Displaying items by tag: saratoga springs

Thursday, 28 January 2021 13:59

Saratoga Springs: State of the City

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs hosted its annual State of the City Address on Jan. 26. 

Each of the five council members and both supervisors representing the city at the county level were allotted time to speak. The meeting included a moment of silence for all who died during the pandemic. COVID-19 accounted for the deaths of 108 residents of Saratoga County - 38 specific to Saratoga Springs, to date. 

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the annual address was livestreamed via Zoom.

“There was a time when we thought we had (already) faced a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence: the lightning strike that closed City Hall in 2018 (and) relocated us to the Recreation Center for almost two years,” Mayor Meg Kelly said.  “Obviously, 2020 unfolded in very unexpected ways. We had to pivot and work remotely, social distance, and meet in Zoom rooms.”

Here are some excerpts of the address. A transcript of the entire meeting may be read at the city’s website. 

• The Saratoga Greenbelt Geyser Road Trail will soon open to the public and have a ribbon-cutting in the spring. The Geyser Trail is an 8-feet-wide, 2.8 mile-long trail that follows Geyser Road, from the Milton town line to the Saratoga Spa State Park.
• Renovation of the vandalized Civil War memorial in Congress Park is nearly complete and is anticipated for return to the park in the spring. Repair costs were covered by insurance; additional costs will be incurred for new security cameras and improvements to the site. 
• The city delivered several new federally funded programs, including $540,000 in CDBG-CV funding to local service agencies, the COVID19 Small Business Grant Program, and the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program - the latter preventing homelessness for 13 Saratoga Springs households. More than $490,000 in Block Grant funding assisted 3,000 households.

 

• In 2020, the city’s three Land Use Boards issued 178 decisions. There are currently 96 active applications in the review process.
• Due to the pandemic and subsequent shortage of business revenue and state aid in 2020 resulted in much lower sales tax, occupancy tax, service fees and other city revenues, reflected in the city’s 2021 budget, which was adopted on Nov. 30. 
• In 2020 the city paved 12 main roads and intersections. 
 • Future: a Broadway Master Design Plan was created via a partnering of the DPW and the Downtown Special Assessment District. The aim is to incorporate many ideas into one cohesive plan that recognizes the historic charm of the city’s downtown, while acknowledging the growing community and business expectations for public spaces. More information about the initiative is expected in the near future.

At the county:    
• The new Public Safety facility at the County Farm Road complex was completed and is in operation. The county approved $350,000 to improve technology in the board room, support live-streaming of meetings and increased public engagement, as well as install Public Wi-Fi in appropriate areas. 
• A new Government Review and Efficiency committee was established and charged with the responsibility of looking at all of the county’s laws, policies, and procedures, appointed boards and committees, and as well review each departmental operation.
  The County created the new position of Commissioner of Saratoga County Public Health Services, and Saratoga Springs resident Dr. Daniel Kuhles was hired to fill the position. Steve Bulger was named new County Administrator. 

Published in News
Thursday, 21 January 2021 13:32

The Whitney’s of Saratoga: Part One

IMAGE GALLERY
Photo 1: The Great Equipoise at Saratoga
Photo 2: John Hay “Jock” Whitney and his wife Liz.
Photo 3: William Collins Whitney
Photo 4: Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney in classic riding attire.
Photos provided.

This week we will take a look at two members of the fabulous Whitney family who made Saratoga their August playground.

Their names were John Hay Whitney, known to his friends as Jock, and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney who was called Sonny. They were scions of the Whitney line in an era when the two cousins were among the wealthiest individuals in the entire country.

Jock and Sonny were entrepreneurs, political figures, collectors of art, and philanthropists of the highest order. The two cousins were sportsman, superb polo players and stewards of their favorite past time, The Sport of Kings.

THE LINEAGE
The Patriarch of the Whitney family was John Whitney. He came to America from England in 1635. His descendant William Collins Whitney was the first Whitney to leave his mark on Saratoga. A mega successful businessman and political figure of the late Nineteenth Century, his true passion was horse racing. He owned and operated Westbury Stable, taking the name from Old Westbury, New York, a town known for its Who’s Who of American aristocracy. He resided there along with the Phippses, DuPonts, and Vanderbilts. With Whitney’s guidance, Westbury  became one of the leading racing stables in the country.

At the turn of the Twentieth Century Saratoga Racetrack was in a downhill spiral. Whitney saw an opportunity to purchase the track. He and a contingent of investors set on a path to modernize the stands, lengthen the oval and beautify the grounds. It can be said that without the intervention of William Whitney, enthusiasts of the sport would be relegated to read about horse racing at the Spa as a casualty of a bygone era.

Among William Whitney’s offspring were two sons whose love of the sport were on a par with their esteemed father. Harry Payne answered to his given name Harry. William Payne was known by his middle name Payne.

In 1904, Harry inherited his father’s racing stable taking it to greater fame. His stock won an astounding ten Triple Crown events. Of note, in 1915 his filly Regret became the first of the fairer sex to win the Kentucky Derby. His brother Payne established Greentree Stables in 1914. The name was derived from the family estate in Old Westbury. The Greentree brand would become synonymous with horse racing on a grand scale.

ENTER SONNY AND JOCK
The name Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney is as regal as it sounds. His breeding was as impeccable as that of the racehorses he would own. He was born in 1899 to Harry Payne Whitney and his wife Gertrude Vanderbilt. The melding of the families gave Sonny claim to two of the most highly regarded dynasty’s on the hemisphere. 

Five years later Payne Whitney and his wife Helen Hay gave birth to a son, John Hay Whitney. Not to be overshadowed by his cousin, Jock, Whitney’s lineage on the maternal side included his grandfather, a great American Statesman, John Hay. Hay counted among his successes the privilege of being Abraham Lincoln’s Private Secretary, as well  as serving as Secretary of State under both William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

The Union of the two families created the ideal marriage of the business and political worlds.

The Whitney cousins took the same educational journey. They both completed their pre college studies at Groton, one of America’s foremost private prep schools. Fellow alumni included Franklin Roosevelt, Henry DuPont, Averill Harriman and Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Then it was on to a family tradition of graduating from Yale University, an Ivy League Institution dating back to 1701.

FORTUNES AND THE SPORT OF KINGS
Payne Whitney passed away In 1927. He was only 51 years old. With that, his wealth passed into the hands of Jock and his sister Joan. The estate valued at nearly 200 million dollars was at the time the largest fortune entered into probate in the history of the United States.

Upon their mother Helen’s death Greentree Stable became a joint venture of the siblings that would last until Jocks  death four decades later. The property that housed the Greentree stock during the Saratoga racing season sits adjacent to Claire Court on Nelson Avenue. The sprawling grounds also served as Jock’s summer residence.

Joan Whitney Payson later became well known in the baseball world as the original owner of the New York Mets. Under her direction The Amazing’s went from the worst team in the history of the sport to a World Championship seven years later.

Mrs. Payson, as she was fondly known, made Saratoga her August home for much of her adult life. The residence at the end of Phila St. intersecting Nelson Ave. is a marvel of Queen Anne Victorian architecture. 

1927 was also an important year for Sonny Whitney. Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean, landing his aircraft at Le Bourget Airport outside of Paris. Aviation was entering a new phase, Sonny always ahead of the curve, envisioned the future of it. Later that year along with Juan Trippe, an aviation pioneer and fellow Yale alumni, he formed Pan American Airlines. The investment proved to be a grand slam home run. Pan Am led the way in almost every aspect of air travel for the next half century.

Harry Payne Whitney’s life came to an end in 1930. With that Sonny took ownership of his late fathers stable. Sonny would race the horses under his own name, C. V. Whitney.

Sonny was an immediate success as a race horse owner. His colt Equipoise became one of the all time greats. He was considered the best horse in training for both 1932 and 1933. 

The Whitney Stakes was inaugurated in 1928 to memorialize the Whitney families contributions to the sport. The 1932 version, here at the Spa was a special event for Sonny. His great champion Equipoise took the race wire to wire. With it came the first of his four coveted Whitney Stakes trophies.

Jock and his sister Joan were also off to the races. Although at the time Greentree was still owned by their mother, the two were heavily involved with the operation.

The Greentree response to Equipose was a colt named Twenty Grand. He had a remarkable career. Separated from the 1931 Triple Crown by just a length and half loss in the Preakness Stakes, he went on to take the coveted Travers here at Saratoga. The year 1931 belonged to Twenty Grand. In 1957 both Equipoise and Twenty Grand were inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame here on Union Avenue.

The cousins were riding high in the horse racing world. Next, they moved in on Hollywood.

GONE WITH THE WIND
The movie industry was in its infancy. Both Jock and Sonny were quick to grab a piece of the action. Motion pictures in the early 1930s were filmed in black and white. The cousins bought into a new technology  known as technicolor. They invested what amounted to a fifteen percent stake in an invention that would change the face of the movie industry.

Then they set their eyes on the production of motion pictures. Gone With The Wind, to this day considered the greatest movie of all time, had the Whitney name written all over it. The cousins financed the making of the masterpiece. Jock, in fact held the title of Chairman of the Board of Selznick International when the movie was filmed in 1939.

The decade also saw the first of two marriages for Jock. In 1930 he wed one of the notable socialites of the era, Elizabeth Altemus. She was tough, brassy and beautiful. Although they divorced after ten years, Liz branched out and raced quality horses of her own until her death in 1988. She owned the champion Porterhouse, along with many major stakes winners. Liz also kept a residence here. Her horse farm located on Fitch Road, is now the site of McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds.

The thirties were over. A new decade was about to begin. A World War was on the horizon.

Next week we will take a look at the cousins’ contributions to the war effort and their leap into government service. Then we will see how they brought their brand of horse racing to a higher level. We will follow Sonny and his bride Mary Lou as they lead the way in the Renaissance of Saratoga, “The August Place To Be.” Stay tuned. 

Published in History
Thursday, 21 January 2021 13:25

The Whitney’s of Saratoga: Part One

IMAGE GALLERY
Photo 1: The Great Equipoise at Saratoga
Photo 2: 
John Hay “Jock” Whitney and his wife Liz.
Photo 3: 
William Collins Whitney
Photo 4: 
Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney in classic riding attire.
Photos provided.

This week we will take a look at two members of the fabulous Whitney family who made Saratoga their August playground.

Their names were John Hay Whitney, known to his friends as Jock, and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney who was called Sonny. They were scions of the Whitney line in an era when the two cousins were among the wealthiest individuals in the entire country.

Jock and Sonny were entrepreneurs, political figures, collectors of art, and philanthropists of the highest order. The two cousins were sportsman, superb polo players and stewards of their favorite past time, The Sport of Kings.

THE LINEAGE
The Patriarch of the Whitney family was John Whitney. He came to America from England in 1635. His descendant William Collins Whitney was the first Whitney to leave his mark on Saratoga. A mega successful businessman and political figure of the late Nineteenth Century, his true passion was horse racing. He owned and operated Westbury Stable, taking the name from Old Westbury, New York, a town known for its Who’s Who of American aristocracy. He resided there along with the Phippses, DuPonts, and Vanderbilts. With Whitney’s guidance, Westbury  became one of the leading racing stables in the country.

At the turn of the Twentieth Century Saratoga Racetrack was in a downhill spiral. Whitney saw an opportunity to purchase the track. He and a contingent of investors set on a path to modernize the stands, lengthen the oval and beautify the grounds. It can be said that without the intervention of William Whitney, enthusiasts of the sport would be relegated to read about horse racing at the Spa as a casualty of a bygone era.

Among William Whitney’s offspring were two sons whose love of the sport were on a par with their esteemed father. Harry Payne answered to his given name Harry. William Payne was known by his middle name Payne.

In 1904, Harry inherited his father’s racing stable taking it to greater fame. His stock won an astounding ten Triple Crown events. Of note, in 1915 his filly Regret became the first of the fairer sex to win the Kentucky Derby. His brother Payne established Greentree Stables in 1914. The name was derived from the family estate in Old Westbury. The Greentree brand would become synonymous with horse racing on a grand scale.

ENTER SONNY AND JOCK
The name Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney is as regal as it sounds. His breeding was as impeccable as that of the racehorses he would own. He was born in 1899 to Harry Payne Whitney and his wife Gertrude Vanderbilt. The melding of the families gave Sonny claim to two of the most highly regarded dynasty’s on the hemisphere. 

Five years later Payne Whitney and his wife Helen Hay gave birth to a son, John Hay Whitney. Not to be overshadowed by his cousin, Jock, Whitney’s lineage on the maternal side included his grandfather, a great American Statesman, John Hay. Hay counted among his successes the privilege of being Abraham Lincoln’s Private Secretary, as well  as serving as Secretary of State under both William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

The Union of the two families created the ideal marriage of the business and political worlds.

The Whitney cousins took the same educational journey. They both completed their pre college studies at Groton, one of America’s foremost private prep schools. Fellow alumni included Franklin Roosevelt, Henry DuPont, Averill Harriman and Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Then it was on to a family tradition of graduating from Yale University, an Ivy League Institution dating back to 1701.

FORTUNES AND THE SPORT OF KINGS
Payne Whitney passed away In 1927. He was only 51 years old. With that, his wealth passed into the hands of Jock and his sister Joan. The estate valued at nearly 200 million dollars was at the time the largest fortune entered into probate in the history of the United States.

Upon their mother Helen’s death Greentree Stable became a joint venture of the siblings that would last until Jocks  death four decades later. The property that housed the Greentree stock during the Saratoga racing season sits adjacent to Claire Court on Nelson Avenue. The sprawling grounds also served as Jock’s summer residence.

Joan Whitney Payson later became well known in the baseball world as the original owner of the New York Mets. Under her direction The Amazing’s went from the worst team in the history of the sport to a World Championship seven years later.

Mrs. Payson, as she was fondly known, made Saratoga her August home for much of her adult life. The residence at the end of Phila St. intersecting Nelson Ave. is a marvel of Queen Anne Victorian architecture. 

1927 was also an important year for Sonny Whitney. Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean, landing his aircraft at Le Bourget Airport outside of Paris. Aviation was entering a new phase, Sonny always ahead of the curve, envisioned the future of it. Later that year along with Juan Trippe, an aviation pioneer and fellow Yale alumni, he formed Pan American Airlines. The investment proved to be a grand slam home run. Pan Am led the way in almost every aspect of air travel for the next half century.

Harry Payne Whitney’s life came to an end in 1930. With that Sonny took ownership of his late fathers stable. Sonny would race the horses under his own name, C. V. Whitney.

Sonny was an immediate success as a race horse owner. His colt Equipoise became one of the all time greats. He was considered the best horse in training for both 1932 and 1933. 

The Whitney Stakes was inaugurated in 1928 to memorialize the Whitney families contributions to the sport. The 1932 version, here at the Spa was a special event for Sonny. His great champion Equipoise took the race wire to wire. With it came the first of his four coveted Whitney Stakes trophies.

Jock and his sister Joan were also off to the races. Although at the time Greentree was still owned by their mother, the two were heavily involved with the operation.

The Greentree response to Equipose was a colt named Twenty Grand. He had a remarkable career. Separated from the 1931 Triple Crown by just a length and half loss in the Preakness Stakes, he went on to take the coveted Travers here at Saratoga. The year 1931 belonged to Twenty Grand. In 1957 both Equipoise and Twenty Grand were inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame here on Union Avenue.

The cousins were riding high in the horse racing world. Next, they moved in on Hollywood.

GONE WITH THE WIND
The movie industry was in its infancy. Both Jock and Sonny were quick to grab a piece of the action. Motion pictures in the early 1930s were filmed in black and white. The cousins bought into a new technology  known as technicolor. They invested what amounted to a fifteen percent stake in an invention that would change the face of the movie industry.

Then they set their eyes on the production of motion pictures. Gone With The Wind, to this day considered the greatest movie of all time, had the Whitney name written all over it. The cousins financed the making of the masterpiece. Jock, in fact held the title of Chairman of the Board of Selznick International when the movie was filmed in 1939.

The decade also saw the first of two marriages for Jock. In 1930 he wed one of the notable socialites of the era, Elizabeth Altemus. She was tough, brassy and beautiful. Although they divorced after ten years, Liz branched out and raced quality horses of her own until her death in 1988. She owned the champion Porterhouse, along with many major stakes winners. Liz also kept a residence here. Her horse farm located on Fitch Road, is now the site of McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds.

The thirties were over. A new decade was about to begin. A World War was on the horizon.

Next week we will take a look at the cousins’ contributions to the war effort and their leap into government service. Then we will see how they brought their brand of horse racing to a higher level. We will follow Sonny and his bride Mary Lou as they lead the way in the Renaissance of Saratoga, “The August Place To Be.” Stay tuned. 

Published in Families Today

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A mass vaccine city site. A central online county information site. The creation of and the funding of a COVID Response support staff. 

Amid the rapid flux of ever-evolving information related to COVID-19 and to vaccinations, the city and the county made strides this week to provide accessible information to the public as well as solidify plans for the dispensing of vaccines – in preparation for that time when vaccines become more readily available.    

First up, the Saratoga Springs City Center was this week approved as a mass COVID-19 vaccine site. The county lease of the site will immediately kick in when “sufficient vaccine doses” are delivered to the county by the state. That sufficient quantity determination will be made by newly appointed county Health Commissioner, Dr. Daniel Kuhle. 

“In general, we are notified about 24 hours before we receive vaccines about how many we can expect to get,” says Tara Gaston, Saratoga Springs city Supervisor and newly named as chair of the county’s Health and Social Services Committee. “I don’t anticipate that it’s going to be thousands within the next couple of weeks, but the goal is to be ready if that happens. Under the current state guidance, once we have the vaccines, we must use them within seven days. We have to be ready and able to move as quickly as possible.”     

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to the resolution regarding the City Center, which was introduced by Gaston. 

“The idea is that it will be in the main hall. We have to work out the layout, but I envision temperature stations before people come in. Then you come in, check in at the table, get your shot and then you have to wait your 15 minutes or half-hour depending on whether you have allergies or not,” said Ryan McMahon, executive director and president at the City Center

“It’s a month-to-month lease where they can turn it on for a month, turn it off for a month. I don’t think anyone thinks we’re going to (immediately) get enough vaccines next week. Part of this is the county’s ability to prepare. This way they can come in, we can set the room up, establish how they want it, get lines running for their computers and get all the infrastructure ready so that if they find out, say, on a Friday night they’re getting the vaccines, then we can be open on Saturday morning,” McMahon said. “We know how to move people through a space, particularly this space very well, so we’re going to advise and collaborate on a plan about how to physically do it, but it’s their show.”      

The lease of the space at the City Center was authorized at a cost up to just over $49,000 per month. “We want to help in any way we can. In a normal year I would just eat the cost of this, but right now we can’t take on an additional expense. We have shut down operations for the most part - we don’t even have the HVAC systems on, and we’re barely surviving,” said McMahon, explaining the incremental cost to the county is to get everything back up and running, from the HVAC systems to the cleaning staff –  whom were laid off. 

A second resolution introduced by Gaston – also receiving unanimous support by the county Board of Supervisors will see the creation of temporary COVID Response Support Personnel, and a COVID Response Coordinator, who will assist the public health department in response to the pandemic. Those positions will earn a base salary of $22/hour and $25/hour, respectively, and will be filled “as needed.”  The county set aside approximately $183,000 from its fund balance to fulfill those wage needs.    

The county will also be upgrading its COVID-19 web dashboard to use state data methodology, in a mission to be less confusing and more accessible. The county recently adjusted the main page of its website to provide immediate access to COVID-related information.   

“This is a change. Any information we get is going to be on the front page of our website in a red box, and it will change as we get more information,” Gaston said. The page includes official links to vaccination registrations, finding current test sites and other COVID-19 resources for individuals and families.  The site may be accessed at: www.saratogacountyny.gov. 

As of this week, nearly 3.5% of the county’s approximate 230,000 county residents had tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the epidemic, and about 6.5% of the population has been at least partially vaccinated. 

“In the city of Saratoga Springs, we have 540 active cases,” city Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton told the council at its Jan. 19 meeting. “The good news is the 7-day rolling average for positivity rates has dropped (in the county) from 11.3% to 8.8% - which is terrific. However, our hospitalizations have almost doubled in the last ten days; currently we have 106 people hospitalized as opposed to 51 ten days ago. This is representative of the lagging nature of these metrics, of when people get sick and then when they need to get hospitalized.” 

In the greater eight-county Capital Region of which Saratoga is a part, hospitalizations – with 553 COVID patients - hit an all-time high, and 91 of those patients are in the ICU. New York State is separated into 10 different regions, and the Capital Region has the fewest percentage of hospital beds (25%) and ICU beds (19%) available of all regions statewide, according to the NYS DOH.    

“There are not nearly enough vaccines to get as many people vaccinated as we want to,” Dalton added. “We get a tiny amount every week and I know people are frustrated getting access to appointments and having to travel very far – to Plattsburg and Utica. We know that and we are working on it. This is an imperfect system.” 

Gaston expressed similar frustration. “New York State has provided directives to anyone who has access to vaccinate individuals. That tells us who we are allowed to vaccinate; just because you have been deemed eligible by the state does not mean that you can get vaccinated at your health department, or at a pharmacy,” Gaston said. 

“Medical workers are required to be vaccinated by hospitals. Seniors are required to be vaccinated by pharmacies. And our local health department – Saratoga County Public Health Services - can only vaccinate people who fall into a number of essential worker groups that includes police, fire, teachers, front-facing grocery store workers. If you are a senior and you want a vaccine from our local public health services – we cannot do this at this time.” 

Deviating from the governor’s directives can result in severe fines and penalties, Gaston added. “We are working as a county and with other counties to change this – to allow us to use those plans to keep people as safe as possible as quickly as possible, and I think it’s important people know we share the frustration. We all have to be patient but unfortunately we are restricted by these mandates which are not reflective of the long-standing work the public health department has done in the area of vaccinations.” 

In addition to the naming of the Saratoga Springs City Center as a mass vaccination site, more than one dozen other smaller, unnamed venues have been evaluated and approved for providing vaccinations across the county and Gaston said among the county’s other coordinated plans - “going into homes, going into shelters, delivering vaccines directly to seniors” – are pending the governor’s lifting of existing directives prohibiting those plans from being enacted.

Published in News

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week named Saratoga County Public Health Services and Saratoga Hospital as among the best performing in administering vaccines they were allocated. Both had a 100% rating. It is an important achievement moving forward. 

As of Jan. 18, 13,442 Saratoga County residents had received one dose of COVID vaccine and 1,323 Saratoga County residents had received two doses of COVID vaccine, according to Saratoga County Public Health Services. 

“We will allocate more doses to the faster, better performing facilities. Those that can vaccinate faster will get more of the allocation,” said Cuomo, noting the allocation from the federal government to the state – which then allocates the vaccines across New York is not high enough. 

There are 7.1 million New Yorkers currently eligible for vaccines. At the current rate of allocation, it will take 6 to 7 months for those people to get vaccinated, Cuomo said. “The federal government must increase supply to the states now.” 

The governor said he crafted a letter this week to the chairman of Pfizer, asking if New York can buy vaccine dosages directly from Pfizer.    

Among the percent of hospital workers vaccinated: Glens Falls Hospital leads the region (85.5%), followed by Albany Medical Center (81.1%); Columbia Memorial Hospital (73.4%), and Saratoga Hospital – which has 69.3% of its hospital workers vaccinated. St. Peter’s Hospital - at 65.4%, Ellis Hospital – at 64.6% are among the hospitals with the lowest percentage of its workers vaccinated, Cuomo said. 

The concern is that the lower vaccinated hospital staffs will be the first hospitals to have capacity problems in a surge situation. 

“Again, facilities with slower vaccination rates will get less of new allocation. Our allocation is nowhere near enough. You want to maximize it, so places that can get it out first will get priority.” 

The weekly vaccine allocation by the federal government to New York State (numbers rounded up):

Dec. 14-20: 170,000.
Dec. 21-27: 467,000.
Dec. 28- Jan. 3: 274,000.
Jan. 4 – 10: 240,000.
Jan. 11 – 17: 240,000. 

Published in News
Thursday, 14 January 2021 14:26

Making a Splash

Saratoga Springs Varsity Boys Swim Team. Photos by Melissa Cartier.
Team Photo: Saratoga Springs High School Varsity Boys swim team seniors at their first meet of the season

The Saratoga Springs High School Varsity Boys Swim Team is still finding their sea legs after being thrown into a season unlike any other. 

The Saratoga Springs High School Varsity Boys Swim Team’s versatility is their best asset for navigating the murky waters created by the COVID pandemic. 

“We’re playing it by ear and doing a week-by-week evaluation of where we’re at,” said Coach Bill Asay.

“It’s a work-in-progress,” he continued. “In a lot of ways, I’m experimenting, and if it’s not working, I adjust.”

NEW POOL, NIGHT OWL PRACTICES & ADJUSTING TO CHANGE
Adjusting to a season with a start date that was delayed until December 14, (a month and a half later than usual), the team is also swimming in a new location this year – at the Saratoga Regional YMCA on West Avenue.

“Everybody is trying to make-up for time lost. No one’s been in the water as much this year, so we’re trying to get as much time in now as we can, get everyone in shape, and go from there,” said Asay.

Fitting in practice time at the gym means training after hours. The team has only 18 swimmers (instead of their usual 22-24 because they cannot have divers compete) and is practicing for two hours, four days a week, from 8 to 10 p.m. 

“It’s not easy, that’s for sure, but it’s a pool, the Y has been very generous, and it’s working out pretty well. I’m thankful for the season as a whole,” he said. 

Coach Asay is adjusting practices by balancing high intensity swims with long recovery laps. He’s also using their meets as additional training time for the exhibition swimmers. 

FORCES TO BE RECKONED WITH
In the quest to find their way, the Blue Streaks aren’t afraid to mix things up.

Competing in meets virtually, for now (a decision which may be reevaluated by the Suburban Council in time for next month’s championships) means that they have no way of knowing what they’ll be needing to swim to beat their opponents’ scores. 

Instead of letting it get them down, Asay is using his 20 years of coaching experience with the team to lead them on a different path – he’s changing things up and using their versatility to their advantage - a strategy that could give them an edge over the competition.

Seniors Jason Zheng and Luke Beringer are strong competitors in any event the coach decides to have them swim on meet day. 

Meanwhile, sophomores Conner and Calvin Baird are a dynamic duo – twin brothers whose different styles complement one another.

While Calvin likes the distance swims, Conner is more of a sprinter. Together, they are creating a real underclassman force to be reckoned with on the Blue Streaks’ team.

So far, they’re 1 in 1 – Saratoga won their first meet against Schenectady High School but lost to Bethlehem. This week they compete against Shaker and next week will be swimming against both Burnt Hills and Niskayuna.

“I have a really dedicated group of boys who are working hard and enjoying the sport. I’m sure they miss some things this year, but I think their spirits are up pretty good,” said Asay.

Published in Sports
Thursday, 14 January 2021 14:19

Missing Mail or Package Problem?

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Eagerly awaiting a package in the mail? Patience please, says the United States Postal Service. 

An unprecedented increase in volume combined with limited employee availability due to the impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in the current environment across the country. 

“We’re still working through a great deal of volume, and like our neighbors everywhere, a tremendous impact related to COVID. When you put those factors together you do have what people are experiencing, which can be delays. And we’re working on that,” says Maureen Marion, USPS spokesperson for the Capital Region. 

“In the Saratoga-Capital Region we certainly mirror the trends of the nation,” Marion says. Where volume is concerned, factors have included robust e-commerce activity during the holiday shopping season, a bump-up related to packages being returned post-holiday season, and people moving more packages in general rather than tending to needs in-store as they had done in the past, due to potential COVID concerns.   

“I think people might be surprised in the volume related just to returns, which is larger (today) due to a new generation of shoppers who shop online,” Marion says, explaining that it is not uncommon for people to purchase multiple versions or sizes of products because returning items is an easily acceptable practice. 

“People ordering things online because they couldn’t get things in their stores, or they wouldn’t go to the local stores. The home has become the dressing room and returns have become increasingly a bigger and bigger ticket item, particularly this time of year,” she says. Looking back to last spring, “by St. Patrick’s Day 2020 we were running at 40% more packages, easily. We were doing Christmas week volume for packages - and that’s significant because ‘package’ delivery is a little bit different tempo than ‘letter’ mail.   

“Let’s drive through the mean streets of Saratoga: if I’m typically delivering mail a couple of years ago, I’m delivering to mailboxes at the end of your driveway and dropping off letters – boom, boom, boom. It’s labor intensive, but it’s quick. With the packages, I have to stop the truck, open the door, lock the door. I have to unlock the truck, get the package and re-lock the truck. Then I have to walk up the driveway, leave the package, go back to the truck, unlock my door, turn on the vehicle and go,” Marion says. “It takes a couple of minutes, but a couple of minutes times a hundred locations is two-and-a-half hours.”

COVID-19 has also had an effect on workers and policies. More than 600,000 USPS employees process, transport, and deliver mail and packages across the country. And the service reaches 160 million addresses every day, according to the American Postal Workers Union. It is a service that is vital, delivering everything from medications to Social Security checks, and it is the leading delivery service for online purchases, according to the organization. 

Last spring, the USPS dedicated a COVID-19 Command Response leadership team to focus on employee and customer safety in conjunction with operational and business continuity during the pandemic. The protocols included mask-wearing, social distancing and updating cleaning policies in the workplace, expanding the use of telework for employees able to perform their jobs remotely, and maintaining steady communications regarding postal facility disruptions that may impact delivery via its USPS Service Alerts webpage. Those may be viewed at: about.usps.com/newsroom/service-alerts. 

“At this juncture what you are seeing is staff impact related to COVID that takes on several different layers. We have approximately 7,800 active COVID illnesses nationwide; We have individuals who are then quarantined because of close contact in the workplace to those specific active COVID exposures, and employees who are quarantined due to exposure in their own families or other places outside of work,” Marion says.     

COVID has also impacted some USPS offices both large and small, which have had to alter hours, as well as affecting processing plants and distribution centers. CDC recommendations suggest postal workers be vaccinated alongside teachers and those over the age of 75 in the Phase 1b vaccination process. It does not appear, thus far, that those recommendations have been included in N.Y. State’s 1B plans.

“In New York State this week there were 496 active COVID cases – window clerks, postmasters, people who work in the processing plants, drivers… everybody,” she says.

Published in News
Thursday, 14 January 2021 14:17

Oklahoma Track Gets A Makeover

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The New York Racing Association this week received approval from the New York State Franchise Oversight Board to proceed with improvements on the Oklahoma Training Track in advance of the anticipated 2021 racing season. 

The Oklahoma project cost is approximately $1 million and follows discussions with Saratoga-based trainers. The upgrades will include a new base, improved drainage, a width expansion of the track where possible, and a plan for new safety railings – which specifically accounts for about $350,000 of that estimated $1 million cost. Members of the Franchise Oversight Board said they are working with Saratoga preservationists related to the width expansion of the track, as the project will likely impact existing pine trees that were planted alongside the track in the mid-1980s. 

The Oklahoma Training Track signals the start of “spring training,” in advance of the summer racing meet at the main track located across the street at Union Avenue. It typically opens in April, although in the pandemic-affected year of 2020, a delayed opening pushed the opening to the first week of June. Last year’s summer meet was held without fans in attendance.   

The training track has not had any significant renovation in 40 years. The project was approved as part of NYRA’s overall capital expense plan during a meeting of the Franchise Oversight Board held via teleconference.  The 50-minute meeting may be heard in its entirety at: www.budget.ny.gov/boards/fob/index.html

Published in News
Thursday, 07 January 2021 15:57

Stretching Expectations

Cover Photo: Saratoga Springs Gymnastics Team Seniors Ava Dallas, Megan Wishart, & Sophia Damiano.
Photos provided.

The Saratoga Springs gymnastics team got off to a record-breaking start this weekend, led by senior Sophia Damiano’s historic vault performance at the World Class Gymnastics Academy in Latham.

Damiano scored a 9.65 out of 10 total possible points. It was an astonishing feat for the first Suburban Council meet of the season, which was also a charity event for Hatsgiving, which provides hats to pediatric cancer patients. 

This isn’t the first record the Blue Streaks gymnastics team has broken since being led by Coach Deborah Smarro. 

Last year, Damiano and teammate, Ava Dallas, burst past the previous records when they both earned a vault score of 9.475 – which was the third time Dallas had delivered a performance for the record books during her high school gymnastics career. 

EXHILARATION, BEAUTY & GRACE
Each of the seniors on the Saratoga Springs team has grown and progressed through the years, upping their game, on and off the mat, with unparalleled beauty and grace. 

“From my perspective, it’s exhilarating and I think they are just as excited to break a record every single time it happens,” said Coach Smarro.

Smarro was a gymnast in college and has been the Saratoga Springs coach for 15 years, during which time she’s helped countless athletes develop and perfect their skills. Last year, Saratoga received their 19th consecutive Section II championship title. (Because of the pandemic, all winter sports sectional and state competitions have been cancelled this year. Saratoga will be competing only in Suburban Council meets with Bethlehem, Guilderland, and Shaker High Schools, within the stringent safety protocols that have been put in place.)

ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL
This year’s seniors have grown in their leadership roles as well as in their athletic prowess, thriving through the knowledge they’ve gleaned by helping others. 

“It’s always team first and individual accolades second. While they achieve individual accomplishments, it’s the team accomplishments that they pride themselves in most. The girls are part of a team with a set of core values and it’s those core values that they adhere to,” said Smarro.

 This year, the team has chosen to focus on three goals – to achieve team totals, their individual progression, and to support one another to stay safe and healthy throughout their six-week season.

EMPOWERED TO EXCEL
These gymnasts are able to achieve this high level of success because they are organized, dedicated and task-oriented. 

“It travels over into their regular, daily lives. They are all very good students and are volunteers out in the community,” said Smarro. 

All three seniors on this year’s team have 90 and above grade point averages academically. 

In addition to her record-breaking achievements, Ava Dallas has also shared her enthusiasm for the sport as a coach at the Wilton YMCA. Sophia Damiano was last year’s Section II all-around champion and holds the balance beam record of 9.425. Senior Megan Wishart has earned a spot on the state team twice, is a team captain, works an afterschool job at Home Goods and has an internship at the Town Court. 

Smarro, who has been struggling the last three years with the illness and then death of her father, has experienced first-hand how being a part of this team can build an invaluable sense of resilience within all those who are part of it. 

“It empowers them when things are not going so well. It gives them the strength of mind that they can do anything when they put their mind to it and they know they have coaches, siblings, teammates, and family members to support them,” she said. 

On Friday, Jan. 8, the Saratoga Springs team will be competing against Shaker. They will also be honoring their seniors with a presentation, gifts, words of wisdom, and treats prepared by the younger members of their team. Because no spectators are allowed, parents and others will be able to view the ceremony via live-stream. 

Published in Sports
Thursday, 07 January 2021 15:42

Spa City Digital…Making Marketing Easier

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Advertising, marketing, social media channels, public relations, press releases, web design…it never ends. Media options are changing as rapidly as the technology that feeds them and keeping up with it is a full-time job. Unfortunately hiring a dedicated employee just isn’t in most budgets, especially during a global pandemic.

A new Saratoga focused marketing agency aims to help business owners cut through the clutter and reach their
potential customers.

Spa City Digital launched on January 1 with a mission of delivering robust digital marketing solutions to small businesses in what they call “Value Add Marketing.” Owners Chad Beatty and Michael Nelson partnered up after working together on several local projects.

“Mike had the vision and digital background, and I had the established company (Saratoga Publishing) and assets. It was really a no-brainer” said Chad Beatty. “By combining Spa City Digital under the same roof as Saratoga TODAY, Simply Saratoga magazine, Saratoga Bride and all our affiliated websites, we have a one-stop shop for customers.”

Spa City Digital will focus on digital marketing which includes social media management, video production & editing, website design & hosting as well as overall media planning.

According to Co-owner Mike Nelson “What is really going to set us apart from other agencies is our ability to add value to their marketing efforts. Agencies, especially for small and mid-size businesses cannot just offer social media or Google ads management anymore. We (Agencies) need to be able to offer affordable marketing packages that include everything the business needs from strategy, to content creation, to deployment. Spa City Digital is doing just that and adding digital ad space on local websites to those packages as well.”

It’s no secret that the pandemic changed everything. The last year has forced everyone to take a hard look at their business model and find ways to adjust to a new business environment. 

“We decided the best way for us to move forward was by giving our clients as much value as we possibly could. We have built digital properties with content that locals as well as tourists will want to consume. We have added free and discounted add packages to our already aggressively priced marketing services. We are even going to be offering some freemium services to help local organizations and businesses get the marketing help they need.” Nelson added.

Freemium, a term often used to describe entry level services, is something the small business community certainly can use in the wake of the pandemic. Mr. Nelson said they will make an announcement soon for some of those freemium offerings but he invites anyone looking for help to reach out to them for a free strategy consultation.

To contact or learn more about Spa City Digital please visit: SpaCityDigital.com

Published in Business
Page 9 of 53

Blotter

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

Property Transactions

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