City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors on July 18 held their monthly meeting at the county complex in Ballston Spa.
The meeting began with an observed moment of silence in memory of longtime town of Saratoga Supervisor Tom Wood, who died on July 10. Ian Murray, previously deputy supervisor, was welcomed by the Board to complete Wood’s term as town supervisor.
Among the resolutions approved by the Board:
• The Board approved the acceptance of nearly $700,000 in grant funding from the State Department of Health to upgrade the county’s public health care system over a five-year period.
The grant in the amount of $136,944 per year, is effective Dec. 1, 2022, through Nov. 30, 2027 and totals $684,720 in all, to “create a stronger, more resilient public health care system that is prepared to respond to future health care crises.”
The funding, according to the county Board resolution, is to be used in strengthening public health infrastructure, workforce and data systems.
With the acceptance of the state funding, the Board approved amending the 2023 Saratoga County Budget to allow the $136,944 increase this calendar year and to increase a variety of appropriations, including: Furniture and Furnishings - $15,000; Office Equipment - $5,000; Personal Computers - $18,900; Building Components - $8,000; Other Capital Expenses - $31,169; Other Professional Services - $40,000; Misc. Dept. Expense - $5,500; Conference Fees $3,000; Software $9,850; Minor IT Equipment $525.
• The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors additionally approved the acceptance of $231,894 in grant funding from the state DOH to be used for Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program activities for the period of July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024. No further details were provided with the resolution.
• Cassandra M. Bagramian was appointed Commissioner of Elections for Saratoga County, in according with a Board resolution July 18. Bagramian’s appointment, at a salary of $91,800, takes effect Sept. 15 and concludes Dec. 31, 2024, fulfilling the remaining term of William Fruci, who is retiring. The appointment of Bagramian, a Democrat, comes via recommendation of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee. Roger J. Schiera, a Republican, is the other Commissioner of Elections for Saratoga County.
SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency this week released the results of a commissioned study to analyze the far-reaching economic effects of the Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Casino Hotel, and the Saratoga National Historical Park.
The study examines the economic impacts of the four Saratoga County major tourism drivers to a nine-county study region that includes Albany, Columbia, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington counties. The analysis provides a comparative breakdown of economic impacts such as jobs, attendance, and spending, and includes the direct impact of each destination, as well as the indirect and induced spillover impacts.
In total, these destinations contributed 5,770 jobs, $266.9 million associated employee earnings, and $647.6 million in annual sales in 2021, according to the report.
The “direct impacts” include the on-site operations of the destinations, as well as visitor spending. Indirect and induced impacts capture the spillover impact from the activity, including supply chain and employee spending-related impacts.
“The results of the Economic Analysis of these tourism sectors provide a positive forecast that indicates Saratoga County will continue to grow and thrive as one of Upstate New York’s most desirable counties in which to live, visit, and do business for the foreseeable future,” Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency Chairman Rod Sutton explains in his introductory remarks of the 83-page report, prepared by Camoin Associates, which is based in Saratoga Springs.
The breakdown, according to the report:
Saratoga Race Course -2,937 Jobs; $157.8 m Earnings; $371. m Sales
SPAC - 1,362 Jobs; $26.9 m Earnings; $78.2 m Sales
Saratoga Casino Hotel - 1,388 Jobs; $77.1 m Earnings;$185.2 m Sales
Saratoga Nat. Hist. Park - 83 Jobs; $4.8 m Earnings; $13 m Sales
*Earnings, Sales rounded off.
As far as Fiscal Impact Results, the destinations in total contribute nearly $5.7 million in total property, sales, and occupancy tax revenue to Saratoga County and almost $18.2 million in total income and sales tax revenue to New York State, according to the report. In addition to these tax revenues, the Saratoga Race Course makes nearly $6.9 million in additional statutory payments to municipalities and other entities.
Prior studies – which were held in 2006, 2011 and 2015 - looked solely at the economic impact of Saratoga Race Course.
To read the full report, go to: www.saratogacountyida.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Several area law enforcement agencies responded to a bomb threat at Saratoga Performing Arts Center July 8. The threat was ultimately deemed a hoax.
Inside the amphitheater, the band Garbage had concluded their 15-song set at approximately 9 p.m. and those who remained in attendance awaited the appearance of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds when message boards informed fans to evacuate the venue in a calm manner. A reason was not provided, and some noted that at least one of the buses backstage transporting the performers had already left.
“Hey, just got evacuated from SPAC after the changeover from Garbage to Noel Gallagher,” said William Marley, a music fan in attendance. “Sat for 30 minutes after they tuned guitars. Bus pulled out then evac. warning went up.”
Concert promoter Live Nation released no statement and for the balance of the evening; a tweet was posted by the band Garbage. “We have no idea what happened tonight. We were just all evacuated and we were concerned for everyone !!!” read the tweet. “I’m sorry we have no real information. We were just told there was an emergency evacuation!!!!”
It wasn’t until the following day that an agency in an official capacity reported the reason for the evacuation.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center was suspended at 9:40 p.m. and concert attendees were evacuated without incident. K9s completed a sweep of the venue after the crowd exited, with negative results,” according to the posting from the New York State Park Police. “This incident is under investigation. This case will be investigated as Making a Terroristic Threat, a Class D Felony.”
The night included scheduled appearances by the bands Garbage and Metric, but Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – the night’s headlining act - never made it to the stage due to the evacuation. Fans holding tickets to the show were provided no information from Live Nation regarding whether a make-up date or refund will be forthcoming.
According to the promoter’s website: “Cancelations will only occur in the event of severe weather, artist cancelation or an act of God. In the event of a cancelation local media will be notified and any information about a potential reschedule will be made available. Refunds will be available at the point of purchase.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A new clinic will allow Saratoga Hospital and the Backstretch Employees Support Team (BEST) to expand on the existing healthcare services offered to members of the backstretch community.
John Hendrickson funded construction of the new clinic as a tribute to his late wife, Marylou Whitney. The new, modern healthcare clinic was constructed to replace a doublewide trailer that previously housed on-site healthcare services at Saratoga Race Course.
“Mary Lou used to come to the backstretch activities and look over at the trailer and say, ‘They deserve better. We’ve got to do something about it,’” Hendrickson said during a ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the new clinic this week.
“When Mary Lou passed away, I thought Mary Lou would want some of her possessions to go to a greater good. And what greater good is there, than health care for the backstretch workers,” Hendrickson said.
The building features a main entryway lobby and a series of rooms – a testing diagnostic room, a medication room and nearly a half-dozen exam rooms, among them. Large, framed paintings of races at Saratoga line the hallway walls. The facility is located just off Union Avenue and opposite the main track.
“They say health care is the foundation of every community. This fantastic new facility will improve lives and save lives,” Hendrickson said. “The backstretch workers now have a state-of-the-art medical facility which they truly deserve. Mary Lou thought Saratoga should be the summer place to be for everyone – especially for those who take care of our beloved thoroughbreds,” he said, “to the backstretch community: your work is appreciated more than you will ever know.”
Speakers at the ceremonial ribbon-cutting included Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Jill VanKuren, BEST Executive Director Paul Ruchames, Dr. Alexander Cardiel - Medical Director of the Backstretch Clinic, Saratoga Hospital, as well as local political leaders and NYRA officials.
Backstretch Worker Ismael Denalle, a survivor of heart surgery, expressed gratitude on behalf of backstretch workers for Hendrickson and Whitney’s efforts. “I’ve been working for more than 20 years in the sport,” he said, “and it’s beautiful to have a place that I could call: My Little Hospital.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City of Saratoga Springs is seeking proposals to develop and construct a new Bike Park facility which is slated to operate at 30 Weibel Ave., in close proximity to the city’s two ice rinks.
Plan requests call for the park to include asphalt pump track; Skills training area with prefabricated features; Beginner level adventure zone, freeride jump zone, flow zone to practice jumping skills, and dual slalom course.
The city prepared the Request for Proposals (RFP) for Bike Park Design Services in mid-June. Any and all bids received for the project will be publicly opened and read on July 25.
SARATOGA — Lifelong town of Saratoga resident, former town historian and longtime county Supervisor Tom Wood passed away this week.
“Even though we knew it was coming it’s still very sad news: Supervisor Wood passed away this morning after a long courageous battle with cancer,“ said newly-minted Supervisor Ian Murray at Town Hall in Saratoga on a rainy-gray Monday - the Board’s monthly meeting coming coincidentally on the day of Wood’s passing.
“Tom was a gentle caring person to everyone he met and a valued public servant throughout his life - from teacher to supervisor, always serving,” Murray continued. “God bless Tom and his family.”
County Board Of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Kusnierz said he was saddened to learn of the passing of the longtime Supervisor of the town of Saratoga.
“Tom was a distinguished member of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, a staunch advocate for his constituents, and a steward for the preservation of our County’s historic lands,” Kusnierz said, in a statement.
“To honor Supervisor Wood and his nearly two decades of service to the people of Saratoga County, all County flags will fly at half-staff for one week. My colleagues on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors and I send strength and support to his family during this difficult time.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS —The red-brick building located on the southwest corner of Broadway and Division Street that housed Fingerpaint Marketing has been sold for $11 million to Prime Group Holdings - a private equity company owned by Robert Moser with offices on Railroad Place. The future status of the building is not known at this time.
Ed Mitzen founded Fingerpaint in 2008 and in 2018 purchased the building at 395 Broadway for $9 million. The building was originally developed in 2000 to house Borders Books & Music. Previously, the spot had sited the Red Barn restaurant, Pope’s Pizza, and the E-Z Laundromat earlier in the 20th century.
More recently, Mitzen and his wife, Lisa, formed Business for Good, a nonprofit that aims to achieve social change through business. They plan to use the profit from the sale of the building for Business for Good, according to published reports. The sale closing on June 30 was first reported by the Times-Union.
Fingerpaint employs 800 people across the globe with a good number based locally, but with an increasing number having begun to work remotely in recent years, the two-story brick-and-mortar venue on Broadway was underutilized, and the marketing company plans on maintaining a smaller office nearby.
“Admittedly I was a huge anti-proponent of working from home. I always felt if someone said they wanted to work from home they would be mowing their yard and watching ESPN, that they’re not committed, but now I’ve done a complete 180,” Mitzen told Saratoga TODAY in late 2020, when the effects of the pandemic, and people working remotely were in full effect.
“Our folks have been unbelievably productive – probably more productive than they’ve been in the office,” Mitzen said. “We’ve all learned different ways of doing things through all this.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A series of connected rooms showcase the type of work that will go on here as well offering the comforts of a personal touch by those who will be working in its second-floor offices.
A spread of framed 8x10s cling to one wall, depicting the State Capitol following the soft drift of a winter’s snow. A large poster of Bobby Kennedy looks back from another. A bobble-head doll of Alan Chartrock and his West Highland Terrier Murray stands atop the desk of an aide, and a black-and-white portrait of Congressman Paul Tonko clings to the office wall of another.
“It only seemed natural to move forward and grow a district office here,” said the congressman, seated inside his own office, two stories up with windows that look out over Broadway.
Recent redistricting designated that all of Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady counties, as well as a portion of Rensselaer County, make up the 20th Congressional District.
“There was a sizable bit of redistricting that affected the district, so we thought: well, let’s reconfigure. As we added the 13 northernmost townships of Saratoga, it made sense to offer proximity for them and to offer another venue for southern Saratoga other than Albany.“
Tonko’s Saratoga Springs office - located on the second floor of 433 Broadway – and his office in Albany will serve as gathering points for those who live and work in the district.
“It’s important to have that interaction with the district that you represent,” Tonko said. “And I have to say: this is a very interactive district and a great one to represent, calling with ideas, solutions, requests - not pulling away from government but getting in the middle of it, which I think was intended as a republic. “
Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Scott Murphy, as well as Republicans Chris Gibson and Elise Stefanik each set up city offices on Broadway over the past two decades, but it’s been a few years since the city has sited one.
“This will be here for everyone in the district and beyond if you want to bring good ideas and opportunities for the 20th Congressional District,” Tonko said. “It’s that building of a connection that’s important and we base that public service on trust: being a good listener and then taking action on what you hear. That trust is about making sure you do all that you can to honor the request of the people that you serve.”
It is that communication from constituents that gets turned into action, Tonko explained. “If there is a struggle that a family or individual is going through, a business is going through, a not-for profit, a community – we want to be there,” he said.“This is about truly responding to those in government and making sure they hear the voices of the people in the 20th Congressional District… I think it’s a major part of the job to listen and understand people, whether that’s in written format or conversation, and achieve as much as we can on their behalf.”
The opening of the office was celebrated June 30 and included approximately three dozen supporters as well as area dignitaries, Todd Shimkus of the Saratoga County Chamber, Pete Bardunias of the Capital Region Chamber, city Mayor Ron Kim and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner – both Democrats, and city Supervisor Matt Veitch, a Republican, among them.
“I pledge to continue to work in a bipartisan, bicameral way,” Tonko said. “It’s the way I think the Framers of our government saw this working best. So, to those of different faiths: thank you for the opportunity to build those bridges and to respond to constituents across the board... we’re in this together.”
Kristina Kruk, a locally based single mother who emigrated from Ukraine, spoke about the hurdles she and her young son faced during their relocation, issues that were resolved through the congressman’s office.
“When I arrived in this country I faced numerous challenges, including the denial of my son’s social security application,” Kruk said through interpreter Elizabeth O’Connor. “When I reached out to Congressman Tonko’s office, things started to change. They listened to my concerns and took immediate action. He looked into our case and reached out to the Social Security Administration. Thanks to his intervention the matter was expedited, and my son’s application was accepted,” she said. “I encourage all of you to reach out to his office if you ever need his assistance.”
BALLSTON — A groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 27 for Foreverly House - a two-family home that will provide transitional housing for Veteran Moms and their children.
Foreverly House will be located at 1214 Saratoga Road in the town of Ballston and next to Guardian House, where the Veterans & Community Housing Coalition (VCHC) provides housing and services for homeless Veteran women. It is the first known facility of its kind.
A single Veteran Mom returning from service often chooses between giving up custody of her children to receive the support services she needs, or foregoing these essential services while making the transition back to civilian life. Without proper support, these women may continue to suffer from PTSD, sexual trauma, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and homelessness.
A grassroots effort began three years ago to build Foreverly House. It was an idea born out of a conversation in a West Ave. eatery three years ago when Veterans Ball Honorary Chair Ray O’Conor, Tiffany Orner – a veteran of the Air Force, and Cheryl Hage-Perez - who had served as executive director of VCHC, shared a conversation during breakfast at Shirley’s Restaurant.
The name Foreverly House – is named after the song “Foreverly,” written by local singer-songwriter Jeff Brisbin.
Without funding from state or federal agency resources, Foreverly House became through the generosity of major donors such as Business For Good, Stewart’s Shoppes, The Saratoga Foundation, IUE-CWA Housing Corp., the American Legion, and the South Glens Falls High Marathon Dance, as well as donations from dozens of other businesses and hundreds of individuals who care deeply about our Veterans. Trinity Building and Construction Management Corp. is donating its services as the general contractor for the project. Several subcontractors and area suppliers are also donating or discounting their services or products.
Moms are still a rarity in the military. Women make up 16 percent of enlisted forces and 19 percent of the officer corps, and a minority of those women have children under 18, according to a November 2020 article “The ‘Gut Wrenching’ Sacrifice of Military Moms,” written by Jessica Grose and published in the New York Times.
The Veterans & Community Housing Coalition hopes to complete the project and move the first Veteran Moms and their kids into Foreverly House in November. For more information, go to: www.vchcny.org/foreverly-house.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The following agenda items are currently under consideration by the Saratoga Springs Planning Board.
Public meetings are held at City Hall. For times and dates, go to: saratoga-springs.org.
• The Board is considering a proposed amendment, for which the City Council requested an opinion, that would place a 1,000-foot buffer minimum distance between any future city-based homeless shelter and any primary or secondary educational facility.
• 182 Excelsior Area Apartments. Coordinated SEQR review. The project would involve the subdivision of a parcel, relocating an existing main house apartment with 6 units and a carriage house with 4 units and redeveloping them into a total of 8 condominium units.
The separate parcel would see the construction of 4, three-story apartments with 9 units each – resulting in 36 total units.
• Station Lane, northwest corner of West Avenue & Station Lane. The site encompasses approximately 2 acres. Site plan review of a proposed mixed-use project including 9,500 square feet of non-residential space and 68 multi-family residential units.
Proposed construction of 1 four-story building that will provide 60 indoor parking spaces (basement level), retail space, restaurant, and some apartments (first floor), and all-apartments on floors 2,3 and 4. The L-shape building will front along West Avenue and Station Lane.