Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
Contact Thomas

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Every morning, Elizabeth Sobol begins her day driving down the Avenue of the Pines. Since taking over the reins in October at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Sobol has been forming a vision in her mind’s eye of a park for the arts.

“When I saw the reflecting pool, the Victoria Pool, the beautiful porticos and the baths, the Jazz Bar downstairs, the Hall of Springs and all sorts of these other nooks and crannies, I was like: wow. I started thinking about all sorts of site-specific work,” SPAC’s president and CEO said.

 She asked about the jazz bar, and was surprised to learn no live music is played there; When she saw the reflecting pool, she was reminded of John Luther Adams’ 2014 piece “Become Ocean,” which was performed at Lincoln Center around that venue’s reflecting pool. 

“I see the park filled with art-making. Music. Maybe some outdoor sculpture and interactive experiences. I think of the park as this magnificent convergence of man-made beauty and natural beauty.”

Sobol said she wants to eliminate any preconceived barriers that may exist separating the SPAC amphitheater – where the arts are staged – and the surrounding grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park.

“I’m all about no boundaries. Let people experience art in unexpected places where it catches them off-guard,” Sobol said. “I feel like this is a park for the arts, with so many spectacular places we can do performances.”

The other thing she wants to dispel is the bipolar notion that SPAC is either pop music, or classical music. “I think SPAC is one organism.  It’s a world-class venue, and as long as everything that appears on the stage is world-class, it belongs without respect to genre.”  

Teaming-up with other organizations is key, and already collaborations have been struck with Caffè Lena for a six-concert series, Skidmore College – for a performance that will be staged in June - and with UPH and Proctors for a yet-to-be announced event that will take place in the fall. There are also ongoing conversations with the nearby National Museum of Dance, and Saratoga Auto Museum regarding a potential Cuban festival that would feature live music, dance classes and a curated show of classic cars that would involve all three venues in their respective area of expertise.

“You’d walk in here and have this immersive experience, pulling it all together for you rather than a kind of silo experience,” Sobol said. “I think the more you feel art connects with basic human experiences, then it touches you in different ways.” The idea is to host year-round events that would fan out beyond SPAC’s geographical borders and into the Saratoga Spa State Park, “giving people these sublime experiences out in nature.”

“Some of it would be formal collaboration, some of it would be ‘pop-up,’ but I’m also imagining a poet’s corner here, where people can come and read their work,” Sobol said. “I want people to learn they can just come here in the same way they can go to a fair and entertain themselves, there’s food and rides and animals there’s all sorts of stuff – but with a proliferation of artistic experiences they can have here.”

“I’m also imagining having this whole day based on science and music that would end with Holst – ‘The Planets’ - performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra with massive screens of NASA space footage and hundreds of telescopes placed down in the football field, so kids could go from not just being taught these connections between astronomy and music, but seeing and hearing and feeling it,” Sobol said.

 

Saratoga’s Arts Ranking

On April 24, SMU’s National Center for Arts Research released its third annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which ranks communities across the country, examining the level of supply, demand, and government support for the arts in each city.

The “arts vibrancy” is measured by nonprofit cultural institutions, organizations and venues particularly attractive to artists or tourists, levels of government support, and being robust in a variety of arts sectors.

The cities of Bennington, Vermont, and Hudson, and Oneonta, N.Y. placed high on the list. As a county, Saratoga placed in the 92nd percentile, meaning of the 3,144 counties across the country, Saratoga County ranks higher than 92 percent of the rest of the country, according to the report, which may be viewed at:  https://sites.smu.edu/meadows/heatmap/index.html

 

Saratoga Springs Arts Commission Involvement

City Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who in 2015 appointed members to the city’s first Arts Commission, is in the process of attempting to strike a collaborative partnership with the city of Nashville, Tennessee.  

 “We’re identifying what that exchange and partnership will look like,” Yepsen said. “The first step will be sending an invitation to their arts commission to invite some performers, musicians to Saratoga Springs to begin the partnership and we’re hoping to do this in August or September. It might even turn into a mini-festival of national performers, so we’re going to move forward as an Arts Commission.”  The creative pipeline could also result in the Spa City hosting music workshops featuring performers from “Music City.”

 

How It’s Done in Music City

Nashville with a population about 678,000, is more than 20 times the size of Saratoga Springs. 

Overseeing things in the “Music City” is the 15-member Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, which was formed in 1978. The arts commission has an approximate $3 million annual operating budget, promotes and supports that city’s visual, performing and literary arts.  The commission has autonomy from the council, meaning the granting process – while going through a transparent public process, don’t have to return to the City Council for approval, said Jennifer Cole, director of Nashville’s arts commission. Of the $3 million budget, $2.3 million is awarded to civic and nonprofit civic and charitable organizations that assist the commission in its goals, with the balance of monies used to fund special projects and administrative costs.

The arts commission in Nashville also receives separate funding for public art, through the city’s Capital Budget.  In 2000, the council adopted a measure that ensures 1 percent of all city-issued bonds for public city buildings is targeted for public art projects. Potential public art projects are subsequently scored by “citizen panelists” - members of a seven-member Public Art Committee - and taxpayers are also permitted to weigh in regarding the art projects that will be placed in public areas, Cole said.    

A separate group, the all-volunteer Music City Music Council was started in 2009, which doesn’t have governing powers but works as an advisory group to the mayor .  They are an association of business leaders charged with developing strategies toward heightening the awareness and development of Nashville’s world-wide reputation as Music City. Music is to Nashville as horses is to Saratoga, with core employment in the music industry in Nashville per 1,000 population exceeding all other U.S. cities by large margins and New York and Los Angeles by 2.5 to 4 times.

Recently, the Saratoga Springs Arts Commission has held discussions recently regarding the impending loss of the 300-seat Saratoga Music Hall when converted to a court room. Yepsen said to compensate, there are plans underway to potentially enlarge and enhance the Dee Sarno Theater at the Saratoga Arts building on Broadway. Joel Reed, executive director of Saratoga Arts, said with some interior re-configuration, the theater could double its capacity from 100 to 200 people.  

New Incubator Opens in Saratoga Springs

“There’s an opportunity for the city of Saratoga Springs with an incubator right here, through SEDC’s (Saratoga Economic Development Corporation) good work,” said Yepsen, referencing other existing regional incubators at the Center For the Gravity in Troy and The Albany Barn. “It could be a space for people to create inventions, or art, or a combination.”

By its own definition, the Tech Valley Center of Gravity in Troy cultivates a community of makers, innovators and entrepreneurs to initiate creative collisions resulting in economic and personal growth. In Albany, that City, its Housing Authority, and the Barn partnered to redevelop the St. Joseph’s Academy building into 22 low-cost live/work residences for artists, and a multi-tenant creative arts incubator, enterprise and program space that includes work and rehearsal suites, a dance studio, and digital media lab.

Ryan Van Amburgh, Economic Development Specialist with SEDC, met with the city Arts Commission during its monthly meeting in April, shortly after launching SPARK Saratoga to empower locally based entrepreneurs. On Wednesday, the non-profit consulting firm announced a collaborative agreement with Saratoga CoWorks to site a new business incubator on Regent Street.  Van Amburgh said discussions with the city’s Arts Commission are ongoing regarding a potential arts component, and that SEDC is engaged in a willingness to play a role in the city’s creative economy.       

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city Republican Committee hosted a campaign kick-off this week at the Pavilion Grand Hotel to introduce six candidates vying for seats in the November election. 

The GOP slate includes: mayoral candidate Mark Baker; political newcomers Andrew Blumenberg – vying for a seat as City Court Judge, and Don Braim – who will be running for the position of Public Safety Commissioner; Saratoga County Supervisor candidate John Safford, and incumbent Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco and Saratoga County Supervisor Matt Veitch.

“This is the first step and a big step,” said Baker, who was born in Wisconsin and relocated to Saratoga Springs 34 years ago to become the first president of the Saratoga Springs City Center. During his tenure he worked with nine different city mayors.

Baker spoke about “regain(ing) a civil majority on the Saratoga Springs City Council” alongside his fellow Republican candidates, and spoke in general terms regarding city issues. Asked about the November referendum related to the city’s commission form of government, Baker said he will read the Charter Commission’s report when it is finalized.

“We’re dealing with the successes and the challenges of our successes,” Baker said, in response to a query of the city’s growth in recent years. “You’re going to have growth because people want to live here, and you’re going to have growth that allows people to have lower taxes,” he said. “We have a vibrant community that is alive and we have people that want to visit us, and that helps us grow our sales tax base.” 

“Mark Baker – I can’t wait to work with you when you become mayor of Saratoga Springs; We’re going to get a lot of things done,” said longtime Supervisor Matt Veitch. 

John Safford, who as a political newcomer in 2015 was defeated in his bid for mayor by Democrat Joanne Yepsen, said he brings a business and public service resume to his candidacy for supervisor, “to represent all of the citizens of Saratoga Springs (and to bring) the highest level of care to the under-served.”

Blumenberg, who since his hiring in 2007 as public defender, has handled more than 5,000 cases at City Court, is running for court judge; Braim, who worked in the city police department for 22 years, is running for Commissioner of Public Safety, and incumbent public Safety Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco is seeking his sixth two-year term in the position. He recalled rising above the “political games played and political enemies punished” when first elected a decade ago, and talked about putting the “public” back in public works.  

Four incumbent City Democrats have announced their candidacy:  Accounts Commissioner John Franck, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, Saratoga Springs City Court Judge Francine R. Vero, and current Saratoga County Supervisor Peter Martin – who will vie for the seat of Commissioner of Public Safety. Current Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, a Democrat, said he will not seek re-election. Saratoga Springs Democrats are expected to endorse their candidates later this month. Current city mayor Joanne Yepsen has yet to announce whether she will seek re-election.

The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee – which can be viewed on the committee’s website at: http://www.saratogadems.org/platform/ offers statements in support of affordable housing and homeless services; a focus on public health and gun safety; and the importance of a safe, adequate supply of drinking water.

In November, voters will elect all five City Council positions – the mayor and four commissioners, one City Court Judge, and two Supervisors who will represent the city at the county level. The elected positions are for two-year terms.

A referendum will also be held regarding the city’s current “commission” form of governing. Should voters choose to change the city’s way of governing, that change will not be implemented until at least 2019.

Who: Ruth Crotty.

Where: Congress Park.

Q. What are you doing today?

A. Painting. My composition is down this stream, picking up the reflective light and catching some of that beautiful willow tree.

Q. Why did you select this location?

A. I’ve been over here the past two days scouting out locations. My studio is at the Amp Galleries, but the morning light here is quite beautiful.

Q. When did you first come to Saratoga Springs.

A. We just moved in to town a year ago after living between Ballston Spa and Galway. We lived on a 85- acre farm for 44 years. When I first got married we in Saratoga Springs. That was in the early ‘70s. Having lived in the country, we drove everywhere. My goal now is to use my car only once a week, if I have to. I love being able to walk everywhere. I like the availability of everything.

Q. What was it like living in Saratoga Springs during the 1970s?

A. It was basically boarded-up at that point, but we still loved it. The bones of the city, you know? To me, it was aesthetically pleasing even back then. I love the architecture, the homes on North Broadway, the grand scale of the 1800s that was still here and still very much intact.

Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A. I always wanted to be an artist. I’ve painted since I was 10 years old and I have a bachelor of fine arts degree from Tyler School of Art in painting.

Q. What are some of the other arts you’re interested in?

A. I like classical music and opera. I love “Carmen.” When I paint in my studio that’s the one that really get my juices flowing. My favorite film? I love “Casablanca.”

Q. Is there something you would like to see more of in the city?

A. To me Saratoga is idyllic. I like the walkability of it. There is so much: the restaurants, the arts and SPAC, the influence of Skidmore. To me, this town has everything.  And the track. I like that it’s here for six weeks. I know August is busy and it could be annoying when you’re trying to do things during the day with the extra cars and the people, but to me, I like that excitement. 

Thursday, 04 May 2017 17:01

City Gifted Parcel on South Broadway

A small parcel of land which sits at a key intersection on South Broadway may soon belong to the city. The property, which once sited a gas station, sits at 209 South Broadway - adjacent to a Dunkin’ Donuts shop - and has been vacant for a decade.

The city first considered using open space funds to purchase the 0.2-acre parcel in 2008 and subsequently develop a pocket park that would feature equine sculptures. Earlier this year, in her State of The City address, city Mayor Joanne Yepsen reported that the Open Space Committee was still actively working to acquire the parcel.

A Memorandum of Understanding issued last week noted that the property owner, David Eshaghian - doing business as the Crown Oil Co. – desired to gift the parcel to the city.

“He spent a lot of time in the city when he was a kid,” Mayor Joanne Yepsen reported. “This will be a nice new gateway to the southern portion of the city.”  

The one condition attached to the gift by the owner is that a memorial plaque be placed at the site in honor of his mother. A recent appraisal set the value of the parcel at $340,000. It has not yet been decided how the city may use the parcel in the future, but an open space area such as a pocket park or small pavilion seems most likely. 

The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to enter into a memorandum of understanding – an intention to enter into a contract. Because there had been a gas station on site for decades, the premises will first be inspected prior to the council voting on whether to accept the gift. 

 

Madigan: City 2016 FY Year Ends in A Strong Position

Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan reported Saratoga Springs closed the 2016 fiscal year in a strong financial position.

Unaudited year-end figures reveal a moderate annual operating deficit of $1.056 million - in large part driven by a $750,000 payment to settle a suit filed by The Anderson Group more than 10 years ago, Madigan said. The unaudited operating deficit, excluding this payment, was $306,000, or 0.695 percent of the $44 million 2016 Adopted Budget.

Actual 2016 revenue collected totaled $42,691,435.  Actual 2016 expenditures totaled $43,747,818. 

“The City Departments did a good job managing their 2016 budgets and I hope to see similar results for 2017,” the commissioner said, in a statement.

Unaudited figures indicate the city’s unassigned, unappropriated general fund balance is $9,009,362. The city has 3.3M in restricted (assigned) fund balance in the form of a retirement reserve, insurance reserve, capital reserves, tax stabilization reserve, and other miscellaneous reserves.

The Water Fund ended 2016 with a positive assigned unappropriated fund balance of $2.9 million - the fifth consecutive year the water fund reported an operating surplus.  The Sewer Fund has an assigned unappropriated fund balance for 2016 of 1.8M.  This is the seventh consecutive year that the sewer fund reported an operating surplus, Madigan said.

Vandalized Statues Restored and Returned to Congress Park

The “Day” and “Night” Urns and “Pan” statue in the Italian Gardens have been restored and were installed in Congress Park last Friday, said Department of Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco.  The urns and statue were vandalized last year.

The Day and Night Urns - inspired by the individual marble reliefs “Day” and “Night” by artist Bertel Thorvaldsen - were originally placed in Congress Park more than a century ago. Improvements were made in the urn bases to increase stability for the cast-iron pieces, along with new drainage to prevent long-term water damage. Additional stability was added to the base of the Pan statue to prevent any future vandalism, Scirocco said. 

How To Grieve Your Assessment

Finance Commissioner John Franck announced a "How to Grieve your Assessment” class will be held 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday May 9 in the City Council Room.

Residents wishing to grieve their assessment must submit an application with documentation to the Assessment Office prior to Grievance Day, which is Tuesday, May 23. For more information, and to download a Grievance Packet, go to: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/DocumentCenter/View/4213.

Preservation Foundation Honored for 40 years of Preserving Historic City Sights

City Mayor Joanne Yepsen presented a proclamation on behalf of the city to honor the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and recognize the organization’s 40 years of preserving the architectural, cultural and landscaped heritage of Saratoga Springs. 

“Had it not been for their efforts over the years, many of the historic sights and places we take for granted today would be known to us only through old photographs and memories,” Yepsen said. “In preserving our past, they have also preserved our identity.  Their work is an indispensable part of what makes Saratoga Springs one of our country’s best known and loved places.”  

Bike to Work Day May 19

The Capital Region “Bike to Work Challenge” will take place in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties on Friday, May 19. Trophies will be awarded in each county to both small (20 or less employees) and large organizations with the largest number of riders, and to the person who rides the longest distance.

The Municipal Challenge will award a trophy for the highest percent participation for any municipality in the region, in which the mayor or supervisor rode to work.

Bike to School Day will take place May 10 and, by county, the school with the most participating students will be awarded a trophy.  For more information or to register, go to https://capitalmoves.org/b2w518/ 

Upcoming Meetings

The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 8 at City Hall.

The Planning Board will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 11 at City Hall. 

SCHUYLERVILLE - The Hudson River village that played a vital role in the turning point of the American Revolution can add “The Demon of Screamin’” to its feathered cap of historical significance. 

Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler and daughter Liv Tyler - an actress perhaps best known for her role in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy - visited the adjoined Saratoga villages of Schuylerville and Victory in January after learning of their 19th century ancestral ties to the community.

Those local connections came to light in an episode of the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?” which premiered on the TLC channel this week.

Steven Tyler’s great-great-grandfather, George Washington Elliott, was a drummer who was present at the battle of Antietam and at Gettysburg. He set down roots in Saratoga County while in his 20s, shortly after the Civil War.

“I can see my dad in his face,” Liv Tyler told Saratoga County Historian Lauren Roberts, after being shown a photograph in a 1912 brochure during a segment that depicted “Mr. and Mrs. George Elliott and family, Schuylerville, N.Y.” with their 17 children.

Liv Tyler, the daughter of Steven Tyler and Nashville based singer, songwriter and pop culture icon Bebe Buell, was filmed while driving around Saratoga and visiting the office of the Saratoga County Clerk in Ballston Spa. She was joined by her dad at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Victory, where in the shadow of the a 155-foot tall Saratoga Monument, they visited the burial sites of their ancestors.

 

Prospect Hill.JPG

 

“I thought it was a fun show and great piece of history about her family,” said the Saratoga Town Historian Sean Kelleher. “When you start doing these family searches, you just never know what you’re going to find.”

It is not known what prompted the relocation to the Schuylerville area of George Elliott, who had African-America roots. In the 19th century, the greater Schuylerville area counted two Abolitionist Societies who lobbied politicians, published abolitionist papers, and invited speakers into their communities - Frederick Douglass among them, according to Village of Schuylerville Historian Kristina Saddlemire. 

In the village by the latter part of the 19th century, local kids found their winter recreation ice skating on the frozen canal. They attended classes at Schuylerville’s Union Free School, a four-story building that stood on Green and University Streets, and played host to a visiting music teacher from Northumberland who would arrive by pony and provide piano lessons for the entire family.  

Research conducted independently of the show points to at least one member of the Elliott family being employed at the historic textile mill building in Victory, Kelleher said.

The family were members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Schuylerville.  Of George and Eliza’s 17 kids, 15 were born in Au Sable Forks.

“Two of the children - Jennie May, and Arthur - were born in Schuylerville,” said Don Papson, co-founder and curator of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, in Ausable Chasm, N.Y.

Jennie May Elliott was born in 1889, and Arthur Earnest Elliott two years later. According to a 1976 obituary, Arthur was a groundskeeper who had been employed By Skidmore College and lived in Saratoga Springs for many years. Jennie May’s descendant, Mary Briscoe, currently lives in Watervliet. She recalled meeting many of her relatives as a young girl growing up in Victory, where she lived until the age of six, before relocating during the 1940s. Watching the TV episode, Briscoe said she was able to learn more about her own ancestors, particularly those who lived during the Civil War Era and beyond.

Steven Tyler’s mother, and Liv Tyler’s grandmother, Susan Ray Tallarico – whose maiden name was Blancha - was the daughter of Bessie June Blancha (Elliott), who in turn was the daughter of Robert J. Elliott and Edna Wheeler. Robert J. Elliott was one of the sons of George and Eliza Elliot, the first members of the family to settle in Saratoga.  Their connection to Schuylerville and Victory seems to have lasted at least until the early part of the 20th century.  

“Robert J. Elliott married Edna Wheeler. She was the daughter of Charles E. Wheeler, who as much as I can figure out was a photographer in the village,” Papson said.  Advertisements published in local newspapers in the early 1900s take note of photographer C.E. Wheeler’s a shop located on Broadway in Schuylerville.

The historians best pin-pointed the family home as having sat on Pearl Street in the village of Victory and just around the corner from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on nearby Grove Street in Schuylerville. 

 

pearl.jpg

 

Who: Marianne Barker.

Where: Impressions of Saratoga, Broadway.

Q. When did you first come to Saratoga Springs.

A. 1980. From Long Island.

Q. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the city in that time?

A. It’s gotten so much busier.

Q. What’s the biggest challenge the city faces in the future?

A. Managing the growth and maintaining the character of downtown, its independent nature. The growth is great, it’s a sign of progress, but it also changes the dynamic.  So, maintaining a balance.

Q. What are you doing today?

A. Placing orders, looking for summer staff.  

Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A. A veterinarian. I was going to be a large animal vet. I was on my way to do that when I met Dave, my husband. He started a screen printing company and I said: well I’ll help him for a couple of years then go back to school. I deferred my acceptance to Cornell, and here I am, without a single regret. I love this.      

Q. Do you have animals?    

A. I’ve always had dogs, kitties, horses on and off. We have a mini-horse here, he’s a mascot for the store. His name is Upset, named for the horse that beat Man o’War.    

Q. What brush have you had with fame?

A. I was lucky enough three years ago to be invited by Congressman Tonko to go to the State of The Union address. So, I did that. There was President Obama, and Michelle Obama was sitting with one of the guys from “Duck Dynasty.” That was pretty cool. Just sitting in this crowd of people and thinking of all the historical things that happened in that room was amazing.  I still get chills thinking about it.

Q. What’s the best concert you attended?

A. Garth Brooks. It was a fantastic show, country music fan or not. And Tina Turner has to take the cake at SPAC. That’s my favorite.     

Thursday, 27 April 2017 11:21

New SPAC Series Seats Audience On Stage

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is launching a new programming series this summer that seats audiences directly on the stage of the iconic amphitheater.

The onstage seating capacity in the unique format is 300. The entire audience will sit onstage with the artists and no other seats will be sold for the four-concert series. 

“Positioning audiences onstage for this series will offer them a unique, visceral experience – a connection with the performance unlike anything they have experienced previously,” SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol said, in a statement.

The series takes place on four consecutive evenings in August.  New York City jazz band The Hot Sardines perform on Aug.7;  Time for Three, and its three classically trained musicians — violinists Nicholas Kendall and Charles Yang, and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer – perform Aug. 14;  Classical, hip-hop and R&B fused ensemble Black Violin – whose members have appeared at President Obama's Inaugural and three Super Bowls – perform Aug. 21, and three-time Grammy Award nominated Afro-Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will perform on Aug. 28.

Tickets to SPAC on Stage are limited and are $40 to $50, and available at spac.org beginning May 3. And check out this video clip about the series: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrSakvGGmHo&feature=youtu.be

SARATOGA SPRINGS – This weekend’s concert by The Orchestra of St. Luke’s will mark the second of six concerts brought to Saratoga Springs this year born of a newly forged partnership between Caffè Lena and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. 

The collaboration between the two venues, each which has staged more than a half-century of performances, will encompass jointly curated and presented programs at both venues, with the location varying by season.

The Orchestra of St. Lukes, one of Americas foremost chamber orchestras, will make a first-ever appearance in the Capital Region on April 25 in an exclusive performance at Lena’s café.

“I was in New York in January talking with some friends over coffee when they mentioned they had this program of baroque chamber music they were doing,” recalled SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol.  “It was written by Bach to be performed at Café Zimmerman - a coffeehouse in Leipzig where all the artists and intellectuals would gather at the time Bach was living there. When I heard it was at a coffeehouse, I thought: Oh my God, that has got to come to Caffè Lena. It’s a perfect collaboration between SPAC and Caffè Lena.” 

And while this weekend’s show is sold out, tickets are still available for the third spring program, which will be staged at Caffè Lena May 4 and features Louisville, Kentucky-based folk band Harpeth Rising.  Tickets are available at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2910973.

In June, the series shifts to SPAC, where three free Sunday afternoon concerts, one each in June, July, and August will be staged at the new gazebo.

“Very soon we’ll be announcing the summer component to the partnership which will include a monthly Caffè Lena Day at SPAC,” Sobol explained.  “It’ll be the whole afternoon, from 12 to 5, and families will be able to come and hang and make music a real part of the afternoon in the park.”  The three summer concerts are being curated by the café’s executive director, Sarah Craig.

“When we sat down and started talking about artists, every band Sarah mentioned to me I flipped over. Everything she mentioned I love,” Sobol said.

“I looked for artists that have a huge energy and a rich intensity that can hold up well in an outdoor environment,” said Craig, adding that the schedule of musicians, when solidified, could number as many as three performers on each of the three days. And while the teaming-up of the two Saratoga Springs powerhouses marks the first official collaboration between the venues, there is a long list of artists – from Bob Dylan to Melanie to Don McLean – who have performed at both, as well as a synergy historically fostered by Lena Spencer, who invited musicians appearing on the SPAC stage to come and perform after-hour concerts at her Phila Street café.

With six months under her belt as the new leader at SPAC, Sobol said one goal is creating new ventures while maintaining the venue’s time-honored traditions. 

“I was being very conservative until I got the lay of the land. I haven’t touched the big resident companies because they’re so important to the DNA of SPAC, but we’ve been making some enhancements – like this Caffè Lena partnership, and within the next couple of weeks we’re going to be announcing all sorts of partnerships with some of our other cultural family members,” Sobol said. “There are so many organizations here, my feeling is the more we all work together the more we raise Saratoga up.“ 

Who: Matt McCabe.

Where: Saratoga Guitar, 480 Broadway.

Q. When did you first come to Saratoga Springs.

April of ’94, and I opened the store in June.

Q. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the city in that time?

A. In the last 23 years there have been quite a few changes in the landscape with the high-rises, the condominiums and more storefronts. It’s a city on the move. It’s growing. I don’t think it’s as rampant as some might think. It’s a small city, so the changes are more amplified but the image is there because of the success of downtown.   

Q. What are you doing today?

A. Re-stringing guitars, trying to pay bills.

Q. Do you still play guitar and sing on stage?    

A. I still do with whoever will have me. I play at the Olde Bryan Inn during racing season with some guitar compadres, and throughout the year I do a host of other concerts, benefits and gigs as they arise.        

Q. What brush have you had with fame?

A. Being the business this is and with the bands touring through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and attend a lot of concerts, go backstage and meet many of the artists. You get the occasional celebrity coming to town on their own R&R who stumble in. I remember Sam Shepard the actor coming in. He was very nice.  

Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A. A veterinarian. That was all I ever thought of being. That and a baseball player. Everything else happened by accident.      

Q. You were city Commissioner of Finance for Four Years. Do you miss it?

A. I love being able to serve the public, but the vacuum gets filled immediately. When you’re in, you’re in. When you’re out, you’re out. And life fills up, so I have that time to miss it. I certainly look back on it fondly. It was a challenge, but it I did my best and I thoroughly enjoyed working for the people of Saratoga Springs.    

Thursday, 20 April 2017 13:05

Notes From City Hall

Workshop Set for Affordable Housing Ordinance

A City Council workshop on the much-debated SPA Housing Ordinance will take place at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 4 at City Hall, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen announced this week. The ordinance, if approved, would have a citywide effect on future development.   

A New Home for Retired Police Horse Jupiter

The council authorized an agreement - at no cost to the city -  to allow the transfer of retired police horse Jupiter to police officer Aaron Moore, who will care for “my fellow officer and partner as he transitions into retirement after serving our community.”  Jupiter, who is 24, will be transferred to Ballston Lake, “where he will be well taken care of by my wife and myself,” Moore wrote, in a letter read to the council by Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen.

Council Gives Thumbs-Up to Pitney Meadows Community Farm PUD

The council unanimously accepted a SEQRA Determination and approved the proposed Pitney Meadows Community Farm PUD - reporting that the project will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment.  The PUD, or Planned Unit Development, was sought for the development of a 35,000+ square foot agricultural center at the Pitney Meadows Farm, on West Avenue. The center will sit on a small non-farming portion of the land.

Projects slated to begin later this year include the development of the community gardens, the children’s greenhouse, gardens, and some trails and the renovation and repurposing of 11 historic buildings currently on the farm.

Last November, the council approved the $1.165 million city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm, to ensure the farm land remains a farm in perpetuity.

City Approves Purchase of Lands Adjacent to Loughberry Lake

The City Council unanimously approved the city’s purchase of two parcels of land, amounting to just over two acres, adjacent to Loughberry Lake. The parcels are just north of state Route 50 and will be purchased from Krista and Jason Tommell for $135,000 in Open Space Bond Funds. As well, $5,000 was approved for expenses associated with the purchase.

Should Loughberry Lake no longer be used as a reservoir in the future, the parcel could potentially serve as a pocket park with access to the waterfront for active or passive recreation.

Learn How to Grieve Your Assessment

A Grievance Class will be held 5:30 p.m. on May 9 at City Hall, Accounts Commissioner John Franck announced this week.

Grievance Day in Saratoga Springs is Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Grievance board members will be hearing grievances from 9 a.m. – noon; 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Residents can choose morning, afternoon or evening sessions and must submit completed application and documentation to the Assessment Office in order to be scheduled for a time. Applications will be available after May 1.

Upcoming Meetings

The Planning Board will hold a workshop at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 24 and a full meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at City Hall. 

The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at City Hall.

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Blotter

  • COURT Thomas J. Dingmon, 30, of Saratoga Springs, pleaded Sept. 8 to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth-degree. Sentencing Nov. 10.  Joseph H. Labia, 48, of Elmont, pleaded Sept. 9 to aggravated family offense felony, in Mechanicville. Sentencing Nov. 18.  Daniel J. Green, 25, of Catskill, pleaded Sept. 9 to criminal possession of a weapon in the second-degree, a felony, in Saratoga Springs. Sentencing Dec. 16.  Jonathan H. Fajans, 20, of Galway, pleaded Sept. 9 to criminal sexual act in the first-degree, a felony., in connection with an alleged incident December 2020. Sentencing Nov. 12.  POLICE Joseph…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON Rodney Bower sold property at 153 Goode St to Duemler QualityHousing Enterprises LLC  for $575,000. Darlene Bower sold property at 149 Goode St to Elizabeth Ann Realty LLC for $372,500. Paula Rock sold property at 120 Lake Rd to Brian Lucas for $215,000. BDC Cornerstone LLC sold property at 34 Anthony Place to Michael Gilbert for $285,788. Raymond Baker sold property at 1 Main St to Sandra McMillian for $170,000. Ashley Newsom sold property at 1 Howard St to Ginger McGehee for $242,500. Hope Matis sold property at 161 Hop City Rd to Daphne Allen for $268,000. Heritage Builders…
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