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Construction Busts Spring Revenues for Local Businesses
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The New York State Department of Transportation began road work in March on a project that would address, among other things, an accident-prone area on Ballston Avenue at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and South Street as part of a locally-administered federal aid project. Accidents were averaging once a month for nearly four years, according to one study, and there was one fatality.
Even necessary construction has its consequences, and some local businesses who initially welcomed the increased safety for their potential customers are wondering if notification and other processes could have better prepared them for the unexpected loss in business.
“One thing that would have helped us enormously,” said Giancarlo Balestra, owner of Limoncello Ristorante, “is if we would have been notified in advance of the magnitude of the project and how significant it was going to affect us for three long months. Instead we were told, after the road work had already started, quite coldly that no one involved in the project felt we should have been notified because they all agreed we would not be affected at all. Our business is down over 35 percent.”
Joe Wood, owner of Woody’s Barber Shop at 219 Broadway, said his business is down 70 percent. “My business is all walk-ins, not appointments,” Wood said. “The traffic is so bad that people don’t bother to stop. This is supposed to be my busy season. Been in business for four years, and have never had a spring this bad.”
Nancy Balestra said she wished someone had just given them a call or sent a short note warning that businesses could be affected. They did not know there had been discussions in news reports and public hearings. “If we understood how much impending hardship was coming, we could have prepared. There must be a better way to determine not just whether a business will be impacted, but by how much.”
The restaurant had made a new hire and other expenditures that they would not have made if they had known how much business would be down. The Balestras said businesses with proper notice could prepare by seeking out temporary financing options, downsizing, holding off on new hires, minimizing expenditures, and altering marketing plans.
“The city gave me zero notice,” said Wood. “I haven’t bothered to call them because I don’t think they really care about us small businesses. I think they do what’s best for the city and tourism, not us.”
The responsibility for the notification process was primarily with the state, but the City of Saratoga Springs did hold public hearings on the matter and some businesses did receive a notice, but not all.
“We don’t say don’t do the project,” said Giancarlo Balestra. “We just say help us. Someone really needs to do something to change the process of notification of road closures during these types of long term road projects so that businesses don’t get damaged so severely. We understand they need to get the work done but it shouldn’t have to involve ruining local businesses and the lives of the people working there. “
The construction is scheduled to be complete by the end of the month. A call to Commissioner of Public Works Anthony "Skip" Scirocco for a comment was not returned.
In the print version, the fifth paragraph mistakenly began: Nancy Balestra said she wished someone had just given them a call or sent a short note warning that businesses could be affected more than what was discussed in all the news reports and public hearings. That was an author’s error. The corrected paragraph is above.
City Officials Question Appointment of County Mental Health Director
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, joined by Commissioner of Public Safety Christian Mathiesen, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan, and several community members on the steps of City Hall Tuesday June 2, expressed concern regarding the appointment of the Saratoga County Mental Health Director Michael Prezioso, Ph.D.
The concern centered on a New York State Office of Mental Health January 28, 2008 finding of sexual harassment by Prezioso to a member of his staff from early 2006 to late spring of 2007 while they were both employed at the Capital District Psychiatric Center in Albany. Additional concerns about current working conditions at the Saratoga County Mental Health facility located at 135 South Broadway in Saratoga Springs under the new director have been brought to the City’s attention by county staff and concerned citizens.
“We hope that the County will take the appropriate steps necessary to ensure the protection of our citizens and that all charges are properly addressed to ensure top notch and reputable community service to all,” said Yepsen. “Sexual harassment is never okay. This should have been disclosed.”
Mathiesen agreed. “I have three daughters, four sisters, and staff who should be able to work every day and not be harassed,” he said. “Mental health needs are not being met, and the last I looked, this facility is in our city and serves our city residents. All I’m saying is there should be a thorough investigation.”
Madigan said, “Dr. Prezioso has denied allegations of prior misconduct; however, serious concerns have been raised about the work environment at the Saratoga County Mental Health Center since his appointment. Doctors and clinicians have resigned, claiming that the facility is falling apart and that they find working with Prezioso untenable and toxic. There are suggestions that more resignations with follow.”
Prezioso referred requests for comment to Saratoga County Administrator Spencer P. Hellwig, who said in a prepared statement, “For the record, the County Director of Personnel has personally met with every staff member who has asked or expressed an interest in speaking with her to voice their concerns with the new Mental Health Director. Each employee was provided with a detailed explanation of the process for initiating and following through with a claim where they believe their rights have been violated… Relative to the hiring of Dr. Prezioso the Personnel Department supported his appointment after multiple interviews and a background check was performed which included verification of his licenses, education and prior employment.”
Here is Hellwig's full statement:
There has been an ongoing undercurrent of opinions being voiced by members of the public who appear to be taking a position based on limited information about what is being done or not being done to manage personnel activities and the delivery of services in the Saratoga County Mental Health Department.
For the record, the County Director of Personnel has personally met with every staff member who has asked or expressed an interest in speaking with her to voice their concerns with the new Mental Health Director. Each employee was provided with a detailed explanation of the process for initiating and following through with a claim where they believe their rights have been violated. Many employees complained that the facility needs to be provided with more psychiatrists. Grievances were filed by employees to the CSEA union in regards to the County actions to stop flexible time and the amount of payment associated with on-call pay. These issues have been settled by the CSEA and the County.
The demand for Psychiatrists is likely to grow and is a problem State wide, as fewer medical school graduates opt for careers in Psychiatry and many currently practicing are at or near retirement age. The American Psychiatric Association has concluded that the demand for psychiatrist is strong and the need for more psychiatrists will continue to grow.
The Saratoga County Department of Mental Health actively collaborates with Saratoga Hospital's office of Human Resources to recruit Psychiatrists for the County Mental Health Center. Center Psychiatrists are Hospital employees, deployed per the County's contract with the Hospital. Candidates have recently toured the Mental Health Center as part of the recruitment process and others are scheduled. The Hospital is working cooperatively with the County and collectively we are in the process of placing Psychiatrists.
In addition, Saratoga County is working actively to establish a Nurse Practitioner-Psychiatry position at the Mental Health Center. Nurse Practitioners may diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders, prescribe medication as indicated, and engage in triage and crisis intervention services. The addition of a Nurse Practitioner is specifically designed to enhance access to services.
We have seen random letters being written by individuals outside the department and are aware that Dr. Prezioso’s enforcement of departmental policies has irked some tenured staff members, but County Directors do not adopt County policies or approve the collective bargaining agreements that they are expected to follow and enforce.
The County has and will continue to work with administration and the employees to resolve any personnel issues that are enforceable, but we cannot and will not be a part to any course of action that violates any employee rights to operate in a fashion that serves the interests of the mental health clients or the general public at large.
Relative to the hiring of Dr. Prezioso the Personnel Department supported his appointment after multiple interviews and a background check was performed which included verification of his licenses, education and prior employment.
Eight Forgotten Heroes Finally Laid to Rest with Full Military Honors
SCHUYLERVILLE – On Friday, June 5 at 1:00 p.m., the Patriot Guard Riders will lay to rest the remains of eight unclaimed veterans in the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville with full military honors and an escort of more than 100 motorcycles. All are welcome to attend.
These seven WWII veterans and one Vietnam veteran, for a variety of reasons, had no one to claim their cremated remains for all these years until local members of the Patriot Guard Riders of New York, Inc. took it upon themselves to research who they were and contact the state and federal organizations that could confirm their veteran status.
“Six served in the U.S. Army, one in the U.S. Navy, and one in the U.S. Air Force,” said Patriot Guard Assistant State Ride Captain and Veteran Recovery Program State Coordinator Bill Schaaf. “Some veterans have been unclaimed for 20 years or more. In the past few years, we’ve even laid to rest WWI veterans who had been unclaimed for almost 50 years.”
The mission of the Patriot Guard Riders’ Veteran Recovery Program is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans through the joint efforts of private, state, and federal organizations.
“By securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes,” said Schaaf, “we honor and respect them for their service to our country.”
About seven years ago, the Patriot Guard Riders of New York, Inc. was formed. It is a non-profit New York corporation affiliated with the national Patriot Guard Riders and organized exclusively for charitable and community service purposes. Members are a diverse group of patriots who come together to show support to U.S. service members, veterans, and their families, as well as first responders. Many also share a love of motorcycles, and many are also veterans, but neither is a requirement for membership.
Schaaf has been involved with them since the beginning. “Nationally, most states work with the Missing in America Project,” he said, “but here in New York it’s us. There are many unclaimed remains to still search through and find out if they are veterans. Once confirmed of veteran status, they will receive burial benefits, and the urns are donated by the Northeastern Woodworkers Association, so there’s very little cost.”
The burial benefits include the draping of the flag, the service, uniformed honor guard, and all the traditional ceremonial honors given in posthumous gratitude for a veteran’s service. Friday’s event coincides with the Americade in Lake George, so it is expected to draw a large number of riding participants as well as any who wish to pay their respects. For more information about the Patriot Guard Riders or to read about the veterans being laid to rest, please visit www.pgrny.org.
$50K Robotic Arm Almost in Reach
Saratoga Springs Students Rally to Help Disabled Graduating Senior Achieve Independence
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Jordan Klapp, a graduating senior at Saratoga Springs High School, stopped walking when he was nine years old. Despite his lifelong struggle with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a genetic muscle-wasting disorder for which there is no current treatment or cure, the 18-year-old is graduating this month with a Regents diploma and hoping to head to college, just like his classmates.
The future of this bright young man who is intent on an engineering degree became a little dimmer this year as his condition deteriorated to just limited use of his hands. He has not been able to feed himself or scratch his head or have any of the simplest mobility most people take for granted.
But all that just might change.
Gwen Holbrook-Klapp, his mother, was introduced to the JACO robotic arm by another mother last August. Manufactured by Kinova Robotics, a company based in Montreal, the arm costs $53,000. “I was afraid to show it to my son and get his hopes up, but he’s 18,” she said. “He decided he wanted to see it in person, so I called Ron.”
Ron Borgschulte, principle at Partners in Medicine, LLC in St. Louis, MO, a distributor of Kinova Robotics, brought the JACO arm to Saratoga Springs and taught Klapp how to use it to eat, pour water, turn on a light switch, and even allowed him to keep it for a day. Klapp took it to school and everyone was excited to see what he could now do by himself.
“His mother’s email to me back in November put tears in my eyes,” said Borgschulte. “It’s a very powerful experience to see folks get this arm on for the first time and be able to do so many things we take for granted. Jordan’s a great kid and his mom is a dedicated individual. I have no doubt she’s going to get this done.”
If his hands are in his lap, Klapp has enough motor function to write or manipulate a joystick to operate his chair or play video games. The JACO arm installs into the chair’s operating system, so with the simplest finger movement on the joystick, he’ll once again be able to feed himself, open doors, pick up something he drops, scratch an itch, open a refrigerator and get himself a drink, and feed and pet his loyal Patriot.
Klapp and his service dog, Patriot, have been together for three years. The service dog can get Klapp out of the house in an emergency and can open automatic doors for him, among other things.
“You’d be surprised how many times automatic door openers are blocked by a garbage can,” said Holbrook-Klapp. “Patriot can’t move a garbage can. As helpful as he is to Jordan, he’s limited by the simple fact that he’s a dog. If Jordan gets on an unfamiliar elevator for a doctor’s appointment or something, Patriot has to hit every button to get to the right floor.”
Klapp stated on his fundraising website, “I have been on the losing end with this disease and JACO allowed me to be on the winning side and the taste of victory was sweet.” He added, “JACO will give me the freedom to live a fuller and more productive life. Although my parents will do anything for me, it would feel so good to ask for less.”
The JACO arm has only been available in the U.S. for about two years, and according to Holbrook-Klapp, insurance companies want to try everything else first. “Jordan doesn’t have any muscle, so other options don’t work,” said Holbrook-Klapp, who drives a school bus for the district. “Medicaid would rather put someone in my house to take care of Jordan, but he wants to go to college and we’re desperate to keep him as independent as possible.”
This isn’t the first time that Klapp’s parents have faced an uphill battle with Medicaid and private insurance companies. Klapp’s oldest brother, Matthew, also had the disorder and passed away at age 19 in 2008. His 24-year-old brother, David, does not have the disorder, but has been there for both his brothers and his parents.
Holbrook-Klapp said, “I fought the fight, tooth and nail, for my oldest son, and when I looked at that arm, I realized I just don’t have the battle.” Her voice broke as she said, “I’m just not up for the battle with insurance. Not again.” So she initially put the expensive device out of her mind.
But her resolve returned the next time she saw the arm and she contacted the company to ask for help. They put a video together and started a donation page on a crowdfunding site, ReachYourPotential.org, that gives 100 percent of all donations to Klapp.
“Then NewsChannel 13 did a story and donations picked up,” said Holbrook-Klapp.
Klapp’s social studies teacher, Terry Jones, a football coach at Saratoga Springs High School, said, “When I saw the NewsChannel 13 story, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Jordan wasn’t in class the next day, and so I mentioned the story to the rest of the class. Everyone wanted to help.”
Klapp is a familiar sight in the school halls with his wheelchair and Patriot, his black service dog. “Jordan is a wonderful person,” said Jones. “It’s no surprise so many people want to see him get this arm.”
The students decided to hold a bowling fundraiser on Friday, May 29 at the Saratoga Strike Zone Bowling Alley. “Strike Zone was wonderful,” said Jones. “They reserved all 28 lanes, handled wristbands and more. And the students worked so hard. The Senior Class Officers and Student Council all tweeted the event – it was a real grassroots activity. Kids are pulled a hundred different directions this time of year with finals and everything, but they all came out and we raised over $3,000.”
Liz Berry, a senior in Klapp’s Participation in Government class taught by Jones, said “When you grow up in the same school for all these years, you become friends, especially now, knowing we are all about to go our separate ways. It’ll be strange not seeing each other all the time. I really enjoy his service dog Patriot, and we all got closer. I wanted to make sure this bowling fundraiser was a success because I saw how important this was to Jordon, and you know how it feels when it’s important to you, especially if it makes your life a thousand times better, so I understood and made it a priority.”
“Liz was a big help,” said Jones. “There every step of the way. We couldn’t have done it without her.”
And the funds kept coming. “That same night, several people from my past showed up,” said Klapp’s mother, “having seen the event on Facebook. I was once a camp counselor, and someone who knew me from back then donated $1,000 out of the blue.”
The local teacher’s union donated $1,500. The Saratoga Springs Blue Streaks Robotic Team pitched in. And, the morning of the event, Klapp’s mother received a phone call from Stacie Arpey, president and director of the board of the Local Egg Foundation. The board had voted and agreed to donate up to $20,000 in a matching grant toward the robotic arm for Klapp.
“Given the amount of obstacles in his way,” said Arpey, “and his determination to succeed, he is truly an inspiration. He’s an amazing kid and we were happy to do this.”
The Local Egg Foundation is dedicated to providing tools for success for young people, typically 18 or 19 years old, who are falling through the cracks in Saratoga County. Working with local schools and other agencies, they provide funding for everything from backpacks to robotic arms.
“I can’t tell you how much this means to us,” said Holbrook-Klapp. “He’s a good-natured kid, doesn’t complain ever. Even at times when he’s not feeling well, he still works his hardest to get his work done. I know he deserves this arm but when so many people and the whole school community have really come to our rescue, Jordon and I just believe, honest to God, that it could happen and we have to try.”
So far, Klapp’s family has received close to $9,000, and with the new matching grant, that becomes $18,000 toward the $53,000 goal. To find out more or donate, please visit http://www.reachyourpotential.org/jordan/.
MaryEllen Elia New Commissioner of State Education Department
ALBANY – The New York State Board of Regents today voted to appoint MaryEllen Elia as the next Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York (USNY). A native of Western New York with 45 years of experience as an educator, she is the first woman to hold the permanent post.
Elia served as superintendent in Hillsborough County, Florida since 2005, where she is credited with successfully raising standards, partnering with teachers to develop a comprehensive evaluation system, and raising student achievement. Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, is the nation’s eighth largest school district with 206,000 students, 30,000 employees, and a $2.9 billion budget.
"It's clear that our new Commissioner has a significant amount of experience as an educator, including many years of service as a teacher in New York,” said James Dexter, district superintendent of the Washington Saratoga Warren Hamilton Essex BOCES. “I feel strongly that her vast experience, both in the classroom and as an educational leader will position her to move New York's educational system forward in the best interest of the children and communities we serve."
Elia began her career in education in 1970 as a social studies teacher in Buffalo’s Sweet Home Central School District and taught for 19 years before moving on to administrative positions. Elia’s appointment comes after a nearly five-month search by the Board of Regents to replace former Commissioner John King, who left the Department at the end of 2014 to take a job with the U.S. Department of Education. Elia will start her new position on July 6.
Little Free Library Opens at The Beagle School
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Beagle School is proud to announce the establishment of the area’s newest Little Free Library located in the front of the school at 115 Regent Street in Saratoga Springs. The School opened the library officially on Friday, May 22 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration with children. A “Little Free Library” is a “take a book, return a book” gathering place in the community where anyone can stop by and pick out a book or two.
“The Beagle School’s philosophy of children learning through discovery and self-exploration fits nicely with a Little Free Library,” said school director Fran Rauchwerger, “ as children can discover new things and go anywhere through books.” The library was constructed by her father and resembles the Beagle School. She plans on rotating books seasonally.
Mayor Yepsen Announces Re-election Plans
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne D. Yepsen announced re-election bid yesterday, May 28, at the Henry Street Taproom at 86 Henry Street. Congressman Paul Tonko, D-NY-20, introduced Yepsen before a crowd of supporters.
"Mayor Yepsen is a not just a public official,” said Tonko. “She's a mother of three, a small businesswoman, and a caring and active part of our community who delivers real results for her fellow citizens. Mayor Yepsen's accomplishments over the last two years are just the beginning of what will continue to be an inclusive and highly productive era of government for the people of Saratoga Springs."
The Democrat was elected mayor in November 2013 in a close race, garnering 52 percent of the vote against former Deputy Mayor, Republican Shauna M. Sutton. A principal at Coltivare for nearly 14 years, Yepsen was formerly Saratoga Springs County Supervisor for four terms. She founded the Saratoga chapter of Grants to You, and was with Skidmore College for 16 years.
Hundreds of Saratoga Springs High School Seniors Participate in Senior Give Back Day
SARATOGA SPRINGS – On May 22, 327 Saratoga Springs High School seniors volunteered their time throughout the community as part of Senior Give Back Day.
Students and adults volunteered from 8 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at 30 community sites. Examples of sites included the eight district schools, Saratoga Springs Senior Center, Saratoga Bridges, Shelters of Saratoga, the New York State Military Museum and Yaddo.
The Give Back Day concept was developed by the National Honor Society and implemented for the first time in May 2008, with support from the school and district administration.
Saratoga Casino and Raceway Breaks Ground on $34 Million Hotel Expansion
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Casino and Raceway officially broke ground May 27 on its $34 million hotel expansion during a ceremony with local and state officials including Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt Veitch and Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen.
"This is a transformational project," said Dan Gerrity, President of Saratoga Casino and Raceway. "This hotel will give guests something they've been long requesting, and will allow us to remain a competitive economic driver in the region for years to come."
The project is estimated to generate more than $5.4 million in statewide economic output and $1.75 million in state and local tax revenues. The yearlong construction process will create an estimated 400-500 temporary union construction jobs. Upon opening in 2016, an additional 200-300 good paying career path jobs with benefits will be created. Currently, Saratoga Casino and Raceway employs 400 full time and 200 part time employees in the Capital Region.
The 123,000 square foot expansion will add a 4-star quality hotel to the existing facility. Amenities in the 108-room hotel will include an indoor pool and fitness center, lobby bar, meeting rooms and signature fine dining restaurant.
Homeless in Saratoga County
First in a three-part series exploring solutions.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Over the last few weeks, mingled with discussions about street performers and their impact – positive and negative – on business in downtown Saratoga Springs, many questions arose about the impact of the homeless population as well, especially vagrants who would block doorways or panhandle near business establishment entryways.
Gregory Veitch, chief of the Saratoga Springs Police Department, has been working with service providers and local businesses regularly. He understands the concerns of the business community, and recently spoke at the Saratoga Springs City Council on the subject, where he assured members and attendees that the department will uphold the law while honoring people’s Constitutional rights.
“You can’t arrest your way out of a homeless or vagrancy issue,” he said in a telephone interview. “We can arrest for criminal behavior, like lewdness or public urination, but we can’t arrest people for being homeless.”
Recognizing the complexity of the issue, the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association (DBA) invited homelessness service providers to speak at its general meeting on May 20, chaired by Tim Holmes, proprietor of Wheatfields Restaurant and president of the DBA. The topic was so well-received that anticipated attendance forced a venue change from Hattie’s Restaurant to a larger space in Northshire Bookstore.
Mike Finocchi, Executive Director of Shelters of Saratoga, Maggie Fronk, Executive Director of Wellspring, and Jamie Williams, Associate Director of the Franklin Community Center all answered questions and gave an overview of the situation and services available to the homeless population in Saratoga County.
“It was very well attended,” said Fronk. “At least 60 people were there. Although the impetus of the meeting was vagrancy, the tone of the meeting was very much about what is being done now and what can businesses do to help with solutions. There has never been a doubt about the compassion and community investment of our community leaders. Code Blue could not exist without businesses providing dinners and other fundraisers.”
Code Blue Saratoga Springs is an emergency shelter serving homeless people who might otherwise remain unsheltered during periods of extreme winter weather. Wellspring, formerly Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County, offers crisis intervention and survivor services support to more than 1,000 clients annually, providing safe housing to adults and children either fleeing or homeless because of domestic violence, as well as comprehensive support in the form of counseling, legal advocacy, and case management.
“Domestic violence is the primary cause of family homelessness,” said Fronk. “Vagrancy is such a small proportion of the homeless population, yet they have been causing difficulties. It’s hard when homelessness impacts a business’s bottom line. I champion the idea of nonprofits and businesses getting together to build bridges toward solutions.”
Todd Shimkus, CCE, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, arrived at the May 20 meeting with a tangible idea to help both businesses and the homeless population: the new Saratoga Cares Card, which began from a conversation Shimkus had with Heidi Owen-West of Lifestyles of Saratoga six days earlier about a meeting she had with Mayor Joanne Yepsen and several nonprofit organizations the previous day.
“The idea for the Saratoga Cares Card came from that conversation, and Anita Paley, Executive Director at Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, took the lead,” said Shimkus. “To help Anita, I reached out and offered to get it printed and distributed at no cost to EOC. She sent me the information they had compiled. Christianne Smith of Designsmith Studio volunteered to create the card. She worked with Camelot Printing to get the first 1,000 printed within about 12 hours, so that we could distribute them at the DBA meeting on Wednesday.”
They printed and distributed 1,000 cards last week and plan to distribute another 5,000 this week. The information on the cards was provided by local social services agencies, who recommend that the best way the community can help those in need is to get them in contact with the range of agencies who are here to help them.
“That really is the purpose of the card,” said Shimkus. “Each of the agencies listed has a proven track record of really making a positive difference in the lives of those who come to them for support and assistance.” Businesses can hand the cards to members of the homeless population or to their customers, encouraging them to hand the cards instead of money to panhandlers.
Several ideas were discussed at the meeting, but the take-away for most businesses was the realization that there are foundational support systems available in the community that are too few to address the growing numbers of the homeless locally.
Finocchi of Shelters of Saratoga, 14 Walworth St, Saratoga Springs, said that last year, according to Code Blue, more than 400 people were assisted through the bitter cold winter, almost twice the number of the year before.
“The homeless community is a strong community,” said Finocchi. “They look out for each other, and this winter was so harsh that the ones utilizing Code Blue got to their friends and told them to get inside. Word of mouth got them indoors and saved lives. There was so much snow they couldn’t even pitch a tent. ”
There were many suggestions and ideas discussed at the meeting, everything from more foot patrols to expanding available services. Finocchi brought up the Friendship House that closed a couple years ago.
“There’s nothing for the homeless population to do during the day,” he said, “With Friendship House gone, they have nowhere to go but downtown.” The facility was open during business hours offering services to the homeless, such as case management, clothes, and basic daily needs.
“There’s a drop-in center in Schenectady that is making a world of difference - Bethesda House,” said Finocchi. “That’s what we need here – a drop-in center. Friendship house kind of did it, but we need a full center.”
According to Maddy Zanetti, vice president of DBA and principle of Impressions of Saratoga, the constructive conversations from the meeting will be ongoing.
“I think everyone who came left with a positive outlook knowing that the Chamber and DBA are working in concert with service providers and with City officials,” said Zanetti.
Fronk agrees. “Before now, all these discussions have been ‘siloed’ meetings, involving just providers or just businesses,” she said. “This is the first time that I’m aware of that we built a bridge between those silos, which will lead to more collaboration and information sharing.”
Zanetti added that attendees also gained a better sense of how hard it is for services to get the funds they need to meet the growing demand and that everyone needs to pull together.
“Nobody asks to be homeless,” said Finocchi. “We’re all just one paycheck away from it.”