Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City, County, Crime, & Pulse Editor
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Tuesday, 22 November 2016 19:37

The Inside Scoop on Barbara Lombardo

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Ten thousand days of newspapers. More than a million published words.

Barbara Lombardo has served as a leading voice in the community for more than a generation - her words educating, entertaining, and often inspiring open dialogue of a variety of issues among political leaders and city residents alike.

“I got into journalism during the era of Watergate,” the longtime journalist and managing editor of The Saratogian explained to a crowd gathered at the Saratoga Springs Public Library to hear her speak about her 38-year career in the local news business. “There was a great feeling of what you could do – and not just tearing down a president – but in your own community.” She joined The Saratogian staff in June 1977 working the City Hall beat and by age 30 became the newspaper’s managing editor, directly supervising the newspaper’s day-to-day operations, overseeing editors, writing her column “Fresh Ink,” and helping to launch a countless number of journalists’ careers. The origins of Lombardo’s own career were founded in a series of serendipitous moments.

“I took journalism classes as a lark and got hooked. As it turned out, someone at The Saratogian had died and I was offered a job to start as soon as I finished grad school,” she said during the discussion at the library, moderated by longtime area writer Maria McBride Bucciferro. “I fell in love with Saratoga. I married my college boyfriend and we raised our children here. Things just worked out wonderfully.”

Lombardo cited a lengthy list of a dozen publishers she worked with during her five-decade career that alternated between collaborative camaraderie and ethical conflict. “There was one publisher - and I won’t name him - but a story in the Associated Press his first day on the job was about one of the big department stores that was being sued for discrimination against its workers and having to pay a big fine. That department store was one of our biggest advertisers,” said Lombardo, recalling pressure that was placed on her to stifle the news piece. “The publisher didn’t want me to put that story in the paper at all, let alone where I did put it: on the front page,” she said.

She spoke about memorable stints alongside publisher Linda Glazer Toohey in the 1970s - at the time one of the youngest female publishers in the country - and a decade later with Monte Trammer, whose actions Lombardo cited as a role models for newspaper ethics. “Monte was at a session with a publisher of another paper when somebody asked: ‘If I buy an ad for your company what do you get in exchange for news coverage?’ The publisher of the other paper said that if you buy an ad, you get a story. Monte said that our news columns were not for sale. That’s just as true today,” Lombardo said. “It’s not like you don’t get some pressure, but say you’re doing a story about apple picking and you go to three or four apple orchards to get comments. I believe strongly that you should go to the orchards that are advertising with you, because it’s an opportunity for you to support the companies that are supporting you. But it doesn’t mean you would only go to them, or give somebody special preference.”

These days she teaches a journalism class at the University of Albany, which she’s been doing since 2008, and maintains an online blog, titled “Done with Deadlines,” at: http://www.donewithdeadlines.com/. “One of the things I always loved about journalism in Saratoga was that we were in a competitive market,” she said, explaining that the competitive scramble for scoops, sources and stories in the pre-Internet days had a definitive timeline that no longer exists. “Once that deadline came it was over. Now, it’s never over. You constantly have to be out there - and with fewer and fewer resources. I’m also concerned now with things being archived online on some cloud somewhere and not in newspapers, or microfilm like they used to be.”

During her time at the Saratogian, Lombardo saw the American newsroom transform from a bricks-and-mortar foundation that housed journalists skillfully trained at scribing barrels of ink, to an open-air market of unfettered opinions, blurring the lines of reality and cluttering cyberspace. The Internet has, at least in part, posed a slew of challenges for the industry.

“The biggest challenge is how to make money out of the way people are getting their news now – which is on their phone. Newspapers have traditionally relied on their advertising from print and they have not succeeded in raising the same amount of revenue from advertising online. That’s been the crux of problem,” Lombardo said. Allowing public commentary alongside articles in real time can be both a blessing and a curse, at times providing new leads and sources while at other times allowing a forum for anonymous posters to verbally skewer public figures and private citizens alike.

“There’s a responsibility to try to avoid some of the comments and on some stories cut the comments off, because they can be so heartless or personal. I believe that’s part of the downside of the Internet: the ability to say things anonymously,” she said. “What I personally enjoyed was the thrill of the chase, pursuing a story that sometimes could be a bad event, but you feel that you’re doing something good,” Lombardo said. “Things that make a difference in the community. Sometimes that might make some people unhappy, but overall it can make peoples’ lives better.”

Jerry Carpenter Jr. died in June, a few hours shy of his 21st birthday, his family by his side.

In an emotionally moving ceremony Tuesday night at City Hall, Carpenter’s family thanked Saratoga Springs Police Officer Bill Arpei for answering the call to tend to the Saratoga Springs High School graduate in his time of need. 

“On that day, June 2, that afternoon, the call was received by an officer for a young man in cardiac arrest,” family friend Donna Flinton told a chamber room crowded with residents and council members gathered to decide the city’s business. The call was placed by Carpenter’s sister. From Jefferson Terrace, the emergency was reported as a young man in severe medical distress.

“Officer Arpei responded within minutes of the call and assessed everything. He started chest compressions and continued to do so even after EMS came to take over,” Flinton said. “Unbeknownst to the officer, Jerry had only one working lung as well as a host of other complications. With Officer Arpei’s CPR, his not giving up on our boy and EMS’ help, Jerry was resuscitated.”

Although resuscitated, the young man whose obituary remembers him as an innocent soul with a brave heart who spread love to all who knew him, passed away a week later.

“The officer was asked to be kept in the loop, and we did,” Flinton said. “We informed Officer Arpei that Jerry had passed, and of the funeral arrangements, hoping he would perhaps come. He sure did. And in full uniform. It gave the family and myself great pride to know the Saratoga Springs Police Department would allow Officer Arpei not just to attend, but to salute as we passed by,” she recalled. “With that, my friends, everyone just cried. That was our time. And that was the time he gave us. He not only refused to give up on him, but he cared - and caring and compassion is not always prevalent in today’s society.”       

One of the young man’s sisters handed Arpei a keychain, to signify the day her life forever was changed and the moment the officer was welcomed as a member of the family. With the presentation of a statue she noted how they would never forget the officer’s actions.

“When we look at you, we see Jerry,” Flinton said. “Because of you, his mother was able to sit with him for the last few days he had, hold his hand and tell him he could go dance in heaven with his grandfather. His grandmother was able to kiss him one last time and tell him that she loved him.  His sisters were able to say goodbye and lay with him as he took his last breath - and we celebrated his birthday - because in some country he was 21,” she told the officer, who joined the city police department five years ago. “These are the moments the family will cherish forever and they know they wouldn’t have had them if it wasn’t for you.”  In the crowded council chamber overcome by silence some in the crowd choked back tears.

 “We feel it was time to express our family’s gratitude towards one of our own,” she said. “Saying just thanks, we think, is not appropriate. But that’s all we’ve got.” Residents and council members alike stood up and the chamber erupted in a lengthy ovation.  

 

City Approves Purchase of Pitney Farm: Westside Farm to Stay a Farm Forever

After much deliberation, the council unanimously approved the city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm on West Avenue.

The city is spending $1.165 million - $1.13 million outright and $35,000 in closing costs –   to purchase the development rights to ensure the farm land will remain a farm in perpetuity.

Members of the council had expressed hope that a portion of the 166-acre farm could be used to house recreation fields for youth sports such as soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco was especially adamant that the city may have done a better job negotiating the fields into the land contract, as the city lacks those resources.

The closing is scheduled to take place in mid-December. At the same time, the city will issue a bond anticipation note. The interest will be 0.95 percent, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.       

A contract of sale for the farm was signed between the Pitney Family and the newly created 501(c)(3), Pitney Meadows Community Farm. The vision for the farm includes the creation of a community agricultural resource center to function as a teaching facility and incubator, as well as offering access to the community to cultivate gardens and enjoy nature trails on the property.

 

City Amends Sidewalk Sitting Ordinance – Penalties Reduced, Law Still in Effect 

The city's controversial “sit and lie ordinance,” which was adopted in June and makes it unlawful for any person to sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk, was amended by the City Council this week. The changes include a streamlining of exceptions to the law; those exceptions allow for medical emergencies, or in curbside areas permitted for street performers, as well as easing penalties for code violators. 

The previously adopted penalties called for a minimum $50 fine for first offenders, escalating to misdemeanor charges with the potential of up to 30 days of jail time and fines of up to $500 for repeat offenders. The new penalties call for a maximum $50 fine for first offenders. Subsequent offenders would be subject to a fine not exceeding $250 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 days, according to the city’s general penalties for offenses, posted on the city website.   

The New York Civil Liberties Union submitted testimony alleging both the original law and the amended proposal targets homeless people and is unconstitutional and should be rescinded altogether. Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen – who brought forward both the original and amended proposals – argued that the ordinance was based on other municipalities’ existing ordinances and that “it does pass constitutional muster.”  The council members were in general agreement in expressing belief that the ordinance is related to pedestrian safety issues and does not target the city’s homeless population. The amended ordinance was approved 4-1, with city Mayor Joanne Yepsen casting the lone vote against. “I don’t like this law and I don’t see a need for it,” said Yepsen, who also cast the lone voted against the initial proposal in June.    

 

On a High Note, City Center President Says Goodbye

Longtime Saratoga Springs City Center President Mark Baker delivered the City Center Authority’s annual report for 2015 to the council on Tuesday. In 2015, the City Center hosted 154 events and secured 252 days of paid activities - marking the highest number of annual paid events in the building’s history. The 2016 schedule already tops that number, Baker added, and reported $2.1 million in sales tax revenue was generated in 2015 for the local community. More than 155,000 people attended events last year.

“For 33 years it’s been a pleasure to serve for you and with you,” said Baker, who last week announced he will retire as the organization’s president at year’s end. “In the last 33 years I think it’s become most obvious that there is no place like Saratoga Springs – our history, our style, our grace,” Baker said..   

 

‘Eyesore’ at Interlaken to be Demolished, Replaced by Single-Family Homes

The council unanimously voted to support a Planned Unit Development SEQRA determination regarding a property on Crescent Avenue in the Interlaken community. The long-abandoned home will be demolished and the land subdivided into four parcels where four single-family homes will be developed. Residents of the neighborhood addressed the council, alternately referring to the existing building as “an eyesore” and “a neighborhood blight,” and outnumbered those opposed to the building’s demolition by a 10-1 margin.  

 

City Public Art Policy Approved; Changes Coming for City Arts Commission

The council unanimously approved a public art policy that will provide a civic planning process for the acceptance and placement of artwork in public areas.

The city Arts Commission – a 20-member advisory board appointed by the mayor in 2015 - will review submissions using artwork and site selection criteria and may recommend to accept or reject an artwork. The Commission is tasked with reviewing proposals for consistency with the city’s goals and where appropriate, recommending acceptance or rejection of such acquisitions for the city. “Public art,” in this scope, is defined as publicly accessible artwork that enriches the city through its aesthetic qualities, considers the social and physical context of the site, and addresses the goals of the city.

The Arts Commission will also undergo changes to its member bylaws. Starting in January 2018, the committee will be comprised of a maximum of 11 members; four will be selected by the commissioners and the balance appointed by the mayor. Currently, all 20 members have been selected by the mayor.

 

 

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Inside the office on a sublevel of the Collamer Building, a pair of couches sit in a comfortable corner. A toy kitchen patiently awaits the attention of a child’s playing hands, and rows of books line the far wall.

“We have the easiest door to walk in,” says Maggie Fronk, executive director of the Wellspring office, which opens its doors five days a week and hosts seminars that are confidential and free of charge. A hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, annually fields about 1,400 calls that come in from across Saratoga County.

“When somebody comes in, we talk to them about what their situation is and about what domestic violence is. It’s a pattern of power and control,” says Fronk, who joined Wellspring 14 years ago. The organization has supported survivors and strived to end relationship and sexual abuse for the past 35 years.

“There are many different forms of abuse. There’s emotional control, psychological control, financial control, social isolation, sexual victimization. So many times people will call us and say, ‘But I’ve never been hit.’ In their mind they’re saying, ‘this is not domestic violence.’ Well, it is,” Fronk says. “We have a ‘power and control wheel’ that talks about all kinds of abuse and we’ll show that to them. The person that says, ‘I don’t know if I even should be calling,’ will look at that and say, ‘Oh, I do have all those other kinds, I’ve just never been hit.”

Wellspring’s crisis intervention and survivor services provide 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. In 2015, the organization provided almost 15,000 safe bed nights of shelter and supportive housing, counseled 700 individuals escaping their abuse, and provided education about the signs of relationship and sexual abuse to 6,500 members of school, and community groups.

“Wellspring gave me a new lease on life and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” said Tina, who married at 18, divorced at 21, and was forced to give up on her dream of going to college after graduating high school. For three years, she endured an abusive marriage. She married her second husband in 2001 and gave birth to her first of three children in 2007. “Unfortunately, women who are victims of domestic violence tend to attract predatory mates,” Tina said.

“My first husband was an alcoholic and here it was, like a bad dream, happening all over again. He began drinking very heavily and the abuse began to get worse.” Pregnant with her second child in 2008, Tina temporarily moved back to her parents’ home and gave her husband an ultimatum. “I told him he had to rehab.” Things seemed to work for a while, but it would not last. “The police were called to our house several times. He punched me in the face and gave me a black eye. It took me a long time to realize I couldn’t fix him, that my love couldn’t carry it through. A lot of women think that if they’re nice enough, if they’re pretty enough, then they can fix things,” she said. “But they can’t.”

An incident involving child neglect that was brought on by her husband’s drinking convinced her the marriage was over. Tina wasn’t working and when the child support payments stopped coming, she became involved in a child custody conflict which continues to this day.

“The psychological effect of that spun me into a dark, life-threatening world of depression. I was in a state of turmoil and didn’t know what to do.” By chance, she came across a Wellspring business card. “I was a mess,” Tina recalled. “I reached out and called their hotline. Immediately, I felt there was a glimmer of hope.” Through Wellspring, she began picking up the pieces of her shattered life. The organization helped with housing, and she recently secured a job at a retail store on Broadway.

“At times it’s been a nightmare of a life, but I’ve realized my true value, my true worth and I have three little kids who I have to make a new path for, so they don’t follow in my footsteps,” she said. “Yes, there will be stumbling blocks, but you have to persevere. I’m not going to let my life be stopped by an abuser who I’d given 22 years of my life. I’m not going to give up on my education. I’m not going to give up on my kids. I’m humbled by these experiences. And I don’t take for granted one minute of my life.”

“We have a commitment to end relationship and sexual abuse in the community and I see that happening,” Fronk says. “We do that by involving the whole community. If you see something, talk to somebody. Tell them there’s a place to get help. Make the call.“

Wellspring maintains office hours Monday through Friday in Saratoga Springs. To reach the office during business hours, call 518-583-0280. To reach the 24-Hour Hotline, call 518-584-8188. For more information, visit: http://www.wellspringcares.org/.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mark Baker was there the day they first put the shovels to the ground on Broadway.

This week, after a 33-year career, the only president the Saratoga Springs City Center has known announced his retirement, to take effect at the end of the calendar year.

Baker came to Saratoga via Wisconsin in the summer of 1983 and remembers hearing about the grumblings of those opposed to the construction of the new building he would oversee in 1984. Decades later he would bear witness to lively debates regarding the design of the building’s multi-million dollar expansion, its booking policies absent of a gun show, and its push for the development of a parking garage. Baker has presided over the Saratoga Springs City Center from its humble beginnings - 24 events accounted for 43.5 days of use in 1984 – and helped it reach the 170-or-so event mark it is anticipated to land this year, with more than 261.25 revenue-producing days. Advance bookings into 2017 are already expected to exceed 2016 sales figures and current bookings for conferences and conventions have been scheduled into the year 2021.

“I have vested much of my professional career, and personal commitment to the success of the City Center,” Baker said in a statement. “I want to be able to pass this incredible facility on to the next leader, with care and well wishes.”

Throughout his tenure, Baker said the City Center has maintained the same mission: to be a positive economic engine for downtown Saratoga Springs. Following the loss of the 5,000-seat Convention Hall in a 1965 blaze, there was much wrangling in the city about what Saratoga should build. By the late-1970s, Glens Falls built its Civic Center, and Albany had The Egg. In Saratoga Springs, it was eventually decided to construct a facility that would bring people into town and provide the opportunity for them to stay. In retrospect, it was the right project at the right time, Baker said. City Center Authority Chair Joseph Dalton said interviews are underway for potential candidates to replace Baker.

Baker, who anticipates retiring Dec. 31, said he is willing to remain in office until the transition of leadership takes place. It is expected Baker will remain on the City Center staff in a limited role to oversee and orchestrate the construction and launching of the City Center parking structure. “It is critical to get this important asset built for the future of the City Center,” Dalton said.

Workshop on Monday for a New Neighborhood Watch Program

A workshop will be held on Monday at the Saratoga Springs Public Library to start a discussion about forming a new Neighborhood Watch program in downtown Saratoga Springs. The free workshop – which is being organized by the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the city Police Department – will take place 5 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14. “We’re hosting this workshop to bring neighbors living and working downtown together so they can look out for one another,” Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “We’ve also committed to creating and distributing Neighborhood Watch signs which will be a visible reminder that the community has taken the necessary steps to deter crime and that this area is being observed.”

Upcoming: The City Council will host a pre-agenda meeting at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 14, and its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at City Hall. It is anticipated the City Council will move to amending the recently approved law prohibiting sitting or lying on public sidewalks. Also expected is a vote regarding the conservation easement for the city to purchase the development rights of the Pitney Farm, and vote regarding the Saratoga Springs Complete Streets Plan.

City water and sewer utility bills are due for the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Nov. 15. City and county taxes, as well as utility bills may be paid in person at the Office of Finance in City Hall, by mail, or online at www.saratoga-springs.org. These payments can also be made at Adirondack Trust Co. and Saratoga National Bank. You must have your tax stub to make payments at these locations.

The Design Review Commission will host a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16 at City Hall.

The New York State Department of Transportation will host a public information meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to discuss a project to replace the Crescent Avenue bridge over the Northway in Saratoga Springs and the East High Street bridge over the Northway in Malta, both in Saratoga County. The bridges, both built in 1962, are safe but aging to the point where this project is necessary. The project is expected to begin in late 2017 and last until the end of 2018. The meeting will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Music Hall on the third floor of City Hall.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Lincoln Avenue home of Saratoga Springs native Frank Sullivan will be designated a national literary landmark and his writings selected as the focus for the SaratogaReads! community-wide reading and discussion initiative in 2017.

Affectionately known as the “Sage of Saratoga,” Sullivan was born in 1892 and graduated from Saratoga Springs High School in 1910. After graduating from Cornell University and serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War 1, Sullivan relocated to New York City where he worked as a journalist and contributor to the New York World and The Saturday Evening Post. As a humorist, his annual Christmas poems and articles appeared in The New Yorker magazine for a half-century.

“He was a great wit and he was part of the Algonquin Round Table,” said William Kennedy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for his “Albany Cycle” of novels. “He started off a newspaper man like I did and he wound up working for the New York World. He loved The World. That was a newspaper that produced guys like Heywood Broun and Franklin P. Adams and its editor was Herbert Bayard Swope.”

Swope played a key role in launching Sullivan’s life work as a humorist, rather than in hard news. Early in his career, Sullivan had “scooped” the rest of the New York media by reporting the death of a popular society woman. As it turned out, the woman was not dead after all. “You’re too emotional for the news columns,” Swope supposedly told Sullivan. “From now on, you’re writing funny stuff exclusively.” 

“It was a great newspaper and when it died in 1931, he was devastated by it,” Kennedy said. “He wrote a piece about it called ‘Thoughts Before the Undertaker Came,’ and he closed out by saying, ‘When I die I want to go where The World has gone, and work on it again.’ That’s a lovely quote.”

Sullivan grew up in Saratoga Springs on White Street and on Lincoln Avenue, where he played rubber ball games like Roly-Poly on the then-unpaved sidewalks of the neighborhood, and worked as a pump boy carrying water to bookmakers and earning $10 to $15 a day, tax-free.

Sullivan’s childhood home was at Lincoln Avenue and High Street – just east of present-day Siro’s. It was one of a half-dozen homes either moved to different locations, or torn down altogether to expand the racecourse. In 1975, city Mayor Ray Watkin introduced a resolution that recognized Sullivan’s contribution “making Saratoga Springs famous all over the world,” and authorized the renaming of High Street to Frank Sullivan Place.

Sullivan returned to Saratoga Springs and settled down at his home at 135 Lincoln Ave., where he lived for several decades. He was a regular shopper at the Five Points grocery store, found relaxation in visits to the Yaddo Gardens, and frequented the Saratoga Race Course, where in the summer of 1967 a race was named in his honor.

“We’re very excited to be part of a revival in interest in one of Saratoga Springs’ own literary luminaries,” said Saratoga Springs Public Library Director Issac Pulver. “Given the current state of civil discourse, we believe a little levity in the form of Frank Sullivan’s gentle but incisive wit, is exactly what’s called for at the moment.” A series of SaratogaReads! related performances, discussions, lectures, and film presentations will take place between December 2016 and March 2017.

At the same time, United for Libraries, in partnership with Empire State Center for the Book, will dedicate Sullivan’s adult home on Lincoln Avenue as a literary landmark. More than 150 Literary Landmarks have been dedicated across the country since the program began in the 1980s; Tennessee Williams’ home in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Edgar Allen Poe home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were among the first.

Perhaps Sullivan’s most celebrated character was his creation of the noted cliche expert, Mr. Arbuthnot. Asked what he did for exercise, Mr. Arbuthnot replied, “I keep the wolf from the door, let the cat out of the bag, take the bull by the horns, count my chickens before they are hatched, and see that the horse isn't put behind the cart or stolen before I lock the barn door.”

“He accumulated all the clichés of the world,” Kennedy said. “It was hilarious.”

 

Sullivan, a lifelong bachelor, died in early 1976 at Saratoga Hospital at the age of 83.

Friday, 28 October 2016 20:47

Notes From City Hall

Affordable Housing Following initial discussions with the city Planning Board in September, members of Sustainable Saratoga were set to return to City Hall and meet with the board this week regarding the SPA Housing Ordinance – a proposal for “inclusionary zoning” first floated a decade ago, but never brought to a vote by the City Council. The proposal would require new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city to include some units deemed affordable to people with lower to moderate incomes. The number of designated affordable units per project would vary from 10 percent for low-income households to 20 percent for moderate-income households. To compensate developers, the program would allow them to increase the density of housing projects by up to 20 percent. The inclusionary-zoning proposal will be sent back to the City Council after the city and county planning boards complete their reviews of the proposal. The council may then schedule public hearings on the plan. Upcoming Meetings The City Council will host a 7 p.m. meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The pre-agenda meeting will take place Monday, Oct. 31 at 9:30 a.m. The Design Review Commission will host a 7 p.m. meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 2. Beyond City Hall – Code Blue In these pages last week, we told you exclusively about the Salvation Army’s decision to not host the Code Blue emergency shelter for a third winter season. The emergency shelter will open at Soul Saving Station, on Caroline and Henry streets, as early as Nov. 1. The official statement from the Salvation Army in Saratoga County, issued this week, reads in part: “The Salvation Army corps building at 27 Woodlawn Avenue is not structurally designed to continue established Salvation Army programs and ministries and host the Code Blue Shelter during the winter season,” said Major Steven Lopes, chief executive officer of the Capital Region Salvation Army. “We understand that this is a difficult situation,” said Lieutenant Bree Barker, pastor and administrator of the Saratoga Springs Salvation Army. “As members of the community, as well as a member of the advisory board for Code Blue, we will do all that we can, without jeopardizing our core programs, to help. To that end, we have told Code Blue that we will extend our breakfast program during the week until 10 a.m. on weekdays and add a breakfast on Sundays as well for those who seek shelter this winter. We will also work with Code Blue to make showers available to Code Blue participants on a regular basis. And we will be offering the use of our clothes washer and dryer for those who can make use of this service.” Code Blue Saratoga held its own forum at the Saratoga Springs Public Library Tuesday. The event was attended by about 50 people and Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Michael Finocchi – the lead agent who oversees Code Blue – re-iterated that the new temporary space at Soul Saving Station has ample space to house people who otherwise would be living on the streets. Finocchi also read through a long list of potential Code Blue venues explored during a four-month period, but which did not prove successful for a variety of reasons – scheduling conflicts and financial considerations among them. Those sites included: the Lincoln Baths, the West Side Elks club, NYRA’s womens dormitory, the former Spa City diner building on South Broadway, the state Military Museum on Lake Avenue, the Saratoga Music Hall, and the former Informz building. This year, the shelter will institute a curfew - set for 11 p.m. – for the first time, Finocchi added. The emergency shelter will open at times when the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Citizen Preparedness Program On Nov. 2 At Maple Avenue Middle School “Citizen Preparedness for Families” - a program presented by the National Guard to provide basic information on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters or emergencies – will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2 at Maple Avenue Middle School. Since 2010, New Yorkers have experienced the devastating impact of hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, floods and blizzards. This presentation has been designed to provide knowledge of how to reduce the impact of disasters and emergencies on families and communities. The event is free and no registration is required. Last month, the city of Saratoga Springs adopted its own Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, which you can read about here: http://www.saratogatodaynewspaper.com/item/5722-hope-for-the-best-prepare-for-the-worst.html

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The steady beat of hammers and nails continues to rain down on Phila Street where workmen are transforming one of America’s most historic cafes – and its immediate surroundings – into a model for the 21st century.    

Caffè Lena, which first opened in May 1960 as a small beatnik coffeehouse, has hosted some of the best-known performers of the folk music scene for more than a half-century. The charm of the 19th century building the café occupies, however, has also resulted in structural misfortunes brought on by the aging architecture.

“When we got the news that our building was going to require major renovation, we had to make a choice,” Caffè Lena Executive Director Sarah Craig said when the historic café faced a should-we-stay, or should-we-go moment. “We decided to stay.”

The board members who operate the intimate club - which had survived generations of changes in public taste, and the death of its guiding founder Lena Spencer in 1989 - launched a $1.5 million capital campaign in 2013, with $1.25 million specifically targeted for renovation. The campaign raised $350,000 in donations and inspired a collaboration with local developer Sonny Bonacio.

The café sold its corner parking lot to Bonacio Construction, which is building a four-story mixed-use building on the former parking site. Bonacio is conducting some renovation work at the café, which includes the construction of an elevator to serve both the coffeehouse and the new building next door. The elevator is anticipated to be operational by next May.

“Bonacio has tried to help us as much as possible in keeping our costs minimal by pairing the jobs together,” Craig said this week. “Right now, all the structural work is done – the roofing and flooring systems, the wiring and framing. The next step are the surfaces you will see: the sheetrock and the wood flooring, the acoustical treatments we’re putting on the ceiling and the windows that need to be put in.”

During the summer the venue shifted its weekend shows to The Grove on Lake Avenue. With a plan to return to the renovated Phila Street café in the fall, the performance schedule was expanded to include a full slate of weekday shows. That re-opening has been pushed back several weeks, compelling Craig to seek a growing list of alternate venues for the time being.

“The original hope was we would be back in October,” she said. “We were moving around before and we’re really going to be moving around a lot more now. For me, as the manager, it’s a radical change, but it is fun in a lot of ways. It’s almost like we’re living the life our musicians live.” 

This weekend’s showcase features David Wilcox on Friday at The Grove at Neumann, and in November Lena’s 18-show road tour makes staging stops at Universal Preservation Hall, The Parting Glass Pub, Spring Street Gallery, Creative Sparks, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs, and the Ndakinna Education Center in Greenfield Center. A full calendar of events is listed on the club’s web site at: http://www.caffelena.org/.

“It’s totally ‘Lena On The Road.’ We’ve gotten through this because the entire community has been generous, from the venues hosting the concerts to the audience who are willing to follow us to all these locations,” said Craig, who joined the Caffè Lena staff in 1995. 

Among other amenities, the renovated venue will include 20 additional seats. The expanded space will help deliver artists with a national profile to the café as well as aid in the development of new audiences, while maintaining the café’s intimacy and preserving its folk legacy.

“A lot of times when you see places go through these transformations, it becomes more of a concert hall. But, the café wanted to remain this intimate folk club,” Craig said.

Lena’s is slated to re-open before the end of the calendar year, although a specific date has not been targeted. The official re-opening celebration is slated to take place next May, when the coffeehouse celebrates its 57th anniversary.

“We’re on track to be back in before the end of this year. Our plan is to be in here and start to do shows and the big fanfare will be next May when the elevator gets here,” Craig said. “Looking at the work that is done now, you just have a feeling of the dimension of the space, and I have to say: It. Feels. Perfect.  

“You can tell that it’s going to sound good, and there’s this feeling that the room is breathing - breathing a sigh of relief. Like for all these years, it was waiting for this.” 

 

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The steady beat of hammers and nails continues to rain down on Phila Street where workmen are transforming one of America’s most historic cafes – and its immediate surroundings – into a model for the 21st century.    

Caffè Lena, which first opened in May 1960 as a small beatnik coffeehouse, has hosted some of the best-known performers of the folk music scene for more than a half-century. The charm of the 19th century building the café occupies, however, has also resulted in structural misfortunes brought on by the aging architecture.

“When we got the news that our building was going to require major renovation, we had to make a choice,” Caffè Lena Executive Director Sarah Craig said when the historic café faced a should-we-stay, or should-we-go moment. “We decided to stay.”

The board members who operate the intimate club - which had survived generations of changes in public taste, and the death of its guiding founder Lena Spencer in 1989 - launched a $1.5 million capital campaign in 2013, with $1.25 million specifically targeted for renovation. The campaign raised $350,000 in donations and inspired a collaboration with local developer Sonny Bonacio.

The café sold its corner parking lot to Bonacio Construction, which is building a four-story mixed-use building on the former parking site. Bonacio is conducting some renovation work at the café, which includes the construction of an elevator to serve both the coffeehouse and the new building next door. The elevator is anticipated to be operational by next May.

“Bonacio has tried to help us as much as possible in keeping our costs minimal by pairing the jobs together,” Craig said this week. “Right now, all the structural work is done – the roofing and flooring systems, the wiring and framing. The next step are the surfaces you will see: the sheetrock and the wood flooring, the acoustical treatments we’re putting on the ceiling and the windows that need to be put in.”

During the summer the venue shifted its weekend shows to The Grove on Lake Avenue. With a plan to return to the renovated Phila Street café in the fall, the performance schedule was expanded to include a full slate of weekday shows. That re-opening has been pushed back several weeks, compelling Craig to seek a growing list of alternate venues for the time being.

“The original hope was we would be back in October,” she said. “We were moving around before and we’re really going to be moving around a lot more now. For me, as the manager, it’s a radical change, but it is fun in a lot of ways. It’s almost like we’re living the life our musicians live.” 

This weekend’s showcase features David Wilcox on Friday at The Grove at Neumann, and in November Lena’s 18-show road tour makes staging stops at Universal Preservation Hall, The Parting Glass Pub, Spring Street Gallery, Creative Sparks, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs, and the Ndakinna Education Center in Greenfield Center. A full calendar of events is listed on the club’s web site at: http://www.caffelena.org/.

“It’s totally ‘Lena On The Road.’ We’ve gotten through this because the entire community has been generous, from the venues hosting the concerts to the audience who are willing to follow us to all these locations,” said Craig, who joined the Caffè Lena staff in 1995. 

Among other amenities, the renovated venue will include 20 additional seats. The expanded space will help deliver artists with a national profile to the café as well as aid in the development of new audiences, while maintaining the café’s intimacy and preserving its folk legacy.

“A lot of times when you see places go through these transformations, it becomes more of a concert hall. But, the café wanted to remain this intimate folk club,” Craig said.

Lena’s is slated to re-open before the end of the calendar year, although a specific date has not been targeted. The official re-opening celebration is slated to take place next May, when the coffeehouse celebrates its 57th anniversary.

“We’re on track to be back in before the end of this year. Our plan is to be in here and start to do shows and the big fanfare will be next May when the elevator gets here,” Craig said. “Looking at the work that is done now, you just have a feeling of the dimension of the space, and I have to say: It. Feels. Perfect.  

 

“You can tell that it’s going to sound good, and there’s this feeling that the room is breathing - breathing a sigh of relief. Like for all these years, it was waiting for this.” 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A lifelong city resident who led efforts to preserve and enhance the oldest cemetery in Saratoga Springs was posthumously honored with the placement of a plaque and the planting of a tree in the Gideon Putnam Burying Ground.

The tree, an American beech, is expected to rise to a height of greater than 50 feet, grow to a spread at maturity of about 40 feet and for generations overlook the west side neighborhood where Eugene Corsale made his home. Corsale engaged the help of the Department of Public Works, local businesses and volunteers, and is credited with providing the leadership through which $120,000 in grant funding was secured to underwrite the restoration of the burial grounds, which had fallen into disrepair.

Graffiti marred the stone wall of the Putnam family plot and trash was strewn about. Broken tombstones were used as skate board ramps and some residents used the dirt paths of the overgrown landscape as a short-cut to Broadway. “The cemetery was ignored, overgrown, and misused,” explained Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.

The cemetery was established in 1810 by Gideon Putnam. The Massachusetts-born visionary relocated to the area in his twenties. He laid out a wide street scheme for a broad way, built Saratoga’s first boarding house hotel, and donated a plot of land to be used as a public burial ground. While working atop scaffolding during the construction of nearby Congress Hall, Putnam fell and suffered severe injury. He died a year later. In 1812, he became the first person interred at the cemetery named for him.

In addition to the walled enclosure of the Putnam family plot, hundreds of Saratoga Springs residents were laid to rest at the cemetery through the 1840s. A century later, fewer than half of the original 232 stone markers remained. Accurate records of those buried within were not kept, and the cemetery fell into disrepair. With Corsale’s leadership, stone walls were restored, gravestones cleaned, the landscape trimmed and grass reseeded, and a perimeter fence installed to prevent vandalism.

“What we see here today is in large part (due to) Gene’s legacy,” said Bosshart, choking back tears as she recalled many purposeful visits to her office by Corsale, who died in March 2014 at the age of 85. “Gene would come by, usually with some butterscotch candy or a lollipop he got from the bank, and say: ‘You know what we have to do.’ It was a privilege and an honor to know him.”

The Gideon Putnam burying ground is the city’s oldest cemetery in the city and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being designated a City Landmark. It was preceded by the Sadler Cemetery, where bodies were first interred in the 18th century, but those bodies were mostly relocated to other cemeteries. The memorial tree was purchased and planted by the Heritage Garden Club with the assistance from Sustainable Saratoga, and a bronze plaque recognizing Corsale was provided by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.

Friday, 21 October 2016 14:17

New SPAC President Presents Future Vision

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Elizabeth Sobol leaned against a marble column outside the Hall of Springs. She glanced up at the architecture - detailed more than three-quarters of a century ago by Russian iron-workers, Italian plasterers and Austrian stone cutters - and searched for the words to best express the thoughts inside her head.

“It’s only been a month since my husband and I moved from Miami Beach to Saratoga. And it’s only been eight days since I walked into my office, but the overwhelming sense of magic, the cultural vibrancy I first felt in the city has only deepened,” said the newly minted president and CEO of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “I want to make sure more people experience the epiphany that I’ve had coming here.”

Moments later, the self-described “newcomer with fresh eyes” was formally introduced by SPAC Board chairman Ron Riggi to about two dozen board members and department heads gathered inside the hall’s Gold Room for their annual fall meeting. Sobol told them that she didn’t foresee radical changes taking place in the near future, but wanted to enhance what already exists by both deepening SPAC’s roots in the local community and extending the venue’s presence and visibility beyond the borders of the Capital Region.

“I feel fortunate coming in at this auspicious moment,” Sobol said in succeeding Marcia White, who earlier this year announced she would be retiring after 11 years at SPAC. “It has been a privilege to begin my new role at SPAC fresh off the heels of the 50th anniversary celebration.”

“2016 was very successful with the 50th anniversary and some beautiful weather,” treasurer Tony Ianniello added. No less than 35 special events were staged in conjunction with the venue’s golden anniversary, and audience attendance during the classical season of performances increased 3.4 percent, compared to the previous year. SPAC received more than $5.22 million in capital campaign gifts in honor of the anniversary. The funds will be used to support programming, capital improvements, and SPAC’s endowment fund, according to the organization. “Now we want to dig down and drill deep on how we can improve the numbers – raise more money and decrease expenses,” Ianniello said.

The Board announced membership rates in 2017 will remain at 2016 levels, and next year’s classical season ticket pricing will include a $30 amphitheater ticket, a $10 reduction in select seating from previous seasons. “As we move into the future, we hope to engage new and younger audiences in order to fulfill our mission of sharing world-class performances with the Capital Region community,” Sobol said.

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