City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness has identified a 3.7-acre lot on Lake Avenue/ State Route 29 as its primary selection to site a permanent homeless shelter.
The vacant lot is listed for sale at $800,000 and is located between the Northway overpass and a Stewart’s Shop near Weibel Avenue.
The Task Force was formed In February 2023 and charged with locating a potential permanent site for a homeless shelter and navigation center by July to recommend to the City Council. The ad hoc group began with evaluating some two dozen potential sites across the city. They concluded with their vote of recommended locations on July 20.
Alternative sites that ranked highly included a parcel at 153 South Broadway – property that stands in close proximity to two temporary shelters, although the owner is reluctant to sell that property according to Task Force discussions; 1.6 acres at 3290 Route 9 / Top Hill motel with a sale price listed at $1.9 million; a 1-acre property at North and East Ave for sale at $1 million, and 260 Maple Ave./ Gateway Motel, which extends to 1.5 acres, potential purchase price not known.
Each venue offers some set of challenges – from Land Use Board review to area variances required (although the latter would seem unnecessary were the city to outright purchase the property), proximity or lack thereof to venues currently providing social services, access to public transportation, and, given the track record of previous attempts made: opposition from some area residents when a site is ultimately selected.
The discussions will now move to the Saratoga Springs City Council, which next meets at City Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 1.
There is still much to be discussed and funding sources to be evaluated, including what level of support may be provided by the county.
Relative to the preferred site on- Route 29: the location is not in close proximity to social services, and there is no current bus stop allocated – although one may be advocated for via CDTA, the ad hoc board surmised. The site would ultimately need a use variance from the ZBA, as well as subsequent Site Plan approval from the Planning Board and County Planning Board review. The Stewart’s Shop, located at Gilbert Road and Lake Avenue is anticipated to soon undergo a 2,500 square-foot to 4,100 square-foot expansion.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s Land Use Boards are considering a proposal for a Special Use permit that would site a private social club for businesspersons just west of Broadway, on Woodlawn Ave.
The approval is sought at 118 and 121-125 Woodlawn Ave. in connection with two parcels that measure .14 acres and .23 acres, respectively.
The applicant is seeking to use 118 as a private/social club for businesspersons to be operated by a not-for-profit entity, with 121-125 Woodlawn to serve as off-street parking for club members, according to documents first submitted to the city in June. Saratoga TODAY first reported on the venture on June 15.
The club is anticipated to operate 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and provide light meals and bar service for its approximately 200 members. No amplified music will be allowed. The club will serve as a place for its members to conduct meetings, as well as a place for members “to relax and unwind after a day at the office,” according to documents filed with the city.
The building at 118 is located on the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Van Dam Street, just west of the convergence of Broadway/Route 9 and the Saratoga Hilton. For more than a century, the property was owned by various religious operations and operated as a religious house of worship,
The existing gravel lot at 122-125 would be upgraded and consist of 22 parking spaces.
The initial director, founder and organizer of the club will be Lisa Moser – co-founder with husband Robert of Prime Construction. Membership to the club will include an application process for membership, annual dues and an initiation fee upon acceptance.
The city Planning Board is anticipated to discuss the proposal at its workshop on Aug. 3.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — After more than 40 years of setting up shop on Williams Street, the Saratoga Senior Center this week began its physical relocation into the future: one mile southwest and to its new home adjacent to the Saratoga Regional YMCA at 290 West Avenue.
“Shut down, packed up, and moving over here,” executive director Lois Celeste explained to hundreds of visitors attending the center’s first event staged at its new location. The senior expo was held July 20 and featured a variety of speakers, presentations and more than 40 community vendors.
The new site hosts multiple classrooms, a kitchen and dining room, a chair-and-table area for card games, an art room, exercise room, employee offices, and an education center.
The Meeting Room will host gatherings of the Alzheimer’s Association as well as various medical insurance organizations, and the Game Room will be fitted with computer stations, a TV, ping-pong tables and a pair of pool tables.
“We actually have a sound system and a projector – we’re coming into the next century here,” said Celeste, flanked by the new-look gleam of marble and glass.
The new location boasts plentiful parking and a quartet of columns that frame the entryway that lead to a main reception area inside. A physical therapist will be on-site five days of the week. There is still some work to be done prior to the new center’s opening.
“We don’t know how long it is going to take to set up operations, but our goal is to have a soft opening with classes by the first or second of August,” Celeste said. “It will be a kind of a one-stop shop.”
The non-profit, non-residential community center welcomes adults aged 50 and over. Cost is $35 a year to participate in programs, trips and social activities tailored to adults and seniors.
The Center was founded in 1955, purchased its own building at 162 Circular St. five years later and in 1979 relocated to a larger facility at 5 Williams St. The Williams Street venue that is being vacated is owned by the city of Saratoga Springs.
The city last year announced plans to use the location when empty to site a 24/7 permanent homeless shelter. Earlier this year those plans were quashed, however, after the proposal met with a backlash from some community members and parents of students of the nearby Saratoga Central Catholic School. Plans for the future of the city-owned property are not currently known.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – File this one under: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Weeks of public speculation and rumors that Phish would perform a pair of concerts in Saratoga to benefit Vermont and upstate New York flood recovery efforts were confirmed July 25 with the announcement that that band will appear at Saratoga Performing Arts Center Aug. 25-26.
A short, one-day ticket request period is underway NOW at: https://phishfloodrecoverybenefit.shop.ticketstoday.com/Splash.aspx.
Tickets go on sale to the general public 10 a.m. Saturday, July 29. Travel packages will be available and go on sale 9 a.m. on Friday, July 28.
A limited number of Foundation tickets will also be available that include a ticket to the show, a private pre-show performance with Phish’s Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell, access to the Foundation Lounge before and throughout the show, and special Foundation poster and merch, in addition to other amenities.
100% of net proceeds from all concert and merchandise sales will be directed to The WaterWheel Foundation’s 2023 Flood Recovery Fund, which will support the many victims and their families, area businesses, and non-profits. The Recovery Fund will support both shorter-term needs and long-term recovery and resiliency projects.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy will be seeking an area variance from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals this week that would permit the demolition of a ranch style home and the subsequent construction of a new home upon property he purchased in Saratoga Springs earlier this year.
The Fifth Avenue property was purchased in March by Portnoy’s company, Smokeshowcity LLC of Miami Florida, for $1.4 million, and sites an approximate 1,500 square-foot ranch style home. The property is bounded by the Oklahoma Training Track on the lot’s south side.
Plans call for demolition of the existing home and construction of a new residence.
Recent plans submitted to the city by Balzar & Tuck Architecture depict a dining room, living room and kitchen downstairs, a pool and patio area in the backyard, and three bedrooms and baths upstairs. A fourth bedroom and bath, as well as a fitness room is indicated in the basement, according to plans the architects submitted to the city.
The ZBA meeting takes place 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 24 at Saratoga Springs City Hall.
The Fifth Avenue property would need only the approval of the ZBA to move forward.
Another project on that night’s ZBA agenda - 12 Ballston Avenue Chipotle Area Variance – would require eventual approval from all three city Land Use Boards – the Planning Board and Design Review Commission are the others – before plans for a new restaurant may move forward, according to the city’s building department.
Attorney Update: Nov. 20 Saratoga Springs Gunfight
An incident last November that involved an alleged altercation between three men and an off-duty Rutland County sheriff’s deputy took place in the Caroline Street-Broadway area, with a subsequent police response that resulted in about 20 bullets fired overall in the pre-dawn hours.
The three men - Alexander Colon, 28, Darius A. Wright, 29, and Christopher (AKA Christian) E. Castillo, 28 were each subsequently charged with one count attempted assault in the third-degree, a misdemeanor, in connection with the incident. According to the prosecutor’s filings, the charge specifies each of the defendants “attempted to cause an injury to a person by repeatedly punching him.” Each of the men pleaded not guilty.
The off-duty deputy, Vito Caselnova of Glens Falls is facing eight charges, including attempted murder.
This week, in an update first reported by NewsChannel 13, Caselnova’s attorneys want his alleged victims charged with gang assault, alleging that Colon was the initial aggressor.
A new court filing by Caselnova’s attorneys alleges that prosecutors didn’t let grand jurors know they could also charge Colon and two others with attempted murder and gang assault, according to the news report, and comes a supplement to a defense motion that had asked the court to dismiss the indictment against Caselnova, accusing the district attorney of prosecutorial bias.
Bomb Threat Evac at Live Nation SPAC Show: No Arrests Yet
Arrests have yet to be made in connection with a July 8 bomb threat that saw the evacuation of Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the cancellation of an appearance by show headliner Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
Several area law enforcement agencies responded to the bomb threat. The threat was ultimately deemed a hoax.
In a statement made July 9, authorities said the incident was under investigation, and that “this case will be investigated as Making a Terroristic Threat, a Class D Felony.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — “Even after 17 years, I’m still in a honeymoon period with Saratoga,” says Dan De Federicis. “It’s just a wonderful place to be in any stage of your life.”
The retired State Trooper relocated from his native Buffalo to Albany in 2001 after being elected president of the NYS Troopers PBA. “Each successive year, I found myself coming to Saratoga Springs more and more. It was 4th of July holiday weekend in 2005 when I drove to Saratoga from Albany four times! That’s when I said, ‘That’s it. I’m moving to Saratoga Springs.’”
These days, De Federicis operates Saratoga Report – a local news aggregator website that collects and displays links to Saratoga-related stories.
“It’s funny, for my website, Saratoga Report, I do all these searches every morning - anything to do with Saratoga - and I came across this sale offer,” he says. “I made some calls.”
The calls led him to Charlie McCabe, handler of the estate of his dad Matt McCabe – a much loved Saratoga Springs businessman, musician and a former city commissioner. Notably, Matt McCabe operated Saratoga Guitar for more than a quarter-century until his untimely passing in January 2021 due to complications of COVID-19.
In October 2020, McCabe had purchased a franchise in Discovery Map of Saratoga. The Discovery Map International brand was founded in 1981 and features hand-drawn maps of more than 130 largely tourism destinations with more than 90 franchisees.
The maps, which are free, provide travelers a resource to find local lodging, dining, shopping, services and fun things to do in their focused locations. Overall, more than 16 million maps are printed annually, according to the company.
Focus areas range from Santa Monica, California to the Berkshires and Hyannis in Massachusetts. Eight municipalities are showcased by Discovery Map in New York State alone – East Hampton, South Hampton, Lake George, Lake Placid and Saratoga Springs, among them.
“As much as we rely on our smartphones, people still prefer printed-out maps,” McCabe said at the time of his franchise purchase. “The maps are truly like works of art and reveal the character of an area... and there is a lot of that in Saratoga Springs and the surrounding areas.”
“I did my due diligence, looked into the company, called other franchisees around the country and learned they’re really good to work with,” says De Federicis. “I saw it as an opportunity, and that it was Matt McCabe who had previously owned it, only added to it. I feel honored to follow in his footsteps.”
Paper maps have made a resurgence in recent years, with maps and atlases selling 1.8 million units last year, up 20% over 2021, according to the NPD Group, an international agency that measures business data and analytics.
The Discovery Map of Saratoga covers all of Saratoga County. It is colorful, two-sided, measures about 18 inches by 14 inches and is bordered by thumb-sized adverts. It folds neatly into quarters and depicts a large segment of Saratoga County on one side, and a close-up of downtown Saratoga Springs on the other.
De Federicis found a business opportunity as well as something close to his heart.
“There is so much going on in Saratoga, there is a lot of opportunity to grow this. I not only wanted to work in Saratoga, but I wanted my work to be about Saratoga,” he says. “What I’m doing now, I love doing. It doesn’t even seem like work to me.”
“The support (from Discovery Map) is incredible. For instance, let’s say I sign up a new restaurant. Well then, their staff adds the building to the map. And they’re not just going to draw a dot or a square, the building will look like the building it’s representing.”
The maps are folded to a convenient 8.5-inch by 11-inch size and available free of charge up and down Broadway and all-around town, as well as across the county in local stores, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions, among other places.
While the maps will be updated annually, one characteristic will be preserved, De Federicis says.
“On the map itself there is a caricature of Matt McCabe with his guitar. As soon as I saw that, I told Charlie that his father’s caricature will stay on there for as long as I own this map.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — There will be new parking rules in effect on public streets in proximity to Saratoga Springs High School this fall that are anticipated to affect neighborhood residents and student drivers alike.
Citing public safety hazards and disruptions caused by Saratoga Springs High School students parking vehicles on residential streets near the school, a group of affected residents took their grievances to the City Council this week.
The residents, led by speaker Melissa Thompson-Flynn, provided a presentation that they said illustrated issues created due to the number, and in some cases the manner, in which students park their vehicles on streets neighboring the school during the semester. The issues stated include: allowing little parking for residents or delivery vehicles, blocking residents’ access to their homes, difficulties for other vehicles to navigate, and insufficient clearance for emergency vehicles.
Thirty-five signatures from 21 households were presented to the council on behalf of signees supporting the implementation of two-hour parking restrictions on five streets. The presentation, a Public Hearing and council discussion and eventual vote were held at City Hall July 18.
Ultimately, the City Council, by a unanimous 5-0 vote, approved an ordinance to implement the “Time Limit Parking” on Willow Lane and Ash, Hyde, Birch, and Joseph streets.
While students may continue to park on the streets come fall, they must now move their vehicles every two hours.
The council said it anticipates - with no further action - that this will likely create similar problematic scenarios on other neighboring streets as students will seek a place to park their vehicles a few blocks further from the school. As such, they noted they were approving the ordinance with the acknowledgement that “this now puts pressure on us” as a council, as well as the school and potentially other stakeholders, to find a long-term solution.
BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors on July 18 held their monthly meeting at the county complex in Ballston Spa.
The meeting began with an observed moment of silence in memory of longtime town of Saratoga Supervisor Tom Wood, who died on July 10. Ian Murray, previously deputy supervisor, was welcomed by the Board to complete Wood’s term as town supervisor.
Among the resolutions approved by the Board:
• The Board approved the acceptance of nearly $700,000 in grant funding from the State Department of Health to upgrade the county’s public health care system over a five-year period.
The grant in the amount of $136,944 per year, is effective Dec. 1, 2022, through Nov. 30, 2027 and totals $684,720 in all, to “create a stronger, more resilient public health care system that is prepared to respond to future health care crises.”
The funding, according to the county Board resolution, is to be used in strengthening public health infrastructure, workforce and data systems.
With the acceptance of the state funding, the Board approved amending the 2023 Saratoga County Budget to allow the $136,944 increase this calendar year and to increase a variety of appropriations, including: Furniture and Furnishings - $15,000; Office Equipment - $5,000; Personal Computers - $18,900; Building Components - $8,000; Other Capital Expenses - $31,169; Other Professional Services - $40,000; Misc. Dept. Expense - $5,500; Conference Fees $3,000; Software $9,850; Minor IT Equipment $525.
• The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors additionally approved the acceptance of $231,894 in grant funding from the state DOH to be used for Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program activities for the period of July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024. No further details were provided with the resolution.
• Cassandra M. Bagramian was appointed Commissioner of Elections for Saratoga County, in according with a Board resolution July 18. Bagramian’s appointment, at a salary of $91,800, takes effect Sept. 15 and concludes Dec. 31, 2024, fulfilling the remaining term of William Fruci, who is retiring. The appointment of Bagramian, a Democrat, comes via recommendation of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee. Roger J. Schiera, a Republican, is the other Commissioner of Elections for Saratoga County.
SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency this week released the results of a commissioned study to analyze the far-reaching economic effects of the Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Casino Hotel, and the Saratoga National Historical Park.
The study examines the economic impacts of the four Saratoga County major tourism drivers to a nine-county study region that includes Albany, Columbia, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington counties. The analysis provides a comparative breakdown of economic impacts such as jobs, attendance, and spending, and includes the direct impact of each destination, as well as the indirect and induced spillover impacts.
In total, these destinations contributed 5,770 jobs, $266.9 million associated employee earnings, and $647.6 million in annual sales in 2021, according to the report.
The “direct impacts” include the on-site operations of the destinations, as well as visitor spending. Indirect and induced impacts capture the spillover impact from the activity, including supply chain and employee spending-related impacts.
“The results of the Economic Analysis of these tourism sectors provide a positive forecast that indicates Saratoga County will continue to grow and thrive as one of Upstate New York’s most desirable counties in which to live, visit, and do business for the foreseeable future,” Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency Chairman Rod Sutton explains in his introductory remarks of the 83-page report, prepared by Camoin Associates, which is based in Saratoga Springs.
The breakdown, according to the report:
Saratoga Race Course -2,937 Jobs; $157.8 m Earnings; $371. m Sales
SPAC - 1,362 Jobs; $26.9 m Earnings; $78.2 m Sales
Saratoga Casino Hotel - 1,388 Jobs; $77.1 m Earnings;$185.2 m Sales
Saratoga Nat. Hist. Park - 83 Jobs; $4.8 m Earnings; $13 m Sales
*Earnings, Sales rounded off.
As far as Fiscal Impact Results, the destinations in total contribute nearly $5.7 million in total property, sales, and occupancy tax revenue to Saratoga County and almost $18.2 million in total income and sales tax revenue to New York State, according to the report. In addition to these tax revenues, the Saratoga Race Course makes nearly $6.9 million in additional statutory payments to municipalities and other entities.
Prior studies – which were held in 2006, 2011 and 2015 - looked solely at the economic impact of Saratoga Race Course.
To read the full report, go to: www.saratogacountyida.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Several area law enforcement agencies responded to a bomb threat at Saratoga Performing Arts Center July 8. The threat was ultimately deemed a hoax.
Inside the amphitheater, the band Garbage had concluded their 15-song set at approximately 9 p.m. and those who remained in attendance awaited the appearance of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds when message boards informed fans to evacuate the venue in a calm manner. A reason was not provided, and some noted that at least one of the buses backstage transporting the performers had already left.
“Hey, just got evacuated from SPAC after the changeover from Garbage to Noel Gallagher,” said William Marley, a music fan in attendance. “Sat for 30 minutes after they tuned guitars. Bus pulled out then evac. warning went up.”
Concert promoter Live Nation released no statement and for the balance of the evening; a tweet was posted by the band Garbage. “We have no idea what happened tonight. We were just all evacuated and we were concerned for everyone !!!” read the tweet. “I’m sorry we have no real information. We were just told there was an emergency evacuation!!!!”
It wasn’t until the following day that an agency in an official capacity reported the reason for the evacuation.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center was suspended at 9:40 p.m. and concert attendees were evacuated without incident. K9s completed a sweep of the venue after the crowd exited, with negative results,” according to the posting from the New York State Park Police. “This incident is under investigation. This case will be investigated as Making a Terroristic Threat, a Class D Felony.”
The night included scheduled appearances by the bands Garbage and Metric, but Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – the night’s headlining act - never made it to the stage due to the evacuation. Fans holding tickets to the show were provided no information from Live Nation regarding whether a make-up date or refund will be forthcoming.
According to the promoter’s website: “Cancelations will only occur in the event of severe weather, artist cancelation or an act of God. In the event of a cancelation local media will be notified and any information about a potential reschedule will be made available. Refunds will be available at the point of purchase.”