City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS — August Belmont Jr. died ninety-eight Decembers ago in his midtown Manhattan apartment, but during the past few weeks his surname has been circulating around the local Saratoga community perhaps louder than it ever had before.
With a massive $455 million renovation project slated to take place at Long Island’s Belmont Park, the New York Racing Association is considering staging the high-profile Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, the company’s president recently told the Daily Racing Form.
That temporary relocation of the Belmont Stakes – a race which traditionally sites the third and final leg of the Triple Crown - could include the next two runnings of the renowned race, to be held in June 2024 and June 2025, until its normal Long Island home venue would be ready for prime time in 2026.
“I think this is a huge opportunity – not only for the city of Saratoga Springs, but for the county and the entire region,” said Darryl Leggieri, President at Discover Saratoga - a Saratoga Springs based promotion and marketing organization. “This will bring huge tourism dollars to our region and have an economic impact for many of the businesses as well. Many people think about lodging with tourists – and they should do well – but people spend money where they stay and that will trickle down to many of the small businesses in the community such as the restaurants and the retailers.”
The 2024 Belmont Stakes will be staged in its traditional calendar spot in early June, following May’s running of the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness, the first and second legs of the Triple Crown, respectively. That would presumably place the Belmont at Saratoga on Saturday June 8 - although the number of racing days prior to the stakes race and/or the length of a Belmont Stakes Racing Festival in Saratoga is up for discussion. This year’s festival was a three-day affair on Long Island, according to NYRA’s June 2023 calendar.
“June is traditionally a busy time for Saratoga Springs but there’s always room for a major historic event of this magnitude,” Leggieri said. “We’re optimistic that this will be boon for our whole area and really put a spotlight on our destination internationally – especially if there’s a Triple Crown (horse) in contention.”
An early June Belmont date in Saratoga raises a series of potential ramifications for the local community.
The traditional start of the 40-day Saratoga meet is typically held one month later. And while that meet is anticipated to stay the same, a flurry of activity in early June featuring the last leg of the Triple Crown series would create a special set of scenarios for the local community – from business owners and hoteliers to public safety officials who would be dealing with an accelerated flow of traffic and tourism.
“We’re going to have to wait and see what the details look like. Maybe it’s for a long weekend – we’re hearing that, maybe it will change into something else, we just don’t know yet, but we’ll be ready,” said Saratoga County Administrator Steve Bulger.
Economically? “We have to think there would be positive impacts on both – occupancy tax and sales tax that weekend – which the county would welcome,” Bulger said.
“From a county perspective, law enforcement and the Sheriff’s Office especially would probably be the department most impacted, making sure we have proper coverage across the board, helping the city (of Saratoga Springs) out, like we usually do during Travers Weekend,” Bulger said. “Having Emergency Services ready to go in case anything popped up; maybe the district attorney’s office might have a busier weekend than normal. But using an enlarged Travers Day Weekend as our baseline, we would make sure we’re working with the city and NYRA so that any and all resources the county can provide will be made available.”
So, who was August Belmont, Jr? A synopsis via the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame: August Belmont II was born in New York City in 1853 and upon his father’s death became heavily involved in racing. Belmont, Jr. took over August Belmont & Co., the New York City bank founded by his father August, Sr. He continued his family’s practice of raising horses and bred 129 stakes winners, Man o’ War, among them. He was also associated with William Collins Whitney in the revitalization of Saratoga in the early 1900s and was among the founding members of The Jockey Club in 1894. In 1905, Belmont opened Belmont Park on Long Island and transferred to the park the Belmont Stakes, inaugurated in 1867 and named in his father’s honor.
The potential temporary relocation of the Belmont Stakes and the renovation at the Long Island racecourse that holds the Belmont name is dependent on various approvals. An official decision is anticipated to be announced sometime this fall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Ten works line the wall inside Dining Room Gallery of the new Saratoga Senior Center. Gaze upon them intensely, for they seem to trick the eye. Or do they? They boast appearances of multi-dimensional proportion. They look alive.
“Renewal,” says Terri-Lynn Pellegri. “Once-living energy, repurposed.”
Love Compost Saratoga Collaborative depicts 10 new original works captured by Pellegri’s camera eye. The exhibition, on display at the new Saratoga Senior Center, opens with an artists’ reception on Sunday.
“Composting is really pretty simple,” Pellegri says. “Nature knows what to do. For me, it’s the breakdown of once-living matter – food waste, vegetables, tea bags, eggshells – and the natural decomposition of that which then aids and nourishes soil. For me, it’s identifying living/ non-living. Of the earth/ not of the earth. I saw the difference between living and non-living matter.”
The photographer’s passion for her composted subjects began in earnest on a spring day in 2014 during a seemingly random moment alongside her kitchen sink, where a batch of collected peels and scraps sat in a small compost container.
“I remember the light shining through, and I had this moment. I saw something and it just stopped me. I thought: Oh, there’s something here that looks beautiful,” Pellegri says. “For me, photographing is about seeing, about being absorbed in the moment. I got lost in that moment, looking into my compost, into this food waste. I was stunned. I went and got my camera and started photographing.”
She has learned to look at the by-product of what we consume; We eat the eggs, for example, but dispose of the eggshells, the gnarly ends of broccoli and render the nubby parts of carrots as simple discard.
“It’s about the light and it’s about allowing yourself to have that moment,” Pellegri says. “To be in the moment without judging it, without analyzing it; Just giving myself that moment To Be. To see.”
“We put in one big bundle anything that is not useful to us anymore. Trash. We don’t want to see it. It all goes in a bag and off to the landfill,” Pellegri says. “I just couldn’t put any more in the landfill, so I started composting. And I really fell in love with it. It’s hard to explain. Just watching these things go back to the earth, where it had come from.”
She began showcasing her composting photography work in 2019, visiting area businesses that were composting - Caffe Lena, Saratoga Tea & Honey, and Four Seasons among them - and creating compositions with the materials presented.
“It’s allowed me to shift my thinking. It has totally changed my relationship with food, and with waste,” she says.
This past spring, Saratoga Arts announced Pellegri was awarded a grant as part of a NYSCA regrant program for LOVE COMPOST Saratoga Collaborative, to include 10 new pieces of photographic artwork - Compost COMPOSiTions - featuring five works that honor and celebrate entities and businesses that have a compost program in place, and five works of her own, all with companion narratives.
“Skidmore College has an amazing program, Lily and The Rose, The Mouzon House, Hattie’s and Corina Contemporary Jewelry in Ballston Spa – even though she’s a jewelry shop, she takes food waste from other businesses and composts. So many things are interwoven and what I really want to share is the feeling of connectedness: what we do, who we are as people, what we do in our community, and how we communicate with one another,” Pellegri says. “The thread of commonality between the businesses, all taking food waste and compostable material and creating something.”
Across the ten works there are unlikely pairings. Tea bags collaborate with pistachio shells, clementine peels become dance partners with dried irises, scraps of carrot, and the paper casing of garlic cloves – all colorfully captured and repurposed even as they fluctuate through the varied points of their own natural decay.
“My attempt was to bring them together, to life,” Pellegri says, “to celebrate them in this visual expression.
An Artist’s Reception will take place 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24 in the Dining Room Gallery of the new Saratoga Senior Center, located at 290 West Ave., adjacent to the Y.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A weeklong celebration of the Constitution - initiated by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1955 – takes place Sept. 17-23 to commemorate the history of the U.S. Constitution, its importance, and to bring attention to how it serves still today.
The aims of the Constitution Week celebration are to: Emphasize citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution; Inform people that the Constitution is the basis for America’s heritage and a foundation for a way of life, and to encourage the study of historical events which led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787.
DAR’s petitioning of Congress in 1955 to set the week aside annually was signed into public law on Aug. 2, 1956, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A revised plan, submitted to the city for an existing demolition and proposed mixed-use development at 126 West Ave., is among the items under consideration by the city Design Review Board this week.
Additional applications under consideration include a two-story addition to an existing commercial structure at 395 Broadway, and a three-story addition to a commercial structure at 453 Broadway.
For meeting times and dates of the three city Land Use Boards, go to: saratoga-springs.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council on Sept. 7 approved a contract with the Saratoga Springs City School District to assign two School Resource Officers to the schools for the duration of the school year.
One SRO will be assigned to the high school - to be on duty on campus from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. each school day, and one SRO will be assigned to the District’s Elementary Schools system located within the city, on duty from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
The contract runs through June 30, 2024 and the on-campus presence includes hours when the school is in regular session and excludes summer school and summer programs.
The District will pay $74,285 for each SRO officer assigned to the district, with that amount increasing 2% in 2024 in accordance with CBA wage increases.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city Planning Board is considering a proposal of a new church for the Unitarian Universal Congregation of Saratoga Springs that would be sited at 400 Louden Road.
UUCSS is currently under contract to purchase just over 5 acres on Louden Road for the construction of the new church. Just over three of those acres are in “conservancy “ – not allowing for development – leaving about 1.93 acres of currently vacant land where the proposed two-story, 8,840 square foot church would be developed.
The primary development area is located in Saratoga Springs with the road frontage being in the town of Wilton. The proposal also includes parking availability for 64 cars.
The church employs one full-time minister and three part-time staff, and the congregation currently consists of approximately 125 parishioners.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs’s first Cannabis Growers Showcase, which took place Sunday, Sept. 3 and Tuesday, Sept. 5 returned over $70,000 in gross sales, city Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran said.
The local showcase will take place 2 to 8 p.m. at the City Center Parking Garage Friday and Sunday, Sept. 15 and 17, and switches to every Saturday and Sunday through the end of the year beginning Sept. 30, according to the NYS Office of Cannabis Management.
Nine farms presented their products in addition to a processor – who essentially makes edible goods and drinks – during the Saratoga Springs showcase, which returned more than 300 transactions on each of its first two days.
Municipalities receive a 3% tax on cannabis sales, under New York State law. That formula indicates a return of about $2,100 for the first two days of operations in Saratoga Springs.
“When you start to look at what potential ramifications can be on a full roll-out or a full-market basis, it’s very obvious…the cannabis market on a tax basis is going to be transformative,” Commissioner Moran said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS —A new study underway this month may help to address a decades-long question related to the amount of large truck traffic in the downtown area and offer solutions about what the city can begin to do about it.
The Capital Region Transportation Council (CRTC), in coordination with the city Mayor’s Office, will be conducting the truck traffic study to explore options for enhancing safety and improving traffic flow through the downtown corridor.
The study will collect data on the number and classification of trucks traveling through the city, their routes, and speed.
“This is (part of) a larger study of traffic in Saratoga County, and we’re able to be part of this study to determine the number and classification of trucks traveling through the city, their routes, and their speed,” Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim told the council Sept. 7.
“Here’s the important part: we can’t do anything about the 53-foot trucks that ply our streets, particularly on Broadway, until we know what the volume is, where they’re coming from and where they’re going,” Mayor Kim said. “This is a study that will do that.”
The following streets are potential areas of study: Broadway (U.S. Rte 9); Ballston Avenue (NY Rte 50); Church Street (NY Rte 9N); Finley/Adelphi Streets; Geyser Road; Lake Avenue (NY Rte 29); Union Avenue (NY Rte 9P); Van Dam Street; Washington Street (NY Rte 29).
Following the study, the CRTC will create a technical memo and outreach material, to help the city better understand truck traffic and what it can do to reduce it, particularly in the downtown area, Kim said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A prime piece of downtown architecture is looking to grow taller.
Prime Group Holdings founder Robert Moser is seeking city Land Use Board approval to add two stories to the company’s existing two-story brick masonry office building at 395 Broadway. If approved, the combined four-story building would serve as office space for Prime Group Holdings on all four floors, with a retail store component on the first floor.
The red-brick building located on the southwest corner of Broadway and Division Street was originally developed in 2000 to house Borders Books & Music, and in in 2018 was purchased by Ed Mitzen and the Fingerpaint Marketing firm. It was sold to Prime Group Holdings for $11 million in July.
On Sept. 5, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced it had charged Prime Group Holdings LLC for failing to adequately disclose millions of dollars of real estate brokerage fees that were paid to a real estate brokerage firm that was owned by its CEO. “Prime Group agreed to pay a $6.5 million civil penalty and more than $14 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest to settle the charges,” according to a statement released by the SEC on Tuesday.
It was not immediately known what effect the company’s payment of $20.5 million to settle the charges may have on its previously expressed plans for adding two stories to its Broadway building.
Prime Group had previously planned to build a six-story complex with a restaurant, retail and offices at 269 Broadway - adjacent to Saratoga Central Catholic School - until construction estimates climbed well beyond the initial $30 million projection, Robin Cooper reported last month in the Albany Business Review. A decision about what will become of that property has not been decided.
Plans, proposals and alterations related to Saratoga Springs developments and architecture make their way through one or more of the city’s three Land Use Boards. Those boards are the Planning Board, Design Review Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. Meetings are open to the public. For a list of regularly scheduled meetings, go to: saratoga-springs.org.
Some of the other projects currently making their way through the city’s Land Use Boards.
• A project at 78 Church St., between Clinton and West Harrison streets, involves the demolition of an existing retail business to make room for a 61-foot multi-use residential and commercial building. The proposed five-story building will include 23 condominium units, commercial space on the first floor, and a garage. Applicant: Spring City Development Group, LLC.
• Station Lane Site Plan West Ave. & Station Lane. Consideration of SEQRA review for a proposed mixed-use project including 9,500 square feet non-residential space and 68 multi-family residential units. The non-residential space is proposed to feature the development of about 6,900 square feet of retail space and 2,600 square feet of restaurant space. The approximate 2-acre project is currently vacant.
• Adult Use Dispensary: 95 West Ave./250 Washington St. Special use permit for a marijuana dispensary. The applicant - Ten Cees, LLC – says it plans to institute a digital queue system in which customers will order in advance, then wait in their vehicles until being notified via app of their turn to enter the dispensary. To ensure orderly queuing, physical lines will be established outside the dispensary’s front door at 95 West Ave. and wrap around to the back door, according to documents filed with the city.
• Stewart’s Shop is looking to re-develop its Express at 177 South Broadway, with the razing of an existing house at 28 Lincoln Ave. and the construction of a new near-4,000 square foot Stewart’s.
• Chipotle area variance: removal of a vacant existing building at 12 Ballston Ave. and in its place the construction of a one-story restaurant.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The former long-time home of the Saratoga Senior Center on Williams Street has been made available to non-profits for a short-term lease by the city of Saratoga Springs.
Currently vacant, the city of Saratoga Springs owns the 5 Williams St. building. In anticipation of the Senior Center’s relocation, the city last year had planned to site a 24/7 year-round homeless shelter at the building. Those plans were quashed, however, following a backlash from some members of the nearby Saratoga Central Catholic School.
The building is approximately 7,800 square feet and includes a parking lot with 27 spaces. The term of the lease will be for 6 months, with optional month-to-month leasing for up to an additional six 6 months. Total potential duration of the lease will be no more than 12 months, commencing in November 2023.
Rental Fee: The proposal should include a monthly rental fee not less than $250 per month, which will be considered as the bid amount.
According to the bid published by the city on Sept. 1: Sealed bids for the non-profit short-term lease of 5 Williams St. will be accepted by the city’s Office of the Commissioner of Accounts, 474 Broadway Suite 14, Saratoga Springs, New York, 12866, by 2 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 12, at which time they will be publicly opened and read. That RFP opening date has since been moved to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14.
Bidders are limited to non-profit social service organizations providing services to residents and/or visitors to the city. Due to the short-term nature of the lease, the building will need to be utilized “as-is” for the duration of the lease period. The selected organization will be prohibited from making any substantial improvements to the building, excluding minimal cosmetic improvements.
Copies of the Request for Proposal (RFP) may be obtained on the City’s web page at www.saratoga-springs.org, under current bids.