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SARATOGA SPRINGS – Most people might balk at the idea of a weekly commute from Ballston Spa to New York City and back, but for one area student and her family, it could not be more exciting.
Alexandra Bretz-Aguirre, a freshman student at the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, is currently enrolled in New York University’s (NYU) prestigious “Future Filmmakers” workshop, where she currently spends her Saturdays learning the ways of cinema from the university’s faculty of film industry luminaries. Hitting the road on Friday, Bretz-Aguirre and her mother, Catherine Bretz, stay the night in the city before her lessons, which run from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Following that, they head back home straight away, getting in late on Saturday night.
It can be an exhausting process, but it is one that Bretz-Aguirre is happy to undertake if it allows her to follow her dreams.
“I like, leave Friday, come back Saturday night,” Bretz-Aguirre said. “But we’re always excited. It’s worth it.”
Bretz-Aguirre’s dream to attend NYU began when she was 10-years-old, visiting the city with her mother. After noting the university’s purple flags, she and her mother went to the Tisch School for the Arts and were given a tour. Since then, she was driven to one day attend the school. Frequently, she would browse the university’s online program listings, passing the time and looking for anything that sparked her interest. That spark came when she found the Future Filmmakers program. She was intrigued right away.
Bretz-Aguirre’s love for film grew in tandem with a love for photography, both of which were passed down from her father, Oscar Aguirre. She and her family had also always been film buffs, with a particularly affection for the work of director Hal Ashby. She has been practicing her photography since she was 13. Considering this love of film and her desire to attend NYU, the Future Filmmakers program looked like a huge opportunity for her.
According to Bretz-Aguirre, the process for applying to the program involved a lot of essay writing. Some of the prompts included “How do you think filmmaking is encouraged in your world,” and other more general ones that were meant to give them a sense of the applicant as a person. There was also an interview portion that came later on in the process, wherein the interviewers discussed various images and their meanings. Two days later, Bretz-Aguirre saw an email in her inbox with the best news she could have hoped for.
“I was screaming,” she said. “I was doing my homework, and I was checking my email, and I saw [the word] ‘accepted.’”
Bretz-Aguirre’s parents noted with particular pride how competitive the admission process had seemed. Indeed, she is one of only 14 high school students from the tri-state area accepted into the program, and within that group, she is one out of only two freshmen.
In the program, Bretz-Aguirre is learning from some of the brightest talents in the film world. These include the likes of Kelly Edwards, Head of Talent Development at HBO, and Grammy-winning music video director Melina Matsoukas. In one standout lesson, her class was instructed by film editor and frequent Spike Lee collaborator Samuel D. Pollard, who showed the class “Mo’ Better Blues” without sound to show them how the images on their own tell the story. Bretz-Aguirre found this to be particularly illuminating.
Lessons began on the first weekend of February. All of the film projects that Bretz-Aguirre and her classmates work on must be silent, so that they can focus on conveying meaning purely through images. The lessons and projects also stress the collaboration at the heart of filmmaking. Her class has worked together with other NYU workshop classes, including the “Future Dramatic Writers” and “Future Dancers and Dancemakers.” She was immediately fascinated with the tasks given to her on their first project, which involved finding actors and scouting for locations.
“It was so interesting,” she said.
Moving forward from the 12-week workshop, Bretz-Aguirre plans on continuing to explore filmmaking. She hopes to make a film all on her own someday soon, and she is hoping to establish a film club at the Waldorf School. And while she stressed that this was not necessarily the only end-goal for her, she said that she could see herself pursuing a career in the film business.
“I love it,” her mother Catherine Bretz said. “I love to see her involved with the diversity of the program and the craft.”
“We’re amazed at her dedication and focus,” her father Oscar Aguirre said. “It was her initiative that drove this.”
The southern gateway into the city may appear radically different in the near future if all goes according to plan.
A proposal currently under consideration calls for the demolition of the Saratoga Diner - closed in 2012 - and the development of more than 100 workforce housing units in its place on a five-acre parcel of land on South Broadway. Mayor Joanne Yepsen this week met with a Florida developer who anticipates soon submitting an application for the proposed plan. The owner of the property, who was not publicly named, first engaged Yepsen in discussions about potential leasing uses for the land three or four years ago, according to the mayor.
“The owner said, ‘I don’t want to sell, I want to lease. What does the city need?’ I said workforce housing,” Yepsen said.
The lease proposal calls for the development of 120 affordable workforce housing units in a mixed-use configuration consisting of residential apartments and retail space. More than 100 of the rental units would be offered to those earning in between 60 and 100 percent of the 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. Parties involved in the potential transaction anticipate an official deal being in place by late April, or early May.
Originally known as the Spa City Diner, sections of its more recent incarnation as The Saratoga Diner date back to the late 1940s. It was a once-popular stopover spot for visiting performers and political dignitaries such as Mario Cuomo, Liza Minelli, Count Basie – who was particular to the beef stew, according to published reports, and singer Tom Jones – a fan of the diner’s spaghetti and meatballs. The Spa City Diner in 2001 was re-named the Saratoga Diner. It closed for good in 2012.
In an attempt to meet affordable housing needs in Saratoga Springs, the city also is pursuing potential plans for a large development off West Avenue, adjacent to the Saratoga Train station, as well as a project behind the Stonequist Apartments, where a mixed-income, mixed-use development facing Circular Street could feature as many as 60 to 100 housing units.
Public Hearing on Spa Housing Zoning Ordinance Draws Large Crowd
A public hearing slated to take 10 minutes regarding a plan to site a percentage of “affordable” housing in all new developments across the city, consumed the better part of an hour Tuesday night. The SPA Housing Zoning plan – based on a 2006 ordinance that was never enacted – calls for all new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city to include 10 to 20 percent of the units deemed affordable to people with lower to moderate incomes.
The Inclusionary Zoning, or IZ, would target potential renters and homeowners alike. Eleven members of the public as well as those representing area organizations addressed the council during Tuesday’s public hearing. Of those, three said they were in favor of some kind of affordable housing measures, but not the IZ as it currently stands, and six people said they were in favor of the IZ, at least as a starting point to address the city’s housing needs.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen had initially hoped the City Council may be able to vote on the measure as soon as May, but following a discussion that raised the concerns of local developers who would build the projects and of the banks that would finance them, members of the City Council expressed that it might be in everyone’s interests to hold one or two special workshops specifically on the topic in the near future, although no date for such a gathering was set.
New Tap Room Coming to Saratoga Springs in June
The City Council unanimously approved an Economic Development Revolving Loan Application for R.S. Taylor & Sons Brewery Tap Room. Richard Taylor, who operates a tap room on his 50-acre farm in Washington County, is looking to open a 1,600 square-foot tap room in the Congress Street plaza in June. The type of loan, initially federally funded, is for $75,000, carries a 3 percent interest rate, and calls for assurances that one position of employment is created for every $25,000 borrowed.
Collamer Lot/ East Side EMS Land Deal: “It’s Time To Move On”
Nearly four years to the date since Chris Mathiesen first began working on a pair of land transactions that would have the city sell a parking lot adjacent to Broadway’s Collamer Building and subsequently purchase a Union Avenue parcel to build an East Side Fire/EMS station was publicly declared a dead deal by the public safety commissioner on Tuesday. “It’s time to move on,” said Mathiesen, invoking a sentiment not unlike an emotionally abandoned lover in a relationship gone-wrong. The arrangement had been mired in a lawsuit – in which the city reportedly spent at least $50,000 in legal fees – an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office, and a long period of inactivity. It is believed some type of City Council or legal action may now be necessary to officially nullify the potential deal.
The Zoning Boards of Appeals will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Monday, April 10 at City Hall.
The Planning Board will hold a workshop 5 p.m. Monday, April 10 and a full meeting 7 p.m. Thursday, April 13 at City Hall.
The city’s Affordable Housing Task Force will hold a meeting 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 11 at City Hall.
Library Election and Budget Vote on April 13
On April 13, citizens of the Saratoga Springs School District will elect a library trustee and vote on the 2017-2018 library budget. The election will be held in the Library’s H. Dutcher Community Room from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saratoga Springs School District residents who are registered voters are eligible to vote. A public hearing concerning the budget and an opportunity to meet the trustee candidates will be held 7 p.m. on Monday, April 10 in the H. Dutcher Community Room.Library Trustees are asking the voters to approve a tax levy of $5,103,600 for FY 2017-2018, which is a 0.5 percent increase from the amount approved for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The library serves the residents of the Saratoga Springs Enlarged City School District. The proposed budget can be found by visiting the library’s website at: www.sspl.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The mysterious man you may have noticed creeping across the fringes of city neighborhood lawns in the pre-dawn hours last weekend has been identified.
“I cooked up an idea that I thought would be a little bit of fun,” admits Todd Shimkus, who in his weekday role serves as president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “It actually turned into a lot of fun.”
Shimkus and city resident Susan Halstead have engaged in a traditional April Fool’s Day duel that dates to Halstead’s time as chamber chairperson. At that time, Halstead contacted board members about a special Executive Session being called to inform them that Shimkus was embezzling funds. “He was on a golf course in Florida and his phone just started blowing up,” Halstead laughed.
“April Fool’s Day is her favorite day of the year and she is ruthless,” said Shimkus, who hatched his plan several weeks ago, by ordering political-style lawn signs to announce Halstead was running for mayor. “I thought adding “A Vision for The Future,” was pretty funny,” Shimkus said, referring to the word-play that points to Halstead’s ownership of a local vision center.
“I identified friends of hers in the city and at five o’clock in the morning I got up, drove around and put signs in their yards. I didn’t tell anybody what I did and then (on Facebook) pretended to be in Virginia for the day.”
Shimkus eventually fessed up, a day later. “She texted me and had a sneaking suspicion that it was me.” In November, city voters will head to the polls to elect a mayor for the next two years. Halstead was asked if she, after all, was considering tossing her hat in to the political ring. “De-fin-ite-ly NOT,” she said with a laugh. “It was a Todd Shimkus April Fool’s Day prank. And he paid me back big-time.”
Who: Maureen Sager.
Where: Spring Street Gallery.
Q. What’s your day like?
A. I wear many hats. I’m executive director of Spring Street Gallery and right now we’re developing a show on birds that will open on April 29.
Q. What’s another hat you wear?
A. Project director at the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy. People tell me about projects they’re working on and we look for ways we think the creative industries can be developed in this region. And we’re finding lots of ways to bring business and arts organizations and parks organizations and others together, and to roll it into a vibrant, economically thriving way to address the creative industries and the arts.
Q. How big is the region you oversee as project director?
A. It’s eight counties, as far a south as Columbia and Greene and north to Washington and Warren counties.
Q. Do you have a nickname?
A. Moe. Everyone calls me Moe.
Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A. A fashion designer. I had two aunts that went to Fashion institute of Technology and boy, that captured my imagination as I was growing up in New Jersey. I thought that was a very glamorous career.
Q. What was your first concert?
A. The Jacksons at Nassau Coliseum. I was like 10 years old. My mom wanted to do something exciting for us, so she took us to a Jacksons concert. It was on Easter Sunday. What was really embarrassing: we were in our Easter outfits. It was so bad. I never felt like a bigger dork in my entire life.
Q. What’s your favorite brush with fame?
A. I used to be in the entertainment industry and so many of my stories about famous people are not good. But, someone who delighted me goes back to my first job in New York, when I worked for management company for Kiss, the rock band. I saw them regularly at the time, but much, much later - about 13 years later, while I was working for a big record company, I ran into Paul and Gene in the elevator. I was thinking: should I say hi? Ah, they’re never going to remember a girl who worked for them that long ago, but I finally said, ‘Paul and Gene you probably won’t remember me…’ I thought they were going to blow me off, but instead, Gene says: ‘Paul! Look! It’s her!” Ha, they were so sweet about it. They didn’t remember me, of course, but they made good fun out of it, and I thought that’s the kind of famous person that I really appreciate. They were so generous in that moment, to acknowledge me and to give something back, because that’s something in that industry that’s so rarely done.
Q. When did you move to Saratoga?
A. Twelve years ago.
Q. How has the city changed in that time?
A. It’s changed a lot. My first couple of years here, I felt that I knew a small subset of people who I’d run into in town. I thought that was just a wonderful way to bring up my kids and raise a family. Now, I’ll sometimes go to an event in Saratoga and I won’t know anyone. And that’s also very exciting in a way, to have groups of people with such varied interests. I think Saratoga benefits from all these varied interests we have.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The play-offs for the Saratoga Regional YMCA’s youth basketball league were held recently, marking the end of the league’s current season before the new summer league commences in June. In the Saratoga Rotary Jr. Division, the D’Andrea’s Pizza and BHHS Blake Realtors teams faced off, with D’Andrea’s coming out on top, 42-32. In the Saratoga/Wilton Elks Lodge Sr. Division, the Toyota of Clifton Park and Mexican Connection teams competed in the finals, with the Toyota of Clifton Park team taking the win, 56-46.
Along with the finals, the youth league also gave out the James Cudney Award, which goes to the player who most exemplifies the YMCA’s core values. This year, the award went to Saratoga Springs High School junior Elias Wohl.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Amateur boxers came together in Saratoga Springs this past weekend to fight for a good cause.
On March 25, the Saratoga Springs City Center played host to a night of amateur boxing to honor and raise money for celebrated Capitol Region boxing promoter, Bob Miller. Miller, a 60-year industry veteran and founder of the Uncle Sam Boxing Club in Troy, was in a serious car accident on Oct. 15 of last year that left him paralyzed. Shortly after, the Miller family established the Bob Miller Fund, a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising money to help cover Miller’s expenses, including “his medical care, the equipment (e.g., wheelchair, braces) he will need, and lodging for Linda, our father's wife, and the immediate family so that we can continue to support him during his long rehabilitation away from home,” according to the page’s description.
Doors opened for the event at 6:30 p.m., with the first bout commencing at 7:30 p.m. A total of 13 bouts took place over the course of the show, which drew around 850 attendees. According to city center executive director Ryan McMahon, when factoring in volunteers and trainers, the total attendance number for the night was closer to 1,000.
“Very strong,” McMahon said about the night’s attendance figures.
Some of the bouts on the card included Schuylerville-native Joey Barcia against Francis Hogan of Boston, Alison Watson of Vermont against Jamere Shelby of Albany, Malachi Davis of Albany against Richard Hogan of Boston, and the Uncle Sam Boxing Club’s own Tugar VanDommelen against Gianni Gragnano. In addition to the boxing, other fundraising activities at the event included a raffle and a silent auction.
At time of writing, event organizer Dave Wojcicki estimates that the event raised around $15,000 for the Bob Miller Fund. When asked if the city center would possibly work with Bob Miller and company in the future, McMahon was optimistic.
“We would love to,” McMahon said. “Bob is a long standing client and fixture in Saratoga Springs boxing.”
Anyone interested in donating to the Bob Miller Fund can find the campaign’s page at www.gofundme.com/bob-miller-fund-2unsxys.
All photos in this story are by PhotoAndGraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – City residents and visitors alike will soon have a centrally located resource to bring their ideas to foster a better understanding of cultural differences, as well as express concerns about potential human rights violations.
“Luckily, we’re a very safe city, but I’ve had enough proof and input from our citizens that we’re not immune to problems,” said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who after appointing five people to a human rights-focused planning committee is “moving forward to the next level” and coordinating a seven-person Human Rights Task Force.
“It’s hate crimes I’m most worried about: prejudice, not accepting one another as equals - basic human rights,” Yepsen said. “We’re going to be proactive but also in a reactive mode, too, if anything were to occur like the swastikas.”
Last November, spray-painted swastikas surfaced on city streets. Police conducted a hate speech investigation after a social media site that referenced neo-Nazis mentioned Saratoga Springs High School, and a senior class student of Jewish descent came upon anti-Semitic acts.
“The idea of this human rights group came up a year ago. This is a need. It wasn’t because of the Trump election,” Yepsen told a group of reporters gathered in the mayor’s office, before the question could be asked. “It was more a case of: we need to be a better city. And being a better city means we take care of our citizens. I would like to have a resource to help ensure we can maintain our status as a community that fosters mutual respect and understanding among racial, religious and nationality groups in the city.”
The Schenectady County Human Rights Commission served as an informational resource, said Yepsen, who also consulted with state legislators. The Schenectady Commission, which was established in 1965, is a policy-making body composed of 15 commissioners appointed by the County Legislature. The proposed seven-member Saratoga Springs task force will differ in regards to the amount of power it may wield.
“The Commission in Schenectady County can take calls and work on cases. We’re not going to be qualified to do that, but we do have a lot of organizations in town that are, and we can suggest a list of referrals – like EOC, like the Racecourse Chaplaincy, like the Legal Aid Society,” Yepsen said.
“We depend greatly on people from other cultures to work here. Let’s face it, there are 2,500 different people working for the racing industry and many of them are Latinos. I think there are seven different dialects spoken on the backstretch alone and more and more of these families are settling in our city as community members. We also have a lot of restaurant workers who come here and try to make a go of it, so we’re trying to respond to their needs.”
The city’s Human rights Taskforce will focus mostly on education, programming and collaboration. The mayor cited the city’s annual series of public events and programs celebrating the work of Martin Luther King Jr. as a model of what can be done year-round related to human rights to foster a better understanding of cultural differences.
Anyone interested in joining the Human Rights Task Force can apply via the City of Saratoga Springs Board Application form on the city’s website. Deadline for applications is April 12 and Mayor Yepsen said she hopes to appoint members to the seven-person group at the April 18 City Council Meeting.
Charter Review Commission Releases Charter Draft
The Charter Review Commission has released a draft of a proposed new Charter for Saratoga Springs city government. The 24-page document may be viewed at: https://saratogacharter.com/. A referendum will be held in November.
The City Council will hold a pre-agenda meeting 9:30 a.m. Monday, April 3, and a full meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at City Hall.
The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Technical Review Advisory Committee (TRAC) will hold a meeting 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at Saratoga Music Hall.
The Design Review Commission will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 4 at City Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Erica Morocco sat at the head of the table, her series of paintings sprawled across the tabletop. One featured a jump-roping owl. Another depicted a pink-glazed doughnut that looked good enough to eat. In the third, a cat bowed a violin and a cow leapt over the moon.
“Be what you are and do what you like to do,” she says with encouragement. “If you like to paint, then paint. If you like music, make music.”
Morocco, who was diagnosed with Williams syndrome, lives by a simple motto. “Everybody is born differently,” she says. “You can’t change it. My feelings are that people should be who they are.”
Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. The developmental disorder affects an estimated 1 in 7,500 to 10,000 people, according to The National Library of Medicine - a center of information innovation founded in 1836, and the world’s largest biomedical library.
Morocco grew up in the town of Malta, and in 2009 moved into one of Saratoga Bridges’ community-based homes in Saratoga Springs.
Saratoga Bridges is responsible for the 24/7 care of over 830 individuals and houses 132 people in its 19 community based homes. The organization, which employs nearly 600 people, is marking this pause in time to take note of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and to bring intellectual and developmental disabilities to the forefront. The group has provided services and programs to people with developmental disabilities and their families for more than 60 years by promoting their abilities and achievements in every aspect of community life.
“I like living on my house because we go out in the community and I have more opportunities to do different activities,” says Morocco. who takes art classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursdays are reserved for studies on the art of the collage, and on Fridays Morocco and the group of seven who share the home go out dancing and to sing karaoke. There are weekly trips to the grocery shop, daily house chores and free time spent volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Sports is also a passion.
“I play softball, do the long jump, the 50-meter run. I like to do all of it,“ says the 38-year-old, a pair of medals clinging to her neck chain showcase her abilities in snowshoeing and track and field.
Her art pieces have received awards in juried shows, and she uses the earnings of the pieces she sells to enable her to go traveling.
“I sell my art work, saved my money and went on a tour. I’ve been to Florida, Chicago, and Boston. I visited museums and saw other artists’ work. I like traveling. I like vacations,” she says. “When I sell a piece of artwork, I feel happy inside because I worked had on it to get it to be good.”
It is a long time removed from her younger days in school, when she was bullied and caused her to be upset.
“When I was in school, when I was young, I got picked on,” she says. “You get older and you move on.”
Her advice to the world when meeting people with disabilities?
“Just treat people they way that you would like to be treated,” she says.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is kicking off its 40th Anniversary celebration by hosting the presentation “Origins of Preservation: Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs 1962-1986” 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.
Join Matthew Veitch, Saratoga Springs County Supervisor and Treasurer of the Foundation, as he explores the often controversial Urban Renewal Program and the origins of preservation in Saratoga Springs. This presentation will feature rarely scene photographs from the 1960s, '70s, and '80s of the areas impacted by the Urban Renewal Program.
Urban Renewal provided federal funding for cities to cover costs of acquiring slum areas to demolish dilapidated buildings, consolidate the vacant lots, and then sell those lots to developers to create new “modern” residential and commercial buildings. When the Urban Renewal Program was approved in 1961 the city was facing an economic decline following the changes in tourism, the loss of the grand hotels, and gambling being illegal resulting in disinvestment in the existing building stock. In 1962, the Urban Renewal Agency was formed to eliminate slums and blight, expand and strengthen the central business district, establish a central residential area, expand the tax base, provide off-street parking, and improve infrastructure and traffic patterns.
Lasting from 1962 through 1986, the Urban Renewal Program resulted in the city’s largest urban change in its history. It cleared the way for large development projects, such as the City Center and the Public Library which continue to provide tremendous benefit to the community. It also resulted in affordable housing projects and low-income housing as well as parking areas on Woodlawn Avenue and High Rock Avenue. While the demolition of many historic buildings was unfortunate, it did result in an increased awareness about the need to preserve our community’s architecture. Additionally, many feel the program ruined the very fabric of the community by displacing a large African-American community from the west side of Broadway. “Today we are still affected by the Urban Renewal decisions that were made, some of which continue to benefit the city today while others still remain to be completed and the benefits have yet to be realized,” said Samantha Bosshart, the Foundation’s Executive Director.
City Explains Immigration Enforcement Policy
After receiving numerous inquiries from local residents about how the city would handle issues related to illegal immigration and the level of its cooperation with federal officials, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen asked Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch to formally address the issue.
“Given the number of people who come to our city, especially in the summertime, and some of whom may have immigration statuses that are questionable, I thought I would talk to our police chief,” Mathiesen explained to the City Council this week. “We do want these people to feel as if they have the public safety department, the police department, fire/EMS department as a resource, and should not feel as if they may have immigration complications should they require those services.”
The responding two-page statement from Chief Veitch, which Mathiesen called “a reasonable and caring approach” and was read to the council Tuesday night, assures that the police department serves the entire community and recognizes the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status. However, it does not mean that members of the police department will refuse to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E.
Veitch said with regards to the reporting of a crime or cooperation with an investigation, the department does not require or encourage its officers to investigate the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes, and that Immigration enforcement is not a priority of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “However, should a federal law enforcement agency request assistance from the Saratoga Springs Police, we will provide assistance consistent with our policies and procedures, as we would for any other law enforcement organization needing assistance within city limits. “
Criminal offenders in custody, those who may be wanted by another law agency, or individuals verified to have a valid warrant from any federal agency, including I.C.E. will be detained by local officers in accordance with the law. “We will not, however, detain any individual solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws. Nor will S.S.P.D. detain any individual that would otherwise be eligible for release, simply for the purpose of notifying federal authorities or to check immigration status.”
Council Revisits Affordable Housing Issues, Potential Solutions
A proposal for “inclusionary zoning,” first floated a decade ago but never brought to a vote by the City Council, on Tuesday night received the first of what is anticipated to be two public hearings.
The SPA Housing Zoning ordinance would require new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city to include some units deemed affordable to residents with moderate incomes.
“This is a work-in-progress,” city Mayor Joanne Yepsen said during Tuesday’s 60-minute hearing, “but it’s essential that we find a way to create more variety of price-points for housing.” The purpose of the hearing is to get public feedback regarding the proposal, which has not been finalized, Yepsen added.
There are various resident income target-points the city may choose to pursue – from “low” to “moderate” to “middle” income households; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the area median income for a family of four in Saratoga County at $82,000. As such, affordable units put up for sale that are made available to “moderate” and “middle” income households indicate thresholds respectively set at less than 80 percent, and at 100 percent, of that $82,000 median income.
The affordable-housing ordinance proposal applies to both rental and owner-occupied housing. Year-round city residents would have first opportunity to apply for the affordable units.
The ordinance would apply to new projects consisting of 10 or more residential units as well as to existing structures undergoing substantial renovation or conversion from nonresidential to residential use.
The ordinance stipulates that 10 to 20 percent of all new or newly converted units be set aside to meet the “affordable” criteria. To compensate developers, the program would allow them to increase the density of housing projects by up to 20 percent
More than 400 municipalities across the country have adopted inclusionary zoning programs, Commissioner Mathiesen said, adding that any ordinance eventually adopted would only be one part of an overall strategy to meet housing needs. The City Council will continue its discussion of the topic at its next meeting, on April 4.
Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee Sets Goals for 2017
City Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced a new mission statement and work plan regarding the Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee. Among the 2017 goals of the group is to: raise awareness regarding services available to senior citizens; address and advocate for senior concerns and support services, and to serve as a liaison between seniors, the mayor, and members of the City Council. The committee is comprised of eight individual members and representatives of up to seven area organizations.
In 2017, the Committee will advocate for special mobility needs of seniors, including a drive-up mailbox in the downtown area and additional handicap parking. Members of the Senior Advisory Committee are appointed by the mayor.
Public Safety Commissioner Mathiesen will not seek a Fourth Term
City elections will be held in November when all five council seats and two supervisor positions will be up for vote. Last week, Peter Martin – one of two Saratoga Springs Supervisors representing the city at the county level - announced that he will seek to run as a Democrat for Commissioner of Public Safety. Current DPS Commissioner Chris Mathiesen will not seek a fourth term. Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee chairman Charles Brown said party members will vote on endorsements in May and that he was not currently aware of any other potential candidate seeking the Public Safety Commissioner seat on the Democratic line.
County Supervisor Matthew Veitch will present a program, titled “Origins of Preservation Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs: 1962-1986,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.
The presentation about the often-controversial Urban Renewal Program will feature rare images from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Tickets are $8 general admission, $5 Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation members and can be purchased by calling 518-587-5030.
City Gifted “Grande Olde Saratoga” Painting
“Grand Olde Saratoga,” an oil painting depicting a delivery by a horse-pulled Saratoga Vichy water company cart to the prestigious Grand Union Hotel, was gifted to the city by Sharon Miller. The 24-by-30-inch painting is valued at approximately $400 and was hung in the mayor’s office this week, following the acceptance of the gift by the City Council.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Monday, March 27 at City Hall. Taking place among other items will be a consideration for coordinated SEQRA Review regarding the proposed Station Park mixed-use development on the city’s west side, adjacent to the railroad station.
The Charter Review Committee will hold a public forum 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The Commission is recommending that a City Manager-Council form of government replace the current Commission form of governing. The referendum will be up for vote in November.