Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — “FOR THE LAST TIME,” my client says to me. “I. Did. Not. Kill. Those. People.”

So begins the new 386-page novel “12 Months To Live” by James Patterson and Mike Lupica, set for publication on Sept. 25 via Little, Brown and Company.   

Northshire Bookstore will host an afternoon with the bestselling author duo at the Saratoga Springs City Center at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24. They will discuss the book and their work with Joe Donahue of WAMC / Northeast Public Radio.

“12 Months To Live” follows criminal attorney Jane Smith, a tough as nails ex-NYPD beat cop, who has received a terminal diagnosis and doesn’t have much time. The burning question: Is her own client trying to kill her first?

James Patterson is among the world’s bestselling authors. Among his creations are Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, and Maximum Ride. He has collaborated on novels with Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton and has won an Edgar Award, nine Emmy Awards, and the National Humanities Medal.

Mike Lupica has covered the world of sports for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and Esquire, and has written 17 New York Times bestsellers. 

Single tickets for the event with the authors at the City Center are $40.98 (one general admission ticket and a hardcover copy of the book), and $56.73 (two admission tickets and one copy of the book). 

The details: Copies of “12 Months to Live” purchased as part of your ticket package will be pre-signed by the authors and given to you when you arrive at the event. There will NOT be a post-event signing line. If possible, there will be additional autographed books available for purchase at the event.

For more information, go to: 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Caffe Lena will host a special tribute in honor of Joni Mitchell on Saturday, Nov. 4, just days before her 80th birthday. 

While Mitchell has never played Caffè Lena, organizers point to Mitchell as representing the values that have driven America’s longest-running coffeehouse since its opening night in May, 1960: strong ties to the folk tradition, a fierce independence, a close connection with humanity and a relentless musical vision of what the future can be.

Produced and hosted by Capital Region Michael Eck, “Both Sides Now: Songs of Joni Mitchell” - a benefit for Caffè Lena, features performances of  classics from all phases of the artist’s career with a stellar lineup including Sara Ayers, Buggy Jive, Kate McDonnell, Kate McKrell, Rosanne Raneri and Angelina Valente.

The event will take place 8 p.m. Saturday Nov. 4, at Caffè Lena, 47 Phila St. Tickets are $12.50-$25. Call 518-583-0022, or visit: 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – City Mayor Ron Kim released a statement Monday requesting a report from the public safety department regarding Saturday afternoon’s “march in Saratoga Springs” by “a hate group that is known for acts of violence against people based on their vile, despicable, white supremacist views.”  

“On Saturday afternoon a group known for their misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration views, and propensity for violence - including on Jan. 6, 2021 when its members stormed the United States Capital - briefly marched in Saratoga Springs,” Mayor Kim said, in the statement.  “This is not a normal group of individuals seeking to influence public debate.”  

“Pursuant to Title 3 of the City’s Charter, I am asking the Commissioner of Public Safety to provide my office by the close of business on Thursday, Aug. 10 with a full report of the incident, including:

1) what information was provided to the Department and/or Saratoga Springs Police Department prior, during, and after this group marched;

2) what actions were taken by the Department and/or the Saratoga Springs Police Department when it became aware of the march;

3) what relevant regulations and/or laws were violated by the march; and

4) any recommendations to prevent a repeat of this incident in the future.”

Title 3 of the City Charter grants the mayor authority to require any department to report to the Council in writing on the status of any function, program, or project involving the City, as well as “ultimate responsibility for and see to enforcement of City laws, codes, rules, and regulations.” The Charter additionally states that Departments shall provide aid and assistance to the mayor in execution of these responsibilities.  

“I am also asking the other departments of our city government to weigh in on how we prevent a repetition of this incident and I know each is actively reviewing their responsibilities and mandates towards that end,” Kim said.

A handful of social media posts Saturday, apparently made by random passersby, depicted approximately three dozen masked people, draped in black or yellow T-shirts, standing in front of parked cars on the west side of Broadway while a tape recording of the “Star-Spangled Banner” played. A yellow pickup truck festooned with American flags and bearing a sign that read Law & Order atop its cab, stood on the west side of the Caroline Street and Broadway intersection.

Members of the Proud Boys also marched in Ballston Spa on Saturday, Village Trustee Liz Kormos reported in a post.

Monday’s statement from the city additionally included comments by councilmembers Jason Golub and Dillon Moran.

Commissioner Jason Golub of the Department of Public Works: “The message and methods of the Proud Boys is one that has condoned violence and ideologically motivated crimes over the past several years. This is not what the city or the people of Saratoga Springs stand for.

“While freedom of speech is a constitutionally protected right, there is no place for violent rhetoric or violent actions in our community. Saratoga Springs is a place where every resident and visitor must feel safe to be who they are without fear. We are a city that wants to build bridges not burn them down, to heal old wounds and find solutions. No matter a person’s background, beliefs, or circumstances, we as a community will not allow hate and violence to take root here. We live in a polarized time and can absolutely disagree on the best direction for our city or our country, but we cannot do so in a way that condones violence or makes it unsafe for anyone else to be whom they are. As a leader that is non-negotiable for our city.”

Commissioner of Accounts Dillon Moran: “Communication between city officials and between departments is essential. The city is inclusive and welcoming to all. We need to be made aware of the presence of a group that is emboldened to create an atmosphere of violence and disruption. That Commissioner Montagnino didn’t feel the need to let the city council know of this situation demonstrates an abdication of his responsibility to Saratoga Springs as a whole.”

Former city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, who is running for a seat as County Supervisor in the November election, released a statement during the weekend to “denounce what the masked individuals in today’s demonstration attempted to do and emphatically reject their ideology of hatred and bigotry.”   

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.

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