Dec. 15, were 49. 

Gaston praised the county’s public health department for their work and said while it should not be the priority of the health department to enforce a mandate, she took exception with the tone of the chairman’s statement, which did not come via an overall board vote, and created confusion among many residents and business owners who had reached out to her following the statement’s release late Monday. 

“It should not be the priority of our public health department to enforce such a mandate…they are doing work that is far more important than doing that - but - it should not be the work of this Board of Supervisors to issue by any member, or the board as a whole, a statement that is inflammatory and indicates that the mandate or the law of this state will not be held in this county,” Gaston said Wednesday. 

Board Chairman Kuznierz donned a mask at the start of the county’s monthly meeting on Dec. 15. All 14 other county supervisors in attendance wore masks, the majority of them kept in place throughout the meeting. 

“Quite honestly you can still wear masks. We’re just not going to go out and fine people $1,000 for not wearing a mask or following the ‘unenforceable’ - using the words of our own governor – policy,” Kuznierz said during the meeting. 

“Yes, masks benefit our residents, but there’s nothing that can protect our residents more than getting vaccinated and getting your booster shots,” Kuznierz said.

According to data provided by the county public health department this week, 74.5% people – approximately 170,000 of the county’s 230,000 residents – are considered fully vaccinated.

SARATOGA SPRINGS —  Born in Brooklyn in the mid-1950s, James Montagnino worked in the Bronx district attorney’s office in the 1980s, at the height of the crack epidemic, and then continued on in Westchester as a prosecutor with the district attorney’s and defense attorney with The Legal Aid Society. He’s been a visiting instructor at the police academy, principal court attorney for Supreme, County and Family Courts and court attorney/referee. 

In the November election, Montagnino, a Democrat, bested Republican and Conservative candidate Tracey Labelle by a 53-43 margin in the race for Public Safety Commissioner.  On Jan. 1, Montagnino will join Ron Kim (Mayor), Dillon Moran (Accounts), and Minita Sanghvi (Finance) as one of four new members of the five-person City Council. Anthony “Skip” Scirocco (DPW) is the lone returning council member. 

The Commissioner of Public Safety is responsible for the overall operation of the police department and the fire department, code administration, animal control, and parking enforcement.

What led to your desire to run for City Council? 

“If I had to tie the decision (to run for office) to one thing, it would be the Daryl Mount case and how it was treated. How nobody in authority did anything that you would have hoped.

“I was sitting in my living room watching CNN with my wife when I saw the video of George Floyd being murdered. Just watching that, it was devastating. The aftermath – the protest in Saratoga Springs in the summer of 2020. I had only very loosely followed the Daryl Mount case. I remember the very first reports said he was running from the police, he ran into a construction site, he fell and was badly injured. I remember feeling awful about it, but not that there were any questions surrounding it. The police chief said there had been an internal investigation and the then-commissioner had basically affirmed that. It sounded like they did what they were supposed to do. And then you find out when the chief is put under oath in the deposition in the civil suit, he admits, well, he misled the press, of course meaning he intentionally misled the public.”

Background: In late summer 2013 Darryl Mount, a 21-year-old biracial man, suffered injuries that left him in a coma after fleeing police on Caroline Street and allegedly falling off a scaffolding behind The Washington building, then under construction. Mount died eight-and-a-half months later.  Mount’s family subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit and city Police Chief Greg Veitch later came under public scrutiny following reports that the public safety department never conducted an internal probe into police actions, after earlier claiming there was one. The incident became the catalyst of the formation of Saratoga Black Lives Matter, and included public calls for a citizen review board as well as a number of protests and marches that have taken place in Saratoga Springs during the past few years.  A “Case litigation Timeline” as well as audio and video files related to the matter may be viewed by going to: 

Would you advocate for an investigation – either internal or external investigation at this point? 

“Here’s the problem: If there had been an Internal Investigation done in a timely fashion where a report and the evidence upon which it was based were released to the public – depending on its thoroughness, I might say: We’re done. But, with all that’s happened, I can understand how many people have drawn the conclusion that there must be something to hide. 

“At this stage, I don’t know how satisfied the general public would be with an Internal Investigation. In a perfect world, what ought to happen is the district attorney should use this provision in criminal procedure law that allows for a grand jury investigation of a non-criminal nature. It’s the one area where a grand jury can investigate - and it’s not necessarily a crime they’re investigating. It’s allegations of misconduct on the part of a public officer…at the end of the investigation, the grand jury issues a report, and the judge has discretion to release the report to the public.”    

“What I’m hoping is the District Attorney use her authority under criminal procedure law to get that rendered investigation going. And I’m considering the possibility of making a motion before the City Council for a resolution asking the DA to do that.” 

There has been a public spotlight on the role of protesters and the role of police regarding city staged protests and arrests in recent years. What would you like to say about both these aspects?   

“The way I see it, the question of if you blocked traffic in July and a policy decision is made that we’re going to prosecute you in September, the problem becomes: how do I get that defendant in to court? You don’t do it with an arrest warrant if it’s a petty offense. Almost all of those were petty offenses in criminal procedure law, they’re not crimes. My feeling is that if there is a petty offense committed in the past, you use a summons. You don’t use an arrest warrant, unless there’s some exceptional set of circumstances that you can put in writing to satisfy me that you need a warrant. 

“I think what some people lose sight of is that there’s a difference between a protester and a common criminal. These are our neighbors who have chosen to commit some petty offense or to make a statement. We’re not condoning the offense, and the offense should be handled in accordance with its severity, the background of the defendant and the circumstances under which it is committed. The idea of going out and getting an arrest warrant, then executing the warrant… none of that was necessary. If they had been given summonses, they would have shown up in court of their own volition, or, if not – then warrants would be issued. It didn’t have to start with custodial arrests.   

Additionally: “I would like the word to get out that there should be an over-arching policy of mutual respect between the police and the people they serve. There is a fighting words exception to (to First Amendment protected speech) that has been recognized by the Supreme Court since the 1940s. What I would like to try is a policy of mutual respect where beforehand I would sit down (with those planning to protest) and I’d say, ‘Look, here’s the situation: the kinds of things like getting in an officer’s face and saying (expletive) - that speech is not protected under the First Amendment.’ That’s a statement intended to provoke a violent response I think. What I would like to see in a situation like that is an officer would be trained to say, ‘I’m sorry, that’s inappropriate conduct, and it can’t be continued.’ Maybe two or three repetitions of that.
And if it continues, then, OK, we’ll make an arrest on the spot. Cops have a hard enough job to start with. The First Amendment doesn’t mean you can say whatever you please. There are circumstances where it can still be prohibited. Standing up in the movie theater and screaming ‘FIRE!’ You’re getting arrested. There’s no First Amendment reaction.”  

“The vast majority of people in Saratoga Springs are not going to choose to walk up to a police officer and berate him or her. But, we’ve all seen that happen under certain circumstances. And that’s not fair. They’re doing a tough enough job as it is and they shouldn’t be asked or expected to have to take abuse, verbal or otherwise, for doing their jobs. So that’s something I’d like to get in the process early on. Putting the word out that you expect a lot from our officers, and we expect mutual respect in exchange.” 

A multi-point plan, partially adopted by the City Council, was submitted to the council by the ad hoc Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force, and recommended that a Civilian Review Board, or CRB, be implemented. This has not yet occurred. What is your opinion? 

“I envision a CRB like the one the Task Force proposed. One tweak would be the method of appointing the members of the CRB. With the possible exception of the chair - because there needs to be someone with some familiarity and continuity of process. I’m thinking that the selection process for the chair might be by the mayor, or the mayor with the advice of City Council. The membership I would like to see randomly selected. Like jury duty. There would certainly have to be public hearings on the method to be employed for selecting the members of the CRB, and the method for selecting the chair.

With subpoena power?

“With subpoena power. But - I know that there are subpoenas, and then there are subpoenas. The most that we would have the power to authorize is an administrative subpoena. That does not carry with it contempt citations. So, if you were to ignore an administrative subpoena the most that could happen is a monetary fine and it’s a trivial (dollar) penalty. 

“There’s nothing in the Task Force proposal after the CRB does what it does. Its power, according to the City Charter, is limited to a recommendation to the commission. They take testimony, examine evidence and make findings, conclusions and ultimately recommendations. That sounds simple enough, but what does that mean? So, what I want to do as the first commissioner to serve with a CRB is to create a framework for what would be the role of the Commissioner upon receiving the recommendations of the CRB. I see the commissioner’s role as an administrative appellate authority. I see my role as taking the recommendation and saying: OK, I want to see all of the evidence, not just the findings and conclusions; to review that myself for factual and legal sufficiency, so that the CRB is not the last word as to factual findings and legal conclusions - the Commissioner is. I think it’s important the Commissioner’s Office promulgate its own internal procedures, so that it’s not just what the CRB said rubber-stamped. There’s a significant amount of responsibility with having to come up with the next steps.” 

MALTA — A large-scale community COVID-19 testing site opened on Monday in Malta, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Kusnierz announced at a morning press conference. 

“One of the things we committed to in January of this year is we would make Saratoga County’s response to COVID our number one priority. And this is an extension of that effort,” said Kusnierz. “The opening of this testing site is another example of how Saratoga County has made fighting the pandemic our number 1 priority.” 

The site, located off the Northway Exit 12 at 100 Saratoga Boulevard in Malta can accommodate up to 1,000 COVID-19 testing appointments per week. It is part of a public-private partnership with Syracuse-based Quadrant Biosciences.

Kusnierz said the reason behind the opening of testing site is “to take the load off our health care providers and urgent care providers” around the region. During the past week, from Nov. 28 – Dec. 4, there were nearly approximately 18,900 COVID tests performed across Saratoga County. Just over 1,350 people, resulting in a 7.2% positive average was returned over that 7-day period.   

Just over 72% of the Saratoga County population is fully vaccinated, according to the county health department. “As Dr. Kuhles (Commissioner of Saratoga County Public Health Services) has repeatedly said, vaccination is the best way to combat COVID,” Kusnierz said Monday. The county is hosting a handful of vaccination/booster clinics in the upcoming weeks. That information may be found at: 

 The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors - the legislative and executive authority of County government - has not issued any mask-wearing or vaccine mandates, as some other communities in New York State have done. 

“This is another effort by Saratoga County to be proactive and to be ready for the holidays coming up – Christmas, New Year’s – we know that families will be getting together in close proximity and there is the anticipation that we will see a continued rise and one of the ways we can be proactive is to have this program up and ready before that time.” 

The site will not provide vaccinations and is to be used only by people who are having symptoms. 

Testing will be done using the Clarifi COVID-19 Saliva Test. Results will be available within 24-48 hours of testing. Those using the Malta testing site are required to create an account at to access their results.  Appointments may be made 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. 

For more information or to make an appointment, go online to or 

BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors will hold their monthly meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 15. It is the last regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting of the calendar year and will take place at 40 McMaster St., Ballston Spa. 

The meeting will be preceded by a Public Hearing at 3 p.m. regarding the proposed development of a new aircraft hangar at Saratoga County Airport. 

North American Flight Services (NASF), which has been the Fixed Base Operator at the county airport for 22 years, proposed that it would privately fund the design and construction of the 22,500 square foot hangar – estimated at $6 million to $7 million - and would pay taxes and retain ownership of it following its construction. 

NASF currently holds two leases at the airport with a term through April 2028 on which it currently pays approximately $7,000 per month. With the potential addition of a new hangar, the company is requesting the term of the lease be modified to extend to 2061, with a sliding incremental increase in monthly payments that would conclude at just over $9,600 per month in the final five years of the proposed lease extension, from 2056-2061. 


Thursday, 09 December 2021 11:53

Under Development

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A variety of development projects are under consideration this month by the city’s three Land Use Boards.

Meetings of the three Land Use Boards - Planning Board, Design Review Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals are held at Saratoga Springs City Hall. Note that submitted plans and meeting agendas are subject to change. For the most current information, visit the city website at:    

Demolition. Property Address: 120 South Broadway. Proposal: demolish and remove a 9,000 square foot building in its entirety along the southern border and approximately 2,100 square foot portion of the building along the eastern border. Applicant: Stephen Ether. Owners: Strategies LLC.  Current application consideration at Design Review Commission.

269 Buidling Demo

Demolition proposal at 120 South Broadway. Photo provided.

New Broadway mixed-use. Property Address: 269 Broadway. Located just north of St. Peter’s Academy, and directly across the street of Park Place Condominiums. Currently a vacant lot. Seeking: Historic Review of a new 6-story commercial/retail building with on-site, underground parking. Current application consideration at Design Review Commission.

Saratoga Hospital Medical Office Campus. Project location: Corner of Myrtle Street and Morgan St, 1 Morgan St. and 55 Myrtle St. Seeking: coordinated SEQRA review for a phased project totaling 105,000 square foot medical office use and associated site work in the Office Medical Business and Urban Residential districts.

Stewart’s Shops Corp. Property Address: 34 Marion Ave. Stewart’s Marion Avenue/ Route 9 and Maple Dell.  Seeking: consideration of deferral of lead agency status for coordinated SEQRA review for establishment of a PUD (Planned Unit Development).  Proposal: seeking to establish a PUD that will facilitate the construction of a new store with gas pumps, car wash, four residential units and professional office space, among other things.  Applicant owns several parcels (6.14 acres) along Maple Avenue and Maple Dell which contain a multitude of existing uses and vacant land. Current consideration at Planning Board. 

Caroline Street. Property Address: 172 Caroline St. Applicant/ Purchaser under contract: James Stockwell. Owner: Estate of Jack Paston. Proposal: 0.36 acres subdivided into two lots. Sketch plan review of a proposed two-lot subdivision. Current consideration at Planning Board.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Rock Concert. It has served as both rite of passage and meeting place for the gathered tribes. 

In his new book, titled “Rock Concert,” interviewer Marc Myers explores the history of rock and roll over a period of four decades as a live, publicly staged art form. 

Drawing on original in-depth interviews with nearly 100 sources, Myers re-visits some of the more notable performances of the 20th century, and offers a cautionary conclusion about the future of the art form. Breaking its initial promise as a space for inspiration, the rock concert has been drifting into a dangerous territory of becoming an endangered species. 

“From the beginning, live music’s purpose was to transform a gathering into a community by altering their minds,” writes Myers, who chronologically traces rock’s roots from the end-of-World War II emergence of independent record labels sharing the sounds of boogie-woogie and jump blues, up through the mid-1980s era of stadium rock.

“Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There,” is split into four parts – one dedicated to each of the decades between the 1950s and ‘80s. 

Joan Baez recalls singing with Martin Luther King as a crowd gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 joining in a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” Ronnie Spector remembers the early gigs of The Ronettes at New York’s fabled Peppermint Lounge, and several dozen music industry notables weigh in, Todd Rundgren and Ian Anderson, Marshall Chess, Roger Waters and Seymour Stein, among them. 

The intricate spool that was the concert experience of the 1960s is unraveled to reveal a linear progression from the early inspiration provided by a young Bob Dylan to the landing of The Beatles in America; It forges a path through Bill Graham’s opening of the Fillmore and the staging of massive pop festivals nationwide, accented by the affirmation that was the summer of Woodstock and crashing at Altamont by decade’s end. 

Moving forward, Myers portrays the 1970s as the era that ushered in large arena shows and sired the corporate influences and the MTV age of the 1980s.

Myers’ own first concert was as a 15-year-old, watching Santana perform at New York City’s Felt Forum -  a theater nestled alongside the then-new most recent incarnation of Madison Square Garden. “Rock Concert” comes to a full stop after the 1985 staging of the global jukebox that was Live Aid. 

“The rock concert didn’t disappear the day after Live Aid ended,” explains Myers in the book’s epilogue - although it had significantly changed. Strategies first developed by industry pioneers were leveraged by live-entertainment companies, the emerging youth culture grew enamored with social media and digital access to recorded music, electronics cast an increasing shadow over live performers, and the cost of concert tickets climbed to greater and greater heights. 

“Along the way, the rock and the rock concert became less of an agent for social change and more of a nostalgia business for legacy artists,” writes Myers, a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal where he writes about music and the arts.

The voices and memorable concerts that comprise the oral biography provide an illuminating retrospective of cultural happenings that meant so much to so many. Many of the major happenings are covered, although the stimulating energy taking place on club stages - and the movements of glam, punk, metal and funk it ignited, are largely ignored.

“For rock to survive in its original form as an art form of outrage and pushback, the music and rock concert will have to connect meaningfully with the youth culture’s current concerns and agenda,” Myers surmises. “Otherwise, rock and the rock concert risks fading away with the generation that was most inspired by its rise.”     

“Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There,” by Marc Myers. Published by Grove Atlantic, $30. Available at Northshire Bookstore Saratoga. 

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