Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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Thursday, 07 March 2024 14:35

Repaving Paid Parking in Saratoga Springs

SARATOGA SPRINGS — After floating a plan that proposed converting more than 1,300 on-street and nearly 800 garage parking spaces into either “permit” or “paid” spots for a five-month run starting in May, the city’s Department of Public Works announced it has made “streamlined adjustments in response to great stakeholder feedback.”

The announcement came two weeks after a presentation of the former proposal was made in front of more than 50 people, most of whom are downtown business owners, at City Hall. 

The new proposal suggests seasonal paid parking in garages and atop surface lots only, with all on-street parking to remain unchanged. 

Residents and business employees will be able to park in the garages and surface lots for free via a permit scheme – the process of which has yet to be detailed. 

The plan is also looking at a shorter timeframe compared to the initial May 1-Sept. 30 proposal. Implementation is now proposed for Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The DPW has stressed that its presentations are in the way of ideas and that the public has, and will continue to be able to weigh-in on any potential changes. 

It is anticipated a Public Hearing will take place regarding the seasonal parking plan during the April 2 City Council meeting.   

The department also said revenues generated from parking will go toward city services, the downtown corridor, and the parking facilities. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council on March 5 unanimously adopted a resolution in favor of reducing the speed limit on a section of South Boadway opposite the Saratoga Spa State Park.    

The move follows the recommendations of the city Planning Board, which last month met with officials from the Tree House Brewing Company interested in siting a micro-production of alcohol and a new eating and drinking establishment on a 10-acre parcel at 3376 Route 9 (South Broadway). 

The resolution posted by the city did not detail the specific length of road that might be affected. Public Safety Commissioner Tim Coll specified it would be on “by 3376 Route 9 South Broadway.” 

The anticipated increased pedestrian activity with the siting of the new business is deemed to warrant a reduction in the speed limit, from 55 mph to 40 mph.   

The city’s request, which will be submitted to the state Department of Transportation, asks that the DOT address several items.

“One is to reduce the speed limit, the other one is to address the crosswalk at the southern intersection of Crescent Avenue, and the third issue is to use the right-of-way to potentially expand sidewalks,” said Commissioner Coll.   

“We’re very much in favor of this,” said Mayor John Safford. 

Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran added that he had recent conversations with Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) CEO Greg Connors related to the potential speed change. “He mentioned that its often very difficult to get some of these mileage reductions on some larger highways like that is, but Malta did some work and dropped theirs to 40,” said Commissioner Moran.

The South Broadway site is currently located an open field bounded by Saratoga Honda to the north and Homewood Suites to its south.   

The initial proposal for “Tree House Saratoga Springs” was presented to the city Land Use Boards last fall. Tree House Brewing Company was founded in 2011 and currently operates six facilities – five in Massachusetts and a farm in Connecticut. According to the company, it is the largest direct-to-consumer on-premises brewer in the country, and said the proposed project in Saratoga Springs will be their only expansion in New York. 

The land where Tree House would be located operated as Murphy’s Driving Range and Mini-Golf from 1945 to 2013. 

As initially proposed: the project space of approximately 10 acres would include four structures, a 22,680-square foot brewery and taproom building, outdoor pavilions, picnic tables, small gathering areas and walking paths.

Representing the Tree House Brewing Company at the Planning Board in February, attorney John Cannie noted that the square footage of the building had been reduced and a pavilion eliminated since the company’s original plans were filed with the city last year.

The company said it anticipates the siting of its venue in Saratoga would add more than 60 jobs of varying skill sets - production, restaurant and hospitality staff among them – and estimates its economic impact to the region as $30 to $40 million. 

SARATOGA COUNTY —A new redistricting of the Congressional Map will split Saratoga County into two voting districts – the 20th and 21st -when residents head to the polls to elect a representative in Congress in November.    

Currently, all of Saratoga County is in District 20, and represented by Democrat Paul Tonko.   

District 20 will remain in the bottom half of the county and include Saratoga Springs and most points south - Ballston Spa and Clifton Park among them.   

The northeastern part of the county – specifically the town of Saratoga where current 21st District Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik makes her home - as well as northern Saratoga County towns, will be part of the 21st District, currently represented by Stefanik. 

“I’m deeply disappointed to no longer serve as the Congressional Representative in Rensselaer County and Otsego County, part of Montgomery County, as well as parts of Jefferson County following the 2024 election,” Stefanik said, in a statement. “I look forward to representing the hardworking families, small businesses, farmers, veterans, and seniors in Saratoga County again and those in Oneida County.” 

To view an interactive map of Congressional District, go to: 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Cage The Elephant last appeared onstage at SPAC in 2019, performing a memorable set on a memorable summer night while on a co-headlining tour with Beck. Five years later, Cage the Elephant, or CTE as they are known in some circles, return Aug. 18 to headline their own gig at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. 

Scribbles from this reporter’s notebook that night: 

Singer Matt Shultz, blessed with a seemingly unlimited amount of boundless energy, led Cage The Elephant through an entertaining hourlong set - crawling, taunting and exhibiting Jagger-esque dance moves in a mashed-up fury of dayglo mesh cloths. Accompanied by a strip of eternal flames and a rotisserie of flashing lights turning stage spectacle to the spectacular - yellow smoke here, green laser beams and strobes-a-plenty there – and showcasing the band at their post-Pixies singalong best, bringing the crowd to a standing cheer. 

Schultz concluded the set by crowd-surfing to the outer reaches of the amphitheater while Queen’s “We Are The Champions” played over the house PA, emerging 15 minutes later as the house lights burned bright for the intermission changeover, stripped down to a pair of red gym shorts, strips of black Velcro across his upper torso, and wearing a nude bodysuit...

Cage The Elephant last week announced the band’s 45-date North American U.S. tour with its Aug. 18 Saratoga Springs stopover that will include Young The Giant & Bakar as special guests. The band’s sixth studio album, titled “Neon Pill,” will drop via RCA Records on May 17.

This week, Shultz made a public revelation via an Instagram post that he has been suffering through a mental health crisis during the past few years and spent two months in a hospital followed by months of outpatient treatment. He thanked those close to him for their support in helping him get to a better place. 

“It’s a miracle that I’m here today,” he wrote. “Over the last three years, I was unknowingly fighting my way through an utter mental health crisis. In a short time, I had slipped into psychosis due to an iatrogenic response to a medication I was prescribed. It took the love and support of my brothers in the band, my community, and, most of all, my wife Eva to get me through it. Eva stayed by my side, and she saved my life countless times. To say she is a warrior and a queen is an understatement,” Schultz wrote. 

“Her unwavering love coupled with professional treatment helped me to regain my grip on reality and fully recover. Along the way, I learned a lot of hard lessons, and I thank God I was able to come out on the other side. I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to write this message. I owe my life to God and the support system of friends, family, and Cage The Elephant. I’ll just say it now once again, because it needs to be said, ‘Thank you.’”

The new album finds the Kentucky-bred six-member CTE forging new musical ground, while maintaining their uncompromising creativity and wildly cathartic performances, according to advance press for “Neon Pill.” 

“Everything is undoubtedly expressed through having settled into finding our own voice,” Schultz said, in a statement.  “With this album, having gone through so much, life had almost forced us into becoming more and more comfortable with ourselves. We weren’t reaching for much outside of the pure experience of self-expression, and simultaneously not necessarily settling either. We just found a uniqueness in simply existing.”

“Rightly viewed, the whole soul of man is a sort of picture gallery, a grand panorama, in which all great facts of the universe, in tracing things of time and things of eternity, are painted,” – Frederick Douglass "Lecture on Pictures," 1861. 

Frederick Douglass quote prominently depicted in the 272-page catalogue companion to the Lessons of the Hour Tang Museum exhibition, serving as a visual and literary meditation that juxtaposes artist Isaac Julien’s works with archival images of Douglass and essays that acts as a worthy introduction to the exhibition. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — He was considered the most photographed man of the 19th century, and among the finest of orators of his time. He last visited Saratoga more than a century-and-a-half ago and spoke publicly on multiple occasions. 

A new exhibition at The Tang Museum brings the life of Frederick Douglass back front-and-center, in a bedazzling film installation that features scenes from the life of the former slave and abolitionist. Created by London-based artist Isaac Julien, it is titled Lessons of the Hour.   

Inside the Tang Museum’s Malloy Wing - mapped out in configuration to the artist’s specs right down to the deep red carpet underfoot - 10 screens of varying dimensions flex across the massive space, depicting an abundance of moving images that dance in a multitude of ways. 

Speakers slung across the room punch-in from all directions with dialogue, music, and sonic ambience. The noisy hammering of a sewing machine meets the peaceful hum of a vanishing water tide. A gentle breeze flows through cotton fields. Train wheels steam violently across long roads of rail. 

Here, is Frederick Douglass (as portrayed by actor Ray Fearon), draped in along blue overcoat and accessorized by an ascot of brilliant color, speaking in sepia tones of our vintage past.

There, viewed from a variety of angles (if not alternating points of view), is the turbulence of our most recent days. It is a morphing overlap that embraces who we were, and what we are.   

“You get the sense that it’s not just about history,” says the museum’s Dayton Director Ian Berry, watching the dynamic juxtapositions of images of Douglass’s life unfold on the hanging salon-style screens. 

The 28-minute film, which runs continuously and invites multiple viewings, features the 19th century abolitionist, writer, and freed slave reciting passages from some of his most famous speeches. Open-ended narrative vignettes are set in Washington D.C, London, and Edinburgh and portray Douglass with influential women of his time—including Susan B. Anthony and Ottilie Assing—dramatizing ideas of racial and gender equality. 

“The work rewards repeat viewings, telling us that the hour is now, and lessons still need to be learned,” said Berry, who will give a curator’s tour of the exhibition at noon on Thursday, March 28.

Frederick Douglass In Saratoga

Douglass visited Saratoga to speak on multiple occasions. In 1849, he included Schuylerville, Quaker Springs, and Dean’s Corners on his speaking itinerary, according to the Saratoga County History Center, and returned decades later to speak to a large gathering in Saratoga Springs.  Newspaper reports published in early April 1870 by The Saratogian inform of Douglass’ upcoming lecture on the 15th amendment at the Congregational Church, adding “the building is likely to be crowded, and those who wish to make sure of a place should engage reserved seats.” 

The First Congregational Church of Saratoga Springs was “centrally situated on Phila street, just out of Broadway,” according to Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester’s “History of Saratoga County, New York.” An article published in late April 1870 provides a lengthy report of the daylong events that featured Douglass, including “a procession during the day and an address in the evening (at the Congregational Church) from one who ranks among the very first of living orators.” 

“I wished to use the distinctive language of filmmaking, photography and bookmaking to create artworks that would hopefully inspire others,” said Julien about his created Lessons of the Hour. His films and photography have been shown worldwide in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums. 

“Frederick Douglass’s belief in the importance and power of photography and picture-making in advocating for social justice is brought vividly into the 21st century through Julien’s poetic vision,” Berry said. 

Also On Exhibit

Also new on view is an exhibition of work from the Tang collection—many of them recent acquisitions—that explore studio portraiture and archives, from 19th century daguerreotypes and vernacular photography to contemporary portraiture and video, exploring themes of agency and visual representation as a tool for empathy and justice, and organized to complement Lessons of the Hour.

“This is the advent of photography,” Berry said, moving through the exhibition space in the museum’s lower-level gallery and gesturing to a tabletop display where photographs dating to the mid-19th century are housed in ornate cases. 

“With this (then) new invention of photography, Frederick Douglass said he would have his picture taken, it would hang on people’s walls and when they would see his face, they would see his humanity. So, he saw photography as a key to his abolitionist ambitions,” Berry said. “It’s history-telling, but it’s also using the portrait for power, to reveal something about oneself.”   

In the Mezzanine Gallery, artist Yvette Molina’s “A Promise to the Leaves” creates a museum community space devoted to art, conversation, and contemplation; In the Winter Gallery a student-curated group exhibition titled Abject Anatomy features a selection of two dozen photographs, prints, drawings, and paintings that asks viewers to reflect on deep-seated fears about their own bodily nonconformance and those around them, while instructing: “as you explore the exhibition lean into the unease.” 

Then, there is the Elevator. Elevator Music 48: “Alone, only in flesh,” is a site-specific, collaborative meditation on diaspora combining spoken word poetry, experimental cello, traditional Vietnamese garments, and Southeast Asian home goods. 

In this exhibition, artists Antonius-Tín Bui, MIZU, and Theresa-Xuan Bui create a space for all to commune with the unknown and untranslatable and meld the language of altars—spaces of presence, transcendence, and transmission—with the liminality of the shifting elevator and welcome all to commune with the unknown. Watch the elevator doors open, see mallet, bang a gong. 

Lessons of the Hour premiered in 2019 at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. It will be on view through May 19 at The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. The museum is open to the public Friday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and on Thursdays til 9 p.m. For more information, go to:

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Several hundred people queued up outside the 1863 Club on Feb. 21 in a line that spread across the grounds of Saratoga Race Course, where the New York Racing Association hosted a job fair to hire support for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. 

The four-day event - which stages at Saratoga this year - will run June 6-9, just about 100 days from now. 

“Many of the seasonal employees here at Saratoga make this a summer (employment) tradition, so we expect to see a number of those individuals who have spent many summers here,” said NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna.

McKenna said the public response since announcing the shifting of Belmont to Saratoga - at least for this year - has been “tremendous,” as witnessed by the number of applicants showing up for the job fair, to the high demand for tickets for the four-day racing meet. 

Tickets for the Belmont Stakes race June 8 sold out in nearly one day; tickets are still available for June 6,7 and 9. 

The Oklahoma Training Track across Union Avenue opposite the race course grounds will open in its normal mid-April time slot. With Belmont in Saratoga, an accelerated number of trainers and horses are anticipated to arrive earlier than normal - particularly after the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

The regular summer meet in Saratoga will take place July 11 - Sept. 2. 

SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga County Republican Committee this week made formal endorsements for two county-wide offices and a state Assembly contest, as well as announcing support for three incumbent candidates in the upcoming November 2024 election.

The committee endorsed Matthew Coseo for Saratoga County Court Judge. 

Current Judge James Murphy announced late last year that he will not seek re-election. At that time, Adele M. Kurtz, Principal Law Clerk to Saratoga County Court Judge, announced her candidacy for the seat and that she intended to seek the Republican and Conservative nominations. Coseo is currently the Wilton Town Judge and Principal Law Clerk for Hon. Dianne N. Freestone, Justice of the Supreme Court in the 4th Judicial District.

“My years of service as a judge in Wilton and as a court attorney to judges across our region will provide for a natural transition into this next step of public service,” Coseo said in a statement.

The county Republican Committee also endorsed JoAnn Kupferman for Saratoga County Treasurer. Kupferman this week will become Acting Saratoga County Treasurer, replacing county treasurer Andrew Jarosh (R, C) – who ran unopposed in 2022 - who has resigned.

County GOP endorsements for re-election included: 112th District Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh – Walsh defeated Democrat challenger Andrew McAdoo in 2022; Assemblyman Matt Simpson – who ran unopposed in the 114th district, and Sen. James Tedisco – who in 2022 secured the 44th District election by defeating Democrat challenger Michelle Ostrelich.  Minita Sanghvi, who currently serves as Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner, is running as a Democrat for NYS Senate District 44.

The Saratoga County Republican Committee also endorsed Jeremy Messina for state Assembly in the 113th Assembly district to contest for a seat long held by Democrat Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner. 

Thursday, 22 February 2024 14:35

Clear Skies Over Putnam

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Observant city dwellers may notice a change high above Putnam Street, where a long-standing radio tower has been removed, clearing a path to an uninterrupted skyline.

The tower stood 92-feet tall and was fixed to the roof of 63 Putnam St., a redbrick structure which sits opposite the Saratoga Springs Public Library and wraps around the drive of Gardner Lane. 

“It was a two-way radio tower from the old days, when the trucks of the Farone beer distributing business used two-way radios,” said Tom Roohan, who purchased The Diamond Brady Plaza, located at 63 Putnam St., in 2022. 

Given modern-day technology such as cellular phones, the tower had outlived its usefulness, and while some thought was given to re-purposing it as a flagpole, the idea didn’t gain much traction, Roohan said, adding that following its removal the tower was cut and recycled. 

BALLSTON SPA —The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors adopted its 2024 Saratoga County Legislative Program during its monthly Feb. 20 at the county complex in Ballston Spa. 

The 10-page document summarizes requested legislative action by state and federal officials, as well as identifying what the Board considers important priorities and initiatives for consideration at state and federal levels. 

Among the items under program’s General Government Services subhead is the county’s support of local municipal control to determine hours of retail sale of alcoholic beverages. 

Currently, the state’s Alcohol Beverage and Control Laws provide counties with an opportunity to submit a request to the State Liquor Authority to restrict hours of sale of alcoholic beverages on a county-wide basis. 

For more than a decade, officials in Saratoga Springs have attempted to initiate earlier bar closing times but with little success; As per current law, the county would need to advocate for earlier bar closing times across all county municipalities – which it has been reluctant to do. 

The Saratoga County Board this week pledged its support for a change to the ABC law to allow for local municipalities to make requests directly to the State Liquor Authority on their own, and for the SLA to determine hours of retail sale of alcoholic beverages based on municipality - without requiring county-wide actions and restricting sales in a neighboring town, city, or village.  The entry marks at least the second time in consecutive years the item has been adopted by the county Board of Supervisors.     

Even as the county may be open to local governments setting parameters for the hours of sale of alcoholic beverages within their own respective municipalities, cities and towns seeking to make any potential changes continue to face an arduous task as the ABC law would need to be amended in order for cities and towns to restrict hours. Consideration of such a law change would be up to the state legislature and there does not appear to be any pending legislation currently addressing the matter. 

• Saratoga County announced it was awarded $111,278 via a new fund created under the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to support youth team sports programs for underserved youth under age 18. The county was provided the award to disburse between 7 different Youth Team Sport programs. To that point, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve the execution of the subcontracts:  Mechanicville/Stillwater Little League - $15,000; MACSC Volleyball, Dodgeball League - $4,468; Mechanicville Stillwater United Soccer Club - $5,606; Schuylerville Youth Lacrosse $ 6,917; Department of Aging & Youth Services Administration 10% - $11,128. Agencies: Old Saratoga Athletic Association $31,999; Galway Baseball Softball League $18,160; Corinth Youth Hockey Association, Inc. $18,000. 

• County officials announced the creation of a school-based opioid and substance use disorder advocacy and support program to address and reduce the impact of addiction and opioid use disorder in Saratoga County schools. The new program will pair school resource officers with certified peer recovery advocates to help students in recovery. 

Tuesday, a resolution was approved for a two-year memorandum of understanding between the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office and the Saratoga County Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the use of $205,000 in regional abatement funds authorized from the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). The Sheriff’s Office will use the funds to contract with the Healthy Capital District Initiative (HCDI) and with two Certified Peer Recovery Advocates to launch the school-based opioid and substance use support program.

• The Board approved $48,837 in one-time funding as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to increase its capacity for provision of offsite services, one-on-one services, improvement of telehealth infrastructure, and other items. The top dollar amount appropriation increases are for:  Minor IT Equipment - $6,515, Office Equipment - $6,500, and Department Supplies- $5,200. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A ceremony at the Saratoga Music Hall will take place Feb. 29 when the 153-year-old hall will be re-dedicated as the Skip Scirocco Music Hall.

The hall will be named after Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, a lifelong Saratogian who served the city professionally - first as the animal control officer, then as elected Saratoga County Supervisor – from 1998 to 2005, and as a standing Commissioner of Public Works, starting in 2008.  Scirocco died in April 2022 at the age of 74 following a brief battle with cancer. 

Scirocco was born on Feb. 29, 1948, and Feb. 29 is why the date for dedication was selected, said current DPW Commissioner Jason Golub. 

In 2016, fear grew that the 300-seat hall was in its last days as a community gathering space, with the venue targeted by the city – in accordance with a state mandate - for conversion into a courtroom. At a public hearing hosted by the city, dozens of people spoke in protest of the council’s suggestion to turn the hall into a courtroom space, and an online petition titled “Save the Music Hall!” garnered more than 370 signatures in the three weeks in advance of the hearing. 

Saratoga Springs City Hall - which houses the music hall on its uppermost floor - sustained extensive damage following an August 2018 lightning strike, and the council subsequently determined a building-wide multi-million-dollar renovation and restoration project was appropriate. 

“The emergency following the lightning strike along with the mandates from the courts and legislature were circumstances outside of our control, but this Council has worked collaboratively to keep this project moving,” then-DPW Commissioner Scirocco said at the time. “It’s the largest and possibly the most important project the city will undertake in our lifetime… and I think the public will be pleased with all the improvements in their City Hall.”

The newly restored Saratoga Music Hall opened to the public in late 2020. 

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