Monday, June 22, 2009

BUSINESS WEEK applauds Saratoga as a livable city in 6/18/09 issue.

New Urbanism June 18, 2009, 5:00PM EST
Livable Saratoga
Urban planners predict buyers will flock to cities with a small-town feel where you can walk to work and shopping
This Week

June 29, 2009

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Saratoga Springs is anti-suburbia. In this town of 28,500 that's part of the Albany area, boutique shops, not chain stores, dominate downtown. Natural spring water flows from the public fountains. Some residents walk to work. "Architects and planners got together with local politicians to make sure we stayed vibrant to compete" with other communities, says Daniel Neary, a local architect.

Just as the boom years bred car-centric subdivisions and strip malls, the bust may lead buyers to cities and towns centered on a commercial, retail, and residential hub. That should be a boon to places like Saratoga Springs and Kentlands, an enclave of Gaithersburg, Md., that typify this "new urbanism" model. What makes a city livable, says urban planning and policy expert Robert E. Lang, is "the ability to walk and not drive to go pick up the basics in your life." James Kunstler, the anti-sprawl prophet and author of The Geography of Nowhere, lives in Saratoga Springs.

Prices in those communities will get a boost as buyers eschew the exurbs in more rural locales in favor of urban centers. The U.N. predicts rural environs in the U.S. will shrink by almost 2 million people between 2010 and 2015. In the face of the bust, home values in the Saratoga Springs area have held up well, falling just 1% in 2008; and prices should continue to rise steadily as the area attracts families like the Longs. Kristen Long, 40, and her husband, Jeff, 38, traded a seven-acre horse farm near Rochester, N.Y., for a $300,000 custom-built three-bedroom home near Saratoga Springs. "We are so close to great shopping and restaurants," says Kristen. "It's quaint, and you feel comfortable and safe."

When gas was cheap, the remote suburbs of Chicago, Scottsdale, and Las Vegas made more financial sense. Homes in those areas sold for a fraction of their city equivalents. And suburbanites readily drove 20 minutes to a supermarket or commuted 90 minutes to work. Then gas prices surged and the economy soured, crimping housing demand in exurbs. Even though gas prices have since fallen, those markets likely won't see boom-level prices for many years. In Kane County, Ill., empty McMansions sit beside soybeans fields. Local corn and soybean farmer Steve Pitstick says housing contractors are offering to help plant his crops and do other odd jobs. He hasn't had much work for them. "The economy imploded, and everything stopped," he says.

Manhattan transplant Jeffrey Cannizzo moved to Saratoga Springs, home of the eponymous race track and Skidmore College, for a change of pace. Cannizzo, a former manager at Microsoft who now heads a horse-racing trade group, wanted a small-town feel. After renting for a while, the 30-year-old started looking to buy in February. He recently bid $302,000 for a four-bedroom colonial two miles from his office, and the offer was accepted. Cannizzo likes the town's neighborliness: "People here are involved far more than in other communities I've been around."

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Urban planners predict a flight to cities with a small-town feel where you can walk to work and to shops




Numbers reflect metropolitan area; Data: Fiserv

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spencer Trask, we need a new Spencer in Saratoga.

Spa City recalls a 'titan'
Businessman Spencer Trask honored by book, summer benefit at Yaddo

By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Thursday, June 18, 2009

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- One hundred years after he was killed in a tragic accident on his way to saving the city's famous mineral springs, Spencer Trask's financial and philanthropic legacies remain mostly unknown.
Trask became a Gilded Age baron before coming to Saratoga Springs in 1881 and purchasing an Italianate villa on 500 acres. A tenacious Wall Street banker, Trask had invested in Thomas Edison's idea of electricity, railroads and more, and he'd intervened to rescue the New York Times when it faced bankruptcy.

But the Brooklyn native from Puritan ancestors always had an idealistic bent and was as fastidious about culture as he was about finance. In the later years of his life, Trask fought to establish this upstate community into a hub of artistic expression. The seeds he planted bloomed after his death into the Yaddo artist retreat, Saratoga Spa State Park and other city icons.

"His legacy was supporting American creativity and Yankee ingenuity," said Kevin Kimberlin, a venture capitalist who named his Manhattan equity firm after Trask. "What really inspired me was that he lost his eye, four children and his home, but he never lost his faith."

A big supporter of Yaddo, Kimberlin this year commissioned "Enigmatic Titan," a 124-page book about Trask's life, which he calls "the greatest story that's never been told."

Even in death, Trask contributed to city culture. In 1915, noted sculptor Daniel Chester French dedicated the "Spirit of Life" statue in Congress Park to Trask. The bronze sculpture has become the city's emblem.

Trask "was one of the fathers of the city," said Elaina Richardson, president of Yaddo.

This week marks the centennial anniversary of Trask being appointed head of the State Reservation Commission. The work of the mundane-sounding outfit would come to define the city.

Trask lobbied the state Legislature to form the commission in an effort to stop private gas companies from commercially mining carbonic gas from the city's natural springs. The companies extracted the gas to make carbonated drinks. But the spring water was a major area attraction because people believed it contained healing and recuperative powers. By 1908, the natural gas had been nearly depleted, threatening tourism and the health of the city.

Trask worked to preserve the springs and baths by having the state purchase lands that contained them. The effort would become the historic community's first and biggest act of preservation. By 1930, New York purchased more than 1,100 city acres, designated four state park reservations, including Congress Park, and built the Washington and Lincoln bath houses in what became Saratoga Spa State Park.

The reservation commission led to the liberation of the springs, the establishment of the Spa park, the city's Visitor Center and the Spirit of Life, said Lew Benton, city administrator of parks, open land and historic preservation.

"Absent the genius of Trask and his willingness to commit his considerable political and financial capital, the Saratoga Springs of today would be a greatly diminished place," Benton said.

Trask was a bearded, patient man who married the love of his life -- poet Katrina Trask -- but sustained several personal disappointments. His four children -- Alanson, Christina, Spencer Jr., and Katrina -- all died young between 1880 and 1889 from various illnesses.

Spencer Trask contracted a near fatal case of pneumonia in 1891 at the same time that the original Yaddo mansion burned in a fire. Within two years, he built the elaborate 55-room English manor residence that still stands. He lost his eye in a traffic accident in 1909.

With no immediate heirs, the Trasks turned Yaddo into an artist residence in 1900 to nurture the talents of writers, painters, composers and others. Visitors throughout its history include James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Mario Puzo. Writer John Cheever once said that Yaddo had seen more distinguished art "than any other piece of ground in the English-speaking community and perhaps the world."

But Spencer Trask would never get to see the artists or his commission's achievements. While riding in a train to New York City to deliver final revisions on the commission's work on New Year's Eve, 1909, another train struck the car in which he was riding at Croton-on-Hudson. He was the only person to die. Found on Trask's body was a tattered note that he always carried with him: "For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."

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

If you go

WHAT: Yaddo Saratoga Springs Summer Benefit, silent auction and party

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Yaddo Mansion

WHO: Television writer and producer Matt Witten challenges the audience to solve a murder

RESERVATIONS: $150. Sponsorships start at $600

INFORMATION: or 584.0746

Monday, June 15, 2009

800 lb. female moose loose in Saratoga. It stopped at Siro's for a drink?? and went on to the Racetrack.

Moose visits Saratoga Race Course

Staff reports
Last updated: 10:29 a.m., Monday, June 15, 2009

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A different sort of four-legged creature is attracting a crowd to Saratoga Race Course this morning.

A large female moose is walking calmly in the executive parking area just inside the front entrance of the track on Union Avenue.

City police, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and about 50 people are looking on.

Police blocked onlookers about 25 feet from the moose.

City police officer Ed Lewis said the department is working with DEC to remove the moose. An officer is coming from Ray Brook to tranquilize the creature and move her.

Lewis said the first call came at 3:45 a.m. when a person reported seeing the moose crossing Broadway downtown.

The next call came at 6:20 a.m., saying the moose was near Siro's restaurant near the track.

Police worked with the New York Racing Association to corral the animal within the fencing of the racecourse.

Hope to save Saratoga Tree Nursery but fate still unsure.

Fate of Saratoga Tree Nursery unsure
Monday, June 15, 2009

For The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Tree Nursery manager David Lee is feeling cautiously optimistic as the nursery’s possible closing date of July 1 looms near.

“It’s gotten very quiet. I was told my higher-ups haven’t heard anything, and they’re not sure what’s happening. They feel that things are looking better for us,” Lee said this week. “They said keep doing what we’re doing until we hear otherwise. We’re still in limbo.”

“Since the governor has come up with an agreement with the unions, it’s to our benefit. Time will tell,” Lee said. “As far as we know as of right now, we’re not closing.”

With a $14 billion state deficit looming, the Department of Environment Conservation announced in April that the state’s sole remaining tree nursery may close as early as July to cut costs.

On June 5, Gov. David Paterson and the state public employees unions announced an agreement to reduce pension benefits for future public employees, saving the state $30 billion over 30 years, though most of the savings won’t be realized for another decade. In return, the governor will shelf his plan to lay off 8,700 state workers.

Whether state officials will keep the nursery opens remains to be seen. “We don’t know if they’ve changed their minds. We haven’t heard anything positive; we haven’t heard anything negative,” Lee said. “We’ll keep running the program as we’ve always run it … until we hear otherwise.”

Lee oversees a staff of 10 full-time and up to 50 seasonal workers. The annual budget is about $750,000. The 1.2 million seedlings grown annually are used by the state for projects, sold to private landowners for conservation plantings, and given away to schools, generating about $250,000 a year in revenue.

He said he only learned recently the story of Col. William F. Fox, the Ballston Spa native who was Superintendent of Forests when the first state nursery was started in 1902. “I never knew that he was one of the founding fathers of the New York state nursery program,” Lee said. “He started what is now the forest rangers and was a leading factor in the creation of nurseries in the state.”

Saratoga Tree Nursery opened in 1911, two years after Fox’s death. A memorial service will be held Tuesday, the 100th anniversary of his death.


© 2009, a Journal Register Property

BALLSTON SPA — As the fate of the Saratoga Tree Nursery is threatened, the Civil War soldier who oversaw the creation of the first state nursery as state Superintendent of Forests is being remembered in his hometown.

Born in Ballston Spa on Jan. 11, 1840, Colonel William F. Fox died a century ago, on June 16, 1909, after 24 years of service with the state. A graveside memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Ballston Spa Village Cemetery on Ballston Avenue for Fox, who served as Superintendent of Forests for the Forest, Fish and Game Commission until his death.

“It was through Col. Fox’s foresight and efforts that the forest ranger force was created,” states the invitation from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Forest Protection, which is holding the memorial service in Fox’s honor.

Mayor John Romano and the Ballston Spa Village Board Monday night authorized Chris Morley, Saratoga County history consultant, to represent the village at the ceremony. Morley, who is 88, said he will obtain a G.A.R. marker and flag for Fox’s grave. Fox belonged to Dawson Post No. 63 of the Grand Army of the Republic.

A 1860 graduate in engineering from Union College, Fox served as a lieutenant colonel with the 107th Regiment in the Civil War. “The first regiment organized and sent to the war under the new call from the president for 300,000 volunteers was the 107th,” wrote Thomas Seaman Townsend in “The Honors of the Empire State in the War of the Rebellion,” in 1889. “The regiment fought bravely at Chancellorsville and at the battle of Dallas, Ga. Lieut.-Col. William F. Fox, a gallant officer of the 107th, has, since the close of the war, rendered the country a service by the compilation of an invaluable work entitled ‘The Chances of Being Killed in Battle.’”

Ten years later, in 1898, Fox wrote “Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, 1861-1865,” an authoritative compilation of mortuary losses in the Union regiments. He later wrote three volumes of “New York at Gettysburg,” “Slocum and His Men,” and “A Life of General Green.”

Fox’s family was in the lumbering business. Fox went to Germany to study scientific forestry techniques there, and worked for seven years as a private forester for the Blossburg Coal, Mining, and Railroad Company of Blossburg, Pa., writes Alfred Lee Donaldson in “A History of the Adirondacks.” Fox was appointed assistant secretary to the first Forest Commission in 1885, then served as assistant forest warden, from 1888 to 1891, when he became superintendent of forests upon the creation of the Adirondack Park — “a position which he held, through many political storms and changes, until his death,” Donaldson wrote in 1921.

“He was a sincere lover of the woods and an honest servant of the people. He worked for all that was best in forest methods, but had to face the handicaps of public apathy, changing administrations, and shifting policies. He was from the first an ardent advocate of forest-preserve purchases, and kept urging the state to buy land while the buying was cheap. The beginning of reforestation and the plan of selling trees to private owners — which proved so successful — were of his devising. He had keen foresight and sound judgment in forest matters, and his advice, if more frequently followed, would have often saved the state both money and trouble.”

In 1902, Fox hired the first graduate of the first forestry school in this country — Clifford R. Pettis, who established the first state nursery at Saranac Inn, “and there developed a system of nursery practice which has been adopted by the United States Forest Service and is now taught in all forestry schools,” wrote Donaldson. Pettis was named Superintendent of Forests in 1910, a year after Fox’s death.

The 250-acre Saratoga Tree Nursery has produced 1.6 billion seedlings since it opened in 1911. Once one of at least nine tree nurseries around the state, it is now the only one left, as nursery operations were consolidated to Saratoga in 1972. The tree nursery grows more than 1.2 million seedlings a year for state projects or to sell to private owners, as Fox envisioned, and it gives away more than 32,000 seedlings to state schools.

During the Depression, men and women of the Civilian Conservation Corps planted seedlings from the nurseries throughout the state. With looming state budget deficits in the current recession, the Saratoga Tree Nursery has been threatened with closure to save money. The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors last month passed a resolution in support of keeping the nursery open — a measure Col. Fox would strongly support.

Fox was a strong advocate for planting trees on city streets and along highways. “As in Washington and Paris, every city should establish nurseries supported by municipal appropriations, in which the various species best adapted to street planting can be propagated and grown,” he told the New York Times in June 1900. “Washington is known as one of the most beautiful cities in America on account of the 70,000 trees planted along its streets.”

But it will be his role as the father of the state Forest Rangers that Fox will be especially remembered for Tuesday.

In 1899, he recommended that fire wardens be supplemented with “an adequate force of forest rangers who should be assigned to districts of a suitable area, which should be patrolled constantly and thoroughly…The ranger should be required to live on the township, and a log cabin should be built for that purpose ... He should live in the woods, not in some distant village. During dry seasons, the highways should also be patrolled because more fires start at a roadside than anywhere else.”

Fox’s proposal to hire 35 forest rangers was passed by the New York State Senate, but failed to receive approval by the governor.

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

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saratoga Living Magazine, Summer 2009

The Summer 2009 issue of Saratoga Living Magazine has a marvelous article on the Victoria Pool.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

NYS Senate coup may not be a bad idea.

Is it time for NYS Parks to stage a coup like our esteemed state senators? Kick the high officials out of their low cost mansions and give the parks back to the people.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Since the Riggis control the dance museum/Washington Baths at Saratoga Spa State Park we hope they will respect our history.

Riggi family behind historic Greenfield Avenue home purchase
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

By ANDREW J. BERNSTEIN, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Nearly a month after neighbors first raised concerns over apparent demolition work being performed at 23 Greenfield Ave., the property’s new owners have come forward and announced their immediate plans for the building.

The two-story brick building on the corner of Greenfield and Woodlawn avenues was sold by James Taylor, owner of Taylor Made Products, manufacturer of boating accessories, to 23 Greenfield Avenue LLC on May 4.

On Monday, attorney John J. Carusone Jr., an agent of the LLC, identified Ronald Riggi as a principal in the LLC and sent a letter to the City Council indicating such. Riggi and his wife, Michele, are a high-profile couple in the Spa City social and philanthropic scene.

Carusone said the owner’s intention is to demolish the building as soon as a permit is approved by the city. A permit application was filed May 29.

“Beyond that, I don’t know,” said Carusone of plans for the property. Ron and Michele Riggi own a home on the corner of North Broadway and Greenfield Avenue, and their property abuts 23 Greenfield Ave. Reached by phone Monday evening, Michele Riggi deferred all comment on the matter to Carusone.

Following an asbestos assessment, abatement was conducted at the building in early May, which focused on removing asbestos in building materials, window frames and some roofs. This step is required by New York State law before a demolition permit can be approved. Although abatement was also conducted on the building in the early ’90s, work focused on pipe insulation in the basement, Carusone said.

23 Greenfield Ave., built in 1865, has been the subject of an outcry from some corners of the city, which culminated in a call for a moratorium on demolitions. The building is identified as a “contributing structure” to the city’s historic district, although it is not within the district itself.

The City Council is expected to vote on a moratorium at their meeting at 7 p.m. tonight, and Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Preservation Foundation, has called for the public to attend a public hearing at 6:40 p.m. to testify about the house.

“The built environment serves as an important link to our past that Saratoga Springs cannot afford to slowly erode with demolitions,” Bosshart stated in a press release. “The historic preservation of this building and others that are contributing buildings to a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places benefit our community and deserve protection even if not located in the local historic district. It is buildings like 23 Greenfield Avenue that make the city of Saratoga Springs the wonderful place it is to reside, work and visit.”

Carusone said the property owners might consider litigation should the city pursue a moratorium on demolition, although he added that the city may be within its rights to adopt the rule.

Since rumors first circulated that the Riggi family had bought the home, members of the community have questioned why the prominent family would demolish an historic structure.

“Everyone has a right to their opinion, but there can still be discussion between reasonable people,” he said, adding that property owners have a right, with proper permitting, to demolish a structure.

When first contacted about purchasing the home, Michele Riggi said she did not know anything about the building. Carusone said she was probably taken by surprise at the time.

NYPost, 5/31/09, NYParks Commissioner Ash mansion sweetheart deal is truly shocking.

The state Parks Department commissioner has a sweetheart deal to rent for just peanuts a Victorian mansion on bucolic parkland.

Carol Ash pays $713 a month for the mansion, which is located on an eight-acre section of Tallman Mountain State Park in Rockland County and is inaccessible to the public, The Post has learned.

The house, in Sparkill, could fetch $2.5 million on the open market or bring in $4,500 to $7,500 in monthly rent to help fill state coffers, according to a local broker.

Ash is one of about 1,250 state workers, including 69 in the Parks Department, who get cut-rate housing -- some paying less than $100 a month, according to information obtained by The Post from the Office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The accommodations also include trailers used by correction officers on prison grounds and houses for college presidents.

The assistant manager of Heckscher State Park, in Long Island, rents a shingled house with a turret for $856 a month, less than half the price of rentals in the area.

The Parks Department tries to fill its homes "with people we know can take care of the properties," such as park managers, said Eileen Larrabee, a department spokeswoman.

Ash's deal goes back to 1999, when she was named director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. The commission controls who rents the house, and the revenue goes to the state.

In 2005, she led a public tour of the 1850s house, known as the Hopson-Swan Estate, and described it as a mansion with high ceilings, tall windows and "spacious interiors." It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ash, commissioner since 2007, kept the mansion despite working in Albany and living outside the capital in Rensselaerville. Her husband, Joshua Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who works at Columbia University, has an 18-mile car ride from the house in the park.

Ash stays in the park mansion a few days a month, and her husband uses it as well, Larrabee said.

Larrabee also said Ash and Friedman are leaving the park, a decision made in March -- before The Post started asking about her living arrangements.

Rents for state houses are set by the Division of Budget based on the location and number of rooms.

No employee pays more than $902 a month, according to the Comptroller's Office.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

yes, folks, let the peasants sweat outside the Victoria Pool while we all pay for Parks Commissioner Ash to live in a mansion.

You pay for N.Y. Parks Commissioner’s weekend placeBy student_bee_reporter ( June 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm) · Filed under NY Politics, student bee reporter

We can hope that New York State’s fiscal crisis helps flush out more news about wasteful spending such as this. The N.Y. Parks Commissioner occupies in a state-owned mansion on public land, and doesn’t even live in it full time.

Carol Ash pays $713 a month for the mansion, which is located on an eight-acre section of Tallman Mountain State Park in Rockland County and is inaccessible to the public, The Post has learned.

The house, in Sparkill, could fetch $2.5 million on the open market or bring in $4,500 to $7,500 in monthly rent to help fill state coffers, according to a local broker.

Ash, commissioner since 2007, kept the mansion despite working in Albany and living outside the capital in Rensselaerville. Her husband, Joshua Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who works at Columbia University, has an 18-mile car ride from the house in the park.

Ash stays in the park mansion a few days a month, and her husband uses it as well…

She is one of over 1200 state employees who receive cut-rate housing. The Comptroller’s Office says none of them pay more than $902 a month. No doubt some of them must live on-premises for their work…. but come on, let’s get real. The state is cutting back and laying off workers, so let’s reset our priorities.


Related posts:

National Parks give 3 free weekends and Saratoga Spa State Park is jacking up the Victoria Pool fee to $8.

Fee-Free Weekends in Your National Parks

America’s Best Idea – the national parks – gets even better this summer with three fee-free weekends at more than 100 national parks that usually charge entrance fees*.

Mark your calendars for fee-free weekends this summer:

June 20-21, 2009 (Father’s Day weekend)
July 18-19, 2009
August 15-16, 2009
And to make the fun even more affordable, many national park concessioners are joining the National Park Service in welcoming visitors on this summer’s fee free weekends with the their own special offers.

Here’s a tip – many national parks never charge an entrance fee, so you can plan inexpensive visits year round!

For a list of family fun activities this summer, visit National Parks: The Place to Be for Family Fun.

*Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's raining Chairs, Chairs, everywhere.

Saratoga Spa State Park we understand is busy buying $200+ apiece fancy chairs for the ice cream parlor instead of opening Victoria Pool. Let's see-70 chairs times $225 each comes to over $15,000. We are predicted to have the third beautiful weather weekend in a row since Memorial Day.