City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS – After 16 months of study, dozens of public meetings, threats of litigation, and a volley of contentious words, 8,356 city residents headed to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to change, or maintain the Commission form of governing that has ruled the city for the past 102 years. The Election Day verdict: Too Close To Call.
At the end of the day, residents in favor of adopting a new Charter held a 4,202 to 4,154 advantage, but the narrow margin of victory requires that absentee ballots be counted. The county Board of Elections mailed 711 such absentee ballots and more than 500 were received back, by Election Day. Those ballots have yet to be counted.
Ballots returned by Nov. 14 - the last day absentee ballots may be received at the county Board of Elections - will be counted on Tuesday, Nov. 14, after which a clear winner may be determined. Military ballots have until Nov. 20 to be received at the county board. Military ballots are anticipated to number less than 20 in total, although that count could not be officially verified by Thursday.
Less than half of the approximately 18,000 registered city voters took part in Tuesday’s election; More than 95 percent of city residents who did cast ballots voted one way or another on The Saratoga Springs Charter Proposition.
The study of ramifications in changing from a Commission form of government to a Council-Manager form has been lengthy, and the dialogue among some, contentious.
After a proposal was put forth to stage the referendum last May rather than in November, there was significant push-back from City Council members John Franck, Michele Madigan, and DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco - three commissioners who coincidentally ran unopposed in their respective re-election campaigns. “This will come down to a lawsuit, I suspect, and the courts will decide what they’re going to do with this,” Franck said in February. “There may even be a lawsuit at the City Council level.”
Election Day was anticipated as the date to finally settle the matter. But given the slim 48-vote difference - with those in favor of change leading the count - it has not turned out that way.
“I woke up this morning and thought: win or lose the charter debate was going to end today,” Saratoga Springs City Charter Review Commission Chairman Bob Turner said in the early morning hours following the election tally. “I realize now, we’re just beginning. It’s like Florida 2000 all over again and I have a feeling it’s going to be drawn out to a re-count, and a hand-count of ballots.” Turner is in favor of Charter change.
“I have a feeling we are heading toward very brand-new legal territory in the next week,” Turner said. “New York Municipal Home Rule Law 36, which governs the charter review process, (says) the charter review commission ends on the day of election, so it’s not even clear whether we are going to have legal standing after today. Who is turn is representing the voters who at present are up 48 votes?”
Accounts Commissioner John Franck on Thursday called for a Special City Council meeting to take place at noon on Monday to hire an election law attorney "to defend the city’s right to have all proper absentee ballots counted and defending the city’s voters in any potential court proceedings."
“It is new territory,” said Richard Sellers, a spokesman for SUCCESS, a citizen organization that supports maintaining the current form of governing. “We’re reminded of the cliché that every vote counts, and we are waiting for all the votes to be counted. We’re confident in the Saratoga County Board of Elections and we look forward to a clear outcome.”
The county Board of Elections is anticipated to begin counting absentee ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
Paul Nasrani walked through Grand Central Terminal on a cold wintry day when a moment of opportunity suddenly intervened, offering him the possibility to fulfill a childhood dream.
“Every summer, I’d spend a couple of weeks in August up in Lake George, in Silver Bay,” Nasrani recalled. “There was this well-over 100-year-old ice cream store that was everybody’s gathering place and I was allowed to have a hot fudge sundae, five nights a week, which was pretty awesome. That was etched in my mind as a child.”
Nasrani worked in Manhattan and became the CFO of a mid-size corporation, his days occupied with his professional work in finance and accounting, his nights at play feeding a love of creating ice cream.
“I started experimenting in a small studio apartment in Manhattan. Imagine this tiny place with one room and a kitchen you stand in, making ice cream at night and bringing it in to work for my co-workers every day,” he says. “They loved it. They even got me a bigger maker, which I had to put in the tub because I couldn’t fit it in the kitchen,” he laughs. “It was insanity, but it was fun. Any time I had a free moment I’d visit dairies and ice cream plants. I’d knock on doors and hope somebody would let me in. I learned a lot from people.”
It was this yearning he carried with him inside the cathedral-like building of the Grand Central Terminal, where among the bustling crowds on a landscape of marble he noticed some equipment from a former ice cream store up for auction.
“I ended up buying a machine. I quit my job. I put the machine on a trailer and moved up to Silver Bay,” he says. Nasrani set up shop in the hamlet of Silver Bay, which sits alongside Lake George, an hour’s drive north of downtown Saratoga Springs.
“I can remember being about 12 years old and sitting there thinking: someday I’m going to have an ice cream company and we’re going to sell the ice cream in the Silver Bay store. And I did do that. We did make ice cream there and we did sell it at the store.”
Nasrani founded Adirondack Creamery at Silver Bay and with a yearning for growth found a dairy in Kingston where he was able to design his own ice cream based on an old-fashioned recipe of cream, milk, sugar and egg yolks. More expansion followed. One of the company’s primary distributors is located in Saratoga on Edie Road, and a dairy production facility in Queens enabled Adirondack Creamery to release all-natural flavors in pint packaging that could be sold at retail stores.
Today, the company boasts more than a dozen different flavors and includes seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Pie, Peppermint Stick and Egg Nog, and limited-edition offerings such as Caramel Apple, made only with ingredients from upstate New York.
The latest flavor is a Syrian date and walnut creation inspired by the middle-eastern treat, ma’amoul.
“I’m not Syrian, but immigration really reflects on my own personal life, my own family history. I grew up in a part in northeastern Pennsylvania where most of the people were ancestors of coal miners who came in the late 1800s and the 1900s for the same thing. They were suffering and there was famine. They were persecuted and came here to live a different life and to have a future,” Nasrani says.
“My father was emigrated from post-partition India in the ‘60s in Pakistan, trying to get away from discrimination and find opportunity and growth, to have a family and be able to be who he wanted to be. My mother’s family dates back to the Mayflower and the pilgrims – and those people also came here looking for a better future - and so all of that has had an impact on me personally.”
Nasrani found out about a Syrian refugee family who started making ma’amoul treats and selling them online.
“I ordered a whole bunch of them and I loved it. That’s when it all clicked,” Nasrani says. “I thought: you know let me make an ice cream flavor and see if I can put this together. The idea is that what’s unique about this is that in America we adopt flavors from other countries, put them in our kitchen and make them our own. The ma’amoul ice cream follows that same line. You know when people share food it breaks down a lot of cultural barriers. It reminds us that we’re more similar than we are different.”
The label’s packaging proclaims “Peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew and is designed to bring focus to the plight of Syrian families seeking refuge who do not have a voice. Nasrani is donating half the profits of the ma’amoul ice cream to the International Rescue Committee. The organization responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.
You might wonder what a love of ice cream does to a person’s personal life.
“When I met (the woman who would be) my wife, she assumed I was some boring finance guy. On our third date I told her, ‘You’re not going to want to date me anymore. I’m quitting my job and moving up to Lake George.’ I thought she was going to be like, ‘Goodbye. You’re not going to make any money and you’re moving.’ Well now we’ve been married for 12 years and have two kids,” Nasrani says. “I won her over. It’s been an exciting journey.”
Adirondack Creamery’s Syrian Date and Walnut flavor ice cream is currently available at the following regional stores, with more stores to be added in the coming weeks: Four Seasons Natural Foods, 120 Henry St., Saratoga Springs; Just Meats, 1023 Route 29, Schuylerville; select ShopRite supermarkets in Albany, Colonie, Niskayuna and Slingerlands; the Honest Weight Co-Op in Albany, and Niskayuna Co-Op in Schenectady.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Republican city mayoral candidate Mark Baker entered the final 11 days of his campaign with about $23,380 on hand, while Democrat city mayoral candidate Meg Kelly reported a balance of approximately $14,600 during the same period, according to campaign financial disclosure reports, provided by the New York State Board of Elections.
Citizens for Yepsen, who also filed a report 11 days prior to the Nov. 7 election, has about $3,850 in the bank. Current city Mayor Joanne Yepsen has elected to not seek re-nomination to the two-year post.
Baker’s campaign began with about $21,500 on hand in July. Financial contributors to Baker’s campaign include a handful of local builders, construction companies and developers, John Hendrickson and Marylou Whitney, and local GOP political figures Shauna Sutton and Michael Lenz. Baker was previously the long-time president of the City Center Authority.
Kelly, currently the city’s Deputy Mayor, entered the race with $6,000 on hand in July. Kelly’s financial supporters include prominent City Democrats Raymond Watkins, Bill McTygue and Bahram Kermmati, as well as current city Supervisor Peter Martin. Political committees supporting current officeholders Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Judge Francine Vero and Accounts Commissioner John Franck have also contributed to Kelly’s campaign.
In the other contested race for a seat on the five-person City Council – Commissioners Franck, Madigan, and Scirocco are unopposed - Public Safety Commissioner hopefuls Don Braim (R, C, I, RFM), and Peter Martin (D, WF, WEP), reported balances of approximately $9,350, and $3,500, respectively, as of their filings of Oct. 27.
A local vote will also be held Nov. 7 regarding the city’s form of governing to decide whether to switch from a commission form of government to one run by a city manager.
The group Saratogians United to Continue the Charter Essential to Sustain our Success, or SUCCESS, is in favor of maintaining the current form of governing, and reported about $25,000 on hand in its 11 Day Pre-General Report filing. Notable contributors to the group include Charles V. Wait and W.P. Dake - each contributing $3,000; J.T. Roohan and John Hendrickson - each contributing $2,000; and Joseph W. Dalton, James Lavigne, Michael Hoffman, Frank Parillo, Thomas J. Newkirk, the Allerdice Building Supply Company and Mazzone Administrative Group each contributed $1,000 or more.
It’s Time Saratoga! – the group in favor of changing the current form of governing in the city to one run by a city manager reported just under $19,500 on hand in its 11 Day Pre-General Report filing. Among the group’s largest financial contributors are the nonprofit International City/County Management Association – who contributed $15,000, and the New York State City/County Management Association, who donated $2,500. Gary Dake ($500), and Gordon Boyd ($750), are among notable individual donors to It’s Time Saratoga! Boyd, who has acknowledged a change of mind regarding charter change in Saratoga Springs, initially donated $300 to the SUCCESS organization when it first started in 2006.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Tabla player Ballu Khan sat at center stage, thwonk-ing jubilant beats, breaking into contagious smiles and commanding the center of attention Monday night at SPAC’s Little Theater where the Sachal Ensemble staged their Saratoga premiere.
The ensemble, perhaps best known for their role in the 2015 film “Song of Lahore,” was created by Pakistani investor and philanthropist Izzat Majeed. The “music-mad millionaire” – as a 2014 NPR interview referred to him – joined the Lahore-based group onstage for a curtain call.
The eight-piece ensemble, making their debut U.S. tour, performed a 70-minute set, re-imagining western based crowd-pleasers such as Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme,” and the jazz standard “Take Five” – first and most famously performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet more than a half-century ago. A rendition of French composer Michel Legrand’s “Windmills of Your Mind” was emotionally stirring.
But it was the band’s own personal creations, imbued with syncopated dives, synchronous ascensions and a melodic sweetness that best ratcheted-up the sonic intensity. "Taxali Gate" – written about one of the gates of the old medieval Walled City of Lahore, and “Shalimar,” inspired by the garden complex located in the Pakistan metropolis known as the city of gardens, were the best of these.
Khan’s tabla playing was collaboratively paired with the player of a double-headed hand-drum – called a dholak; the duo’s percussive resonance augmented by the bow-ing of a violin, the tinklings of a grand piano, and the gentle pluckings of a sunburst Gibson Les Paul.
Well-placed accents were delivered by the multi-layered string arrangements of a sarangi - a small, box-shaped string instrument bowed with one hand and noted by fingers across the fret-board with the other. A flutist provided melodic accompaniment, occasionally infiltrated with short tonal flares reminiscent of the stylings of Roland Kirk - all of it held together by the foundation-clang of the beat-keeping bells.
Greeted warmly by a large audience inside the theater the ensemble’s performance was a poignant reminder, for those who may have forgotten, of the collective power of music to erase geographic borders, melt cultural differences and served to transcend the musicians’ struggle to keep music alive under the auspices of a conservative Islamic regime in their native Pakistan, where music of a non-religious nature is discouraged.
Tabla player Ballu Khan. Photo provided.
by Thomas Dimopoulos
WILTON - A 16-year-old Saratoga Springs High School student, believed to having gone missing with a handgun shortly before noon on Monday, was found and taken into custody without incident near his Wilton home on Route 9 early Monday evening. He did not have the handgun with him at the time.
“He got into an argument with his mom inside the house. He had the gun and she locked herself in a room. Prior to his leaving the house, he hid the gun in the garage,” said Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo. “She last saw him with it, so we assumed he had it.”
Police conducted a search for the teen that covered a three-mile area around Route 9/ Maple Avenue and Northern Pines Road, that involved NY State Police, Saratoga Springs Police, state Park Police, as well the county Sheriff’s Department and a New York State Police Aviation unit helicopter.
Maple Ave Middle School, Dorothy Nolan Elementary School, SUNY Adirondack Wilton Center, and Skidmore College, as well as childcare centers in the area were all placed on precautionary lockout. Afternoon and evening events at the schools were cancelled, including a mayoral debate that was slated to take place at the high school.
“He was taken to Saratoga Hospital for a mental evaluation. Because he made suicidal comments prior to leaving the house, our main concern was safety – his safety and with (potentially) a gun the safety of others,” said Zurlo, who would not comment at this time as to whether the handgun is legally registered. “We’re going to determine (Tuesday) whether any charges will be brought.”
WILTON - A 16-year-old Saratoga Springs High School student believed to had gone missing with a handgun shortly before noon on Monday was found and taken into custody near his Wilton home early Monday evening.
"We were able to locate the young man today right near his residence and take him into custody, without an issue. He’s been cooperative and the firearm he had has been recovered,” Saratoga County Sheriff's Department Investigations LT. Jeff Brown said, early Monday night.
Police conducted a search for the teen, Bryce Byno, that covered a three-mile area around Route 9/ Maple Avenue and Northern Pines Road, that involved NY State Police, Saratoga Springs Police, state Park Police, as well the county Sheriff’s Department and a New York State Police Aviation unit helicopter.
Maple Ave Middle School, Dorothy Nolan Elementary School, SUNY Adirondack Wilton Center, and Skidmore College, as well as childcare centers in the area were all placed on precautionary lockout. Afternoon and evening events at the schools were cancelled, including a mayoral debate that was slated to take place at the high school. The middle school and high school began dismissal at approximately 3 p.m. District elementary schools were dismissed on time, however, buses were delayed by approximately 60 minutes, according to The Saratoga Springs City School District
Byno is believed to have left his house 11:15 Monday morning with a handgun, following a domestic dispute. Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said no specific threat was made to others, but added the teen has had "a tendency toward suicidal threats." Zurlo would not comment whether the handgun was legally registered.
The county Sheriff's Department said Monday night the investigation ongoing, and Brown thanked the community and the school district for their cooperation.
Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo, Monday afternoon. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – It was a year of new things for the most part at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Elizabeth Sobol’s first at the helm of the organization, initiating partnerships with arts-based collaborators in the region, introducing a series of inaugural concert events, and reviving long-dormant pieces of the organization’s past. And more changes are on the way.
At its Oct. 12 meeting, SPAC’s Board of Directors voted to condense the New York City Ballet season to seven performances, down from its 11-day residency in each of the past three seasons - which featured 12 to 14 performances during that period. The 2018 NYCB season will more closely align with 2013 and 2014 models.
Mathematically, 80 percent of New York City Ballet ticket buyers purchase tickets to only one performance, and 11 percent buy tickets to two performances, Sobol said. Only the remaining 9 percent purchase tickets to 3-plus NYCB shows.
“The Board felt that taking on another $1 million-plus shortfall on the New York City Ballet residency, was not prudent,” explained SPAC’s president and CEO.
“A big thrust of our efforts will be towards converting one-time buyers to multiple-performance buyers. Consolidating the audiences into one week will help with that,” Sobol said. “Historically, when we reduce the number of performances, nightly attendance numbers go up. Having fuller houses and the increased energy and excitement which accompanies that helps create more demand for tickets.”
Much as was done in prior years – the National Ballet of China visited the venue in 2015 and the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Bolshoi Ballet staged shows the previous summer - the NYCB dance season will be augmented by additional performances by an international dance company, not yet revealed. Discussions are currently being held with the National Ballet of Cuba for multiple performances in the summer of 2018.
“SPAC certainly remains committed to the residency and our long-term partnership with NYCB,” Sobol said. “Looking ahead to 2018, we will be working to harness that new energy and focus marketing on driving these new audiences to our resident companies. I am hopeful that with this renewed emphasis, we will be able to return to the extended New York City Ballet season in the future.”
SPAC is projected to finish the 2017 fiscal year operationally breaking even. Audience attendance at 2017 classical season performances reached projected levels. The Philadelphia Orchestra is scheduled to return for 12 performances, from Aug. 1 – 18, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will perform at the Spa Little Theatre Aug. 5- 21.
The 2017 Season featured a partnership with Caffè Lena that presented a monthly series of free concerts atop SPAC’s new Charles R. Wood Gazebo stage, as well as a trio of sold-out SPAC at Caffè Lena shows during the spring.
The inaugural “SPAC on Stage” series resulted in three sold-out performances, with nearly one-third of all attendees being first-time SPAC ticket buyers, Sobol said.
A “Live at the Jazz Bar” series was initiated in the Hall of Springs – and brought 300 to 400 people to each of the seven events to hear live jazz following performances by the ballet and orchestra.
SPAC on Stage, Live at the Jazz Bar and the Caffè Lena at SPAC series will all be back for the 2018 season.
In 2017, SPAC’s free education programs reached more than 15,000 young individuals, offered more than 125 classes, presentations, performances, and events, and partnered with more than 70 schools and non-profit organizations across the greater Capital Region.
In the near future, the organization anticipates launching a new user-friendly website, and in December will initiate a pilot program with the Decoda Chamber Ensemble. The group, the first affiliate ensemble of Carnegie Hall, will include a weeklong artist-in-residency for students at the Saratoga Independent School (SIS). A full chamber program will be staged Dec. 15 at the Bethesda Church in downtown Saratoga Springs.
Upcoming SPAC events include a lecture luncheon featuring a discussion titled the “Fascinating Life of Katrina Trask,” at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 26 at SPAC’s Spa Little Theatre; The Sachal Ensemble musicians - known for their extraordinary journey from Lahore to Lincoln Center featured in the “Song of Lahore” film - live and on stage at the Little Theater 7 p.m. Oct. 30, (preceded by two screenings of the film at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. ay Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas a day earlier), and a pair of Nutcracker Teas in the Hall of Springs on Nov. 19 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. For ticket information, go to: spac.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city’s Code Blue emergency shelter will again be sited at the Soul Saving Station Church as a temporary measure to house individuals who would otherwise remain unsheltered during harsh winter conditions.
Code Blue Saratoga, a program of Shelters of Saratoga, was anticipated to have secured a permanent location following the February 2017 gift offered by Ed and Lisa Mitzen to construct a permanent facility on the grounds of 20 Walworth St., where the current SOS shelter is located.
Bonacio Construction and the LA Group subsequently partnered with the Mitzen Family to provide the necessary project planning, which gained unanimous approval from both the city Planning Board and Zoning Board of Approvals. The two-story structure was slated to house about 50 beds.
But in July, the city’s determination of zoning and land use for the project was challenged by a group of nearly two dozen people who initiated a legal action to halt its development. As a result, initial construction timelines have been delayed pending judicial review of the project, and those delays forced those operating the shelter to look elsewhere.
Pastor Arnold Byrd II and The Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street, the host site of last year’s Code Blue season, once again stepped forward to partner with SOS as the temporary host of its 2017-18 Code Blue season. “Being part of this community, we have a duty to assist those in need,” Byrd said, in a statement.
Both city mayoral candidates – Republican Mark Baker and Democrat Meg Kelly – acknowledged Soul Saving Station for stepping forward to provide a space for temporary shelter, in response to an inquiry seeking comment for this article, although no specific information was offered regarding the potential Walworth Street location. The responses, in full, are below.
Officials at SOS – who currently operate two other buildings on the Walworth Street property as well as a twice-a-week “drop-in” center – say having the Code Blue shelter in close proximity to the case-managed shelters maximizes the opportunity to provide a full continuum of services and more easily connect homeless individuals with the support services they need.
"What we foresaw and unfortunately now has happened is that poor leadership, bad planning and a lack of consensus building to address human needs is now locked up in litigation – a disappointing theme of the current administration to a very complex issue.
"I’m thankful that Pastor Byrd and the Soul Saving Station Church have stepped up to welcome those who need shelter into their Congregation.
"As the current proposal is in litigation, I will not be commenting further on future plans. However, as a community, we have a moral obligation and responsibility to show compassion and to be responsive to those already in our city who are in need and homeless, especially children. As Mayor, I would be personally committed to working with the faith, social services and business communities to find a solution to this complex issue that is sensitive to those in need, but is also responsible and respectful to our neighborhoods, schools and residents." – Statement from Mark Baker.
"Saratoga Springs helps its homeless with services from various agencies.
“The Code Blue overnight shelter is truly a community effort that offers meals, supplies, services through volunteer hours from businesses, support groups and individuals. I am grateful that the Soul Saving Station Church will host the shelter again this winter when the temperature drops below 32*F.
“It is my belief that a permanent home for Code Blue can be realized through public-private partnerships and if I am elected as Mayor I will work to make sure this becomes a reality for our community." - Statement from Meg Kelly.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A new eatery, albeit one known to Saratogians for a decade, has targeted the location formerly housing Lillian’s restaurant at 408 Broadway.
Plans call for the two-story development of a new Cantina restaurant at the vacant space bordered by The Washington building to the north and Gardner Lane to the south.
First floor designs show a kitchen, bar and dining area with a staircase that leads to the second floor which features a catering kitchen and approximately 2,700 square feet of “open seating,” indicating an event space. Changes include new lighting and signage, windows installed along Gardner Lane alley, and upgrades to the front exterior façade.
Lillian’s restaurant closed on Jan. 1, 2016 after more than 40 years on Broadway. Two months later owner Ray Morris sold the building to 408 Broadway Realty LLC for $2.45 million. The buyer, reported the Albany Business Review in 2016, was technology company nfrastructure’s CEO Dan Pickett. The current applicant, according to an architectural/ historic review application filed with the city last month, is ACT 408 Broadway LLC, and lists Cantina restaurant owner Jeff Ames as a contact person.
Cantina opened its doors in June 2007 and continues to operate at 430 Broadway.
The opening of a Cantina restaurant in the former Lillian’s location is contingent on the sale of the building at 408 Broadway, according to Ames.
Some additional development applications under consideration by the city’s Land Use boards include:
Caroline Apartments: 24 Caroline Street, construction of new, in-fill, mixed-use building. (Building previously located on site demolished due to fire). Owner: 24 Caroline Street Owners, LLC 7 Sundance Lane, Loudonville, N.Y. (below)
South Broadway mixed-use: 146 South Broadway. To replace former one-story ice cream store and pizza restaurant located on east side of South Broadway. Owner: Performing Asset Strategies, Saratoga Springs. (below)
Station Park: Proposed mixed-use development on west side, between Route 29 (Washington Street) and the train station. Owner: West Avenue Property LLC, c/o Markwood Enterprises Inc., Hollywood, California. (below)
New six-story hotel and spa. Owner: Adelphi Hotel Partners, LLC. Proposed location: the north side of Washington Street between Universal Preservation Hall and the Rip Van Dam site. The northeast corner of the property abuts the Adelphi Hotel (361-365 Broadway), also owned by Adelphi Hotel Partners, LLC – although the new hotel will be operated independently from the Adelphi Hotel.
At the new hotel, the north end of the first floor will provide access to an indoor pool. The pool will be in an attached single-story structure. The second through sixth floors of the new building will include 50 additional guest suites. A one-story connector will provide access to an existing stone house at 23 Washington Street - which formerly served as the rectory for the Bethesda Episcopal Church – and which will be renovated as a guest suite. (below)
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The prevailing practice of kids selling water for a buck-a-bottle to patrons outside the entry gates of the Saratoga Race Course will no longer be permitted, announced city Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, who said he has fielded numerous complaints connected with the issue.
“This is something that was (started) with the best of intentions, but it’s turned into something that has been quite a drain and everybody in our department is fed up with what’s been happening,” Mathiesen said.
The act was never legal to begin with, with no sales tax charted, and no licensing involved. Vendors are typically required to obtain a license to sell their wares in Saratoga Springs. A 1934 ordinance exempts from the city’s licensing ordinance the sale of milk, periodicals and newspapers – the latter of which is a common practice outside the racecourse, and which will be allowed continue.
“A number of years ago, one of our code enforcement officers, Dan Cogan, was trying to be a really good guy and make it possible for kids to be able to sell bottled water at the track as a way for them to make some money,” Mathiesen explained. The suggested guidelines stipulated the seller be 14 years of age or younger and allotted a one cooler maximum, filled with water bottles. “It’s turned into something that has gotten way out of control,” Mathiesen said. “Unless the City Council acts otherwise, this illegal activity is not going to take place in 2018.”
Current Code Enforcement officer Jack Donnelly supplied a letter that cited numerous complaints involving kids obstructing traffic, older folks – not just kids – selling and refilling multiple coolers of water, and families arguing with one another about their “spot,” to the point where the police had to intervene.
“This past season was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Code Enforcement. My department was constantly badgered and disrespected by a few of the water bottle salespersons this season,” reads Donnelly’s report, which adds that the safety of the unattended children could not be guaranteed given the large crowds of people going in and out of the racecourse. “I feel Code Enforcement should not be burdened with having to babysit an illegal endeavor.”
City Police Chief Greg Veitch released a statement which reinforced safety concerns and noted some coolers have been chained to race course fences overnight in an attempt to hold that vendor’s “spot,” and police have witnessed several unattended children selling water for hours at a time from multiple coolers re-stocked multiple times by parents throughout the day.
“While the police have no interest in closing down the lemonade stands of small children looking to make a few dollars – unfortunately, like many things in life, the actions of a few have led to a decision to ban all unlicensed water sales from the area around the racetrack beginning in the 2018 racing season,” Veitch said.
Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco suggested the city explore the possibility of a lottery-type system which would allow some kids, under regulated guidelines, to continue to sell water and subsequently learn some entrepreneurial lessons.
“If you regulate it, you have to accept responsibility for it, collect sales tax and declare income on a regular basis,” Mathiesen said. “There are a lot of hurdles there.” According to Assistant City Attorney Tony Izzo, a similar lottery practice was instituted during the 1990s, but resulted in an unfair flooding by some “entrepreneurs” of the lottery box.
“Even the people inside the track like to come out and buy the water because it’s only a dollar compared to like five dollars inside,” Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said. “I’m not going to sit here and argue about something that’s essentially illegal – but if there’s a way to do it legally, where it’s enforced and safe and kids can be supervised, I think the next Council should probably take a look at it.”