City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
Posters of White Supremacy Flyers: “Pathetically Insecure Individuals We Should Pity, Not Fear”
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said no direct threats to the local community were made and apparently no laws were violated in the placing of white supremacy propaganda flyers on a number of vehicle on the city’s west side last week.
“It’s very disturbing some people may harbor such sentiments, but it’s not surprising,” Mathiesen said. “We have a long history in our country of white males exerting their sense of superiority over people of color, females, Jews, Catholic, immigrants.”
Mathiesen said while those views have drastically diminished over time, there continues to be “a small fringe on the far right of our political spectrum” who continue to hold on to those convictions.
“These are pathetically insecure individuals who we should pity, not fear. I caution against over-reacting to these poorly-executed recruiting efforts and instead suggest we focus more on education and equal opportunity,” he said. “This is a movement that continues to decline as people of the world fully accept that we’re all in this together.”
Discussions Continue Regarding SPA Zoning Ordinance
A public hearing was held Tuesday night regarding a proposed plan that would mandate all new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city include as much as 20 percent of their units designated as “affordable” to people with moderate incomes. The Inclusionary Zoning ordinance, or IZ, would create “workforce housing” residences with rental rates targeting approximately $45,000 to $70,000 income households, and purchase rates targeting households earning approximately $55,000 to $85,000 annually.
Two people spoke during Tuesday night’s hearing. City resident Dave Morris argued that the plan is more “exclusionary” than “inclusionary,” because it excludes lower income residents who need it most, disagreeing with some council members’ position that there is adequate help available to lower income residents. The ordinance is in the drafting phase and is anticipated to be brought to the City Council for vote in the near future. Initially, the council hoped to vote on the matter this month. The council next meets on June 6.
Public Safety: Close to Decision on Third City Fire/EMS Station
Eastern ridge resident David Bronner reminded the council about the need to decrease emergency vehicle response times to the city’s east side. “This is a super serious issue that has been going on for years,” he said. “The situation we have now is unacceptable. We’re playing Russian Roulette with anybody who may have a serious or life-threatening medical issue anywhere in the city, but most especially on the east ridge where distance is a big factor,” Bronner said, suggesting the city place a ‘Fly Car’ in one of its stations that would respond solely to emergency medical situations. The city’s two fire/EMS stations are located near the center of the city, and on the west side. Long-time efforts to place a third station on the east side have thus far been unsuccessful.
Commissioner Mathiesen responded that having a “Fly Car” would not be an acceptable solution, since the vehicle, while capable of going high speeds, would not be able to do so as it navigates through the city’s many 30 mph speed zones. In lieu of having a third fire/ems station, which would be sited on the east side, Mathiesen said the department is currently evaluating shift changes that would make available as many as three engine crews and two ambulances at any one time, should multiple events occur simultaneously.
“We continue to look at locations for a third fire/EMS station that would serve the entire city and make it possible to significantly cut down response times to the eastern ridge,” Mathiesen said. “We feel we’re very close to making some decisions along those lines.”
Resident Urges Community Support of Child Victim Act
A city business owner who identified herself as Mary Ellen asked the council and the public for their support in the passage of the Child Victims Act. “New York State is one of the worst in the Union for child abuse victims,” she said, explaining that alleged victims currently have until the age of 23 to be able to prosecute suspects, while the average age of disclosure for most victims is 42. The majority of council members said they are interested in learning more and would likely adopt a resolution in favor of the passage of the Child Victim Act. The public was asked to contact Sen. Kathy Marchione’s Albany office, at 518-455-2381, to urge its passage.
A Human Rights town hall will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 22 at Saratoga Music Hall, located on the third floor of City Hall. Mayor Joanne Yepsen will introduce members Saratoga Springs Human Rights Task Force, and will be joined by Angelica Morris, executive director of the Human Rights Commission in Schenectady.
A Planning Board workshop will be held 5 p.m. Monday, May 22 and a full meeting 7 p.m. Thursday, May 25 at City Hall.
A Zoning Board of Appeals meeting will be held 7 p.m. Monday, May 22 at City Hall.
Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Technical Review Advisory Committee (TRAC) meeting will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23 at Saratoga Music Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Three Sundays of free music, a new gazebo, and nearly three weeks of film screenings highlight some of the new amenities at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center this season, the organization announced Wednesday at the Hall of Springs, during its annual meeting.
A “Caffè Lena @ SPAC” Concert Series – in reciprocity of the recent “SPAC at Caffè Lena” series will take place on SPAC’s gazebo stage from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, June 11, July 9 and Aug. 27.
“We look forward to bringing people from all corners of our community together to experience the exhilaration of live music performances, without the barrier of cost,” said SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol.
The musical lineup, thus far, features Birds of Chicago, The Pines on June 11; The Steel Wheels, Twisted Pine, Honeysuckle and Western Den on July 9, and Soul Inscribed, Sweet Megg & The Wayfarers, and Let's Be Leonard on Aug. 27. Fans are welcome to bring in food, drink, blankets and lawn chairs for the concerts. Food concessions will also be available. In the event of rain on the day of performance, the concert location will shift to Caffè Lena, on Phila Street.
Also new this year: SPAC will host the Saratoga Film Forum at the Spa Little Theatre from July 20 – Aug. 2, and Aug. 23 - 28. Many of the films screened during the series will feature subjects with connections to artists, composers, choreographers or works that are part of SPAC’s summer programming. The film schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.
The venue’s new gazebo, which will feature an increase in square footage of 133 percent over the current one, will be named after the late Charles R. Wood – who in addition to his other regional accomplishments was a member of SPAC’s board during the ‘90s. The Charles R. Wood Foundation awarded a $150,000 grant to SPAC that will underwrite the cost of replacing SPAC’s aging gazebo stage.
According to SPAC’s 2016 Revenue Statement issued Wednesday, $10 million in operating revenues topped approximately $9.85 million in operating expenses, resulting in a net surplus of approximately $152,000.
Who: Joe Deuel, photographer, sound man.
Where: Caffè Lena.
You’re a native Saratogian. How long has your family been here? What did they do?
I’m the fifth generation. And everyone in town knew my dad. He was a pro bowler in the ‘50s and had a photo studio on Phila Street. Later, he ended up being the manager of Saratoga Bowl and Hi-Roc Lanes. I kind of grew up in bowling alleys.
How long have you been interested in photography?
I always had a camera in my hand, from the time I was eight. It was a cheap little thing and I was always shooting pictures. Later, they had a photo club when I was in junior high – it’s the Lake Avenue School now - and the first time I saw a print develop, that was it.
Do you remember the first time you came to the café?
I was in 12th grade and came here with two friends from high school. This was late ’72 or early ’73. Utah Philipps was recording his album called “Good Though!” That was my introduction to Caffè Lena. Utah turned out to be a real influence, a real teacher.
You have been the sound man at Caffè Lena for several decades. How did that start?
I came here to do the dishes one night and got wrapped up in the place. Someone asked me to do the sound one night for Peppino D’Agostino, the Italian guitar wizard. I helped him turn a few knobs, then Lena kind of stuck me on it and there was no getting out.
What are your lasting impressions of Lena, who died in 1989?
Lena was pretty complicated and fascinating in a lot of ways. I remember I’d go out on Thursdays and buy all the groceries for the weekend and come in and do sound and wait tables at the same time. On the days I wasn’t here I’d asked her, “Why don’t you call me, so I know you’re OK, or if you need anything.” So, she’d call me every morning. She was like my alarm clock. The first thing I did every morning was get a phone call from Lena, and we’d chat. It was sad when that stopped.
You have probably had many a-brush with fame?
This town’s crazy because with SPAC here. You can be sitting in Desperate Annie’s and the guy sitting next to you is Donovan. A friend of mine was sitting in the Parting Glass once, and Tom Waits walked in - still wearing his bum clothes from (filming the movie) “Ironweed,” and they were about to boot him out of there. Robert Plant came in one night. This town’s full of funny things. The first time the Talking Heads played at SPAC, the band showed up at the Bijou where we were watching Fear of Strangers, who were a great Albany band. I was wearing my Harley jacket and my Ramones T-shirt and Jerry Harrison walked up to me, laughed and said: Nice shirt. That cracked me up. We ended up chatting for a little while.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in Saratoga Springs during your lifetime?
The bottom line for me is that I can’t afford to live here anymore. One thing I always looked for in apartments was how far the walk was from the café, because I was here all the time. Now it’s a 10-mile drive for me. It was such a threadbare, defunct town in the ‘70s. The stores on Caroline and Phila were pretty much shut down. There were some old stores on Broadway that had been there forever, then the mall came and that made it worse downtown. There were some great places I miss to this day, like Mabbett’s and Farmers Hardware. Even though the town now is gleaming and successful it’s gotten a little too precious. I think the ‘80s, when things started to come around, was a wonderful time here.
The harsh facts are these: someone is diagnosed in this country with a blood cancer every 3 minutes, and an estimated 1.2 million people are either living with, or are in remission from leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma - which will take the lives of more than 58,000 Americans in one calendar year. But, there are signs of positive progress.
The five-year relative survival rate has more than doubled for people with Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and more than quadrupled for those with myeloma and leukemia since the early 1960s, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. LLS is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding research, finding cures and ensuring access to treatments for blood cancer patients.
Saratoga Springs resident Joe Kakaty believes it is possible eradicate blood cancer in our lifetime.
“Cancer affects everybody, from the spectrum of a survivor to being a friend or having a family member who has cancer. Leukemia is in my family,” Kakaty said. “We felt: let’s do something.”
Enlisting the help of his wife, Josey, and the couple’s three children - Bella, Joey and Kenny – the family embarked on a 10-week fundraising campaign which secured more than $58,000 via more than 500 different donors for LLS and resulted in Kakaty being named the Upstate New York/Vermont Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 2017 Man of the Year.
The family’s 10-week campaign included a dozen fundraising events at a variety of Saratoga Springs restaurants, a house event – catered pro bono by Augie’s Family Style Italian Restaurant – and an online social media strategy. A website remains active for those interested in making donations at: http://www.mwoy.org/pages/uny/alb17/jkakaty.
Staging 12 events in 10 weeks can be grueling work for anyone, but Kakaty said the family grew closer to one another in pulling together to make the campaign a success.
“We were invigorated. Whenever we felt a little tired it was easy to overcome, because we thought of what the families have to go through,” he said.
Kakaty was one of nine candidates who signed on to participate in the 10-week campaign. In all, the nine candidates raised more than $311,000 and Kakaty said he was touched by the generosity and humanity of donors, whose online contributions poured in from across the country, often with an attached note that shared their own personal story.
The three Kakaty kids recorded a song for the campaign and will continue to dobate a percentage of proceeds earned through the music to the leukemia society. The video may be viewed on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grvkObff1l4.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Brad Paisley stood atop the stage surrounded by hundreds of local high school seniors and asked for the details of their school mascot.
“Blue Streaks!” came the shouted reply.
“Blue Streak? What is a Blue Streak?” he pondered. “You guys are a streak of lightning,” he said, finally. “That’s very cool!”
And so it went Wednesday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where Paisley put the finishing touches on the stage show for his Weekend Warrior World Tour which officially debuted Thursday night at SPAC and will travel across North America and touch down in Norway and Sweden before concluding in late September.
Wednesday night’s “dress rehearsal” came with the issuance of an invitation to hundreds of high school seniors at Saratoga Springs and Averill Park. Many were thrilled to attend the free preview.
“Oh. My. God. I’m so excited. Me and my dad listen to him all the time, but this is my first time seeing him,” gushed Saratoga Springs High School senior Cheyanne Mattison, who alongside fellow classmates Marisa Pantoja, Larissa Benton and Alyssa Concho secured elbow space at the front of the stage on a May night that boasted temperatures near 90 degrees.
The West Virginia born singer-songwriter strolled the catwalk, took selfies, and showcased his guitar skills, mixing strains of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” into a slew of tunes for more than one hour, as the band tweaked its sound and technicians tested the pulsating lights and flashy screen graphics, all to the joy of the kids who gathered to witness the event.
“I’ve never been to anything like this,” Paisley explained, casually dressed in black jeans, a T-shirt, street sneakers. A baseball cap rested atop his head.
The musical presentation was combined with casual back-and-forth banter with students which effectively gave the large amphitheater the feel of an intimate living room. When informed that the Blue Streaks had just secured a Section II title in tennis, Paisley offered his congratulations alongside some advice.
“It’s great you won. Tennis is good, but make sure you guys get a back-up career,” he instructed, before sharing his thoughts with the assembly of 17 and 18-year-olds of something to look forward to.
“You know, people will tell you high school is the best part of your life. That’s bull-crap. It’s not,” Paisley said. “But, now college…” he said with a smile.
Paisley made his musical debut in 1999. He has released nearly one dozen studio albums and topped the country music singles charts numerous times. His new release, “Love And War,” features appearances by Mick Jagger and John Fogerty, among others.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Susan Hale strolled the streets of her ancestors, one recent weekday afternoon.
“My family originally came from Boston, and it goes pretty far back,” she said, tracing a lineage from 20th century Union College Professor Edward Everett Hale Jr. to 19th century artists Susan Hale and Philip Leslie Hale; 18th century American patriot Nathan Hale – who famously said "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," just prior to being executed for spying on British troops - to Massachusetts minister John Hale, whom the history books remember for his involvement during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. More than 250 years later, his fictional portrayal appear in Arthur Miller's play “The Crucible.”
It was at some of Saratoga Springs’ most prominent venues – most gone, some still in existence – where her great-great grandfather, Rev. Edward Everett Hale, delivered popular sermons in the late 19th century during biennialUnitarian Conferences that drew attendees from across the northeast.
It is Hale’s own talents, which stretch across a broad spectrum of the arts, that brings her to Saratoga Springs on this day. One project in particular – a children’s book she wrote and illustrated titled “Follow Your Dreams!” – Hale hopes will inspire an audience with Oprah Winfrey. The media giant is slated to speak at Skidmore College’s commencement at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on May 20.
“I want to give a box of books to Oprah’s school in Africa. How do you do that? When I heard that she was coming to Saratoga…I don’t know, it would be a dream to get my books to Oprah, because the story is about positivity, and persisting in spite of bullies,” Hale said.
In 2007, Oprah opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a competitive boarding school in Johannesburg, South Africa, that offers education to disadvantaged students from across the country, Skidmore College will recognize Winfrey's commitment to education through her academy. One of the graduates of Winfrey’s school will also be receiving a Skidmore degree.
The protagonist of Hales’ illustrated book is “Pickles,” a real-life pot-bellied pig who the author took in, in 1997.
“I always wanted a pig - since I was a little kid, like Arnold on ‘Green Acres.’ She was a perfect house pet. She rode in the car with me across the country, from here to L.A., and after the book got done Pickles would come with me to school assemblies and book store signings,” said Hale, who received a bachelor of music degree in classical organ performance from Wheaton College in Illinois.
“Pickles is the neglected one who no one ever hears and who struggles to be heard. She sees a Fairy Pig Mother, who says to her: don’t let them get you down, just follow your dreams,” explained Hale, whose own markers of a lifetime of achievement spill out from the confines of her oversized briefcase. They include flyers promoting “The Pickles Power TV Show” that broadcast on Schenectady’s cable access, clippings from Los Angeles newspapers about her potbellied pig trying to make it big in Hollywood, images from Pickles’ media photoshoots, and prototype T-shirts emblazoned with the words: Dare To Dream - Pickle Power!
“I dream big,” offered Hale, whose oil paintings have been exhibited and classical concerts performed from the South American country of Ecuador to the northern climes of Saratoga Springs. (A clip of her performance at The Grove last summer of Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in G Minor” may be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36LEhH7-NKg). In October, she is slated to perform at Carnegie Hall. “That’s been a longtime dream,” Hale enthused.
After Pickles passed away, the book project went on the back-burner, but Hale said she has a renewed interest in updating the illustrations and re-issuing the book.
Pickles’ dream is to be a singer and the book illustrated the challenges she faces and overcomes to reach her goal. Hale also sings a narration in an accompanying CD. “Follow your dreams,” Hale asserted.” I’m living proof.”
Who: Joe Cutshall-King.
Where: Saratoga Springs Public Library.
What are you doing today?
I’m giving a talk on the story behind the story of “The Burning of The Piping Rock,” which is a novel I wrote about the Piping Rock Casino here in Saratoga in 1954. The book is fiction, but it’s based upon real characters.
When did the book come out?
What prompted you to write the story?
My family. I learned things about my own family in light of what happened when I was writing the book. It turned out to be a horrifying story, actually.
What was your family’s connection to the story?
My dad was a pharmacist. He worked as a manager for MacFinn’s Drugstore, which was at 396 Broadway in those days, and his boss was James Leary – who was, shall we say, extremely close friends with the Mafia – who ran all the casinos. When I was older, my dad told me that he sold the arsonist the materials to burn the Piping Rock, so that started my interest in it.
How much did you know about the story when you were a kid?
I was born in 1947 and at first, it was very secret. Gradually, as my family got further and further away, decades after the incident, they told the younger kids. But I never heard all of it, it was in bits and pieces.
You were born in Saratoga, but abruptly moved to Washington County?
We fled. One day I was playing on Lincoln Avenue and the next day I was being shoved in a car with everything we owned and we left. We went to Fort Edward just to get away from it.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in Saratoga Springs during your lifetime?
The improvements on Broadway. The vibrancy. I hear people lament that it’s gotten so expensive, but I’ll tell you: this is heaven. Beautiful and live-able.
You’ve written a screenplay of the novel. If a film were made, who would you like to see in it?
Jon Hamm to play my father. My dad was extremely good looking.
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/tatements 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.