Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Public Safety Committee unanimously approved a measure this month that recommends a cooperative agreement be inked with Washington, Warren, Fulton and Montgomery counties to share tactical team personnel, equipment and resources. 

The five county sheriff’s offices have experienced a need for sharing resources or general police back-up within their jurisdictions during which a joint response would be the most effective way to deal with certain criminal cases, scenes and investigations, according to the resolution. 

The agreement between the five counties would create a cooperative contract and codify what has previously conducted joint services on a “handshake” basis. The agreement would see the sharing of “Sheriff’s Office personnel, equipment and resources.”

The proposed intermunicipal agreement is anticipated to be among the agenda items at the Board of Supervisors monthly meeting on Aug. 15. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Yaddo unveiled its new lending library in the Yaddo Gardens on Aug. 9, among a group of children present and a classical quintet performing “Here Comes The Sun.” 

The free library offers books for children and young adults. 

“All of us who love and support the arts know that the cultivation of the next generation of readers, theater goers, art and music lovers, movie buffs, depends on us and what we do to captivate our young,” said Yaddo President Elaina Richardson. “This library is a wonderful addition to our Gardens and extends our support to young readers and Saratoga students.”

The project received the support of Stewart’s Shops.  “The encouragement of reading and creativity is key to the health of young minds,” Stewart’s Foundation President Susan Dake said in a statement. 

The Yaddo Reads Lending Library will be available for the rest of the season during Garden Open Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (closed Fridays) through Oct. 15.

Built from sustainable materials (recycled milk jugs), the Yaddo Reads Lending Library is element- and pest-resistant and will feature new books for children to read at their own pace, borrow, and return. Yaddo will replenish the book supply such that the program is inclusive and equitable to all who use this as a creative resource.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — An unexpected gathering by members of the Proud Boys in Saratoga Springs Aug. 5 resulted in condemnations from city officials and calls initiating a report to learn what, if any, advance notice was provided to the public safety department, and whether any laws had been broken.    

“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,” the mayor said, in a statement released Aug. 7. 

A handful of social media posts, 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 in Saratoga Springs 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. The postings were minimal in scope and did not provide extensive context of the event. 

“This is not a normal group of individuals seeking to influence public debate,” Mayor Kim said, “(they are) a hate group known for acts of violence against people based on their vile, despicable, white supremacist views.”

The report - requested by the mayor of the Commissioner of Public Safety, specifically queried whether information was provided to the police department prior, during, and/or after the event, if any police actions were taken by the department, whether laws were violated by the march, and recommendations to prevent a repeat incident in the future. 

Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino responded with a four-page report indicating no advance information was provided to the department prior to the gathering, and that police were alerted to the march via a call from a citizen. 

An officer subsequently “responded to the scene, interviewed one or more of the members of the group, and recorded the license plate(s) of at least one vehicle,” according to the report. Police dispatch was also directed to notify other area law enforcement agencies of the group’s presence and the direction of their travel. 

In Ballston Spa, Village Trustee Liz Kormos reported via a social media post that she was informed by a resident that members of the Proud Boys had marched in that village, also on Saturday, Aug. 5. 

Surveillance videos and other images captured of the event in Saratoga Springs are being reviewed to identify members who participated in the march. 

“We have a license plate, we’re following leads and are looking into identifying some of the participants,” Commissioner Montagnino said Aug. 9. 

While unaware of any offense committed under state or federal law, Montagnino offered that the march qualified as a parade, and as such, a permit would had to have been issued in advance of the gathering. With no known permit granted, Montagnino recommended organizers and participants of the gathering be charged with violations of the City Charter. 

“It’s basically treated like a violation, a petty offense, under the penal law,” Montagnino said. “My recommendation is that we proceed – and since it’s a Code violation it would be prosecuted by the city attorney, as opposed to the district attorney – which would be a county official.” 

According to a police Incident report filed in connection with the gathering, a man identified as the group leader handed the officer a business card for “Uncle Sam’s Proud Boys” and said the group was based in Troy. 

On its home page, the Uncle Sam’s Proud Boys website states: “We are proud Western Chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” and lists as its core values:  “Minimal Government, Maximal Freedom, Anti-Political Correctness, Anti-Drug War, Closed Borders, Anti-Racism, Anti-Racial Guilt, Pro Free Speech, Pro Gun Rights, Glorifying the Entrepeneur (sic), Venerating the Housewife, Reinstating a Spirit of Western Chauvinism.”

A counter-rally, titled Not On Our Watch - Unity against Fascism, will take place 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13 at the corner of Broadway and Church St, outside the Saratoga Springs Post Office branch. The rally purpose is: “all people are welcome, ideas and groups that foster hate and violence are not,” organizers say. The event is sponsored by Saratoga Peace Alliance, Veterans For Peace – Adirondack Chapter 147, Saratoga-Warren-Washington Progressive Action. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Be aware of the vehicle you’re entering. 

The city issued the warning for summer visitors and year-round visitors alike after becoming aware of unlicensed, fake Uber and Lyft drivers picking up passengers from popular locations around Saratoga Springs. 

“We strongly urge visitors and residents to verify the status of any vehicle they use,” said city Mayor Ron Kim, identifying Caroline Street, Siro’s and other popular venues near the racetrack as specific places where unauthorized vehicles are setting up shop – including some which have posted fake Uber signs in their cars and phony taxi markings on the top of their vehicles. “Essentially these individuals are people who slap something on their car and then pick up riders,” he said. 

Those authorized to transport people include registered and licensed passenger services.

“Taxi drivers are required to maintain a current and valid Class E or CDL New York State Driver’s License,” said Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran. “Through the taxi licensing process, the city checks criminal histories, arrest records, driving records, warrant information, and enrolls taxi drivers in the NYS License Event Notification Service (LENS) program – so that if something happens, we find out about that individual and flag them or remove them from the road. 

“Recently I had the opportunity to do an overnight shift with the police department and one of the issues they brought to my attention was: an overabundance of what I would call Gypsy Cabs, or unlicensed operators of taxi cabs,” Moran said. “The primary issue is public safety. People pretend to be a cab, yet they have no background checks, they have no insurance we know of. That’s a very dangerous situation. We don’t know who they are, and we don’t know where you could wind up. It is absolutely vital that you understand that you’re putting yourself at great risk.” 

How to Recognize Legit Services

There are certain clear signs that you’re in a legitimate taxicab. A licensed taxicab in Saratoga Springs is properly identified on the top and on its side with required signage and carries a medallion sticker. The 2023 medallion is maroon in color. Additionally, a ‘Taxi Passenger’s Bill of Rights’ must be prominently posted in each taxicab that does business with the city. 

While ride shares like Uber and Lyft are not licensed by the city of Saratoga Springs, they are still legal operators as long as they’re registered with the rideshare company. As independent operators, drivers must follow the Uber and Lyft rules and regulations and passengers can verify both the vehicle and driver and establish a pick-up location. 

“Rideshares Uber and Lyft are legal operators and sanctioned by state law,” Moran said. “They carry insurance in excess of what we require as a local municipality and there is direct engagement between an individual in your car when you’re getting a ride. You’re not handing money through a window and handing it to a driver. You shouldn’t be getting into a car if it’s not a direct assignment through a rideshare app, or if it’s not a taxicab that’s properly queued in front of a place, and properly marked.”

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. 

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