Renee Farley. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
MALTA – This week, one military veteran braved the frigid air and crawled under his mobile home to inspect ductwork after his heat failed to work.
In early December, the strut on another veteran’s car was so severely damaged that it ruined one of his tires, too.
Six days before Christmas, a young military couple—both active-duty National Guard—were struggling with money problems that made it difficult to afford gifts for their two children, who are 5 years and 8 months old.
All year long, situations like those arise suddenly for local veterans and military families.
That is when Renee Farley and the other volunteer members of the Malta Veterans Appreciation Program (MVAP) immediately send “call to action” alerts by email and through social-media; or directly provide whatever assistance is needed.
In recent weeks, Farley and the MVAP volunteers were prompted by such circumstances to step up their efforts; and the related alerts to help people whom Farley calls “hometown heroes” were answered.
After New Year’s Day, Farley personally intervened in the case of Leroy, the veteran whose heating system was somehow compromised in the midst of the cold spell.
With the help of her son and another young man, Farley temporarily patched heating ductwork that was damaged—possibly by animals—underneath Leroy’s mobile home. Then she issued a call to action for a permanent fix.
In the case of Mike, the veteran with a disabled vehicle, Farley said there was “a united front” by Stacy and Jim Fantauzzi of Northeast Fire Protection Systems in Ballston Spa, who bought two new front tires; Lake Auto Parts in Burnt Hills, which donated a new strut; and Mark’s VW and Import Service in Mechanicville, which donated the garage space and a couple hours’ worth of labor to get Mike and his family back on the road.
“We got all the parts and we did all the work,” offered Mark Thompson, owner of Mark’s VW and Import Service. “We were happy to fix it for him.”
Bryan Haas, a retired Sgt. 1st Class in the U.S. Army and secretary of the five-member MVAP Board of Directors, met with Haley and Jordan, the National Guard members, during their time of need. He said Haley had provided a list of preferred items.
“I got every single thing they asked for,” Haas said, “plus a ton of food.”
The MVAP program, according to Farley, donated more than $500 in groceries and a gift card so Haley and Jordan would find it easier to enjoy the holidays with their kids.
“I have a Chevy SUV. I filled it up twice,” Haas continued. “We slam-dunked it. They actually told me it was the best Christmas they had since they’ve been married.”
In addition to the MVAP network, Haas said crucial assistance was provided by the Veterans Miracle Center in Albany.
“When we do those calls to action, the response is phenomenal,” he added.
The MVAP volunteers also work to ensure that local veterans can manage regular trips to medical appointments and the routine activities of daily life.
The group is coordinating on ongoing fundraiser for the proposed expansion of the veterans’ memorial walkway in front of Malta Town Hall.
Memorial bricks can be purchased naming individual veterans and their military branch; the bricks will be a permanent part of the display, which includes a small piece of steel from the World Trade Center.
Farley said the military veterans thusly memorialized do not have to be local.
For more information, visit the website www.maltavets.com.
In photo gallery: The local and state leaders invited to read the Bill of Rights in Ballston Spa on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017; and (left to right) We the People Founder Robert Schulz, Upstate Conservative Coalition President Ben Potiker, and Stand Up and Sing for America Founder Judith Whitmore. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON SPA – In the words of Judith Whitmore, the officials and citizens who joined together last week in a county office-building auditorium did so because “they really care about America.”
Amidst the normal bustle of a Friday night before Christmas, Whitmore, the founder of Stand Up and Sing for America and vice-chair of the group We the People (WTP-NY), had organized a “Bill of Rights Day” on Dec. 15 in concert with WTP-NY Founder Robert Schulz and Upstate Conservative Coalition President Ben Potiker.
Two years ago, a similar event was held in Queensbury. Schulz and Whitmore both indicated afterward that Bill of Rights Day ceremonies would be organized in Ballston Spa and statewide every December.
It was on Dec. 15, 1791, according to Schulz, that lawmakers in the state of Virginia had finalized the process of ratifying the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Pastor Earl Wallace of Liberty Christian Fellowship in Clifton Park said it is important “to keep alive the concepts” in the Bill of Rights. He was invited to the Saratoga County office building on West High Street to read the First Amendment aloud, and then put a small flashlight inside a star-themed “luminary” on a table next to the podium.
That same routine was repeated for the other amendments, which were read by State Sen. James Tedisco (R-Glenville); National Guard Sgt. Brandon Moseman; Sheriff Michael Zurlo; District Attorney Karen Heggen; Assistant Public Defender Oscar Schreiber; Wilton Judge David Towne; State Supreme Court Judge Martin Affredou; County Clerk Craig Hayner; and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake).
Whitmore asked the crowd of about 50 people to join her in giving “love and energy for America” through patriotic songs as well. Pocket Constitutions were handed out and coffee and snacks were offered at the end.
“As we celebrate this anniversary, we should give thanks for our constitutional, democratic republic, and commit to become better informed about our rights,” stated Schulz in his opening remarks.
“So long as we are committed to the principles underlying our Constitution and Bill of Rights,” he added, “we will know the blessings of liberty no matter the immensity of our problems, whether it be world peace, foreign conspiracies, rising crime, racial strife, climate change or the decaying hearts of our great central cities.”
(Left to right) 25-year Saratoga County employees Joanne Monaco (Social Services); Gay McKinney (Clerk); D'Arcy Plummer (Treasurer); Valerie Dussault (Real Property); J. Wes Carr (Youth Bureau); and Frank Blaisdell (Animal Shelter); Stillwater Supervisor and Board Chairman Ed Kinowski; 30-year employees Darryl Tree (Sewer District); Beatrice Tree (Social Services); Steve Dorsey (County Attorney); and Sandra Cross (Aging); and 35-year employee Elaine Pratt (Clerk of the Board). Photo by Deputy Board Clerk Therese Connolly.
BALLSTON SPA – The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors presented “longevity awards” this week to a small group of the county’s 1,100 employees, and bid farewell to four of its own members whose terms neared an end.
“The longer you have, the greater your service to the people,” observed Board Chairman Ed Kinowski, the Stillwater town supervisor, after calling out the names of 10 county employees and inviting them to be part of a group picture. Kinowski gave them small gift bags and formal proclamations.
Kinowski also pointed to the work of outgoing Supervisors R. Gardner Congdon of Moreau; John Collyer of Providence; Dan Lewza of Milton; and Peter Martin of Saratoga Springs—“each of whom is leaving to enter a new phase of life and embrace all the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” Kinowski said.
“Your contributions to the county as supervisors have been very numerous,” he continued. “You’ve been creative and innovative in your approach to solving problems, always looking for the best ways to achieve goals.”
Kinowski singled out Collyer for his “hard work and good sense of humor”; Martin for “helping to make all of our residents safe” in his new role as public safety commissioner of the city; Lewza for his “special interest in the county airport, and being sure that residents in the Town of Milton had minimum negative impact”; and Congdon for his “desire to best serve the residents of the Town of Moreau” during his two separate terms of office, spanning more than 40 years.
On behalf of his colleagues, Saratoga Supervisor Thomas Wood praised Kinowski for his efforts as board chairman. Kinowski is expected to continue as chairman through 2018.
“During this past year you have been diligent in performing your duties,” Wood told Kinowski. “You’ve been constantly on the go, attending and participating in meetings on all kinds of topics and subjects. You never shied away from difficult and controversial issues, always tackling them head-on, taking your time, involving other supervisors, gathering all the facts and making a decision—and, most importantly, having the courage to stand behind it.”
Kinowski “represents and personifies the very best of Saratoga County,” Wood added. “We are all honored and privileged to have worked with you this year, and wish you the very best next year in your continued service to the county.”
The Malta Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. Photo by Larry Goodwin; and a site map of the proposed Red Pine Grove complex in Malta. Provided by Project Manager John Romeo of Insite Northeast Civil Engineering Design.
MALTA – Nearly 20 local homeowners spoke at a public hearing of the Malta Planning Board Tuesday night, making clear their concerns about a proposal involving 15 acres of forested land between Ellsworth Commons and the Cramer Woods neighborhood.
A majority of residents called upon by Planning Board Chairman William Smith stated their opposition to Conifer Realty’s proposed Red Pine Grove complex. It would include 12 three-story “workforce housing” towers, as the firm calls them, and a separate apartment building with 70 units for senior citizens closer to Route 9.
Rockrose Way homeowner Cliff VanGuilder was among the first to speak. In a letter, he urged planning board members to “be careful in deciding whether this development is actually needed, and whether it is sustainable for the tax base.”
As 9 p.m. approached, more than a dozen residents had criticized the Red Pine Grove proposal. They alleged that town officials are not properly studying impacts on local traffic and schools, among various other matters.
Smith said he would leave open the public hearing. The planning board is expected to revisit Conifer Realty’s proposal at its next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The same land, on the eastern side of Route 9, had been previously chosen for the Malta Crossings proposal, which included a mix of residential, retail and a hotel.
“It was a pretty aggressive design,” observed David Bogardus, a consultant to Conifer Realty. The overall density of the Red Pine Grove buildings “has been significantly reduced” by about 50 percent, he added.
Brian Donato, senior project director at Conifer Realty, responded to many of the residents’ concerns, including the need for more local housing complexes.
Conifer Realty is in the process of building the Blue Heron Trail residential towers a few minutes west in the Town of Ballston.
The company would not advance its Red Pine Grove proposal, Donato said, if “we didn’t think there was a market for it.”
Death Wish Coffee Co. Owner Mike Brown answers questions from local veterans; and Nick Casey (as Santa Claus) and Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski at Saratoga Coffee Traders. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – This week, local military veterans shared holiday cheer as they celebrated the one-year anniversary of a social event held every Tuesday at Saratoga Coffee Traders, specifically for them to make new friends.
Amy Hughes, program coordinator for the Veterans Peer Connection in Ballston Spa, first organized the coffee meet-up in early November 2016. In the course of almost 60 weeks it was canceled only one Tuesday due to bad weather. “We had ice,” she said.
Hughes said 15 or 20 veterans regularly show up between 5 and 7 p.m. each week to mingle at the coffee shop, located at 447 Broadway. On the Tuesday before Christmas, though, a boisterous crowd of 30 veterans filled the small back room for the occasion.
Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski, chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors and a veteran himself after 38 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, was in attendance with his wife.
Also invited was Death Wish Coffee Company owner Mike Brown, who explained to the crowd that he opened Saratoga Coffee Traders in 2008 before developing his own unique vision for the coffee industry. The veterans applauded his company’s success.
“We do love your coffee,” one man confessed.
Afterward, Brown said it surprised him “how big this is,” noting how Death Wish Coffee Co. offers discounted products to military veterans and strongly supports local firefighters and law enforcement—whose members are often veterans, too.
“This means more than you can really put into words,” offered Nick Casey in his Santa Claus costume. He served in the Air National Guard and met Kinowski during that time.
Casey described the coffee meet-ups on Broadway as “vets for vets,” noting how in the early weeks only two or three people attended.
“I came looking for help and now I’m helping,” he said, after making his rounds with hearty exclamations of “ho-ho-ho.”
Will Ryan, who served in the U.S. Army for eight years, explained how Hughes connects individual veterans in an ongoing mentorship program. He said mentors offer to help struggling veterans with trips to grocery stores, the filing of paperwork for healthcare at the Veterans Administration, or whatever they need.
“I volunteered for the military. I love to serve,” Ryan said. “I wanted to work with veterans, so this is what I found. It just made sense that I would come here to Amy’s program.”
Tory Landry reported that he has served in the National Guard for 19 years, and now works out of the Watervliet Arsenal. He has attended all of the coffee meet-ups in Saratoga Springs, while serving as a mentor for veterans who are deemed “high risk.”
Landry routinely meets with incarcerated veterans at the Saratoga County jail.
“Nobody wants to ask for help,” Landry observed. Veterans “join the military, they succeed in that aspect, so asking for help is tough to do.” But the mentors, he added, can help to “open a dialogue.”
“Saratoga County seems to be very good at establishing that core support foundation…to allow all these events to happen,” Landry said.
The Veterans Peer Connection, a Saratoga County agency supported through New York State grant funds, pays the tab every Tuesday at Saratoga Coffee Traders.
The agency organizes numerous activities throughout the year as well. It has scheduled a free event for veterans on Thursday, Jan. 18 at The Comedy Works, located at 388 Broadway.
Sandy Arnold, who served in the U.S. Army and Reserves for more than 20 years, sat at a table Tuesday night with several more women veterans. She praised the coffee meet-ups arranged by Hughes and the role of Veterans Peer Connection in general.
“It’s really nice. I’ve made a lot of real friends,” Arnold said. “We’re there for each other.”
For more information, call 518-884-4999 or visit the website https://veteranspeertopeer.org/.
WILTON – Town residents will have a chance early next month to address the need for a special drainage district in relation to the proposed Canyon Run Extension housing project on Gailor Road.
At its Dec. 7 meeting, the Wilton Town Board set the related public hearing for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4 in the town complex. The board has authority to approve the creation of such localized taxing districts.
Last year, the 44-lot housing proposal on almost 40 acres—part of the existing Canyon Run development near the Adirondack Northway—already had received preliminary approval by the Wilton Planning Board.
But among the “contingencies” that needed to be satisfied was proper surface drainage, according to Planning Board Executive Secretary Lucy Harlow.
At a cost estimated in the hundreds of thousands, developer Daniel Galusha is expected to pay for installing a drainage system at Canyon Run Extension. Town officials would be required to inspect that installation process from start to finish.
Subsequently, residents in the new Canyon Run Extension homes would be required to pay a special tax related to the long-term maintenance of the drainage district.
The minutes of a May 18, 2016 public hearing quoted Tawny Terrace resident Brigitte Giacchetta, who directly addressed the subject in an email to the planning board.
“I do have some concerns regarding this proposal,” Giacchetta said. “My first concern is drainage. The area is very wet and since I have a drainage swale through the back of my property I am worried about the additional water flow and where it's going to go.”
Giacchetta cited a number of other concerns in her email, echoing comments made by several residents at the public hearing.
“The construction will bring traffic, heavy machinery, and people speeding down Gailor road,” she predicted.
Wilton Planning Board Chairman Michael Dobis assured the residents who spoke that town officials would “consider all the comments and questions” received, according to the official minutes.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – City entrepreneur Drew West admitted this week that he fully understood how it would be “a daunting task to go against a behemoth” like eBay Inc. in court.
Still, he said, “I couldn’t walk away from righting the wrong.”
Early this year, West, the owner of American Natural Gas on Railroad Place, partnered with his father, Albany attorney Thomas West, in filing a lawsuit against eBay in Saratoga Supreme Court for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, among several other claims.
Lawyers for eBay, based in San Jose, California, later petitioned to have the case moved to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in Albany.
On Friday, Dec. 1, a motion by eBay to dismiss the lawsuit was denied by U.S. District Judge Mae A. D'Agostino. The Wests are seeking $25 million.
Cory Daniel Struble, a New York City attorney representing eBay for the national law firm Quinn Emanuel, deferred comment to California attorney David Grable with the same firm. Grable did not return a call for comment.
The pending lawsuit relates to communications that occurred several years ago between Drew West and eBay executives; and the contested use of “an internet auction valet,” as described in the judge’s decision, “a service that simplifies the process for sellers on virtual marketplaces.”
Drew West has found financial success in such “valet” services for 20 years, D’Agostino explained. West and eBay first reached an agreement to collaborate in 2007 and the company formally hired him as a consultant in 2011, she added.
The lawsuit alleges that, by October 2014, eBay executives were taking commercial advantage of a “business plan” that West had previously presented to them without his consent, according to D’Agostino’s decision.
“It was a simple contract case,” explained Thomas West, noting how eBay executives were “fascinated” by his son’s ideas as well as his “knack for moving merchandise.”
Thomas West said the legal victory on Dec. 1—in which all four claims made “survived” eBay’s motion to dismiss—allows the “discovery” phase of the legal process to begin and a potential trial by jury, during which both men say they will be vindicated.
“I think the merits are there,” added Drew West. “We’re just looking for our day in court.”
Cliff Seguin with the ruins of his Operation Adopt A Soldier storage shed. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
WILTON – Cliff Seguin said that he will not let the destruction of monsters, fog machines and other props interrupt his nonprofit group’s mission of lifting the spirits of U.S. soldiers during the holidays.
A storage shed owned by Seguin’s Operation Adopt A Soldier, situated near Gavin Park, was destroyed in a fire on Sunday. It was being used to store electronics and props valued at about $3,000, which the group utilizes for haunted hayrides given in the park each autumn.
“We’re going to come out of this stronger than we were,” offered Seguin, when contacted this week for comment. He said the shed was not covered by insurance.
Lt. Jeff Brown of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said there was no “cause” found in the ruins of the storage shed, which did not have electric service.
“It’s definitely a suspicious fire,” Brown said. “We’re investigating it as an arson.”
Seguin, who founded Operation Adopt A Soldier in 2004 along with Dominick Commisso, explained that the group’s volunteers are in the midst of sending hundreds of holiday packages to active-duty military personnel and would not be deterred by the blaze.
“We’re doing it all for the soldiers,” he said.
For more information, visit the website www.operationadoptasoldier.org/about-us.
Matt Jones in his West Avenue office. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com; and a rendering of the proposed Red Pine Grove complex in Malta, provided by The Jones Firm.
MALTA – The real-estate firm that is currently building 140 residential units at the intersection of East Line Road and Route 67 in Ballston is advancing a separate proposal with Malta town officials, involving 15 acres of property located off of Route 9 between Ellsworth Commons and Cramer Road.
Previously, town officials had approved plans for the Malta Crossings development on the same land, which included a hotel and residential units.
Conifer Realty, a Rochester-based company, has renamed its new proposal as the Red Pine Grove complex.
The property would be subdivided into two separate parcels of about two and 13 acres. The larger parcel would be mostly residential, and Conifer Realty currently has no plans to develop the smaller one near Route 9 due to the presence of archeological remains.
Matt Jones, the Saratoga Springs attorney representing Conifer Realty, said Red Pine Grove will be the “only workforce housing development in Malta,” similar to the firm’s Blue Heron Trail complex going up a few minutes west in the Town of Ballston.
Conifer Realty’s proposal in Malta calls for 12 three-story apartment buildings with a total of nearly 100 units; and a three-story “senior housing” structure close to Route 9 with 70 units, according to minutes of the June 20 Malta Planning Board meeting.
The firm also will build a senior clubhouse, a separate clubhouse for families, a maintenance garage, a sewer-pump station, and a storm water treatment area.
There will be a 144-foot “buffer” of trees to lessen any visual impacts on homeowners in the existing Cramer Woods neighborhood, according to the planning board.
In November, Jones and his associates appeared before the Malta Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to request variances for eight-foot ceiling heights on upper floors of the senior building; and an increase in that building’s frontage length to more than 227 feet.
Both requests were denied by the ZBA, since Malta town code specifies nine-foot ceilings and a maximum frontage of only 120 feet.
The planning board is expected to consider Conifer Realty’s amended design plans again at a meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19 in the town complex.
Jones said the firm is reviewing engineering aspects of the project and would submit a final site plan to the planning board for approval no sooner than January. Construction is expected to start in summer 2018, he added.
On Wednesday, though not required by town planners, a public forum was organized by Conifer Realty to hear concerns from local residents about the Red Pine Grove project. It was held at a similar property owned by the firm on Waite Road in Rexford.
Jones said a number of neighbors’ concerns were identified and that Conifer Realty planners will consider them as the proposal moves forward.
Mary Mahoney, a retired state worker and Luther Forest resident for 30 years, addressed the Malta Town Board on Monday, Dec. 4 after being granted the opportunity to do so by Supervisor Vincent DeLucia.
She criticized town officials for even considering the Red Pine Grove project and, in general, approving so much construction.
“We need housing,” Mahoney admitted, but added that the town also needs more “bus service” and “social planning.”
Many residents in Malta, Mahoney told the board, think town officials favor the profit motives of developers over the needs of long-term residents, without regard for proper planning, traffic impacts or light and sound pollution.
Most recent construction projects, she added, end up looking like “barracks” filled with people who “live on batteries.”
When DeLucia politely requested that Mahoney conclude her comments, she inspired a few chuckles in the room, saying: “I won’t bother you anymore on this subject if you change your evil ways.”
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen joined Heather Mabee (center) and other members of the Daughters of the American Revolution for a memorial ceremony at the Congress Park War Memorial on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – With a December chill in the morning air, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution gathered Thursday at the Congress Park War Memorial for an annual wreath-laying ceremony—at the precise moment in 1941 that Japanese fighter planes had begun a devastating attack on the U.S. Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
“This is important, to remember this day,” explained Heather Mabee, a principal organizer of the event and the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter.
As of July 2017, nearly 76 years after that fateful morning thrust the United States into World War II, Mabee reported that there were still a handful of survivors who served on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. “The ship was most heavily hit in the raid,” she said, reading from a prepared statement.
The surprise Japanese attack, which started at 7:55 a.m., damaged or destroyed 20 U.S. ships and 300 aircraft; it also claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. military personnel and civilians, while injuring almost 1,200 individuals.
“More than seven decades after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared Dec. 7, 1941 as ‘a date which will live in infamy,’ tangible proof of the day’s events are still visible at Pearl Harbor,” Mabee continued. “Machine-gun strafing holes from Imperial Japanese fighter planes still dot the now-unused runway at Ford Island and airplane hangars at Hickam Air Force Base. Oil, sometimes called ‘black tears,’ still seeps up from the sunken USS Arizona, beading the surface of the water at the battleship’s memorial.”
Similar wreath-laying ceremonies are held nationwide each December, Mabee said, to recognize the U.S. Navy ships and people lost at various battle sites in Pearl Harbor.