Friday, March 26, 2010

what's doing or maybe not doing in Saratoga.

Congress Street strip mall overhaul
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
Congress Plaza isn’t exactly the sexiest shopping center in town, but as a resident of the city’s west site it’s an area I’ve often visited over the years.

I’ve come to the Congress Street strip mall to get toiletries at the CVS, have done laundry at Bubbles, picked up flowers at Posie Peddler and grabbed a bottle of wine Purdy’s.

Now, the owners of the property say it’s time for something different at the site.

Donald MacElroy, the vice-president at Clifton Park-based Don Greene Enterprises, will come before the city planning board tomorrow night to present conceptual plans for a “complete redevelopment” of the area. The hope is to get some feedback and then come back later with more concrete plans for the site, which the company has owned and operated since 1983.

As outlined in an application to the city, the plan calls for a pair of parking garages and four new mixed-use buildings up to six-stories tall. The existing buildings on the property would be torn down in favor of the new construction, but the CVS would remain in tact.

MacElroy said today that the company plans to phase in the construction, putting up new buildings along Congress Street first and then offering existing tenants the new space before moving to the demolition phase. Other businesses that would be sought would cater more to the full-time resident than tourists, MacElroy said.

How quickly this will all occur, how many commercial or residential units and the ultimate price tag are still unknown, MacElroy said.

The 26-year-old shopping center was once anchored by the Grand Union grocery store. When the market closed, it was replaced with a dinner-and-movie establishment. The space has been empty as long as I’ve lived here.

MacElroy said adding apartments and commercial space to the site is in keeping with the goal of creating a walkable downtown, and that he had no concerns demand would be quick to materialize.

“Times change and uses change, but this is a key piece of property in downtown Saratoga Springs and it deserves and update,” he said.

– Drew Kerr

Posted in Saratoga Snippets | No Comments (Add a Comment

DEREK PRUITT Derek Pruitt - Bast Hatfield construction crews work in the basketball court portion of the Saratoga Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Avenue in Saratoga Springs on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Budget shortfalls have forced delays in capital projects like the recreation facility and the waterfront property on Saratoga Lake.


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Related: Spa City project list
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A cluster of weeds slumped across the craggy landscape that overlooks the city's waterfront property last week.

The city purchased the land on Saratoga Lake for $2 million in 2005 with the hope of developing the 4.6-acre parcel into a three-tiered park that would cradle a kayak and canoe launch and a small beach with a swimming area. Today, that project sits dormant.

Across town and on the city's south side, work continues on a $6.5 million indoor recreation facility - a project more than a decade in the planning.

Construction is expected to wrap up this summer, but funding for interior furniture and fixtures was eliminated due to budget concerns, and there has been no date set for a grand opening.

"We're broke. I can't make it any clearer than that," said city Accounts Commissioner John Franck. "I just don't think people get it."

The timetable for both projects was altered when the recession hit Saratoga Springs - a city that initially thought it might be insulated from the fiscal woes that swept the country in 2008.

Now, officials are growing more concerned about what the summer horse racing season will look like in the city that touts itself as "the summer place to be."

"Am I concerned? Absolutely," said city Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins. "The general indication is NYRA will probably get it together this year, but I'm even more concerned about what might happen next year. Who knows what's going to happen down the line."

The New York Racing Association announced it will expand the Saratoga meet by four racing days in 2010. It is a meet, however, that will see horsemen running for noticeably less money, with 14 stakes suffering purse reductions. Those decisions came even as horse racing officials in New Jersey reached an agreement on a plan to stage a million-dollar meet at Monmouth Park, resulting in the highest average daily purses in North America.

Franck said he is concerned a "watered-down" Saratoga racing season may see horsemen flock to tracks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, possibly forever.

The Great Recession

In 2008 and 2009, the city lost nearly $4 million in revenue that had been anticipated from the state for hosting the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway facility. The payment was initially aimed at compensating the community for the presence of a gambling facility from which the state benefited. The state updated its payment formula, however, in such a way that excluded wealthier communities like Saratoga Springs from such compensation.

The city attempted to compensate for the loss this year with a paid parking plan. When that proposal failed, and slumping sales tax and mortgage tax revenue were factored in, Saratoga Springs found itself in a $2.2 million hole three months into its 2010 budget cycle.

Proposals to construct a parking garage and to develop a Broadway area Cineplex, as well as plans to build a new police station, were also tabled.

"Those (proposals) are not going anywhere at this point," Ivins said.

As a result, taxpayers will continue to pay an average of $69,000 per year until 2030 for $1 million that was bonded for the design of a new public safety facility that may never be built. They will also continue to pay about $400,000 annually through 2030 for the yet-to-be-completed indoor recreation facility and another $168,000 per year for the undeveloped waterfront property.

Franck suggested the city attempt to either lease or sell the latter parcel outright.

"It would be better putting it to some use rather than just leaving it dormant in a city that doesn't have any money," he said. Revenue from the property's sale would have to be put back into the city's open space fund, but the sale would at least help to lower the debt service on the parcel, Franck added.

The $6.5 million recreation facility, meanwhile, is expected to be completed in June or July and will carry an estimated annual operation cost of more than $200,000.

"My understanding is that the mayor wants to get it open as soon as construction is done, but I could see that being pushed back to after Jan. 1 next year," Franck said. Mayor Scott Johnson did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

Residents to the rescue

Before the recreation facility can open, funds must be secured for interior furnishings. About $165,000 in funding targeted for such fixtures was eliminated from the 2009 budget, however.

Instead, a local committee called the Friends of Recreation has taken up the cause to secure those funds, although it is not known how much the organization has secured.

Other city projects are following suit, seeking corporate and public sponsorship to continue.

A committee has been formed to raise the estimated $15,000 to $25,000 cost of staging a two-day All-American Celebration on July 3-4, and The Saratoga Shakespeare troupe is raising funds on its own to be able to return to Congress Park for a two-week performance run beginning on July 13.

In the Saratoga Spa State Park, the New York City Ballet will return this year for an abbreviated series of appearances at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The ballet's season was reduced from its normal three-week run to two weeks of shows in 2009.

That move proved to be successful for SPAC organizers, however, who realized an average ticket income increase of more than $10,000 per performance last year, when compared with the longer 2008 season.

The Victoria Pool and The Peerless Pool - which attract approximately 50,000 swimmers during the summer season - are both expected to open on June 26 and remain open through Labor Day weekend. And the city's two major summer street fairs - Hats Off and Final Stretch - are slated to take place in conjunction with the summer racing season, according to the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

Not all gloom and doom

The expansion of the Saratoga Springs City Center, which is on target for completion in late 2010, is one of two projects Franck cited as having the potential to bring some positive momentum back to the Spa City.

"The City Center is going to open ahead of schedule, and GlobalFoundries will give a boost to the city," Franck said. "For 2011, all other bets are off."

Posted in Local on Thursday, March 25, 2010 10:10 pm Updated: 6:41 am. | Tags: Saratoga Springs, Construction

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Saratoga's State Senator McDonald votes against resolution to keep Parks open.

By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — State parks threatened with closure will stay open this year, including Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park, Sen. Roy J. McDonald, R-Saratoga, said Tuesday.

Recently, Gov. David Paterson proposed closing dozens of parks across the state as a way to help close a projected $8.2 billion budget deficit.

Three-fourths of the Saratoga-Capital Region’s parks and historic sites have been targeted.

"There is nobody in the Legislature on either side that’s going to cut parks," McDonald said. "They’re not in jeopardy anymore. The parks aren’t closing. These parks and these pools are all going to stay open."

McDonald on Monday voted against a senate resolution that he said added $1.5 billion to Paterson’s proposed executive budget. The measure was not a formal bill and only outlined proposals, for discussion purposes, without indicating how items would be funded, he said.

"There was no accompanying finance plan," McDonald said. "We were only given two hours to look at it. That’s no way to do business. We can’t be a rubber stamp and just roll over."

His ‘no’ vote doesn’t mean he’s against restoring parks funding, McDonald said. He said he needs to see how other projects would be funded before voting ‘yes.’


Sunday, March 21, 2010

A note of optimism for Parks in Times Union,3/21/10

Save the Victoria Pool Society is very grateful to everyone who is signing the on-line petition at put victoria pool under search petitions. We have been sending copies of hundreds of your signatures to NYS Parks Commissioner, Carol Ash, Governor David Patterson and State Senator, Roy McDonald and we will keep the pressure on our appointed and elected officials to open Victoria Pool this summer. Pool people are working in many ways pressuring our state officials on behalf of Victoria Pool. As we all know the magic of the victoria pool goes way beyond just a swimming pool. It is a state of mind.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The new reality for our parks

Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Sunday, March 21, 2010

On its face, no single issue coming out of state budget preparations during these hard times more dramatically underscores the disconnect between those in charge of the political process and the overwhelming will of the people than the threat to our state parks system.
The threat, specifically, is to close many state parks and historic sites because of severe budget constraints. That such a thing could even be considered to close a paltry $15.3 million hole in a $134 billion budget is insane, incomprehensible. State parks remained open all through the Great Depression, and for good reason. Leaders at the time recognized far more wisely than those today what the needs of the people are when unemployment soars and things are tough. We need our parks.

As I've noted over the last couple of weeks, that message seems to have gotten through. If those in power didn't get it before, they do now. The good news is that the governor and the Legislature appear to be inclined to sort out an agreement for a short-term fix. While negotiations are still ahead, the likely heart of such a fix will be borrowing $11.3 million from the State Parks Infrastructure Fund, the park system's capital fund, and raising $4 million in new or increased fees.

Steve Englebright, head of the Assembly committee that oversees parks and recreation, has been spearheading efforts for such a fix, as has his Senate counterpart, Jose Serrano.

"I can't say the parks are saved just yet," says Englebright. "But let's just say there are brighter rays cutting through the fog than before. One of those rays is that the Office of Parks and Recreation has stopped canceling reservations for their facilities this summer." So it is fair to suggest that key state agency is anticipating good news.

Keeping our parks and historic sites open would give us all a sense of enormous relief, as if we really accomplished something. But a reality check suggests it's only the first hurdle in a long road. What about next year? Borrowing from the capital budget is probably a one-time deal. There has to be a long-term fix, too. Before we get to that, I would offer an observation on the great public clamor over closing parks and historic sites. I wasn't a bit surprised at how boiled the general population got over it, and how quickly folks went to Facebook and Friends Of groups to organize a huge resistance movement. And, sure, parks inspire enormous loyalty that the people in the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation would be smart to sustain beyond the immediate crisis.

But to some extent, I think the strident reaction was to lists of specific parks and historic sites that would be closed. Now, we all recognize that budgeting for $9 billion that isn't there means other services and programs will have to be cut or curtailed. But it's quite another thing to be told Thacher Park is closing.

What I'm getting at is that, so far, the Paterson administration has been skillful in keeping proposed cuts by other agencies pretty much in the abstract and away from the potential deep irritation of the people who will be affected.

For example, in the latest of a long line of cuts demanded by the governor's office, the Department of Environmental Conservation is struggling to come up with $32 million in nonpersonnel items to eliminate. Vehicles and equipment, gas for vehicles, phone use, entire programs and functions truncated or eliminated. But who's left in the dark while these decisions are being made? You and me.

It's hard to imagine sportsmen, for instance, won't get clobbered by the bean counters. Will we still have our fish hatcheries? What about the Conservation Fund? They'll screw with that for sure. Will DEC enforcement of various kinds be so hamstrung by budget cuts that polluters and poachers will essentially become self-policing, turning the entire concept of enforcement on its head?

Save that outrage. You're going to need it when the details about one state agency after another leak out in terms of what the cuts mean down here in the streets. What will really light your candle is that those details are likely to become public only shortly before legislators finalize a budget. There won't be nearly enough time to work up orchestrated resistence like we did for park closures.

But back to averting those park closures and the need for a long-term plan.

Dan Biederman is a consultant who specializes in turning around troubled urban parks, like Bryant Park in New York City. He finds creative ways to finance and operate these parks, and make them assets. He has ideas about what needs to change in our state parks world to find a viable alternative to depending exclusively on taxpayer funding and fees. He says we need new revenue sources.

"I know how to create public/private partnerships," Biederman says. He looks especially for new income from a list of categories: enhanced concessions, sponsorships, event revenue and licensing.

I am not promoting Biederman or his concepts, but merely pointing to a larger world than the one we know and are used to for our state parks.

That's the new reality we can't avoid with a quick fix.

Contact Fred LeBrun at 454-5453 or by e-mail at

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Friday, March 19, 2010

welcome back marylou whitney "golightly".

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Whitney gala is back on for 'breakfast'
After a one-year hiatus, annual Saratoga event to return to Canfield Casino

By LEIGH HORNBECK, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.

First published: Friday, March 19, 2010

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Break out your diamonds and black Ray-Bans, the Whitney Gala will return in August with a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" theme.
Marylou Whitney, well known in the city as a philanthropist and socialite, canceled her annual party last year because she and husband John Hendrickson felt it would be tacky to throw a lavish party while so many people were out of work. Hendrickson said although people are still struggling, he and Whitney feel it is important to maintain Saratoga's traditions.

The party will be held inside the Canfield Casino at Congress Park Aug. 6, the night before the running of the Whitney Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course. The couple also canceled the party in 2006 after Whitney suffered a stroke, but at 83 years-old she is doing well, Hendrickson said.

Whitney's arrival each year, accompanied by her famous friends, always draws a crowd. She's made her appearance on dog sled, amphibious car, rickshaw, horse-drawn carriage and hot-air balloon. Inside the casino, designer Michael Panza creates ornate scenery inside the match the theme. There are constants every year, a hot dog station for the guests, a fortune teller and the trinkets Whitney and Hendrickson throw to the crowd.

Hendrickson said although the purses may be higher in New Jersey this year, "Saratoga's social whirl during the season is unmatched."

Unlike many of Whitney and Hendrickson's other summer activities, the gala is not fundraiser for charity, but Hendrickson said he hopes there is some trickle-down effect from the party. All the vendors will be local companies, he said.

Hendrickson said his wife chose "Breakfast at Tiffany's" because she has always loved the movie -- and because she was a single woman living in New York City when it was made and Audrey Hepburn's character, Holly Golightly is a composite of Whitney and three other women. Whitney and Hepburn were friends, Hendrickson said.

"She missed having the party last year," Hendrickson said. "And I want to do whatever keeps Marylou happy."

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

500 of our beautiful pine trees chopped down for golfers and counting.

Now that all of Saratoga Spa State Park is open after the winter we saw many more areas where trees have been chopped down to enhance the golf course all over the park. One pile was still at the colombia picnic pavillion but many more have already been carted away. No public input was considered before many historic pine trees were removed as usual. The area in front of the golf house that backs victoria pool could bring you to tears, folks. Go take a ride or walk thru the park and weep.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

nys parks now going after disabled? what's next? Children, Elderly, Adults, you and me?!

Protests give lift to state parks
Support from lawmakers to stop closings gains; panel acts to end abuse

By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.

First published: Thursday, March 11, 2010

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Pressure from the public and advocacy groups is building support from lawmakers to keep state parks open, according to park leaders, who proposed Wednesday to toughen eligibility guidelines for disabled patrons to receive free or discounted passes to park facilities.
Gov. David Paterson's 2010-11 budget proposal calls for $29 million in cuts from the state parks budget, and the closing of several state parks and historic attractions, including John Boyd Thacher State Park in Voorheesville. Lobbying by the public and park groups is beginning to move lawmakers who were on the fence last month, said Chairwoman Heather Mabee of the Saratoga-Capital Region Parks Commission, which met Wednesday in Saratoga Spa State Park.

"I think state legislators are hearing us. But we still need every friend you know, every person you know, to advocate for our needs," Mabee said. Volunteer "friends" groups at the Capital Region's 20 parks and historic sights are still planning summer programs, she said.

At its meeting the commission also discussed a new state parks initiative that would change who is eligible for its Access Pass program, now used by about 34,000 state residents a year who claim disabilities. The pass entitles them to free or discounted admission to parks, cabins, campsites, golf courses, historic sites and recreational facilities operated by the state.

Under the program's new guidelines, "semi-ambulatory" park goers would be eliminated, and individuals receiving federal Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income or Railroad Retirement Board Disability will no longer be automatically eligible, State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said. An estimated two-thirds of the 34,000 people who get the discount passes will no longer qualify, which will save the agency about $1 million a year, park officials said. Others will continue to be eligible. Individuals who lose eligibility can reapply.

The changes result from an internal review of the program that was launched after media reports showed that "an overwhelmingly disproportionate number" of Long Island Railroad retirees who received federal disability benefits were playing golf for free at state parks. Disabled rail retirees are among those who will no longer be automatically eligible for the Access Pass.

The $1 million in savings forecasted is already built into the 2010-11 fiscal year budget plan that calls for closing and reduced operations at dozens of state parks and historic sites. Specifics of the proposed rule change can be found at under the "Inside the Agency" heading. State Parks is accepting public comments on the plan until May 3, 2010. Comments can be sent to; by regular mail to OPRHP Counsel's Office, Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 1, Albany, NY 12238; or fax to 474-5106.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

tree stump cemetary to service the golf course all over the spa, very sad.

save the victoria pool society has been upset about all the trees being cut down at the park and put pictures on the blog: starting in January. OUR FAVORITE POEM ABOUT TREES WAS WRITTEN BY JOYCE KILMER(SEE BELOW) LONG AGO AND SAYS IT ALL. THEY ALWAYS PULL THIS STUFF WHEN MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT GOING TO THE PARK IN THE DEAD OF WINTER AND DARK OF NIGHT, NO DOUBT.

Spa State Park trees cut to make grass healthier
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

By Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Tree removal is under way at the golf course area at Saratoga Spa State Park.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Nearly 500 aging white pines at Saratoga Spa State Park have been leveled to save the turf at Saratoga Spa Golf.

This spring, golfers will notice that some greens, fairways and teeing grounds are clearer of trees.

Trees are being removed in areas where the turf has become unhealthy because of a lack of sunlight and nutrients. The private company that runs the golf course has spent $200,000 so far removing the trees with the blessing of the United States Golf Association and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“If you put it in context, it’s not many trees in the scope of how many trees there are in the golf course,” said Bill Richardson, president and owner of Professional Golf Services, which has a contract to run the two golf courses and the Catherine’s in the Park restaurant.

The pines that have been cleared were some of those planted in the 1930s, he said.

“They are nearing the end of their natural lifespan,” Richardson said. “Since they’ve been planted, the trees have grown enormously.”

While they lend the park the wooded, secluded feel that hikers, swimmers, picnickers and golfers love, the trees block sunlight from hitting the turf on the course and also compete with the grass for water and nutrients.

As they get bigger and older, the trees are also more susceptible to being blown over in storms, he noted.

The USGA’s Agronomy Department, which studies plants and soils, made several visits to the golf course to examine the turf and recommend what needs to be done to keep it growing well.

“There are certain parts of it which are not healthy,” Richardson said.

Smooth, even surfaces and healthy grass are necessary to create good playing conditions for golfers and keep the course competitive with others in the area.

“We’re expecting that playing conditions here are going to improve dramatically this year, and over the next couple of years it should be very, very noticeable,” Richardson said.

Trees were cleared last year at the greens for the 10th, 15th and 17th holes. This year, pines were cut at the sixth and ninth greens, the seventh green, the eighth tee and the right side of the ninth green, Richardson said.

A few trees are being cut in each of the following areas as well: the second, 11th, 17th and 18th greens; and the fifth fairway and second tee of the nine-hole Executive Course.

Work on a $500,000 irrigation system began last summer and is expected to continue this year and be done by the 2012 season at the latest, he said.

The company paid for work on the cart paths last year and expects to redo the bunkers, or sand traps, in the near future.

Richardson’s company is paying for the work, which partially fulfills a contractual obligation to the state that his company will put money into capital projects at the course.

Richardson acknowledged that some golfers and other fans of the park will object to the trees being cut.

“Taking down the trees is not something everybody’s in favor of. [But] nobody’s just willy-nilly cutting them down.”

Non-golfers are most likely to notice the cleared trees across from the entrance to the Victoria Pool.

Save the Victoria Pool Society co-founder Louise Goldstein objects to the trees’ removal, however.

“It seems like everything is catering to the golfers all the time,” she said. “I’ve gotten many e-mails from people who are very upset because not everybody is a golfer who uses the park.”

Park manager Mike Greenslade said that so far, no one has complained to him about the cutting of trees.

“I think there were a few more phone calls last year when they did the initial part of the program,” he said. “I think the word’s gotten out that this is for the overall health of the golf course.”

The state park has its own regular inspection program to remove ailing trees, Greenslade said.

“We do inspections a couple times a year. Everybody’s always on the lookout for any kind of unsafe trees,” he said.


Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918

119. Trees

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, 5
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain. 10

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Summer 2010: The cut backs and closures??? This might be our FATE.


Please support the "Save the Victoria Pool Society" on-line petition. We need to let our lawmakers see that our community needs a safe, clean place for it's citizens.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

We have to keep the pressure on our elected and appointed officials to keep the Victoria Pool open. It might yield dividends. We hope !


First published: Sunday, March 7, 2010

Favorable signs are popping up that state government will find a way to keep open all those state parks and historic sites we were shocked to learn are scheduled to close because of New York's dreadful economic condition.
I stress that we can't celebrate yet. The threat to a number of places, including John Boyd Thacher State Park in Albany County, remains as real as dirt and rocks. But I'll wager that before negotiations over a new state budget are done, the parks will be saved. The question is, will that be soon enough?

The motivator is simple enough: the roar of the public, a din no politician dares to ignore. The minute word got out that the state was willing to close up to 90 parks and historic sites to save a few million bucks, the public said "no, you don't" in about as clear and loud a united voice as can be sent in a state not known for being united on much. Since the day of the announcement, individual legislators in districts across the state have been getting an earful. This is an issue that personally offends a broad spectrum of the population.

A Capitol rally last week to save the parks drew hundreds, including a number of legislators. More than 100,000 people have formed or joined "save the parks" Facebook groups. More have signed petitions or have gotten involved with groups that cropped up to save a particular park or historic site.

"Parks Day last week showed the tremendous support there is, no question," noted Sen. Jose Serrano, who chairs the cultural affairs, tourism, parks and recreation committee in his house. "Believe me, this gets legislators' attention, and gets them off their butts to take care of it. And support for finding a way is totally bipartisan. We have the will."

But how does all this good feeling for parks translate into something more tangible?

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who chairs a similar committee in his chamber, said, "We're looking at short- and long-term actions necessary to keep our park system healthy. Of course we need to find new sources of revenue."

Among these are additional or enhanced public use fees. Serrano suggests tapping into federal stimulus funds. But increasing fees, or repackaging them to advance availability of funds, is unlikely to have any impact on the $15 million we're told the Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation sees as absolutely bottom-line necessary to keep all the parks and historic sites open and functioning at current levels.

Here's why: The governor's proposed 2010-11 budget calls for $29 million in cuts from the state parks budget. In addition, it assumes that unnamed additional fees, such as Englebright is suggesting, will bring in $4 million. (How more money would come in when some parks are to be closed is somewhat mystifying.)

So it's clear that if our state parks and historic sites are going to be saved, we need to find a hefty source of funds not already committed to another worthy cause in the budget.

Which brings us to an unorthodox solution. Besides the $4 million anticipated in increased fees, the remaining $11 million needed already happens to be in the state parks capital budget. It should be made available for operating use.

Capital budgets and operating budgets usually have a firewall between them for good reason. But as Al Caccese, executive director of Audubon New York and for 28 years a top manager at Parks, points out, these are extraordinary times requiring like-minded responses. Al is also a lawyer who used to juggle numbers at Parks, so he knows.

"Absolutely we shouldn't be making a practice of this. This should be one-time only. What's sacrificed is replacing equipment, and maintenance, and so on."

It certainly seems logical that having funds available for all the hardware and equipment needed to run our state parks is senseless if we can't open and operate those parks. So there is a priority issue here. Long term, we need to look elsewhere. But that's tomorrow's headache.

That transfer of funds requires a sign-off by the Legislature and the governor.

We're told the Legislature seems favorably disposed.

"But we don't have a clue what the governor thinks," said Serrano. What has been lost in Governor Paterson's paralyzed tenure in office is how little is getting done in terms of passing a budget that's due in three weeks. We're the ones suffering ultimately. Serrano says no one from the executive branch is engaged on parks funding, or on a number of other budget items, for that matter.

And time is our enemy here. A decision on making the necessary funds available needs to happen soon. Parks already has started canceling reservations for stays at its facilities this summer. If this process drags on unresolved for long, the customer base will have been chased away.

"All we can do is have our houses in order on this, which we hope to do," said Serrano. "So that when the governor's office finally does engage, we can act quickly. That's our hope."

So, for those of us who love our state parks, that's more than we had last week.

Fred LeBrun can be reached at 454-5453 or by e-mail at

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Midsummer to return to New York City Ballet at SPAC 2010 season.

New York City Ballet returns to SPAC with ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’
Thursday, March 4, 2010

The New York City Ballet will perform “The Concert” as part of an all-Robbins program at SPAC this summer.
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“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the full-length story ballet, returns to Saratoga this summer, the New York City Ballet and Saratoga Performing Arts Center has announced.

Set to music by Felix Mendelssohn and choreographed in 1964 by City Ballet founder George Balanchine, the ballet retells Shakespeare’s tale of romance, magic and mistaken identity.

“There is no better stage for this woodland fairy tale than SPAC itself, which has the forest, fireflies and moonlight to make this lyrical work come to life,” Marcia J. White, SPAC’s president and executive director, said in a press statement.

The production features elaborate sets and costumes and a cast of more than 100 dancers, including 27 children, and will be performed three times during the first week.

Premieres and classics
City Ballet’s two-week residency at SPAC, which runs July 6-17, includes 16 different ballets, from Saratoga premieres of new works by Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon to George Balanchine classics such as “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and originally commissioned by SPAC in 1975.

The summer program also features Stravinsky Violin Concerto, which Balanchine created as part of the legendary Stravinsky Festival and which was last performed at SPAC in 2004; several popular works by Jerome Robbins including “N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz,” “The Concert” and “Red Angels,” a visually dramatic ballet choreographed by Ulysses Dove that was last performed at SPAC in 1998.

The annual ballet gala, on July 10, features Saratoga premieres of two new works commissioned as part of the ballet’s Architecture of Dance — New Choreography and Music Festival. Ratmansky’s new ballet is set to music of Édouard Lalo’s “Namouna,” Christopher Wheeldon’s to Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s “Estancia.” Wheeldon’s work also features scenic design by internationally acclaimed architect Santiago Calatrava, who is designing the new transit hub at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.

There are also pre-performance special events planned throughout the season, all free to ticket holders. They include Thursday Date Nights (July 8 and 15) with wine and chocolate tastings, music on the lawn and other attractions for couples; and American Girl Night (July 14), sponsored by Emma Willard School, with tea parties, crafts and giveaways for children.

Fridays (July 9 and 16) offer special events for families, including free ice cream, face painting and workshops presented by NYCB dancers, musicians and teachers.

“One of our highest priorities is to introduce new audiences to the sheer beauty and excitement of New York City Ballet,” White said.

Ticket prices for SPAC’s New York City Ballet performances start at $18 for lawn seats; inside seating ranges from $26-$72.50. The “Kids Free on the Lawn” promotion gives free lawn admission to children 12 and under for classical performances (excluding the American Girl Night, where children’s lawn seats cost $5, and the gala, where there are no discounted lawn tickets).

Order forms for tickets to New York City Ballet’s SPAC season are available on SPAC’s Web site at or by contacting SPAC at 518.584.9330.

The full schedule follows:

July 6, 8 p.m.

All American program with: “Fancy Free” (Bernstein/Robbins), “Red Angels” (Einhorn/Dove), Barber Violin Concerto (Barber/Martins), “Who Cares?” (Gershwin/Balanchine)

July 7, 8 p.m.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Mendelssohn/Balanchine)

July 8 (Matinee), 2 p.m.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Mendelssohn/Balanchine)

July 8, 8 p.m.

“La Source” (Delibes/Balanchine), “Fancy Free” (Bernstein/Robbins), “Who Cares?” (Gershwin/Balanchine)

July 9, 8 p.m.

Mixed Rep program: Divertimento No. 15 (Mozart/Balanchine), “Red Angels” (Einhorn/Dove), Barber Violin Concerto (Barber/Martins), “Fancy Free” (Bernstein/Robbins)

July 10 (Matinee), 2 p.m.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Mendelssohn/Balanchine)

July 10, 8 p.m.

Ballet Gala — Saratoga Premieres: New Ratmansky Ballet (Lalo/Ratmansky), New Wheeldon Ballet (Ginastera/Wheeldon)

Fireworks after the performance

July 13, 8 p.m.

All Robbins program: “N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz” (Prince/Robbins), “In the Night” (Chopin/Robbins), “The Concert” (Chopin/Robbins)

July 14, 8 p.m.

Emma Willard American Girl Night: “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (Bizet/Balanchine), “Walpurgisnacht Ballet” (Gounod/Balanchine), New Ratmansky Ballet (Lalo/Ratmansky)

July 15 (Matinee), 2 p.m..

Divertimento No. 15 (Mozart/Balanchine), “Red Angels” (Einhorn/Dove), Barber Violin Concerto (Barber/Martins), New Wheeldon Ballet (Ginastera/Wheeldon)

July 15, 8 p.m.

“La Source” (Delibes/Balanchine), “After the Rain” (Pärt/Wheeldon), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (Stravinsky/Balanchine)

July 16, 8 p.m.

All Robbins program: “N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz” (Prince/Robbins), “In the Night” (Chopin/Robbins), “The Concert” (Chopin/Robbins)

July 17 (Matinee), 2 p.m.

“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (Bizet/Balanchine), “Walpurgisnacht Ballet” (Gounod/Balanchine), “After the Rain” (Pärt/Wheeldon), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (Stravinsky/Balanchine)

July 17, 8 p.m.

All Balanchine program: “Walpurgisnacht Ballet” (Gounod/Balanchine), Stravinsky Violin Concerto, (Stravinsky/Balanchine), Divertimento No. 15 (Mozart/Balanchine)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

keep the golfers happy at saratoga spa state park for $600,000+ but let the Victoria Pool still be in jeapordy.

Dam repair on Geyser Creek at Spa State Park
March 2, 2010 at 1:21 pm by Leigh Hornbeck

Work underway at the Spa State Park will replace much of the dam across Geyser Creek.

Geyser Creek dam, circa 1920 There is still a culvert (top of photo) that brings the stream under Route 50. Photos provided by Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

If you, like me, drive along Route 50 south of the city regularly, you have noticed the work going on next to the south corner of 50 and Avenue of the Pines. I talked to Kurt Kress, the capital facilities manager at the Saratoga Spa State Park, and he told me about the project.

Alpine Construction of Schuylerville, hired by the state after a competitive bidding process, is in the midst of a $676,000 job to repair the 90-year-old dam across Geyser Creek. The dam was originally built to power a long gone mill, the water held back in the creek is now used to irrigate the two golf courses at the state park.

Work began in October. The workers are rebuilding the east abutment, replacing stone masonry with reinforced concrete down to the bedrock. In all, the new abutment is about 25 feet high, from the bedrock to the top. The workers are also anchoring the spillway to the bedrock with rods and re-grouted the spillway. All the work will meet current safety codes written by the state Department of Conservation.

The improvements to the dam will ensure a more reliable water source for the golf course operators in dry seasons, Kress said.

Work is scheduled to be done by May 15. The project is slightly behind schedule because the workers were surprised to find the bottom of the original dam was not flush with bedrock, but sitting about six feet above it.

Posted in Around town, Parks | Add a comment

Monday, March 01, 2010

will victoria pool be next on park's hit list?

State parks cancel some camping reservations
Monday, March 1, 2010

The Associated Press

ALBANY (AP) — The state has canceled the reservations of about 350 people who had booked campsites and other accommodations at a dozen state parks that may be closed because of New York's budget crisis.

State parks spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee confirmed Monday that the agency has notified the individuals about the cancellations and given them full refunds.

Of the 12 parks, six are in the Thousand Islands region in northern New York. The dozen parks canceling camping reservations are some of the state system's smallest in terms of the number of campsites offered, with a total of about 450. There are 8,355 campsites and 817 cabins in the parks system, Larrabee said.

So far, there are more than 40,000 state parks campsite reservations for the upcoming season, she said.

The parks agency said last month that it planned to close 41 of 178 parks while reducing services at 23. They're also proposing shutting down 14 of 35 state historic sites.

The campsites canceling reservations are Canoe Island, Cedar Island, Eel Weir, Keewaydin, Macomb Reservation and Mary Island in the Thousand Islands region; Hunts Pond, Oquaga Creek and Pixley Falls in central New York; Newtown Battlefield in the Southern Tier; Max V. Shaul near Albany, and Taconic's Rudd Pond in the Hudson Valley.

Parks officials announced in January that they would have to close some parks and historic sites after Gov. David Paterson proposed cutting $20 million from the agency's budget. The list of potential closings was released last month, sparking an outcry among business leaders and parks advocates across the state.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation operates its own system of 52 campgrounds in the Catskill and Adirondack parks. DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren said the agency is still working on its budget plans and won't comment on whether campground closings or service reductions are being considered.


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