Thursday, December 31, 2009

Once again Saratoga Spa State park officials treat the taxpayers with contempt.

Just like cutting out the month of June for swimming at the Victoria and Peerless Pools and restricting the dog walkers, now it is the skiers being evicted from the park. What is next? Only golfers and butterflys will be welcome at OUR Spa State Park. The public pays the salaries at the NYS Parks but it is operated like a private club.

Ski rules prompt festival’s exodus
Thursday, December 31, 2009
By Lee Coleman (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Photographer: Bruce Squiers

Cross-country ski trails along the golf course at Saratoga Spa State Park are restricted this year to preserve the fairways.Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Sport and Social Club will not hold its winter festival at Saratoga Spa State Park this winter because of new restrictions placed on the cross-country skiing trails in the park.

“I am deeply distressed over the decision to fence in the entire fairways [of the golf course] and make them unavailable to cross-country skiers and snowshoe users,” said Robert Lippman, a local lawyer and president of the five-year-old sport and social club.

“We are not going to hold it [the festival] at the park, and we may not hold it at all,” Lippman said.

He said he continues to receive angry letters and e-mails from some of the 500 members of the sport and social club complaining about the fenced-in cross-country ski trails at the park.

But an official with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation contacted Wednesday said there may be room for compromise and holds out hope that the event could go on.

Alane Ball Chinian, regional director for the parks office’s Saratoga-Capital District Region, said she talked to Lippman about his concerns on Wednesday.

“We are willing to work with the sport and social club,” Chinian said.

Chinian said the state parks office is committed to encouraging winter sports such as cross-country skiing in its parks. She said an example of this is an alliance the state park has formed with the new Saratoga Springs High School Nordic ski team.

“I offered to meet with Bob [Lippman] next week,” Chinian said. Among the topics of discussion would be moving some of the fencing along the ski trails.

In past years, the ski trails went out over the fairways of the park’s 18-hole championship golf course. This winter, however, park officials have placed green fencing along the ski trails, keeping skiers off the fairways.

Park manager Michael Greenslade said this decision was made to protect the fairways from winter damage.

“You feel boxed in,” Lippman said about the new ski trail system. “The feeling of freedom is all gone; it’s quite a shame.”

The sport and social club, which also offers its members outings to the Adirondacks and other locations throughout the year, has held a winter festival at the state park for the past two years, generally in late February or early March.

“I have great affection for the park,” Lippman said. He added that he believes that the park officials also care about the park but have overreacted with the ski trail issue.

He said the restrictions placed on where ski trails can go have resulted in rutted trails “in terrible shape due to overuse that comes from crowding of all skiers and snowshoe/hikers into a narrow channel.”

Lippman maintains that the golf course damage, which is shown in photos posted on signs telling skiers about the new trail system, is generally in low-lying areas that could be individually fenced off.

“In the peak of winter season, when the snow is several inches thick and frozen as hard as concrete, there is simply no argument that skiers are damaging the fairways,” Lippman says in a letter to Thomas Lyons, the resource management director for the state parks office.

Park officials note that the whole southern end of the state park is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing with no restrictions.

“While I have been told that the southern end of the park is not fenced, I could not find these areas and they are, at best, several kilometers from the warming hut,” Lippman said.

“Fencing off the entire golf course is a vast overreaction to the problem and sends a message that the park’s priorities are to protect the interests of a few elite golfers at the expense of the public at large,” Lippman says in his letter to Lyons.

Lippman is urging park officials to compromise and reduce some of the fencing so that ski trails can again be located on the golf course fairways. The greens on the golf course have always been off limits to skiing and snowshoeing.

Lippman had usually worked with park maintenance personnel in the days before the club’s winter festival so that cross-country skiing courses for young people and adults could be created for the event. He said these race locations have been lost because of the new fencing erected around the golf course.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Go Zenyatta, horses rule!

Thoroughbred filly Zenyatta, winner of this years Breeders’ Cup Classic, has come in second in the Associated Press’ Female Athlete of the Year award. She was edged out by tennis star Serena Williams. The results were announced yesterday.

AP member U.S. newspapers cast 158 votes, 66 of which went to Williams, and 18 of which went to Zenyatta. Thoroughbred filly Rachel Alexandra was also in the running, finishing 7th, with 10 votes.

Williams also received the title in 2002. The AP Athlete of the Year award began in 1931. Previous winners include Marion Jones, Bonnie Blair, and Monica Seles. A horse has never won the title.

To subscribe to San Jose Horses Examiner, click on the link above

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have a very Merry Christmas to all who celebrate from your friends at Save the Victoria Pool Society.

skiers being restricted at Spa to cater to golfers, baloney.

Spa State Park restricts cross-country skiers around fairways
Story Discussion By DREW KERR | Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009 4:40 pm | (0) Comments

Font Size: Default font size Larger font size
Drew Kerr DREW KERR - DKERR@POSTSTAR.COM Cross-country skiers assemble near the entrance to a new 3.7-mile winter trail system at the Saratoga Spa State Park on Wednesday. Officials at the park put up fences and re-routed parts of the trail in an effort to keep skiers off of the fairways at the Spa Golf Course. Heavy ski traffic compacted the snow and killed the grass underneath, they said. Skiing and snowshoeing in the rest of the park, where there are a total of 12 miles of trails, remains largely open.

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Cross-county skiers at the Saratoga Spa State Park will have a little less room to roam this winter.

Parks officials said this week that cross-country skiing trails that traditionally ran over the Spa Golf Course were fenced in and re-routed around fairways so that the fragile turf underneath would no longer be damaged by snow compacted by heavy ski traffic.

Skiers and snowshoers have had relative freedom on the golf course in previous seasons, but officials said repairing the damage had become a perennial problem they now want to avoid.

"It kills the grass, just kills it, and there's no way to get it back," said Alane Ball Chinian, a regional director for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation who works out of Saratoga Springs.

Signs detailing a new 3.7-mile winter trail route and showing pictures of damage done to the turf in past winters have been installed to announce the rules change to park patrons.

The decision to keep some parts of the state park off limits comes as officials continue to invest in upgrades at the 9- and 18-hole golf courses within the park.

Bill Richardson, the course's director, said staff are two years into a nearly $2 million overhaul designed specifically to improve turf conditions at the course.

Several trees on the course were cut down this summer and a new irrigation system is also being installed to improve the grass.

"This change goes hand-in-hand with the investment we're making," Richardson said. "The fairways have never been as strong or as healthy as they should be, and that leaves a negative impression on our customers."

Richardson said he hoped skiers who have flocked to the park over the years will understand why the decision was made and be cooperative.

"Change is hard, but we're hoping people will get used to it," he said. "We still think there's plenty of room for the winter activities."

Skiing and snowshoeing still remains largely open in other areas of the park, where there are a total of around 12 miles of trails.

The situation at the state park is unique because it is one of the few locations in the area where skiing occurs in a golf course setting.

Josh Milton, the director of recreation for Glens Falls, said cross-country trails that run through Cole's Woods at Crandall Park don't leave any trace after the snow melts and the ground thaws.

"We don't have any problems at all because all of our trails are in the woods where it's nothing but dirt anyway," he said.

Posted in Local on Friday, December 18, 2009 4:40 pm Updated: 5:11 pm. | Tags:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shenanigans at Saratoga City Hall, Daily Gazette,12/18/09.

By Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Impending layoffs of more than 40 city employees have shortened tempers in City Hall, resulting in an incident Wednesday afternoon in which one city official alleges he was hit in the back of the head with the layoff notices for his department.
Commissioner of Public Works Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said Thursday that City Attorney Joseph Scala flung a large envelope full of letters to 28 soon-to-be terminated employees at him in City Hall, hitting him in the back, neck and head.
The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the top of the stairs outside the mayor’s office as Scirocco walked away from Scala after disagreeing with the city attorney over who should deliver the layoff letters.
Scala said he didn’t mean to hit Scirocco with the papers but rather to throw the envelope at the commissioner’s feet so he would pick it up. Scala apologized immediately afterward.
The affected employees already knew they were going to be laid off, but the letters are the official notification.
Scirocco said Thursday he didn’t feel comfortable handing out the letters because employees had legal questions that he couldn’t answer.
“I felt that this was a human resources issue,” Scirocco said. “He’s the acting human resource person for the city.
“I didn’t know what their rights were as far as the layoffs were concerned,” he said.
Scala said he has been serving “in a limited and interim capacity only” to help with legal issues related to personnel matters since the departure several months ago of Marcy Brydges.
He said there is no legal issue with distributing the letters.
“No one elected me to any office,” he said in a statement. “Commissioner Scirocco was elected to perform the duties of his office and ... tried to pass those duties off on me.”
Scala characterized Scirocco as refusing to talk about the issue when he returned the envelope, “calling over his shoulder as he left the office” and then “running away.”
Scala pursued Scirocco into the hallway to give the envelope back to him.
The two men exchanged words after the incident.
The hallway incident occurred after a round of “hot potato” with the layoff notices:
Scirocco said he delivered them to Scala’s secretary, Nancy Woodworth, at 4:15 p.m., and Woodworth brought them back down shortly afterward with a message from Scala that it was Scirocco’s responsibility.
Then Scirocco brought the envelope back upstairs, thrust it at Scala and left.
On Thursday, Scirocco got the letters back and started giving them to employees, a process that took two hours for four employees so far.
Scala said he understands why the issue is fraught with emotion.
“Many years ago, I was actually involved in a corporate downsizing at this time of year, so I have some idea of what an awful experience this is, especially during the holidays.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Final Master Plan for Saratoga Spa State Park can be downloaded below, no funds of course for the plan.

December 16, 2009

To: Persons interested in Saratoga Spa State Park

State Parks has completed a Final Master Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Saratoga Spa State Park which is located in the City of Saratoga Springs and the Town of Malta in Saratoga County.

Copies of the Final Master Plan/FEIS are available for review at the Park Office, at the offices of the agency contacts and at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. The online version of the Final Master Plan/FEIS is available at the following publically accessible web site:

The consideration period will end on Friday, January 8, 2010.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation continues to be enthusiastic about the future potential of this Park.

Thank you in advance for your time and thoughts. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me at 518-486-2484 or Alane Ball Chinian, Regional Director, Saratoga-Capital District State Park Region, Administration Building, Saratoga Spa State Park, 19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs, NY 12886; 518-584-2535 or by email at


Thomas B. Lyons

Director, Resource Management

NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Agency Building One

Empire State Plaza

Albany, NY 12238

P Please consider the environment before printing this email.

The information contained in this email and any attachments to this email is the property of OPRHP and is privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the individuals or entities named as addressees. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient or the employee, agent or service provider responsible to deliver it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the recipient by telephone.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

skiers banned from spa state park's fairways

Skiers banned from Spa State Park’s fairways
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
By Lee Coleman (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Photographer: Bruce Squiers

Signs, one a trail map and the other a notice, warn skiers, snowshoers and pedestrians to stay off Saratoga Spa State Park’s fairways this winter.Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — For the first time ever, cross-country skiers this winter won’t be able to ski on the fairways of Saratoga Spa State Park’s championship golf course, state park officials said.

Cross-country skiing is still allowed in the park as long as the skiers stay on trails that have been marked with new signs and fencing.

Alane Ball Chinian, regional director for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said golf course turf experts say compacted cross-country ski trails have damaged the turf on the park’s championship course in the past.

Last spring and summer, state park officials investigated ways to improve the turf on the park’s 18-hole championship course and its 9-hole executive course.

Chinian said allowing cross-country ski trails on golf course fairways compacted the snow and eventually damaged the turf under the trails.

Park Manager Michael Greenslade said Monday that the putting greens on the golf courses have always been off-limits to cross-country skiers. He said the fairways have now been added to this list.

Maps of the park’s 3.7 miles of machine-groomed cross-country trails are available on the state parks’ Web site: Green fencing and signs direct the skier to areas where they are permitted to ski, which is generally around the edge of the golf course. “It’s not ugly. It blends in with the park,” Greenslade said about the fencing.

“We’ve just put a big investment in the golf course,” Greenslade said. He said the fairways were overseeded this year. Earlier in the year some old trees were removed to bring more sunlight onto the fairways and greens. Chinian and Greenslade said they have received few complaints, so far, about the new trail restrictions.

When people read the signs and understand the reason why the cross-country ski trails are going around, rather than across, the fairways they seem to accept the change, Greenslade said. He said the southern end of the state park, except where the golf course is located, is fully open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

“If people want to go to the southern end of the park, they can go [ski] anywhere,” Greenslade said.

He said the southern end of the park is also where many people snowshoe.

Park staff like to keep snowshoes off the groomed cross-country ski trails. There are about 6 miles of ungroomed trails in the southern end of the park and other parts of the park. There is no charge to use any of the groomed and ungroomed trails.

Chinian said the Spa State Park has also entered into a new partnership with the Saratoga Springs High School Nordic ski team.

Greenslade said between 40 and 50 high school cross-country skiers will use the groomed trails in the park as their training site.

Park maintenance crews will be grooming the cross-country trails on a regular basis. Greenslade said there must be at least 6 inches of snow on the ground before the trail-grooming equipment can be used.

Park staff also plan to compact a 6-foot to 8-foot corridor near the cross-country ski trails so the skiers can use the skating techniques.

Greenslade said rollers are used to create the ski-skating lanes, which are generally on either side of the cross-country trail itself.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Bruno found guilty on 2 counts of corruption. What do you think?

Home / News / Local
Spa City reaction is mixed as Bruno guilty of corruption
Story Discussion By DREW KERR - | Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 1:00 am | (2) Comments

Font Size: Default font size Larger font size
Mike Groll - Associated Press Former New York Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno, right, leaves federal court in Albany on Monday, with his son, Kenneth, at left. A federal jury found Bruno guilty on two counts of corruption and not guilty on five others after a landmark trial that exposed Albany's practice of influence peddling by lawmakers.

Related Stories
Related: The trial's eight charges
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The sign hovering above the mineral water spring at the Saratoga Spa State Park has long been a source of frustration for Saratoga Springs resident Louise Goldstein.

Now she thinks she might finally be able to do something about it.

That's because former state Senator Joe Bruno - the man memorialized on the park placard - was found guilty on Monday of two federal corruption charges in Albany, the result of a three-week trial in which prosecutors alleged he illegally intertwined state and private business to enrich himself.

With Bruno now out of office, and his reputation seemingly on the ropes, Goldstein said she sees an opening to press her case that the sign should be removed, perhaps replaced with one that honors another elite Saratogian, such as Spencer Trask.

"People were always afraid to speak out against Joe Bruno because they didn't want to lose out on the money that he was able to give out," said Goldstein, reached at home shortly after the verdict was announced. "But I don't think he's got a whole lot of money to be giving out anymore."

Not everyone in the region reacted so coolly to the news that Bruno had been found guilty on two of the eight counts brought against him by federal authorities.

Local officials reacting to the verdict said Bruno's contributions to the region - among them, helping to coax GlobalFoundries to build a $4.2 billion computer chip manufacturing facility in Malta and securing $12 million for an expansion at the Saratoga Springs City Center - would not be diminished by the trial's outcome.

Jasper Nolan, chairman of the Saratoga County Republican Committee, said his support for the man he first met 50 years ago, as each was entering the political fray, was unwavering.

"I know my enemies can call me a lackey, but I've never been on Joe Bruno's payroll," he said. "As an individual, I will do whatever I can, and I'm assuming many of the people who have known and worked with the senator will continue to support him as well."

Nolan said he was "very disappointed" in the trial, which he described as a display of prosecutorial hubris.

The judge's demeanor toward Bruno during the trial and the fact that the case was not postponed until after the U.S. Supreme Court has a chance to take up the legality of the "honest services" law - under which Bruno was prosecuted - were concerning, he said.

The federal statute is based on the belief that an official can "deprive another of the intangible right of honest services." The law's legality will be taken up by Supreme Court Justices on Tuesday, following complaints that it is too vague.

"I firmly believe that Joe is innocent, and I'm not doing so blindly," said Nolan, who has served as the party's chairman in Saratoga County since 1986. "I'm looking only at the facts."

That empathy seemed to cross party lines, too.

Larry Bulman, chairman of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee, said he "took no joy" in seeing the conviction, given all the work Bruno has done to promote economic development in the county.

Many of those developments have benefited South Glens Falls-based Local 773 of the Plumbers & Steamfitters union, of which Bulman is president.

"I certainly don't take any glory in seeing a guy who did so much for this area - even though he was not from my party - end his career under this kind of a cloud," Bulman said.

Bulman was also one of 70 witnesses called to testify in the case.

Prosecutors questioned him about the union's association with Wright Investors Services, a Connecticut firm for which Bruno worked. Bruno allegedly failed to disclose the association.

Bulman said he was vindicated by Bruno's acquittal on the charges related to that interaction and pointed out that Wright is now one of the union's best performing money managers.

"It was nice to go in there and tell the truth and tell your story," said Bulman. "I respected him more when I found he was involved but that he didn't use that to put pressure on us."

Bulman dismissed speculation that his role in the trial might lead him to step down as the county's party chairman later this week.

State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, testified in the case as well, and she also said she felt the verdict showed there was no wrongdoing on her part.

Prosecutors had asked Little why grants given to Local 773, used to fund training programs for union members, were sought through her office despite the fact that the union's headquarters are outside of her district.

The union does, however, have a training center in the northern end of her territory.

Despite some sense of relief, Little said she thought the trial should prompt her and her peers to work harder on state ethics reform in the future and to make legislators' outside business affiliations more clear.

"I think this trial showed that Albany, and really government on all levels, needs to be held more accountable to the public and to be as transparent as possible," said Little, who serves on the regional advisory board of directors for Glens Falls National Bank and so precludes herself from serving on the Senate Banking Committee.

Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, said the case also shows that ethics laws need to be made clearer so there is no confusion about what a lawmaker should be compelled to disclose.

"The rules and the guidelines about what is admissible ought to be very clear," said Jordan, an attorney. "I don't think it's an insurmountable task."

The legislative session, which typically runs through January and June, could also be shortened to lessen the likelihood that legislators could intermingle private and state business, Jordan said. Bruno's work as a consultant and his solicitation of union pension investments provided the basis for many of the charges against him.

Prosecutors said during the trial that he made more than $3 million during the course of his three-decade career, including 13 years as the Senate majority leader, by wielding his power and influence.

Bruno argued that New York lawmakers are entitled to engage in outside business activities because they are part-time legislators. The court, he and his legal defense team argued, was the wrong venue to provoke changes to the system.

Jurors ultimately convicted Bruno on two corruption charges while acquitting him of five other charges. They failed to reach a decision on one count of mail fraud - a charge prosecutors said they may pursue again.

The charges on which Bruno was convicted relate to accepting compensation for consulting services from firms owned by area entrepreneur Jared Abbruzzese.

Bruno later sponsored state grants for another company in which Abbruzzese was an investor.

The other conviction related to the $80,000 sale of a "virtually worthless" horse to Abbruzzese - a transaction prosecutors said served as a "disguised gift" to compensate Bruno for consulting fees.

Abbruzzese sad at the trial that he sought Bruno's support in order to lend his businesses credibility and stature.

The 80-year-old Bruno now faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000, according to federal prosecutors.

Sentencing was scheduled for March 31, but Bruno told reporters after the verdict was revealed in an Albany court room that he was "very, very disappointed," and that the "legal process is going to continue."

His defense team said they will move to dismiss the verdict and will file an appeal if necessary.

"In my mind and in my heart, it's not over till it's over," said Bruno, who was released on his own recognizance after the verdict was delivered.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Andrew Baxter said the verdict reflected the jurors' "unanimous determination" that Bruno "deprived the citizens of New York of his honest and faithful services, contrary to federal law."

Bruno had a "fiduciary relationship with the State of New York and its citizens requiring disinterested decision making and candid disclosure of the potential motivation behind his official acts," Baxter said in the statement.

Prosecutors, Baxter said, "take no pleasure from what the trial revealed about the culture of New York State Senate, under the leadership of Joe Bruno," but will "continue to strive to ensure that public officials who breach their public trust will be held accountable."

A call to state Sen. Roy McDonald, elected to Bruno's seat after Bruno's retirement in 2008, was not immediately returned.

Attempts to reach several other local economic development officials, elected leaders and past Bruno associates were also unsuccessful Monday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Posted in Local on Tuesday, December 8, 2009 1:00 am Updated: 11:15 pm. | Tags:

Monday, December 07, 2009

Bring down the Bruno sign on the spring in Saratoga Spa State Park. What do you think?

Breaking News!! Bruno convicted of 2 felonies.

MICHAEL VIRTANEN -- Associated Press | Posted: Monday, December 7, 2009 4:45 pm | (0) Comments

Font Size: Default font size Larger font size
Mike Groll Former New York Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno, right, leaves federal court in Albany, N.Y., Monday, Dec. 7, 2009 with his son, Kenneth, at left. A federal jury finds Bruno guilty on two counts of corruption and not guilty on five others after a landmark trial that exposed Albany's practice of influence peddling by lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

ALBANY, N.Y. - A jury convicted former New York Senate leader Joseph Bruno of two corruption counts Monday, determining that he illegally traded on his position as one of the state's most powerful politicians to enrich his personal fortune.

Bruno, 80, faced eight fraud charges in a corruption trial that exposed Albany's practice of influence-peddling by lawmakers. The jury convicted Bruno of two counts of mail fraud; acquitted him of two counts of wire fraud and three counts of mail fraud; and could not reach a decision on another mail fraud count.

Prosecutors accused Bruno of denying New Yorkers his honest services while making $3.2 million by using his state influence. He consulted for three businessmen and solicited union pension investments from labor unions on behalf of two companies.

"It goes without saying that I'm very, very disappointed in the verdict I just heard. The legal process is going to continue," said Bruno after the verdict. "In my mind and in my heart, it's not over till it's over."

Bruno was a state senator from Rensselaer County for 32 years, the last 13 as leader of the Senate's Republican majority, until retiring in 2008. As majority leader, he was one of Albany's oft-criticized "three men in a room," a potent trio that includes the governor and Assembly speaker. The three control patronage hiring, the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars and all legislation.

Prosecutors argued that Bruno was required to publicly disclose his business interests and associates, who benefited from positions Bruno took on legislation and grants.

Many of New York's 212 lawmakers, who make at least $79,500 in their part-time jobs, have outside employment. Bruno and his attorneys argued that the federal court was the wrong place to put on trial that entire system, where conflicts of interest are inevitable. They said Bruno did not put his own interests before the public's and that any conflicts or perceived conflicts were insignificant.

The jury heard three weeks of testimony from more than 70 witnesses. Bruno declined to testify, instead standing in front of cameras on the courthouse steps confidently repeating that he had done nothing wrong.

Bruno was released on his own recognizance. U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe declined requests by prosecutors that Bruno turn in his passport.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Pericak declined immediate comment.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 31. Defense lawyer William Dreyer said he would file a motion to dismiss the conviction and, if that fails, would appeal.

Prosecutors have said they want restitution but haven't yet calculated the precise amount, or the potential prison term. Authorities initially said he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Bruno was convicted of mail fraud for checks sent by Communication Technology Advisors and Capital & Technology Advisors to Capital Business Consultants, Bruno's later consulting company. The companies' majority owner was Jared Abbruzzese, a Bruno friend and business associate. Bruno sponsored state grants for Evident Technologies, a company in which Abbruzzese was an investor.

Bruno also was convicted of mail fraud for a $40,000 check sent from Bazaguma LLC, Abbruzzese's thoroughbred business, to Business Consultants, Bruno's consulting firm, for a foal that came from a joint breeding venture by Bruno, Abbruzzese and a third partner.

The jury failed to reach a decision on a count of mail fraud for checks mailed by VyTek Wireless Inc., a company partly owned by Leonard Fassler, addressed to Business Consultants.

Posted in National on Monday, December 7, 2009 4:45 pm Updated: 5:25 pm. | Tags:

Monday, November 23, 2009

news from SPAC, hires former ASO manager, Sharon Walsh.

SPAC hires former ASO general manager

By BRIAN RIVLIN, Special to the Times Union
Last updated: 4:05 p.m., Monday, November 23, 2009

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center has announced that former Albany Symphony Orchestra General Manager Sharon Walsh will become the next executive assistant with the organization. Walsh has more than 20 years of administrative experience in various artistic venues, including 15 years with the Albany Symphony Orchestra and five years with the National Museum of Dance. She will be providing support for SPAC's President and Executive Director Marcia J. White.
While with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Walsh managed the operational aspects of the organization including: budget development and management, music, personnel and educational programing. She retired in February from the ASO and was replaced in late summer by Brian Ritter, who has assumed general managing and developmental responsibilities as ASO's first executive director.

Walsh will join SPAC on Nov. 30, replacing staffer Nancy Meyer who is retiring at the end of the year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Saratogians will miss bobby frankel at the track and beyond.

Missing BobbyComment Email Print Share By Claire Novak
Special to
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- It was quiet this summer on the Oklahoma Oval, and no throngs of horsemen gathered outside Barn 72. This used to be a meeting place, one of the first stops a Turf writer would make in the Saratoga mornings. You could speak to top jockeys before morning works, touch base with ambitious agents hoping to get mounts, even run into other trainers coming by just to shoot the breeze.

No longer. Bobby Frankel was gone.

The assistants were characteristically mum. Ask about a racehorse, they were glad to share information. Ask about their boss and the answer was indefinite -- "We don't know nothing." Through the swirl of racetrack rumors, it became clear that Frankel, 68, had been kept away from the track due to a reoccurring battle with leukemia. His prognosis wasn't good.

He normally spent the season in Saratoga, and early in the summer the writers held out hope that the Hall of Fame trainer would reappear. But this year Frankel didn't leave his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and his presence was sorely missed. From 21 starters at the Spa, his barn sent out only two winners.

He had been fourth in the standings the year before, had taken four of the track's great Grade Is -- the Forego with First Defence, the Go for Wand and Personal Ensign with Ginger Punch, and the Hopeful with Vineyard Haven. But as the 2009 season went on, although his horses continued to train under his supervision via phone, he gradually dispersed them to other trainers.

Even as recently as the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Frankel's presence was missed and remarked upon as his defending champ Ventura, winner of the 2008 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, missed the 2009 edition by 1¼ lengths to Informed Decision. The Frankel barn, always marking up a strong success rate with the ladies, sent out Visit to finish fourth in the Filly & Mare Turf and Proviso, also fourth, in the Ladies' Classic.

Frankel was not there that weekend; he watched the races from his hospital room. And somehow his absence, six months away from the industry, reinforced what the Turf writers knew all along. That sooner or later, the end would come, and everything everyone had been waiting to say would have to be said in remembrance.

* * *

Bobby Frankel, born July 9, 1941, in Brooklyn, N.Y., died early on the morning of Nov. 16, 2009. "Peacefully at his home," the brief report from Blood-Horse read, and at news outlets across the nation, journalists began to pull statistics and clips about his greatness.

Hall of Fame member, inducted in 1995.

Five-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's outstanding trainer.

Thirty training titles to his credit among tracks on both coasts -- in Southern California and New York.

The man who channeled the talents of 10 national champions, including 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper.

Six Breeders' Cup victories to his credit.

A Classic score in the 2003 Belmont Stakes (Empire Maker).

And even in his final year, conditioner of four Grade I winners in six Grade I victories -- Ventura, Champs Elysees, Midships and Stardom Bound. It was a sad day for racing.

But the Turf writers who knew him dug deeper into the reservoirs of memory, paying tribute to a man with a "quick wit, a fiery temper, and a sense of humor … but well-known for his soft spot for his horses, particularly fillies, as well as his pet dogs." (Steve Andersen, The Daily Racing Form)

* * *

Dave Grening first covered New York racing for The Form during Belmont's fall meet of 1998. His first summer at Saratoga, and his first exposure to a daily beat with Frankel, came in 1999. He quickly learned that to deal with the edgy trainer was an art form in itself.

"You had to know what you were coming to ask, you had to be prepared when you went to see Frankel," Grening said. "If you were just asking willy-nilly questions from the top of your head, he'd give you a one- or two-word answer -- 'yes,' 'no,' 'he's OK,' that type -- and you wouldn't have anything to write. You had to come up with a legitimate question, know the horse you wanted to ask about, know about the race the horse was running in, and have an idea of how you thought his horse fit in so then he could school you on whether you were right or wrong."

Although Frankel was based in California, his New York string established itself as a force to be reckoned with, including a 2003 run of 25 Grade I wins that came mostly in the Empire State. Through the victories -- which, for Frankel, seemed to come along more often than defeats -- Grening was there.

"His barn was one of the first stops you had to make, when he had all those good horses," he remembered. "He was all about what he did -- racing, planning, strategizing -- and all about the horses."

"The thing about Bobby that made him such a great trainer was this incredible affection he had for animals," recalled The Blood-Horse's Steve Haskin. "He was so in tune to them, basically his dogs and his horses encompassed his entire life."

Haskin remembers seeing Frankel watch his horses as they left his barn at Saratoga, his faithful Australian shepherd Happy, and later Ginger, at his side. He remembers the affection Frankel had for his runners and the way he looked at them when they went out to the track -- with a sense of pride and respect.

"There was that warmth to him that most people never saw," Haskin said. "And when his horses won, it was like his own child had gone out and done something magnificent. These horses were his children. He was a great guy to be around, he really was."

Equine photographer Barbara Livingston also remembered Frankel with fondness. Initially frightened by his brusque behavior, she eventually came to recognize his softer side.

"After the 2001 Alabama Stakes, a friend of mine once forced me to ask Bobby if he'd pose with his winner, Flute," Livingston recalled. "He seemed eager. He held her close and rubbed her face and smiled toward her -- such love, adoration -- he was smitten by her and, I learned, by all of his horses."

Frankel posed again for Livingston with Sightseek in 2004 and, at Saratoga last year, with Ginger Punch.

"We asked him about her," she said. "He said that while Ginger Punch wasn't the most talented horse he'd ever trained, she tried as hard as any mare could. He spoke of how much he admired her and of her great race on a picture-perfect Saratoga afternoon. He then spoke of politics and of life, and we laughed, we clung on every word. That was a good day."

* * *

During the last few weeks of Belmont's spring/summer meet of 2009, Daily News reporter Jerry Bossert put a call in to Frankel regarding one of his runners. The horse came from off the pace and took it going away, an impressive victory. The talk was all business; they discussed the race and the horse's future. But Bossert couldn't help thinking how much the trainer sounded like he always does, how he didn't sound sick at all. He couldn't help imagining that Frankel could be back outside that Saratoga shedrow sometime soon.

Now, faced with the news they felt coming, those who knew him here will mourn and feel slightly lost. They'll pass Barn 72 next summer and a new trainer, new horses will be there. It just won't feel the same.

As everyone remembers, Frankel was a profoundly private man. As anyone who knew him will tell you, overwhelming sympathy from hundreds is the last thing he would have desired. And perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, the simplest words are the most eloquent, when spoken from the heart. That is how he would like to be remembered.

"I'll always be grateful to him for his kindness toward us and for his love of the game and his horses" Livingston said. "It is impossible to look at Ventura's face, or Flute's, or Sightseek's, and not see Frankel reflected therein."

Claire Novak is an award-winning journalist whose coverage of the thoroughbred industry appears in a variety of outlets, including The Blood-Horse Magazine, The Albany Times Union and She lives in Lexington, Ky.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saratoga Springs Icon turns 100,Saratogian, 11/14/09

The Saratogian (, Serving the Saratoga Springs, N.Y. region


Local icon celebrates 100th birthday
Monday, November 16, 2009

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Sophie Goldstein celebrated her 100th birthday Nov. 6, at an open house celebration at her home on North Street. More than 80 people attended the party, hosted by Sophie’s daughter, Louise Goldstein.

City Historian Mary Ann Fitzgerald presented a proclamation honoring Sophie on behalf of the city of Saratoga Springs. Sophie is a well-known and beloved resident of Saratoga. Since arriving here in 1939, she has been a librarian, researcher and historian.

The Sophie Goldstein collection on the history of the Jewish Community of Saratoga Springs is housed in the Saratoga Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library. More than $1,000 has been received in donations to expand the collection in honor of her 100th birthday.

Friends and relatives came from very far away to celebrate Sophie with new and old friends from Saratoga Springs. Sophie was born in Tula, Russia, and came to Saratoga Springs with her husband, George, a dentist, who died in 1966.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

blog gets a review in the times union


I mentioned my own blog – Fun in Saratoga – in my comments about the Saratoga Seen blog. I try to keep my blog positive and focused from the viewpoint of a resident who loves the track and loves living here. Unfortunately my love for this great city can be adversely affected by…let’s just say often less than adequate performance of certain entities such as NYRA, City Hall, certain newspapers, certain restaurants etc. so I will occasionally express my displeasure about my experiences with them but more often than not I’m simply trying to express my joy about living in such a wonderful place that I hope to never leave.
I want to mention the All Over Albany blog here, simply because those bloggers make an honest effort to include Saratoga Springs in their coverage. They do a good job covering a wide area around the Capital District and I like their fun style. Their nickname for the blogger who writes the I-Saratoga Blog (mentioned below) is “His crankiness”. Funny. Recently, they have been posting information about a Tournament of Pizza challenge in various Capital region cities, including Saratoga Springs.
The Save the Victoria Pool Society blog is full of passion and love for that beautiful pool and the encompassing Saratoga Spa State Park. It can get a little testy on that blog – both from the blogger end as well as the comments. I respect this(these) blogger(s) because the blog is full of passion and there are no punches pulled when it comes to exposing instances of States Park & Rec and/or other entities not respecting the pool and the park.
There are two blogs listed here that have stunningly beautiful nature photography and Saratoga Woods and Waterways is one of them. The blogger travels the natural areas in the county from Congress Park to the Adirondack Park and is passionate about what she finds and takes incredible photography of beautiful works of nature from the tiniest flowers and insects to beautiful lakes and mountains. Her love for what she finds and her talent in photographing it will lift up your day every time. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Golf House at Victoria Pool, circa 1940's.

For those new here a little reprise of recent Victoria Pool history.


Making waves
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "maintenance" as "the upkeep of property or equipment."
Sunday, August 24, 2003


Sadly, when it comes to New York State's handling of Spa State Park, and Victoria Pool in particular, the definition of "neglect" - "to give little attention or respect to; to leave undone or unattended to especially through carelessness" - seems more appropriate.

When Victoria Pool was constructed in 1934, no expense was spared. State-of-the-art equipment was installed and the pool was a benchmark for technology, efficiency and elegance. A battery of four large sand filters re-circulated the pool's 260,000 gallons of water every 5 1/4 hours.

Glistening fieldstone lay around the then-tiled pool, and lion-head fountains poured forth crystal clear water into awaiting basins below. Manicured shrubbery lined the grassy borders, and brilliant flowers edged the concrete runways.

Surrounded by its arched promenades adjoining majestic grand rooms, Victoria Pool rightly earned the title of "most beautiful pool in America." There was no questioning why it became a haven for celebrities like Al Jolson, Jean Harlow, Rosalind Russell, Ethel Barrymore, Gloria Swanson and Fay Wray, just to name a few. In short, it was befitting Saratoga Springs.

But that was then. Today, things look a little different. Luckily, there are still 260,000 gallons of water circulating through four filters. Actually, make that three. According to recently retired plant utilities engineer Jim Gilchrist, one filter stopped working in the late '90s and was never repaired. Sadder still, they are the filters that were installed in 1934.

The lion-head fountains haven't worked in so long that pool goers like Louise Goldstein, who has literally been a regular since she was born in 1940, can't even remember when the fountains stopped spouting.

The masonry surrounding the pool is crumbling to the point where the word "hazard" is bantered about regularly; the slate roof is in need of repair; the limestone steps are beginning to look like do-it-yourself kits; dirt and grime cover the grand columns; random shrubbery is ugly at best and half-alive at worst (but it does help hide the crumbing infrastructure) And, until a couple weeks ago, trees were growing out of the tops of the surrounding building's chimneys. (Note the word 'sapling' was not used in that sentence.)

Add to that a clock face without hands, seriously peeling paint on the light poles and a ceiling in the locker room that might come down and knock someone unconscious at any minute, and it makes you wonder, if that's the stuff we can see, what else is wrong with this place?

Just last week, a 1934 state-of-the-art chlorination pipe burst, forcing both Peerless Pool and Victoria Pool to close.

Earlier this year, Niagara Mohawk red-tagged (shut off due to extreme hazard) the "gas room" at the Victoria Pool complex when alerted by a park plumber. According to Gilchrist, who was in charge of the park's pools for 22 years, park management had known about the leak for months, but failed to act.

"We have a meter that was probably put in 1934, and the piping is four-inch welded pipe which was deteriorating right before your eyes," Gilchrist said. "You could go in and hit it and knock off chunks. It got to a point where you could actually smell the gas every time you walked into the room."

NiMo subsequently shut it down, according to Gilchrist. "Hypothetically, someone could have been killed," he said.

That convinced Goldstein, along with fellow pool lover Andrew Jennings, to form the "Save the Victoria Pool Society," a group dedicated to the pool's preservation.

The organization is trying to persuade state officials to put real money behind the restoration and to put pressure on park management to "do what they're supposed to do - keep our park beautiful," says Goldstein. So far, they've met with representatives from Senator Joe Bruno's office, State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco and local officials.

"We are afraid it is going to be lost forever," Goldstein said. "Victoria Pool is a national treasure. There seems to be a total lack of concern by park management toward the physical plant and cosmetic structure. Nothing has been done for years. I have gone over (to the administration offices) in good faith every year and was told 'We are going to fix it' or 'We are going to do a study.' Being a naive and trusting person, I kept waiting, and things just got worse," she said.

Last summer, park administrators told employees overtime was no longer allowed. That meant any extra time needed for repairs or even regular maintenance was forbidden.

"Due to overtime restrictions, maintenance at Victoria Pool has been virtually nil," Gilchrist said. "In years past, the pool was backwashed weekly. Last year, it went the entire year without a backwash. You should have seen it. It looked like a chocolate milkshake coming out of there. Management made the decision there would be no overtime - for anything."

Such decisions leave many wondering if management (on any level) is capable of operating what the Deputy Commissioner of Upstate Operations and Resource Management Group Dominic J. Jacangelo called "the flagship of the park system" during a recent meeting with the "Save the Victoria Pool Society."

The meeting also included Regional Director Donald Kasprzak, (title) Assistant Regional Director Cheryl Gold and Facilities Manager Connie Hyatt. It should be noted that during the same meeting, Jacangelo said that the pool's showers were "disgusting" and that he wouldn't use them himself.

"I have taken management over there myself and shown them (the damage)," Gilchrist said. "Their response was to 'Go to engineering.' It's like talking to a wall. If you look at the brickwork over the gymnasium where the balconies are, it started spaulding like that five or six years ago. (Spaulding is when water gets behind the brickwork and pushes out the masonry.) That's when it's really getting bad. And that's because no maintenance was done on a leaky roof. They (the management) all know it. We tell them it's a hazard because the public likes to lay on the lawn there and sunbathe - and if one of those stones hits them - (the stones are) pretty heavy."

The continued inaction by the park to repair can also be tied directly to the park system's desire to streamline through attrition. Whereas the park used to have eight full-time plumbers, they now have one. You don't need any fingers to count the qualified trades people for the park. What few people they do have are spread too thin and, according to Gilchrist, those in charge "just don't care."

"You have to point a finger at management," Gilchrist said. "All of the people in maintenance were aware of what was going on. But there is nothing (they) can do. So management is totally at fault. Take those dogwood bushes below the French door areas. I requested two years ago to pull those out of there so we could paint that area up and make it look nice again. They (park management) said we couldn't do that because they didn't have a plan as to what type of bushes they were putting in there. (The dogwood bushes) look like hell and attract the small beesand management told me not to touch them. I had the boys from McGregor down there who would have pulled them right out, but I was denied."

The dogwood bushes are still there. But, aAccording to Wendy Gibson, spokesperson for the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, immediate renovation plans for the pool include "electrical upgrades and the first phase of the rehabilitation of the Victorian Pool masonry, including replacing limestone steps; slate and metal roof repairs; reconstruction and reappointing of brickwork; partial roof replacement and repairs to the ceiling.

"During the coming off-season, we will invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital repairs and in-house major maintenance items at the pool. Pool patrons should see a much improved facility next summer. These capital projects and a number of aesthetic-type projects being completed in-house will be under way immediately after the season (early fall) and will be completed prior to the opening of the pool's 2004 season," Gibson said.

So, who are we to believe - a park service that has avoided maintenance issues for years, or park employees and patrons who have not only witnessed the degradation of the pool and surrounding buildings, but asked repeatedly to have something done?

Officials are vague about how much money is earmarked out of the regional park system fund for Spa State Park. Recent reports suggest the "rehabilitation" plans came in at a bid of "slightly more than $173,000."

When you consider that the much newer Peerless Pool Complex was recently renovated at a cost of approximately $2 million, it makes you wonder what can really be accomplished for that amount.

Granted, Peerless is a much larger complex than Victoria but, by Gibson's own acknowledgment, it differs by "the historic nature of the Victoria complex and the issues related to the surrounding historic structures."

For a $173,000 budget, we should probably get used to the dogwood bushes.

To learn more about the "Save the Victoria Pool Society," e-mail or write to: Save the Victoria Pool Society, P.O. Box 65, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Victory for Victoria Pool society
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Advocates for Victoria Pool are pleased with the nearly $647,000 federal grant coming to Saratoga Spa State Park as part of the state's $1.5 million renovation of historic pool over the next two years.
Thursday, April 22, 2004


Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Rep. John Sweeney announced the grant Tuesday. Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, represents Saratoga County.

Bernadette Castro, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, announced the renovation in December in response to complaints that the pool was not being kept up.

'We're very pleased because we didn't know it was coming, and we didn't know it was part of the $1.5 million,' Louise Goldstein, co-founder of the Save the Victoria Pool Society, said Wednesday.

The $646,801 grant is from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Goldstein said she's seen a lot of construction going on at the pool.

'We see wonderful things,' she said. 'A lot is happening. The workers are there. It's really a construction site now. It's a dream come true, and we feel that time will no longer stand still at the Victoria Pool as it has for a long, long time.'

The first phase of construction, which includes electrical upgrades, masonry, roof repairs and enhanced landscape design, should be complete by June.

Victoria Pool, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened in 1934 as the first heated pool in the country, is scheduled to open for the season in mid-June.

'The Victoria Pool is such an important part of the summer culture here in our city,' Mayor Michael Lenz said. 'We are very much looking forward to seeing this local treasure restored.'

By June 2005, phase two will be completed with the new pool deck area, the landscaping with new plants and more lawn area and the exterior rehabilitation of the buildings, Castro has said.

But just because things are looking bright for the 211-gallon pool and its environs does not mean the state has heard the last of the Save the Victoria Pool Society, Goldstein said.

'We see our mission as the whole park,' she said. 'Like Sleeping Beauty, it's been neglected. The pool will hopefully be the most beautiful in America, but we hope the park will be the most beautiful park.'

URL: stories/11365673.prt

© 2009, a Journal Register Property

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saratoga's music scene to soar!

Work nears end on Skidmore's Zankel Music Center
Published: Saturday, October 17, 2009

No comments posted. | Email to a friend | Print version | ShareThis| RSS Feeds

More Photos
Click thumbnails to enlarge

The music center’s new auditorium is equipped with 600 additional seats. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)

West shows guests one of the center’s practice rooms, which employ heavy doors to seal in sound. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)

By ANDREW J. BERNSTEIN, The Saratogian

Click to enlarge

Mike West, vice president for finance and administration at Skidmore College, shows off the auditorium inside the college’s new Zankel Music Building, scheduled to open for the spring semester. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Although the building will not open until January 2010, students, parents and other members of the tour had a chance to see the inside of Skidmore College’s $32.5 million Zankel Music Center on Friday, as part of the school’s Celebration Weekend.

The building, on which work began in 2007, will be about 90 percent completed when it is ready for students in January, Skidmore College Vice President of Finance and Administration Mike West said to a group of families and students on a tour of the 55,000-square-foot building.

The formal opening and dedication will wait until all the building’s kinks are worked out, and is scheduled for fall 2010, West said.

The new facility, located near the North Broadway entrance to the campus, will replace the aging Filene Hall, and will serve as a home to the campus’s music programs, as well as a venue for community events. The building was funded primarily through a gift from Arthur Zankel, the parent of two Skidmore alumni. Zankel, now deceased, was co-managing partner of High Rise Capital Management, which he founded in 2002.

Previously, he spent 35 years with the investment management firm First Manhattan Co., becoming co-managing partner and senior partner. He is credited with playing a key role in the 1998 merger of Citibank and Travelers Group Insurance Co.

The building was designed as a part of Skidmore’s comprehensive plan in 2001 by Charles Belson, of Philadelphia-based EwingCole Architects. Long before the funds had been secured to build it, the facility won a national award for “unbuilt work.”

Now that the building is preparing for an opening, West said he hoped it would bring Skidmore’s music programs additional prestige.

“To have this building, for this type of school, I think we’ll be in the top 10 percent in this regard,” he said during Friday’s tour.

The building has three wings, each with a separate foundation. To the south is a 600-seat concert hall with a flexible stage to accommodate any kind of musical performance, from a single musician or lecturer to a full orchestra. An additional 100 seats can be added to the stage for some events.

The hall’s most distinctive feature is a soaring glass wall that will give audiences a view of the campus’s South Park. On Friday, fall leaves were clearly visible through the towering wall.

Stretching to the north are faculty offices, practice rooms, classrooms, a recording studio and an acoustically “dead” drum room, as well as circulation spaces.

Beyond the building to the west is a quad formed by the college’s theater and studio arts buildings, as well as the existing music building, which will likely be used for classrooms once Zankel is completed.

The building was constructed with a focus on isolating sounds, leading architects to use 750 tons of structural steel to support thick concrete pillars and walls. Some doors, specifically designed to seal in sound, weigh as much as 600 pounds and rotate down against sound proofing as they close.

Although West, charged primarily with construction, said he was not well versed in plans to make the building available for community events, he said there would be opportunities to give performers coming to SPAC a chance to perform at Skidmore as well.

“If we can offer them another venue, and perhaps have them do some instruction, it could be very good for SPAC as well as us,” he said.


Friday, October 09, 2009

If the Racetrack is to add days maybe the Victoria Pool will open earlier in 2010? Hope springs eternal.

Four more days! NYRA extends Saratoga Race Course meet
Thursday, October 8, 2009

By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Local hotel, restaurant and retail store owners are hailing an extension of the Saratoga Race Course meet as a welcome economic boost.

New York Racing Association announced Wednesday that the 2010 meet will open on Friday, July 23, adding four days to a season that will have seven weekends instead of six.

Equally important, the 40-day meet will see the Grade 1 Coaching Club America Oaks, normally run at Belmont Park, moved to the first weekend at Saratoga.

"It’s like manna from heaven," said Kathleen Smith, owner of the 31-room Saratoga Arms on Broadway. "It can only add to the fun."

The extra Grade 1 race will bring more high-profile owners and horsemen to town even earlier, she said.

Related: Saratoga Race Course will feature 40 cards in 2010

"Wow!" said Holiday Inn General Manager Cindy Hollowood, upon hearing the news. "That’s wonderful. I’m very happy about it. It gives people additional opportunities to come to Saratoga. Overall, it will be very good for our community and business."

The 168-room hotel typically sells out on weekends anyway, but having more people in town should boost the economy, she said.

"It’s four more days of great business and increased demand," Hollowood said. "There can’t be anything wrong with that. It’s good for everybody concerned."

John Baker, owner of Gaffney’s Restaurant, said, "I’m very pleased. I know there are concerns about extending the season, but Saratoga is a jewel and NYRA makes their money here so it makes sense to me. I don’t think it will dilute it. I think it’s a great thing, four more days. Saratoga could definitely use it."

The track’s economic impact is felt throughout the region, especially Broadway shops such as Impressions of Saratoga. "

Related: Extending Saratoga a no-brainer

Labor Day is going to be late again next year (Sept. 6), so it will definitely give us an extra shot in the arm," owner Marianne Barker said. "Any little thing helps."

Horsemen, too, see the longer season as a good move.

"The Belmont meet has been such a slow business situation the last couple weeks of July, I can understand their thinking," Hall of Fame trainer LeRoy Jolley said. "Business will certainly be better than business would have been over that same time period at Belmont."

Trainer Gary Contessa said, "Adding four days to the greatest meet in America is a great thing. I love the meet, I love being up there."

Nationwide, wagering on racing was down 12.5 percent this August. Saratoga fared much better, however, even in difficult economic times as all-sources handle was off just 1.7 percent.

"Going into this year’s Saratoga meet, we predicted that wagering would decline approximately 5 percent from last year. We greatly exceeded those expectations," NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward said. "The expansion to four racing days was a measured decision that reflects the overwhelming demand for racing that we have from horsemen in Saratoga. At a time when many tracks in the country had to cut back on racing days, we not only continued to run six days a week at Saratoga, but did so with more horses entered per race as compared to last year."


© 2009, a Journal Register Property

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Saratoga Spa State Park needs more respect and money from its elected representatives.

N.Y., reinvest in state parks


First published: Thursday, October 1, 2009

Filmmaker Ken Burns' six-part series on the national parks airing this week on PBS is bringing lots of attention to America's "best idea" -- its national park system. However, here in New York, we also have a very special park system.
New York's state parks are its crown jewels -- from the seascape at Montauk to the thunder of Niagara, from the forests of Allegany to the explorer's paradise of the Thousand Islands, from the awe-inspiring canyon at Letchworth to the stately grounds of Saratoga Spa. Our system of state parks is also the nation's oldest, dating to the creation of the Niagara Reservation in 1885.

Consisting of 213 parks and historic sites covering 325,000 acres, our state parks preserve priceless landscapes and ecosystems which together add up to an invaluable collection of natural and recreational resources.

A recent Parks & Trails New York study of the economic impact of the state park system found that state parks annually return to the state more than $5 for every $1 invested -- totaling nearly $2 billion in economic benefits.

Another great thing about our state parks: They're close to home. Unlike Yosemite and Yellowstone, state parks are no more than an hour or two from most New Yorkers. In a typical year, more than 55 million people visit our state parks, seeking to reconnect with nature and enjoy the great outdoors.

Despite their myriad benefits, state parks are in jeopardy. They are suffering from decades of underinvestment. Today, the backlog of unmet maintenance and infrastructure needs -- repairs to crumbling buildings, bridges, roads, swimming pools, and water and electrical systems -- is conservatively estimated at $650 million. Unfortunately, state parks were left out of the federal stimulus equation.

The situation on the operating side is just as dire. Since the spring of 2008, state parks operations have suffered a 20 percent budget cut and a reduction in overall staffing levels of 850. For an agency that was lean to begin with, this has meant fewer programs, less maintenance and reduced hours at 100 parks. Any further cuts will lead to more service and program reductions and, inevitably, the closing of some parks. Because of the expense of bringing a closed park back online, the expectation is that any park that closes will remain closed for three to five years, and maybe permanently.

The annual parks budget is less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the total state budget. Surely, we can do better by our parks.

In these challenging economic times, it seems that maintaining, or even extending, the services provided by our state parks would be a sound investment in our quality of life and the state and local economies. Our state parks should be given the resources needed to provide the level of services New Yorkers need and have come to expect.

So we invite residents of the Capital Region to visit Thacher, Saratoga Spa, Grafton or Moreau Lake State Park this fall. Then use this experience to urge Gov. David Paterson and the Legislature to reinvest in our state parks -- to ensure that our children and grandchildren will have the same opportunity to experience the beauty and benefits of these crown jewels.

Robin Dropkin is executive director of Parks & Trails New York.

Privacy Rights | Terms of Service
All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2009, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, NY

Saturday, September 26, 2009

SPAC report for 2009, another raise for the President?

Saratoga Performing Arts Center to close fifth consecutive year in the black
Published: Saturday, September 26, 2009

1 comment(s) | Email to a friend | Print version | ShareThis| RSS Feeds

The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mirroring a strong local economy, Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Friday reported positive financial results from this summer’s classical and Live Nation events.

SPAC expects to realize a modest profit at year’s end, its fifth year in a row of operating in the black.

New York City Ballet average attendance went up 24 percent per performance, during its shortened two-week season, while Philadelphia Orchestra saw crowds increase 14 percent overall, thanks largely to this year’s better weather.

“We are very happy to be profitable and a little ahead of last year, especially since most of the arts industry is experiencing double-digit decreases,” Chairman William Dake said. “We are finding that Saratoga overall, SPAC, the track are

succeeding when many places are having a lot of problems. People are gravitating to our success. Obama didn’t come here for no reason.”

Dake was among the local business leaders on hand for President Barack Obama’s visit to Hudson Valley Community College on Monday, where he drew attention to the region’s high-tech economic development.

SPAC also reported an 8 percent drop in membership income, mainly from people who sign up for less expensive memberships to get better ticket prices, Dake said.

SPAC unveiled a new $50,000 membership option called Heritage Donor, designed for business leaders, philanthropists and arts patrons, which comes with a range of exclusive benefits. In 2005, several donors committed $500,000 each to SPAC — $100,000 per year for five years — to help the center get back on track financially following a period of declining revenues marked by inner management turmoil. The last installment of those donations expires this year, so SPAC needs to find new private sources, especially with government funding uncertain during difficult economic times.

Ticket income only covers

45 percent of classical programming costs. The rest must be made up by gifts and sponsorships.

“The need for private support is not only ongoing, but in many ways is even more urgent than it was five years ago,” SPAC President Marcia White said. “The pressures of the current economy and market fluctuations have decreased disposable income for people across the economic spectrum. This new environment necessitates that SPAC, like many organizations, transition away from reliance on a few major donors towards a broader base of support.”

SPAC has not reached formal agreements yet with the ballet or orchestra for 2010.

Dake said figures were up, too, for Live Nation rock and pop concerts. There were 23 such events this year compared to 17 last summer. Donna Eichmyer, of Live Nation, said the firm has a policy of not releasing attendance figures. However, two Dave Matthews Band concerts and a Phish concert were sell-outs.

SPAC and Live Nation, which books popular music events, have reached tentative agreement on a new contract, but the deal has yet to be finalized.

Dake attributed SPAC’s 2009 success to increased cooperation, partnership and promotion with other groups and organizations in the area. For example, musician Marvin Hamlisch made an appearance at Saratoga Race Course last month and SPAC’s Wine & Food Festival was held in conjunction with a Ferrari rally.

Likewise, SPAC offered patrons a variety of special promotions from free ice cream to fireworks and an American Girl Night, because valued-minded people look for any extra attraction they can get in today’s economy. “These secondary activities tend to catch their interest,” Dake said.

The following are comments from the readers. In no way do they represent the view of

Sambam wrote on Sep 26, 2009 7:34 AM:

" So Dake wants people to buy $50,000 membership option that he is calling Heritage Donors.
Why not call them what they are Marcia White donors. With her her salary of $245,000 (the last reported figure) not including benefits it will take six Heritage Donors just to feather Marcia nest.


Report Abuse

Login To Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.

*Member ID:
Remember login?
(requires cookies)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Closing Day of Victoria Pool, Labor Day 2009, 293 more Days until Victoria Pool opens in 2010.

unfunded Spa Park Master plan meeting at Gideon, dogs, butterflys and frisbees?

Public sounds off on Saratoga Spa State Park plan
Updated: Thursday, September 17, 2009 10:51 PM EDT

Larger Text
Smaller Text

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Saratoga Spa State Park is many things to many people — home to a venue for the performing arts, a place to strap on some snowshoes or cross-country skis or a retreat where mineral waters calm the soul.

Such diversity is both a blessing and a challenge for administrators at the 2,800-acre park, who must strike a balance between preserving the park’s delicate ecosystem and opening the historic grounds to throngs of visitors each year.

To help, officials recently put together a 144-page master plan — in part built on suggestions culled from the public — that spells out exactly how those dual purposes can be achieved in the coming years.

On Thursday night at the Gideon Putnam Hotel, members of the public had their first chance to vocally sound off on what the document envisioned for the park, built up under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1920s and ’30s as a health spa centered around the mineral springs that pepper the grounds.

Around two dozen people showed at the hotel, located within the park, and most had generally favorable opinions of the ambitions that have been laid out.

That is, except for the dog park.

The plan, introduced about three weeks ago by officials with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, calls for an area off Crescent Street to be fenced in for use by dog owners — a change for those who now normally let their pets roam free.

"If you get 10, 15, 20 dogs into the little area that they’re talking about it’s going to be a mess," said Michael James, who takes his 10-week-old black lab to the park to socialize. "I just don’t get how they think they’re going to fit everyone in there."

The suggestion came about because officials want to protect nearby populations of the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly that live in the area.

But many dog owners said they’d never seen the butterfly there despite years of taking their dogs to the site, and that their animals are under control regardless.

"This whole thing is predicated on some supposition that the butterflies are declining because of the dogs, but I just don’t think that’s true," said Dales Ordes, a Ballston Spa resident who has visited the park with three different dogs over the last 20 years.

Alane Ball Chinian, the regional director for the park’s office, said a compromise on the issue could likely be found before the plan is ultimately adopted.

"It’s not hard. We just have to have the habitat areas remain the habitat areas, that’s all," she said after the hour-long public hearing finished.

Besides the angst over the dog park proposal, Chinian said the plan has otherwise warmly received. Few comments have been received, but Chinian said that was likely an indication that people agreed with most of the ideas put forward.

"No news is good news," she said.

There are around 30 priorities officials would like to see implemented as money becomes available, though officials cautioned some may take time to implement given the state’s current financial constraints.

Among the ideas laid out in the master plan are creating a new visitor’s center and mineral water museum at the Lincoln Bathhouse on South Broadway, where State Parks Police are now headquartered, expanding the trail network, improving the tennis courts and creating a nine-hole Frisbee golf course near the Peerless Pool.

Beyond the capital improvements that have been outlined, officials say the plan is going to serve as a guide map for environmental conservation in the years to come.

Erosion control along Geyser Creek, an expansion of reduced mowing areas, the creation of a bird conservation area and the implementation of an invasive species plan are among the ideas for improving the park’s habitat.

Saratoga Spa State Park was among 11 of the state’s 213 parks chosen last year to create a master plan. This is the first time such a document has been produced for the Saratoga Springs park.

Comments can be submitted in writing through Oct. 9 to be considered before the plan’s final adoption.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Editorial, gazette, 9/6/09-get a person with knowledge of the ARTS to run SPAC, what a good idea!!

Editorial: Another, better, season for Saratoga
Sunday, September 6, 2009

Text Size: A | A | A
When Rachel Alexandra and the other horses get into their trailers and leave Monday, Saratoga will have completed its usual summer trifecta: ballet, orchestra, racing. Though all could have done better, they did well enough considering the economy and the rain. That’s good news for the region, and particularly those who value the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra and worry about their future at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Average attendance at the ballet was up, a marked contrast to previous years when it dropped. But the increase was likely because SPAC management and the ballet, in a move designed to save $800,000, cut the season from three weeks to two. That created, in effect, a shortage of supply and an increase in demand. But at least the people came. If they continue to come with a three-week season, which should be tried again soon (if not next year, the one after that), then the audience for ballet will have stabilized and even grown.

Numbers for the orchestra were similarly encouraging. Attendance was up 14 percent over 2008, but 2008 was a terrible year. A better gauge is to compare 2009 with 2007, and then attendance was still down 2 percent. Not great, but with the 2009 increases, definitely headed in the right direction.

The next question after attendance, and not unrelated to it, is who is going to lead SPAC in the future? This is the last year of a five-year contract for Executive Director Marcia White, a former Joe Bruno aide who had no professional experience in the arts before being given the SPAC position after Herb Chesbrough was forced out in 2004.

We have nothing against White, and can’t say she has done a bad job. But we can say her salary of $245,000 (the last reported figure) is too high, especially for her qualifications. With that kind of money, and probably less (considering the attractiveness and prestige of SPAC), an arts leader with national stature, or the creativity of Proctors’ Philip Morris, might be brought in, which could improve programming, marketing and fund raising. SPAC’s board should at least see what’s out there before committing to White again.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Master Plan update for Saratoga Spa State Park, funding uncertain is the key question??

A new vision for Spa State Park
Dog park, trail upgrades among renovations in plan; funding uncertain

By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Thursday, August 27, 2009

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Saratoga Spa State Park would get a visitors center near its entrance, a "Frisbee golf" course and new trail loops under a master plan released Wednesday by state leaders. A second traditional golf course and botanical garden didn't make the cut.
The 144-page vision for the 2,500-acre park also calls for improvements to the park's bath houses, mineral springs, pools, dog park and more that would cost tens of millions of dollars over the next 10 to 15 years.

The work is necessary because the park's infrastructure is "showing the effects of an extended period of deferred maintenance resulting from insufficient financial resources." But a lot of Wednesday's recommendations still face uncertainty due to costs.

"Some actions will be undertaken in the next one to three years; many others will be implemented further in the future if and when funding becomes available," the plan from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation states. Some projects depend on private support.

Dubbed the "jewel of the state system," the Saratoga park is a year-round recreational and cultural tourist attraction that is filled with theaters, museums and several aging, historic buildings. But there presently is no way for visitors to orient themselves within the park, said Alane Ball Chinian, regional director of state parks in the Saratoga-Capital District Region.

With minor renovations, the lobby of the park's Lincoln Bathhouse on Route 9 would be turned into a mineral waters museum and visitor center under the master plan. Also, the park's administrative offices would be moved into the property's Roosevelt bath house, which requires rehabilitation.

The plan also calls for repairing other structures in the park. Last year, the state held public meetings to solicit ideas on improving the park. While the plan omits a new 18-hole golf course, it includes a 9-hole disc course around the Peerless Pool, which some residents had requested.

The game involves throwing a flying disc, such as a Frisbee, at a target. Improvements also would be made to the Peerless and Victoria pools, but a botanical garden would not be built because it is "not in keeping with the goals of the park."

A new comprehensive trail system with signs is suggested, along with a fenced-in area for dogs in the east part of the park.

Renovations to Saratoga Performing Arts Center would include replacing tent concessions with permanent structures, increasing parking in SPAC lots by removing vegetation and creating a substantial non-smoking area for patrons.

The park also would get new pavilions, softball fields, asphalt tennis courts and more.

Dennis Yusko can be reached at 454-5353 or by e-mail at

Hearing scheduled

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation prepared a draft environmental review of the Saratoga Spa State Park master plan. A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 in the park's Gideon Putnam Hotel. Members of the public have until Oct. 9 to submit comments.

Privacy Rights | Terms of Service
All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2009, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, NY

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

posted at times, saratoga seen blog, 8/26/09-peerless pool should not be closed on 'DARK"tuesdays as we predicted.

The crowd at Victoria Pool, Saratoga Spa State Park, Tuesday afternoon.
I finally made it to Victoria Pool yesterday on a rare day off during the week. I should have planned better. My husband and I arrived around 1 p.m. On our way in, an angry woman was on her way out, disappointed the place was packed and even though she said there was no where to sit, the staff didn’t refund the $8 per person admission charge. There were dozens of children there because the Peerless Pool is closed on Tuesday, but nonetheless there was a sign at the entrance advertising Peerless as “a pool more oriented toward children.” The truth is, the state closed Peerless one day a week for budget reasons and chose Tuesday because it was the day of the week with the lightest crowd. I haven’t seen numbers on that, but it defies common sense in August when the track is closed on Tuesdays.

Inside, the pool deck looked like the SPAC lawn at a popular rock concert. We squeezed our towels onto a step of the concrete stairs and went swimming. Two lifeguards, both stationed on the same side of the pool, made half-hearted attempts to keep children off the mid-pool rope and off each other’s shoulders, but nothing to stop kids from doing cannonballs into the water.

After a brief swim, we ate at the restaurant/bar. The food was mediocre and the waitress was harried but sweet. Two sandwiches, two beers and an ice tea: $33. We did not have to wait for a table and it was nice to sit and watch the people. I cannot begin to imagine what the place is like during the week, even with Peerless open. I wouldn’t go near it.

Let this be a cautionary tale to you. Victoria Pool is beautiful, but if you’re going to go, plan to get in line when it opens at 10 a.m. , or not at all during Travers Week when our tourist load is at its height. The pool is open 7 days a week, 10-6.

Or, get in your car and leave the crowds behind. A friend of mine with two small children swears by the Wayside Beach on Lake Luzerne, where admission is free.

Posted in Around town |
1 Comment »
1. Closing Peerless on Tuesdays is very stupid indeed. Many people who would go to the track bring their kids to Peerless instead!
2. Children under (pick an age, 12? 13?) should not be allowed into Victoria at all. In the old days (for me, 70s, 80s) children at Victoria were a rarity. Everyone seemed to intuit that the place was mostly concrete, and had an adult atmosphere.
3. All Saratogians know that if you want to grab a coveted “chaise,” you had to get there by 10! (do they still have the rattan chaises there?)

Comment by Mr. Sunshine — August 26th, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

Why isn't Live Nation providing more security for SPAC concerts instead of taxpayers footing so much of the bill with Park Police?

Park police patrols pinched
Union says budget cuts to academy classes will hurt state parks security

By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Security at state parks will suffer if state leaders again cut an academy class that trains state park police recruits, officials and union members say.
The number of officers patrolling the state's 178 parks and 35 historic sites declined to 268 from 305 last year after the state canceled the fall 2008 training course during budget talks. While the number of cops for the Capital Region's six state parks remained at 18, the state force is at its lowest since going to all full-time officers in 2003, meaning the region has a smaller pool of officers to draw from for its big park concerts and attractions.

The governor's office says no determination has been made on funding this year's academy class.

Tuesday was a particularly busy day for park police, which drew from its ranks across the state to staff the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the Blink-182 concert in Jones Beach State Park on Long Island. The only way to police big shows is by moving officers from the western part of the state, State Park Police Chief Richard O'Donnell said before Tuesday's shows. There are 65 officers assigned to Long Island, down from 77 last year.

Union officials have protested low staffing and more this summer. But even park police brass say providing security is becoming "challenging," and will get a lot harder without a 2009 academy.

"It's a critical item for us because we have a significant rate of attrition, and it's important to get the numbers back up to where they were," O'Donnell said. "We need the staff to provide the service requested."

Cutting the recruit course saved the state about $500,000, parks officials said. It was the first time the class was canceled since 2000.

Park police respond to emergencies, make arrests and investigate incidents at venues as varied as Grafton Lakes State Park and Niagara Falls. Officers earn about $46,000 after a year on the job.

Park police staffing has declined from about 500 officers in 2003, creating a "crisis" and threatening "the safety of our officers and the general public," Don Levarge, vice president of the park police officers union, said Monday.

He recently picketed work conditions in front of SPAC. He and other union members have protested what they say is dangerously low staffing for rowdy rock concerts in state park venues, and have called for Tasers, the closing of the SPAC beer garden and smaller audiences.

A five-day work schedule instituted by the state last year caused many officers to leave because their former four-day, 10-hour week allowed them time with their families, he said.

State Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, said in an interview that he would fight to maintain this year's academy.

Dennis Yusko can be reached at 454-5353 or by e-mail at

Privacy Rights | Terms of Service
All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2009, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, NY