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SARATOGA SPRINGS — City Mayor Joanne Yepsen looked up at the 50 or so people who crowded into City Hall Wednesday afternoon and spoke to the reason for the gathering. “We don’t want to become a community that only the elite can afford,” the mayor said.
The City Council’s special mid-day meeting on Dec. 14 effectively kicked-off an 18-month project to address affordable housing in Saratoga Springs.
“Residents are saying, ‘We are pricing ourselves out of our own city,’ meaning that the market rates are higher than what they can afford. I think it’s time for us as a council to address some of the short-term needs as best we can with some long-term solutions,” Yepsen said. “And affordable housing may not just be an option any more – it may be required by the federal government.”
The 1968 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), was amended in 2015 with a final rule that states communities must address affordable housing needs and come up with a consolidation plan to carry out actions. That plan is specifically due from Saratoga Springs in May 2020, with submissions due at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by October 2019. “We are planning this will take us about a year and a half to put together, so we’re starting at the right time,” Yepsen said.
Survey Says: Additional Housing Needed
A 228-page market study regarding housing needs in Saratoga Springs conducted during the summer by GAR Associates indicates a strong demand for additional housing in the city, and recommends multiple rent tiers targeting different income bands in the development of workforce, family, and senior housing. The study points to Saratoga Springs’ disparity in income levels as a supporting case to be made for affordable housing projects that specifically feature workforce-oriented and mixed-income housing, where attorneys would live in the same building as busboys, explained Saratoga Springs Housing Authority Executive Director Paul Feldman.
“Affordable housing to me is not only by the HUD standards (residents should not spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing), but for Saratoga Springs it’s taking care of our hospitality industry and making sure that the workers can get to work and live close to jobs,” Yepsen said. “So, it’s workforce housing for our hospitality industry and it’s allowing young professionals to move and work here.”
The study reported the average listing price of a new single-family home in Saratoga Springs is $504,000, the average annual earning salary is about $70,000, and that of the more than 600 housing units built in the city during the past decade -in addition to another 200 or so on the table in the future - none include an affordable housing component. “What the market study shows is that 80 percent of the people who need more affordable housing are Saratogians,” Yepsen said. “They currently live here and are having trouble paying their bills. Eighty percent of the people are our own people - and that’s why I’m taking this to heart. We need to do this. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a plan.”
There are several options to be explored, from working with private developers, to nonprofits. A decade-old Inclusionary Zoning ordinance revived by Sustainable Saratoga earlier this year calls for the dedication of a small percentage of all future units built be designated for moderate, or low-income households. In exchange, builders would receive a bonus that allows an increased density of the project. The IZ would also spread the dispersal of mixed-use affordable housing across the community.
“If the IZ ever passed the council, it would mean every developer, from here on in, would include a percentage of affordable housing,” Yepsen said. The proposal currently sits at the city and county planning boards for their respective advisory opinions, after which it will be required to pass through the city’s Land Use boards before being returned to the council for a potential vote. In a community with high-income characteristics such as Saratoga Springs, incentives often have to be provided in order to create the support for municipal approvals associated with affordable housing.
The Middle Class Gap
Yepsen said looking at the housing gap from a continuum of care spectrum, the path begins at the Code Blue emergency shelter, continues on to Shelters of Saratoga, and transitions to public housing and eventually private housing. But, that’s where the path ends. “That middle gap, to me, is what really is the crux of the problem, because you’re not eligible for help, yet you can’t afford the high-end condos either, so you end up stuck in the middle,” Yepsen said. “And Saratoga Springs is going to be feeling that more, unless we can at least introduce some other price points for housing in the city. It is for me, a priority and that is the reality of the situation. The question now is: What does the council want to do about it?”
The survey reports that land adjacent to The Saratoga Springs Housing Authority’s Stonequist Apartments would be ideal for a large mixed development. Currently, the city is looking at grant funding opportunities to develop 20 to 26 new affordable housing units at Jefferson and Vanderbilt Terrace. “We’re thrilled that we’re a thriving economic community and we don’t want that to change at all,” the mayor said. “Our package of assets and cultural opportunities are going to thrive and grow, but we’ve got to take care of our own too. We need to be both - an economically thriving tourist community and a residential year-round affordable community, with a high quality of life.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Imagine two young men, 22 and 23 years old, riding their mountain bikes to a meeting that could make or break their dream of creating a local deli and pizzeria, and walking in with their caps still on backwards. That was 20 years ago, and the man who then owned the 132 Spring Street building, George Lega, tossed them out on their ears.
“He wouldn’t even talk to us,” remembered Spring Street Deli and Pizzeria co-owner, Brian Brumley. “Fortunately, our attorney was a good friend of Mr. Lega’s, so he convinced him to give us a second chance. We went back – without hats – and sat with him for four hours. We really hit it off, and he later sold the building to us and held the papers, a pretty big deal for a couple of kids. No one does that. If he were still with us today to see us hit 20 years, I’d say thank you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity. The guy was just incredible.”
Brumley and his childhood friend, deli co-owner Anthony Gargano, turned out to be a good bet. They had grown up in the restaurant business and five houses away from each other in Geyser Crest. After comparing notes, the two friends felt confident they could create a neighborhood eatery that people would enjoy regularly, so they reached out to a chef friend of theirs, Rob Cone, to help set them up at the Spring Street location.
“Rob said we’ll do everything fresh from scratch daily,” said Brumley. “Homemade soups, salsas, dressings, making a better product than just any deli with sliced meats and processed, canned food. We make it all homemade. We’ve added more items to the deli menu, and now, we’re expanding our catering menu. We purchased a wood fired pizza truck a few years ago, and that’s been growing. We’ve done weddings and such, but we’d like to do more events. The business is capable of doing any size party.”
With made from scratch offerings and a philosophy that a happy staff leads to happy customers, it’s no wonder the Spring Street Deli and Pizzeria has much to celebrate on its 20th anniversary.
“We’ve had so much support from family and friends over the years,” said Brumley. “They’ve helped us get where we are, and we can’t thank them enough.”
Gargano agrees and added, “You have to find yourself some great employees and we’ve done that. Our staff is incredible. A lot of them are lifelong friends. They work hard and make it look easy.”
Brumley said, “The best part is, through the years, the kids that worked for us still come back. Some will be home visiting from college and can’t wait to eat Spring Street instead of mom’s cooking. Parents will even buy favorites here and bring them to their kids in Boston or wherever because they miss it.”
Brumley and Gargano both attribute their success to that community support plus hard work, dedication, and providing great food at affordable prices. They feel the business has become more than just a deli; it’s a lifestyle, with loyal clientele that visit daily, a neighborhood place where customers and staff kid around with each other, often about sports. They even kid about the day they first opened.
“It was either the 5th or 7th of December in 1996,” said Brumley. “We both think it’s a different day. We probably could go look it up in the paperwork, but why not just make it an anniversary week? Or month?”
“It’s a playful atmosphere,” Gargano said. “Every day there’s something great that goes on. This past Thanksgiving, I was able to bring my daughter Chloe in to help me make platters, and she said it was one of the best times of her life, working with me.”
Brumley has two children, 6-year-old Nicholas and 5-year-old Sarah. Gargano and his wife, Kelly, have two daughters, 6-year-old Chloe and 3-year-old Cora.
“Chloe’s been saying she wants me to buy Little India next door so she can have a bakery next to her daddy’s deli,” said Gargano. “She can’t wait until she’s older to come work with me.”
For more information, to find out about the giveaways or the daily specials, visit the Spring Street Deli Facebook page or call 518-584-0994. For catering, ask for Meaghan Macfarland, the front of the house and catering manager, or Brumley or Gargano. Also visit www.springstreetdeli.net.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The demolition team arrived from Schenectady alongside the Thursday morning sun and began the delicate disassembly of a fragile 19th century building on Caroline Street ravaged by fire on Thanksgiving Day.
Efforts to salvage the structure, which included securing a third engineering opinion late Tuesday, proved unsuccessful.
“The result is not what we hoped,” said Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation Executive Director Samantha Bosshart, in a statement issued Thursday morning.
The fire displaced residents of five apartments and forced the closure of four businesses on Putnam and Caroline streets. A faulty electrical extension cord located in a small storage area in the rear of the Mio Posto restaurant was targeted as the cause of the blaze. The structure deemed most seriously affected was a vacant brick building at 26 Caroline St. that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and which had most recently housed the Living Room.
Two initial engineering reports deemed the building unsafe and recommended total demolition. On Monday, Bosshart approached the City Council on behalf of the Preservation Foundation and offered $2,000 to secure a third structural opinion and questioning whether any part of the building could be salvaged. The City Council, by a 4-0 vote, approved an emergency declaration seeking that third study, which was conducted Tuesday by Mike Miller of Ryan Biggs Associates.
“We walked through the building and it’s a devastating site, destroyed,” reported city attorney Vincent DeLeonardis afterwards, adding that preliminary findings of the third study were consistent with previous reports. No formal report had yet been presented, but DeLeonardis recited an email received from Miller, which read in part: “The extent of damage has compromised the structural integrity of the building at 26 Caroline Street and forms an unsafe condition. This forms a risk to the public in front of the building as well as to the adjacent properties. Further collapse of the building could occur at any time.”
In response, the Preservation Foundation reported that it did not know why steps couldn’t be taken to preserve the façade, particularly since they had yet to receive a copy of the owner’s structural report dated Nov. 30 that specifically addresses that topic, or a copy of the Ryan Biggs preliminary report. “The Foundation looks to the future of this site and working with the property owner and the Design Review Commission to ensure that replacement infill is appropriate in scale and design,” added the organization.
“I have a lot of options and will have to go through them one by one,” said the building’s owner by Louis Lazzinnaro. Prior to the fire, Lazzinnaro said he was hoping to refurbish the existing building, “but unfortunately that’s not going to happen now, so we’ll see what makes sense.”
Lazzinnaro said he purchased the building two or three years ago, and was still waiting for definitive answers regarding damage coverage from his insurance company. He’s currently working with an architect to create conceptual drawings of what might replace the building and while it’s too soon to tell what may be developed in the space, he said he assumes it will be a mixed-use development. “I had an independent engineer to see if the façade could be saved, but because of the way the building is - there’s no open space in the back - everything has to be done from the front,” Lazzinnaro said. “Most importantly, no one was hurt during the fire and I don’t want to see anyone get hurt during the demolition.”
The demolition will be done slowly and cautiously given the current state of the building’s integrity and is expected to take 1-1/2 to 2 weeks, according to early accounts. The stretch of Caroline Street where the buildings were damaged by fire will remain closed during the demolition. DeLeonardis said the Ice House was “not terribly affected” by the fire whereas Mio Posto is “in very rough shape, but is not as structurally precarious as 26 Caroline.” The structural status of Mio Posto restaurant on Putnam Street is not currently known.
The four businesses affected by the fire - Sperry’s restaurant, the Ice House, Mio Posto restaurant, and Hamlet & Ghost – remain closed. Brendan Dillon, co-owner of Hamlet & Ghost said he is hopeful the craft cocktail bar may re-open by New Year’s Eve.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Building a mouth-watering lasagna from scratch can be a real challenge for busy moms on-the-go, which is one reason why Augie Vitiello, chef and owner of popular mainstay Augie’s Family Style Italian Restaurant in Ballston Spa, is bringing his famous recipes to Saratoga Springs at a new take-out-only location coming in January.
“It’s so exciting to have Augie’s To Go moving into the neighborhood!” said Katrina Lucas of Saratoga Springs. “A quick weeknight meal just got so much easier. We can pick up the kids from after-school activities and pick up a fresh, amazing Italian dinner down the street.”
Augie’s Family Style Italian To Go will continue the Augie’s concept, with familiar menu items as well as prepared foods such as packaged homemade pastas and sauces. There will be homemade cannoli, seasonally flavored gelatos, and other desserts as well.
“You can come in and pick up a pound of fresh pasta and quart of marinara at your convenience,” said Vitiello. “Or you can call ahead to pick up a pan of eggplant parm, lasagna or meatballs and salad to have for company at home the next day. Fresh and hassle-free.”
Vitiello said he often heard from his restaurant customers that they wished he had a location in Saratoga Springs.
“We’re making life easier for our great customers in Saratoga so they don’t have to drive to Ballston Spa,” said Vitiello. “It’s a great Eastside location, across from the park where there’s lots of activity and a big population of families that want good, wholesome Italian food at a reasonable price just a phone call away. I see a niche for that, and I think it will do really well.”
Vitiello is taking over the former pizzeria at 223 Lake Avenue, just across from East Side Recreation Park, which has been empty for about a year.
“The landlord has been doing extensive renovations to the property,” said Vitiello, “and he’s excited having me join the property and bring it back to life. We’re anticipating an opening date in mid-January.”
Vitiello has originally opened his restaurant in Larchmont in 1990, and moved to Ballston Spa in 2004.
“It’s been great,” he said. “We’ve been growing all the time, constantly expanding what we do. We’ve expanded our footprint in the restaurant and now have two private dining rooms for private parties and banquets. It’s been pretty active and promising.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Check, one. Check, two. Check. Check. Check.
If Bobby Carlton was trying to confuse the wait staff inside the redbrick bistro that boasts creative food, craft drinks and live music, it clearly wasn’t working.
Armed with their three Fender instruments – two guitars and a bass, their boxes of special effects – seven soundwave bending foot-pedals, and the back-beat thwomps of a drummer gluing it all together, Dryer celebrated the release of their new five-song EP at One Caroline last weekend, showcasing the harmonious weavings of punk-driven power chords and melodious hooks that the band has brought to the nation’s stages the past 24 years.
“We’re still a dirty bar venue kind of band playing loud rock music,” said Carlton, who co-founded Dryer with bassist Rachael Sunday in 1992, soon after she had left Skidmore College and was working at Strawberries record shop on Broadway. Drummer Joel Lilley joined the group in 1993.
“It’s really crazy. I didn’t know a band could go that long,” the guitar player said, laughing. “We did what we could do in the time we were a touring band, and we had some great experiences. We were able to tour the U.S. several times and we slept on a lot of floors, played a lot of clubs and got to meet some shady people.”
After a decade of touring and recording, the threesome broke up in 2002. The owner of a New Jersey-based record label convinced them to reform for what was to be a one-off show at Putnam Den in 2010. “At that time it meant calling Rachael, who I hadn’t talked to in eight years, and asking if she’d be into it. So, I threw it out there and surprisingly Joel and Rachael were both on board to do the show. The turnout was so huge that we were like: Oh, people really do enjoy Dryer. So we just started playing together again.”
In 2014, the band added guitar player Brian Akey, who had played with the Massachusetts based band Winterpills. “They were the darlings of the New York Times for a while. Brian moved to Saratoga Springs and someone introduced us,” recalled Carlton. “He just came up one night and expressed interest in playing with Dryer. We’d been a three-piece band for 20 years and never strayed from that, but when Brian came in I was excited about the idea of having another guitar player,” Carlton explained. “Here’s the thing: I know exactly what kind of guitar player I am. I’m not real proficient, but I know about power chords, so I like the idea of having this whole other layer of guitars – and it really works.” The showcase of sound blends raw riffs, sweet vocals and an underlay of melody-laced guitaristry. “The moment Brian came in it opened things up quite a bit and changed the landscape. It makes it more fun.”
The band’s four-member interplay is evident in both their live sets and the new five-song EP. “Bright Moon, Bright Sun,” which marks Dryer’s first issue as a quartet and its first overall release of new music since 2002. Now nearing the quarter-century mark since the band’s formation means finding a new way for the creative mind. “You have to adjust. For me, I cut my teeth on punk rock music coming out of the city – basement shows and CBGB’s in the early days and the whole D.C. scene, so that part still is there for me. I think if I didn’t have that, I probably wouldn’t want to be playing music anymore in this capacity,” Carlton said. “I might stay at home, Instagram a photo here and there of me playing a song. But, I’m still playing shows, I’m still traveling to clubs and I think that comes from the fact that I grew up in that era of punk rock music. The Ramones and The Descendants were huge inspirations for me. They had that ‘Get out and do it, no matter how old you are’ attitude.
“You know you can choose to sit home and do nothing – which is fine – but that’s not me. We’re still doing it at a capacity that’s good for us,” he said. “When I was in my twenties and Dryer was touring, I was sleeping on a dirty floor and thinking: oh man, I’m in Michigan, playing a rock show. I made it! But now, I’m still being creative and I’m sleeping in my own bed at night. That to me is making it.”
“Bright Moon, Bright Sun” is available on a variety of digital streaming sites, and the band has plans to release the tracks on a vinyl format in the future. For more information, visit: https://dryerrockmusic.com/
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Ten thousand days of newspapers. More than a million published words.
Barbara Lombardo has served as a leading voice in the community for more than a generation - her words educating, entertaining, and often inspiring open dialogue of a variety of issues among political leaders and city residents alike.
“I got into journalism during the era of Watergate,” the longtime journalist and managing editor of The Saratogian explained to a crowd gathered at the Saratoga Springs Public Library to hear her speak about her 38-year career in the local news business. “There was a great feeling of what you could do – and not just tearing down a president – but in your own community.” She joined The Saratogian staff in June 1977 working the City Hall beat and by age 30 became the newspaper’s managing editor, directly supervising the newspaper’s day-to-day operations, overseeing editors, writing her column “Fresh Ink,” and helping to launch a countless number of journalists’ careers. The origins of Lombardo’s own career were founded in a series of serendipitous moments.
“I took journalism classes as a lark and got hooked. As it turned out, someone at The Saratogian had died and I was offered a job to start as soon as I finished grad school,” she said during the discussion at the library, moderated by longtime area writer Maria McBride Bucciferro. “I fell in love with Saratoga. I married my college boyfriend and we raised our children here. Things just worked out wonderfully.”
Lombardo cited a lengthy list of a dozen publishers she worked with during her five-decade career that alternated between collaborative camaraderie and ethical conflict. “There was one publisher - and I won’t name him - but a story in the Associated Press his first day on the job was about one of the big department stores that was being sued for discrimination against its workers and having to pay a big fine. That department store was one of our biggest advertisers,” said Lombardo, recalling pressure that was placed on her to stifle the news piece. “The publisher didn’t want me to put that story in the paper at all, let alone where I did put it: on the front page,” she said.
She spoke about memorable stints alongside publisher Linda Glazer Toohey in the 1970s - at the time one of the youngest female publishers in the country - and a decade later with Monte Trammer, whose actions Lombardo cited as a role models for newspaper ethics. “Monte was at a session with a publisher of another paper when somebody asked: ‘If I buy an ad for your company what do you get in exchange for news coverage?’ The publisher of the other paper said that if you buy an ad, you get a story. Monte said that our news columns were not for sale. That’s just as true today,” Lombardo said. “It’s not like you don’t get some pressure, but say you’re doing a story about apple picking and you go to three or four apple orchards to get comments. I believe strongly that you should go to the orchards that are advertising with you, because it’s an opportunity for you to support the companies that are supporting you. But it doesn’t mean you would only go to them, or give somebody special preference.”
These days she teaches a journalism class at the University of Albany, which she’s been doing since 2008, and maintains an online blog, titled “Done with Deadlines,” at: http://www.donewithdeadlines.com/. “One of the things I always loved about journalism in Saratoga was that we were in a competitive market,” she said, explaining that the competitive scramble for scoops, sources and stories in the pre-Internet days had a definitive timeline that no longer exists. “Once that deadline came it was over. Now, it’s never over. You constantly have to be out there - and with fewer and fewer resources. I’m also concerned now with things being archived online on some cloud somewhere and not in newspapers, or microfilm like they used to be.”
During her time at the Saratogian, Lombardo saw the American newsroom transform from a bricks-and-mortar foundation that housed journalists skillfully trained at scribing barrels of ink, to an open-air market of unfettered opinions, blurring the lines of reality and cluttering cyberspace. The Internet has, at least in part, posed a slew of challenges for the industry.
“The biggest challenge is how to make money out of the way people are getting their news now – which is on their phone. Newspapers have traditionally relied on their advertising from print and they have not succeeded in raising the same amount of revenue from advertising online. That’s been the crux of problem,” Lombardo said. Allowing public commentary alongside articles in real time can be both a blessing and a curse, at times providing new leads and sources while at other times allowing a forum for anonymous posters to verbally skewer public figures and private citizens alike.
“There’s a responsibility to try to avoid some of the comments and on some stories cut the comments off, because they can be so heartless or personal. I believe that’s part of the downside of the Internet: the ability to say things anonymously,” she said. “What I personally enjoyed was the thrill of the chase, pursuing a story that sometimes could be a bad event, but you feel that you’re doing something good,” Lombardo said. “Things that make a difference in the community. Sometimes that might make some people unhappy, but overall it can make peoples’ lives better.”
Jerry Carpenter Jr. died in June, a few hours shy of his 21st birthday, his family by his side.
In an emotionally moving ceremony Tuesday night at City Hall, Carpenter’s family thanked Saratoga Springs Police Officer Bill Arpei for answering the call to tend to the Saratoga Springs High School graduate in his time of need.
“On that day, June 2, that afternoon, the call was received by an officer for a young man in cardiac arrest,” family friend Donna Flinton told a chamber room crowded with residents and council members gathered to decide the city’s business. The call was placed by Carpenter’s sister. From Jefferson Terrace, the emergency was reported as a young man in severe medical distress.
“Officer Arpei responded within minutes of the call and assessed everything. He started chest compressions and continued to do so even after EMS came to take over,” Flinton said. “Unbeknownst to the officer, Jerry had only one working lung as well as a host of other complications. With Officer Arpei’s CPR, his not giving up on our boy and EMS’ help, Jerry was resuscitated.”
Although resuscitated, the young man whose obituary remembers him as an innocent soul with a brave heart who spread love to all who knew him, passed away a week later.
“The officer was asked to be kept in the loop, and we did,” Flinton said. “We informed Officer Arpei that Jerry had passed, and of the funeral arrangements, hoping he would perhaps come. He sure did. And in full uniform. It gave the family and myself great pride to know the Saratoga Springs Police Department would allow Officer Arpei not just to attend, but to salute as we passed by,” she recalled. “With that, my friends, everyone just cried. That was our time. And that was the time he gave us. He not only refused to give up on him, but he cared - and caring and compassion is not always prevalent in today’s society.”
One of the young man’s sisters handed Arpei a keychain, to signify the day her life forever was changed and the moment the officer was welcomed as a member of the family. With the presentation of a statue she noted how they would never forget the officer’s actions.
“When we look at you, we see Jerry,” Flinton said. “Because of you, his mother was able to sit with him for the last few days he had, hold his hand and tell him he could go dance in heaven with his grandfather. His grandmother was able to kiss him one last time and tell him that she loved him. His sisters were able to say goodbye and lay with him as he took his last breath - and we celebrated his birthday - because in some country he was 21,” she told the officer, who joined the city police department five years ago. “These are the moments the family will cherish forever and they know they wouldn’t have had them if it wasn’t for you.” In the crowded council chamber overcome by silence some in the crowd choked back tears.
“We feel it was time to express our family’s gratitude towards one of our own,” she said. “Saying just thanks, we think, is not appropriate. But that’s all we’ve got.” Residents and council members alike stood up and the chamber erupted in a lengthy ovation.
City Approves Purchase of Pitney Farm: Westside Farm to Stay a Farm Forever
After much deliberation, the council unanimously approved the city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm on West Avenue.
The city is spending $1.165 million - $1.13 million outright and $35,000 in closing costs – to purchase the development rights to ensure the farm land will remain a farm in perpetuity.
Members of the council had expressed hope that a portion of the 166-acre farm could be used to house recreation fields for youth sports such as soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco was especially adamant that the city may have done a better job negotiating the fields into the land contract, as the city lacks those resources.
The closing is scheduled to take place in mid-December. At the same time, the city will issue a bond anticipation note. The interest will be 0.95 percent, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.
A contract of sale for the farm was signed between the Pitney Family and the newly created 501(c)(3), Pitney Meadows Community Farm. The vision for the farm includes the creation of a community agricultural resource center to function as a teaching facility and incubator, as well as offering access to the community to cultivate gardens and enjoy nature trails on the property.
City Amends Sidewalk Sitting Ordinance – Penalties Reduced, Law Still in Effect
The city's controversial “sit and lie ordinance,” which was adopted in June and makes it unlawful for any person to sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk, was amended by the City Council this week. The changes include a streamlining of exceptions to the law; those exceptions allow for medical emergencies, or in curbside areas permitted for street performers, as well as easing penalties for code violators.
The previously adopted penalties called for a minimum $50 fine for first offenders, escalating to misdemeanor charges with the potential of up to 30 days of jail time and fines of up to $500 for repeat offenders. The new penalties call for a maximum $50 fine for first offenders. Subsequent offenders would be subject to a fine not exceeding $250 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 days, according to the city’s general penalties for offenses, posted on the city website.
The New York Civil Liberties Union submitted testimony alleging both the original law and the amended proposal targets homeless people and is unconstitutional and should be rescinded altogether. Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen – who brought forward both the original and amended proposals – argued that the ordinance was based on other municipalities’ existing ordinances and that “it does pass constitutional muster.” The council members were in general agreement in expressing belief that the ordinance is related to pedestrian safety issues and does not target the city’s homeless population. The amended ordinance was approved 4-1, with city Mayor Joanne Yepsen casting the lone vote against. “I don’t like this law and I don’t see a need for it,” said Yepsen, who also cast the lone voted against the initial proposal in June.
On a High Note, City Center President Says Goodbye
Longtime Saratoga Springs City Center President Mark Baker delivered the City Center Authority’s annual report for 2015 to the council on Tuesday. In 2015, the City Center hosted 154 events and secured 252 days of paid activities - marking the highest number of annual paid events in the building’s history. The 2016 schedule already tops that number, Baker added, and reported $2.1 million in sales tax revenue was generated in 2015 for the local community. More than 155,000 people attended events last year.
“For 33 years it’s been a pleasure to serve for you and with you,” said Baker, who last week announced he will retire as the organization’s president at year’s end. “In the last 33 years I think it’s become most obvious that there is no place like Saratoga Springs – our history, our style, our grace,” Baker said..
‘Eyesore’ at Interlaken to be Demolished, Replaced by Single-Family Homes
The council unanimously voted to support a Planned Unit Development SEQRA determination regarding a property on Crescent Avenue in the Interlaken community. The long-abandoned home will be demolished and the land subdivided into four parcels where four single-family homes will be developed. Residents of the neighborhood addressed the council, alternately referring to the existing building as “an eyesore” and “a neighborhood blight,” and outnumbered those opposed to the building’s demolition by a 10-1 margin.
City Public Art Policy Approved; Changes Coming for City Arts Commission
The council unanimously approved a public art policy that will provide a civic planning process for the acceptance and placement of artwork in public areas.
The city Arts Commission – a 20-member advisory board appointed by the mayor in 2015 - will review submissions using artwork and site selection criteria and may recommend to accept or reject an artwork. The Commission is tasked with reviewing proposals for consistency with the city’s goals and where appropriate, recommending acceptance or rejection of such acquisitions for the city. “Public art,” in this scope, is defined as publicly accessible artwork that enriches the city through its aesthetic qualities, considers the social and physical context of the site, and addresses the goals of the city.
The Arts Commission will also undergo changes to its member bylaws. Starting in January 2018, the committee will be comprised of a maximum of 11 members; four will be selected by the commissioners and the balance appointed by the mayor. Currently, all 20 members have been selected by the mayor.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Inside the office on a sublevel of the Collamer Building, a pair of couches sit in a comfortable corner. A toy kitchen patiently awaits the attention of a child’s playing hands, and rows of books line the far wall.
“We have the easiest door to walk in,” says Maggie Fronk, executive director of the Wellspring office, which opens its doors five days a week and hosts seminars that are confidential and free of charge. A hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, annually fields about 1,400 calls that come in from across Saratoga County.
“When somebody comes in, we talk to them about what their situation is and about what domestic violence is. It’s a pattern of power and control,” says Fronk, who joined Wellspring 14 years ago. The organization has supported survivors and strived to end relationship and sexual abuse for the past 35 years.
“There are many different forms of abuse. There’s emotional control, psychological control, financial control, social isolation, sexual victimization. So many times people will call us and say, ‘But I’ve never been hit.’ In their mind they’re saying, ‘this is not domestic violence.’ Well, it is,” Fronk says. “We have a ‘power and control wheel’ that talks about all kinds of abuse and we’ll show that to them. The person that says, ‘I don’t know if I even should be calling,’ will look at that and say, ‘Oh, I do have all those other kinds, I’ve just never been hit.”
Wellspring’s crisis intervention and survivor services provide safe housing to adults and children either fleeing or homeless because of domestic violence, as well as comprehensive support in the form of counseling, legal advocacy, and case management. In 2015, the organization provided almost 15,000 safe bed nights of shelter and supportive housing, counseled 700 individuals escaping their abuse, and provided education about the signs of relationship and sexual abuse to 6,500 members of school, and community groups.
“Wellspring gave me a new lease on life and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” said Tina, who married at 18, divorced at 21, and was forced to give up on her dream of going to college after graduating high school. For three years, she endured an abusive marriage. She married her second husband in 2001 and gave birth to her first of three children in 2007. “Unfortunately, women who are victims of domestic violence tend to attract predatory mates,” Tina said.
“My first husband was an alcoholic and here it was, like a bad dream, happening all over again. He began drinking very heavily and the abuse began to get worse.” Pregnant with her second child in 2008, Tina temporarily moved back to her parents’ home and gave her husband an ultimatum. “I told him he had to rehab.” Things seemed to work for a while, but it would not last. “The police were called to our house several times. He punched me in the face and gave me a black eye. It took me a long time to realize I couldn’t fix him, that my love couldn’t carry it through. A lot of women think that if they’re nice enough, if they’re pretty enough, then they can fix things,” she said. “But they can’t.”
An incident involving child neglect that was brought on by her husband’s drinking convinced her the marriage was over. Tina wasn’t working and when the child support payments stopped coming, she became involved in a child custody conflict which continues to this day.
“The psychological effect of that spun me into a dark, life-threatening world of depression. I was in a state of turmoil and didn’t know what to do.” By chance, she came across a Wellspring business card. “I was a mess,” Tina recalled. “I reached out and called their hotline. Immediately, I felt there was a glimmer of hope.” Through Wellspring, she began picking up the pieces of her shattered life. The organization helped with housing, and she recently secured a job at a retail store on Broadway.
“At times it’s been a nightmare of a life, but I’ve realized my true value, my true worth and I have three little kids who I have to make a new path for, so they don’t follow in my footsteps,” she said. “Yes, there will be stumbling blocks, but you have to persevere. I’m not going to let my life be stopped by an abuser who I’d given 22 years of my life. I’m not going to give up on my education. I’m not going to give up on my kids. I’m humbled by these experiences. And I don’t take for granted one minute of my life.”
“We have a commitment to end relationship and sexual abuse in the community and I see that happening,” Fronk says. “We do that by involving the whole community. If you see something, talk to somebody. Tell them there’s a place to get help. Make the call.“
Wellspring maintains office hours Monday through Friday in Saratoga Springs. To reach the office during business hours, call 518-583-0280. To reach the 24-Hour Hotline, call 518-584-8188. For more information, visit: http://www.wellspringcares.org/.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s proposed operating budget in 2017 will top $45.5 million – an approximate three percent increase over 2016 – but will contain no increase in taxes for city taxpayers, according to the proposal released by city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan this week.
The $45.52 million plan marks an increase of $1.51 million over the 2016 budget, with contractual wages and health insurance accounting for nearly all of the change. Main revenue sources supporting the operating budget remain largely the same as 2016 - little to no increase is anticipated for sales tax, mortgage tax, state aid, or video-lottery terminal aid (VLT). VLT is budgeted about $498,000 higher than in years past to reflect the amount received for each of the past three years ($2.325 million).
“In the face of large and obligatory expense increases and otherwise flat revenues, this is not the year to leave money on the table,” Madigan said, in a statement.
The 2017 Budget counts both reserve funds and fund balance among its revenue resources. Amounts supporting the general operating budget include funds from unassigned fund balance ($541,000), the Retirement Reserve ($300,000) and the Tax Stabilization Reserve ($775,000).
“With no new revenue sources, little revenue growth, an almost 8 percent increase in health care costs, I can think of few better circumstances to use this reserve. It was created for this purpose. It is funded with taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers deserve to use their reserve rather than pay more taxes or receive diminished services,” Madigan said. The Council last month voted unanimously in favor of using up to about half of the reserve. This is the fifth city budget put forth by Madigan that contains virtually no increase in property tax and the 2017 budget year marks the sixth time municipalities are required to remain under the state property tax cap. Public budget workshops will take place: 1 p.m. on Wednesday Oct. 12; Wednesday, Oct. 19, and Monday, Oct. 24. A Public Comment period will also be provided during each workshop. The first of two public hearings will take place at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The council must adopt a budget by Nov. 30; if it doesn’t, the proposed comprehensive budget will become the 2017 adopted budget. The 2017 budget proposal can be viewed on the city’s website at www.saratoga-springs.org.
City Requests Resident Feedback For Open Space Plan
The city of Saratoga Springs is conducting a survey to update its Open Space Plan and asks residents to participate in a survey regarding their needs and concerns as it relates to open space and future open space planning. “Open Space” in the survey is defined as: public and privately-owned undeveloped lands which are important for a variety of reasons, including recreation, conservation, water resource protection, agriculture, forestry, or simply because of their scenic qualities and their contribution to the overall character of the town. To take the survey, go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/X62W7JX
Weibel Ave. Not What It Used To Be
“Weibel Avenue has changed dramatically. It’s no longer the rural road it used to be,” said Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, referencing a plan to lower the speed limit from 40 to 30 mph on Weibel, from Lake Avenue to the city line on Louden Road. A public hearing regarding the proposal will take place Oct. 18 with a potential City Council vote to follow later in the evening.
SARATOGA SPRINGS —Saratoga Springs just became home to 32 Mile Media, a video production company now located at 46 Congress Street. 32 Mile Media develops compelling video content for commercial and non-profit organizations locally and nationally, offering an array of video products, including online videos, promotional videos, TV commercials, animation, and video graphic packages.
“This is a thriving town with so much going on,” said Dale Mattison, co-owner, chief video producer, and founder of 32 Mile Media. “You can’t pick a better spot. The main reason we moved here from Glens Falls is because this is where PEP is located, but I’m so happy to be in Saratoga – the perfect place to have a new business.”
Under a new co-ownership partnership agreement with the Patient Experience Project (PEP) at 19 Railroad Place, 32 Mile Media has become a sister company to the full-service, patient-centric communications firm serving the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries.
“We’ve grown to about 35 people here and do a lot of content marketing, with a lot of written content and video,” said PEP owner Dan Bobear. “We’ve been outsourcing a tremendous amount of video.”
But rather than create an internal video production studio from scratch, PEP connected with 32 Mile Media, which was already serving local clients.
“It was a natural fit for us to expand laterally,” said Bobear. “We invested significant amounts of cash into equipment and a studio in town, and we have a nationally known guy, so the local market is getting a high-end video production quality pretty affordably. The [community] side benefit is now there’s great production capability right in their back yard with national talent.”
“We are really confident it [PEP’s investment] will yield a quick return with the unique storytelling approach we have,” added Mattison. “We begin every project that we do with a conversation. We take the time to listen to the stories of the company or individual, and bring to the surface the most meaningful story that they have.”
This approach matches PEP’s emphasis on storytelling as marketing. “I think you see scripted and formulaic pharmaceutical marketing out there,” said Bobear, “and we have introduced a way to keep them regulatory-compliant, but at the same time let people talk and tell their stories naturally, authentically.”
“It’s a perfect marriage,” said Mattison. “It makes sense for a company that tells stories through video to join a company that tells stories of people who are struggling and need their stories told out into the world. We are super focused on storytelling that gets to the root of what makes our clients unique. So is the Patient Experience Project.”
32 Mile Media has created many television commercials and video for web-based platforms. “We not only provide the video, but we can coach clients as to what to do with the video after we make it for them. We really work with any and all types of companies. We want to highlight Saratoga and the Capital District, and show the beauty of the area as much as we can.”
In fact, the company’s name is in homage to Mattison’s hometown, Lake George. “There’s a lot of beauty in upstate NY, and there’s no better way to capture it than through video. I want to inspire everyone to never overlook the beauty right in front of us,” said Mattison.
Mattison is especially proud of his team. “Our people that we have working for us are so talented,” he said, “the production manager and editor are the best around, and really continue to make 32 Mile an incredible company. With PEP and all of us together, the sky’s the limit and we’re excited to see what the future holds.”
Mattison is an award-winning videographer who founded 32 Mile Media with a mission to help companies tell their brand stories and convey their messages through video. His videography experience is extensive. He has worked on everything from backyard home videos to Oscar-nominated films. With each assignment, Mattison ensures quality and authenticity is apparent in the final video. Mattison earned a bachelor’s degree in TV and Video Production from SUNY Plattsburgh, Plattsburgh, New York. See next week’s Saratoga TODAY to learn about the new, national talent hired at 32 Mile Media. Learn more about the Patient Experience Project at www.the-pep.com. For more information about 32 Mile Media, visit www.32mile.com.