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Ain’t No Jive… They’ve Done More Than Survive
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Any business that makes it to five years deserves props. But in the music business, you have to count it like it’s dog years.
Suffice to say, Putnam Den (63A Putnam Street, Saratoga Springs), has in five short years, established something that was not seen in this town in, well maybe, forever.
A music venue where the emphasis is on original artists.
Notice that we did not state a genre. Putnam Den welcomes them all – from rock to reggae (and yes, even hip-hop sometimes). Notice further that we said artists, not just musicians – Co-owners Tiffany and Jonathan Albert have welcomed painters, poets and probably Papier-mâché practitioners inside their roomy, comfy confines.
“There’s still a lot of misconceptions about what we do,” Tiffany said. “People think we’re a dance club, a hippie club, a this club, a that. They think we’re only a high-cover price venue, when in fact on those nights we have a national touring act the ticket price goes to the band. We have a very-high percentage of absolutely free shows.”
Putnam Den is impossible to pigeonhole, and that’s by design. An example of a superior original free show series would be beginning on July 9, when Gubbulidis, a duo from Castleton, VT that featuring members from Twiddle Zdenek Gubb and Mihali Savoulidis establish a Wednesday residency throughout the summer. During track season local legends Half-Step will also perform on Thursday evenings – also free.
It would have never happened, let alone reach the precipice of a fifth anniversary, without the shared vision and acumen of Tiffany and Jonathan. Tiffany is one of the most discerning, dedicated evaluators of talent I have ever met; Jonathan has a background that is a mélange of expertise that ranges from hospitality management to the performing arts. But even with that going for them, they credit (more than) a little help from their friends.
But not the banks. It was 2009. The recession. Banks weren’t lending money to hospitals, let alone a fledgling dream involving music; don’t even waste the paper and ink filling out the application! “We got our liquor license on a Thursday, opened the night after.” Jonathan said. “We had exactly $16 in our checking account” after they emptied their savings on permits, sound equipment, paint and supplies.
“When we put our financial plan together,” Tiffany said, “our accountant at the time said ‘it’s my professional obligation to talk you out of this’, but I told him: ‘this ship is going to sail!’”
You don’t get to five, though, without some help, and the Albert’s received a lot from both the business and local government communities. They rattled off names in such rapid fashion I could barely keep up; some might be a surprise:
“Jake Hogan, Tony Ianello, Peter Beames, Bruce Levinsky, Patricia Berry, Kevin Saxton, Dan Cogan in the building department, Stephanie in the city clerk’s office, Steve Ellwanger our C.P.A., Dave Harper, Julie Francis…” they said. If I left anyone out, the fault is mine, not theirs.
In addition to this, they salute the loyalty of their staff. “We have had surprising little turnover.” Tiffany said. “What makes me happy is that they make it more than a ‘bar job’. They buy into what we are doing, and use there work here as a platform to achieve their life’s goals.”
An example of this is Brian Petroski, one of the “core four” on the staff during their five years. Brian is one of the most accomplished abstract painters you will ever see, and he’s living right here. In fact, he deserves a plug of his own: visit brianpetroski.artspan.com.
Further, they have bona-fide crowd pleasers like Sam Bottini (who has been there from the beginning) and Lauren Cognato, as well as Emily Hill, who just had her second baby yet keeps coming back to the ‘Den’ family.
And so they have a lot of people in their crowd to thank. But this is a crowd that gives back. It’s a rare month on the Putnam Den calendar that you don’t see several benefits for one local cause or another, from fundraisers for established charities like Jake’s Help From Heaven to a neighbor family struggling to pay some enormous hospital bill.
When I ask Tiffany and Jonathan about a vignette that describes their quintessential Putnam Den moment, neither of them gave me what I expected.
Tiffany touched on the spirit and energy she felt “…when people say thanks. Thanks for bringing in this band, or that, yes. But, more importantly, thanks for opening our home to their cause. Often, we get out of there at 5 a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and re-open for a charity event at 11 a.m. But it’s at the only way I would do this.”
For Jonathan, that moment involves “hanging out with my son (Zion, age 3. They also have Anthony, who just graduated from Saratoga H.S. and Violet, 10 months) during the afternoons. We play with the soundboard, sometimes help with a band’s load-in.”
He continued, “One time, Donna Jean Godchaux (a member of the Grateful Dead from 1972 to 1979) came in with her son’s band: Her son was named Zion too. He was maybe 45 at the time; my son was 2. They bonded big time- the eldest said it was the first time he had met another Zion.”
These examples are instructive because, much like Putnam Den itself, it is often not what you think it’s going to be.
If you’re a regular visitor, you already know that. If not, my advice is to suspend disbelief, don’t wait five more years to help them blow out the candles, and thank them for their seminal contribution to Saratoga’s cultural scene.
Putnam Den has a slew of events planned for their anniversary on Wednesday, July 2, throughout the summer and beyond. For more information on everything, visit PutnamDen.com or call (518) 584-8066.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga TODAY Newspaper has learned that there is potential pending litigation against the City of Saratoga Springs’ Department of Public Safety, seeking relief and potential damages against the pending imposition of a one-way street plan in a neighborhood that borders Saratoga Race Course, during the six weeks the Race Course is in operation.
The affected area will involve Wright Street, Frank Sullivan Place and a portion of Lincoln Avenue between the Race Course and Nelson Avenue. The portion on Lincoln Avenue fronts Siro’s Restaurant and a handful of private residences. Some of these residences have provided parking on their lawns/driveways to race goers for decades.
The information was derived from on-the-record conversations with Mr. Keith Kantrowitz, owner of Siro’s; Mr. Kantrowitz’s attorney, Bob Sweeney a partner in the Albany law firm Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna; and Ms. Rose Tait, a resident of Lincoln Avenue for decades.
Mr. Sweeney would only confirm that “my client has retained me to explore all legal options” at press time.
But there is no doubt that Mr. Kantrowitz is drawing a line in the sand. “They (the city) are playing with the wrong guy.” He said. “This is another example of a vicious and malicious attempt by government to interfere with private enterprise. I’m more than ready to push back this time.”
The “this time” Kantrowitz refers to concerns an earlier battle with the city over noise levels for live music. Mr. Sweeney confirmed that his client agreed to install a sound barrier to mitigate the noise, at a cost of about $500,000. The barrier has to be put up and removed each season as well.
At that time “I enlisted the aid of the downtown business community and others.” Kantrowitz said. “I told them: Siro’s fight today is yours tomorrow. Now look what the city is doing with live music noise ordinances. I even agreed to a lower level than they did.” (Downtown music venues are supposed to adhere to a 90-decibel limit.)
In the current case, Kantrowitz takes issue on two broad-levels: The one-way streets plan itself; and the way it passed through the city council.
The one-way street plan, in short, would have traffic routed from Nelson along Wright Street (which is the site of the Trackside Grill and other vendors in addition to pedestrians and vehicles). Traffic would then turn left in front of the drop-off point at the Racecourse’s clubhouse entrance onto Frank Sullivan Place, and then left again onto Lincoln and out of the neighborhood.
The stated goal is to make things safer for all, yet Kantrowitz believes it may have the opposite impact.
“Look, first of all, there have been no accidents here for five years. It’s not like people are speeding around the corners.” He said. “But now, cars are going to have to go through this storm of traffic, with pinch points and backups as the clubhouse cars attempt to merge, people walking from the gates, and what used to be a smooth easy ride along Lincoln to get to our entrance is now a nightmare!”
He continued. “I’m putting the city on notice. They will be responsible for all that happens going forward. And I’m warning all visitors, pedestrians particularly: Be careful!”
“This has worked just fine since the 40s. Why are they messing with this now?” Kantrowitz concludes.
The second issue involves the timing of the plan’s adoption and the way it was done. Back on February 18, an item on the city council’s official agenda appeared for a public hearing to “Amend Chapter 225-72 Schedule VII -One Way Streets.” There was nothing specific to one area or another. As it turns out, the area was revealed to be the area around Siro’s. No one from the public spoke at that hearing.
The city is required to do certain things to notify the public of these hearings; putting legal notices in the daily press for instance, and there is no allegation that they did anything less than they are legally required to do.
Yet, in the modern online era, is this sufficient. Note well that these notices are not carried onto most newspaper websites. In any event, Kantrowitz, who has his business headquarters downstate, said he did not know this was on the agenda.
“Of course I would have come up had I known.” He said. “Why wouldn’t I? This is going to have a big impact on my business. But I ask you, why does something like this have to be decided in February? It wasn’t just me who wasn’t here at that time.”
“I came back from my winter home in South Carolina in April, and the first thing my friend said to me is: ‘Rose, they sure screwed you!’” Rose Tait said.
Yes, if you are having trouble mustering up sympathy for the rich, flamboyant owner of Siro’s, consider the plight of his neighbor (and friend) Rose, who has the property two doors down beyond Siro’s, closer to Nelson Avenue.
On that property, she parks cars, as it has been done since the 1930s. It’s a pretty good-sized lot, I would estimate you could get about 40 cars in it, and while she didn’t want to reveal how much money she makes from parking cars, she did indicate that “it pays my city taxes” most years, although in recent years it would be a rare day that it would be filled to capacity. By the way, the house on the property is paid for – she’s not in danger of losing it.
Rose added this perspective to the mix:
On the notice: “I think they should have come and met with us.” She said. “Wasn’t there was some precedent set for this?”
“Back when Ron Kim was commissioner, they were looking to do something similar,” she explained. “A whole contingent met with us at Siro’s, including Kim, Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton, City Attorney Tony Izzo, representatives from police and code enforcement.”
“Even Eileen Finneran was there. She was Kim’s deputy then.” Ms. Finneran is also the current deputy of public safety under Commissioner Chris Mathiesen. “So I would think something similar is in order.”
The economic impact: “It’s going to hurt, no doubt. It used to be an easy way for people to get a convenient space near the track. Now it’s going to be like navigating through a sea of cars and people.”
“But more to the point, I have tenants on my property that I’m worried about. They are going to have to drive down some dimly lit streets after dark to get home. What people do not realize is that this isn’t just going to be during track hours. It’s for the whole six weeks.”
Rose and other affected neighbors have spoken out at recent council meetings asking that the whole idea be revisited. Commissioner Chris Mathiesen had indicated that he was willing to meet and discuss this, but Rose is skeptical. “Sure, he’ll meet. But only to give his side of things. He’s not going to change his plan unless he is forced to.”
With the Race Course meet just two weeks away, the only recourse the neighborhood may have is injunctive relief. Certainly Keith Kantrowitz is ready to do battle:
“If this kind of thing happened in Russia, we’d be sending over troops and demanding democracy.” He said. “How about democracy beginning at home?”
In one of the most unconsciously revealing statements I've ever read from a politician, Mayor Yepsen stated her true priorities in her May 14 press release:
“As Mayor, my utmost priority remains the horse racing industry . . . and I continue to take great pride in having an excellent working relationship with Saratoga Casino and Raceway.” She repeated that exact phrasing in the Council meeting on May 20th.
Her “utmost priority” is the racing industry? Really? That's incredible, and alarming. Her “utmost priority” should always be the health, safety, and well being of the citizens of Saratoga Springs! And she should be responsive primarily to the overwhelming majority who opposed casino expansions, not a particular industry.
Her statement was in response to a letter from the NYS Gaming Commission claiming lead status in the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process about the proposed Racino expansion, and noting the City's status would be "interested" (demoted from “involved,” by Racino maneuvering), reducing the City's say in the process.
Mayor Yepsen has not publicly released the consent form that came with that letter that asks us to agree or disagree, and why. The Mayor said one attorney told her that we couldn't win a lawsuit to gain control over the process or lead agency status. There are good arguments why we should have both, but she's not making them.
Even worse, she and the Planning Board (which is part of the Mayor's Department) have refused to discuss a legal opinion by Young/Sommer, a law firm specializing in land use issues, that states that the City and Planning and Zoning Boards can have jurisdiction over the Racino expansion - and therefore can not only have lead status in the SEQR process, but can approve or deny the Racino plans if they are not consistent with our zoning or comprehensive plan. The Mayor and Planning Board have abdicated our right to control what is built in our city.
She said she has an “excellent working relationship” with the Racino, a corporation that is working with the Gaming Commission to “cram down” our throats an expansion that we don't want; one that would hurt our Downtown, City Center, and SPAC? (That's what this type of State imposition is nicknamed -- a “cram down!”)
Considering that the March 4th City Council Resolution objected to the Racino expansion, and stated that the City should have the right to control any construction within its borders, the Mayor's position and statements are contrary to that Resolution.
Maybe the over $10,000 in political contributions she's received from casino and racing interests has affected her priorities. But it doesn't matter why she puts the racing industry as her “utmost priority,” and that she's helping a gambling corporation prey on the City she's supposed to protect and serve. It's just wrong. Her priorities are seriously out of whack.
The Mayor is not fighting for us. So we have to pressure her, and the Council to fight for our right to control our City.
Robert W. Davis
A Fresh Approach To Urban Planning?
“It would be shortsighted to rush something through.”
- Bill Sprengether, Cardinal Direction Landscape Architecture
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The reveal of the Saratoga Springs City Center parking structure plans last week has brought about a mixed bag of reactions.
Some like it, others don’t. Some, like the Pedinotti family, owners of the Mouzon House, a beloved restaurant housed in a historic building (home to Saratoga Springs’ first family of color) believe that the placement of the structure literally squashes them in the shadow of progress and places their future viability in jeopardy.
“If this goes through as is, we don’t think it’s likely that we’ll make it to next summer.” Co-owner Diane Pedinotti said.
Whether this is the case or not remains to be seen, but no one denies that there will be a negative effect on their business – a five-story structure 75 feet away that literally blocks out the sun at times cannot help but have an impact.
For his part, Mark Baker, President of the Saratoga Springs City Center, has expressed that he has reached out to the Pedinotti’s to try to modify the plans for the structure to the extent possible, yet he acknowledged that their were both economic and engineering restraints that needed consideration.
Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan, reached by phone, indicated that she intended to look at all aspects of the parking structure proposal: from a financial, design and residual impact standpoints. “By no means should anyone consider this a done deal at this point.”
If that is the case, perhaps the citizenry of the city should participate. Perhaps, since the entire parcel (bordered by Lake, York, High Rock and Maple Avenues) is on city owned land, and represents the last great parcel in the Downtown core, a fresh look at this important parcel is in order.
Certainly Bill Sprengether thinks so.
On his own, Mr. Sprengether (a landscape architect whose firm, Cardinal Direction, is on Catherine Street) developed a few conceptual designs that were shared (via Harry Moran of Sustainable Saratoga) with both Mark Baker and the City Council at its Tuesday, June 17 meeting.
Mr. Sprengether noted “…these concepts are simply to be used to start a public conversation within the City of Saratoga Springs in order to identify how to best utilize this vital piece city owned property so that it contributes to the positive growth our city's urban fabric and economy.”
Sprengether’s concepts incorporate increased parking, which everyone recognizes as a necessity. It also includes park increased parkland, in some cases retail space and one iteration even includes reclaiming the original water source that was covered up nearly a half-century ago in the name of “urban renewal.”
The Pedinotti’s have reviewed these concepts and have stated that each incorporates elements that would be more favorable to the Mouzon House’s future viability. Yet, Sprengether admits that these concepts have not been costed out, and that they might be unfeasible either from an engineering or economic standpoint, yet “…the intent of these drawings is to illustrate a few of the wide range of potential site plans for the project site…. development of the current surface lots offers a tremendous opportunity to our City and we should make informed choices as to the direction we want our City to grow.”
At this point, we truly have more questions than definitive answers, but given the critical location of the city’s last great downtown parcel, many citizens have expressed the desire that these questions be asked – in order to determine the best solutions for development. Development that is done in a manner that incorporates critical needs like parking – yet is done in a manner that Saratoga Springs would be proud of.
Along that exploratory path are relevant issues such as whether retail could and should be part of the mix. There is the benefit of increased sales tax from this, yet it is obvious that neither the City nor the City Center has the desire or the wherewithal to be a retail landlord. A commercial developer would have to be brought into the mix.
As far as the park extension scenario’s, the reclaiming of the water underneath, there is support for this, from what might be surprising quarters to some:
“I like them.” said Mark Baker, referring to the park concepts. “I hope the City looks into doing some of them.” In fact, it must be remembered that this is all City land – in effect, the people’s land, which represents an opportunity.
Mr. Baker speaks from the perspective of a forthright advocate for the City Center, yet, as both a member of Sustainable Saratoga and a past President of the Downtown Business Association he balances his advocacy with a larger view. A view of a complete downtown everyone can be proud of, with amenities like parking and parks in sufficient supply.
If in fact, as Commissioner Madigan states, it’s not a “done deal,” the time to make your voices heard on downtown’s last great parcel is at hand.
Saratoga Springs’ New Destination for Running Gear
By Megan Irene Kretz
For Saratoga TODAY
SARATOGA SPRINGS – When husband and wife duo Jamie and Anthony Mastroianni were training for their first marathon together, they ran the bulk of their miles in Saratoga Springs.
From the wooded trails of Saratoga Spa State Park to the historic mansions on North Broadway, the couple explored all that the area has to offer. Saratoga has a rich running history, a strong community of harriers, and miles of training routes, but it was missing something vital: a place for runners to gather and purchase supplies. Whenever the Mastroianni’s needed to pick up fuel or gear for their training, they had to either drive on the Northway to reach the closest running shop or resign themselves to the paltry selection in nearby big box stores.
The couple soon realized the community’s need for a specialty running store and decided to move forward with their dream of becoming small business owners. The Mastroianni’s worked with the local Chamber of Commerce and SCORE, a mentoring resource for small business owners, to put together a business plan for a store they named iRun LOCAL.
Once they had a plan in place, Jamie began attending running clinics such as the Newton School of Running to further her knowledge of the sport. Before opening iRun LOCAL, Jamie and Anthony focused on crafting a mission statement that would mirror their goals.
“The store is a reflection of us, we want to make sure that we keep our core values in place,” says Jamie. Inspiring runners and providing expert advice is at the core of iRun LOCAL’s mission, but the Mastroianni’s also place an emphasis on serving and helping the local community. In the three months since they opened their doors, iRun LOCAL has developed relationships with the running club Saratoga Stryders, area high school teams, the Wilton Food Pantry, and the Franklin Community Center.
When iRun Local opened back in March, the Mastroianni’s wanted to ensure the store felt very warm and welcoming, with a boutique feel. “When you go to a big box store for running shoes, you’re not necessarily going to get one-on-one attention or a salesperson who knows anything about running,” says Jamie. In contrast, iRun LOCAL gives a personal touch to each customer that comes through the door. The store offers a custom fit process and video analysis to determine which shoes will work best for an individual. And when it comes to product, iRun LOCAL offers brands that are geared specifically toward runners, including Pearl Izumi, Newton, and Oiselle. The store also currently stocks track and field spikes for area high school runners and plans to offer cross-country spikes later in the summer.
In addition to a keeping their product inventory fresh, iRun LOCAL has been hosting a variety of events to engage the running community. Recently, the store hosted bi-weekly happy hour runs, a ladies night, an injury prevention clinic, and a scavenger run that took runners to various downtown businesses.
The Mastroianni’s are continually brainstorming new ways to get involved and their next big partnership will be with the Strong to Serve Half-Marathon scheduled for July 13. iRun LOCAL will serve as the packet pick-up location for the race, which will take place in the nearby State Park. As for the future, the couple hopes to increase awareness of their store and become a top resource for local runners. “Our main focus is to continue growing as a business in Saratoga Springs,” Jamie says.
From beginning walkers to competitive marathoners, iRun LOCAL strives to provide a welcoming atmosphere for everyone. For those new to the sport, Jamie advises, “Just put your shoes on and go at your own pace. Taking the first step is always the hardest part.” If you feel inspired to hit the pavement, visit iRun Local at 18 Congress Street or check out the store’s Facebook page: facebook.com/iRunLOCAL.
A Full Weekend Of… Everything Awaits
SARATOGA SPRINGS – We are blessed with a vibrant arts scene year-round in this region. But, to paraphrase Emeril, it’s time to kick it up a notch…
BAM! And here we are – the Eighth Annual Saratoga ArtsFest is upon us and there is still plenty of time to get in on the action. Last night’s opening featured the acclaimed Martha Graham Dance Company at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Sponsored by SPAC, the performance included pieces from such classics as Appalachian Spring and The Rite of Spring, as well as other compositions.
On Friday, June 13’s ArtsFest will present its signature event, “An Evening with Duncan Sheik,” at the Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College. Sheik, a Grammy and Tony award winner, launched his musical career in 1996 with the Grammy-nominated hit “Barely Breathing.”
Sheik is more recently known for his role in composing the musical Spring Awakening, which earned two Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Sheik’s December, 2013 debut of the stage production of American Psycho in London opened to rave reviews. Tickets for the Sheik performance at Skidmore are priced at $50, or $25 with an ARTSPASS.
Speaking of the ARTSPASS, it’s not to late to pick one up and it remains an outstanding value. The price for the SaratogaArtsFest admission package is $40 for adults and seniors, and $35 for military members and their dependents. Children under 12 are admitted free.
Admission packages may be purchased online at SaratogaArtsFest.org or at the ArtsFest Center and Gallery at 385 Broadway. Admission materials must be picked up at the Center. The Center’s hours of operation during June 9-15 are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The Center phone number is (518) 871-1379.
If, however, you prefer to sample ArtsFest a la carte, there are many free events such as the “en plein air Paint Out,” along Broadway on Saturday, June 14, family events such as “Kids do Art” at UPH and the Beekman Street Arts Fair, both on Sunday, June 15.
Also, here is a listing of premium events that you can purchase admission singly without an ARTSPASS:
Saratoga Shakespeare Company presents “Shakespeare: The Remix”
The Remix, performed by two actors, introduces Shakespeare to young audiences. When a hip-hop-loving high school girl on the verge of dropping out meets Shakespeare, a 400-year-old ghost having a mid-death crisis, a pitched battle of wits erupts.
Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street
Home Made Theater presents “Theatrical Therapy – A Cabaret Performance”
Find out what happened to your favorite musical theater characters after the final curtain. This original piece is filled with laughter and song. Supported by a SaratogaArtsFest program enhancement grant.
Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street
No. 11 Productions presents “Coosje”
In this whimsical love story two sculptors learn to collaborate in life and art. Meanwhile, a pear falls out of a fruit bowl, gains consciousness, and travels the world.
Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street
Panel Discussion: “Sport as Art”
Former professional athletes and professionals in the field of collegiate sports will discuss the concept of sport as an art form. Skidmore professor Jeffrey Segrave, a noted expert on the Olympic games and the role of sport in society, will lead the session. Sponsored by the Saratoga National Golf Club.
Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, ELM Room 117
Heard and Skidmore College present “Spirit of Life: 150(1) Years of Words, Music and Dance”
Choreographer Mary Harney and composer Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius join forces to present original choreography and music, performed live by the jazz group Heard and Skidmore dance and theater students.
Skidmore College, Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater
Saratoga Springs Youth Orchestra (SSYO) presents “Neapolitan Renaissance”
SSYO is fresh off a May 30 performance at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Center in New York City, under the direction of Maestro Gioacchino Longobardi. They represented the Saratoga Region in one of a thousand concerts that took place around the world as part of the Thousand Tones Project in tribute to Japanese Tsunami victims.
Today, journey back to the 18th century with the musicians of SSYO as they explore and present for your listening enjoyment a Neapolitan Renaissance experience.
Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall
From Academy Award nominee Scott Hamilton Kennedy comes a documentary exploring the trials and tribulations of talented teens as they reach for their dreams of becoming actors, singers, dancers, and musicians. Kennedy will be on hand to discuss the film.
Dee Sarno Theater at the Arts Center, 320 Broadway
Hubbard Hall Projects presents “Serenata Italiana: Exploring the Music of Italy”
Hubbard Hall Opera Theater presents a concert featuring music ranging from powerful and familiar arias by Verdi and Leoncavallo, to popular songs by Tosti, Donaudy, and others. This concert explores the music of Italy in the 18th and 19th centuries and features the talents of four outstanding opera performers.
Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall
Instead of hunting for scarce parking spots for ArtsFest and Flag Day festivities, arts and parade lovers can support free professional theater by parking downtown with Saratoga Shakespeare Company.
The Company will open The Saratogian’s private lot for public parking during ArtsFest on Saturday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to midnight.
The lot, located at Maple Avenue and Caroline Street, has its entrance on Pavilion Row. A $10 donation can be made to Saratoga Shakespeare Company by cash, check or credit card.
For single event admission pricing and more programming information visit the ArtsFest Center and Gallery, 385 Broadway or SaratogaArtsFest.org
SARATOGA SPRINGS – “It’s not a garage, it’s a parking structure.”
So said Mark Baker, president of the Saratoga Springs City Center on Wednesday, June 11, as he and other members of the City Center Authority, along with design and architectural experts, gave authority members and the public a first look at the actual proposed paid parking facility, adjacent to the City Center between Maple and High Rock Avenues.
This is a major step, yet only one in a process that will have several opportunities for public comment by both the public and members of the Saratoga Springs City Council (several of whom were in attendance Wednesday). The structure is on city-owned land and a lease arrangement would have to be executed for any facility to go forward.
The next phase in the process will be a presentation to the city council next Tuesday, June 17. The City Center Authority did unanimously pass a resolution to seek lead agency status on this project.
Cost and Design Details
- Mr. Baker estimated that this project would cost between $10.2 - $10.6 million. He noted that the City Center Authority would bond the money, which means the city would not incur any additional debt, or any additional tax burden for residents.
- Revenue would come from paid parking, which would be open to everyone. Mr. Baker noted that the exact cost schedule to park is still being worked on, but that it was likely that the first hour would be free—enabling residents to visit the neighboring farmers’ market, for instance.
- The plan as detailed calls for a five-level facility, with access from both High Rock and Maple Avenues. A total of 511 spaces could be accommodated under this plan. Bike racks and charging stations are built into the plan.
- A major design element has a covered portion over Maple Avenue, with direct access to the City Center at its southeast entrance. There will also be a drop-off area here.
- Another design element at the High Rock Avenue side is an open public area that was called “agora” (see illustration) – porticos that are 20 by 45 feet and could be used for events. Mr. Baker noted it might replace the former City Center loggia area (which was removed in the 2011 expansion) for events such as Hats Off. The top deck of the garage could also be adapted for similar public performances, he said.
The City Center’s ideal timetable is to break ground this fall, with completion in the summer of 2015. During the public approval process, including Design Review Commission and Planning Board hearings, changes to design and other elements could affect that schedule.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Flags will be flying high as the red, white and blue will be proudly abound in downtown Saratoga Springs for the 46th annual Saratoga Wilton Elks Lodge No. 161 Flag Day parade Saturday, June 14.
Saturday’s parade is set to begin at North Broadway around noon before continuing down Broadway and heading into Congress Park, which will be the location of the first ever Port Call Saratoga Springs, celebrating the Navy sailors of Saratoga County.
Five divisions of approximately 90-100 groups will be marching this year.
One of the largest annual parades in Saratoga County, the streets are sure to be packed with American flags—2,000 of which will be provided by Roohan Realty—as marchers, drivers, fire engines, veterans, kids, the Color Guard and more pass by.
After years of unofficially celebrating the holiday, it was made official by President Woodrow Wilson in a presidential proclamation in 1916. It was finally made “National Flag Day” through an act of Congress by President Harry Truman in 1949.
In conjunction with the Saratoga Navy Command, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce has started the Port Call event, which will reflect traditions of old.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Ports of Call were when a Navy ship made a stop, whether it was during a sailing itinerary or coming home, allowing the sailors some R&R with residents at that particular port.
Saturday’s meet-and-greet is modeled the same.
Navy sailors in white will be marching in the parade followed by joining their families and loved ones in Congress Park, where there will be a host of activities.
With the parade beginning at noon, the post-parade ceremony and activities are expected to begin around 1:45 p.m., starting with the Saratoga Springs band playing military hymns. The Elks Club will also present a 30-40 minute flag ceremony around this time. There will also be activities for kids and free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s afterwards.
Earlier this year, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Member Services Denise Romeo was having a conversation with Commander Vince Garcia about the significance the Navy has in Saratoga County and the economic impact they provide.
“A lot of that goes unnoticed,” Romeo said. “It kind of has never been front and center. But it was [Garcia’s] feeling that it was important that we introduce the Navy and the role they play here to our community and to show the sailors that there is a community that supports them.”
U.S. Navy operations in Saratoga County make up a $500 million annual economic impact. That’s more than the Saratoga Race Course ($200 million) and more than Skidmore ($400 million).
“It’s one of our largest impacts, so for me it’s really important to recognize that impact,” Romeo said. “And it’s been here. The Navy has been here for many years. I think Commander Garcia played a huge role in bringing this to attention in looking to the numbers that are staggering, and we have run with it because it’s important for the community as a whole to understand that economic impact and show or gratitude.”
Garcia has since been re-assigned to San Diego. Current Commander Jim Edwards and Commander Elvis Mikel will be the Grand Marshalls of the parade on Saturday.
While Port Call Saratoga Springs is specifically in reference to the U.S. Navy, Romeo added that all military branches will be remembered at this time.
“It’s a way to celebrate the Navy and sailors here, but it’s a full blown military event and appreciation event,” Romeo said. “Whatever we can do to help make them know they are supported in a community that cares and respects what they do every day, this is just a small thing.It’s truly, truly important.”
Participating local businesses will be providing “sliders” throughout Saturday in support of the Navy presence in Saratoga County. Sliders were developed as a Navy term for burgers that were provided weekly. The burgers served on ships were typically very greasy and known for “sliding” off trays as the boat swayed and rolled in high seas.
The tradition of serving sliders on a weekly basis continues to this day. It is often the lunch that sailors look forward to most each week.
On Saturday, there will also be discounts available at participating local downtown restaurants and retail stores to military personnel, active or veteran, with military identification.
“I’m the daughter of a veteran and a mother of a veteran, so for me this day is something we should do almost every day,” Romeo said. “We are who we are as a nation because of the brave men and women who step up in the role. We are very fortunate in Saratoga County to have a significant military facility that not only brings a huge economic impact to our community, but to also have them here and trained for one of the most important jobs that the military has, which is obviously to keep the rest of us safe so we are able to sleep at night. They are due our upmost respect.”
By Alexandria R. Parisi
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Open since 1998, Four Seasons Natural Foods Store and Cafe located at Phila Street in downtown Saratoga Springs now has given consumers something new to look forward to. The second location has been open for business for less than two weeks and its location on Henry Street proves to continue pursuing ultimate customer satisfaction with buying in bulk for a cheaper price. What is now a retail grocery store, the new location offers the same great variety of natural foods groceries, teas, coffees, supplements, personal care and aromatherapy that is far different from the other health stores that may be coming into play.
The owner of the store, Richard Frank, believes the retail store to be a great opportunity for consumers to purchase natural foods in a more spacious environment. Currently there is a transition of the original location on Phila Street to compliment of the foods in the retail store and now serve as the complete café.
Customers walk in and out of the second location pleased with the naturally-made structure of the building itself, and the same local name and products are just around the corner to sit down and enjoy a fresh organic meal. in a much more comfortable shopping center and convenient parking area. The natural materials used by local craftspeople add to the overall sense of organic well being of the new arrangement.
Customer satisfaction is top priority for Frank and his staff, which is one of the many reasons for branching out to a larger distribution centers that allows for a smoother delivery process, buying in bulk and selling for less, and allow for an even simpler way for customers to shop the store just like they are used to.
Even though Saratoga Springs and surrounding areas are experiencing a mass exposure to healthy living shops, farmers markets, and organic stores, what makes the Four Seasons stand out could be argued as a reflection of the name itself. Frank mentioned how “Four Seasons” originally derived from the previous owners in 1988. They were firm believers in macrobiotics and whole foods diet as a means to restore health.
Essentially, “eating seasonally, and seasonally growing” is one of the many reasons why customers are completely satisfied with the products that are provided at not one, but now two locations. Frank believes that “engaging the senses with natural, organic foods” is an admirable life choice that many people are now realizing is crucial for one’s health and overall well-being.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Bataan Death March of verbiage, pontification and blather about all things relating to the city’s status regarding the proposed Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR) expansion was taken to a new level of intensity this week.
We were first treated to a marathon City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 3, in which the mayor’s agenda item about the expansion did not get entertained until nearly 10 p.m. (note that the meeting started at 7 p.m.; note further that the mayor’s agenda is the first of five departments to report, followed by the county supervisors).
This meeting ended about 11:20 p.m., but after the item about SCR’s expansion I had had enough for one evening, thanks. Three plus hours is enough. Mind you, this was a discussion item. Nothing was actually decided.
A “special” public hearing on the next night (Wednesday) followed this — this one solely devoted to the expansion issues. I hoped that everyone got their comments in, for everyone should feel they had their say I guess.
But, at the risk of being characterized as “un-interested” or “un-involved” I admit I gave this one a pass altogether. I also cover arts and entertainment, and there was a great new jazz ensemble making its debut (look for a feature on them before their next appearance in a few weeks) on the same night.
Blast me if you want, but I think I made the right call. Good music wins out over hot air. Tell me, what would you do?
Now, we hear that there “might” be another “special” city council meeting, this time after Saratoga TODAY goes to press: it is tentatively scheduled for Friday, June 6 at 10 a.m. Unbelievable.
Perhaps something might actually be decided at this one. But from now on, your city council reporter will value both your time and my own. We will report on something that actually happens.
The crux of the issue, for those whose eyes are not totally glazed over at this point, is whether the city should assert itself as an involved agency in the review process, known as SEQRA, as opposed to “interested,” which in theory would give them the further right to vie for the lead agency status on this project, instead of the Gaming Commission and therefore greater oversight over what happens.
This would be triggered by filling out a form, stating that the city objects to the gaming commission being the lead agency. However, if this course is pursued, it is likely to generate a costly legal battle, which the city’s attorneys say they have no shot of winning.
So there you are. I have summarized nearly 600 hours of debate in two paragraphs. Yes, I might be glossing over some fine points, but who cares. The mayor believes that an ongoing dialogue with both SCR and the gaming commission can gain more than a legal fight. Time will tell if that is the right way to go.
None of the above should be construed as wanting to restrict anyone’s right to comment. The public comment period to the Gaming Commission extends until June 13 and I certainly encourage everyone who wants to express their opinion to do so.
Just don’t make me listen anymore, OK?