City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Indoor dining experiences, nail and spa treatments and a variety of other personal care businesses and services may soon reopen to the public.
“Phase three” reopening activities are slated to take place in the region June 17. Eligibility for reopening is determined by health metrics, and as long as regional COVID-19 related infections, hospitalizations and deaths remain low, it is anticipated Gov. Andrew Cuomo may give the Capital Region the green light for “phase 3” early next week.
“We’re not out of the woods, but we are on the other side,” Cuomo said this week. Five regions in the state outside of the Capital Region were given the green light for phase three reopening on June 11.
Gov. Cuomo’s NY Pause order went into effect March 22, and the city of Saratoga Springs and the greater Capital District Region were cleared by the state to begin the phase 1 re-opening of the local economy beginning Wednesday, May 20. Capital Region’s phase two reopening plan went into effect on June 3.
The sector designated as the Capital Region includes eight counties. They are: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Warren, and Washington counties.
There are four reopening phases in all, and an up-to 14-day incubation period between phases to ensure that infection rates and hospitalizations are maintained at a manageable level. Phase three is slated for June 17 and phase four, which focuses on Arts/ Entertainment / Recreation, and Education, including libraries, will potentially hit its reopening mark July 1.
Recent actions include the reopening of outdoor dining at restaurants, as well as places of worship - with 25 percent allowable occupancy. Beginning June 26 outdoor graduations of up to 150 people will be allowed. Additionally, the New York State sales tax filing deadline has been extended to June 22.
Social distancing protocols apply throughout all four phases – that is, that people maintain a distance of six feet apart when possible, and face coverings be worn to decrease the potential spread of the virus.
Phase three showcases restaurants and food services establishments reopening their indoor spaces for the seating of customers. Indoor capacity must be limited to no more than 50% of maximum occupancy, exclusive of employees, and all tables with seating for customers must be separated by a minimum of 6 feet in all directions. Wherever distancing is not feasible between tables, physical barriers – at least five feet in height - must be enacted between the tables.
Additionally, patrons must wear face coverings at all times, except while seated, provided that the patron is over the age of 2 and able to medically tolerate such covering. There is a maximum of 10 people per table.
Also included in phase three: non-hair-related personal care businesses and services. This includes tattoo and piercing facilities, appearance enhancement practitioners, massage therapy, spas, cosmetology, nail specialty, UV and non-UV tanning, or waxing. Mandatory occupancy restrictions, distancing and mask requirements apply. For more information about the phases of reopening, requirements and gudelines, go to: ny.gov.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Summertime in Saratoga may feature new dimensions in the outdoor dining experience. Literally.
In an effort to help downtown businesses increase customer capacity while remaining compliant to COVID-19 restrictions, the city is exploring a variety of possibilities that would allow its merchants to expand their businesses across city sidewalks.
The City Council is expected to address the matter at its Tuesday, June 16 meeting - immediately preceded by a public hearing at 6:55 p.m.
A working draft of a proposal that will be presented to the council is being crafted this week.
“Right now, the draft is basically allowing businesses to use the sidewalk as long as it’s ADA compliant – which is 48 inches for people to walk back and forth,” Accounts Commissioner John Franck said on June 9, one week prior to the meeting. Specifically, the measure would allow restaurants and other establishments to expand their outdoor spaces onto sidewalks, as long as 48 inches of pedestrian walkway is maintained, as per Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
“We want to see how that affects things. Is that going to move the needle for the restaurants one way or another? Do we need to do more?” said Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton.
With summer approaching and some, but not all, state mandated restrictions related to COVID-19 being lifted, the idea of municipalities and businesses seeking creative ways to reopen the economy is a fluid one. Between this week and next week those creative options may change. Another idea being floated involves eliminating one lane of parking on city side streets to expand even greater the usable spaces for businesses.
“A second option would be to look at the side streets, take one lane of parking away from the side streets and put up Jersey barriers between the parking lane and the driving lane,” Commissioner Dalton explained. That move would allow the current parking lane to become a barriered pedestrian walkway, and free existing sidewalks in their entirety for vendors and restaurants to use. Jersey barriers are concrete partitions and are so-named because of their notable use as median barriers in the late 1940s in New Jersey.
Commissioner Franck has been leading the charge for the second option. “I’m hoping and really pushing for the change to also have the ability to add some of the street space – not close streets down – but to put barriers down that would allow more area in front of businesses – especially restaurants and bars – to give you more space for walking area and also in front of your restaurant, bar, or retail,” Franck said.
“It’s evolving, and I don’t know if the votes are there for it, but why not just put a Jersey barrier out there along one side of the street. This isn’t for the next 20 years; later we could go back to business as usual, but the summer’s here – let’s get this done,” he said.
It is not clear whether that second measure may also be part of the June 16 meeting, but a majority of Council members – at least three of five member votes – are required to approve the proposal for it to take effect.
That installation of barriers would be for a temporary period – perhaps only through the summer – but they would stay in place throughout the period of implementation. In other words, they wouldn’t be removed and re-inserted on a daily basis, or in accordance with business hours. And while they would only be placed on certain blocks in the downtown business core – and not on Broadway – their implementation could extend to both the east and west side of the city.
As to which side streets the barriers would specifically be installed needs to be figured out. “It’s not like we’re going to impose it on everyone. The code would be re-written such that if the need is there, it’s something we can do. We want to take logical steps,” Dalton said.
The Public Hearing will begin at 6:55 p.m. Two agenda items later into the meeting address the matter. The chapter amendment may be viewed HERE and a draft of the licensing process may be viewed HERE.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The City Council will host a Public Hearing June 16 regarding temporarily extending "eating and drinking establishments" onto "auxiliary seating areas" on public property, as a result of necessary spacing precautions during the COVID-19 epidemic.
The measure – which would amend chapter 136 of the City Code – would allow the city to accommodate licensed eating and drinking establishments to provide their services to the public on specific public properties. Those public property locations have not been specified, although is generally assumed Broadway – a state road - is not among them. If approved, the approval process may be conducted through an application process for holders of valid licenses.
On Wednesday, June 3, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced outdoor dining at restaurants will be permitted beginning June 4 for restaurants in the Capital Region – which includes Saratoga Springs – as well as in the six other regions that have been approved for phase two reopenings. Outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart, all staff must wear face coverings and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The owners of the Turf and Spa Motel at 176 South Broadway are scheduled for a site plan review June 11 in front of the city Planning Board with a proposal that replaces the existing two-story, 43-room motel with a 120-room hotel atop the 1.4-acre property. The applicant, Larkin Hospitality, was founded in 1987 and currently operates 10 hotels and inns in Vermont and Massachusetts. The new South Broadway Hotel would also feature an underground parking garage.
Cover Photo: Pam Worth and Alexandra Besso of Spoken Boutique are stronger together.
Gallery: 1. Marianne Barker and Maddy Zanetti, Impressions of Saratoga on Broadway.
2. Lifestyles of Saratoga owner Heidi Owen West and Margie Rotchford.
3. The Pink Paddock on Broadway.
All Photos by SuperSource Media.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Small business owners opened their doors to in-store customers and hair stylists their salons for the first time in more than two months as part of the Capital Region’s phase two reopening plan on June 3. Outdoor dining returned one day later.
“We opened at 9 o’clock and we already had someone waiting at the door,” said Maddy Zanetti, at Impressions of Saratoga. “We’ve been open the whole time for curbside, delivery and shipping but today is the first time of customers in the store.” A table cradling bottles of hand sanitizer and disposable gloves and masks sat near the entryway door.
“People are thrilled to be out,” added Marianne Barker. “I do think people who are leery are going to stay home for a while yet, but people know we’re pretty careful, we’ve been open about what we’re doing and the steps we’re taking."
Kimberly Burton opened the doors to her Pink Paddock shop at 11 a.m. “It’s been three months. Three very long months,” she said with emphasis, celebrating the 15th year of the Broadway shop that’s been fitted with hand sanitizing stations, plastic protective shields at the register counter and posted to inform customers of in-store capacity regulations. “I think people are anxious to get out of the house, to shop, to try on some new clothes,” she said gesturing toward the dressing rooms, which are disinfected between customer uses.
Phase Two reopening allows for in-store retail sales, hair salons and barbershops, and office-based work, in addition to real estate services, commercial building management, vehicle sales, leases, and rentals, and retail rental, repair, and cleaning. Outdoor dining was added to the list on the afternoon of June 3.
“We’re already booked for the next three weeks,” said Yvette Ruddy, a hairstylist at Remarkable Finish on Broadway, where a digital thermometer rests at the entryway and customer chairs have been placed at a safe distance from one another. The employees have all been tested for the COVID-19 virus before ensuring they could return to work, she said.
An array of state guidelines and restrictions accompany reopening plans for both workforce employees and customers, with presence being limited to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy for a particular area, as set by the certificate of occupancy. Employers are also recommended to adjust workplace hours to limit in-person presence to necessary staff only, as well as maintaining six feet of separation from others and wearing an acceptable face covering.
"What we have done with this COVID virus is really an amazing accomplishment, and it was all done by the people of this state. They did it, 19 million people did what they never did before. They responded with a level of determination and discipline that I was amazed with frankly," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week. "Remember where we were: we had 800 people die in one day. We had the worst situation in the United States of America. At one point we had the worst situation on the globe. And now we're reopening in less than 50 days. We went from an internationally terrible situation to where we’re talking about reopening."
To date, more than 105,000 U.S. residents have died during the past three months due to COVID-19. More than 38 million Americans have filed unemployment claims over the span of nine weeks. Whether the worst has passed or a so-called “second wave” returns - as some in the medical community have suggested – remains an unknown.
“I’m delighted to see our retailers open again. And as we are getting caught up in our reopening details and stores are focusing on their safety plans - and we have riots going on and protests going on, It’s easy to lose track that there still is a virus present in our community,” cautioned Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton.
In Saratoga County, there have been 495 confirmed cases of COVID-19 this year, 56 specifically being Saratoga Springs residents. Sixteen people have died, and 6 people are currently hospitalized. Approximately 2,500 residents have been isolated or quarantined at some point.
“We all need to keep our eye on the ball here and realize there still is a virus present, it’s still in our community and we need to be really vigilant as we continue these reopening phases, so we can get to phase three, so we can get to phase four and we can get back to some kind of normalcy,” Dalton said.
Gov. Cuomo’s NY Pause order went into effect March 22, and the city of Saratoga Springs and the greater Capital District Region were cleared by the state to begin the phase 1 re-opening of the local economy beginning Wednesday, May 20.
There are four reopening phases in all, and an up-to 14-day incubation period between phases to ensure that infection rates and hospitalizations are maintained at a manageable level. Phase Three – which includes indoor dining at restaurants, is currently slated for its reopening phase June 17; Phase Four, which focuses on Arts/ Entertainment / Recreation, and Education, including libraries, will potentially hit its reopening mark July 1.
On May 28, Cuomo signed an Executive Order authorizing businesses the ability to deny entry to those who do not wear masks or face-coverings. "The store owner has a right to protect themselves (and) the other patrons in that store," he said. A subsequent announcement states summer day camps statewide can open on June 29. A decision on sleep-away camps will be made in the coming weeks.
Malls - specifically any indoor common portions of retail shopping malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space available for lease, remain closed. However, stores located within shopping malls, which have their own external entrances open to the public, separate from the general mall entrance may open.
Also remaining closed are: large gathering event and concert venues, gyms, fitness centers, Video lottery and casino gaming facilities, movie theaters - except drive-in theaters - and places of public amusement, such as amusement parks, water parks, children’s play centers, bowling alleys, and other locations where groups of people may gather.
ALBANY — On Sunday, approximately 50,000 tests were conducted statewide regarding COVID-19 infections, with less than 1,000 people testing positive for the virus, and 54 reported deaths.
"That is the lowest number we’ve had since this began," state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. "The progress is just phenomenal."
Saratoga, Albany, Glens Falls and the surrounding communities are currently in "Phase One" of the reopening process, and an evaluation of infection rates is underway with the possibility of the region on Wednesday going to "Phase Two."
"The Capital District region is moving to go into Phase 2 on Wednesday. All the numbers look good there. We’re going to run them by our local team to make sure they are as good as we think they are, but at this point the Capital Region is on track to go into Phase 2 on Wednesday," Cuomo said.
Phase 2 reopening includes hair salons and barber shops, in-store retail, real estate, offices and others. Distancing, mask guidelines and crowd limits remain in place. For details go HERE.
"What we have done with this COVID virus is really an amazing accomplishment, and it was all done by the people of this state. They did it, 19 million people did what they never did before. They responded with a level of determination and discipline that I was amazed with frankly," Cuomo said Monday. "Remember where we were: we had 800 people die in one day. We had the worst situation in the United States of America. At one point we had the worst situation on the globe. And now we're reopening in less than 50 days. We went from an internationally terrible situation to where we’re talking about reopening today."
The Saratoga County Department of Public Health Services today confirmed the death of one more county resident from COVID-19 — a 69-year-old male from Halfmoon. Updated statistics:
• Confirmed cases of COVID-19: 481
• Deaths: 16
• Recovered cases: 418
• Active cases: 48
• Hospitalizations: 6
• Total tested: 11,577
As part of the Governor’s initiative for antibody sampling of essential workers, food delivery and restaurant workers will be offered the opportunity to receive free COVID-19 antibody testing conducted by the New York State Department of Health. The testing process takes approximately 15 minutes. No appointment is necessary.
Site hours: testing takes place 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. June 1 through Thursday, June 4 at SUNY Albany - SEFCU Arena (please enter via Western Avenue) - 1400 Washington Ave.
Hot Club of Saratoga, one of several bands performing atop a number of flatbed trucks on May 21, 2020, celebrating Caffe Lena’s 60th anniversary.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — From black-and-white images from the depths of Congress Park to pastel sketches of placid lakes, SPAC as created a social media page created for, and featuring images by members of the community.“Saratoga Performing Arts Center is deeply committed to the transformative power of art and beauty to restore and enrich the human spirit,” the organization says. “In these challenging times, we hope that this online forum inspires and creates a sense of community and hope. We invite you to join us in a sharing of poetry, art, music, dance – things of beauty that bring you joy and light under the dark clouds of uncertainty.” The page may be viewed at Facebook, by visiting “Sparked By Beauty.”
WILTON — Earlier this month U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik visited with President Donald Trump at Camp David, where she said the president talked extensively about the research and development that’s going into a COVID-19 vaccination, as well as the “reopening” of the country.
“The president is very supportive of the safe reopening of the economy, which he’s delegated it to the states, and that was the right decision,” said the Congresswoman during a visit to a Belmonte Builders construction site in Wilton on May 26. “I want to see it at the state level – the delegation to the County Public Health Offices. I think that’s the right call moving forward because they’re the most connected.”
Stefanik represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes parts of Saratoga.
As the community prepares for its potential Phase 2 reopening next week, Stefanik said she believes preparations are also underway should a rise in COVID-19 infections hit the region.
“In my communications with the county public health offices and the hospitals, we are watching the data very, very closely. Our (increased) testing capacity gives us a better understanding of the real data in upstate, because initially we were undertested in this region,” she said. “But certainly, there are plans and discussions going on if there is a second surge in the virus transmission. It’s part of the conversation about reopening schools - we have to reopen schools safely and there are ways to do that - but many of our students who are underserved either in the disabilities community, or who are unable to access online education, they have atrophied so much during this crisis. I feel very confident that those conversations are being professionally handled by the county public health offices.”
Stefanik’s visit coincided with a joint announcement that she and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko made. Tonko represents the 20th Congressional District, which like the 21st District also includes parts of Saratoga. The announcement heralded a $61,515 award from the Federal Communications Commission to improve telehealth for Saratoga Hospital Consortium in Saratoga Springs. The funding is intended for remote diagnosis and monitoring equipment and other telehealth equipment to treat patients with COVID-19 infection and to expand telehealth to other patients with symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
“Out of necessary efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19, telemedicine has quickly become the primary method of connection between a patient and their doctor,” Saratoga Hospital CEO and President Angelo Calbone said in a statement. “Unfortunately, anyone who doesn’t have access to internet services and equipment can’t participate. Sometimes, a video visit can’t provide enough clinical information about a patient’s current status for those with chronic or serious conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. This grant enables us to pilot a Facilitated Telemedicine program that will provide essential medical care to these underserved populations without having to leave their homes.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan last week revised the city’s projected revenue deficit due to the COVID-19 shutdown as between $15 and $17 million for the calendar year, roughly one-third its $48.7 million operating budget for 2020.
At a special meeting of the City Council May 15, the council voted 4-1 for a measure to furlough employees that is expected to save the city about $277,000.
“The Council and Unions chose to make the furlough program voluntary, which was counter to the plan presented by Madigan and made an almost negligible contribution to addressing the city’s serious financial challenges,” read a statement issued by Madigan, explaining her dissenting vote on the measure.
At the regularly scheduled council meeting May 19, the council unanimously approved obtaining a Tax Anticipation Note, or TAN, for $6.3 million.
Madigan said she anticipated the month of June as when the city would deplete its cash; obtaining a TAN will push that date to December, although “it also presents new challenges and costs our taxpayers, as the principal must be prepaid within 12 months and the interest rate will likely be high given current economic conditions.” Madigan said she plans to access $6.5 million in fund balance to help the city meet its financial obligations through November.