City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
Danny Melnick grew up on Long Island listening to The Who and the Rolling Stones records the older kids used to play. His friends loved Kiss, the Good Rats, and Twisted Sister; his younger brother had a fondness for pop new wave.
“Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys,” he bristles. “Music I couldn’t stand then, and music I still can’t listen to today.”
Melnick was more drawn into a world of moody tempo changes, haunting mellotrons and lyrical fantasy. Melnick was a Prog kid.
“Somehow, I got into Progressive Rock: King Crimson and Yes, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull. Through that education I learned about Miles Davis and John Coltrane and then quickly on to people like Dave Holland and John Abercrombie, Gary Burton and early Pat Metheny,” he says. “It really opened up my ears to a lot of things.”
Why this all matters is the reasoning behind what brings thousands of people to the Spa City every year for The Hang. This month, the Saratoga jazz festival celebrates its 40th anniversary with two days of shows on two stages, marking the fifth longest-consecutive-running jazz festival in North America.
Melnick first worked with the festival in 1991, overseeing the transport of musicians from New York City to Saratoga Springs. “The band bus monitor,” he says. Eight years later he was in charge of booking all the artists to perform at the festival.
“The market there is pretty interesting. The audiences in Saratoga have been coming to this festival at SPAC for a very long time. They’re committed to it. We’ve got people coming in from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the tri-state New York City area, and of course, the Capital Region. So, for me, as a presenter, I’m trying to appeal to all of them with a great mix of artists,” Melnick says. He’s also cognizant of maintaining traditions.
“When I look back at the acts in the late ‘70s and ‘80s there was always blues, always Latin, always straight-ahead jazz, a little bit of avantgarde here and there. I try very hard to continue that. The biggest challenge in modern times is that so many legendary jazz legends have died,” Melnick says, riffing on a memory list of the departed that includes Dave Brubeck and Ray Charles, B.B. King and Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Art Blakely and Ella Fitzgerald. “I can name fifty artists who have played the festival and who today are gone. So now, I have to mix it up a little more.
“The festival needs to keep going forward. In order to stay alive and stay relative you need to book a diverse roster of artists who can tell where the music is today,” he says. “I want people to learn about new artists, I want them to be entertained and to have fun. I want emerging jazz artists to have a platform, to be heard, to build careers so that hopefully they will become headliners in the future.”
This year’s Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival - initially called the Newport Jazz Festival at Saratoga when it launched in 1978 – will feature a new, bigger gazebo stage for emerging artists to showcase their talents.
“Quite a few people who started out playing the gazebo stage have moved on, to the main stage, or are playing bigger festivals around the world. It’s cool that the festival audience is supporting the artists. They’re listening to them, they’re meeting them, they’re getting their autographs, they’re buying their CD’s. And there are no walls between the artists and the audience, it’s all right there,” says Melnick, president and director of Absolutely Live Entertainment. His official title at the Saratoga jazz festival is producing partner and artistic director.
His accomplishments as a presenter include a world tour commemorating the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue" recording, North American tours celebrating the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 55th anniversary, and the Newport Jazz Festival’s 60th, concerts at Carnegie Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival and a Blue Note Records' four month-long 70th Anniversary tour.
“There were nights when I was hanging out with Dizzie Gillespie backstage in Japan and thinking: really? How did this happen?” Prior to forming ALE, Melnick was the artistic director and a senior producer at George Wein's Festival Productions company.
“I have a lot of great memories and incredible stories. I’ve been very lucky over the years to be in the places that I’ve been and do the work that I’ve done, particularly in all the years when I worked as an employee for George Wein,” he says of the jazz impresario who founded the local festival in 1978. One recent memory involved booking legends Tony Bennett and Buddy Guy on the festival’s closing night in 2013.
“Buddy Guy was set to close with Tony Bennett going on before him. A week before the festival, Buddy’s agent calls.
“Buddy has a problem closing,” Guy’s agent told him. “He feels weird going on after Tony Bennett. He doesn’t want to disrespect Tony.”
“I said: What? What do you mean?”
“Well, Tony is a legend and Buddy feels, who is he to go on after Tony Bennett?” the agent said.
“Listen, ‘Buddy Guy is a legend also,’ I told him. Tony is going to go out there with a jazz trio. He’s going to sing standards. He’s going to put the microphone down at one point and sing an amazing a capella tune, and then Buddy’s going to come out with his electric blues band and rip the place to smithereens,” Melnick recalled. Those in attendance will recall that’s exactly how it all went down.
“It was all vetted with Tony, and he was fine with it. The agent called me back to say Buddy was cool with everything. What was so interesting to me to hear, after all those years and success and awards that an artist like Buddy Guy still had the humility to look at the situation and express themselves in that way.”
The Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The milestone event features the return of Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jean Luc-Ponty - who performed on the inaugural 1978 festival. Headlining the weekend are Chaka Khan, and the Gipsy Kings. Jazz 100, led by Danilo Pérez, will pay homage to iconic musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Mongo Santamaria, and Thelonious Monk in celebration of the 100th anniversary of their shared birth year. For more information about the festival go to: www.spac.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Following an ongoing investigation, deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 10 unlawfully present adult males and one unaccompanied alien minor Wednesday, in Saratoga Springs. The men - one Guatemalan national and nine Mexican nationals, who are between the ages of 20-49, currently face administrative immigration violations.
The arrests occurred without incident near multiple area residences. Three of the adult males are facing potential federal felony charges for re-entry after deportation. All of the adult males are currently being held at the Albany County Correctional Facility, according to a statement issued by ICE on Thursday.
The unaccompanied alien minor was served with a Notice to Appear in immigration court, and transferred to the Department Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement for placement, consistent with ICE policy relating to minors.
Just over two weeks ago, special agents and officers with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 16 men in Saratoga Springs with alleged administrative immigration violations.
A 48-year-old teacher in the Saratoga Springs School District was charged with first-degree rape, in connection with alleged incidents that involved the current fifth-grade teacher at the Dorothy Nolan Elementary School and an underage child.
According to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabeth M. Barthelmas, of Wilton, is accused of having a sexual relationship with a child under the age of 13 during the years 2007 and 2008. The child had been a student in Barthelmas’ classroom prior to the suspected incident(s) taking place – which are believed to have occurred at Barthelmas’ home in Wilton.
Barthelmas was charged with Rape in the First-Degree, Course of Sexual Conduct Against a Child, and Criminal Sexual Act in the First-Degree. All charges are felonies.
The Sheriff’s Office reports that they only recently received information regarding the alleged incident, that they informed the school administration as soon as possible and that the school district was fully cooperative with the investigation.
Barthelmas was arraigned Wednesday in the Wilton Town Court and sent to Saratoga County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond. Barthelmas was hired by Saratoga Springs Schools on 2005. Prior to that she was a teacher in the Queensbury Union Free School District.
The Sheriff’s Office investigation is on-going, and asks that anyone with further information on suspected inappropriate behavior involving Barthelmas to call the Sheriff’s Office at 518-885-6761.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A boombox sits on the sill next to a soccer ball. The board games Monopoly and Yahtzee await nearby. A pair of cots recline beneath a ceiling fan in the 500 square-foot room bookended by a quartet of glass windows that look out to the city’s east side.
Outdoors, beneath a sign heralding the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church (PNECC) is an announcement that reads: All Welcome. Upstairs, the Rev. Annie Reilly and Terry Diggory spend the afternoon re-purposing the room into a space where undocumented immigrants facing possible deportation may seek sanctuary.
“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for the church to put its money where its mouth is,” Reilly says. “We talk about welcoming strangers. What better way than to welcome sanctuary seekers.”
Churches as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants were prevalent in the southwestern part of the country during the 1980s when Central American residents fleeing political repression and violence in their homeland sought asylum in the U.S. More recently, churches vowing to offer sanctuary to immigrants have begun to dot the national landscape, coast-to-coast.
In Saratoga Springs, two churches have stepped forward with a sanctuary pledge for undocumented immigrants who are targets of deportation.
“We’re in the midst of an immigration crisis, and it’s not just a matter of region. People all over are affected,” says Diggory, who coordinates PNECC’s Welcoming Immigrants task force. “And this is not just immigrants but for the community as a whole, to encompass the spirit of ‘welcome’ and not just fear.”
The sanctuary policy was affirmed by the church Governing Board on June 5, joining with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs, who in April made a formal statement in support of sanctuary for immigrants.
“We’re excited the two churches are working together - partnering to support those of us under the threat of deportation, or who feel threatened by it – whether they’re here legally or not,” says the Rev. Joseph Cleveland, minister at UUC. “I hope it emboldens other congregations to take this step. These are people who are a part of our community - and I’m not talking about the track - people living here year-round, people who are now afraid to go to the doctor if they’re sick for fear of getting picked up.”
The two churches’ public commitment comes one week after special agents and officers with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 16 men in Saratoga Springs with alleged administrative immigration violations. Nine of those men are facing potential federal felony charges for re-entry after deportation, or visa fraud.
The concept of “sanctuary,” as more commonly aligned in the context of sanctuary cities or sanctuary college campuses, is not a legal designation but is more an amorphous entity with no set definition or rules to follow, says Brendan Venter, associate attorney and immigration specialist with the Whiteman Osterman & Hanna firm in Albany.
“Sanctuary is a concept more than anything else that covers a range of different policies or guidelines that these entities can choose to follow, or not follow, on a case-by-case basis,” Venter says. “A college campus for example can label itself a sanctuary campus and institute policies that are protective of foreign nationals or individuals regardless of immigration status, but there is also a wide spectrum of policies they can implement.”
One such policy to be implemented at PNECC would be the refusal to hand over information about individuals’ immigration status to federal authorities without a warrant, or some legal compulsion to do so. “If an ICE agent showed up with a judicial warrant we would need to (honor that) warrant, but until you show that warrant we are not permitting contact with that person,” Diggory says.
“Designating oneself as a ‘sanctuary’ doesn’t mean that people without immigration status are immune from federal law. Federal law still applies to them,” Venter says. “The concept of sanctuary more applies to how much that entity – whether it be a city, a town, a college campus, or a church is willing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities or enforce federal immigration law beyond what’s absolutely necessary or required of them.”
“We would accept a person in sanctuary only if that person has a good case for some sort of appeal to ICE authorities for administrative relief,” says Diggory, explaining that there can be a punitive lag in between the time a person in special circumstances can apply for a visa.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates under guidelines that recognize places like churches and schools as “sensitive locations” where agents would not normally carry out enforcement actions.
Should a person seek sanctuary, the church will not operate in secrecy, Diggory said. Rather the church is, and will remain, publicly forthcoming in order to raise public awareness of the immigration crisis. He knows there can be no guarantees, however. “Those guidelines are entirely up to ICE. If they decide not to follow those guidelines… we cannot say this is going to absolutely protect you from being taken into custody.”
“Traditionally places such as churches or courts have been places where ICE agents would not go to seek out, or detain people,” explains Venter. “But, if you read the news today, you’ll see all sorts of stories about people being picked up going to court dates, or at churches and other places of religious worship due to the heightened enforcement of all immigration laws we’ve seen over the past six months or so. “
City Council members fiddled with their respective pens, rested chins on palms of hands and listened intently to the 12 speakers who came forward Tuesday night at City Hall, where a public hearing was held regarding the much-debated SPA Housing Zoning Ordinance.
The goal of the plan – initially proposed in 2006 - is to produce “affordable” homebuyer and rental housing units for working households across the city. That last part – across the city – appears to be a major sticking point for some.
Tuesday night, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus addressed the council and recommended they seek “site-specific” affordable housing projects to be placed in designated locations, rather than the across-the-city policy the Inclusionary Zoning, or IZ proposal offers.
Sustainable Saratoga Chairman Harry Moran, who resurrected the plan when bringing it to the council last year, pointed to the council’s study of the plan as “a watershed moment” in the city’s history, and local Rev. Joseph Cleveland – who also spoke in favor of the IZ – told the council that a citywide diversity would help make Saratoga Springs a more sustainable city and that “we should not put gates up between communities.”
A vote scheduled for Tuesday to amend the existing Zoning Ordinance to add Inclusionary Zoning – as well as a vote regarding the SEQRA Determination for the SPA Housing (IZ) ordinance - was tabled until Monday, June 19, the date of the next City Council meeting. The vote requires majority approval of the five council members to be adopted and it is not clear, at this point, which way that vote will go.
7 p.m. Monday, June 12: Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting at City Hall.
3 - 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 13: Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Technical Review Advisory Committee (TRAC) Meeting at Saratoga Music Hall.
Who: Dave Patterson.
Where: Congress Park.
What are you doing today?
Taking a group of fourth-graders from Geyser Road Elementary School on an outside tour of Congress Park. When my group is finished, we’re going to switch with Jamie Parillo – he’s the director of the Saratoga Springs History Museum – and he will take the students on an inside tour of the history museum. This is part of the fourth-grade program on local history.
Where are you from originally?
Originally from South Boston. I’ve been living in Saratoga for about 40 years now. I used to be president of the history museum, and I used to teach a course on local history at Saratoga high school.
How has Saratoga changed in the 40 years since you’ve been here?
It’s changed quite a bit. The buildings have been sprouting like flowers, but way back in the day, in the 1880s, there were buildings over there (on Broadway) that were taller than they are now. As a matter of fact, the largest hotel in the world used to be right across the street from this park: The Grand Union hotel. So as big as Saratoga is getting now with the buildings, it pales in comparison to what it was in the 1880s.
Student question: How long have the springs been in Congress Park?
One of the first springs discovered in Saratoga Springs is called Congress Spring – right over there. A man named Nicholas Gilman found water bubbling out of the ground and brought his friends to it. Because he used to be a member of the Continental Congress, they named it Congress Spring, and it was so important that this whole park used to be called Congress Spring Park.
Student question: How many springs are there?
We have 17 today. At one time, we had just over 200.
Student question: How is Saratoga with the pollution?
Saratoga’s been pretty lucky because we haven’t had a lot of industry that would create pollution. Probably the biggest polluter in Saratoga Springs would be the automobile. Of course, 100 years ago we had horses and carriages - and horses have their own kind of pollution, if you know what I mean, so you had to keep the streets clean.
Student question: Are any of these places here haunted?
The building right behind you. Did you ever see a show called “Ghost Hunters”? Well a few years ago they came in and said there were spirits right in the museum here.
Student Response: Awesome!!!
Yaddo’s annual summer benefit will feature Terry McMillan, best-selling author of “Waiting to Exhale,” “A Day Late and A Dollar Short,” “The Interruption of Everything,” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” among others. The event will take place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 22. Proceeds from the benefit play a crucial role in ensuring the artists’ residency program continues to flourish. More than 6,500 individuals have created works at Yaddo – from literature and paintings, to photography, sculpture, music, dance and film – that have helped shape culture and touched millions of lives. For ticket information, go to: https://www.yaddo.org/.
Who: Elaina Richardson.
What are some of the best things Saratoga has to offer?
I’ve been here 17 years now and I love the number of trails for walking, running, and biking. Also, the combination of spending the day outdoors being very relaxed and then in the evening being at some of the most sophisticated art offerings in the world. You’re always combining both sides of your brain, in one beautiful place.
The mansion at Yaddo is nearing 125 years old and is set to undergo a restoration.
The work at the mansion begins next month. It’s a two-year process that will stabilize the building and include some modest upgrades. We’ve raised $6.5 million in a $10 million campaign, which is going very well and ahead of schedule, so we’ll be able to keep Yaddo at its very best for another century.
The annual Yaddo gala will take place June 22, feature Terry McMillan and will take place at a site on the grounds rarely seen by the public.
You will come up that wonderful driveway, you will still see the mansion, but nobody really gets to see past the mansion. This is going to take you behind West House – which is our mini-mansion - and will take place on the Great Lawn under a tent, which allows you to see where the graveyards and the guest areas are. When we have the event in the mansion we have to cut it off at 200 people. This will allow us to have more people come this year.
There has been an active outreach into the community in recent years.
There are two parts to the Yaddo in the Community Initiative. One is a partnership with Northshire Bookstore where we co-host events featuring leading authors who have a Yaddo connection. (Yaddo will present An Evening with Gail Godwin at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 5 at Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway). It’s a celebration of the author and it’s also where people can meet some of the current artists-in-residence.
There is also a program with the Saratoga Springs High School where we have had some of the junior and senior students choose an archival project associated with Yaddo. The students did a lot of research, were able to access to papers in the Yaddo archive and got to do some one-on-one interviews with Yaddo artists.
In addition to the restoration at the mansion, what else is in store for Yaddo in the future?
There are plans for landscape improvements and interventions which will really help the public areas of the grounds. Right now, we get over 50,000 visits a year and we want to make it a little easier for people to park and spend a whole afternoon picnicking, so you’ll begin to see some work going on in the public areas.
We’ll also be working a little more on balancing ways of having more spaces for readings and concerts during which the community can be invited in without undermining the retreat. So, there’s a lot going on and the next few years will be exciting.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The final draft of the proposed Saratoga Springs Charter was distributed Tuesday afternoon at the City Center, where members of the Charter Review Commission staged a daylong informational Open House. A referendum on the proposed changes of the way the city is governed will be on the November ballot.
The proposal calls for a change from the current “Commission” form of governing – the only form the city has known since its inception in 1915 – to a “council-manager” form, which is the most popular and most efficient form in the country, according to charter review member Pat Kane.
The council-manager structure specifies a composition of six councilmembers and one mayor – all electable positions – and one city manager, who would be hired by the council.
The city manager would direct and supervise administration of all departments, appoint and suspend or remove city employees, and prepare and submit the annual comprehensive budget and capital program plan to the council for approval.
The city manager would also represent the city in the collective bargaining process, as well as implement contracts on behalf of the council, and attend all council meetings, but will not cast a vote at the seven-member council table. The mayor would be recognized as the head of city government for ceremonial purposes, but have no administrative duties. Council meetings would continue to be held twice a month.
“I think local municipal government has gotten far more complicated and really does scream out for professional management,” Kane said. “These people would come in with skills that we just don’t have from an elected official prospective. It also opens the door for the local city council, where anyone can run with no requirements as far as job skills are concerned. “
The council would serve as the legislative and policy-making body of the city, conduct the search, set the salary and oversee the hiring and appointment of a city manager. Prerequisites for the city manager ‘s positions include a master’s degree with a concentration in public administration, public affairs, or public policy, and five years of managerial or administrative experience in municipal government. The salary for the position is anticipated to be in the $125,000 per-year range – which is higher than any current council member or deputy earns annually. It would ultimately provide financial savings however, the commission says, because the five current deputy positions – each earning about $73,000 annually (about $110,000 annually when benefits are factored in) would be eliminated or altered and would serve “at the pleasure of the city manager.”
“Most people thought it would be a deficit, but this would be a significant savings,” said Kane said, adding that bringing a professional level of qualified management to the city would eliminate weaknesses in current checks and balances, and guarantee a less expensive city government. “The efficiencies jump out at you. It’s so much more efficient when you’re running with one team as opposed to five teams. “
Detractors aren’t so sure a change would provide a financial savings and are additionally leery about what they say will be create more difficulty in communicating grievances with City Hall.
“Now if you have a problem you pick up the phone and call the department head. If you don’t like the answer, well, they’re only in there for two years,” Jane Weihe told a group of three dozen area residents who gathered at Gaffney’s on May 30 for a get-together of the SUCCESS group. The acronym stands for: Saratogians United to Continue the Charter Essential for Saratoga's Success. Those assembled vowed to fight against charter change.
Weihe said a citizen with an issue in the council-manager form of governing would need to bring the issue to the city manager and if the response wasn’t acceptable it would create an intricate process to lobby the majority of the city council to remove the department head, which would come at a financial price.
“Two questions: Who are you going to call, and what’s it going to cost,” Weihe said. The removal of a city manager would come either at the request of the city council, or by their majority vote, and would require a public hearing.
The May 30 date is significant. It was initially the day the referendum vote was to be held. Commission members had said the standalone date would give the proposition the attention it deserved rather than becoming muddied in an already busy election season in November. Detractors of the plan alleged an off-peak election was an attempt to suppress voter turnout.
“I moved here over 40 years ago and dealt with many mayors and council members. I’ve seen the system at work – and it works,” Joe Dalton told the SUCCESS group.
“To say that that it ain’t broke is probably the biggest misconception out there,” countered Kane. “It may feel like we have a multitude of success – and we do – but we can do better. It’s like an upgrade in software. We’re operating at Windows 1.0 when we should be operating at Windows 10. We’re not changing services, we’re changing how the services inter-relate to one another,” he said.
How a Transition Would Work
Should the change be approved by voters this November, in November 2019 residents would elect a mayor and six councilmen and the change would be enacted Jan. 1, 2020. The mayor and the three council members receiving the greatest number of votes would serve four-year terms; the remaining three council members would serve two-year terms. This would eventually be adjusted to have separately contested elections with staggered four-year terms for each of the seven members. Term limits would be set at a maximum of 12 years.
Compensation for the six council members, the mayor, and the city manager – as well as that of a potential assistant city manager – would be designated by the outgoing council in 2018. Two elected supervisor positions would continue in a similar capacity, although would eventually increase to four-year electable terms.
The City Manager at Work
“The city manager is the CEO and responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city,” explained Sharon Addison, city manager of Watertown, N.Y., which has a similar population and annual budget to Saratoga Springs.
“The city council legislates, adopts local laws and resolutions and it’s my responsibility to execute on that,” she said. “We’ve got multiple department heads – similar I think to your commissioners – and I work very closely with the department heads to make sure the goals and objectives are accomplished in each of those departments.”
Paid position staff members that report directly to Addison include the fire chief and police chief, superintendents of the DPW and Parks and Recreation, a city engineer, library director, purchasing manager, and city assessor. Overall, Addison oversees more than a dozen different departments, each with their own independent budgets that are combined into the general fund budget.
Addison worked for more than a quarter-century at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland, prior to becoming Watertown’s city manager in 2012.
“Leadership and management qualities are pivotal, as well as experience in financial management,” she said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs Democratic Party will meet Thursday, June 8 when a vote is expected to take place to endorse a mayoral candidate.
On May 19, current city Mayor Joanne Yepsen publicly announced she would not seek re-election in November and “enthusiastically endorsed” Deputy Mayor Meg Kelly for the position. The announcement came just prior to a meeting by city Democrats. Committee chairman Charles Brown said while the prospect of selecting Kelly as the party’s choice for the mayoral seat was debated, there was insufficient time between Yepsen’s announcement and the previously scheduled gathering of the party to properly go through the review process.
During the interim, former Deputy Mayor Hank Kuczynski considered throwing his proverbial hat into the mayoral ring, but subsequently informed Democrats that he had re-considered that option due to time constraints that would be placed on the operation of his own business.
All five council seats, both supervisor positions and one city court judge position will be decided by voters in November.
Three currently seated Democrats are on the move: City Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen each announced that they will not seek re-election, and current Supervisor Peter Martin announced his intention to fill the seat being vacated by Mathiesen.
City Democrats had previously endorsed incumbents John Franck and Michele Madigan, current city judge Francine Vero, and newcomers Pat Friesen and Tara Gaston for the two Supervisor seats. Thus far, Kelly is the lone Democrat vying for mayor, and no potential candidate has come forward to challenge Republican incumbent DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco.
Last month, city Republicans endorsed mayoral candidate Mark Baker; political newcomers Andrew Blumenberg – vying for a seat as City Court Judge, and Don Braim – who will be running for the position of Public Safety Commissioner; Saratoga County Supervisor candidate John Safford, and incumbent DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco and Saratoga County Supervisor Matt Veitch.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Federal Agents conducted an operation Tuesday morning in Saratoga Springs, arresting 16 “unlawfully present foreign nationals,” according to an email statement issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in response to an inquiry seeking information regarding Tuesday’s events.
Special agents and officers with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations conducted the operation following an ongoing investigation, according to the organization.
The men - one Guatemalan national and 15 Mexican nationals - are between the ages of 19 and 49 and currently face administrative immigration violations.
Jeff Many looked out his Division Street office window Tuesday morning and watched the activity going on in the parking lot below. As a long white van sat in the lot, a variety of cars and SUV’s periodically pulled next to it, transferring men in handcuffs from the smaller vehicles into the van, he said.
“I noticed the white van in the lot at around 7:30 in the morning. A female driver stayed behind with the van while the cars and SUV’s would leave then come back around every 20 minutes or so,” Many said. “This went on until 10 or 11.”
City police were informed of the arrival of federal agents, but played no role in the event, said Saratoga Springs Police Lt. Bob Jillson. “We were made aware of it. They let us know they were in town, but we weren’t a part of it. No other agencies were involved as far as I know.”
Nine of the men are facing potential federal felony charges for re-entry after deportation or visa fraud and are currently being held at the Albany County Correctional Facility.
According to the federal agency, the investigation is ongoing and no further information will be released at this time.
Late Thursday, city Mayor Joanne Yepsen released the following statement regarding the event:
I have spoken to top level Homeland Security officials to obtain as much information as permitted. ICE (U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcements) is carrying out the law and national agenda through ongoing investigations and targeted arrests. I absolutely respect the federal agency's authority to keep our cities and nation safe. My concern, as the Mayor of Saratoga Springs, is that we are a community that relies significantly on the hospitality and racing industry workforce. The well-timed, newly formed City Human Rights Task Force will be working diligently to conduct education, information and awareness raising activities and presentations, including the immigration process and why it's so difficult.