City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Sachal Ensemble – whose story of traditional musicians trying to survive under the oppression of modern day Pakistan was told in the film “Song of Lahore” - will perform at Proctors Oct. 28 and at SPAC’s Spa Little Theatre on Oct. 30.
The film, “Song of Lahore,” will also be screened at Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas in Saratoga Springs on Sunday, Oct. 29. The film, by two-time Academy Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken, illustrates how their music-making not only brought inspiration to their lives, but literally sustained them in their struggles – and how, finally, they were discovered on YouTube by Wynton Marsalis and brought to the US for performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
In one of the most poignant moments of the film, Nijat Ali, conductor of the Sachal Ensemble says, “we want to show the world that Pakistanis are artists, not terrorists.”
Tickets for the performance at SPAC’s Little Theatre start at $40. To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit: spac.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - During a targeted enforcement operation, deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested “eight unlawfully present adults” on Sept. 11 in Saratoga Springs, according to a statement issued by the federal agency.
The eight men, all citizens of Mexico, are between the ages of 20 and 49, and allegedly face administrative immigration violations. One of the men is suspected of illegally re-entering the United States after having been previously removed, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.
Those arrested will be held in ICE custody at the Albany County Correctional Facility, pending transfer to the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility.
The agency also issued the following statement: “All recent enforcement operations in this region are a part of routine, daily targeted operations conducted by ICE here around the country every day, targeting criminal aliens and other immigration violators. These efforts will continue.”
Deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations reported arresting 26 men in Saratoga Springs in May and June.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Thin and delicate and with a flurry of leaves wrapped around its crown, a baby tree was planted this week at High Rock Park. A symbol of hope and resiliency, its fast-growing branches are expected to sprout a profusion of white five-petal flowers and rise to a height of 30 feet.
“I think it’s an appropriate addition to this site,” said Department of Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, standing in the morning shadow cast by the five twisted and sculpted pieces of World Trade Center steel nearby. “It’s a living memorial of a tragedy. A survivor tree. It shows the resilience of the American people.”
The tree planted in Saratoga Springs was grown from a seedling of a Callery pear tree which stands in Lower Manhattan and became known as the "Survivor Tree" after enduring the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. It was the last living thing recovered from Ground Zero.
Severely damaged with snapped roots and burned and broken branches, the original tree was removed from the rubble of Ground Zero, cared for and nurtured by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and re-planted near the memorial pool that occupies the footprint of the South Tower.
In 2013, a 9/11 Survivor Tree Seedling program was launched to distribute seedlings to communities that site a 9/11 memorial – such as Saratoga Springs - or communities which have endured tragedy in recent years, such as Newtown, Connecticut - in memory of the 26-people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Madrid, Spain, in memory of the 190 people killed in coordinated terror bombings against that city’s commuter train system.
The baby trees are individually numbered and overseen by the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Foundation. The one in High Rock is tagged as number 345 and represents the latest addition in what the DPW calls Saratoga Springs’ 9/11 Memorial Park, in High Rock Park.
The city’s annual remembrance ceremony, hosted by Mayor Joanne Yepsen, will be staged at the park at 8:30 a.m. on Monday. A moment of silence will be observed at 8:46 a.m. to symbolize the time when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The Tempered by Memory sculpture, which stands 25 feet tall, was created by artists Noah Savett and John Van Alstine and is comprised of five metal pieces from the World Trade Center. Four of the pieces came from the North Tower - distinguished by the antenna on its roof - and one steel beam came from the South Tower. Saratoga Arts commissioned the sculpture. Much public debate followed regarding the placement of the sculpture. Locations in front of the Saratoga Springs City Center, and at the Visitors Center were considered. The sculpture was eventually placed at High Rock Park in 2012.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – An iconic Broadway hotel that harkens back to Saratoga Springs’ grand Victorian Era appears finally ready to reopen following an extensive five-year renovation and a project cost of approximately $30 million.
“We feel this is a process and a labor love and we needed to take as long as it needed to take to make it as perfect as possible. That perfection means detailed craftmanship with every cut, every tile and every piece hand-laid and hand-measured,” said Adelphi Hotel COO Michel Ducamp.
“To do anything less would have been a discredit to the city of Saratoga Springs and to the building – which deserves to be renovated completely and thoroughly with no-holds barred and no corners cut,” said Ducamp, standing on Broadway in front of the hotel in the gleam of an afternoon sun that illuminated the copper face of the hotel’s street-side bar named after Saratoga legend John Morrissey. The one-time world heavyweight champion, congressman, and founder of Saratoga’s thoroughbred race course died of pneumonia at the hotel a year after it opened, and was laid in state in the second-floor parlor that opened onto the piazza.
The Adelphi first opened in 1877. More recently, it was purchased for $4.5 million by RBC Hotels - a hotel management company owned by Richbell Capital LLC- and closed following the summer 2012 season for what was anticipated to be an 18-month renovation. As construction got underway, however, it became apparent that extensive reconstruction would be required.
“With a building its age, one never knows what one may find,” Ducamp said. Richbell Capital and Blue Skies Forever subsequently partnered to create a new luxury hospitality company called The Adelphi Hospitality Group, and additional properties located on Washington Street just west of Broadway and adjacent to the Adelphi were purchased. A plan presented to the city this week calls for an additional six-story hotel and spa with an indoor swimming pool and 50 rooms to be developed adjacent to the Adelphi on the Washington Street side, near UPH. It will be connected in name to the Adelphi as well as physically connected as part of the expanding complex.
“Were trying to create, especially on the room side, a luxury hotel that is so special and different that we’ll be attracting people from New York, from Boston, from Montreal. We’re not competing with our sister hotels in town,” Ducamp said. “We’re bringing more people to Saratoga Springs who will not only stay in our hotel and dine with us, but will go out to the street. They’ll want to clothes shopping, they’ll want to go to SPAC, to the races, and to the shops.“
Inside there is an “old/new” conception that boasts custom designed lobby chandeliers, entryway glass, and restored antiques refurbished in modern fabrics.
“Unfortunately, we pretty much had to gut the building because it was pretty dilapidated. We couldn’t keep very much of it, but we kept what we could. We wanted to keep the Victorian grandeur and at the same time make it appropriate for the 21st century,” Ducamp said. “We did keep the staircase. That is all original and it is spectacular. It was made of American walnut from 1877 from the forest outside of Saratoga Springs.”
The hotel stands four stories tall, the uppermost three floors with 11 rooms each, of which four are suites. There are 32 rooms in all - the variance due to the equivalent of one room being converted into a hotel guest library.
The rooms are equipped with individual thermostats which heat the bathroom floors, the towel bar, the toilet seat and the mirror. Almost all have free-standing European style deep-soaking tubs and a separate shower in the porcelainized Italian stone and marble bathroom. An integrated room automation system operates independent lighting fixtures, shades and drapes via a control panel.
Room sizes vary from about 375 to 550 square feet and costs range from the high $200s or $300s in the winter and $800 to $1,200 in the summer. Suite rates are different and are sized up to 685 square feet and feature a large veranda overlooking Broadway.
Last year, the company opened Salt & Char - a modern luxury steakhouse. Inside the hotel, the owners will open Morrissey’s – which holds additional seasonal seating for about 40 people outdoors on Broadway - and the Blue Hen fine dining restaurant, which sits towards the back end of the lobby. Morrissey’s, like Salt & Char will offer lunch and dinner and the Blue Hen will offer breakfast and dinner. Outdoor seasonal seating aside, all will be open year-round. “The food will be exceptionally good, fairly-priced and unique,” Ducamp said.
The main floor will also feature a large ballroom, the front of which will serve as a social gathering place. At the rear will be the re-created the Adelphi Garden, which is anticipated to open next spring.
“It’s for everybody and very relaxed. People can walk in off the street sit down and chat,” Ducamp explained. “If you’d like to have a cup of coffee in the morning or a cocktail in the afternoon – that’s nice. If you’d like to have a business meeting, that’s great too. It’s purely a gathering place for everybody. We want to make sure people in Saratoga Springs feel welcome. It’s a piece of the city, it’s a part of our culture and we want to make sure that people feel welcome and at home.”
Food and beverage pricing will be reasonable, Ducamp said. “This is a building that goes beyond ownership of a physical asset. This is a cultural asset a cultural icon for the city and it would be shameful if we did not make it completely accessible to local residents.”
There are hand-carved mahogany and walnut mirrors in the hallway dating to the original hotel in the 1870s, custom-designed wall patterns exclusive to the hotel, an original raw steel support pole that travels along a north-south path through the floors, and a massive mahogany-and-walnut staircase that was painstakingly disassembled and completely restored.
“All of the wall coverings, all of the light fixtures, all fabrics are custom-designed, or are original. It’s not something that you can find in any store.”
There is a focus on sustainability both in the guest rooms and in the food and beverage detail, where non-GMO products are provided nearly entirely by local farmers, and everything is completely composted.
The exterior colors of the hotel very closely match the colors of the Adelphi in 1877, before the 20th century color palette moved toward darker colors and the rooms incorporate vintage glassware, hatboxes and magazines – the latter dating to at least the 1920s, as well as Italian linens and lighted makeup mirrors. The beds incorporate custom-designed linens made in Italy, a unique artistic pattern that matches the wall coverings. and a 1-1/2-inch-thick mattress topper made of a product comprised of the processed bark of a eucalyptus tree that was grown in a biodynamic and sustainable forest in Austria.
“It’s absolutely divine and there’s nothing like it. Once you get in, you’ll never want to get out,” Ducamp said. “In three weeks, we hope to open. It’s getting very, very close.”
This week, the New York Department of Health released information regarding their surveillance efforts in Saratoga County for ticks testing positive for tick-borne illnesses. Of the 2,700 ticks collected for testing in 2017, 22 ticks from five locations, tested positive for Powassan, including ticks collected at Saratoga National Historical Park.
The Powassan virus is a rare viral disease that can cause symptoms ranging from mild flu-like symptoms to life threatening encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The disease remains extremely rare in New York State with only 26 confirmed cases since 2000. Only three confirmed human cases of Powassan virus have been identified in New York State this year, all located in Saratoga County.
The Department of Health plans to continue their surveillance and testing in the fall with the collection of adult ticks from many of the same sites, as well as collection and testing of blood from hunter-killed deer for previous exposure to Powassan. Additional education programs for hunters, school districts, and libraries will be developed through various state offices.
The Center for Disease Control advises people to use insect repellent when going outside. Walking in the center of trails and avoiding high grass and brush at trail edges will also reduce your chances of encountering ticks. Check for ticks daily on yourself, your children, and your pets and shower soon after being outdoors. If you do find an attached tick, carefully remove with fine point tweezers and watch for symptoms. Consult with your doctor if any symptoms arise.
For more information about tick safety and tick-borne illnesses, see the CDC’s website on ticks: www.cdc.gov/ticks. -
Public Hearing Sept. 5 to Amend Street Performer Ordinance
A Public Hearing will take place 6:55 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at City Hall - just prior to the council’s next scheduled meeting - to amend the Street Performer ordinance, which regulates street performers and was originally adopted in 2015. (That ordinance may be viewed here: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/documentcenter/view/2595 ). Assistant City Attorney Tony Izzo is currently crafting the amendment.
The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. during which the council may take action regarding the acquisition of property by the use of eminent domain as it relates to the proposed Geyser Road Trail.
City Approves 2018-2023 Capital Budget
The Council voted 4 -1 to approve the city’s six-year Capital Budget Program, which counts 26 projects at a cost of $11 million – nearly all of it to be bonded - for the year 2018.
Madigan voted against the measure, consistent with a r stance she has taken in previous years, explaining that she feels the Commissioner of Finance needs to have flexibility regarding the budget as the city operates under a 2 percent tax cap, and that the budget has an impact on the property tax rate.
The costliest project, ranked #14 on the 2018 priority list, recommends $3 million be set aside for the design and construction of an East Side Fire and EMS facility. The public safety project has long been on the city’s radar as a supplement to its two other existing stations, which are located near downtown Saratoga Springs, and on the city’s west side. Land has not yet been acquired for the land necessary for the project. “To require to bond for this is premature,” Madigan noted.
The two other seven-digit cost proposals for 2018 are capital improvements of the Kaydeross Avenue West Pipe - a $1.2 million DPW request - and the addition of a radio tower in the city, which ranks number 1 overall on the project list and calls for $1.3 million to be bonded.
The water pipe upgrade indicates that the water mains on Route 9 and Nelson Avenue Extension are undergoing “severe external corrosion,” according to the Department of Public Works, which proposes a four-year program be implemented to replace the main and “avoid catastrophic failure.” The city has approximately 150 miles of municipal water mains – about 20 miles of which in the core of the city is comprised of cast iron pipe more than a century old and is in need of replacement, according to the DPW.
The radio tower project signifies efforts by the Public Safety Department and the Safety Committee to correct significant communication deficiencies in the city's emergency communications systems and existing “life safety issues” that currently exist with community emergency communications, according to the DPS. The roof of the Stonequist Apartments complex is under consideration as a potential location to site the tower.
Spa Solar Park Gets its Day in the Sun
Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan announced the 2.5-megawatt solar array, The Spa Solar Park, will be fully energized this week. A public ribbon-cutting ceremony and community celebration is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Sept. 12 – time to be determined – at the site on the city’s landfill. “This has been a long time coming,” Madigan told the council this week.
The City received support for the Spa Solar Park development from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) through the Governor’s NY-Sun Competitive PV Program. The landfill is city-owned property with otherwise limited use. The project is environmentally sound. The solar panels will be sufficient to match approximately 40 percent of the city’s energy requirements.
City Receives $2.3 Million VLT Aid
In her submission to the council of the city’s Second Quarter Financial Report of 2017, Madigan noted VLT aid was received June 30 and represents full payment for the year. The $2,325,592 received in 2017 was equal to the amount received the previous year.
Commissioner Chris Mathiesen announced the Public Safety Department will host a Public Safety Forum at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 in the City Council Room at City Hall.
Friday, Aug. 25 – matchbox twenty, Counting Crows at SPAC.
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Luke Bryan at SPAC.
Aug. 27 - Caffè Lena at SPAC: Let's Be Leonard (1 p.m.); Sweet Megg & The Wayfarers (2:30 p.m.); Soul Inscribed (4 p.m.) – Gazebo Stage at SPAC, free.
Aug. 30 – Sting at SPAC.
Sept. 2 – Zac Brown Band at SPAC.
Sept. 12 – Boz Scaggs at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Sept. 15 to 17 – Fresh Grass at Mass Moca featuring Bill Frisell, the Suitcase Junket, The Mammals and others.
Sept. 16 – Irish 2000 Festival at Saratoga County Fairgrounds featuring Hair of the Dog, The McKrells, and others.
Sept. 19 - The Rochmon Record Club presents the classic 1976 album “Hotel California” by the Eagles at Caffe’ Lena.
Sept. 23 – Roger Waters at the Times Union Center, Albany.
Oct. 8 – Psychedelic Furs at Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park.
Oct. 8 – Stephen Stills, Judy Collins at The Egg, Albany.
Oct. 13 – Lisa Fischer at The Egg, Albany.
Oct. 28 – Loudon Wainwright III at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Oct. 29 – Renaissance at The Egg, Albany.
Nov. 4 – Cowboy Junkies at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Nov. 8-9 – King Crimson at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Nov. 14 – The Beach Boys at Proctors, Schenectady.
Nov. 17 – David Crosby at The Egg, Albany.
Nov. 18 – Ashley Bathgate at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Dec. 1 – Richard Thompson at the Swyer Theatre, Albany.
Dec. 27 – Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Times Union Center, Albany.
*Note: not all shows listed have officially been confirmed.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The skies were clear and the temperature a comfortable 60 degrees last Saturday when Travelin’ Soldier suffered an injury training at Saratoga. Returning to the barn lame, X-rays were ordered and revealed a fractured leg. The horse was euthanized and marked the 17th equine death at the Spa this summer – the largest number in any one summer meet dating back to when records started being kept on such things in 2009, according to datany.com, which publishes reports regarding equine accidents and deaths.
There doesn’t appear to be any definitive pattern, weather-related or otherwise, to the 17 equine deaths at Saratoga this year, which are pretty evenly distributed among horses in the act of training and those racing.
The highest previous death total during the summer meet at Saratoga was 16 – which occurred in both 2016 and in 2012, followed by 15 horse deaths in 2015. The lowest was nine, which occurred in 2011. The nine-year total at Saratoga Race Course, to date, numbers 121 equine fatalities. An additional 29 have occurred during that same period at the harness track.
Quick to respond this week were the New York State Gaming Commission, The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) with an announcement that additional equine health and safety measures will be immediately implemented at Saratoga Race Course.
The actions will include increased regulatory veterinary presence at the track during training hours, state-of-the-art monitoring of horses, and comprehensive trainer education intended to share scientific findings of the types of injuries that occur at state Thoroughbred racetracks. Risk and protective factors that can help prevent injury will also be part of that trainer education.
“Our goal is to reduce the number of racehorse deaths and injuries to zero, and we have taken many productive steps toward reaching that goal over the past four years,” said New York State Equine Medical Director Scott E. Palmer, in a statement. “The Commission, as it does with every equine fatality on the grounds of a track in New York State, is actively investigating the circumstances of each incident at Saratoga Race Course.”
Track surfaces, individual horse risk factors, exercise history and past performances will be closely scrutinized, Palmer added. “Pending the findings of this investigation, we will do whatever is necessary to prevent such injuries in the future.”
Over the past four years, NYRA has implemented reforms and made significant investments to improve track surface conditions and upgrade equipment, provide vets with more authority to monitor thoroughbred health, and establish committees to oversee safety measures, said NYRA Safety Steward Hugh Gallagher.
The number of catastrophic injuries during races occurring on NYRA tracks has been reduced by nearly 50 percent since 2013 as a result of those reforms, Gallagher said. “We remain focused on continuously improving the safety of our racing operations. To that end, we are exploring the possibility of opening the main track for training to horsemen earlier in the year.”
It was also noted that NYRA’s catastrophic injury rate vs. the Jockey Club National Average – which was above the industry average in 2012 - has since dropped, and remains below the industry average, according to the latest reports in 2016.
The Commission and its partners will discuss ongoing aftercare initiatives 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at Empire State College, 111 West Ave. The event is open to the public and will provide horse trainers, owners, connections and the public the opportunity to learn about the importance of retiring a horse before it suffers an injury. The many options for retirement and aftercare in New York will also be discussed.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Architectural renderings were released this week depicting the proposed exterior design of Universal Preservation Hall. Renovation work is expected to get underway at the historic Washington Street building in October, with a grand re-opening anticipated during the first quarter of 2019.
Constructed in 1871, the Victorian Gothic structure has served as a staging ground for everyone from Teddy Roosevelt and Frederick Douglass to Bruce Springsteen E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg.
A century after its construction, the building began to fall into disrepair and in 2000, the city condemned the building. Members of the community rallied to save the structure from demolition. Today, the nonprofit group UPH owns the building and in 2015 got an added boost when it became an affiliate of Proctors. The Schenectady based organization will lend their expertise in securing programming and coordinating ticket sales and marketing,
When it reopens, UPH will provide an acoustically perfect theater-in-the-round experience with a capacity of 700-plus people, said UPH Campaign Director Teddy Foster. The building will feature new heating and air conditioning systems, a kitchen, an elevator and new light and sound fixtures with acoustic treatments.
New entry doors will be set on the building’s Broadway facing-side to provide theater-goers close proximity to a multi-level public parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue and the main room’s flexibility will allow for the relocation of seats as events dictate.
Once completed, it is anticipated UPH will stage approximately 200 events annually, and fill the city’s void of a year-round, mid-sized venue that has been absent since Saratoga’s 5,000-seat Convention Hall went up in a fireball in 1966.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Following a year of preparation and three days of workshops, seminars, networking sessions and informational panels, Dan Tordjman was appreciating some well-deserved down-time on Wednesday, a day after wrapping up the first-ever Equestricon, which was staged Aug. 13-15 at the City Center.
The convention, billed as “the largest program schedule assembled for any fan event in the history of horse racing,” pretty much matched up with organizers’ expectations, explained the event’s co-founder.
“What we were trying to prove was that there was an appetite for this kind event - a fan base in horse racing interested in learning more about the game, and an industry interested in meeting face-to-face with potential customers,” Tordjman said. “I think we were able to do that.“
The ebb and flow of visitors during event days on Sunday and Monday - as people made their way between the racecourse and the City Center - was augmented by the convention’s largest gathering on Tuesday, when the track goes dark, he said.
For Tordjman, Tuesday’s highlight was the fan-friendly experience which posed attendees for photographs alongside the Kentucky Derby trophy and served as a fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). “One of the most indelible moments was when someone from PDJF came on and could barely get one word out before they broke down crying and thanking us for doing it,” he enthused.
The crowd of approximately 1,000 people registered to attend in advance of the convention were supplemented by a free-flow of visitors attending independent events, many of whom had come from out-of-state and were visiting Saratoga for the first time.
“I think Saratoga has been on a bucket list for a lot of people and with Equestricon happening this year, they figured this was the time to make the trip,” said Tordjman, who credited the city for its hospitality – “they rolled out the red carpet for us” - and added that “everything is on the table” regarding Equestricon’s future staging ground. A formal announcement is expected “in a month or two,” although he anticipated a probable return to Saratoga Springs in 2018.
Monday was punctuated by a keynote address regarding horse aftercare by longtime journalist Soledad O’Brien, who has worked as a correspondent for Al Jazeera America, produced documentaries for CNN, and runs the Starfish Media Group production company.
“One of the things I see analogous between the stories I report and the thoroughbreds I had the opportunity to adopt over the years is that in every story people want to work. They want good valued work, (and) horses, like people, like to work. You like to feel that you’ve accomplished something. They like to be run and exercised and walked – and get treats, too,” said O’Brien during a morning presser attended by more than a dozen credentialed photojournalists, print journalists, TV news camera operators and one millennial who aimed a smart phone at the speaker and announced, “I’m Facebooking-it live,” to anyone who cared to listen. Outside in the main hall dozens of Equestricon staffers wore black T-shirts emblazoned with yellow stencils that read: Ask Me Anything.
“If you had told me 10 years ago that I would have three off-the-track racehorses, I would have said, ‘You have lost your mind,’” O’Brien explained. “I thought: racehorses are hot, somewhat crazy, and you would certainly never put a child on a racehorse.” That assumption was not accurate, she learned.
“My husband and I got into getting horses from aftercare about 10 years ago and we were completely and utterly surprised at how successful it’s been. We went to the aftercare facility and every single stereotype we thought we knew about retired racehorses coming off the track wasn’t true,” O’Brien said. “Over the years we have had three retired racehorses, and a bunch of other horses - different breeds - and there’s no difference between them. They do the same things our other horses do.”
O’Brien, who calls herself “a mediocre-to-average rider who just loves horses,” said the racehorses have smoothly transitioned into great new jobs, retrained as jumpers and specified one in particular, whose name is “Joey” as being her young daughter’s favorite.
“We got him off the track and a couple of days later we were riding him. He’s got the sweetest disposition. At the end of the day, those stereotypes were certainly not true and I think that was my biggest learning curve, recognizing the opportunity with these horses that needed new homes and new jobs.”