Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Several hundred people queued up outside the 1863 Club on Feb. 21 in a line that spread across the grounds of Saratoga Race Course, where the New York Racing Association hosted a job fair to hire support for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. 

The four-day event - which stages at Saratoga this year - will run June 6-9, just about 100 days from now. 

“Many of the seasonal employees here at Saratoga make this a summer (employment) tradition, so we expect to see a number of those individuals who have spent many summers here,” said NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna.

The four-day festival will take place in Saratoga June X to X. Tickets for the Belmont Stakes Race - on Saturday, June X, sold out in nearly one day. General admission tickets are currently still available for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. 

McKenna said the public response since announcing the shifting of Belmont to Saratoga - at least for this year - has been “tremendous,” as witnessed by the number of applicants showing up for the job fair, to the high demand for tickets for the four-day racing meet. 

Tickets for the Belmont Stakes race June 8 sold out in nearly one day; tickets are atoll available for June 6,7 and 9. 

The Oklahoma Training Track across Union Avenue opposite the race course grounds will open in its normal mid-April time slot. With Belmont in Saratoga, an accelerated number of trainers and horses are anticipated to arrive earlier than normal - particularly after the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

The regular summer meet in Saratoga will take place July 11 - Sept. 2. 

SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga County Republican Committee this week made formal endorsements for two county-wide offices and a state Assembly contest, as well as announcing support for three incumbent candidates in the upcoming November 2024 election.

The committee endorsed Matthew Coseo for Saratoga County Court Judge. 

Current Judge James Murphy announced late last year that he will not seek re-election. At that time, Adele M. Kurtz, Principal Law Clerk to Saratoga County Court Judge, announced her candidacy for the seat and that she intended to seek the Republican and Conservative nominations. Coseo is currently the Wilton Town Judge and Principal Law Clerk for Hon. Dianne N. Freestone, Justice of the Supreme Court in the 4th Judicial District.

“My years of service as a judge in Wilton and as a court attorney to judges across our region will provide for a natural transition into this next step of public service,” Coseo said in a statement.

The county Republican Committee also endorsed JoAnn Kupferman for Saratoga County Treasurer. Kupferman this week will become Acting Saratoga County Treasurer, replacing county treasurer Andrew Jarosh (R, C) – who ran unopposed in 2022 - who has resigned.

County GOP endorsements for re-election included: 112th District Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh – Walsh defeated Democrat challenger Andrew McAdoo in 2022; Assemblyman Matt Simpson – who ran unopposed in the 114th district, and Sen. James Tedisco – who in 2022 secured the 44th District election by defeating Democrat challenger Michelle Ostrelich.  Minita Sanghvi, who currently serves as Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner, is running as a Democrat for NYS Senate District 44.

The Saratoga County Republican Committee also endorsed Jeremy Messina for state Assembly in the 113th Assembly district to contest for a seat long held by Democrat Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner. 

Thursday, 22 February 2024 14:35

Clear Skies Over Putnam

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Observant city dwellers may notice a change high above Putnam Street, where a long-standing radio tower has been removed, clearing a path to an uninterrupted skyline.

The tower stood 92-feet tall and was fixed to the roof of 63 Putnam St., a redbrick structure which sits opposite the Saratoga Springs Public Library and wraps around the drive of Gardner Lane. 

“It was a two-way radio tower from the old days, when the trucks of the Farone beer distributing business used two-way radios,” said Tom Roohan, who purchased The Diamond Brady Plaza, located at 63 Putnam St., in 2022. 

Given modern-day technology such as cellular phones, the tower had outlived its usefulness, and while some thought was given to re-purposing it as a flagpole, the idea didn’t gain much traction, Roohan said, adding that following its removal the tower was cut and recycled. 

BALLSTON SPA —The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors adopted its 2024 Saratoga County Legislative Program during its monthly Feb. 20 at the county complex in Ballston Spa. 

The 10-page document summarizes requested legislative action by state and federal officials, as well as identifying what the Board considers important priorities and initiatives for consideration at state and federal levels. 

Among the items under program’s General Government Services subhead is the county’s support of local municipal control to determine hours of retail sale of alcoholic beverages. 

Currently, the state’s Alcohol Beverage and Control Laws provide counties with an opportunity to submit a request to the State Liquor Authority to restrict hours of sale of alcoholic beverages on a county-wide basis. 

For more than a decade, officials in Saratoga Springs have attempted to initiate earlier bar closing times but with little success; As per current law, the county would need to advocate for earlier bar closing times across all county municipalities – which it has been reluctant to do. 

The Saratoga County Board this week pledged its support for a change to the ABC law to allow for local municipalities to make requests directly to the State Liquor Authority on their own, and for the SLA to determine hours of retail sale of alcoholic beverages based on municipality - without requiring county-wide actions and restricting sales in a neighboring town, city, or village.  The entry marks at least the second time in consecutive years the item has been adopted by the county Board of Supervisors.     

Even as the county may be open to local governments setting parameters for the hours of sale of alcoholic beverages within their own respective municipalities, cities and towns seeking to make any potential changes continue to face an arduous task as the ABC law would need to be amended in order for cities and towns to restrict hours. Consideration of such a law change would be up to the state legislature and there does not appear to be any pending legislation currently addressing the matter. 

• Saratoga County announced it was awarded $111,278 via a new fund created under the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to support youth team sports programs for underserved youth under age 18. The county was provided the award to disburse between 7 different Youth Team Sport programs. To that point, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve the execution of the subcontracts:  Mechanicville/Stillwater Little League - $15,000; MACSC Volleyball, Dodgeball League - $4,468; Mechanicville Stillwater United Soccer Club - $5,606; Schuylerville Youth Lacrosse $ 6,917; Department of Aging & Youth Services Administration 10% - $11,128. Agencies: Old Saratoga Athletic Association $31,999; Galway Baseball Softball League $18,160; Corinth Youth Hockey Association, Inc. $18,000. 

• County officials announced the creation of a school-based opioid and substance use disorder advocacy and support program to address and reduce the impact of addiction and opioid use disorder in Saratoga County schools. The new program will pair school resource officers with certified peer recovery advocates to help students in recovery. 

Tuesday, a resolution was approved for a two-year memorandum of understanding between the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office and the Saratoga County Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the use of $205,000 in regional abatement funds authorized from the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). The Sheriff’s Office will use the funds to contract with the Healthy Capital District Initiative (HCDI) and with two Certified Peer Recovery Advocates to launch the school-based opioid and substance use support program.

• The Board approved $48,837 in one-time funding as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to increase its capacity for provision of offsite services, one-on-one services, improvement of telehealth infrastructure, and other items. The top dollar amount appropriation increases are for:  Minor IT Equipment - $6,515, Office Equipment - $6,500, and Department Supplies- $5,200. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A ceremony at the Saratoga Music Hall will take place Feb. 29 when the 153-year-old hall will be re-dedicated as the Skip Scirocco Music Hall.

The hall will be named after Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, a lifelong Saratogian who served the city professionally - first as the animal control officer, then as elected Saratoga County Supervisor – from 1998 to 2005, and as a standing Commissioner of Public Works, starting in 2008.  Scirocco died in April 2022 at the age of 74 following a brief battle with cancer. 

Scirocco was born on Feb. 29, 1948, and Feb. 29 is why the date for dedication was selected, said current DPW Commissioner Jason Golub. 

In 2016, fear grew that the 300-seat hall was in its last days as a community gathering space, with the venue targeted by the city – in accordance with a state mandate - for conversion into a courtroom. At a public hearing hosted by the city, dozens of people spoke in protest of the council’s suggestion to turn the hall into a courtroom space, and an online petition titled “Save the Music Hall!” garnered more than 370 signatures in the three weeks in advance of the hearing. 

Saratoga Springs City Hall - which houses the music hall on its uppermost floor - sustained extensive damage following an August 2018 lightning strike, and the council subsequently determined a building-wide multi-million-dollar renovation and restoration project was appropriate. 

“The emergency following the lightning strike along with the mandates from the courts and legislature were circumstances outside of our control, but this Council has worked collaboratively to keep this project moving,” then-DPW Commissioner Scirocco said at the time. “It’s the largest and possibly the most important project the city will undertake in our lifetime… and I think the public will be pleased with all the improvements in their City Hall.”

The newly restored Saratoga Music Hall opened to the public in late 2020. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub and DPW Business Manager Mike Veitch provided an update Thursday of the city’s anticipated implementation of a summer 2024 downtown permit parking plan.

More than 50 people, most of whom are downtown business owners, attended the presentation at Saratoga Music Hall where the 25-minute presentation was followed by a 30-minute Q&A session.

The anticipated plan will affect more than 2,000 existing downtown parking spaces located in the downtown area and located both east and west of Broadway. Broadway itself will remain as is.

Specifically, the program – the name has been changed from “Tourism Parking” to “Seasonal Parking” - is looking to convert more than 1,300 on-street parking spaces to permit parking and 2-hour-free & permit parking spots, as well as taking the near-800 combined spots in the Walton, Putnam and Woodlawn city parking garages and converting them into 170 “permit” parking spaces, with the balance being set as “paid” spots. The City Center parking garage will remain as is.

Permit parking will be reserved for residents, business owners and their employees. Businesses will be able to register their employees for permits. Residents will be able to register for permits with proof of residency, and “guest passes” will also be made available for those visiting residents. Plans call for permits to be free to city residents and downtown business employees, accounting for an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 permits being issued.   

The plan includes pay stations and mobile pay options, but no traditional parking meters.

The city anticipates a projected first-season gross revenue of just over $2 million that would be offset by about $750,000 in costs; some of those costs would be first-year implementation expenses, so the city’s net income could conceivable be higher in future years.

The plan is tentatively slated to go into effect from May 1 to Sept. 30. Commissioner Golub stressed that the plan is fluid and community input is encouraged in advance of implementation.  

“This is an ongoing conversation. We want your input and we want to get this right before we roll it out,” Golub said.

There will be at least one public hearing – date TBA – before the City Council votes on the matter. The council will also be required to vote separately on the dollar amount of parking fees. Check next week’s edition of Saratoga TODAY for a deeper dive of the seasonal parking plan.        

SARATOGA SPRINGS - A city woman is dead and a 31- year-old Saratoga Springs man charged with murder, in connection with an alleged incident that occurred Feb. 6 at Vanderbilt Terrace.

The suspect, Sebastian P. Mabb, was known to the victim and had a prior relationship with her, according to police.

Mabb was charged with murder in the second-degree. He is accused of “intentionally (and) knowingly” causing the death of 25-year-old Brianna Craig, after engaging in a physical altercation with the victim, during the course of a domestic incident, according to court documents. The incident is believed to have occurred between 5 and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Vanderbilt Terrace on the city’s east side.  

An autopsy was conducted Feb. 9 and a preliminary report shows the cause of death to be by asphyxiation, police said, adding that the investigation is ongoing and evidence is still being collected. A final autopsy will be issued at the completion of the toxicology report.

Mabb is scheduled to appear in Saratoga Springs City Court March 5.

Wednesday, 07 February 2024 15:04

Mayor Safford Delivers State Of The City

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mayor John Safford delivered the 2024 State of the City Address, the first of his term as mayor of Saratoga Springs, on Tuesday, Jan. 30. 

The mayor riffed on “harmony” as a theme moving forward. 

“As we envision the Saratoga of tomorrow, I ponder: What will our city look like in a decade? Not merely in its architectural facets, but in its character—the essence of our Saratogian identity. Who will we be? At the core of this reflection lies the notion of harmony,” Safford said. 

“Much like an orchestra or a chorus, we are diverse yet interwoven—individual notes coalescing into a harmonious symphony. In an era marked by division, the concept of harmony beckons us to bridge divides and foster unity. Here, today, in this room, we sow the seeds of a harmonious future—a future where our collective melody transcends discord.”

Safford spoke of both 2023 city accomplishments and 2024 stated goals, offering general remarks related to some overall council topics – “a comprehensive, long-term plan is imperative as we strive towards achieving net-zero homelessness” – and applying more specificity to Mayor’s Department goals.      

The Goals of the City Attorney’s Office are: Complete a review of all litigation pending against the city; See if we can find a way to reduce litigation frequency and expense; Help the various law firms employed by the City manage their cases and to keep the City Council informed; Streamline & expedite responses to FOIL requests to avoid legal fees being granted against the City.

In 2023, the city Building Department conducted 2,157 Inspections, and issued 460 Certificates of Occupancy including approximately 70 new dwelling units. The department also issued 871 permits - generating over $500,000 in building department fees, with an estimated construction value of approximately $185 million, the mayor said. 

2024 Building Department Goals: reduce permit wait time to the range of 4 – 6 weeks for the majority of permit applications, streamline the process for third party review of commercial building permit applications to facilitate reduced permit times; evaluate and modify the process for intake and review of simple permits so minor projects can be permitted more quickly. A full integration of scanned digital records and improvement of digitization for projects was also stated. 

2023 was the first full calendar year since the adoption of the City’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Approximately 64 Land Use Board meetings were held and a total of 1,044 project applications were submitted to the Design Review Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Planning Board. 

Mayor Safford specifically pointed to a handful of “notable” projects that had been recently approved, including a pair of housing developments that will provide approximately 232 affordable housing units, a large fitness center at Skidmore College, the redevelopment of Longfellow’s Hotel and Restaurant, Canadian pipe maker Soleno’s warehouse and corporate office expansion into the U.S., and three retail marijuana dispensaries.

In 2024, the Office of Planning and Economic Development will kick-off the Climate Action Plan which will guide the city in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, Safford said. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Zoning Board Of Appeals will host their next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at Saratoga Springs City Hall. 

Among the new agenda items is an Area Variance extension sought by B&D Properties, Inc. to permit construction of a new mixed-use development at 126 West Ave. that would consist of four new townhouses, office space, and a studio apartment. 

Other new agenda items: 

190 Woodlawn/23 Greenfield:  Area variance to permit the construction of a new single-family residence.

28 Warren St.: Area variance to permit a renovation and addition to a single-family residence.

180 Fifth Ave.: Area variance to permit a two-car garage addition to the single-family residence.

131 Middle Ave Extension: Area variance extension to permit the construction of a new single-family home. 

29 Newton Ave.: Area variance to permit the construction of a new single-family home. 

11 Ritchie Pl.: Area variance to permit a two-lot subdivision. 

Thursday, 01 February 2024 14:44

From Camcorder to HBO Emmy

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Jack Quinn grew up on the city’s west side near Saratoga Hospital. The pages of his high school yearbook – Saratoga Springs Class of 2008 – unveil images of the young man’s smiling face alongside a list of pursuits of his teenage years: ski club and SPAC, fun, lacrosse and film club among them. 

“I was always the kid with the video camera,” he says. “It just grew from there.”

Three weeks ago, Quinn walked onto a Los Angeles stage and was presented with an award that recognized the achievements of the kid with the video camera from Saratoga Springs. 

“It was crazy,” says Quinn about attending the 75th Creative Arts Emmy Awards. “Just a wild night.” The images depict a smiling man cradling that most famous of statuettes depicting a winged woman holding an atom. “I watch the Emmys every year and it was a great opportunity to go.” 

Quinn and his team were nominated for and the eventual winners of the Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction Or Reality Series award based on their work with the HBO series “Succession” (Controlling The Narrative).  They faced competition from Saturday Night Live (Presents Behind The Sketch), and The White Lotus (Unpacking The Episode), among others. 

“The night we got to attend was geared toward unscripted shows - a lot of documentary series, a lot of Reality Shows, and our category fell into that because we were nominated for the Inside the Episode series, which is basically a mini-documentary,” Quinn says. The Creative Arts Emmys presentations are among a small handful of events held during the multiple nights of Emmy ceremonies.    

“Jeff Probst - the host of Survivor, was presenting that award. It was funny to see him onstage and to have him hand us the trophy,” Quinn says. “It was a whirlwind night.” 

Quinn was born in 1990 and spent his formative years in Saratoga Springs, leaving for four years to attend classes at SUNY Oswego – where he earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting in 2012 - and returned to Saratoga Springs for a handful of years before heading to Georgia, where he earned a Master of Arts - Film & Television Production, at Savannah College of Art & Design. 

“I was hired right out of school to work for Turner Broadcasting,” Quinn says. He joined HBO in the summer 2021, where he has worked with the shows “Room 104,” and “Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union,” “The Gilded Age,” and the current running series “True Detective: Night Country.” 

“When I started at HBO, season 2 of Succession was wrapping up. When season 3 came around, I told my boss: hey, I really love Succession and I would love to work as much as possible on this show. Thankfully I got the opportunity to do that,” Quinn says. 

“I work for HBO in the marketing department on the corporate side. Within my team we get assigned certain shows to handle the marketing campaign,” he explains.  “We do these little episodic promos - basically a trailer for the next episode. So, after the episode ends it’s: Next Week on Succession… and there are the little trailers we put together. Or, after the episode there will be an Inside the Episode featurette – an interview with the cast and crew, and that’s something my department does as well. That involves us interviewing everyone and putting together these little featurettes for every episode.”

You can find Quinn’s specific editing work on a number of “Succession” Inside The Episode broadcasts as well as in a variety of series trailers. The series, as described by the television network itself: “A bitingly funny drama series exploring themes of power and family through the eyes of an aging media mogul and his four grown children.”   

It is for “Succession: Controlling The Narrative,” that Quinn as producer secured the Creative Arts Emmy award. 

“When season 4 came along, I guess my boss trusted me a little more and we worked closely putting together the interviews – assisted in writing questions for every cast member and crew member who we would interview per episode, and actually worked on a cast interview,” Quinn says. “When it came time to work on the campaign in terms of editing everything together, I got the opportunity to do the most consequential episode featurettes - the Inside the episodes of the season and the series finale.”

How does he approach the work? “When I’m working on those Inside the episode pieces – you watch as many episodes as are available, and you read the scripts. You’re not looking at the finished product, but you’re trying to find as much subtext and drama and identify the most exciting and interesting moments and try to create questions that might give answers that people are interested in,” says Quinn. 

“I’m really glad to be working with HBO because I feel they have the best programming department in the business. They’re really good at picking projects and they give people a considerable budget to work with so I’m always excited to see what HBO gives us next to work with,” says Quinn, who these days calls Brooklyn home. 

It was during his time growing up in Saratoga Springs that Quinn says he came to the realization that the craft of editing - as opposed to shooting or anything else in the realm of videography - was a path he wanted to follow. 

“I grew up messing around with the family camcorder – we had this Sony Handycam that probably most families had at that point – and I just started messing with it, shooting videos with my friends, little skits. I figured out how to edit on my own,” Quinn says. “I got professional software and I had no idea what to do, but eventually I just sort of figured it out.” 

What’s up next? “Right now, I’m wrapping up some work on the series True Detective – which just started a few weeks ago – and the next thing is a show called The Regime, which was given to our team to handle because some of the same people from Succession are producing and writing it, so it’s a good fit.

“I was always the kid with the video camera and luckily, I now have a career in the same field.” 

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