Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
Contact Thomas

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Black Lives founder Alexis Figuereo pleaded not guilty on April 24 to charges of obstructing governmental administration - a misdemeanor, and disorderly conduct - a violation, in connection with an alleged fracas that occurred two hours into an April 4 City Council meeting. He is scheduled to return to court on May 8. 

Bridgette Barr was charged with obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct related to her alleged actions during the same April 4 meeting. The city’s official video record of the meeting depicts Barr apparently grabbing a microphone set on a stand for public comment use, unfastening a thin barrier that separates members of the council and the public, and approaching the council table. 

Inside the courtroom on April 24, Barr made a series of loud outbursts. Medical assistance personnel were eventually summoned to the scene and she was taken to a medical transport vehicle outside of City Hall. Her attorney provided “no comment” immediately following Barr’s court appearance when asked about the case 

A disorderly conduct charge made against Saratoga BLM member Chandler Hickenbottom was also forwarded in Saratoga Springs City Court on April 24.  Hickenbottom had previously pleaded not guilty to the violation, in connection with the disruption of a Feb. 7 City Council meeting. The charge was requested by City Council member and Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino.

“There’s a proposal to resolve her non-criminal disorderly conduct charge with an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal – which means the case is adjourned for 6 months and dismissed,” said Hickenbottom’s attorney, Mark Mishler. “We appreciate that proposal, it’s under consideration (but) the truth is that charge could simply be dismissed.”  Hickenbottom, who is Figuereo’s sister, is currently evaluating the proposal, Mishler said. 

Mechanicville Judge Constantine DeStefano presided over each of the three cases on April 24. 

“I speak very loudly, passionately. It’s dear to my heart. This is about my community, about making changes in my community,” Figuereo said, standing on the steps of City Hall shortly after his court appearance Monday morning. 

“For a year-and-a-half, Saratoga Black Lives Matter has participated at all City Council meetings – speaking quietly, speaking calmly - waiting, waiting, waiting for change to actually happen. No changes had been made in Saratoga Springs that entire time,” he said.  “We started speaking out in a tone that was saying: we’re not playing games here. Demanding change, not asking or waiting for it (and) that’s when things started changing,” Figuereo said, citing specifically last week’s 4-1 council approval that restricts no-knock warrants in the city.   

“When we talk quietly, nothing happens. When we talk loudly, changes happen,” Figuereo said, adding, “our words are not violent.”

SARATOGA SPRINGS — This week, the city Planning Board was scheduled to potentially entertain a variety of applications under consideration at its end-of-April meeting. 

The renewal extension of a special use permit for outdoor entertainment at Siro’s, 168 Lincoln Ave.; a review for a two-lot subdivision at 13 Bowman St., and review of a proposed two-lot subdivision at 172 Caroline St. 


• Duplainville Road site plan review and land disturbance activity permit for a proposed 45,480 square-foot flex commercial warehouse with corporate office and 25,000 square-foot cold storage accessory building and associated site work in the Industrial Park. The applicant is Munter Land Holdings, LLC. 

• An area variance is sought to permit the development of workforce housing (Liberty Housing) at Crescent Avenue and Jefferson Street. The proposed multi-family project is slated to consist of 212 affordable units on a 30.3-acre parcel. The allotted district height is 40 feet, and 8 feet of relief is being requested, as the proposed building is 48 feet. Neighboring properties include the Saratoga Casino Soccer Fields, and Saratoga Casino and hotel structure, which stands at 67 feet tall. 

For specific times and dates of the Saratoga Springs’ three Land Use Boards – the Planning Board, the Design Review Commission, and the Zoning Board of Appeals – visit the city’s website: 

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Former Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen officially announced his campaign for mayor of Saratoga Springs on April 26.

Mathiesen will be on the Democratic Primary ballot June 27, challenging incumbent Mayor Ron Kim for the Democratic nomination. The general election for all five city council seats – one mayor and four commissioners – as well as for two city Supervisor slots will take place in November.

Current Mayor Kim and mayoral challenger Mathiesen each also previously served on the City Council as commissioners of Public Safety.

Mathiesen said he and Kim have shared support for each another in the past, but added that he has disagreed with a variety of actions Kim has taken since being elected mayor. Specifically, Mathiesen criticized what he called Kim’s support of “ill-conceived policies” as they related to city personnel - “a lot of my concerns are based on Mayor Kim’s support of Commissioner Montagnino’ s efforts in the Public Safety (department),” Mathiesen said – and expressed that the current mayor has allowed “mob rule to prevail” during recent council meetings.

“Instead of having a police department that’s run by law enforcement agencies we seem to have a police department that’s run by civilians, and that should never be the case,” said Mathiesen, specifically citing the elimination of the assistant city police chief position, and a press conference led by Montagnino and Kim shortly following last November’s downtown shooting incident.

Regarding recent interruptions of City Council meetings by the public which has included members of Saratoga Black Lives Matter, Mathiesen said, “I would have had police come in and remove people who disrupted the meeting,” and added: “I would like to speak to (members of) Black Lives Matter. I think we need to open the dialogue. I think the citizens in Saratoga Springs have learned a lot from the Black Lives Matter people and listened to their concerns. But I think also that Black Lives Matter need to be open to concerns that other citizens in Saratoga Springs have about a lot of other issues that have been brought up because of their activities.”

The city is currently exploring possibilities for a future location of a homeless shelter and evaluating whether that would take the form of a permanent venue vs. a temporary one, a 24/7 shelter or a space to be used only during the cold winter season, and whether it should allow entry to those who need it on a low-barrier status.

“It’s very important people are treated humanely,” said Mathiesen, adding he supports ensuring there is a buffer between any proposed location siting and schools.  

“You need to have adequate funding, adequate support, you need to have professionals in that facility dealing with it. It’s a very, very complicated issue,” he said. “It would depend upon how much federal support there was, how much county support there was. This is a countywide and a statewide and a nationwide problem. And the people who have gravitated to Saratoga Springs go far beyond the borders of the city. Most of them are not Saratogians, so I think we really need to look at what kind of support we would be getting from other levels of government,” Mathiesen said. “Are there other alternatives to having one central low-barrier shelter? I think there are better solutions than that frankly.”

Mathiesen’s announcement was staged in front of the Canfield Casino and included three dozen supporters - former council members Robin Dalton, Michele Madigan – who is running for City Supervisor, and former deputy commissioner Eileen Finneran among them.

“For me, the biggest issue is trying to bring some normalcy and some decorum back to city government,” Mathiesen said. “I will bring back normalcy. I will show respect for the many city employees who make our city government work so well and I will reach out to all facets of our community on a regular basis…everyone will know they are being heard.”  

The Primary Election will take place June 27.  City Republicans have endorsed John Safford for Mayor. The General Election will take place Nov. 7.  


SARATOGA SPRINGS — The building is mostly vacant now on Adelphi Street.  Gone are those who sought sanctuary from the elements of winter as well as those who committed their time and efforts to provide care at the space that has served as a Code Blue emergency homeless shelter. The tally for the November to April season: 160 nights open, 6,800 meals served.

The Code Blue shelter – which opens when the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit – has most recently been located just off South Broadway as a 61-bed facility on Adelphi Street. On April 30, the current lease on the Adelphi Street space will expire - it is already listed with realtors as a commercial spot for lease - leaving the city, for the time being, without a venue to point to as a shelter for next winter’s season.     

Earlier this year, Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim initiated the formation of a Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness. The group is tasked with presenting a proposal for a shelter location to the council by early summer.   

“By our July 6 (council) meeting, we’re asking them to report back. I think they’re on schedule and should be able to complete their mission. I’ve been incredibly impressed by their discussions. They’ve been thoughtful, thought-provoking and also respectful. They’ve sort of come to the conclusion that we need a 24-hour shelter,” said city Mayor Ron Kim. 

“By hook-or-crook we’re going to have to offer something. I hope we can move quickly, but that’s all about location and agency.  What I think the Homelessness Task Force will be able to do is give is responses to the three questions we’ve asked: what do we need? Where could it be, and who will provide it?” Kim said.  “It’s going to then be up to the City Council when we get those recommendations in early July to move the ball forward. So, we’ll have our work cut out for us.” 

Since late 2013, St. Peter’s Parish Center, the Salvation Army building, the Soul Saving Station Church and the “overflow” Presbyterian New England Congregational Church have all served as a regional emergency winter shelter at one time or another. Adelphi Street was first activated in 2020. All have been on a temporary basis. Each time a permanent venue was thought to be found, loud opposition from those with interests near the proposed siting spot has negated its coming to fruition. 

The most recent future-looking plans eyed a permanent 24/7 year-round shelter at the soon-to-be-vacated Senior Center on Williams Street. Last October, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution in favor of the project at the Williams Street property which the city owns. Shortly afterwards, however, some public opposition was raised and Shelters of Saratoga - which co-operates the Code Blue shelter with Saratoga County and The NYS Office of Temporary Disability and Assistance - announced it was canceling its plans to site a permanent center on Williams Street.   

The building continues to serve as the Saratoga Senior Center for now. Relocation will occur when a new senior center structure on West Avenue becomes operational this summer, Saratoga Senior Center Executive Director Lois Celeste said. 

There has been no determination yet made about what may become of the city owned site on Williams Street when it becomes vacant.

“There are no plans whatsoever,” said Mayor Kim, adding that plans to site a shelter there are not completely off the table. “On the other hand, if the (Homelessness) Task Force sees another possibility, it could be something that we use to rent, for other purposes. Another possibility is that it could help us fund something in another location. So, nothing is firm about that. But in July that will be a major thing for the City Council to address once we get the recommendations.” 

Discussions by the task force include whether an outside agency would be involved to provide services (such as Shelters of Saratoga had been in the past), the geographic area where a potential shelter would best be sited, whether it would have 24/7 capabilities, and specifics regarding whether the shelter be of a low-barrier status. The definition of a “low barrier shelter” and of a “navigation center” vary from state-to-state and having a “low barrier” points to things such as potentially eliminating curfews and not requiring background checks, sobriety or mandatory treatment.

“Those are open questions,” Kim said.  “That’s one of those things they’re still debating. One of the viewpoints is: maybe we should have an aspiration goal of low-barrier with the very particular details of that left to an agency. On the other hand, some have said maybe we should do more of the defining. So, I don’t think they’ve reached that (consensus) yet,” Kim said. 

Kim said he would prefer siting a permanent shelter rather than continuing along the path of having a series of temporary rentals as has been the case for nearly a decade. “I think we need to do this, but I don’t know in the end where it will land.” 

Funding is also a key piece. 

“The funding comes through the state and passes through the county, so the county has a huge funding role in this,” Kim said. “The county, I hope and expect, will play a huge role in this; it’s more of a partnership because the city has become the central place where you need a homeless shelter. I don’t know of any other parts of Saratoga County where this has become a huge need.”   

In July 2022, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement for the short-term lease – at $8,000 per month - of the Adelphi Street venue to be used as a “Code Blue” emergency homeless shelter thru April 30, 2023. 

“The county has not been presented yet with any plans to-date for a year-round shelter,” Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chair Theodore Kusnierz said when asked about the future status of a shelter in Saratoga Springs.  “We will entertain any proposal that is provided to us.” 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council by a 4-1 vote on April 18, approved a resolution that bans no-knock warrants except “in the most extreme circumstances.” 

“I think it’s really important sometimes to take a stand on some things,” said city Mayor Ron Kim. “And this is one of them.”

An Executive Order issued in June 2020 by then-N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo required local governments to perform a comprehensive review of its existing police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, practices and develop a plan for improvement with community input. 

The Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force was initiated two months later and tasked with developing recommendations along with the police chief and the city attorney to present to the City Council. Portions of the subsequent “Reinvention Plan: Toward a Community-Centered Justice Initiative” was accepted by the previous council in March 2021, although it refrained from action regarding the plan’s recommendation to ban non-knock search warrants.

“This City Council’s goal is to make our community safer and protect the rights and safety of all residents, including black residents who have historically experienced systemic racism,” read the resolution presented by the council this week.  “Restrictions on no-knock search warrants will enhance safety for both the citizens of Saratoga Springs and the law enforcement officers who protect them.” 

“Restrictions” on no-knock search warrants was a late-added revision, replacing an earlier version which stated intent for an outright “ban.”  The revised version added a handful of new paragraphs and revisions and was read aloud prior to the resolution vote, but not available for public viewing on the city’s website. The updated resolution, still titled as a “ban,” allowed for exceptions “in the most extreme circumstances.”     

“This restricts no-knock warrants. There is still the extreme circumstance where the police can in fact ask a judge for a no-knock warrant, so it does not remove no-knock warrants from law,” said DPW Commissioner Jason Golub, who served as co-chair of Saratoga’s Police Reform Task Force prior to his appointment, and subsequent election, to the council. 

“It simply says: we are restricting them to the most extreme circumstances where they might be required. “The ask by Gov. Cuomo was for every city to reimagine police reform…I think that is reimagining what we can do to protect our community, and that’s where we need to be going,” Golub said. 

The issues were discussed and debated by the city Police Reform Task Force for about nine months Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran reminded those at the council meeting, during which a great majority of those making public comments voiced their support for the city’s adoption of the resolution.

“There was a comment earlier today that there hadn’t been enough community conversation. I just don’t think that’s true,” Moran said. “The recommendation has been out there for a while and there has been plenty of opportunity for people to come forward, voice their support for – as we’ve heard this evening - and folks to use their voice against.” 

At the council table, Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi verbally supplied data that showcased: dozens of deaths involving civilians and police had occurred in the U.S. over a six-year period during no-knock raids; funds paid by municipalities due to resulting lawsuits, and statistics that highlighted a high percentage of no-knock warrants executed upon blacks and Hispanics indicating that “race is clearly an issue.”

“No-knock warrants have been banned in Florida – which I don’t think anyone would think is a liberal state – they have been banned in Virginia, which has a Republican governor, and in Oregon,” Sanghvi said. “They don’t make sense for the safety and security of our police or our community, and it doesn’t make sense financially either for our local government.” 

The New York State Legislature is considering a bill that would sharply limit the use of no-knock warrants.

Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino cast the lone council vote opposed to the resolution, citing procedural issues – including that the revised measure was not available to the public – as well as current state law. “Unless and until either our legislature amends article 690 (Search Warrants) or we go through the proper process to amend the City Charter, I don’t think this resolution should be adopted.” 

Montagnino said as best he could discern, while “a number of” no-knock warrants were issued by city judges, most of those city police opted to execute as standard announce warrants. “As best as we can tell, one warrant was executed as a no-knock warrant in the city of Saratoga Springs, about 7 years ago… so the process itself is extremely rare.”

The condition providing exception to the ban reads as follows: SSPD will only initiate no-knock warrants in the most extreme circumstances where officers detail specific facts in the search warrant application that explain why giving notice would create an imminent danger to a person’s life.

SCHUYLERVILLE — A 20-year-old Schuylerville woman was shot and killed by a homeowner in Washington County after the vehicle in which she was a passenger mistakenly pulled into the homeowner’s driveway, according to police. The incident occurred shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday in the town of Hebron. 

Kaylin A. Gillis, age 20 of Schuylerville, was pronounced dead at the scene.

She was a passenger in a car with three of her friends. The four had been searching for their friend’s home and mistakenly pulled into the wrong driveway. 

“It’s a very rural area with dirt roads. It’s easy to get lost,” Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy said at a press conference staged on April 17.

“They had been looking for their friend’s house, got mistaken and drove up this driveway,” the sheriff said. “While they were leaving the residence, once they had determined they were at the wrong house, the subject came out on his porch, for whatever reason, and fired two shots – one of which struck the vehicle that Kaylin was in… there was clearly no threat from anyone in the vehicle.” 

The homeowner, 65-year-old Kevin D. Monahan of Hebron, was charged with murder in the second-degree. Monahan was uncooperative with the subsequent investigation, authorities said. He was eventually taken into custody with the assistance of the New York State Police Special Operation Response Team.

“From all indications, she was an innocent young girl out with friends looking for another friend’s house. I know for a fact that she comes from a very good family. I know them personally. She was a young girl that was taken way too young,” Sheriff Murphy said. 

Gillis attended Schuylerville Elementary School in kindergarten and first grade and returned to the district in high school for grades 10-12. 

She was a member of the competitive cheerleading team for two seasons, a talented artist, and had hopes and dreams of becoming a veterinarian or marine biologist. 

 “Kaylin has two younger siblings in the district, who we will surround with our love and support in the coming days, weeks, and months,” according to a statement released by the Schuylerville Central School District. “Our school counselors are also available for our students and staff for support and grief counseling.”

The city of Saratoga Springs this week began their council meeting with a moment of silence to honor of Gillis.   

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist with funeral expenses at:

BALLSTON SPA — Stewart’s Shops officially announced on April 18 that it will close its on 404 Geyser Road in Ballston Spa. The store will close on Sunday, April 30. “All Partners will be offered placement at other shops,” according to a company statement. 

Residents of the neighborhood shop had initiated a Save Our Local Store petition that had garnered 120 signatures. 

“Please do not close our neighborhood Stewart’s: the only Stewart’s within walking distance of Geyser Crest neighborhood,” reads the petition. “We love this store and use it every day. It’s part of our community, and the neighborhood will not be the same without it.” 

Stewart’s Shops said it chose to close the Geyser Road location to refocus their efforts on serving customers at nearby locations. 

“In most areas, Stewart’s Shops have the space to be the community grocery store, restaurant and gas station and this shop cannot expand to fit those needs. It is always a difficult decision to close a shop, and we would like to thank all our loyal customers for their business,” Stewart’s Shops president Gary Dake said in a statement.

The company added that this closure is not a reflection of the company overall, and that in 2023 Stewart’s Shops is investing more than $50 million in construction of nine brand new shops and eight rebuilt shops, which will replace older, smaller locations.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The songs of Mississippi John Hurt have been covered by everyone from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Dave Van Ronk, to Donovan, Jerry Garcia, and Jorma Kaukonen – both as a soloist and with his band Hot Tuna - and he famously performed at Caffe Lena shortly before his death in the mid-1960s. 

On Saturday, April 29 a bevy of entertainers will perform atop the Caffe Lena stage in tribute to the singer and songwriter who has influenced a world of musicians with his unique fingerpicking style. 

The fundraiser features four duos playing the music by and inspired by Mississippi John Hurt.  Performers include the Piedmont Bluz Duo of Valerie and Benedict Turner, Annie & Jonny Rosen of Annie and the Hedonists, Erin Harpe & Jim Countryman and Mark Tolstrup & Jill Burnham of Mark & Jill.

Monies raised will benefit the Mississippi John Hurt Foundation, established by Hurt’s granddaughter, Mary Frances Hurt. The Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted primarily to preserving the musical legacy and history of Mississippi John Hurt, while providing musical and educational opportunities to disadvantaged youth. Through the music of John Hurt, children and adult music fans alike are exposed to the rich oral, musical, and literary traditions of the Mississippi Delta and surrounding areas. 

Funds raised will also support a film, currently in production, about his life and legacy.

For tickets and more information, go to: 

BALLSTON SPA - Stewart’s Shops officially announced on April 18 that it will close its on 404 Geyser Road in Ballston Spa. The store will close on Sunday, April 30. “All Partners will be offered placement at other shops,” according to a company statement. 

Residents of the neighborhood shop had initiated a Save Our Local Store petition that had garnered 120 signatures. 

“Please do not close our neighborhood Stewart's: the only Stewart's within walking distance of Geyser Crest neighborhood,” reads the petition. “We love this store and use it every day. It's part of our community, and the neighborhood will not be the same without it.” 

Stewart’s Shops said it chose to close the Geyser Road location to refocus their efforts on serving customers at nearby locations. 

"In most areas, Stewart’s Shops have the space to be the community grocery store, restaurant and gas station and this shop cannot expand to fit those needs. It is always a difficult decision to close a shop, and we would like to thank all our loyal customers for their business,” Stewart’s Shops president Gary Dake said in a statement.

The company added that this closure is not a reflection of the company overall, and that in 2023 Stewart’s Shops is investing more than $50 million in construction of nine brand new shops and eight rebuilt shops, which will replace older, smaller locations.

BALLSTON SPA — There are 21 municipalities – 19 towns and 2 cities – represented at the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. Every municipality is represented by one supervisor, except for the larger populations of Clifton Park and Saratoga Springs which are each represented by two. 

The Board of Supervisors meets monthly – typically at 4 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month – to vote on proposals. This year’s annual budget is about $381 million - or a spending plan that works out to more than $1 million per day, every day of the year, including weekends and holidays.      

The measures, proposals, budgets and resolutions upon which the Board of Supervisors votes typically come from the county’s Standing Committees. 

There are 12 Standing Committees, each with 5 to 7 members appointed by that year’s county chairperson.  Some of the Standing Committees include: Economic Development, Law & Finance, Health & Human Services, and Public Safety.   

In 2023, all 23 County Supervisors were appointed to at least one Standing Committee, with some appointed to multiple committees. In total, the 23 supervisors were appointed to 74 seats on the 12 Standing Committees. 

The Town of Day is Saratoga County’s least populated municipality with a population of just over 800. The Day Supervisor was appointed to 4 Standing Committee seats. 

By comparison, Saratoga Springs is the second most populated municipality in the county with about 28,500 residents, about 35 times more the number than Day. The two Saratoga Springs supervisors were appointed to a total of 6 Standing Committee seats. 

Some other municipalities with less than 5,000 residents, and those with more than 20,000 residents, and the number of seats appointed to on the Standing Committees: Edinburg –1,333 population/ 3 seats; Hadley – 1,976 population/ 3 seats; Providence – 2,075 population/ 3 seats; Galway – 3,525 population / 3 seats; Charlton – 4,328 population/ 5 seats. Halfmoon – 25,662 population/ 4 seats; Clifton Park – 38,029 population/ 9 seats.     

Population numbers by Saratoga County municipality and revised “weighted vote” per supervisor figures, as presented by County Administration at March 2022 Law & Finance Committee meeting.

Page 9 of 93