SARATOGA SPRINGS – The play-offs for the Saratoga Regional YMCA’s youth basketball league were held recently, marking the end of the league’s current season before the new summer league commences in June. In the Saratoga Rotary Jr. Division, the D’Andrea’s Pizza and BHHS Blake Realtors teams faced off, with D’Andrea’s coming out on top, 42-32. In the Saratoga/Wilton Elks Lodge Sr. Division, the Toyota of Clifton Park and Mexican Connection teams competed in the finals, with the Toyota of Clifton Park team taking the win, 56-46.
Along with the finals, the youth league also gave out the James Cudney Award, which goes to the player who most exemplifies the YMCA’s core values. This year, the award went to Saratoga Springs High School junior Elias Wohl.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Amateur boxers came together in Saratoga Springs this past weekend to fight for a good cause.
On March 25, the Saratoga Springs City Center played host to a night of amateur boxing to honor and raise money for celebrated Capitol Region boxing promoter, Bob Miller. Miller, a 60-year industry veteran and founder of the Uncle Sam Boxing Club in Troy, was in a serious car accident on Oct. 15 of last year that left him paralyzed. Shortly after, the Miller family established the Bob Miller Fund, a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising money to help cover Miller’s expenses, including “his medical care, the equipment (e.g., wheelchair, braces) he will need, and lodging for Linda, our father's wife, and the immediate family so that we can continue to support him during his long rehabilitation away from home,” according to the page’s description.
Doors opened for the event at 6:30 p.m., with the first bout commencing at 7:30 p.m. A total of 13 bouts took place over the course of the show, which drew around 850 attendees. According to city center executive director Ryan McMahon, when factoring in volunteers and trainers, the total attendance number for the night was closer to 1,000.
“Very strong,” McMahon said about the night’s attendance figures.
Some of the bouts on the card included Schuylerville-native Joey Barcia against Francis Hogan of Boston, Alison Watson of Vermont against Jamere Shelby of Albany, Malachi Davis of Albany against Richard Hogan of Boston, and the Uncle Sam Boxing Club’s own Tugar VanDommelen against Gianni Gragnano. In addition to the boxing, other fundraising activities at the event included a raffle and a silent auction.
At time of writing, event organizer Dave Wojcicki estimates that the event raised around $15,000 for the Bob Miller Fund. When asked if the city center would possibly work with Bob Miller and company in the future, McMahon was optimistic.
“We would love to,” McMahon said. “Bob is a long standing client and fixture in Saratoga Springs boxing.”
Anyone interested in donating to the Bob Miller Fund can find the campaign’s page at www.gofundme.com/bob-miller-fund-2unsxys.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is kicking off its 40th Anniversary celebration by hosting the presentation “Origins of Preservation: Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs 1962-1986” 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.
Join Matthew Veitch, Saratoga Springs County Supervisor and Treasurer of the Foundation, as he explores the often controversial Urban Renewal Program and the origins of preservation in Saratoga Springs. This presentation will feature rarely scene photographs from the 1960s, '70s, and '80s of the areas impacted by the Urban Renewal Program.
Urban Renewal provided federal funding for cities to cover costs of acquiring slum areas to demolish dilapidated buildings, consolidate the vacant lots, and then sell those lots to developers to create new “modern” residential and commercial buildings. When the Urban Renewal Program was approved in 1961 the city was facing an economic decline following the changes in tourism, the loss of the grand hotels, and gambling being illegal resulting in disinvestment in the existing building stock. In 1962, the Urban Renewal Agency was formed to eliminate slums and blight, expand and strengthen the central business district, establish a central residential area, expand the tax base, provide off-street parking, and improve infrastructure and traffic patterns.
Lasting from 1962 through 1986, the Urban Renewal Program resulted in the city’s largest urban change in its history. It cleared the way for large development projects, such as the City Center and the Public Library which continue to provide tremendous benefit to the community. It also resulted in affordable housing projects and low-income housing as well as parking areas on Woodlawn Avenue and High Rock Avenue. While the demolition of many historic buildings was unfortunate, it did result in an increased awareness about the need to preserve our community’s architecture. Additionally, many feel the program ruined the very fabric of the community by displacing a large African-American community from the west side of Broadway. “Today we are still affected by the Urban Renewal decisions that were made, some of which continue to benefit the city today while others still remain to be completed and the benefits have yet to be realized,” said Samantha Bosshart, the Foundation’s Executive Director.
City Explains Immigration Enforcement Policy
After receiving numerous inquiries from local residents about how the city would handle issues related to illegal immigration and the level of its cooperation with federal officials, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen asked Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch to formally address the issue.
“Given the number of people who come to our city, especially in the summertime, and some of whom may have immigration statuses that are questionable, I thought I would talk to our police chief,” Mathiesen explained to the City Council this week. “We do want these people to feel as if they have the public safety department, the police department, fire/EMS department as a resource, and should not feel as if they may have immigration complications should they require those services.”
The responding two-page statement from Chief Veitch, which Mathiesen called “a reasonable and caring approach” and was read to the council Tuesday night, assures that the police department serves the entire community and recognizes the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status. However, it does not mean that members of the police department will refuse to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E.
Veitch said with regards to the reporting of a crime or cooperation with an investigation, the department does not require or encourage its officers to investigate the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes, and that Immigration enforcement is not a priority of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “However, should a federal law enforcement agency request assistance from the Saratoga Springs Police, we will provide assistance consistent with our policies and procedures, as we would for any other law enforcement organization needing assistance within city limits. “
Criminal offenders in custody, those who may be wanted by another law agency, or individuals verified to have a valid warrant from any federal agency, including I.C.E. will be detained by local officers in accordance with the law. “We will not, however, detain any individual solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws. Nor will S.S.P.D. detain any individual that would otherwise be eligible for release, simply for the purpose of notifying federal authorities or to check immigration status.”
Council Revisits Affordable Housing Issues, Potential Solutions
A proposal for “inclusionary zoning,” first floated a decade ago but never brought to a vote by the City Council, on Tuesday night received the first of what is anticipated to be two public hearings.
The SPA Housing Zoning ordinance would require new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city to include some units deemed affordable to residents with moderate incomes.
“This is a work-in-progress,” city Mayor Joanne Yepsen said during Tuesday’s 60-minute hearing, “but it’s essential that we find a way to create more variety of price-points for housing.” The purpose of the hearing is to get public feedback regarding the proposal, which has not been finalized, Yepsen added.
There are various resident income target-points the city may choose to pursue – from “low” to “moderate” to “middle” income households; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the area median income for a family of four in Saratoga County at $82,000. As such, affordable units put up for sale that are made available to “moderate” and “middle” income households indicate thresholds respectively set at less than 80 percent, and at 100 percent, of that $82,000 median income.
The affordable-housing ordinance proposal applies to both rental and owner-occupied housing. Year-round city residents would have first opportunity to apply for the affordable units.
The ordinance would apply to new projects consisting of 10 or more residential units as well as to existing structures undergoing substantial renovation or conversion from nonresidential to residential use.
The ordinance stipulates that 10 to 20 percent of all new or newly converted units be set aside to meet the “affordable” criteria. To compensate developers, the program would allow them to increase the density of housing projects by up to 20 percent
More than 400 municipalities across the country have adopted inclusionary zoning programs, Commissioner Mathiesen said, adding that any ordinance eventually adopted would only be one part of an overall strategy to meet housing needs. The City Council will continue its discussion of the topic at its next meeting, on April 4.
Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee Sets Goals for 2017
City Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced a new mission statement and work plan regarding the Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee. Among the 2017 goals of the group is to: raise awareness regarding services available to senior citizens; address and advocate for senior concerns and support services, and to serve as a liaison between seniors, the mayor, and members of the City Council. The committee is comprised of eight individual members and representatives of up to seven area organizations.
In 2017, the Committee will advocate for special mobility needs of seniors, including a drive-up mailbox in the downtown area and additional handicap parking. Members of the Senior Advisory Committee are appointed by the mayor.
Public Safety Commissioner Mathiesen will not seek a Fourth Term
City elections will be held in November when all five council seats and two supervisor positions will be up for vote. Last week, Peter Martin – one of two Saratoga Springs Supervisors representing the city at the county level - announced that he will seek to run as a Democrat for Commissioner of Public Safety. Current DPS Commissioner Chris Mathiesen will not seek a fourth term. Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee chairman Charles Brown said party members will vote on endorsements in May and that he was not currently aware of any other potential candidate seeking the Public Safety Commissioner seat on the Democratic line.
County Supervisor Matthew Veitch will present a program, titled “Origins of Preservation Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs: 1962-1986,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.
The presentation about the often-controversial Urban Renewal Program will feature rare images from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Tickets are $8 general admission, $5 Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation members and can be purchased by calling 518-587-5030.
City Gifted “Grande Olde Saratoga” Painting
“Grand Olde Saratoga,” an oil painting depicting a delivery by a horse-pulled Saratoga Vichy water company cart to the prestigious Grand Union Hotel, was gifted to the city by Sharon Miller. The 24-by-30-inch painting is valued at approximately $400 and was hung in the mayor’s office this week, following the acceptance of the gift by the City Council.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Monday, March 27 at City Hall. Taking place among other items will be a consideration for coordinated SEQRA Review regarding the proposed Station Park mixed-use development on the city’s west side, adjacent to the railroad station.
The Charter Review Committee will hold a public forum 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The Commission is recommending that a City Manager-Council form of government replace the current Commission form of governing. The referendum will be up for vote in November.
The long line of humanity stretches far as the eye can see. It flows past the rows of fiction titles and shelves filled with historical tales. It weaves beyond bookcases that cradle publications with lessons about eating well and losing weight. It crisscrosses through the bookstore’s neighboring café, curls around a table that boasts new releases and spills out the front door, eventually coming to rest in an adjacent alley on the north side of the building.
The line is composed of 500 people who have come to “meet-and-greet” Theresa Caputo – author and TV star of the reality show “The Long Island Medium.” She said she had been given “The Gift” at a young age.
“I’ve been seeing, feeling, and sensing Spirit since I was 4 years old, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I learned to communicate with souls in heaven,” Caputo says.
She came to Northshire Bookstore Saratoga in between tour dates in New Jersey and Connecticut and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to promote the release of her fourth book, “Good Grief: Heal Your Soul, Honor Your Loved Ones, and Learn to Live Again.” Five hundred tickets were offered for the Saratoga Springs event. They were quickly gone.
“We watch her on TV and love her,” said Lela Barber-Pitts, who made the journey from Schenectady to Saratoga Springs to meet Caputo, and who holds the last place on the long line. “I’m thrilled she’s come to our area.”
The cost of admission requires a simple process: purchase a copy of the new book and in exchange receive an autographed copy of the publication and a picture standing alongside the author.
Sunday morning, Caputo held court in the center of the bookstore, her Long Island accent fully engaged and her small black-draped frame accented by a gold neck chain that reads: Blessed.
The event guidelines for ticketholders are clear: all books are pre-signed by Caputo - which she does Sunday morning in the bookstore’s offices upstairs - with no additional personalization possible. Every fan gets a professional photograph taken of themselves with Caputo and instructions on how to retrieve it. Asking for a personal “reading” is not permissible; the line must be kept moving quickly. Do the math: 500 people in two hours’ time equates to four people per minute. It does allow for brief exchanges: “Hi. How are you? Nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy the book.”
Despite an understanding of event instructions, the mind inevitably wanders. Whether people are here for the TV star factor and in appreciation of Caputo as an entertainer, or believe she has a way to connect with those who have left this mortal coil, everyone has got someone who they have lost – an Aunt Mary, a cousin Bill, a mother, a father, a family pet – and some can’t help to thinking: wouldn’t it be nice to hear from them again.
“I hope my mother comes through. She was a feisty one, and she loved Theresa,” said Michelle Milks, who arrived at the bookstore two-and-a-half hours prior to the signing and scored one of the first positions on line.
“I’m hoping to get help in healing,” said Liz Witbeck, while waiting in line to meet Caputo. A few moments later, the two women engaged in a brief discussion and posed for a photograph together. Then Witbeck was on her way, book in hand and the trace of a smile on her face.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Rochmon Record Club has hosted monthly learning and listening parties featuring classic rock ‘n’ roll albums since last fall at Universal Preservation Hall.
With the Washington Street space set to undergo a lengthy renovation, Rochmon brainchild Chuck Vosganian announced this week – during a listening party that featured Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” – that the sound and vision show will be relocating to Caffè Lena for the foreseeable future.
Vosganian credited the local creative arts community for making the relocation to Lena’s café possible. The Rochmon Record Club series continues Tuesday, April 18 at Caffè Lena where the album focus will be on Jethro Tull’s 1971 album, “Aqualung.”
WILTON – The Saratoga Regional YMCA’s “Springettes” jumped, spun, and balanced their way past the competition at a recent home meet, landing several first place wins over the visiting teams.
The competition was held in the Wilton Branch’s gymnastics center from March 18-19, and saw the Saratoga Regional YMCA’s competitive girls gymnastics team – or, the Springettes – face off against both the Glens Falls and Oneonta YMCA gymnastics teams. Gymnasts age 6-17 competed in four events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. Overall, 116 young athletes competed at the event, ranging from levels 2-9, according to gymnastics director Kim Hewitt.
“The Saratoga Y did very well,” Hewitt said. “We had 13 athletes come in first place in the all-around competitions in their levels and age divisions. We also had 46 1st place medals on individual events during the meet. We have really been consistently improving throughout the year.”
According to Hewitt, a number of Springettes gave standout performances at the event. The two level 9 competitors, Sophie Hrebenach and Marissa Verro, competing in their last home meet before graduation, both put in strong work. Hrebenach placed 2nd all-around for level 9, and placed 1st on the vault with a well-executed Tsukahara flip. She also placed 2nd in floor exercise with 9.425 points, a season high for her. Verro, meanwhile, placed 3rd overall for level 9, and was 2nd on the vault with two front-front vaults. This was all the more impressive for Verro because, as Hewitt noted, the front-front vault was a new maneuver for her.
Beyond Hrebenach and Verro, a handful of other Springettes placed first at different levels and in different events. These individuals are as follows: Abby Moller, level 8, all ages; Jordan Toma, level 7, ages 16 and up; Kaitlyn Kidder, level 7, ages 14-15; Alina Williams, level 6, masters division; Brynne Wright, level 6, ages 13-15; Morgan Thompson, level 5, ages 12 and up; Leah Torres, level 5, ages 9-11; Lauren Closson, level 4, ages 12 and up; Erika Sudigala, level 4, age 11; Erin Ward, level 3, age 11; Addison Furze, level 2, age 9A; Lola Ferrillo, level 2, age 8; and, Amelia McBain, level 2, ages 11 and up.
From here, the Springettes will be focused on the upcoming championship meets, beginning with the League Championships in Watertown, which will take place from April 1-2. Following that, there will also be the State YMCA Gymnastics Championships at SUNY Oneonta and the Regional YMCA Championships in Redfield, ME. The team also has 19 girls attending the National Championships in Savannah, GA, which will run from June 29-July 2.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The weather may continue to disagree, but spring is in the air. On March 6, practice for the varsity and JV boys lacrosse teams’ spring season commenced at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury, with the girls’ team following suit on March 13. Check back next week for our full preview story of the upcoming boys lacrosse season. For more information on practices and game times, go to www.saratogaschools.org/athletics.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The New York State Scholastic Chess Championship celebrated its major half-century anniversary in Saratoga Springs this past weekend. The 50th annual youth chess tournament ran from March 11-12, and took place across both the Saratoga City Center and the Saratoga Hilton hotel. Drawing players from across the state and country, from grades K-12, the total number of children at the tournament was around 1200, making it the largest ever chess tournament held in upstate New York recognized by the United States Chess Federation.
SARATOGA COUNTY – The Girl Scouts of the Saratoga-Schuylerville Service Unit came together this past weekend for a day of fun and learning at the annual Jamboree. Taking place at Geyser Road Elementary School on March 12, the event is held every year to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the first Girl Scouts troop by Juliette Gordon Lowe in Savannah, GA. The theme of this year’s Saratoga Jamboree was “Countries from Around the World,” tasking each troop with picking a country and learning about its culture. The troops then set up tables at the Jamboree with informational displays and activities related to their countries.
According to Jamboree organizer Whitney Jobmann, the event is also an opportunity for scouts, young and old, to come together and have fun. The Girl Scouts has six different levels, broken down by grade: Daisy (K-1), Brownie (2-3), Junior (4-5), Cadette (6-8), Senior (9-10) and Ambassador (11-12). Jobmann said that 225 girls from 26 different local troops attended the Jamboree this past week.
“In addition to the Girl Scouts,” Jobmann said. “Are… the troop leaders and adult members of the troop [who] do a great job of supporting and encouraging the girls.”