Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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BALLSTON SPA — Among all 62 New York counties, Saratoga saw the fifth largest percent increase in county population from 2010 to 2020. The increase of nearly 16,000 residents shows 7.2% growth over that 10-year-span.

In response to that population growth, County Administration this week requested consideration of a revision of the weighted vote counts on the Board of Supervisors.

The town of Clifton Park – with 38,029 residents, and the city of Saratoga Springs – with 28,491 residents, are the most populous municipalities in the county. Each has two supervisors equally splitting the vote of their respective communities. All other municipalities each have one supervisor. 

The town of Halfmoon, topping the 25,000 mark, is the third most populous community and would have triggered the need for a second supervisor as per previous rules. However, on Feb. 15 the Board of Supervisors voted to increase the population threshold that would trigger a second supervisor to 27,500.    

The overall county population 235,509 with more than 188,000 of those – or just over 80 percent – age 18 and over. 

Saratoga County was home to just over 150,000 residents in 1980. Population increased to just over 180,000 in 1990 and to 200,00 at the start of the new century. County population numbers grew to 219,000 in 2010. 

In other items presented by the county’s Law & Finance at its March 9 meeting, a resolution was proposed that would, by full county board approval, authorize $2 million be committed for the sewer extension project to the towns of Wilton and Moreau. In order to connect additional users in the two towns to the sewer infrastructure maintained by Saratoga County Sewer District no. 1, engineering and surveying studies and additional sewer infrastructure are required at an initial projected total cost of $9.3 million. 

The $2 million commitment would come from American Rescue Plan Act funds. Saratoga County was directly awarded just over $22.3 million in 2021 federal funding and is projected to receive an additional $22.3 million in 2022.   

A full Board of Supervisors meeting, which is held monthly, is scheduled to take place Wednesday, March 16. 

WILTON — The X-Files Preservation Collection and Collectibles will host a Grand Opening ceremony of their establishment located at 4284 Route 50, in Wilton. Chris Carter - creator of the X-Files television drama series is anticipated to attend the ribbon-cutting event, which takes place Saturday, April 30. 

Jim Thornton and Kelly Anthony, owners of the collection, say they are on a mission to preserve the history of “The X-Files’’ and highlight the work of the individuals both in front of and behind the cameras. 

“The X-Files,” featuring Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully, and David Duchovny as Special Agent Fox Mulder, debuted in September 1993. Thornton has been a fan since the first episode was broadcast.

The X-Files Preservation Collection and Collectibles, a one-of-a-kind attraction in Saratoga County, will feature a world-class collection of screen-used props, wardrobe and set dressing for the groundbreaking series “The X-Files.” The collection includes many iconic pieces from the show as well as a large number of pieces donated from Chris Carter. 

Thornton first became a collecting enthusiast in the 1990s after visiting a store called That’s Entertainment at Crossgates Mall brought him in contact with X-Files trading cards. 

“I loved the show and thought: Wow, I’d like to own something from it, but back in ’93, ’94, there wasn’t a lot of stuff out there,” Thornton said, when sitting down with Saratoga TODAY for a feature piece in late 2018. 

In 2019, the couple rented a moving truck, piled much of their collection in, and drove to Chicago for X-Fest, an X-Files convention. It was here that people encouraged the couple to open a museum.

The X-Files Preservation Collection and Collectibles will feature a retail store selling pop culture collectibles – props, wardrobe, action figures, press kits, out of print DVD sets from television shows and movies. 

In addition to attending special Guest of Honor Chris Carter, the Grand Opening celebration, which gets underway at 11 a.m., will include a ribbon cutting with creator of “The X-Files.”  There will be a limited number of The X-Files Preservation Collection posters signed by Carter available for purchase. 

General Admission will be available at the door at $25. Special VIP Tickets featuring a showroom tour, signed poster and other items are available in advance at: xfilespreservationcollection.com.   

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A multi-family residential project under consideration by the Planning Board next week seeks to develop multiple townhomes along the so-called Gateway to the City on South Broadway. 

Located on the west side of Broadway opposite the Washington Inn, a revised site plan for the project at 120 South Broadway was submitted to the city in February. 

The proposal was first submitted to the city in April 2021 by developer Stephen Ethier. The South Broadway property currently consists of a 64-room motel, and according to those initial plans the project sought the development of 29 townhouses and 12 multi-family residential units on 2.75 acres. 

The Planning Board will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10 at Saratoga Springs City Hall. 

Additional applications under consideration include: 

68 Weibel Avenue: Renewable special use permit to maintain existing non-residential units and a Site Plan Review. Applicant Gary Stone is proposing to operate and maintain existing mixed land uses on a 22.5-acre parcel on Weibel Avenue and a portion of a 40-acre parcel. The applicant is seeking to “cure” land use and zoning violations identified by the city regarding an existing golfing driving range, clubhouse and boat storage with the application for a Special Use permit.   

90 Catherine Street:Subdivision: Coordinated SEQRA review and advisory opinion to the ZBA for an area variance associated with a proposed two-lot subdivision. 

143 West Circular Street: Coordinated SEQRA review and advisory opinion to the ZBA for an area variance associated with a proposed two-lot subdivision of existing 0.32 acres into two single-family residential lots of 0.16 acres. 

Thursday, 03 March 2022 11:59

Sales Tax Surges

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council on March 1 gathered for their first meeting in a long while inside the first-floor chamber room at City Hall, where Mayor Ron Kim began the meeting with the standard Salute To The Flag and requested all in attendance remain standing for a Moment of Silence in observation of the people of Ukraine. 

• Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi reported the final Sales Tax figures for 2021 at just under $15 million.  “This is really good news,” Sanghvi said. “That is about $5 million over our 2021 revised budget and surpassed 2019 by 11.5% and surpassed 2020 by 35.3%.  “Truly astounding numbers and we all should be very pleased.” 

Of the cities that impose their own sales tax (not including New York City), Saratoga Springs had the strongest year-over-year increase of 32.5%, followed by Norwich (27.8%) and Ithaca (23.4%), according to a statement issued in February by NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. 

• The council set a Public Hearing regarding traffic mitigation measures in the Caroline Street School vicinity to be held just prior to the next council meeting on March 15. Some traffic control ordinances under consideration that will require council vote include reducing the speed limit, extending the one-way street corridor, and installing No Parking and No Standing signs on existing poles. 

Tuesday night, the council was in agreement over one temporary measure not requiring ordinance passage – that is - prohibiting vehicle traffic in front of the school altogether during student drop-off and pick-up times. That measure is expected to be implemented on a temporary basis prior to the March 15 meeting. 

• The City Council is expected to vote at its March 15 meeting to extend an “outdoor dining” measure first approved in 2020 to alleviate space restrictions implemented during the pandemic. The measure is undergoing re-writes and a Public Hearing will be held in advance of the vote, later that same night. 

The measure is anticipated to permit eating & drinking establishments to serve patrons outdoors through November 2024. 

Some of the potential points under consideration include specifying an application process through the Department of Accounts for licensed eating and drinking establishment to obtain permits and establishing a committee on outdoor dining to provide recommendations. 

Permit holders will be responsible for clean-up and disposing of garbage and debris in their allocated outdoor space. Restrictions include that no music may be played at any time; smoking is also prohibited. A schedule of fees, which is currently being prepared, will be presented prior to each season. 

• Mayor Ron Kim announced that the inaugural meeting of the Infrastructure Committee will take place this week. The designation of the committee was one of Kim’s first acts as mayor and is tasked with organizing a priority list of needed city infrastructure projects in advance of the pending arrival of federal funds targeting regional infrastructure projects. Each council member proposed staff appointments to the committee, which has former Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen as its chairperson. 

• A Public Hearing regarding 2022 Water and Sewer Rates and some potential increases will take place prior to the next council meeting on March 15. 

• A third Public Hearing regarding the potential formation of a civilian police review board was held on March 1. An ordinance is anticipated to be presented to the council on April 5, said Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino. 

Thursday, 03 March 2022 11:51

Caroline Street After Dark

A Decades-long Dilemma for City Officials, Residents, and Tourism Advocates

Bar. 

Bar. 

Restaurant & Bar.

Pizza joint. 

Car lot. 

Bar. Tavern. Bar, bar, bar. 

There are at least 16 venues that boast a variety of libations in the imbibing emporium that sprawls across the westernmost part of Caroline Street and its adjacent pedestrian thoroughfares.

Nestled in a concentrated terrain of downtown Saratoga Springs, it has showcased a party-like atmosphere for several decades. For nearly as long it has drawn the ire of some city leaders and the public alike, each making calls to tamp down the festivities. 

Highlighted by a spate of arrests and charges related to violent acts over the past few months, there is an increased focus on activities on Caroline Street after dark. Whether detrimental activities are actually on the rise or are a perceived reality as a result of a vibrant social age is one point of debate. Some information may soon be forthcoming with the pending release of the city’s Department of Public Safety annual report. And while it will not provide a block-by-block examination of police-related activity during the 2021 calendar year, it is anticipated to contain the number of calls for service and arrests to provide data that may serve as a comparison to previous years of reported activity.    

Are things more active in terms of arrests today than has been the case in the past? 

“It’s a good question,” says Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino. “We’re just putting the finishing touches on our annual report, so I don’t know the answer. I suspect if there is an uptick it’s a relatively minor one, but it’s been getting more attention, and because it’s been getting more attention the perception is that there’s more happening.”    

Over a five-year period between 2016-2020, the city had averaged approximately 30,500 calls for service, 1,290 arrests, and 28.33 incidents involving uses of force per year, according to the city of Saratoga Springs Police Department 2020 year-end report, which was released February 2021. 

That Was Then

After a 20-year run, the brakes were pumped on the annual Caroline Street Block Party after the year-2000 gathering saw an expected crowd of 5,000 grow to approximately three times that size. A number of customers at Gaffney’s required treatment at Saratoga Hospital after a bottle-throwing incident. Some partiers were witnessed climbing construction scaffolding downtown. Others simply had passed out, according to published reports. 

Despite organizers’ claims that only a small number of people caused the majority of the problems, city officials stepped in to caution that changes needed to be made. 

“We want to change the focus a little bit,” then-Gaffney’s Restaurant owner and member of the Caroline Street Association John Baker told The Saratogian at the time, announcing the annual gathering would be moving to a jazz and blues festival format.  “This will attract a different kind of crowd. We want to take it away from a rock-and-roll focus,” said Baker. 

More recently, there have been periodic attempts to change the city bar closing times to earlier in the evening. 

A decade ago, then-Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen had designs to change the last call in the city from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m. in the aftermath of a Caroline Street brawl that involved hundreds of people and resulted in several arrests and injuries to a handful of city police officers. Similarly citing public safety concerns last summer, then-Commissioner Robin Dalton attempted to move a measure that would change the closing time from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. 

“I am personally worried about the safety of my police officers every night when they go out, especially between those hours and the safety of the people coming to enjoy our nightlife,” Dalton told the council last August. The City Council adopted a resolution to do so, but the measure also requires the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors as well as the State Liquor Authority to be on board. 

“I wouldn’t change anything about downtown Caroline Street as far as hours,” says Zack Lynch, a photojournalist, and local resident for 45 years. “Closing bars earlier is not going to help. It’s not as if shaving an hour off is going to help anything. People will still be there. They’ll just be getting out earlier and causing the same problems.”

Since September, Lynch has spent a considerable amount of time in the late-night and early-morning hours downtown capturing street images along Caroline Street. 

“Downtown Saratoga as far as I can tell is the same as it has ever been Sunday to Thursday. Friday is a typical busy night, but on Saturday that intersection of Caroline Street and Putnam late at night is just chaos. It’s something different than it’s ever been,” says Lynch.   

Bypassing his traditional photo equipment, Lynch has been using phone cams and dashboard cams to capture the street footage. What began as a project initiated as a recovery exercise following a car accident in which he was seriously injured manifested into a decision to use art to help a social issue, he says.     

“I’ve been down there for 24 weekends. I’ve seen three stabbing victims, six assault victims. I’ve seen eight people on the ground, some bleeding, unconscious. I’ve seen over 20 ambulances. I counted them,” Lynch says.  “As Saratogians we know that there’s a Track Season, and then there’s an Off Season – when there‘s not the chaos, the overload of business, the tourists; when we all get to relax and go back to normal. When they leave we get our town back. Now on Saturday nights in Saratoga we lose our town again.” 

The footage he shares pinpoints an increase of activity at the crossroads of Caroline and Putnam streets at about 3 a.m., when crowds spill onto the street at closing time, filling much of the thoroughfare with revelers overseen by a handful of police officers. Much of the problem, he says, begins: “When they close the doors to say the night’s over.” 

“The police are light-handed and even-tempered. I can’t find one shred of bad cops and I’ve watched them make so many arrests. I’m watching them too,” Lynch says. “And the owners of the places who I know are stand-up people there for the long haul and there for the community. The chaos is pretty much located to one day a week. It’s just one thing, but it makes it all look bad.”   

Seeking Reasons, Exploring Solutions

“We’re certainly working with a goal in mind to have more officers present,” says Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino. “We’re looking into trying to maximize the number of officers who are physically present.” 

Montagnino has heard the commentary from some in the local community pointing to out-of-town visitors as the cause of Saturday late-night problems.   

“We are Saratoga. We’ve got the reputation of being a party place where folks from out-of-town come to visit. It doesn’t surprise me that we have large groups of people who come from out of town and so the people getting involved in incidents as victims or as perpetrators – there’s a good possibility they’re going to be from out of town,” he says. “My recollection (however) is that there were also a few serious incidents in recent years where the perpetrators and the victims were locals.”   

Montagnino, who became Public Safety Commissioner on Jan. 1, has received some public push-back regarding recent comments he made that were published in The Gazette regarding late-night disturbances on Caroline Street. “What I’m told is that there are some unsavory characters who enjoy the gangster rap, and late on a Saturday night tempers sometimes flare,” the commissioner said in the article, which was published in February. 

This week, Montagnino apologized for making those comments. 

“I’ve heard what people have said. I’m 66 years old and I think I’m mature enough to know when I’ve made a mistake, and this is certainly one of those times,” Montagnino said during the March 1 City Council meeting. “I apologize if I insulted or offended anyone. That was not my intent.” 

He subsequently went on to explain what had initiated his commentary by reciting the lyrics of “Shake That,” a 2005 song by Eminem and Nate Dogg. “I’m not excusing what I said, I just want to give a little background,” the commissioner continued. “’If you don’t have a weapon just pick up a rock’ – that’s a lyric in the song… my belief, and I might be wrong, is under certain circumstances (identified as drinking alcohol and lacking sound judgement) people might act when encouraged by violent language.” Commentary uttered from the space in the room where the public was seated suggested he probably should have quit while he was ahead.    

The city’s Department of Public Safety is slated to release its annual report on March 14. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A 37-year-old Ballston Spa man was arrested in connection with a string of robberies that recently occurred in Saratoga Springs.

Justin P. Rock was charged with four felony counts of robbery in the first degree. He is suspected of stealing cash from four city establishments between Saturday Feb. 19 and Monday, Feb. 21 while implying that he had a gun. No gun was reported being observed in any instance, according to Saratoga Springs Police. 

Rock was taken into custody shortly following a fifth reported robbery, which allegedly occurred late Tuesday afternoon at Midtown Wine & Spirits on Milton Avenue in the village of Ballston Spa.   

The times and locations of the four Saratoga Springs incidents: 

• Saturday, Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. at Super Smoke N’ Save at 109 West Ave.; 

• Monday, Feb. 21 at 1:45 a.m., XtraMart at 154 South Broadway;

- 4:22 p.m., I Love NY Pizza at 26 Congress St.; 

- 4:30 p.m., Post Time Wine & Spirits at 170 South Broadway. 

The circumstances in the Ballston Spa heist on Tuesday were similar to the ones in Saratoga Springs, and following a collaborative effort of law enforcement in Ballston Spa, Saratoga Springs, as well as the county Sheriff’s office and State Police, Rock was located at a residence on East High Street.   

Rock was arraigned on the Saratoga Springs charges and sent to Saratoga County Jail without bail. Charges from the Ballston Spa incident are pending.

Thursday, 24 February 2022 14:20

Sheriff’s Office Issues Fraud Alert

A company selling T-shirts emblazoned with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department logo has been tagged as a fraud alert by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office.

“The Sheriff’s Office has been made aware of suspicious text messages being sent by a company claiming to be selling t-shirts on our behalf,” the county Sheriff’s Office reports in a press statement released this afternoon.  “If you receive this message, it is a scam and not a company doing business on our behalf.  We encourage residents not to respond to the message and not provide any personal or financial information.”

Similar fraud alerts depicting the phony T-shirts with their own respective logos have similarly been issued in recent days by the Clermont, Florida Police Department and the Middletown, Pennsylvania Fire Department. 

SARATOGA COUNTY — In advance of November’s election in the 21st Congressional District, the Saratoga County Republican Party this week announced it had unanimously endorsed Congresswoman Stefanik for her re-election campaign in 2022. 

“Saratoga County Republicans proudly and unanimously endorsed Republican House Chairwoman Elise Stefanik for re-election in New York’s 21st Congressional District,” said Saratoga County Chairman Carl Zeilman said, in a statement. 

Stefanik has thus far been endorsed unanimously by nine Republican committees in the 21st district, including: Saratoga, Franklin, Herkimer, Fulton, Jefferson, Clinton, Hamilton, Warren, and Oneida Counties. 

Saratoga County Democrats meet this week to endorse their candidate for the Nov. 8 election, said County Essex County Democratic Chairperson Margaret Bartley. Thus far, Matt Castelli has been endorsed by Democrat committees in 10 of the 18 counties of the 21st district. Castelli is a Saratoga County resident a former CIA officer and Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council who served in both the Obama and Trump White Houses. 

In addition to Castelli, Democrats Bridie Farrell, Matthew Putorti, and Ezra Watson have announced they will be running for the seat. 

Republican Lonny Koons has declared candidacy for the Republican primary. Primaries take place June 28.

As of Nov. 2021, the 21st Congressional District had included approximately 431,000 active voters – about 67,000 of those in Saratoga County, according to NYS Board of Elections data. The majority of voters in the district were registered Republicans (about 175,000). Registered Democrats were 125,000 and registered voters unaffiliated with any party were 99,000. Those ratios are likely to change.   

State legislative and congressional districts are currently being re-drawn in New York – a process of redistricting typically conducted every 10 years.  The expanded NY-21 district likely will see its geographic land  border and county distribution increase from 12 counties to 18 counties. Those six new counties of the 21st Congressional District: Montgomery, Oneida, Oswego, Otsego, Rensselaer and Schoharie. Conversely, the number of Saratoga County voters in the 21st Congressional District will be smaller, with a larger number of voters being placed in the 20th Congressional District, than had previously been the case. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2022 14:41

Dopiest Scam Attempt of the Day?

A company selling T-shirts emblazoned with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department logo has been tagged as a fraud alert by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office.

“The Sheriff’s Office has been made aware of suspicious text messages being sent by a company claiming to be selling t-shirts on our behalf,” the county Sheriff’s Office reports in a press statement released this afternoon.  “If you receive this message, it is a scam and not a company doing business on our behalf.  We encourage residents not to respond to the message and not provide any personal or financial information.”

Similar fraud alerts depicting the phony T-shirts with their own respective logos have similarly been issued in recent days by the Clermont, Florida Police Department and the Middletown, Pennsylvania Fire Department.

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Between 5 p.m. on Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Monday, there have been four reported robberies of retail establishments in the city of Saratoga Springs, police said.

“A weapon was not observed in any of the incidents, no force was used, and no injuries took place that we are aware of,” said city Assistant Chief of Police Bob Jillson, in a statement released Tuesday.

The general descriptions of the involved man, as well as how the incidents took place appear to be similar and police, who are conducting an active investigation, said they believe they may be related.

The times and locations of the incidents are as follows:

Saturday, Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. at Super Smoke N’ Save at 109 West Ave.

Monday, Feb. 21st: 1:45 am, XtraMart at 154 South Broadway; 4:22 p.m., I Love NY Pizza at 26 Congress St.; 4:30 p.m., Post Time Wine & Spirits at 170 South Broadway.  

Police said in every case a man entered each establishment alone and demanded cash. Police did not say whether they believe a vehicle was involved. The two locations where Monday afternoon’s robberies are said to have occurred are in walking distance of one another.

Authorities are asking anyone who may been in the area at the time of the reported robberies and believe they have information to call the Saratoga Springs Police Department at 518-584- 1800, or via an anonymous Tip Line at 518-584-TIPS.

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