City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
MALTA — A large-scale community COVID-19 testing site opened on Monday in Malta, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Kusnierz announced at a morning press conference.
“One of the things we committed to in January of this year is we would make Saratoga County’s response to COVID our number one priority. And this is an extension of that effort,” said Kusnierz. “The opening of this testing site is another example of how Saratoga County has made fighting the pandemic our number 1 priority.”
The site, located off the Northway Exit 12 at 100 Saratoga Boulevard in Malta can accommodate up to 1,000 COVID-19 testing appointments per week. It is part of a public-private partnership with Syracuse-based Quadrant Biosciences.
Kusnierz said the reason behind the opening of testing site is “to take the load off our health care providers and urgent care providers” around the region. During the past week, from Nov. 28 – Dec. 4, there were nearly approximately 18,900 COVID tests performed across Saratoga County. Just over 1,350 people, resulting in a 7.2% positive average was returned over that 7-day period.
Just over 72% of the Saratoga County population is fully vaccinated, according to the county health department. “As Dr. Kuhles (Commissioner of Saratoga County Public Health Services) has repeatedly said, vaccination is the best way to combat COVID,” Kusnierz said Monday. The county is hosting a handful of vaccination/booster clinics in the upcoming weeks. That information may be found at: www.saratogacountyny.gov/covid/covid-19-vaccines-and-boosters/.
The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors - the legislative and executive authority of County government - has not issued any mask-wearing or vaccine mandates, as some other communities in New York State have done.
“This is another effort by Saratoga County to be proactive and to be ready for the holidays coming up – Christmas, New Year’s – we know that families will be getting together in close proximity and there is the anticipation that we will see a continued rise and one of the ways we can be proactive is to have this program up and ready before that time.”
The site will not provide vaccinations and is to be used only by people who are having symptoms.
Testing will be done using the Clarifi COVID-19 Saliva Test. Results will be available within 24-48 hours of testing. Those using the Malta testing site are required to create an account at app.clarifi-covid-19.com to access their results. Appointments may be made 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
For more information or to make an appointment, go online to quadrantbiosciences.com/covidtesting or www.saratogacountyny.gov/COVID.
BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors will hold their monthly meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 15. It is the last regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting of the calendar year and will take place at 40 McMaster St., Ballston Spa.
The meeting will be preceded by a Public Hearing at 3 p.m. regarding the proposed development of a new aircraft hangar at Saratoga County Airport.
North American Flight Services (NASF), which has been the Fixed Base Operator at the county airport for 22 years, proposed that it would privately fund the design and construction of the 22,500 square foot hangar – estimated at $6 million to $7 million - and would pay taxes and retain ownership of it following its construction.
NASF currently holds two leases at the airport with a term through April 2028 on which it currently pays approximately $7,000 per month. With the potential addition of a new hangar, the company is requesting the term of the lease be modified to extend to 2061, with a sliding incremental increase in monthly payments that would conclude at just over $9,600 per month in the final five years of the proposed lease extension, from 2056-2061.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A variety of development projects are under consideration this month by the city’s three Land Use Boards.
Meetings of the three Land Use Boards - Planning Board, Design Review Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals are held at Saratoga Springs City Hall. Note that submitted plans and meeting agendas are subject to change. For the most current information, visit the city website at: saratoga-springs.org.
• Demolition. Property Address: 120 South Broadway. Proposal: demolish and remove a 9,000 square foot building in its entirety along the southern border and approximately 2,100 square foot portion of the building along the eastern border. Applicant: Stephen Ether. Owners: Strategies LLC. Current application consideration at Design Review Commission.
Demolition proposal at 120 South Broadway. Photo provided.
• New Broadway mixed-use. Property Address: 269 Broadway. Located just north of St. Peter’s Academy, and directly across the street of Park Place Condominiums. Currently a vacant lot. Seeking: Historic Review of a new 6-story commercial/retail building with on-site, underground parking. Current application consideration at Design Review Commission.
• Saratoga Hospital Medical Office Campus. Project location: Corner of Myrtle Street and Morgan St, 1 Morgan St. and 55 Myrtle St. Seeking: coordinated SEQRA review for a phased project totaling 105,000 square foot medical office use and associated site work in the Office Medical Business and Urban Residential districts.
• Stewart’s Shops Corp. Property Address: 34 Marion Ave. Stewart’s Marion Avenue/ Route 9 and Maple Dell. Seeking: consideration of deferral of lead agency status for coordinated SEQRA review for establishment of a PUD (Planned Unit Development). Proposal: seeking to establish a PUD that will facilitate the construction of a new store with gas pumps, car wash, four residential units and professional office space, among other things. Applicant owns several parcels (6.14 acres) along Maple Avenue and Maple Dell which contain a multitude of existing uses and vacant land. Current consideration at Planning Board.
• Caroline Street. Property Address: 172 Caroline St. Applicant/ Purchaser under contract: James Stockwell. Owner: Estate of Jack Paston. Proposal: 0.36 acres subdivided into two lots. Sketch plan review of a proposed two-lot subdivision. Current consideration at Planning Board.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Rock Concert. It has served as both rite of passage and meeting place for the gathered tribes.
In his new book, titled “Rock Concert,” interviewer Marc Myers explores the history of rock and roll over a period of four decades as a live, publicly staged art form.
Drawing on original in-depth interviews with nearly 100 sources, Myers re-visits some of the more notable performances of the 20th century, and offers a cautionary conclusion about the future of the art form. Breaking its initial promise as a space for inspiration, the rock concert has been drifting into a dangerous territory of becoming an endangered species.
“From the beginning, live music’s purpose was to transform a gathering into a community by altering their minds,” writes Myers, who chronologically traces rock’s roots from the end-of-World War II emergence of independent record labels sharing the sounds of boogie-woogie and jump blues, up through the mid-1980s era of stadium rock.
“Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There,” is split into four parts – one dedicated to each of the decades between the 1950s and ‘80s.
Joan Baez recalls singing with Martin Luther King as a crowd gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 joining in a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” Ronnie Spector remembers the early gigs of The Ronettes at New York’s fabled Peppermint Lounge, and several dozen music industry notables weigh in, Todd Rundgren and Ian Anderson, Marshall Chess, Roger Waters and Seymour Stein, among them.
The intricate spool that was the concert experience of the 1960s is unraveled to reveal a linear progression from the early inspiration provided by a young Bob Dylan to the landing of The Beatles in America; It forges a path through Bill Graham’s opening of the Fillmore and the staging of massive pop festivals nationwide, accented by the affirmation that was the summer of Woodstock and crashing at Altamont by decade’s end.
Moving forward, Myers portrays the 1970s as the era that ushered in large arena shows and sired the corporate influences and the MTV age of the 1980s.
Myers’ own first concert was as a 15-year-old, watching Santana perform at New York City’s Felt Forum - a theater nestled alongside the then-new most recent incarnation of Madison Square Garden. “Rock Concert” comes to a full stop after the 1985 staging of the global jukebox that was Live Aid.
“The rock concert didn’t disappear the day after Live Aid ended,” explains Myers in the book’s epilogue - although it had significantly changed. Strategies first developed by industry pioneers were leveraged by live-entertainment companies, the emerging youth culture grew enamored with social media and digital access to recorded music, electronics cast an increasing shadow over live performers, and the cost of concert tickets climbed to greater and greater heights.
“Along the way, the rock and the rock concert became less of an agent for social change and more of a nostalgia business for legacy artists,” writes Myers, a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal where he writes about music and the arts.
The voices and memorable concerts that comprise the oral biography provide an illuminating retrospective of cultural happenings that meant so much to so many. Many of the major happenings are covered, although the stimulating energy taking place on club stages - and the movements of glam, punk, metal and funk it ignited, are largely ignored.
“For rock to survive in its original form as an art form of outrage and pushback, the music and rock concert will have to connect meaningfully with the youth culture’s current concerns and agenda,” Myers surmises. “Otherwise, rock and the rock concert risks fading away with the generation that was most inspired by its rise.”
“Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There,” by Marc Myers. Published by Grove Atlantic, $30. Available at Northshire Bookstore Saratoga.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Last week, Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston posted a statement and graph image on her official government page depicting the recent spike in the percentage of county residents testing positive for COVID-19.
“Saratoga County is a leader in the state with COVID19 vaccinations in all ages, and I’m thrilled with the number of residents who have completed their vaccine series (however) when we compare today to one year ago - before vaccinations and before the lifting of many restrictions - it’s clear that the vaccines are not enough to get us out of this,” Gaston said.
Gaston asked residents to get vaccinated if they had not already done so, obtain a booster if eligible, and to wear a mask.
Following the recent holiday weekend, the State Department of Health on Friday, Dec. 3 reported the 7-day average positive test rate among Saratoga County residents at 8.7%, with the neighboring communities of Warren and Washington counties reporting 10.7% and 11.9%, respectively.
“The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors sits as the Board of Health for the County, and can issue guidance or directives accordingly,” said Gaston, one of 23 members of the Board of Supervisors - the legislative and executive authority of Saratoga County government. “Unfortunately, the Board is unwilling at this time to take additional steps to #StopTheSpread, and there is little I can do alone.”
Saratoga County Public Health Services (SCPHS) has “recommended” the wearing of masks in certain situations, but the county board – which directs and oversees SCPHS - has not taken legislative action regarding the matter. Some other communities have been more aggressive.
In late August, the Saratoga Springs City Council adopted a resolution requiring all employees and visitors regardless of vaccination to wear a face mask when entering City buildings, facilities and/or indoor events sponsored by the city. The resolution additionally called for all public-facing employees to wear a mask.
And in New York City, residents and visitors age 12 and older are required to show proof of vaccination to participate in indoor activities at restaurants, bars, fitness gyms, and entertainment and recreational settings such as movie theaters, museums and concert venues. Compared to Saratoga County’s 8.7% rate, the 7-day average positive test rate in the five New York City boroughs range from a low of 1.6% in Manhattan to a high of 3.5% on Staten Island.
To combat the rising COVID-19 infection rate in the region, state Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Nov. 29 that a mass state vaccination site would re-open in Queensbury. The location will provide vaccinations (8 a.m. -7 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays), as well as COVID-19 PCR testing
(8 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). Pre-registered as well as walk-in appointments will be available.
Upcoming Booster Clinics. All are COVID-19 Moderna boosters.
Wednesday, Dec. 8
For Age 18+ (9 a.m. – noon); For Age 65+ (1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.) at Saratoga County Public Health, 6012 County Farm Road, Ballston Spa.
Friday, Dec. 10
For Age 18+ (9:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.) at Mechanicville Senior Center, 178 N. Main St, Mechanicville.
Saturday, Dec. 11
For Age 18+ (9 a.m. – noon) at Saratoga County Public Health, 6012 County Farm Road, Ballston Spa.
Monday, Dec. 20
For Age 65+ (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) at Clifton Park Senior Center, 6 Clifton Common Boulevard, Clifton Park.
Booster Clinics are by appointment only. Visit www.SaratogaCountyNY.gov/COVID to register. Seniors may also call 518-693-1075 to register for a clinic.
Vaccine Clinics for individuals between the ages of 5-11 years old
Clinics are by appointment only. Make an appointment for your child at the NYS operated vaccination clinic at Crossgates Mall (via am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/) or at a pharmacy near you by visiting vaccines.gov.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Brightly colored snow pants and children’s winter coats cling to rows of metal racks against a far wall. Bundles of bedding and kids’ comforters, stacks of young reader’s books and an assortment of toy trucks and stuffed dolls sprawl across the tabletops.
Nearly one year to the day since securing a building on the city’s west side to help its growing programs, Franklin Community Center has officially opened the doors of its newest facility, located at the intersection of Franklin and Washington streets.
The organization’s new building provides more than 10,000 square feet of expanded space, features individual offices, common areas, large meeting rooms, and stands a few yards from its 10 Franklin St. building, which remains active.
By relocating the non-profit human service agency’s administrative offices from 10 Franklin St. to Washington Street, it provides space to back-stock donations and goods distributed through its meal assistance programs and allows the organization’s food pantry to grow triple its previous size.
“Food insecurity is not going away,” says Mary Beth McGarrahan, development director at Franklin Community Center, which serves hundreds of individuals at its food pantry every week. “It gives us the space to continue to grow the food pantry.”
Franklin Community Center has served as a social service hub for the less fortunate in and around Saratoga since 1983. The Center’s programs include the food pantry, a free after-school prevention program for local students and affordable housing for low-income individuals, as well as assisting with furniture and clothing and household needs, among others.
FCC’s newest building had previously served as a cutting-edge center of 21st century global technology under the guidance of Elliott and Cathy Masie. The couple built the Masie Center just over 20 years ago.
Aiming to build an addition to one of its existing buildings to create more space, FCC raised about $1 million toward its goal of raising $2.5 million when the coronavirus started making its way across the globe, slowing fundraising efforts, even as the need for the services the center offers increased exponentially. Meanwhile, the nearby Masie building was listed for sale at $2.6 million. When the Michael and Stacie Arpey Family stepped forward to donate $1 million toward FCC’s purchase of the building, and the Masies agreed to lower their original asking price, a deal was struck. Today, a plaque that hangs outside the building reads: The Franklin Community Center/Michael and Stacie Arpey Family Community Center.
Through the month of December, the new building also houses goods for its Holiday Assistance Program.
“This is our giving program where you ‘adopt’ children, you ‘adopt’ a family,” McGarrahan explains. “Holiday assistance - It can be toys, clothes, bedding, electronics. Fun things for a girl or boy. It might be hygiene products that they may not normally get in their shopping trips, or winter clothes, books, musical instruments,” she says. “It could be anything their family is not able to purchase on their own.”
Families contact the center and fill out an application which lists the needs and desires of the child. Those needs are then matched up against a list of donors who have offered their support for the holiday program by “adopting” a family.
Looking forward, Franklin Community Center’s next focus will be on its Project Lift Summer Camp Assistance program.
“We do summer camp scholarships for all our Project Lift kids, so if anybody is looking to support a child and send them to a camp for a week or two, they can support that with our scholarship fund,” McGarrahan said.
For more information about Franklin Community Center and its programs, go to: www.franklincommunitycenter.org
SARATOGA SPRINGS — There are more than 60 cities, 500 villages, and 900 towns in New York State, and each has until Dec. 31 to opt-out of two new state initiatives calling for on-site cannabis consumption lounges, and dispensaries authorized to sell cannabis in their respective communities.
On March 31, New York State legalized adult-use cannabis by passing the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act, or MRTA. The legislation created a new Office of Cannabis Management governed by a Cannabis Control Board to oversee and implement the law, issue licenses and develop regulations outlining how and when business can participate in the new industry.
Regarding the two initiatives as it correlates to alcohol, Dispensaries are akin to a liquor store, while On-Site Consumption lounges are more akin to a bar, explained Vince DeLeonardis, attorney for the City of Saratoga Springs - which is currently poised to be welcoming of both.
To opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses, a municipality must pass a local law by Dec. 31. A municipality may choose to opt-out of both or just one of the two types of license. If interested in permitting marijuana retailers or social consumption sites, municipalities need not do anything.
Public hearings regarding the matter are underway in many of Saratoga County’s 19 towns, 9 villages and two cities.
A decision is anticipated early next month In Malta, said town Supervisor Darren O'Connor. “It’s on for a public hearing on Nov. 29 and then it will be on the agenda on Dec. 6 for the Board to decide what to do, if anything.”
The town of Wilton is opting out and will not allow dispensaries or on-site consumption sites town, said Supervisor John Lant.
The town of Clifton Park has scheduled a public hearing to take place on Dec. 6, and town officials in Milton are meeting this week when it is anticipated the board will allow both parts of the measure.
“If we do nothing then both are allowed, but we’re going to go through the motions of saying that we’ll allow both to happen in the town,” said Milton Supervisor Benny Zlotnick. “Obviously there will be some benefit in sales tax with sales of that product, but we have no idea what that might be. Public opinion seems to be in favor of on-site consumption, so that’s what we’re going to do. The public comments we have had said we might as well allow both because if other places are going to have it and we don’t allow on-site consumption, then people will drive right by our businesses to go to those locations.”
A local excise tax will be imposed on the sale of cannabis products by a retail dispensary to a cannabis consumer at 4% of the products’ price. The tax is distributed to local governments based on where the retail dispensary is located, with three-fourths of that tax revenue going to the specific municipality and one-fourth to the county.
If a town and a village within a town both allow adult-use sales, the revenue will be distributed based upon an agreement between the town and village or divided evenly. In the city of Saratoga Springs, for example, on that .04 tax of every dollar, the city would receive .03, and Saratoga County would receive .01.
During a recent meeting in the village of Ballston Spa – a meeting ultimately overshadowed by Mayor Larry Woolbright’s sudden resignation announcement - the mayor and all four village trustees said they were unanimously in agreement of allowing dispensaries, and by a 3-2 count agreed to allowing on-site consumption lounges as well. “For now, I’ll consider that we’ve made our call and are not opting out,” Woolbright said, following the village board discussion.
If a town passes a local law to opt-out, it only affects the area of the town outside of any village within the town.
In the town of Saratoga, the board will move at its Dec. 13 meeting to prohibit on-site consumption venues via a Local Law, but will allow cannabis sales at dispensaries, said town of Saratoga Town Supervisor Tom Wood. “So, that would be only the town of Saratoga and does not include the villages of Schuylerville, or Victory,” Wood said. “I haven’t talked to (Schuylerville Mayor) Dan Carpenter or (Victory Mayor) Pat Dewey, so I don’t know what their intensions are.”
As for area businesses located in municipalities that allow the sale of cannabis, Stewart’s Shops chain of convenience stores will not be among them.
“We will not be pursuing a dispensary in any of our shops,” said Erica Komoroske, Stewart's Shops' director of public affairs.
Even as municipalities allow adult-use retail dispensaries and/or on-site consumption licenses, towns, cities and villages may pass local laws and regulations pertaining to local zoning and the location of licensees, hours of operations, and adherence to local building codes. Municipalities may not, however, opt-out of adult-use legalization. Possession and use of cannabis by adults 21-or-older became legal in New York State earlier this year. Adults over 21 can possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of concentrated cannabis in their personal possession, according to the state Office of Cannabis Management, and up to five pounds of cannabis at their personal residence.
People can step outside and smoke, as law passed. Some municipalities have prohibited smoking of all kinds in and around its municipal buildings.
BALLSTON SPA — In a move that promises to increase the quality of life for local residents as well as provide a future opportunity to secure tourism dollars for municipalities throughout the county, the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 16 unanimously approved and adopted an official Saratoga County Bike Route Map.
The map was created through the collaborative input of representatives from area cycling clubs and government leaders in Saratoga Springs and
“It’s the culmination of about three years of work with a subcommittee of city residents and county officials,” said city Supervisor Matt Veitch, following the adoption of the measure. “You’re going to start to see those green bike route signs on roads all over the county, so it will be great to see people start doing some bike tourism, all over the county.”
Veitch thanked current city council members Michele Madigan and Robin Dalton, city supervisor Tara Gaston and former city commissioner Peter Martin, as well as other city and county officials and bike advocacy groups.
“This is a great start for improving the health and quality of life benefits that we bring to our residents, as well as the potential for tourism dollars,” said Martin. “I’ve taken many day trips that have included just about every part of the map route.”
Martin cited states such as Colorado, which have multi-day biking tours that provide positive economic impact for local communities.
“I’ve had the pleasure of riding several times on one of these tours – it’s called Ride The Rockies – and is in its 38th year. It’s estimated to generate a quarter of a million dollars of revenue – per day – for the towns and villages it travels through.” In Iowa, the RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) is in its 47th year, and draws 15,000 cyclist to its 7-day, 500-mile trip. “The economic impact in 2021 was estimated to be $25 million in direct spending in the cities and towns the tour runs through.” Martin said.
“You have a real opportunity here. Our county roads are a real resource,” echoed Ed Lindner, of Bikeatoga. “This beginning is an important step, and you need to build on it.”
Budgets: City Approves 2022 Plan, County Public Hearing Nov. 30, Vote in December
• Having made revisions to the Saratoga County tentative 2022 budget, the Board of Supervisors, as required by county law, approved a public hearing regarding the revised tentative 2022 budget. The public hearing will take place 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the county complex, 40 McMaster St., Ballston Spa. The county initially proposed its $381 million budget in October. It is anticipated budget adoption will take place Dec. 8. The 87-page 2022 Tentative Budget with Amendments may be viewed via the county website at: saratogacountyny.gov/wp/wp-content/uploads /2021/11/2022-Budget-Workshop -Report.pdf.
“I did try in our workshop to amend the budget to provide more funding for non-profits. That did not pass,” said Supervisor Tara Gaston. “We’ve heard from non-profits in the city and throughout the county interested in some support recovering from COVID, and I would recommend they come speak to us in order for supervisors to hear that and potentially amend the budget before we pass it in December.”
• In the City of Saratoga Springs meanwhile, the City Council on Nov. 16 adopted a $54.2 million operating budget for 2022. The City Council will seat four new members on Jan. 1. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco is the one returning member. The current council members, completing their respective two-year terms and it is anticipated the final two meetings of this current council will take place on Dec. 7, and Dec. 21.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The NY 77th Infantry Regiment monument was re-installed on its base in Congress Park this week. The base had been vacant since the summer of 2020, when the city says the statue was vandalized.
The 77th Infantry Regiment was mustered in on Nov. 23,1861, and mustered out June 27, 1865, according to the state Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. The companies were principally recruited at Ballston, Saratoga and Wilton.
The piece required significant repairs to the zinc statue, according to a statement issued by the Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works, which coordinated its re-installation.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A truck accidentally crashed into Loughberry Lake last weekend, temporarily shutting down the water treatment plant at Loughberry Lake, which is the main water supply for the city of Saratoga Springs.
The incident occurred at approximately 4 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 14. Oil from the vehicle was contained to the northeast portion of the lake approximately a mile from the intake system and did not pose a problem for the water treatment plant, according to a statement issued by the Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works. After the truck was removed and oil contained, the water plant was restarted at 9 a.m. Sunday.
The New York State Department of Health was notified of the situation and the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation called in an environmental cleanup crew which deployed booms into the lake to contain any oil that had escaped from the truck.
The Greenfield Fire Department, New York State Police, New York State, and the Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works (DPW) responded to the crash.
The driver of the vehicle was unharmed. It is not known if the driver was ticketed. Residents can contact the water treatment plant operators at 518-584-1848 with any questions or concerns.