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SARATOGA SPRINGS – Two weeks into the winter season coupled with predictions that forecast freezing temperatures for most every day this month are pushing the status of the city based homeless shelter from emergency status into a near 24/7 operation.
Code Blue Saratoga, a program of Shelters of Saratoga, provides temporary unrestricted shelter during periods of hazardous winter weather - defined as 12 inches or more of snow and/or a temperature of 32 degrees or less, to include wind chill factor. Last year, the shelter was opened 28 times during the daytime hours over the course of the entire season. That number will already be eclipsed this weekend.
“The daytime temperatures are a lot lower this year,” says Code Blue Director Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant.
Code Blue was started in December 2013 as a collaborative effort between the City of Saratoga Springs, faith-based groups, individuals and non-profit partners committed to assisting individuals who are homeless. The shelter is temporarily housed at the Soul Saving Station Church, on Henry Street.
Parant said current needs at the shelter include: milk, juices and ice tea mix; butter, sugar and coffee – regular and decaffeinated. Donated items may be dropped off at the shelter at any time. Additionally, a volunteer sign-up is listed on the organization’s website –https://www.codebluesaratoga.org/wordpress/ - where volunteers may sign up for a variety of duties.
The walk-in, emergency homeless shelter offers a hot meal, a warm and safe place to sleep and essential supplies. During the 2016-17 winter season, Code Blue housed more than 5,800 overnight stays and served 6,700 meals.
Shelters of Saratoga, which oversees Code Blue, had hoped to be operating a permanent shelter adjacent to its S.O.S. properties on Walworth Street this year after local business owner Ed Mitzen announced he would fund the costs to build the shelter and local firms Bonacio Construction and the LA Group agreed to forego any profits to keep the building development costs as low as possible.
Shortly after that announcement, however, a group of 22 residents filed a legal challenge claiming the proposed two-story building which would house about 50 beds didn’t fit into their west side neighborhood and that its development is not a permitted use within the Urban Residential Zoning District. Monday night at City Hall, the Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to discuss the matter.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A pair of music-centric street festivals which bookended the start and conclusion of the Saratoga racing meet for a generation are no more.
The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, main sponsors of the Hats Off and Final Stretch festivals, announced this week that it will instead feature a “Welcome Back to Racing” fan event promoting bands performing at a variety of on-site locations at bars, restaurants and hotels.
“It’s a different downtown than it was 30 years ago,” said Chamber President Todd Shimkus. “We have so many more bars and restaurants. We think a better way to spend our time and money is to promote all the different bands playing at all the different restaurants. So, instead of us closing streets and setting up bands and stages, we’re going to collectively promote everything that’s going on inside the restaurants, bars and hotels downtown.”
Last year, the festival featured five bands each night over the course of the two-day festival, down from eight bands that performed at eight different venues each night just six years earlier, and the 10 bands who performed at the free festival in 2004. At that time, there were approximately one dozen different businesses and organizations sponsoring the event along with the Chamber and the New York Racing Association.
The cost to stage the events totals more than $30,000 and while Shimkus acknowledged sponsoring entities like NYRA and others are not contributing as much as they once had in years past, he said money is not a driving force in the Chamber’s decision. “For us, it was the fact that we think there is a better alternative that is more supportive of the entire downtown.”
Shimkus also refuted some public comments that have been made, including some raised during this week’s City Council by local residents, that fears of vehicular terrorism played a role in the festival’s cancellation.
“I can absolutely guarantee you the notion of a terroristic attack had nothing to do with our decision to make this change,” Shimkus said.
The Hats Off festival, later complemented by the season-ending Final Stretch festival, was first staged in the 1990s as a way to increase crowds for the annual opening weekend of the racing season.
“NYRA came up and Ed Lewi was with them and they were discussing what they could do to build up the attendance at the races on the first and the last weekend,” recalled Joe Dalton, who ran the Saratoga County Chamber for 40 years, before retiring in 2010.
“The Chamber basically put it together – myself, and Ed Lewi. NYRA said they would put up half the money and we would raise the other half. And it went very well,” Dalton said. “It attracted people and built up the first and last week of racing, attendance-wise. It benefitted the town and NYRA. Over the years, though, it built up so much that both of those weekends now have big crowds coming, so the need for it dissipated.”
Susan Farnsworth was hired by the Chamber to coordinate the Hats Off and Final Stretch festivals, which she did for for 17 years. Among her duties were hiring a team that set up and tore down the staging, supplying equipment, securing city permits and coordinating with the police, and collaboratively working to secure sponsors and to hire bands
“The Hats Off Festival would draw about 20,000 people each night; Final Stretch drew about 15,000 the first night, and about 10,000 on the second evening,” said Farnsworth, who currently lives in Israel. “My favorite part of the festivals was watching people enjoying the music, seeing children dancing; The atmosphere was fun, friendly, welcoming. It helped secure Saratoga Springs’ reputation as one of the best small cities in America,” she said.
Farnsworth recalled how some visitors would schedule their trips to Saratoga to coincide with the festivals. “The original purpose (of the festivals) was to bring more visitors to town the first and last day of racing,” she said. “I am very sad to see this tradition end, but times change.”
“The primary change is that Hats Off has largely been, for 30-plus years, a bunch of bands the Chamber has paid for, with staging outside and downtown in a variety of different places,” Shimkus says.
“This last year, we had a stage on Caroline Street. We closed the road. We had security there. We paid for a band. What we saw was that Saratoga City Tavern (also) had a band, Gaffney’s had a band, Spa City Tap and Barrel had a band – everybody on Caroline Street that had a space, had a band, and we went: What are we doing?”
Plans are being formulated to sponsor a July festival – it may be staged the Thursday prior to Opening Day – in and around existing bars and restaurants and could include locations such as Hattie’s alleyway, Henry Street venues and on Beekman Street.
The Hats Off festival, which ran from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, largely drew crowds 21 and over. “Maybe that wasn’t the case 10 years ago, but it is now. Families are not coming to the Hats Off festival,” Shimkus said. The specifics will be decided in the new year.
“Everybody out there that’s freaking out, just be a little patient and know that the Chamber has always done what’s in the best interests of the downtown,” Shimkus said. ‘When we announce our final plans, I think everyone will go: ‘Wow, that’s a really good idea.’”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city’s Code Blue emergency shelter will again be sited at the Soul Saving Station Church as a temporary measure to house individuals who would otherwise remain unsheltered during harsh winter conditions.
Code Blue Saratoga, a program of Shelters of Saratoga, was anticipated to have secured a permanent location following the February 2017 gift offered by Ed and Lisa Mitzen to construct a permanent facility on the grounds of 20 Walworth St., where the current SOS shelter is located.
Bonacio Construction and the LA Group subsequently partnered with the Mitzen Family to provide the necessary project planning, which gained unanimous approval from both the city Planning Board and Zoning Board of Approvals. The two-story structure was slated to house about 50 beds.
But in July, the city’s determination of zoning and land use for the project was challenged by a group of nearly two dozen people who initiated a legal action to halt its development. As a result, initial construction timelines have been delayed pending judicial review of the project, and those delays forced those operating the shelter to look elsewhere.
Pastor Arnold Byrd II and The Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street, the host site of last year’s Code Blue season, once again stepped forward to partner with SOS as the temporary host of its 2017-18 Code Blue season. “Being part of this community, we have a duty to assist those in need,” Byrd said, in a statement.
Both city mayoral candidates – Republican Mark Baker and Democrat Meg Kelly – acknowledged Soul Saving Station for stepping forward to provide a space for temporary shelter, in response to an inquiry seeking comment for this article, although no specific information was offered regarding the potential Walworth Street location. The responses, in full, are below.
Officials at SOS – who currently operate two other buildings on the Walworth Street property as well as a twice-a-week “drop-in” center – say having the Code Blue shelter in close proximity to the case-managed shelters maximizes the opportunity to provide a full continuum of services and more easily connect homeless individuals with the support services they need.
"What we foresaw and unfortunately now has happened is that poor leadership, bad planning and a lack of consensus building to address human needs is now locked up in litigation – a disappointing theme of the current administration to a very complex issue.
"I’m thankful that Pastor Byrd and the Soul Saving Station Church have stepped up to welcome those who need shelter into their Congregation.
"As the current proposal is in litigation, I will not be commenting further on future plans. However, as a community, we have a moral obligation and responsibility to show compassion and to be responsive to those already in our city who are in need and homeless, especially children. As Mayor, I would be personally committed to working with the faith, social services and business communities to find a solution to this complex issue that is sensitive to those in need, but is also responsible and respectful to our neighborhoods, schools and residents." – Statement from Mark Baker.
"Saratoga Springs helps its homeless with services from various agencies.
“The Code Blue overnight shelter is truly a community effort that offers meals, supplies, services through volunteer hours from businesses, support groups and individuals. I am grateful that the Soul Saving Station Church will host the shelter again this winter when the temperature drops below 32*F.
“It is my belief that a permanent home for Code Blue can be realized through public-private partnerships and if I am elected as Mayor I will work to make sure this becomes a reality for our community." - Statement from Meg Kelly.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Jorma Kaukonen stepped into the sunlight and rode an E chord for all it was worth:
“Down in the mine,
circled ‘round the diamond,
Serpent of your expectations,
Sleeps a nervous dream…”
Electric Hot Tuna – these days a power trio led by longtime bandmates Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, and aided amply by the grounding beats of drummer Justin Gulp, came to Saratoga July 3 and staged a show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in support of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and the Wood Brothers.
Hot Tuna delivered a seven-song, 45-minute set that came full circle, commencing with “Serpent of Dreams” and concluding with “Hit Single #1” – adjacent vinyl tracks on the band’s 1975 album “America’s Choice.”
It was 49 years, nearly to the day, when Kaukonen and Casady graced the front cover of Life Magazine beneath the headline: “Music That’s Hooked The Whole Vibrating World.” Perhaps best known for their respective roles in helping create the Jefferson Airplane’s signature sound – try imagining songs like “White Rabbit” sans Casady’s "Bolero" bass, or “Somebody To Love” and “Lather” without Kaukonen’s soaring guitaristry - the Hot Tuna duo has done well in creating their own legacy during the past 45-plus years, alternating between the moody electric wailing of Kaukonen’s wheezing guitar and elaborate acoustic fingerpickings, and Casady’s melody bass. Add to that hipping an entire generation of guitar players to the music of Robert Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmy Reed and Rev. Gary Davis.
Much of that legacy was on full display at SPAC, where the band’s set began with a pair of acoustic numbers and took off in earnest when Kaukonen strapped on his electric Firebird that bent through the wave of a Wah-Wah flange and delivered a string-bending swoon of vintage psychedelia, blown in on a breeze from the west coast of America.
The three-piece ensemble allows ample space for each instrument to be well-defined by the human ear, and as Kaukonen displayed a mental fixation on his fretboard delivering his searing notes, Casady plunked, boomed, slid and slapped out the low tones on his Wine Red hollow-body bass, his undulating eyebrows rising and falling with the plonk of the beat.
“The last time I remember that Jack and I were here was in ’89 on the (Jefferson) Airplane reunion tour,” announced Kaukonen, a black Harley T-shirt clinging to his 76-year-old frame. Truth be told, the band had been here with The Further Festival in the late ‘90s and on a bill with the Allman Brothers in 2000, but no one seemed to mind the historical misstep inside the amphitheater and out on the summer lawn where fans of the music swooned and grooved, transported to some heavenly place in a world of song.
WILTON – It is a weekday morning inside the Wilton Mall. Wedged between one shop that sports women’s summer fashions and another displaying torn men’s jeans, a series of piano rolls tumble into the hallway from behind the blackened windows of an abandoned retail space,
Inside the space where the piano melody flows, The Moll – portrayed by Ginger Costa-Jackson - and Bugs – played by Andy Papas - are rehearsing the opening scene of the controversial 1937 opera “The Cradle Will Rock.”
”I’d like to give you a hun-dred bucks, but I only got thir-tee cents,” Bugs proclaims in a speak-song voice, hoisting a cigar to his mouth beneath a brim-backwards baseball cap that rests atop his head.
“Make it a dollar,” sings The Moll, tugging at the fringes of her black shawl. There is no negotiating.
“That’s all I got. Thirty cents,” Bugs replies. Lawrence Edelson, the director, interrupts the scene.
“There needs to be more of a beat. There. Punctuation marks!” he says. A half-dozen or so others in the cavernous room fiddle with scripts, binders, the musical score. Rows of empty store shelves give off a yellow hue. A pair of benches sit in the middle of a floor spiked for blocking. Someone strikes the keys of the standup piano, and Bugs and The Moll begin again.
“That’s so much better,” Edelson says, finally pleased the scene is played to perfection. “Burning with tension!”
The show, “The Cradle Will Rock,” opens July 9 at the Spa Little Theater in the Saratoga Spa State Park. It is a piece that has historical implications.
“It’s remarkably timely considering it was written 80 years ago. It could have been written yesterday and you’d never know it,” says Edelson, matter-of-factly. “It speaks to contemporary audiences on its own terms in a vibrant way.”
Trained as a singer and having professionally performed as a dancer, this summer marks Edelson’s third as artistic and general director for Opera Saratoga. Edelson chooses the repertoire, puts all the production teams and the casting together, chooses the directors and conductors and casts all the singers. Opera Saratoga’s summer season – which opens this weekend - features performances of “Falstaff,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and Marc Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” – the latter which Edelson is personally directing and choreographing.
“It’s about a wealthy businessman who is buying his way up in society. He is buying off the church, he is buying off the newspaper, buying off the university and the hospital, buying off all these different parts of society for his own gain. At the same time, he’s fighting the unions. And when you look at the headlines today…”
Edelson resists the temptation that was engaged by his theatrical peers at The Public Theater in New York City, whose current staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” portrays a very modern-day character resembling Donald Trump.
“The main character, Mr. Mister, one could easily tie him into a Trumpian character. But, that’s not the approach I’m taking. My job as a director is to present the story and the music to the best of my abilities the way the authors intended it,” Edelson explains. As is, the piece set in Steeltown U.S.A. drew controversy all its own when it premiered in pre-World War II America when its pro-union plot was feared as being too radical.
“It was actually shut down by the government on its opening night in 1937. The government had locked up the theater with all the costumes and the orchestral parts which they couldn’t get out. Orson Welles was the original director and John Houseman the producer. They rented a piano and moved it north 20 blocks and put it on a stage,” Edelson said.
“In an incredibly ironic act, the actors’ union forbid the performers from performing onstage - in a show that was pro-union! So Blitzstein started to play the piece on the piano onstage, to sing through it himself. What was extraordinary was the members of the cast sitting in the audience rose up one-by-one and started to perform from their seats. It became one of the most legendary evenings in all of music theater history.”
Controversy aside, the artistic result is that the original orchestration created by Marc Blitzstein – a frequent resident of the Yaddo arts colony in Saratoga Springs – is often neglected and almost always presented with just a piano.
“It only been performed twice with Blitzstein’s original orchestration. It has been 57 years since this piece has been done anywhere in the world the way Blitzstein intended. It’s really going to be a historically significant event for Saratoga Springs,” Edelson said. “And I think this cast is quite extraordinary. I don’t know if the piece has ever been sung this well before, quite frankly. I think audiences are going to be electrified by what they hear onstage.”
“The Cradle Will Rock,” with music, book and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein will be staged 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 9, 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 11, 7:30 p.m. Thursday July 13 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.
“I don’t think about opera in a bubble. For me, opera is this amazing synthesis of the arts. as much theater as it is music and visual arts and dance, and for me that’s what makes opera exciting,” Edelson said. “We do one opera every year that is a masterpiece from the classical repertoire. This year that is ‘Falstaff’ – one of the greatest operas ever written. I think audiences whose tastes lean towards traditional opera are really going to love this but it’s also a great comic piece and a great introduction to opera. It’s one of the pieces you just laugh out loud at.” “Falstaff,” with music by Giuseppe Verdi and libretto by Arrigo Boito will be staged by Saratoga Opera on July 1, 6, 10 and 15.
“We’ve also been doing works that incorporate dance and movement – this being such a city that has an appreciation in dance. Last year we did the Philip Glass piece, ‘The Witches of Venice.’ This year we’ll be doing a piece by André Grétry, who was a Belgian composer. I chose it because it has dance and movement in it and it’s also a fairy tale which people know the story of. It’s a great introduction to opera for family audiences and a great way to introduce kids to opera. This particular production incorporates a lot of puppetry, which is a new element, something we haven’t done before.”
“Beauty and The Beast,” with music by André Grétry, libretto by Jean Francois Marmontel, will be staged July 2, 8 and 14. For tickets and more information of Opera Saratoga’s summer festival season, , go to: http://www.operasaratoga.org/.
Yaddo’s annual summer benefit will feature Terry McMillan, best-selling author of “Waiting to Exhale,” “A Day Late and A Dollar Short,” “The Interruption of Everything,” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” among others. The event will take place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 22. Proceeds from the benefit play a crucial role in ensuring the artists’ residency program continues to flourish. More than 6,500 individuals have created works at Yaddo – from literature and paintings, to photography, sculpture, music, dance and film – that have helped shape culture and touched millions of lives. For ticket information, go to: https://www.yaddo.org/.
Who: Elaina Richardson.
What are some of the best things Saratoga has to offer?
I’ve been here 17 years now and I love the number of trails for walking, running, and biking. Also, the combination of spending the day outdoors being very relaxed and then in the evening being at some of the most sophisticated art offerings in the world. You’re always combining both sides of your brain, in one beautiful place.
The mansion at Yaddo is nearing 125 years old and is set to undergo a restoration.
The work at the mansion begins next month. It’s a two-year process that will stabilize the building and include some modest upgrades. We’ve raised $6.5 million in a $10 million campaign, which is going very well and ahead of schedule, so we’ll be able to keep Yaddo at its very best for another century.
The annual Yaddo gala will take place June 22, feature Terry McMillan and will take place at a site on the grounds rarely seen by the public.
You will come up that wonderful driveway, you will still see the mansion, but nobody really gets to see past the mansion. This is going to take you behind West House – which is our mini-mansion - and will take place on the Great Lawn under a tent, which allows you to see where the graveyards and the guest areas are. When we have the event in the mansion we have to cut it off at 200 people. This will allow us to have more people come this year.
There has been an active outreach into the community in recent years.
There are two parts to the Yaddo in the Community Initiative. One is a partnership with Northshire Bookstore where we co-host events featuring leading authors who have a Yaddo connection. (Yaddo will present An Evening with Gail Godwin at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 5 at Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway). It’s a celebration of the author and it’s also where people can meet some of the current artists-in-residence.
There is also a program with the Saratoga Springs High School where we have had some of the junior and senior students choose an archival project associated with Yaddo. The students did a lot of research, were able to access to papers in the Yaddo archive and got to do some one-on-one interviews with Yaddo artists.
In addition to the restoration at the mansion, what else is in store for Yaddo in the future?
There are plans for landscape improvements and interventions which will really help the public areas of the grounds. Right now, we get over 50,000 visits a year and we want to make it a little easier for people to park and spend a whole afternoon picnicking, so you’ll begin to see some work going on in the public areas.
We’ll also be working a little more on balancing ways of having more spaces for readings and concerts during which the community can be invited in without undermining the retreat. So, there’s a lot going on and the next few years will be exciting.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city Republican Committee hosted a campaign kick-off this week at the Pavilion Grand Hotel to introduce six candidates vying for seats in the November election.
The GOP slate includes: mayoral candidate Mark Baker; political newcomers Andrew Blumenberg – vying for a seat as City Court Judge, and Don Braim – who will be running for the position of Public Safety Commissioner; Saratoga County Supervisor candidate John Safford, and incumbent Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco and Saratoga County Supervisor Matt Veitch.
“This is the first step and a big step,” said Baker, who was born in Wisconsin and relocated to Saratoga Springs 34 years ago to become the first president of the Saratoga Springs City Center. During his tenure he worked with nine different city mayors.
Baker spoke about “regain(ing) a civil majority on the Saratoga Springs City Council” alongside his fellow Republican candidates, and spoke in general terms regarding city issues. Asked about the November referendum related to the city’s commission form of government, Baker said he will read the Charter Commission’s report when it is finalized.
“We’re dealing with the successes and the challenges of our successes,” Baker said, in response to a query of the city’s growth in recent years. “You’re going to have growth because people want to live here, and you’re going to have growth that allows people to have lower taxes,” he said. “We have a vibrant community that is alive and we have people that want to visit us, and that helps us grow our sales tax base.”
“Mark Baker – I can’t wait to work with you when you become mayor of Saratoga Springs; We’re going to get a lot of things done,” said longtime Supervisor Matt Veitch.
John Safford, who as a political newcomer in 2015 was defeated in his bid for mayor by Democrat Joanne Yepsen, said he brings a business and public service resume to his candidacy for supervisor, “to represent all of the citizens of Saratoga Springs (and to bring) the highest level of care to the under-served.”
Blumenberg, who since his hiring in 2007 as public defender, has handled more than 5,000 cases at City Court, is running for court judge; Braim, who worked in the city police department for 22 years, is running for Commissioner of Public Safety, and incumbent public Safety Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco is seeking his sixth two-year term in the position. He recalled rising above the “political games played and political enemies punished” when first elected a decade ago, and talked about putting the “public” back in public works.
Four incumbent City Democrats have announced their candidacy: Accounts Commissioner John Franck, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, Saratoga Springs City Court Judge Francine R. Vero, and current Saratoga County Supervisor Peter Martin – who will vie for the seat of Commissioner of Public Safety. Current Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, a Democrat, said he will not seek re-election. Saratoga Springs Democrats are expected to endorse their candidates later this month. Current city mayor Joanne Yepsen has yet to announce whether she will seek re-election.
The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee – which can be viewed on the committee’s website at: http://www.saratogadems.org/platform/tatements in support of affordable housing and homeless services; a focus on public health and gun safety; and the importance of a safe, adequate supply of drinking water.
In November, voters will elect all five City Council positions – the mayor and four commissioners, one City Court Judge, and two Supervisors who will represent the city at the county level. The elected positions are for two-year terms.
A referendum will also be held regarding the city’s current “commission” form of governing. Should voters choose to change the city’s way of governing, that change will not be implemented until at least 2019.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – This weekend’s concert by The Orchestra of St. Luke’s will mark the second of six concerts brought to Saratoga Springs this year born of a newly forged partnership between Caffè Lena and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The collaboration between the two venues, each which has staged more than a half-century of performances, will encompass jointly curated and presented programs at both venues, with the location varying by season.
The Orchestra of St. Lukes, one of Americas foremost chamber orchestras, will make a first-ever appearance in the Capital Region on April 25 in an exclusive performance at Lena’s café.
“I was in New York in January talking with some friends over coffee when they mentioned they had this program of baroque chamber music they were doing,” recalled SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol. “It was written by Bach to be performed at Café Zimmerman - a coffeehouse in Leipzig where all the artists and intellectuals would gather at the time Bach was living there. When I heard it was at a coffeehouse, I thought: Oh my God, that has got to come to Caffè Lena. It’s a perfect collaboration between SPAC and Caffè Lena.”
And while this weekend’s show is sold out, tickets are still available for the third spring program, which will be staged at Caffè Lena May 4 and features Louisville, Kentucky-based folk band Harpeth Rising. Tickets are available at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2910973.
In June, the series shifts to SPAC, where three free Sunday afternoon concerts, one each in June, July, and August will be staged at the new gazebo.
“Very soon we’ll be announcing the summer component to the partnership which will include a monthly Caffè Lena Day at SPAC,” Sobol explained. “It’ll be the whole afternoon, from 12 to 5, and families will be able to come and hang and make music a real part of the afternoon in the park.” The three summer concerts are being curated by the café’s executive director, Sarah Craig.
“When we sat down and started talking about artists, every band Sarah mentioned to me I flipped over. Everything she mentioned I love,” Sobol said.
“I looked for artists that have a huge energy and a rich intensity that can hold up well in an outdoor environment,” said Craig, adding that the schedule of musicians, when solidified, could number as many as three performers on each of the three days. And while the teaming-up of the two Saratoga Springs powerhouses marks the first official collaboration between the venues, there is a long list of artists – from Bob Dylan to Melanie to Don McLean – who have performed at both, as well as a synergy historically fostered by Lena Spencer, who invited musicians appearing on the SPAC stage to come and perform after-hour concerts at her Phila Street café.
With six months under her belt as the new leader at SPAC, Sobol said one goal is creating new ventures while maintaining the venue’s time-honored traditions.
“I was being very conservative until I got the lay of the land. I haven’t touched the big resident companies because they’re so important to the DNA of SPAC, but we’ve been making some enhancements – like this Caffè Lena partnership, and within the next couple of weeks we’re going to be announcing all sorts of partnerships with some of our other cultural family members,” Sobol said. “There are so many organizations here, my feeling is the more we all work together the more we raise Saratoga up.“
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Several plans are currently being considered to address the city’s push to help local workers retain city residences. Workforce housing specifically is a gap Mayor Joanne Yepsen has identified as a primary need to be filled.
Site plans are anticipated to be in place by early-to-mid May for the development of more than 100 workforce housing units on a near five-acre parcel of land on South Broadway, according to a report by the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force, which held its monthly meeting at City Hall this week.
The proposal calls for the development of 120 one and two-bedroom units with a rent structure of 60 to 100 percent AMI - a $50,400 to $84,000 range - while 14 units would be offered at a “fair-market rent” to military veterans. AMI, or the Area Median Income for a family of four in Saratoga County is about $84,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Saratoga Diner, which closed in 2012 and occupies the land, will be razed. The owner of the property – who plans to lease the land – has indicated that the horse atop the diner will be salvaged and likely remain with his family.
An Orlando, Florida based developer involved in the project has created local partnerships to help facilitate the project. “I think it’s going to be a stunning design,” Mayor Yepsen said. The South Broadway scheme will include a retail business component.
Housing Units Slated for Stonequist, Jefferson Terrace
A Request for Proposal, or RFP, is expected to be issued shortly regarding two other projects that could site 110 additional “affordable” units. Eighty of those units are expected to be developed adjacent to the Stonequist apartments, projected at 40 to 100 percent of AMI, with another 30 units at the former site of the William H. Ford Community Center, at Jefferson Terrace. Both are under the ownership of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. The latter site will feature eight housing units reserved for military veterans, eight units for victims of domestic violence, and are based on 30 percent of income, in which vouchers may be used.
West Side Plan Calls for 10 New Buildings
Two potential west side projects seek to collectively site 10 new buildings, a five-story hotel, more than 400 residential units and nearly 30,000 square feet of retail space adjacent to the Saratoga Springs train station. Residences would include 114 units dedicated for senior housing, 66 units for senior assisted care, and 160 apartment units which seemingly would fall under the “workforce” or “affordable” housing category. Seventy-two residential for-sale condominiums, a retail business component, and a new five-story hotel and spa would also be part of the project.
City-Wide Affordable Housing Ordinance Vote Slated for May
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen remains hopeful the City Council will vote in May on an Inclusionary Zoning ordinance that would have all new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city include as much as 20 percent of those units deemed affordable to people with lower to moderate incomes.
The city Affordable Housing Task Force has advocated for the SPA Housing Zoning plan, and would integrate persons of all income levels across the city ,said Task Force Chairwoman Cheryl Hage-Perez.The proposal has met disapproval, however, from some local groups who indicate they would rather see “site-specific” programs – such as the South Broadway plan. Such a plan sites those seeking affordable housing in one place. Some builders have also expressed concern that while the ordinance would allow them a 20 percent density bonus in construction to make the project financially viable, city zoning restrictions would hamper any such extended development, and are requesting zoning regulations also be increased by 20 percent to aid structural development. A City Hall workshop will be scheduled regarding the ordinance, although a date has yet to be set.
Code Blue Permanent Shelter Moves Closer to Nov. 1 Opening
Plans for a permanent Code Blue emergency homeless shelter, which would operate during cold-extreme weather months, cleared its first hurdle at the city Land Use boards this week when the Zoning Board of Appeals approved that the project move forward.
Plans call for the 6,400 square-foot site to be built as an addition to existing Shelters of Saratoga properties on Walworth Street. Officials said this week they are targeting a Nov. 1 opening for the 61-bed facility. Should that timeline not be met, the possibility exists Code Blue may continue to operate at the Soul Saving Station on Henry Street where it is currently located. Last February, local business owner Ed Mitzen and his wife Lisa announced they will pay for the costs for the new shelter to be built. The plan was slated to go in front of the city Planning Board on Thursday, April 13.
The City Council will hold a pre-agenda meeting 9:30 a.m. Monday April 17, and a full council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 18 at City Hall.
The Design Review Commission will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19 at City Hall.