Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reason for massacre of trees in Park revealed!

Publication:Schenectady Daily Gazette;
Date:Mar 25, 2009;
Cutting preps for tee time
Firm removes vegetation on park golf course
BY LEE COLEMAN Gazette Reporter More than $100,000 in tree and vegetation removal work has been done this winter on the championship 18-hole golf course at the Saratoga Spa State Park. But the money isn’t coming from state coffers. Tree removals on the 10th, 15th, 16th and 17th fairways on the state park course were done in February and earlier this month to open up heavily shaded areas and improve turf quality, according to Alane Ball Chinian, administrator of the Saratoga-Capital District Region of the state Offi ce of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Chinian stressed that the money is not coming from the state parks office but from Professional Golf Services Inc. of Saratoga Springs. The principal of this firm is golf professional William Richardson of Loudonville, who was awarded a 20-year contract to operate the two Saratoga Spa State Park golf courses in 2002. The tree removal work is the first phase of a multi-year, $3 million-plus investment Professional Golf Services is making on the well-regarded state park courses. “The trees had gotten too big,” Chinian said about what were mainly pine trees. She said the state parks offi ce had a natural resource manager check the trees earmarked to be removed to make sure that they did not have any special importance to the state park. The goal of the project is to increase sunlight and air movement in a number of densely-vegetated areas of the course. A statement about the project says that the tree and vegetation removals will “improve turf quality, playing conditions and the visual appearance of the course.” Professional Golf Services Inc. hired Scott Lawn Yard of Sanborn to complete the $100,600 project. The contract includes complete restoration of the areas where the trees and other vegetation were removed. This work will be done in April and May. “Vegetation removal took place in late February and March in an effort to limit the amount of disturbance to the frozen ground and cause the least disruption to the normal use of the park,” according to a joint statement from Professional Golf Services Inc. and the state parks office. Future projects being planned by Professional Golf Services include upgrades to the course irrigation systems, bunker restoration, drainage work and cart path work. “We hope and expect that the next phase of investment will began this fall,” said Richardson, president of Professional Golf Services. Richardson said that the tree and vegetation removal project follows the recommendations of a March 2006 report from the United States Golf Association after representatives of the USGA visited the state park to assess the course and how it could be improved. In March 2002, Professional Golf Services Inc. and the state Offi ce of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation signed a 20-year agreement that has Richardson’s company running the park’s two golf courses — the 18-hole championship course and the nine-hole executive course — as well as operating the golf pro shop and associated concessions. In return, Richardson’s firm is investing more than $3 million in course improvements and pays the state a percentage of gross receipts from the golf courses. “This course is unique, affordable and a historic part of the Spa experience,” Chinian said. “We are grateful that our private partner can continue to invest in the maintenance of this great golf course.” ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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The piper comes calling for our great parks system

By FRED LEBRUN Click byline for more stories by writer. First published: Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Of all the recreational services and venues the state provides, the one that touches more of us than any other is our terrific park system.
Last year, our 178 state parks and 35 historic sites had 55.7 million visitors. Most of those visitors were New Yorkers loving New York.
And according to a study by the University of Massachusetts commissioned by advocacy group Parks and Trails New York, all that traffic generated $1.94 billion spent right here at home, mostly going to private businesses close to the parks, and supported 20,000 jobs. For every dollar we spent on the park system, we got $5.50 back. That's a pretty good return.
Just think of the quality-of-life assets we have locally in Thacher up in the Helderbergs, Grafton on the Rensselaer plateau and, of course, the queen of them all, Saratoga Spa.
And also think the unthinkable, of what it would be like without them, because our state parks are in trouble.
Not imperiled, or about to close. But troubled, badly in need of continued capital improvements to stave off disaster over time. Some parks have outdated and inadequate electrical systems, or out-of-compliance septic and sewer systems, or approach roads that are crumbling, or landfills that need closing, or unsafe dams that need replacing. The list of needs is as long as the state.
One prime example of how badly out of whack the parks system is relates to the extremely popular Harriman State Park in Rockland and Orange counties. This park is one of the great breaths of fresh air for millions of downstaters and serves as a summer camp experience for many New York City kids.
Drinking water for the group camps at Harriman has to be brought in by tank car because there isn't enough money to fix and upgrade the existing piping system.
During the 12 years of the Pataki administration, great gains were made in acquiring new parks, but funding for capital improvements and maintenance costs did not keep up with acquisitions. Now the piper is at the door and he's tapping his foot.
When Carol Ash became commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation with the arrival of the Spitzer administration, an astounding $650 million to $750 million in needed capital repairs were identified. Parks got a good start last year with an infusion of $132 million to begin addressing the worst of it, notes Timothy Sweeney of Parks and Trails. More than $75 million of that came courtesy of state-issued bonds approved by the Legislature, an appropriate use of long term financing.
Which brings us to the uncomfortable place we're at this year.
Governor Paterson's proposed budget included $19 million each for Parks and the Department of Environmental Conservation for capital improvements, with the funds coming from the Environmental Protection Fund. But the Legislature is disinclined to use the embattled EPF for this purpose, having other uses for those revenues. There's a battle royale, in fact, shaping up over attempts to extract all manner of stewardship funds from the EPF. But that's another story.
Still, this leaves critically needed funding for capital improvements in our park system in limbo.
Not that the Legislature is about to leave our beloved parks system high and dry, but the alarm needs to be sounded anyway. A figure being buzzed by some in the Legislature is $40 million in state bonding for parks in the budget.
Bonding is the way to go, more reliable than depending on plummeting state revenues.
Commissioner Ash says she has $100 million in shovel-ready projects, so the $40 million will be put to immediate use.
You'd think the $26.1 billion federal stimulus package for New York would be just the perfect bank for parks rehab money.
But Ash says there isn't a dime for state parks in the stimulus package.
Capital improvements are one thing, the operating budget another entirely. There isn't enough money there, either, but that's the economic reality of the moment. We got a taste of where that's going with the partial closure of the Schodack park for the winter and the use of volunteers to keep it limping along.
"We are not going to close any park completely," says the commissioner.
Instead, the length of upcoming season may be shortened, and so may operating hours. And yes, some fees are bound to go up. Not the entrance fees, but camping permits will rise from $13 to $15, for example.
"We trying to limit the impact as much as we can. We realize the huge amount of happiness our parks bring," says Ash.
Right she is, and this is no time to pull the plug on that.
Fred LeBrun can be reached at 454-5453 or by e-mail at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

State planning layoffs of 8,900 jobs, times union,3/24/09

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State planning layoffs: 8,900 jobs to be trimmed from payroll
Letter cites failure to secure givebacks from unions

By RICK KARLIN, Capitol bureau Click byline for more stories by writer. Last updated: 4:56 p.m., Tuesday, March 24, 2009
ALBANY — Citing a $16.2 billion budget deficit that appears to be growing larger by the day, Gov. David Paterson this afternoon said his administration will eliminate 8,900 jobs, starting this summer.
"This is not a decision that has been reached lightly," said a letter that went out minutes ago from Paterson's state operations director Dennis Whalen.
"However, given the fact that savings through labor concessions were not achieved, Governor Paterson was forced to make this difficult decision for the good of the entire state."
Budget Division spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said the job cuts will probably start in July and they apply to "full-time equivalents," which means some of the target might be reached by attrition.
In his message to agency heads, Whalen said they will be providing updates and bulletins over the next few weeks.
Still unknown was where most of the cuts may fall, by geography and by agency.

Gideon Putnam Hotel renovation project underway by Delaware North, Post Star, 3/24/09

With all the fancy renovations going on to the Gideon Putnam Hotel we're sure their guests would enjoy swimming at the Victoria Pool on the many hot days in June as well as July and August.

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The New Deal has a fresh coat of paint.The first phase of a multi-million dollar renovation project in the Saratoga Spa State Park is nearing completion, with the Gideon Putnam Hotel getting ready to celebrate its 75th birthday with a number of improvements."Basically, the work will be done in four phases," said Tim Smith, general manager of the Gideon Putnam Hotel and Conference Center.The first phase of renovations includes improvements to the hotel lobby, guest rooms, the spa, the gift shop and the Georgian Room Restaurant -- which has been renamed "Putnam's" in honor of the 18th century Saratoga Springs town planner.
The first phase of improvements cost about $1 million and is part of a 20-year plan that will see nearly $20 million spent on refurbishing the 120-room hotel, conference center and Roosevelt Bath.Delaware North Companies was awarded a 20-year lease to operate the buildings on the state-owned 2,300-acre Saratoga Spa State Park in January 2008.
The park buildings were constructed in the 1930s and signified one of the first major projects completed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.Roosevelt, who served four years as governor of New York prior to his 12 years in The White House, targeted the park as a location to create a European-style spa in America.The Roosevelt Spa received national notoriety in 2007 when New York Post reporter Fred Dicker reported the baths, which were thought to be drawn from pure mineral water, were actually being diluted with city tap water.Due to the corrosive nature of the mineral water, the heating units were unable to function properly, and it was revealed the bathhouse was using heated tap water to bring the mineral water up to bath temperatures.
After then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno called the dilution of the mineral water "a serious fraud," a $55,000 engineering study was performed, and two of the 42 baths are now served by a $98,000 customized heating system.Water for the remaining tubs is still warmed to 97 degrees with tap water, but Smith said there are discussions under way to try and provide more tubs with warm, pure mineral water."We haven't made any long-term decisions yet, but we are working with the state," Smith said. "My understanding is we're looking at two more (tubs) that I believe will be installed within the next couple of months," he said.
The next phase of improvements will begin in late 2009 or early 2010 and will focus on the Gideon Putnam Hotel infrastructure, including boiler systems and plumbing."Typically, with a historical hotel, you have to go back in and replace the inner workings of the property," Smith said.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

SPAC Board meets and more on ceiling paint fiasco, Saratogian,3/21/09

SPAC board talks finance
Saturday, March 21, 2009 5:15 AM EDT
By PAUL POST, The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS —Saratoga Performing Arts Center investments have dropped 26 percent, but its financial picture remains strong considering the economy, officials said Friday.SPAC has not dipped into investments — totaling $3.1 million — for operations since deciding to pay its debts off three years ago.The center has an $885,000 operating surplus and current assets of $1.5 million versus liabilities of just under $500,000. SPAC posted a modest year-end surplus for the fourth straight year in 2008.“We will be the last man standing in many respects in the area arts community,” board chairman William Dake said. “We started being pretty hard-nosed on this issue six months ago.”Among other things, SPAC has instituted a salary and hiring freeze and is relying heavily on interns who possess electronic, technology and contemporary media skills. “To get an intern who knows more than you do is quite an asset,” Dake said.SPAC announced a new cross-promotional marketing effort with The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls and Saratoga ArtsFest. However, there was no discussion at Friday’s board meeting about negotiations with Live Nation, which books and promotes SPAC’s popular music events. Live Nation’s contract expires at the end of the 2009 summer season.Under the current pact, Live Nation pays SPAC $1 million per year plus a share of ticket revenue once attendance hits a certain threshold. SPAC President Marcia White has said it’s important to get as close to those terms as possible in the next contract.Citing different reports, Dake said the economy has taken its toll on arts groups nationwide. Donations have dropped off significantly and 10 percent of the 10,000 arts organizations in America might go out of business this year, he said.“It’s not just affecting the arts,” board member Heather Mabee said. She said attendance is off significantly at this month’s basketball tournaments around the country.Marketing Committee Chairman Ed Lewi said NASCAR has been hit hard, too, and is lowering ticket prices to bring crowds back. Among this year’s promotions, SPAC will again have an American Girl Night and Girls Night out along with Date Nights and Family Nights every Thursday and Friday, respectively.The main new initiative is a partnership with The Hyde that is planning an upcoming summer exhibit, “Degas & Music,” based on the work of French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas (1834-1917).“Instead of being at cross purposes, we’re cross-promoting,” said David Setford, The Hyde’s executive director. “This is certainly the way for the future. Instead of being isolated in our attempt to reach audiences, we’re joining forces.“Music rather than painting was the underpinning of Degas’ artistic life.”The cross between those art forms will be emphasized in several scheduled events. They are:- Friday, Aug. 7 — Young chamber musicians will play at The Hyde, including featured pianist Jean-Frederic Neuberger of Paris. This fundraiser will have pre- and post-performance receptions.- Monday, Aug. 10 — A full-length chamber music program at Spa Little Theater also featuring Neuberger.- Saturday, Aug. 15 — A special Philadelphia Orchestra performance called “An Evening with Degas.” The concert will be accompanied by images of Degas’ works on SPAC’s large cinema screens.Chief Operating Officer Richard Geary said memberships are currently down 10 to 12 percent versus 2008. But 2009 season programs are just being mailed out. Typically, this boosts memberships when people get to see the program first-hand.SPAC’s annual meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 13 at Saratoga Spa State Park’s Hall of Springs.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SPAC Paint-job repairs to beat season opening
Saturday, March 21, 2009 5:15 AM EDT
By PAUL POST, The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A peeling paint problem is only cosmetic and will be resolved before Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s season begins, officials said Friday.The amphitheater’s ceiling was painted three years ago as part of a major interior renovation that included the installation of 5,200 new padded seats.Working within budget constraints, crews scraped off and painted over old paint rather than sand-blasting the entire ceiling down to its plaster surface. Now, sections of old paint have started to peel.“You have so much to spend,” SPAC Facilities Committee Chairman John Nigro said. “Instead of sandblasting, which was probably costlier, they sanded. It’ll be repaired.“It’s purely cosmetic.”The amphitheater, which SPAC leases, is owned by the state that maintains and pays for its upkeep. But the state is facing a more than $14 billion budget deficit. For the time being, at least, the ceiling will be touched up with new paint instead of removing all the old layers.The amphitheater was originally targeted for a three-phase renovation — heating and mechanical, followed by interior work and finally the exterior. The first and second phases totaling roughly $4 million have already been done.Last year, a new fa├žade was supposed to be built along with redesigned lighting, exterior balcony ramps and rest room improvements. Those projects, however, have been put on hold because state funding simply isn’t available.SPAC has asked state parks officials if rest rooms, at least, could be upgraded for the current season.“We haven’t heard back,” Nigro said.He said the parks system has assured him that SPAC’s exterior renovations will be done once money becomes available, but not this year.

Friday, March 20, 2009

oh, my, SPAC needs a paint job already?

SPAC’s 2006 coat of paint already peeling
Friday, March 20, 2009
By Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Photographer: Marc Schultz

Paint work done in 2006 has begun to peel at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.Text Size: A A A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — It was just three years ago that the interior of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center was repainted as part of a $1.6 million upgrade.

But visit the empty amphitheater now and you’ll notice big chunks of peeling cream-colored paint hanging from the underside of the balcony.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is working with the Mechanicville painter that did the 2006 project to spruce it up for this season.

Paint applied before W.W. Patenaude and Sons arrived on the scene in 2006 is the culprit, said Alane Ball Chinian, regional parks director.

“It’s not his paint that’s failing. It’s the previous paint,” Chinian said.

The area will have to be scraped and retouched each year unless the state gets enough money to sandblast the whole ceiling and start over, said Andrew Patenaude, one of the owners of the painting company.

“They would have to fully remove that paint, and probably by the time they fully removed it, the plaster would be disturbed,” Patenaude said.

As part of the $270,000 painting contract in 2006, the state asked Patenaude and Sons to scrape off loose paint and paint over the old paint rather than sandblast the plaster ceiling above the floor seats.

Patenaude said his paint stuck to the plaster where the old paint was scraped off.

The state office, which is responsible for facility upkeep for nonprofit tenant SPAC, can’t afford to get the area sandblasted and repainted now.

With its budget next year a big question mark, the parks office will spend its money on more important projects, such as a fire alarm system at the Hall of Springs and replacing portions of the Lincoln Baths roof, Chinian said.

“We have situations where something is presenting a health hazard or truly a dangerous situation,” she said.

That means that other work that was slated to happen at SPAC this year is still on hold as well, Chinian said.

A $2.5 million renovation planned for last fall and this year would have updated the look of the exterior and added new lighting, a new sound system and new bathrooms.

“No contracts are being advanced right now,” Chinian said.


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SPAC executive salary is questioned, Daily Gazette, 3/18/09

SPAC exec's salary leads pack for arts
Ballet supporters unhappy with season
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

By Wendy Liberatore (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — When it comes to compensation for directors of performing arts venues, Marcia White’s salary at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center is well ahead of the pack.

White’s salary is coming under criticism following the winter decision to trim the ballet season to two weeks, though she has the vocal support of the SPAC chairman.

White, who replaced Herb Chesbrough as SPAC’s president and executive director in March 2005, received a salary of $205,170 in her first year and $244,865 in 2006. More recent figures are not yet available, SPAC salaries have been frozen since the end of last summer.

By comparison, executive directors of other area arts venues have not topped the $200,000 mark. For example, Philip Morris, who runs the year-round Proctors in Schenectady, was paid $140,000 in 2007. At The Egg in Albany, another year-round venue, Executive Director Peter Lesser is paid $94,000 annually.

Patricia DiBenedetto Snyder, the founder and producing director of the New York State Theatre Institute in Troy, is paid $125,792 annually. And Ella Baff, the executive director of Jacob’s Pillow, a 10-week summer dance venue in Becket, Mass., was paid $159,713 in 2006. All of these directors have had many years, often several decades, of experience working in arts management. The salary levels are reported on federal tax filings for nonprofit organizations.

White, a former nurse and then spokeswoman for retired state senator and majority leader Joseph Bruno, had never worked in the arts before being tapped to head SPAC.

“We are an $8 million business,” said William Dake, chairman of the SPAC board of directors. “We interface with national organizations and it’s complicated. We have to deal with five different groups who we have to beat to death to get them to focus on the programming. And she started in a complex time. We didn’t have a lot of staff. She works her tail off.”

Dake also mentioned that SPAC has a $10 million contract with Live Nation, the group that books and manages the pop music concerts.

However, other area arts groups have large budgets as well. Proctors stands at $14.8 million; the New York State Theatre Institute’s budget is $3.6 million a year while The Egg works on a $2.1 million annual budget.

Louise Goldstein, a former member of the Save the Ballet committee, which worked to keep the New York City Ballet dancing at SPAC, said she felt White’s salary was “totally shocking and an outrage.” That organization disbanded after White was appointed.

“We fought so hard to keep the ballet, and now we have a high-paid executive, who had no experience in the arts, making this kind of money. I think SPAC should cut her salary in half and use the money to hire someone with an arts background.”

In hiring White, then-board chairman Dr. Stephen Serlin said the board was impressed with her marketing and fundraising potential. In her first year at SPAC, the then-financially ailing venue ended the year with a small surplus. It has operated without a deficit since.

“Fifty percent of the job is fundraising and Marcia has done incredibly well with fundraising,” said Dake.

However, SPAC has been struggling with attendance, particularly at the ballet, which has continued to decline since White began. And this summer, the ballet, the amphitheater’s flagship company, has reduced its stay from three weeks to two.

“Marcia did a good job getting SPAC in the black,” said John DeMarco, owner of Lyrical Ballad bookstore and a member of SPAC. “But there hasn’t been growth in promoting the ballet, getting a capital campaign going and attendance. We are going backwards. It doesn’t bode well for the arts.”

Goldstein agreed, lamenting, “We have a week less of the ballet.”

Chesbrough resigned in 2005 in the wake of a controversy swirling around New York City Ballet. He announced he made plans to cancel the ballet, saying it was too expensive. That led to a state audit, which criticized Chesbrough’s $317,301 salary. When White has hired, the SPAC board reported that her salary would range from $150,000 to $175,000. Dake said SPAC settled on $205,170 instead after “doing an extensive survey” on what others are paid.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

City Center expansion looks like good news? What do you think of the design? check

City Center expansion unveiled

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 5:15 AM EDT

By MAREESA NICOSIA, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Officials are hailing it as a “new vision” and the “economic engine” of downtown.

The City Center expansion project that has been in the planning stage for a decade and marks the center’s 25th year of operation was unveiled Monday evening at a presentation by Authority Chairman Michael J. Toohey and City Center President Mark E. Baker, along with Mayor Scott Johnson.

From the glass-paneled front to the “grand” staircase down to the color of the new carpeting, Baker and Toohey said the 22,000-square-foot expansion project will heighten the city’s ability to compete in the tourism industry and boost business by 40 percent over the next three years — all at no cost to taxpayers, since the $16 million project is primarily funded by New York state.

According to Johnson, $12 million from a state appropriation was secured in the last two years, and the remaining $4 million was provided by the hotel tax charged to overnight visitors to the city.

Toohey said the project was important because more conventions equal more visitors to the city, which means increased revenue and a stronger economy.

“The community must recognize that we are at the start of a new century,” Toohey said, adding that the City Center’s new design will reflect the times with a modern, iconic look while “melding with the current and future masonry construction” of the building, which is located at 522 Broadway, and borders Ellsworth Jones Place to the south and Maple Avenue to the east.

The major change to the structure will be the enclosure of the current atrium that faces Broadway, which will add 22,000 square feet to the already existing 52,000-square-foot space. The expansion will allow for a first floor with a 5,000-square-foot meeting room, an expanded lobby, a large, side-by-side staircase and escalator, handicap-accessible restrooms and entrances and new carpeting. The second floor will house about 6,200 square feet of meeting space in two “breakout” activity rooms and back entries for catering services, among other amenities. The entire facility will comply with standards set by the Americans With Disabilities Act, otherwise known as ADA mandate compliance.

Toohey and Baker said the project would help the City Center expand its reach into the community and beyond by allowing multiple events to go on simultaneously because of the increased meeting room space. The new center could handle 172 events a year and welcome more than 25,000 visitors. Since each overnight guest spends an average of $885 during a two- to three-day stay, the city could see a substantial increase in revenue.

Retailers, restaurateurs and hotel owners expect to benefit from the increased flow of customers as a result of the center’s expansion. Marianne Barker of Impressions of Saratoga said the project would affect her business tremendously.

“We see the impact on a daily basis,” Barker said, referring to her customers’ response to plans for expansion.

Groundbreaking is expected in late spring and construction will last 14 months, officials said, stressing the City Center will remain open and continue to host conventions and conferences.

Baker said every effort will be made to lessen the impact of construction noise and disruption on neighboring businesses and residents, with extra sensitivity taken during racing season.

He added that parking was not part of the $16 million budgeted for the expansion, but said the City Center Authority was in discussions with the City Council to find a solution to the need for parking when some spaces are eliminated by the building’s expansion.

Baker said contractor bids for the project would most likely be made next month.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Scary times for racing

Delaware North pulls out of VLT deal

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 5:16 AM EDT

By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

Racing put in jeopardy

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The firm slated to build a racino at Aqueduct Racetrack has withdrawn its offer, possibly jeopardizing the future of thoroughbred racing in New York state.

Gov. David Paterson tabbed Buffalo-based Delaware North Companies on Oct. 10, 2008, to operate 4,500 video lottery terminals at Aqueduct, generating an estimated $450 million per year. But the state and Delaware North never reached a final agreement on the deal.

Now the firm says it can’t secure the financing needed for such an undertaking, a result of the nation’s deepening economic crisis. The move also means that the cash-strapped state won’t get the $370 million Delaware North pledged for the gaming contract.

More importantly, however, without gaming revenues, New York Racing Association won’t have the funds it needs to run Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

"NYRA can’t exist without VLTs," said Edward Bogdan, a lobbyist for Saratoga Springs-based New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. "They’re going to have to come back to the state (for more money)."

But with a projected $14 billion deficit, the state doesn’t have anything left to give.

NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward was tied up with meetings in New York City on Tuesday and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Last September, when awarding NYRA a new 25-year contract, the state gave NYRA

$30 million to keep operating until VLTs come on line. Hayward has said that should tide his firm over until the second half of 2010. Recently, he warned about the possibility of falling short of funds if VLT money doesn’t become available.

Now that scenario appears to be playing itself out.

Delaware North President William Bissett says the state plans to rebid the whole project. But that would take months and some bidders, soured by the state’s poor handling of the last selection process, might not want to get involved at all.

There’s a growing belief that major gaming corporations, wearied by the state’s political quandary, are focusing their efforts elsewhere and want nothing more to do with New York.

In addition to the financial crisis, Delaware North was unhappy by Paterson’s recent call for VLTs at Belmont Park, too, a short distance from Aqueduct. The firm said it wouldn’t pay the $370 million pledged to the state unless it was given a greater share of Aqueduct VLT revenues, because of competition from Belmont.

Now, it would be almost impossible to expect racino construction at either track to begin this year — if ever.

Paterson’s office offered no immediate comment, but the development is sure to cause him major political damage with the state already in disastrous fiscal shape. In addition to gaming revenues, Aqueduct was expected to create hundreds of jobs for communities surrounding the track, and without Delaware North’s $370 payment the already-troubled budget faces another gaping hole.

Bogdan’s firm has been lobbying on behalf of breeders for 15 years and for VLTs specifically since 1999. The state approved legislation allowing for VLTs at New York racetracks in 2001. Saratoga Gaming & Raceway was the first track to get gaming in 2004. Six other harness tracks and one thoroughbred track — Finger Lakes near Rochester — have VLTs now, too.

But not Aqueduct.

Delaware North’s partners in the venture included Saratoga Harness Racing Inc., which owns Saratoga Gaming & Raceway. Delaware North operates the raceway’s VLTs and manages Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This must be why all these trees have been cut down next to the Gideon?

Renovation of Gideon Putnam Resort and Roosevelt Baths & Spa Begins
Delaware North Companies Making $1.8 Million in Updates
and Improvements to Historic Saratoga Springs Inn and Spa
Renovation of Gideon Putnam Resort and Roosevelt Baths & Spa Begins
Buffalo, NY – March 2009 – Delaware North Companies has begun a $1.8 million renovation of the historic Gideon Putnam Resort, including the Roosevelt Baths & Spa, at Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs.
The renovations are part of a planned 20-year, $18 million investment program that will include improvements to the hotel’s guest accommodations, lobby, corridors and dining room, as well as the storied mineral baths and spa.

Delaware North Companies’ parks and resorts subsidiary manages the property on behalf of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“The hotel was constructed in the 1930s and is now included as a member of the Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The historic significance and the importance of creating the ultimate guest experience were both carefully considered in the renovation plan,” said Tim Smith, general manager of Gideon Putnam Resort.

Delaware North has partnered on the project with Buffalo-based architectural firm Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects (HHL), interior designers Roche & Co. and M/E Engineers. The first phase of renovations and improvements to Gideon Putnam ( is expected to be completed by mid-April.

“All renovation stages will be completed with minimal disruption to guests and visitors at the resort,” Smith said.

The lobby will be enhanced with the restoration of marble floors, the addition of sophisticated color themes, new custom period rugs and plush, comfortable furniture. The gift shop will be moved back to its original location in the lobby, and south-facing glass French doors will be restored.

“The concept behind the lobby renovation is to make this active space welcoming and comfortable so guests can gather to relax and chat or simply utilize it as a meeting space for large groups,” said Matthew Meier, the partner at HHL Architects in charge of the project.

In addition, to highlight the importance of the performing arts, mineral springs, historic park and other treasures that tell the Gideon Putnam and Saratoga Springs story, a series of carved panels will be installed in a prominent location seen from the lobby.

In addition to structural changes, guests will be greeted with luxurious new bed linens and blankets in all 120 rooms, Smith said. The historic Georgian Dining room will also be upgraded with the addition of a new walnut bar, creating a more relaxed “lobby bar” setting for diners.
As part of the project, the Roosevelt Baths & Spa at Gideon Putnam will be refreshed and renovated to provide a modern spa experience for guests while also staying true to its storied past as protector of the historic mineral springs located there.

The spa’s entrance will be refreshed with the addition of large plants, bright colors and natural lighting to create a calm, greenhouse-like space. A transition “relaxation” room will be added as a place for guests to wait for treatments, relax following a treatment, or wait for other guests throughout the day. Meier said the feel for the transition room will be supplied by a fireplace, lounge chairs and central waterfall.

“All of this is grown directly out of the healing and rejuvenating powers of the water that have so long been the central focus at the Roosevelt Baths,” said Meier. “The waterfall will bring the expression of water and fluidity to the room to enhance the guest experience.”

Delaware North’s long-term commitment will include multiple building repair and system upgrade phases, including new and restored windows, that will be historically appropriate and eco-friendly, Smith said.

About Delaware North Companies
Delaware North Companies is one of the world’s leading hospitality and food service providers. Its family of companies includes Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment, Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, Delaware North Companies Sportservice, Delaware North Companies International and Delaware North Companies Boston, owner of TD Banknorth Garden. Delaware North Companies is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States with revenues exceeding $2 billion annually and 50,000 associates serving half a billion customers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. For more information, visit

About Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts
Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts is a subsidiary of Delaware North Companies, a leading hospitality provider with significant experience in hotel, retail, food service, recreation and transportation operations. The company’s portfolio includes historic properties in North America, such as Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex; Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks; Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds; Tenaya Lodge; Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa; Niagara Falls State Park; Jones Beach; The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake; The Balsams Grand Resort; and The Gideon Putnam Resort. To learn more about Delaware North Companies’ expertise in the hospitality industry, visit

About HHL Architects
Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects, LLC (HHL), originally established in 1969, is a professional services limited liability company for the practice of architecture. Ted Lownie, Matt Meier, Ken Riter, Jerry Strickland and Chris Guerra continue to lead HHL Architects using the basic principles established 40 years ago of striving to create quality architecture and a better built environment. Delaware North Companies has partnered with HHL Architects on many projects, including the construction of its corporate world headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y. Top of the Falls restaurant in Niagara Falls, NY, multiple food and beverage venues at Buffalo’s HSBC Arena, as well as several design concepts for concessions and restaurants in all areas of Delaware North’s operations. HHL Architects is also known for its nearly two-decade-long restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House Complex in Buffalo, NY, the design of the Erie Community College Burt P. Flickinger Athletic Center, and restoration and renovation of the Saarinen-designed Kleinhan’s Music Hall in Buffalo.

Kerry Hassen
Corporate Communications
Delaware North Companies


Hospitality Newsmaker Alert™
Placement Dates: 03/10/09 – 05/10/09
Press-News Index

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"Money goes down drain", Post Star 3/3/09

Devices to heat mineral baths go cold, as expected
Updated: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 10:31 AM EST

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SARATOGA SPRINGS - We had to do something.

That, in essence, is the sentiment from state officials who installed a pair of conventional water heaters at the Roosevelt Bathhouse in an effort to provide visitors with warm soaks in pure mineral water last summer -- an endeavor they say was undertaken even though they knew the heaters would fail.

The facility was prompted by the state to come up with a way to provide heated, pure mineral water baths after it was publicly revealed in 2007 that the bathhouse was using heated tap water to warm the icy, effervescent fluid that emerges from the springs at Saratoga Spa State Park.

After the tap water issue came to light, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, then-state Sen. Joseph Bruno and current Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accused spa staff of failing to disclose the practice, which had persisted for nearly two decades following a boiler break at the facility.

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Under scrutiny to remedy the situation quickly, parks staff announced last June that two of the roughly 40 tubs at the historic bathhouse had been retrofitted with water heaters that could bring the 52 degree mineral water to a more comfortable temperature in two of the baths.

But rushed to complete the work, crews installed a pair of off-the-shelf, domestic water heaters they knew would not withstand the corrosive effects of the minerals flowing through them for long.

The heaters failed shortly after the end of the 2008 tourist season and have not been replaced since, said Alane Ball Chinian, the regional director for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

"It was a quick and dirty job and, with normal water heaters, we knew they would fail because of the corrosive nature of the mineral water," she said.

The two heaters cost the state a total of $5,974, she said.

For Louise Goldstein, a persistent critic of the park's management, any money that was put into the fruitless effort is disappointing, given the financial crunch the parks department is facing.

"To spend that money for nothing is just astounding," she said.

A second pair of baths was retrofitted with heating units soon after the first units were installed -- these with a customized system designed to keep the water in perpetual motion to prevent the minerals from eating into the pipes.

That system cost nearly $98,000 and remains functional.

But there are no plans to install such a system on other tubs because, staff members say, the consumer demand simply isn't there.

"There hasn't been a single time when we have had to turn someone away," Michelle Calzada, the spa's manager, said of the two heated pure mineral water tubs.

There are nearly 40 baths at the famed spa, which opened at the state park in 1935.

Water for the remaining tubs is warmed to 97 degrees with tap water, a fact that is now denoted prominently in the spa's advertising.

Sessions cost $25 for 40 minutes -- pure or mixed -- and are described as "the cornerstone of our luxury spa experience."

The bathhouse is now operated by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts Inc., which began leasing the facility in 2008.

The company is putting $450,000 of its own money into updates, including new furniture, a refurbished lobby and a new "relaxation room."

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Monday, March 02, 2009

"ave of pines" little trees anyone?

Publication:Schenectady Daily Gazette; Date:Mar 2, 2009; Section:Local News; Page:7


Museum celebrates history of car scents

Company develops ‘Avenue of Pines’ product for show

BY LEE COLEMAN Gazette Reporter

You won’t have to travel to Saratoga Springs to get a whiff of the Avenue of the Pines anymore.

The company that has manufactured the bright green Little Trees car fresheners that have dangled from cars’ rearview mirrors since the early 1950s is about to create a new scent for your car called “Avenue of the Pines.”

The Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Spa State Park will open a special exhibit this spring focusing on the Car-Freshner Corp. in Watertown that has produced the familiar Little Trees car air fresheners.

The “Avenue of the Pines” freshener tree is being created specially for the exhibit, which will run from May 16 through November, said Dawn Cole, marketing manager for Car-Freshner Corp.

“It will only be available at the museum,” Cole said.

Cole said when people tour the exhibit at the museum, which is located on the historic Avenue of the Pines, they will be able to purchase at a nominal charge an Avenue of the Pines freshener to put in their cars. The scent of the new freshener is still being developed, Cole said. She said the cost of the souvenir is also still in the discussion stage.

“We are excited to be working with the museum,” Cole said. She said the new exhibit will “walk the visitor through the history of the Little Tree.”

Car-Freshner Corp. employs 600 people at its plants in Watertown, Dewitt, Iowa, and Berlin, N.H.

Cole said business at Car-Freshner continues to be strong despite the current economic crisis.

She said some people may hold off on buying a new car, but they can get that new-car smell by buying a Little Trees “New Car” scent freshener.

“The Saratoga Automobile Museum is thrilled with this opportunity to celebrate ‘Little Trees,’ an automotive icon manufactured in New York state,” said Alan Edstrom, the museum’s director of programs and events.

“Car models may come and go, but over 50 years ‘Little Trees’ have held a rock-steady place in pop culture, becoming part of the automotive industry,” Edstrom said in a statement.

Edstrom said he understood the Avenue of the Pines fragrance would be similar to the company's first product, which was called “Royal Pine.”

Cole said the Little Trees freshener was created by Julius Samann, a chemist who had experimented with extracting essential oils from pine trees in Canada.

A milk-truck driver in Watertown had complained to the local chemist about the smell of spilled, sour milk in his truck, she said.

Samann found that putting highquality fragrance on porous card stock was very effective in creating a vehicle air freshener, according to the company’s Web site: www.

Samann also sketched the shape of the freshener and injected it with the Royal Pine scent.

Car-Freshner Corp. currently has more than 50 fragrances and sells its products around the world. The company also produces scented household products and has its own line of clothing with the Little Trees symbol on many of the items.

“It’s amazing to realize that ‘Little Trees’ have made such an impact on pop culture, having been featured in numerous movies, television programs and magazines,” Cole said.

For more information about the Saratoga Automobile Museum go to

PHOTO PROVIDED BY CAR-FRESHNER CORP. A car air freshener called “Avenue of the Pines” will be developed for a Saratoga Automobile Museum exhibit.