Jonathon Norcross

Jonathon Norcross

Thursday, 18 July 2024 13:19

Celeb Stops By Northshire Bookstore

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Amanda Seyfried, an actress best known for her roles in “Mean Girls,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Dear John,” stopped by the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs last week in support of novelist Liz Moore. Moore was in town promoting her latest book, “The God of the Woods.” 

Earlier this year, it was announced that Seyfried would star in a Peacock series based on “Long Bright River,” one of Moore’s novels. “Long Bright River” is a suspense thriller set in Philadelphia about a female police officer who patrols a neighborhood impacted by the opioid crisis. Moore’s latest book, “The God of the Woods,” is about a teenager who goes missing at an Adirondacks summer camp. 

Seyfried lives in the Catskills with her husband, actor Thomas Sadoski. 

Thursday, 18 July 2024 13:18

Local Ballplayer Drafted by Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Greg Farone, a Schenectady native, was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the seventh round of the 2024 MLB Draft on Monday. Farone is a left-handed pitcher who played for the University of Alabama in 2024.

With the Crimson Tide, Farone pitched 71.2 innings, earning a 5.02 ERA, which was the lowest among all of the team’s starting pitchers. In April, he pitched a complete game shutout against Ole Miss.

Farone previously played for the University of Louisville and Herkimer College in New York before transferring to Alabama. He attended Schenectady High School.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Hospital wants to build a new “Center for Successful Aging” near its main campus that would function as a one-stop shop for local seniors. 

The hospital presented an application for a Planned Unit Development Amendment to the Saratoga Springs City Council on Tuesday evening that would allow them to demolish an existing 10,000-square-foot, one-story building on Myrtle Street across from the hospital’s main campus, and replace it with the new 60,000-square-foot, three-story office center.

“What I’m proposing this evening is more than an office building,” Saratoga Hospital CEO Jill VanKuren told the city council. “It’s a change in the way we do business.”

“Our community is aging. We have an influx of older people coming into Saratoga, coming into our community, and one of the things they’re looking for is fantastic healthcare,” VanKuren said. “The concept is bringing together the services that people would need to age in place under the same roof, close to the hospital, so that existing services…can be accessed more readily.”

The Center for Successful Aging would aim to address the needs of seniors with multiple medical conditions, geriatric syndromes, and social needs that are the results of aging. Seniors visiting the center would be able to have chronic and complex conditions cared for in one location. The building would include offices for primary care physicians, specialists, care coordinators, social workers, pharmacists, and dieticians. 

“The ideal vision is you would come in one day with your family member, spend a few hours with us, get your appointments done, and walk out with a plan of care,” VanKuren said. 





As part of its proposal before the city, the hospital is also hoping to open a daycare center for its staff members. Although there’s currently no concrete plan in place, the hospital has already had some preliminary conversations with potential partners such as the YMCA. 

Because hospital workers have long shifts, work at night, and sometimes work only three days per week, it’s difficult for them to find childcare services. Creating a daycare center inside the hospital would likely help with staff recruitment and retention.

“When we do exit interviews, when people leave us, that’s one of the answers that they give, that they weren’t able to find daycare after they’ve had their children,” VanKuren told Saratoga TODAY. “They try to come back to work after maternity leave and they have a lot of difficulty finding that infant care or finding affordable care for their toddlers and preschool-aged children.”

Both the proposed daycare center and the Center for Successful Aging are works in progress, and the hospital is actively seeking community feedback. 

“We really look forward to welcoming [the community] into this conversation and truly building something that meets the needs of our community now and into the future,” VanKuren said. 

Thursday, 11 July 2024 14:44

Saratoga Native Spreads the Bocce Gospel

SARATOGA SPRINGS — From ancient Rome to Saratoga Springs, the sport of bocce has a long and storied history that is still being celebrated by local players such as Michael Scialdone Sharkey, whose passion for the sport has resulted in tens of millions of hits on social media platforms.

Sharkey’s family hailed from Vitulazio, Italy, a small town about 22 miles north of Naples, where they would play bocce in their vineyard every Sunday. When they came to America, the family started hosting tournaments in central New York and the Finger Lakes. Growing up in Saratoga Springs, Sharkey even had a bocce court in his backyard. Today, he is both a gold-medal-winning national tournament player, and the owner of the Bocce Broadcast Network (BBN), which livestreams games on YouTube.

“I just spent all my money on all this camera equipment and switchers and all this stuff that I had no idea how it worked at first,” Sharkey said. He lugged his gear to the Italian Community Center in Troy and recorded some league games that he then uploaded to YouTube. To Sharkey’s surprise, the videos quickly generated hundreds of views.

Encouraged, Sharkey began broadcasting tournaments from around the country, including the Las Vegas Bocce National Open Championship in Nevada, and the United States Bocce Federation National Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. 

“There’s this whole kind of underground tournament circuit that the sport operates on, and until recently, nobody really was aware of it, outside of the players and their families,” Sharkey said. 

The BBN made those tournaments accessible to a wider audience, allowing new generations of fans to become engrossed in the ancient sport. 

“I see the excitement in people when they see the sport for the first time,” Sharkey said. “A lot of people played growing up in the backyard or wherever, but when you see the next level, the professional level of this sport, people get excited about it.”

While the network broadcasts bocce to the world, Sharkey is also working to increase the sport’s popularity here at home. In January, Saratoga Springs approved plans to build a $13,000 bocce court in Veteran’s Memorial Park. Sharkey’s father, who has built many of his own courts, reached out to the city to offer his assistance.

“Saratoga has the money to do nice things, so we’re hoping they’ll build some nice courts out there and maybe in the future we can have some leagues there,” Sharkey said. “We can introduce people to the sport, but then also introduce them to this competitive style if they want to take it further.”

Last year, local high schools piloted a unified bocce program run by Special Olympics New York. The league provided an opportunity for students with limitations in adaptive areas to play bocce. The pilot program was a success, and in October 2023, the BBN broadcast the unified championship tournament live from the Italian American Community Center in Albany.

As the sport grows in popularity both nationally and locally, Sharkey noted that bocce has survived for generations thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers. “There’s just this real generational passion for the sport that I think is really unique,” Sharkey said. 

The BBN’s next broadcast will be the World Series of Bocce at the Toccolana Club in Rome, New York on July 18-21. The network is also scheduled to cover the ABC Open at the Palazzo di Bocce in Lake Orion, Michigan in September.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — K-12 enrollment has been steadily declining in Saratoga County for more than a decade despite overall population growth, data from the New York State Education Department shows.

In the 2012-2013 school year, there were 34,282 K-12 students in the county. A decade later, the number stood at 31,360, an 8.5% drop. 

The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce said it will “monitor” these numbers due to declining enrollment’s impact on the local labor pool. The chamber also said that declining enrollment plus increases in median home sale prices “speaks to the growing need for more workforce housing across Saratoga County.”

In the Saratoga Springs City School District, K-12 enrollment has decreased from nearly 6,000 in 2021-2022 to 5,798 in 2023-2024, according to data presented by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lisa Cutting in May. The district is also seeing an increase in economically disadvantaged student enrollment, from 1,435 (or 24% of all students) in 21-22, to 1,687 (29%) in 23-24

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Abner Doubleday, best known as the man who did not invent baseball, is probably the most consequential figure in American history to have lived in Ballston Spa. He witnessed the beginning of the Civil War. He led an infantry division at the Battle of Gettysburg. He even accompanied Abraham Lincoln on a train ride prior to the Gettysburg Address. 

But there’s another side to the legendary general that few know about; a secret history that connects Doubleday to Buddhist sages, transcendentalists, and Russian mystics. 

“It’s a bit of an odd story,” began Benjamin Bogin, an associate professor of Asian Studies at Skidmore College. 

For Bogin, discovering that secret history began in July 1992, when Bogin’s uncle Rick Fields published the book, “How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America.” In that book is a chapter about the Theosophical Society, an organization founded by the Russian mystic Madame Blavatsky in 1875. The society helped introduce Buddhism and other Asian religions to America. Among the many Americans interested in these newly-introduced religions was none other than Civil War hero Abner Doubleday.

“He was a very philosophical and spiritually-inclined child,” Bogin said. During his military training, a young Doubleday wrote a letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the famed leader of the Transcendentalist movement. Around that time, transcendentalists became some of the first writers to translate and publish Buddhist literature for American audiences.

In his letter to Emerson, Doubleday expressed doubts about the morality of being a soldier. He also displayed a keen interest in Christianity and Asian religions. Doubleday was “looking to those areas as a source of illumination for other ways to understand the world and our place in it,” Bogin said.

Doubleday’s interest in religion and spirituality continued throughout his life. His experiences in war may have also steered him in the direction of the Theosophical Society. “Coming face to face with that degree of violence and death led him to search for meaning,” Bogin said.

Although Americans’ understanding of Buddhism was quite rudimentary at the time, the possibility of communicating with the dead held significant appeal for those who’d lost loved ones during the Civil War. 19th-century spiritualism became increasingly popular, especially in upstate New York, where the Fox sisters supposedly talked to spirits (they later revealed the whole thing was a hoax), and where Joseph Smith allegedly had visions that led to the creation of Mormonism. Even the mineral water spring that helped make Ballston Spa famous had its origins in “spiritual and visionary mystic traditions that were really widespread in the 19th century,” Bogin said.

Those traditions greatly interested Doubleday, who retired from the military in 1873 and some years later, became an official member of the Theosophical Society. When founder Madame Blavatsky departed the U.S. for India, Doubleday became the organization’s president.

As president, Doubleday apparently wrote quite a bit about the society and its beliefs. But those writings are closely guarded by leaders of the present-day society, who have not granted outsiders access to Doubleday’s letters and diaries. Nonetheless, obituaries at the time of Doubleday’s death in 1893 make references to his tenure with the Theosophical Society. One obituary even identified him as a Buddhist.

Despite his esteemed military career and lifelong interest in spiritual matters, Doubleday would become best known for a false story spread in the early 1900s that cemented the myth that he invented the game of baseball. In fact, there’s scant evidence Doubleday had anything to do with baseball.

“I think people shy away from Doubleday because only a fool would believe he invented baseball,” Bogin said. “No one says, ‘oh yeah, I’m from the same town as the guy who didn’t invent baseball.’” 

A bit of historical fake news has shrouded the true story of Doubleday’s role in America’s early exploration of spiritualism, mysticism, and Asian religions. That secret history, partially obscured due to scholars not having access to Doubleday’s writings while he was president of the Theosophical Society, is still being uncovered.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Short-term rental regulations in Saratoga Springs will likely entail significantly lower licensing fees than originally proposed, Commissioner of Accounts Dillon Moran said during a July 2 city council meeting.

Moran updated residents on future plans for short-term rentals after his initial proposal attracted controversy in February for, among other things, a $1,000 licensing fee.

The details of an updated proposal are still being ironed out, but Moran said that recent state regulations have impacted the city’s plans. Moran expects the state to have a software solution for its registration requirement, meaning that Saratoga Springs will have a licensing process rather than a local registry.

Because he’s confident that sales and bed taxes will be collected, Moran said that licensing fees could be as little as $50 for homeowners renting out their primary residence. Non-primary residences, however, may incur a steeper fee.

In an effort not to harm those whose income is dependent on short-term rentals, Moran said the city would allow homeowners to rent out their properties for 180 days, or half the year. According to the city’s zoning laws, residential areas are intended for primary residences. As a result, Moran said, those homes cannot be rented out for more than 180 days. 

The revised short-term rental regulations proposal will reflect “a lot of thought, a lot of input, and the best direction for our community,” Moran said. 

Once the revised proposal is unveiled, the city will hold a public hearing to discuss it.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Silver Therapeutics, a cannabis company co-owned by a Saratoga Springs resident, opened the first recreational dispensary in the city last Friday on Weibel Avenue.

“We wanted to be first,” said Brendan McKee, a co-founder of Silver Therapeutics. “We wanted to be in the community as soon as we could.”

Beating other companies to the punch while navigating New York’s regulatory requirements was a challenge, McKee said, but no more daunting than dealing with the requirements in other nearby states such as Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont, where Silver Therapeutics collectively owns six other locations. McKee said that he tells aspiring dispensary owners that opening a shop is “probably going to take you twice as long as you think, and cost you twice as much as you think.”



Silver Therapeutics was keen to plant its flag in Saratoga because Josh Silver, a local attorney and co-founder of Silver Therapeutics, lives in the city with his wife and two children. Silver’s sister is also the license holder and partner for the Saratoga location, making it a woman-owned enterprise. According to trade publication MjBiz, 39% of cannabis executives in 2023 were women, an 18% increase from the previous year.

Aside from its ownership, McKee said that Silver Therapeutics distinguishes itself from competitors by working with wholesale partners to drive down prices, sponsoring community events, and maintaining a 90% employee retention rate. 

“Our team members are happy,” McKee said. “We take care of them and, as a result, they take care of our customers.”

Located at 75 Weibel Avenue across from The Springs apartment complex, Silver Therapeutics is now fully operational and open daily from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — As visitors fill up downtown hotels for the start of track season, less than four miles away, Hotel Brookmere is buzzing with activity. Construction workers scattered across the 90,000-square-foot property only have about five months left until opening day, and there’s still plenty of work to be done before guests can arrive and kick their feet up.

Come December, this active construction site will transform into what Brookmere General Manager Julian Miller called an “all-encompassing resort where folks can get everything right here.”

Nestled on nearly 10 acres of tree-filled land (the former home of Longfellows Hotel & Restaurant), the 88-room luxury hotel will include a ballroom, courtyard, outdoor swimming pool, and fitness center. But the two jewels of the property will probably be the appropriately-named Arbor Spa, and Regent, a French restaurant and bar that Miller said would be “approachable” and “not stuffy.”

“We want the restaurant and the ballroom and the event spaces to really feel like the living room of Saratoga, in a way,” said Amber Mathias, director of project management at Bonacio Construction. “We want people to come here and for this to be their go-to choice.”

Unlike some of the bustling accommodations on Broadway, Brookmere advertises itself as a tranquil retreat. The hotel’s interior design “plays with upstate New York and the change of the seasons,” Mathias said. The ballroom and lobby will have a blue, wintery vibe. The restaurant area will be brighter, invoking summertime. The guest rooms will have an autumnal feel, with green walls, dark brown furniture, and stag-covered wallpapers that bring the Adirondacks to mind. 

Indeed, nature is a recurring theme throughout the property. Step outside the spa where the swimming pool will be and you’ll find the entrance to a nature trail. Launch a golf ball towards the trees and it might land on a fairway at the Saratoga National Golf Club. Stroll towards the golf course and you’ll come upon Lake Lonely, which borders the property.

The amount of space at Brookmere, both inside and out, might be its defining feature when compared to other Saratoga hotels. So it’s probably no surprise that Miller is already booking events scheduled for next year. 

“People are already looking at Belmont next summer. People are already looking at racing season events. And weddings, we’ve already had 2026 inquiries,” Miller said.

Although the hotel won’t be open until December, guests may be able to start booking rooms as soon as August. Brookmere will also be working on beefing up its staff in the coming months. Miller said he expects the hotel to hire around 90-100 employees. Positions are currently open for executive-level staffers.

To learn more about Hotel Brookmere, visit, or follow their recently-launched social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram. 

BALLSTON SPA — Ballston Spa varsity girls track and field standout Gabrielle Bozeth was formally honored at a June 27 Board of Education meeting for what her coach called a “historic,” record-setting season.

At the meeting, Coach Matt Germann highlighted some of Bozeth’s accomplishments:

Times Union’s girls track and field Athlete of the Year

Holds eight school records in outdoor track and field

Made the Suburban Council All-Star list three times this year

Qualified for New Balance Nationals, where she placed 34th in the 200m dash

In Section 2, she’s ranked #1 for the 100m and the 200m

At the New York State championship meet, she won the 200m federation and placed 2nd in the 100m federation

Bozeth was also a member of a relay team that Germann called “the greatest relay team I’ve coached in 20 years.” In indoor events, the team broke more than 23 school records. They also won both the 4x100 and the 4x400 at the William F. Eddy Jr. Meet last month, among many other accomplishments.

Germann also praised Bozeth for her hard work and humility. 

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