Jonathon Norcross

Jonathon Norcross

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Empire State University kicked off its solar eclipse festivities in Saratoga Springs on Monday afternoon with a virtual presentation delivered by Audeliz Matías, Ph.D., the university’s interim dean of the School for Graduate Studies. The lecture detailed not only how eclipses work, but also their significance and influence on cultures across the globe.

In Ireland, the first recorded eclipse was etched into a stone around 3340 BCE. In ancient China, some scribes believed that an eclipse was caused by a hungry, heavenly dog feasting on the sun. The Cherokee in Oklahoma also suspected that a hungry animal might be to blame; a giant frog in the sky who needed to be scared away before it devoured the entire sun.

“Many cultures have seen eclipses in different ways,” Matías said. “Some cultures see it as a moment of change, for bad or good.” 

Matías played video interviews of Native Americans sharing their tribes’ perspectives on eclipses. “The Navajo think this is a time where when [an eclipse] occurs, there needs to be some reverence; there needs to be some time for reflection, some time to think of the future.”

There will be plenty of time to reflect before the next solar eclipse is viewable from the United States, which Matías said won’t happen until 2044. 

The eclipse festivities at Empire State University’s Veteran and Military Resource Center featured solar-themed snacks (such as Capri Sun) and an eclipse viewing party attended by teachers, staff, and students.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Forget what you’ve seen on “CSI” or in Humphrey Bogart movies; in today’s world, private investigators bear little resemblance to their Hollywood caricatures.

When a potential client walks into Brooks Investigations Group’s office in Saratoga Springs, there are some fanciful notions that might need to be dispelled.

“There’s no magical prescription drug where we can literally find everything about someone,” said Jeremiah Brooks, Chief of Investigations. “The FBI has a background check system that provides 5% of the information mine does, and that’s the FBI.”

Brooks’ background investigations can range from someone looking to learn more about their future significant other to business owners who suspect they’re being swindled. These cases are only one of many tasks that private investigators can do. Brooks Investigations Group’s top cases usually fall under the categories of criminal defense or family court. But there is one case category that seems to be popular in the Saratoga area: evictions. 

“Sometimes that just involves us serving paperwork, and other times we do 24-hour inspections,” Brooks said. “24-hour inspections are designed, number one, to make sure that the current resident or squatter is not damaging the property, but also to let them know that my clients are taking this very seriously, they’re acting within the law and they’re not going to make it comfortable for you to sit here and squeeze them dry.”

Brooks Investigations Group’s central office is in Plattsburgh, and the company added its second brick-and-mortar location in Saratoga Springs last year. But Brooks also has investigators working out of “satellite offices” in Albany, Elmira, and Massena. These investigators don’t have physical offices per se, but they each command a small team of people, many of whom are ex-law enforcement. Brooks said that “at least” 90% of his staff have some law enforcement background. 

“When I sit down with somebody that I’m about to hire, I want them to share my vision,” Brooks said. “I want them to have that same vision that we don’t go into a case with blinders on, which occurs in many police investigations. They’ll actually formulate conclusions well before the facts have been collected, and that’s one thing that we try to do the opposite. We stay objective. We stay open-minded. We’re never biased. We use our training to help us, but we also have an open mind. My team is very much like that, and that’s why we’re successful with what we do.”

Brooks’ philosophy of staying open-minded has led to his company taking on a number of criminal defense cases. Public defenders often contact private investigators to assist with their cases, and this, Brooks said, is where his company truly shines. 

“The police have investigators, the district attorney has the police; somebody that’s accused has their defense attorney and that’s it,” Brooks said. “It’s not really set up to be fair.”

Brooks Investigations Group conducts its own investigations independently of the police, and sometimes its findings contradict the official record, or even reveal alleged corruption. “We’re changing the landscape on criminal defense,” Brooks said.

Though radically different from how the media often portrays them, private investigators are undoubtedly having an influence across the country, and right here in Saratoga Springs.

Brooks Investigations’ Saratoga office is located at 120 West Avenue, in suite 212.

Thursday, 04 April 2024 12:55

Saratoga Businesses Seeing Eclipse Impact

SARATOGA SPRINGS — It’s been nearly a century since the last total solar eclipse was visible from New York State. Although Saratoga Springs is outside the path of totality, the city will still feel the impact of visitors flocking to the Adirondacks, where they’ll hope to catch a glimpse of the celestial phenomenon on April 8.

“Our lodging partners are seeing strong transient demand on Sunday, April 7 and Monday April 8, with Sunday being the busiest,” Discover Saratoga President Darryl Leggieri told Saratoga TODAY. “That means we can expect an influx of tourists and eclipse enthusiasts who will be engaging with our destination, spending time and money in our cities and towns, as they travel from all over to experience this rare event.”

Electronic signs stationed on I-87 warn travelers that the Northway could be congested on or around eclipse day. Last week, Governor Kathy Hochul told state officials and law enforcement to prepare for a high volume of traffic the weekend leading up to the eclipse and through April 9.

Those who don’t wish to fight their way through traffic may still be able to enjoy a partial solar eclipse. At least one local business, Speckled Pig Brewing in Ballston Spa, is throwing a rooftop viewing party on Monday afternoon. The Saratoga National Historical Park is also hosting a viewing event.

Discover Saratoga recommends a few public areas from which to view the partial eclipse, including Congress Park, Saratoga Spa State Park, and Moreau Lake State Park.

Thursday, 04 April 2024 12:52

Heat Pumps on the Rise in Saratoga County

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A handful of local businesses, in collaboration with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), are encouraging the use of cold-climate heat pumps for both cooling and heating. 

In Ballston Spa, Tree Huggers, Sustainable Sundry, and the Sweetish Chef all have heat pumps installed, as does Artisanal Brew Works in Saratoga Springs.

NYSERDA is promoting heat pumps as a “more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly way to stay comfortable.” The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 offers federal tax credits for homeowners who use heat pumps, and the New York State Clean Heat program provides rebates through utility companies to incentivise people to install pumps.

At Artisanal Brew Works, NYSERDA’s Courtney Moriarta explained how heat pumps work. “Through the magic of physics, we can take the energy out of the air that’s outside and put it through a set of refrigerant pipes, and it’ll heat that air up and turn it into usable heat inside the building,” Moriarta said.

NYSERDA aims to dispel a couple popular misconceptions about heat pumps. First, heat pumps can provide both cooling and heating, not just heat. Second, modern pumps, unlike older models, are able to work in cold climates such as upstate New York.

“These are really sophisticated systems that are designed to work at colder temperatures,” Moriarta said. “The single-stage heat pumps of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, they could perform down to about 40, 30 degrees outside temperature, and once the air outside gets lower than that, they would have trouble keeping up or just not really be able to deliver heat at all.” 

Today, heat pumps can operate at 100 percent capacity in 5 degrees, and can still function at lower capacity down to as low as -22 degrees. This means that heat pumps can operate in any climate in the world. “With this newer, cold-climate heat pump technology, you can really deliver comfort,” Moriarta said.

NYSERDA is encouraging both business owners and homeowners to experience heat pumps in person at one of the many local establishments that already use heat pumps. In addition to the aforementioned businesses, John Sawicki of the environmental consulting firm TRC Companies said that a number of restaurants in downtown Saratoga use heat pumps, as do several local libraries. 

“If you look across the street to the left, there’s a mixed-use apartment building that was built with Mitsubishi heat pumps; that whole entire complex,” Sawicki said. 

“Once you know what to look for, you start seeing them everywhere,” said Moriarta.

WILTON — A group of health professionals and concerned citizens are advocating for water fluoridation in the Town of Wilton, which supplies water to Dorothy Nolan Elementary in the Saratoga Springs City School District.

The group argues that the Wilton Water and Sewer Authority’s (WWSA) decision not to fluoridate costs families hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased dental costs, due to fluoride’s ability to reduce tooth decay in children. Dorothy Nolan’s fluoridation status currently impacts around 700 students.

“While 75% of American public water systems have adopted fluoridation, Wilton remains an outlier,” Peter J. Lindner, Ph.D, a member of the group and Gansevoort resident, told Saratoga TODAY. “Since its inception in 1945, [community water fluoridation] has been acknowledged for its significant health benefits and cost-effectiveness.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Dental Association, and World Health Organization have all advocated for water fluoridation. In February, the Albany Common Council voted unanimously to add fluoride to the city’s water supply.

Other group members encouraging Wilton’s fluoridation include Dr. Claudia Farrell of Community Care Pediatrics, Dr. Wayne Harrison of Harrison Family Dental, former Times Union staff writer Leigh Hornbeck Trombley, and Dr. Bill Maas, a former Dental Director of the CDC.

“The Wilton Water and Sewer Authority (WWSA) oversees our water supply,” Lindner said. “Although it purchases fluoridated water from Saratoga Springs, this supply is limited to a section of the Wilton Mall and does not extend to the broader community, including schools like Dorothy Nolan Elementary.” 

Because some water in Wilton is fluoridated via Saratoga Springs, Lindner said this has resulted in the CDC and New York State Department of Health wrongly deeming Wilton a fluoridated community.

In a statement to Saratoga TODAY, the WWSA explained its position on fluoridation. The WWSA said it does not contend the benefits of fluoride, but believes that it should not be responsible for administering fluoride to its customers. 

“The WWSA strongly believes that our customers and their health care providers should have the right to make their own decisions on fluoride consumption,” the statement said. “Many of the WWSA water customers do not want fluoride added to the water supply.”

The WWSA noted that the request before the board asks for fluoride to be added to the entire water supply, impacting all residents in addition to students at Dorothy Nolan Elementary.        

A 2013 report prepared by C.T. Male Associates for the WWSA estimated that the capital cost of fluoridation in Wilton would be $126,000, with an annual operation and maintenance cost of $13,300. Those costs have likely increased in the nearly 11 years since the report was written. The WWSA said it has no budgetary or logistical concerns over fluoridation.

The WWSA board voted unanimously on March 19 not to fluoridate the town’s water. But due to a minor procedural error, that vote was considered informal. The board will vote again on fluoridation during a public meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. on May 21.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A permission form given to students at Saratoga Springs High School was criticized by a transgender student for making them feel “unwelcome and unsafe.”

Levi Goodman, a senior, addressed the issue during public comments at the March 28 Board of Education meeting. “When I brought this form home and showed my parents what it said, they were appalled,” Goodman said. “When we pointed out why this form was problematic, we were told it was provided to the teacher by the school and that it was the standard form. I’m not blaming one person. It’s clear that this is a school-wide, possibly district-wide issue that needs to be addressed.”

The permission form was given to students scheduled to travel to New York City for a performance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Students’ parents or guardians were given two boxes to choose from. One box granted permission for the parent or guardian’s student to be roommates with other students whose sex assigned at birth is different than the student’s assigned sex at birth. The second box specifically does not grant such permission.

“It seems to me that this form is a clear violation of privacy, both medical and personal,” Goodman said. “I also feel as though this form feeds into the false belief that transgender individuals are predatory, and therefore other students need to be protected from them, which leads me to ask the board, who are you really protecting and who is left vulnerable? As a nonbinary, transgender student, reading the sheet made me feel unwelcome and unsafe.” Goodman said that the school should create a new form and put it into use as soon as possible.

Natalya Lakhtakia, vice president of the board, said that the district should be “taking proactive measures to protect trans folks, especially trans students who deserve to thrive in our school environment.” 

Anjeanette Emeka, a board trustee, said that “inclusiveness is what we’ve been talking about for years, and I appreciate students that come out to express these things and open our eyes when we miss them.”

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The story of a five-year-old Ukrainian girl separated from her family during World War II will be the subject of a book panel hosted by Skidmore College on April 16.

The nonfiction book “Dominica’s Story: A Life of Courage, Hope, and Love” chronicles the life of Dominica Annese, who was reunited with her family 30 years after the Second World War tore them apart. Now, with Ukraine once again at war, the story is especially relevant.

“My sisters and I wanted to write and publish my mom’s story because it’s pretty inspiring,” said Francine Annese Apy, one of Dominica’s daughters. “This story could be a story of hope and inspiration to Ukrainian people and to people in general because here we are, literally history repeating history again of what my mom experienced as a 5-year-old little girl.”

Apy wrote the forward and epilogue for the book, which was co-authored by Dominica, Skidmore senior Kaitlin McQuade, and Skidmore Political Science Professor Kate Graney. 

At the event, McQuade and Graney will present Dominica’s story, connecting it to contemporary events in Ukraine. The panel will include a Q&A, book sale, and reception featuring Ukrainian cookies. The Annese family will donate all proceeds from book sales to the nonprofit Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E). The book is also for sale on Amazon. 

“The Personal Cost of War in Ukraine Through a Young Girl’s Eyes: Then and Now” will take place on Tuesday, April 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Ladd Hall room 307.

SCHUYLERVILLE — The Schuylerville Black Horses varsity baseball team won its first game of the season on Monday at Averill Park, 7 to 2. The victory could be a sign of what’s to come: a competitive, veteran team fighting for a successful postseason appearance.

“[Averill Park] has been a really strong team the last few years, and usually we go down there and kind of get introduced to what really solid ball clubs look like,” said Schuylerville Head Coach Darrin Renner. 

The Black Horses’ veteran-led team includes senior Luke Sherman, a multi-sport athlete who broke his school’s all-time boys’ basketball scoring record earlier this year. “He’s a guy that we really lean on to get things done offensively,” Renner said.

Coach Renner also named senior Griffin Brophy (a former third baseman now playing shortstop), senior lefty pitcher Brenden Steinberg, junior Alex Renner (catcher), senior Trevor French (pitcher/outfielder), and senior Josh Merrill (infielder) as part of his core group of returning players.

Among newcomers, Renner spotlighted Jackson Dunbar, a freshman second baseman whose first varsity at-bat against Averill Park was a double that fell right into an outfield gap and drove in the team’s first run. Renner said he was “very excited about the possibilities of [Dunbar] going forward.” 

On the mound, sophomore pitcher Jack Boden closed out the last two innings against Averill. “Bowden’s got really good stuff,” Renner said. “We’re excited to see how he grows and where he ends up in the rotation as we go forward.”

Renner said he runs a goal-oriented program, and one of his team’s primary objectives this year is to go far enough in the postseason to play at the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy, which is the home of the Tri-City ValleyCats minor league baseball team. 

“Every kid wants to play at Joe Bruno,” Renner said. “To play out on that field I think is for most kids kind of like a dream come true.”

Schuylerville Black Horses Varsity Baseball  2024 Roster:

Griffin Brophy - Senior INF, P #9
Luke Sherman - Senior P, OF, INF #13
Brenden Steinberg - Senior P, 1B, OF #1
Josh Merrill - Senior 3b, DH #24
Boston Reilly - Senior OF, 1B, 2B #11
Trevor French - Senior P, OF #4
Alex Renner - Junior C, OF, 2B #3
Lucas Reilly - Junior P, 2B, OF #14
Jameson Brownell - Junior 1B, 3B, OF #18
Aidan Wilber - Junior OF, INF, C #7
Matthew Waldinger - Junior OF #2
Ben Van Veghten - Sophomore 1B, OF #8
Jack Boden - Sophomore P, OF, 3B #6
Jackson Dunbar - Freshman 2B, OF, SS, P #10

Thursday, 04 April 2024 12:13

Upstate Native Sent to Yankees AAA Team

THE BRONX — Kevin Smith, the East Greenbush native who competed for a spot on the New York Yankees’ roster this spring, has been sent down to the Yankees’ AAA minor league affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

With injuries to infielders DJ LeMahieu and Oswald Peraza, Smith had been in consideration for a spot on the bench. But prior to opening day, New York acquired veteran infielder Jon Berti in a trade. 

Smith may still see some plate appearances for the Bronx Bombers this season should he be called up from Scranton. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Skidmore softball team fell short at their home opener doubleheader against SUNY New Paltz last Friday afternoon at the Wagner Park diamond.

The Thoroughbreds lost the first game in a shutout, 7-0. Haily Clarke, a freshman, pitched a complete game, giving up three earned runs (New Paltz’s other four runs were the result of fielding errors). She struck out three and walked two. Clarke also had two hits at the plate, both singles.

In game two, Skidmore pushed across a run in the first inning but couldn’t keep the momentum going. Elle Harrison singled on a bunt, then hustled all the way home after a misthrow.

The Thoroughbred fared better the following day in another home doubleheader. Against Plattsburgh State, they took one of the two contests, scoring ten runs in game two. Pitcher Natalie Mayne earned the victory with only 3 hits and no runs allowed across 3.1 innings. Mayne also went 1 for 2 at the plate, knocking in 2 RBI. Franchesca Casillas and Cortney Somsky also batted in two runs apiece.

At the end of last weekend, Skidmore’s softball squad had a 3-11 record for the season. 

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  • Saratoga County Court Rick C. Sweet, 36, of Ballston Spa, pleaded to attempted assault in the second-degree, and menacing in the third-degree, charged in January. Sentencing July 3.  Seth A. Labarbera, 24, of Ballston Lake, was sentenced to 1 year in local jail, after pleading to criminal possession of a weapon in the second-degree, charged July 2023 in Saratoga Springs.  David A. Fink, 27, of Ballston, was sentenced to 4 years’ incarceration and 5 years’ post-release supervision, after pleading to attempted arson in the second-degree, charged August 2023.  Michael J. Scensny, 34, of Waterford, was sentenced to 3 years in state…

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