Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — A new mayor and a new public safety commissioner will be joined by three returning commissioners when the five-member City Council convenes in 2024. 

“I pledge to work with everyone to advance the interests of our beautiful city,” said John Safford, shortly after declaring victory in the city mayoral race on Election Night.   

Safford, the Republican challenger, secured approximately 45% of the vote to emerge victorious over incumbent Mayor Ron Kim (D, WF) – who secured 38%, and Chris Mathiesen (One Saratoga) – who received 17%, according to the unofficial results reported by the Saratoga County Board of Elections. Safford will be the city’s first Republican mayor since Scott Johnson’s third term concluded in December 2013. 

Most of the 8,443 voters counted cast their ballots Tuesday beneath a heavy November sky that saw shafts of light trying to punch holes in a gun-metal gray drape of clouds, wind-blown leaves swirling like mad straphangers at rush-hour, and an indecisive climate unsure whether to leap into winter, or quietly fall back. 

In the city of Saratoga Springs, there are just over 20,000 voters actively registered, with registered Democrats accounting for approximately 40% of voters, registered Republicans about 28%, and Blanks –those registered to vote but purposely unaffiliated with any party, counting for about 26.5%. The remaining 5.5% balance of voters are comprised of those registered with either the Conservative Party, Working Families Party, or a variety of independent lines. 

In actual numbers, Safford collected 580 more votes than Kim, as the results currently stand. Prior to the election, some Democrats expressed concern that Mathiesen – who previously sat at the council table as a three-term Democrat Public Safety Commissioner – may secure some votes that otherwise would have gone to Kim. Mathiesen garnered a total of 1,420 votes in his mayoral bid. 

Safford previously worked for nearly 20 years as a professional managing agent to multiple Homeowners Associations and Condo boards and ran on a platform to “bring back civility to City Hall,” and “address homelessness with solutions that actually work.” 

In the contested race for Commissioner of Public Safety, Tim Coll - a registered Democrat running on the Republican and One Saratoga line, secured 49.2% of the vote, besting independent line candidate Kristen Dart (28.9%) and incumbent Democrat Commissioner Jim Montagnino (21.8%) for the seat. 

Coll is a retired former Special Agent of the FBI with 30 years of law enforcement experience.

The new mayor and new public safety commissioner will start their two-year terms in January. The balance of the five-person council will be comprised of three returning sitting commissioners, all Democrats, and each of whom received more than 5,000 votes running unopposed this election year. They are: Jason Golub (Public Works), Dillon Moran (Accounts), and Minita Sanghvi (Finance).

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city Land Use Boards will hold a joint meeting Nov. 15 regarding a Special Use Permit and Architectural Review of a proposal to site the micro-production of alcohol and a new eating and drinking establishment on a 10-acre parcel on South Broadway. 

The proposal for “Tree House Saratoga Springs” comes via the Tree House Brewing Company - founded in 2011 and currently operating six facilities – five in Massachusetts and a farm in Connecticut. According to the company, it is “the largest direct-to-consumer on-premises brewer in the country,” and says this proposed project will be their only expansion in New York. 

The land where Tree House would be located - 3376 Route 9/ South Broadway - is currently vacant and from 1945 to 2013 operated as Murphy’s Driving Range and Mini-Golf. Today it is a mostly flat, open field with its immediate Route 9 facing neighbors being Saratoga Honda to the north, and Homewood Suites to the south. 

Current owners MCJack LLC, have contracted to sell the property to Treehouse Brewing Company (THBC NY, LLC,) of Charlton, Massachusetts. 

The project space is approximately 10 acres, and would encompass 4 structures, the largest being approximately 200 feet – by – 210-feet and rising to a height of about 30 feet.  Plans call for a 22,680-square foot brewery and taproom building.

The outdoor areas would include three pavilions, picnic tables, small gathering areas and walking paths. 

The project also calls for a 390-car parking lot, and a “beer to go” area for the pickup of online orders. 

The company anticipates its siting would add more than 60 jobs of varying skill sets - production, restaurant and hospitality staff among them – and estimates its economic impact to the region as $30 to $40 million based on siting a Saratoga Springs location, according to documents filed with the city. 

A joint Planning Board-Design Review Board discussion is slated to take place at 6 p.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at City Hall. A public hearing is anticipated to take place on or around Nov. 30. 

Thursday, 02 November 2023 15:44

Election Day Primer

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SARATOGA SPRINGS —All five City Council seats – one mayor and four commissioners - as well as both city Supervision positions are up for vote to new, two-year terms that will take effect in January. 

City Council

Three of the five council positions are uncontested, and each of the currently sitting commissioners - Jason Golub (Public Safety), Dillon Moran (Accounts), and Minita Sanghvi (Finance) - are expected to return. All three are Democrats. 

The contested seats are for city Mayor, and for Commissioner of Public Safety.

Incumbent Mayor Ron Kim and incumbent Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino are both seeking re-election. Each is facing a contested three-person race. Both incumbents are Democrats, but unlike the political polarization that prevails in many elections across the U.S., party lines and political divisions in the Spa City are somewhat blurred.

Mayor

Ron Kim – running on the Democratic line, is facing a challenge for the mayoral seat from Republican candidate John Safford, and One Saratoga independent party candidate Chris Mathiesen. Mathiesen previously sat the council table as city Public Safety Commissioner, from 2012 to 2017. 

Public Safety Commissioner

Jim Montagnino – running on the Democratic line, faces a challenge for Public Safety Commissioner from Timothy Coll – who is running on the Republican, and One Saratoga line, and Kristen Dart – who is running on the independent Community First line. 

A Parting of Party Lines

In the city of Saratoga Springs, there are just over 20,000 voters actively registered. 

Registered Democrats account for approximately 40% of voters, registered Republicans about 28%, and Blanks – that is, those registered to vote but purposely unaffiliated with any party, count for about 26.5%. The remaining 5.5% balance of voters are comprised of those registered with either the Conservative Party, Working Families Party, or a variety of independent lines. Overall, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in 21 of 25 city voting districts, according to the state Board of Elections’ latest available enrollment figures. 

Despite that sitting Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino is a Democrat, city Mayor Ron Kim and three other incumbent Democrat council members have expressed their backing of independent Kristen Dart for the seat. 

Tim Coll, who is a registered Democrat, has been endorsed by the city Republican committee and is running on the Republican line as a candidate of choice for Public Safety Commissioner. 

And this week, on a rain-soaked Monday afternoon in front of City Hall, Democrat ballot candidate Montagnino held a press conference to announce he would be crossing party lines to endorse Republican Party candidate John Safford for Mayor in the election. When asked about his support for Safford, Montagnino denied that his endorsement was of any retaliatory nature against Mayor Kim’s endorsing of Kirsten Dart, instead citing “discord and chaos” at recent City Council meetings as a motivator. 

“This IS an unusual endorsement,” Safford said, acknowledging the crossing of party lines during Monday’s 20-minute presser, “but I’m grateful for it.”

This Year’s Contested City Seats - The Last Time Around 

In 2021, nearly 9,000 city votes were counted in the mayoral race. Democrat Ron Kim was elected after securing 4,319 votes to the 3,943 cast for Republican candidate Heidi West and 632 voted for other party challengers. 

Democrat Jim Montagnino was elected Public Safety Commissioner after besting Republican candidate Tracey LaBelle 4,783 to 3,859, with an additional 95 votes cast for a third-party challenger.

In the race for the two Supervisor seats, Democrat Tara Gaston (4,460) and Republican Matthew Veitch (4,334 votes) were elected. Democrat Shaun Wiggins received 3,828 votes, and Republican John Safford – this year’s mayoral challenger – received 3,775 votes.

This year in Saratoga Springs, voters have a choice of three candidates from which to select two supervisors to represent the city at the county level. 

They are: Gordon Boyd (D, WF); Michele Madigan (D, One Saratoga), and incumbent Supervisor Matthew Veitch (R, One Saratoga). Madigan previously served five two-year terms as city Finance Commissioner, from 2012-2021; Veitch, who is seeking re-election, has served as supervisor since 2008. 

For more information about county supervisor races, please see last week’s edition of Saratoga TODAY, which may be viewed at: https://saratogatodaynewspaper.com/home/item/20476-election-primer-saratoga-county-five-contested-supervisor-races-early-voting-begins-oct-28. 

Party Registration Breakdown

Countywide, active registered voter numbers have grown from 169,756 in November 2021 to 174,991 actively registered in 2023 – an increase of 5,235.

Specific to active voter party affiliation across Saratoga County: Conservative Party registration is up 281 compared to year 2021, Republican Party registration is up 934, and Democratic Party registration is up 1,456. The largest increase - up 3,203 – are those registered to vote but unaffiliated with any party, or “blank.” Working Families Party and other/ independent parties each have less active registered voters this time around.       

Statewide Ballot Proposals

Proposal One: Removal Of Small City School Districts From Special Constitutional Debt Limitation. The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 4 of the Constitution seeks to remove the special constitutional debt limitation now placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts.

Proposal Two: Extending Sewage Project Debt Exclusion From Debt Limit. The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution seeks to extends for 10 years the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to remove from their constitutional debt limits debt for the construction of sewage facilities.

For full text of the two ballot proposals, go to the state BOE website at: https://www.elections.ny.gov/2023BallotProposals.html.

Thursday, 02 November 2023 15:28

Saratoga Springs Cinema Rebranding

SARATOGA SPRINGS —The Spa City’s movie theater on Railroad Place may soon have a new face. 

AMC Theatres has filed an application with the city Zoning Board of Appeals seeking a re-branding of its exterior signs at 19 Railroad Place. 

The proposed action includes larger letter signs – although the overall square footage will not be increased – to read “AMC,” as well as the removal of currently existing metal “bowtie” accents.   

Bow Tie Cinemas opened in Wilton and in Saratoga Springs in 2013. The Wilton location closed in 2020 and in April 2022 AMC announced it had struck a deal with Bow Tie to take over operations of the Saratoga Springs theater. 

BALLSTON SPA — There are 21 municipalities contained within Saratoga County. Five of them will have contested supervisor races on Nov. 7. 

There are 23 Supervisors representing Saratoga County’s 21 municipalities; 19 municipalities are each represented by 1 supervisor. Two municipalities - Saratoga Springs and Clifton Park - are each represented by 2 supervisors.  Supervisors represent their municipality at the county level and are elected to that seat by voters in their own specific municipality. 

Political Party Affiliation Breakdown

• 21 of the 23 current Supervisors are affiliated with the Republican Party, while 2 current Supervisors are affiliated with the Democratic Party. 

• 1 Democrat and 16 Republican supervisors (in a total of 16 county municipalities) are either running unopposed or have no election taking place this year and so are expected to return to the seat in 2024. The remaining five county municipalities will be hosting contested races for six total seats. 

• There are approximately 175,000 registered active voters across the entirety of Saratoga County. Registered Republicans account for 35.8% of those voters, 29.6% are registered as Democrats, and 27.6% are registered to vote as unaffiliated with any party. The remaining 7% are comprised of those registered with the Conservative, Working Families or other party lines. 

Contested county Supervisor races: 

James Sullivan (D) vs. Ian Murray (R,C) – town of Saratoga; 

Cynthia Young (D) vs. Mark Hammond (R,C) – Malta; 

Jessie Fish, Jr. (D, M.U.) vs. Theodore Kusnierz, Jr. (R,C) – Moreau; 

Toni Sturm (D) vs. John Lant (R, C) – Wilton. 

In Saratoga Springs, voters have a choice of three candidates from which to select two supervisors to represent the city at the county level. 

They are: 

Gordon Boyd (D, WF); Matthew Veitch (R, One Saratoga); Michele Madigan (D, One Saratoga). 

Running unopposed 

- Supervisor races: 

Eric Connolly, R-Ballston; Diana Edwards, R-Day; Kevin Tollisen, R,C – Halfmoon; Scott Ostrander, R,C – Milton; Jean Raymond, R-Edinburg; Joe Grasso , R,C – Charlton; Willard Peck, R,C – Northumberland; Clifton Park Town/County Supervisor Philip Barrett R,C, Clifton Park County Supervisor Angela Thompson R,C; Kevin Veitch  R-Greenfield; Thomas Richardson D-Mechanicville; David Ball R,C – Waterford; C. Eric Butler R-Corinth; Arthur Wright R-Hadley.   

There are no supervisor races on the ballot in the towns of Stillwater, Galway and Providence – although those towns do have other votable seats on the ballot, as well as ballot proposals. 

Thursday, 26 October 2023 16:28

From Carnegie Hall to Wesley Community

SARATOGA SPRINGS — “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” goes the old joke which first appeared in print during the 1950s. It offers up the punch line: “Practice, practice, practice.” 

Conversely, how do you get from Carnegie Hall to Saratoga Springs?  Head northwest on W. 57th St. toward 7th Ave. using the Hudson River as your guide on the 183-or-so-mile journey.

This week, the Wesley Community welcomed Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect to its campus for an afternoon program of classical music at Wesley’s Woodlawn Commons. 

The performance was staged in recognition of the intergenerational connection of classical music between the young musicians and the senior residents to showcase how intergenerational connections allow youth and seniors to share experiences through mutually beneficial activities.

“We’re always thrilled to bring cultural events to our residents,” said Wesley Community CEO J. Brian Nealon, as the five-piece ensemble glided their bows across their respective string instruments or performed with hands across the piano keys of the room’s baby grand. 

The musicians are based out of Carnegie Hall and are part of a fellowship program in partnership with Julliard School, The Weill Music Institute, the New York City Department of Education. They are currently engaged in a five-day residency at Skidmore College. It is a local residency first established in the fall of 2007. 

“We had the opportunity through a board member who works at Skidmore to make this connection for us,” Nealon said. “Our residents love these types of programs and over the years we have been able to avail ourselves of Skidmore’s friendship and help to provide those types of services.” 

Ensemble Connect is a two-year fellowship program that prepares extraordinary young professional classical musicians for careers that combine musical excellence with teaching, community engagement, advocacy, entrepreneurship, and leadership, according to the Carnegie Hall guidebook. 

The group performs its own series at Carnegie Hall and has regularly appeared at The Juilliard School’s Paul Hall and other venues throughout New York City, as well as presenting dozens of interactive performances in schools. Ensemble Connect alums have gone on to perform, teach, and engage with communities in 53 countries around the world. 

While on campus at Skidmore, the fellows offer master classes, lessons, and class demonstrations, as well as play side by side with students of the Skidmore College Orchestra, read student compositions, and stage a live performance. Their concert programs include world premieres commissioned by Carnegie Hall. They perform Friday, Oct. 27 at Zankel Music Center.   

“It works both ways. Our residents also go over to Skidmore and avail themselves of the programming that Skidmore has,“ Nealon said Wednesday afternoon, as the ensemble performed 18th century works of Austrian composer Franz Schubert and Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, and George Gershwin’s 20th century jazz standard “Embraceable You,”  as a group of about 40 Wesley Community residents looked on. 

The Wesley Community is a 37-acre, not-for-profit agency which serves the needs of the elderly, as well as active seniors, adults and pediatrics. Eleven buildings dot the campus that more than 600 residents call home; about 125 independent living and assisted living residents are at Woodlawn Commons - where this week’s performance was held – another 225 are at Embury Apartments and approximately 250 at Wesley Health Care Center – the campus the nursing home.   

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council unanimously approved a contract with SHI International Corp. of New Jersey, which will implement SHI software to allow the city to retain text messages from all city cell phones and automatically capture text messages. 

“This is part of an initiative to improve our transparency and our ability to respond to FOIL requests,” said city Mayor Ron Kim, who brought the measure to the council table. 

The SHI software, SMARSH, will use its automated carrier-integrated capture solution that retains all SMS/MMS data from the carrier the day SMARSH is implemented going forward. 

Employees will text normally and the text messages will be captured as they pass through the carrier. The text messages are automatically pushed into SMARSH’s cloud-based records portal on the backend in an immutable format. 

All data is indexed as it is pulled into the archive and will be searchable with parameters such as keyword, sender and/or recipients, and date range. The total recurring subtotal cost is just over $11,000, with a one-time subtotal cost of about $1,850. 

“The use of SMARSH will provide an efficient and cost-effective way for the city to retain text messages from cellular devices,” Kim said.  “Up until now, the city has really had no way to do this automatically. This will provide a seamless way for our city attorneys to efficiently, transparently and accurately respond to FOIL requests in the future.”

SARATOGA SPRINGS — City Council Meeting: Oct. 17. Mayor Ron Kim led a moment of silence for the nation of Israel and a remembrance of civilians lost and those being held hostage, and the council’s four-hour meeting concluded with the board’s unanimous approval of a resolution condemning “atrocities committed by the terrorists of Hamas,” and the “unqualified support of the State of Israel and the Israeli people.” 

Tuesday night’s meeting marked the final official gathering of council members prior to the Nov. 7 election; all five council seats and both city supervisor positions are to be voted upon, and new two-year terms will begin January 2024.

Democrat mayor Ron Kim is running for re-election. Both challengers to the mayoral seat – Republican candidate John Safford and One Saratoga candidate Chris Mathiesen, as well as Supervisor candidate Michele Madigan (D, One Saratoga), and local Democratic Party Chairman Otis Maxell spoke during segments where public comment was allotted. City Republican Committee chairman Michael Brandi released a statement that said litigation was served on the City at the Council meeting, and that he had commenced court proceedings to compel the city to address two FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) requests he is accusing the city of ignoring. 

Welcome to Saratoga Springs 

City Supervisor Matt Veitch offered a presentation showcasing new signage anticipated to be placed at entry and exit points in and out of Saratoga Springs in the near future.     

“When you travel out of the city of Saratoga Springs you always see a sign welcome to the next town – welcome to Wilton, welcome to Greenfield – and it’s always bothered me as a native Saratogian that we don’t do the same thing on our side,” Veitch told the council. 

The welcome signs that do exist display a variety of styles, fonts and sizes, Veitch pointed out. The new signs – large ones at major thoroughfares such as the exit 14, exit 15, and Route 9 entrances to the city, smaller ones to be placed on the more rural entry and exit points, will have more uniformity and consistency in style. The front side will feature a welcome for people coming in to the city, and a “thank you for visiting” text will appear on the back. 

Veitch said he worked with city DPW Commissioner Jason Golub, as well as the county Public Works department among others and that the county set aside funds for the signs to be created. The large signs will be put out for bid by the county, Veitch added. 

Free Pop-Up Health & Wellness Clinic for the Creative Community 

Finance Commissioner Dillon Moran announced a Free Pop-Up Health Clinic will take place 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 22 at Caffe Lena. 

Services will Include: Vision Care Clinic Including Exams and Eyewear, Custom Molded Earplugs, Blood Pressure Screening, Dietician Consultation, HEPC/HIV Screening, Insurance Navigation, Cancer Screening Services

Saratoga Hospital volunteer medical professionals will provide testing, evaluation, health & wellness education, as well as assistance obtaining access to ongoing care during a one-day pop-up clinic, free to anyone in the creative community. This includes artists, musicians, designers, photographers, filmmakers, writers, and all others who work in a creative capacity.

The goal of this service is to enable individuals in the creative community who are uninsured or underinsured to access healthcare in a trusted environment so they can enjoy the best possible quality of life.

For more information, go to: caffelena.org/health-clinic/. 

City Connections

Jen Dunn, of the city Planning Department, delivered a 15-minute presentation regarding the department’s Missing Links Sidewalk Program. Dunn defined “Missing Links” as stretches of city pathways where sidewalks lead nowhere and discussed the remedies to fill in those gaps. 

Missing Links Program Brings 1.8 Miles of New Sidewalks to the City Saratoga Springs, New York, October 17, 2023 – Mayor Kim congratulates the Planning Department on the, which strives to fully connect downtown to more neighborhoods and places in Saratoga Springs. 

Between 2022 and 2023, the project completed 1.8 miles of ADA compliant sidewalk segments and crosswalks within a one-mile radius of the City’s urban core. The majority of the project’s funding was provided by a $1.52 million grant through the 2019-2024 Federal Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). After reimbursements are received later this year and next, the ultimate cost to the city will be approximately $382,000. 

Jury Verdict in Mount vs. The City of Saratoga Springs

A few hours prior to the start of the Oct. 17 meeting, the jury in Mount vs. The City of Saratoga Springs, after a two-week trial, ruled in favor of the city. During the council meeting, city Mayor Ron Kim spoke about the trial outcome, with slight variations to the commentary released to the press earlier in the day.     

“Darryl Mount’s death 10 years ago was a tragedy. The loss of a young man and fellow Saratogian left a void in our community,” Mayor Kim said. “I’m glad a jury finally had the opportunity to weigh the evidence and reach a decision, and I am gratified the city will now not face further liability. It’s always been my view that because of the failure to conduct an investigation 10 years ago into the death of Darryl Mount, a jury trial was the only way for a final decision to be made. Jury trials are a foundation of our democracy, as much as voting is. Clearly, the jury deliberated, listened to the facts, listened to the adversarial proceeding and rendered a judgement. It is unfortunate that we had to wait 10 years for this decision.”

A resolution declaring the City of Saratoga Springs a Safe Haven for Trans Youth was tabled with the understanding it will be brought to the table for discussion and vote at the council’s next meeting on Nov. 8.   

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Shelters of Saratoga has announced the 10th season of the Code Blue low-barrier winter homeless shelter – this year located at the former Grand Union Motel at 120 South Broadway – will open this month. 

The Code Blue shelter was previously located 4 Adelphi St. That location is currently operated by RISE Housing and Support Services as a 24/7 year-round shelter, on a temporary basis. It houses approximately 30 beds. The city of Saratoga Springs is actively reviewing proposals recommended by the city’s homelessness task force in the hope of securing a long-term permanent shelter location. 

The new Code Blue facility – which opens during the cold winter months - offers a nightly meal and semi-private accommodations critical for a healthy night of sleep. 

“Code Blue is a life saving measure that protects people from harsh cold, snow, and ice common in our area, providing nightly respite and safety,” Duane Vaughn, Executive Director of Shelters of Saratoga, said in a statement. 

In the 2022-23 season, the shelter provided 61 cots and served 271 adults. “Our Code Blue shelter was full almost every night. The new location increases our capacity by 23%, providing space for up to 75 people,” said Vaughn. 

Code Blue is a state-mandated program administered by Saratoga County. 

Code Blue was initiated after the tragic freezing death of Nancy Pitts in 2013. Shelters of Saratoga operates the program in collaboration with local human service agencies, state and local government, faith groups, volunteers, and businesses that support shelter operations and the nightly meal program. The shelter opens when the nightly temperature drops below 32 degrees, beginning in the fall and extending through early spring. 

Shelter Needs: Nightly volunteers are needed from 5:30-7 p.m. to serve dinner to guests. Interested volunteers can sign up at sheltersofsaratoga.org.

For those interested in donating, the shelter is in need of the following items: Granola bars; Individually packaged snacks; Drink mix; Condiments; Peanut butter; Jelly; Stewart’s gift cards.  Donations of goods will be accepted at 120 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs (center building) beginning in November. 

For more information or to get involved, visit www.sheltersofsaratoga.org or contact Shelters of Saratoga directly at 518-581-1097 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

BALLSTON SPA — Recognizing the need to update its aerial images, the county board of supervisors approved an agreement at its monthly meeting on Oct. 17 to authorize a Rochester, NY based company to conduct a new countywide aerial imaging/GIS mapping program.

Last produced in 2019, those previous aerial photos are used by local municipal assessors and various county departments - the Office of Emergency Services, the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and Real Property Tax Services, among them. 

The new captures will feature “significant enhancements in aerial image resolution and an improved delivery platform,” according to the county resolution.   

The contract with Pictometry International Corp., a/k/a Eagleview Technologies Inc. is for a three-year term at a cost up to $225,000.

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