Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — During its meeting on Aug. 1, the City Council approved a long-debated ordinance prohibiting intoxication or impairment by alcohol or drugs in a public place when in possession of a firearm. 

The measure passed by a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Dillon Moran and Jason Golub, who each voted against the proposal, expressing general agreement with a majority of the ordinance’s components, but took issue with certain aspects of it.      

“I think it’s a great idea as a piggy-back onto another offense - If someone is arrested for assault and you have reasonable suspicion that you can now search them for firearms or give them a breathalyzer,” Golub told the council. “But, to expect the police to identify those who are both drunk and carrying a firearm independent of another violation is a near-impossible exercise unless you want to violate people’s civil rights,” he said. “That’s my biggest concern.” 

According to the ordinance, “intoxicated” and/or “impaired” is as defined by State Vehicle and Traffic Law. 

Thursday, 03 August 2023 15:12

Where It’s At

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A project under consideration at the city’s Land Use Boards will see the demolition of a single-story building on Church Street to be replaced with a five-story building standing 61 feet tall that will house 23 condominium units and first-floor commercial space.

The existing brick structure at 78 Church St. currently houses the floor covering store Torrells Carpetland and was built between 1909 and 1926, according to the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. SSPF last week sent a letter to the city to say it does not object to the building’s proposed demolition.   

The project applicant is SpringCity Development Group – a development arm of Bonacio Construction.

Palazzo Riggi Goes Up for Auction Next Month

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The 20,000-plus square foot mansion on North Broadway known as “Palazzo Riggi” will go up for auction on Sept. 8. The list price is $12 million, nearly $6 million less than the $17.9 million price when the 6-bedroom, 7-full and 6-half bath home first hit the market last September at $17.9 million.    

Owned by Michele Riggi, the mansion, built in 2003, includes two custom kitchens, four fireplaces, an elevator, home theater, personal fitness room with steam shower, and a bowling alley. There are 12 rooms in all regarding the Luxury Collection auction, as posted by listing agent Berkshire Hathaway Adirondack Premier Properties.

“The tile work which we performed could only be compared in extent and quality with that found in such places as Newport, R.I. or Hollywood, California where price was of secondary consideration. The objective for the entire house and grounds was it be the finest that could be produced. The first consideration was always quality.”

- Excerpt of a letter written by J. Francis Purdy, of the J. Francis Purdy tile and marble company of Albany, to J.B. White, J.B. Realty of Saratoga Springs, Sept. 14, 1951.    

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Strands of rope and twisted wire span the metal gates and stone entryway stations of the Ballston Avenue estate. A pair of ornate lamps peek streetside across the busy Route 50 thoroughfare where motor vehicles speed on by. A large marquee standing tall atop all of it spells out the most recent use of the property: Villa Balsamo - Restaurant, Cocktail Lounge.      

The property, which measures 14 acres in all and features natural ponds, sites a nine-bedroom, six-bathroom mansion set back approximately 350 feet from the road. In its near-century of existence, the 10,240 square-foot structure has served a small handful of owners and has functioned as a private home and as a public restaurant. A return as either one of those options is possible in the future. 

“It’s waiting for its next owner and occupant,” says Patrick Gibson of the Diehl Done Team at Keller Williams. The property is listed at $4.3 million. 

Floyd J. Shutts, a bank manager-turned-knitting-business-wholesaler, purchased the land in 1927 and reportedly invested a half million early 20th-century dollars to build his 15-room mansion two years later.  Following his death – Shutts’ was buried at Ballston Spa Village Cemetery in 1934 - the estate was purchased in turn by restaurateur Gerald King (during whose ownership in the 1960s Bing Crosby was among the visitors, vintage scribes insist), and by Schenectady businessman Chester Hotaling – who turned it into the Chester House restaurant. 

At some point in the mid-20th century, Saratoga Springs realtor J.B. White, whose offices were at 100 Broadway, sought to put the property up for sale and apparently reached out to the J. Francis Purdy Co. of Albany for detailed information about the work Purdy had conducted during the initial development of the mansion. The historical files of the Saratoga Room in the Saratoga Springs Public Library provide a copy of the letter response penned by J. Francis Purdy to J. B. White dated September 14, 1951.    

“In reply to your letter of the 12th regarding the Shutts estate on Saratoga-Ballston Road – the tile work which we performed for Mr. Shutts in his home could only be compared in extent and quality with that found in such places as Newport, R.I., or Hollywood, California where price was of secondary consideration,” the letter reads. 

The tile used in the master bathroom “were of the most expensive produced,” Purdy writes, and “the tile work in the other bathrooms, solarium, game room, kitchen, halls, pavement over garage, etc., represented the best that our industry could produce according to the standards of 1929.” 

Purdy concludes: “It was a sad development that Mr. Shutts did not live long to enjoy with his family the beautiful home and grounds he developed.” 

An undated advert regarding “The King Shutts Estate” indicates the property would to be shown only through appointment by J.B. White. Price for the complete property: $85,000. 

In the mid-1970s, the property was purchased by Joseph Balsamo. Balsamo came to America in 1950 from Sorrento, Italy, served in the Merchant Marine, and was reportedly part-owner of a restaurant in Queens that stood half a mile north of Kennedy International Airport and half a mile east of Aqueduct Racetrack.

“When he saw this place, it took him a year of driving up here from Brooklyn once a week and waiting for the owner to come out to collect his mail,” Ralphie Balsamo told Saratoga TODAY regarding his father’s efforts to purchase the estate. 

The persistence paid off. Joseph Balsamo, who died in 2018, successfully convinced the owner to sell, and soon after Villa Balsamo began its offering as a restaurant, showcasing the culinary talents of the family’s Southern Napolitan cooking. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness has identified a 3.7-acre lot on Lake Avenue/ State Route 29 as its primary selection to site a permanent homeless shelter. 

The vacant lot is listed for sale at $800,000 and is located between the Northway overpass and a Stewart’s Shop near Weibel Avenue. 

The Task Force was formed In February 2023 and charged with locating a potential permanent site for a homeless shelter and navigation center by July to recommend to the City Council. The ad hoc group began with evaluating some two dozen potential sites across the city. They concluded with their vote of recommended locations on July 20. 

Alternative sites that ranked highly included a parcel at 153 South Broadway – property that stands in close proximity to two temporary shelters, although the owner is reluctant to sell that property according to Task Force discussions; 1.6 acres at 3290 Route 9 / Top Hill motel with a sale price listed at $1.9 million; a 1-acre property at North and East Ave for sale at $1 million, and 260 Maple Ave./ Gateway Motel, which extends to 1.5 acres, potential purchase price not known. 

Each venue offers some set of challenges – from Land Use Board review to area variances required (although the latter would seem unnecessary were the city to outright purchase the property), proximity or lack thereof to venues currently providing social services, access to public transportation, and, given the track record of previous attempts made: opposition from some area residents when a site is ultimately selected.   

The discussions will now move to the Saratoga Springs City Council, which next meets at City Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 1. 

There is still much to be discussed and funding sources to be evaluated, including what level of support may be provided by the county. 

Relative to the preferred site on- Route 29: the location is not in close proximity to social services, and there is no current bus stop allocated – although one may be advocated for via CDTA, the ad hoc board surmised.  The site would ultimately need a use variance from the ZBA, as well as subsequent Site Plan approval from the Planning Board and County Planning Board review. The Stewart’s Shop, located at Gilbert Road and Lake Avenue is anticipated to soon undergo a 2,500 square-foot to 4,100 square-foot expansion. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s Land Use Boards are considering a proposal for a Special Use permit that would site a private social club for businesspersons just west of Broadway, on Woodlawn Ave. 

The approval is sought at 118 and 121-125 Woodlawn Ave. in connection with two parcels that measure .14 acres and .23 acres, respectively. 

The applicant is seeking to use 118 as a private/social club for businesspersons to be operated by a not-for-profit entity, with 121-125 Woodlawn to serve as off-street parking for club members, according to documents first submitted to the city in June. Saratoga TODAY first reported on the venture on June 15. 

The club is anticipated to operate 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and provide light meals and bar service for its approximately 200 members. No amplified music will be allowed.  The club will serve as a place for its members to conduct meetings, as well as a place for members “to relax and unwind after a day at the office,” according to documents filed with the city.    

The building at 118 is located on the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Van Dam Street, just west of the convergence of Broadway/Route 9 and the Saratoga Hilton. For more than a century, the property was owned by various religious operations and operated as a religious house of worship,

The existing gravel lot at 122-125 would be upgraded and consist of 22 parking spaces.

The initial director, founder and organizer of the club will be Lisa Moser – co-founder with husband Robert of Prime Construction. Membership to the club will include an application process for membership, annual dues and an initiation fee upon acceptance.

The city Planning Board is anticipated to discuss the proposal at its workshop on Aug. 3. 

Thursday, 27 July 2023 14:10

New Senior Center Opens

SARATOGA SPRINGS — After more than 40 years of setting up shop on Williams Street, the Saratoga Senior Center this week began its physical relocation into the future: one mile southwest and to its new home adjacent to the Saratoga Regional YMCA at 290 West Avenue.    

“Shut down, packed up, and moving over here,” executive director Lois Celeste explained to hundreds of visitors attending the center’s first event staged at its new location. The senior expo was held July 20 and featured a variety of speakers, presentations and more than 40 community vendors. 

The new site hosts multiple classrooms, a kitchen and dining room, a chair-and-table area for card games, an art room, exercise room, employee offices, and an education center. 

The Meeting Room will host gatherings of the Alzheimer’s Association as well as various medical insurance organizations, and the Game Room will be fitted with computer stations, a TV, ping-pong tables and a pair of pool tables. 

“We actually have a sound system and a projector – we’re coming into the next century here,” said Celeste, flanked by the new-look gleam of marble and glass. 

The new location boasts plentiful parking and a quartet of columns that frame the entryway that lead to a main reception area inside. A physical therapist will be on-site five days of the week. There is still some work to be done prior to the new center’s opening. 

“We don’t know how long it is going to take to set up operations, but our goal is to have a soft opening with classes by the first or second of August,” Celeste said.  “It will be a kind of a one-stop shop.” 

The non-profit, non-residential community center welcomes adults aged 50 and over. Cost is $35 a year to participate in programs, trips and social activities tailored to adults and seniors.

The Center was founded in 1955, purchased its own building at 162 Circular St. five years later and in 1979 relocated to a larger facility at 5 Williams St. The Williams Street venue that is being vacated is owned by the city of Saratoga Springs. 

The city last year announced plans to use the location when empty to site a 24/7 permanent homeless shelter. Earlier this year those plans were quashed, however, after the proposal met with a backlash from some community members and parents of students of the nearby Saratoga Central Catholic School. Plans for the future of the city-owned property are not currently known. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – File this one under: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Weeks of public speculation and rumors that Phish would perform a pair of concerts in Saratoga to benefit Vermont and upstate New York flood recovery efforts were confirmed July 25 with the announcement that that band will appear at Saratoga Performing Arts Center Aug. 25-26.   

A short, one-day ticket request period is underway NOW at:

Tickets go on sale to the general public 10 a.m. Saturday, July 29. Travel packages will be available and go on sale 9 a.m. on Friday, July 28.

A limited number of Foundation tickets will also be available that include a ticket to the show, a private pre-show performance with Phish’s Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell, access to the Foundation Lounge before and throughout the show, and special Foundation poster and merch, in addition to other amenities.

100% of net proceeds from all concert and merchandise sales will be directed to The WaterWheel Foundation’s 2023 Flood Recovery Fund, which will support the many victims and their families, area businesses, and non-profits. The Recovery Fund will support both shorter-term needs and long-term recovery and resiliency projects.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy will be seeking an area variance from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals this week that would permit the demolition of a ranch style home and the subsequent construction of a new home upon property he purchased in Saratoga Springs earlier this year. 

The Fifth Avenue property was purchased in March by Portnoy’s company, Smokeshowcity LLC of Miami Florida, for $1.4 million, and sites an approximate 1,500 square-foot ranch style home. The property is bounded by the Oklahoma Training Track on the lot’s south side. 

Plans call for demolition of the existing home and construction of a new residence. 

Recent plans submitted to the city by Balzar & Tuck Architecture depict a dining room, living room and kitchen downstairs, a pool and patio area in the backyard, and three bedrooms and baths upstairs. A fourth bedroom and bath, as well as a fitness room is indicated in the basement, according to plans the architects submitted to the city. 

The ZBA meeting takes place 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 24 at Saratoga Springs City Hall. 

The Fifth Avenue property would need only the approval of the ZBA to move forward. 

Another project on that night’s ZBA agenda - 12 Ballston Avenue Chipotle Area Variance – would require eventual approval from all three city Land Use Boards – the Planning Board and Design Review Commission are the others – before plans for a new restaurant may move forward, according to the city’s building department.      

Attorney Update: Nov. 20 Saratoga Springs Gunfight 

An incident last November that involved an alleged altercation between three men and an off-duty Rutland County sheriff’s deputy took place in the Caroline Street-Broadway area, with a subsequent police response that resulted in about 20 bullets fired overall in the pre-dawn hours.

The three men - Alexander Colon, 28, Darius A. Wright, 29, and Christopher (AKA Christian) E. Castillo, 28 were each subsequently charged with one count attempted assault in the third-degree, a misdemeanor, in connection with the incident. According to the prosecutor’s filings, the charge specifies each of the defendants “attempted to cause an injury to a person by repeatedly punching him.”  Each of the men pleaded not guilty.

The off-duty deputy, Vito Caselnova of Glens Falls is facing eight charges, including attempted murder.

This week, in an update first reported by NewsChannel 13, Caselnova’s attorneys want his alleged victims charged with gang assault, alleging that Colon was the initial aggressor. 

A new court filing by Caselnova’s attorneys alleges that prosecutors didn’t let grand jurors know they could also charge Colon and two others with attempted murder and gang assault, according to the news report, and comes a supplement to a defense motion that had asked the court to dismiss the indictment against Caselnova, accusing the district attorney of prosecutorial bias.

Bomb Threat Evac at Live Nation SPAC Show: No Arrests Yet 

Arrests have yet to be made in connection with a July 8 bomb threat that saw the evacuation of Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the cancellation of an appearance by show headliner Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. 

Several area law enforcement agencies responded to the bomb threat. The threat was ultimately deemed a hoax.

In a statement made July 9, authorities said the incident was under investigation, and that “this case will be investigated as Making a Terroristic Threat, a Class D Felony.”

SARATOGA SPRINGS — “Even after 17 years, I’m still in a honeymoon period with Saratoga,” says Dan De Federicis. “It’s just a wonderful place to be in any stage of your life.”

The retired State Trooper relocated from his native Buffalo to Albany in 2001 after being elected president of the NYS Troopers PBA. “Each successive year, I found myself coming to Saratoga Springs more and more. It was 4th of July holiday weekend in 2005 when I drove to Saratoga from Albany four times! That’s when I said, ‘That’s it. I’m moving to Saratoga Springs.’” 

These days, De Federicis operates Saratoga Report – a local news aggregator website that collects and displays links to Saratoga-related stories. 

“It’s funny, for my website, Saratoga Report, I do all these searches every morning - anything to do with Saratoga - and I came across this sale offer,” he says. “I made some calls.” 

The calls led him to Charlie McCabe, handler of the estate of his dad Matt McCabe – a much loved Saratoga Springs businessman, musician and a former city commissioner. Notably, Matt McCabe operated Saratoga Guitar for more than a quarter-century until his untimely passing in January 2021 due to complications of COVID-19.    

In October 2020, McCabe had purchased a franchise in Discovery Map of Saratoga. The Discovery Map International brand was founded in 1981 and features hand-drawn maps of more than 130 largely tourism destinations with more than 90 franchisees. 

The maps, which are free, provide travelers a resource to find local lodging, dining, shopping, services and fun things to do in their focused locations. Overall, more than 16 million maps are printed annually, according to the company. 

Focus areas range from Santa Monica, California to the Berkshires and Hyannis in Massachusetts. Eight municipalities are showcased by Discovery Map in New York State alone – East Hampton, South Hampton, Lake George, Lake Placid and Saratoga Springs, among them. 

“As much as we rely on our smartphones, people still prefer printed-out maps,” McCabe said at the time of his franchise purchase. “The maps are truly like works of art and reveal the character of an area... and there is a lot of that in Saratoga Springs and the surrounding areas.”

“I did my due diligence, looked into the company, called other franchisees around the country and learned they’re really good to work with,” says De Federicis. “I saw it as an opportunity, and that it was Matt McCabe who had previously owned it, only added to it. I feel honored to follow in his footsteps.” 

Paper maps have made a resurgence in recent years, with maps and atlases selling 1.8 million units last year, up 20% over 2021, according to the NPD Group, an international agency that measures business data and analytics.   

The Discovery Map of Saratoga covers all of Saratoga County. It is colorful, two-sided, measures about 18 inches by 14 inches and is bordered by thumb-sized adverts. It folds neatly into quarters and depicts a large segment of Saratoga County on one side, and a close-up of downtown Saratoga Springs on the other. 

De Federicis found a business opportunity as well as something close to his heart. 

 “There is so much going on in Saratoga, there is a lot of opportunity to grow this. I not only wanted to work in Saratoga, but I wanted my work to be about Saratoga,” he says. “What I’m doing now, I love doing. It doesn’t even seem like work to me.” 

The franchise term is for 10 years, and the maps are updated and printed annually. De Federicis said his plan is to secure advert sales from those who want their establishments depicted on the map for next year’s edition through this calendar year and go to print on the 2024 issue in January.  Interested parties can contact Dan De Federicis at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

“The support (from Discovery Map) is incredible. For instance, let’s say I sign up a new restaurant. Well then, their staff adds the building to the map. And they’re not just going to draw a dot or a square, the building will look like the building it’s representing.” 

The maps are folded to a convenient 8.5-inch by 11-inch size and available free of charge up and down Broadway and all-around town, as well as across the county in local stores, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions, among other places. 

While the maps will be updated annually, one characteristic will be preserved, De Federicis says. 

“On the map itself there is a caricature of Matt McCabe with his guitar. As soon as I saw that, I told Charlie that his father’s caricature will stay on there for as long as I own this map.” 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — There will be new parking rules in effect on public streets in proximity to Saratoga Springs High School this fall that are anticipated to affect neighborhood residents and student drivers alike.

Citing public safety hazards and disruptions caused by Saratoga Springs High School students parking vehicles on residential streets near the school, a group of affected residents took their grievances to the City Council this week. 

The residents, led by speaker Melissa Thompson-Flynn, provided a presentation that they said illustrated issues created due to the number, and in some cases the manner, in which students park their vehicles on streets neighboring the school during the semester.  The issues stated include: allowing little parking for residents or delivery vehicles, blocking residents’ access to their homes, difficulties for other vehicles to navigate, and insufficient clearance for emergency vehicles. 

Thirty-five signatures from 21 households were presented to the council on behalf of signees supporting the implementation of two-hour parking restrictions on five streets. The presentation, a Public Hearing and council discussion and eventual vote were held at City Hall July 18.    

Ultimately, the City Council, by a unanimous 5-0 vote, approved an ordinance to implement the “Time Limit Parking” on Willow Lane and Ash, Hyde, Birch, and Joseph streets. 

While students may continue to park on the streets come fall, they must now move their vehicles every two hours. 

The council said it anticipates - with no further action - that this will likely create similar problematic scenarios on other neighboring streets as students will seek a place to park their vehicles a few blocks further from the school. As such, they noted they were approving the ordinance with the acknowledgement that “this now puts pressure on us” as a council, as well as the school and potentially other stakeholders, to find a long-term solution.    

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