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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Thursday, May 29

Drug charges

This will be all over the paper tomorrow, but here it is as well. As a Skidmore student, I often forgot how pervasive the drug culture could be there. Of course, it's important that the law be enforced, but it's really a shame that so many young lives will be ruined, and all for some easy money. Oh well, I supposed everyone makes mistakes.

Here is the text of the press release from city police:

The Saratoga Springs Police Department has announced the arrest of nine current and former Skidmore College students on a variety of drug charges. The arrests follow an 18 month investigation into drug activity in the downtown area, and identified sources of supply in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

A press release from the department states the following individuals have been arrested in connection with this case over the past several months:

Esu McFadden (20) Skidmore College. Mr. McFadden was charged with three counts each of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 7th Degree.

Nathaniel Prinzi (21) Skidmore College. Mr. Prinzi was charged with two counts each of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 7th Degree.


Julian Rodier (22) 21 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs. One count of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd degree.

Samuel Miner (21) 18 Lafayette Street, Saratoga Springs. One count each of Criminal Sale and criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Sub-stance in the 7th degree.

Henry Hester (32) San Diego California. Two counts each of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 7th Degree. Mr. Hester was extradited from California where he had moved to prior to the conclusion of the investigation. He is the only individual arrested locally in this case who had not been enrolled at some point at Skidmore College.

Peter Lesser (19) Skidmore College. One count each of Criminal Sale of Marijuana in the 3rd Degree and Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the 2nd Degree.

Jonah Haviland-Markowitz (21) 35 Second Street, Saratoga Springs. Two counts of Criminal Sale of Marijuana in the 4th Degree.

Matthew Heckman (21) 174 grand Ave, Saratoga Springs. Two counts of Criminal Sale of Marijuana in the 4th Degree.

Richard Brautigam (22) 21 Phila Street. One count of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the 4th Degree.

During the investigation, police in Saratoga Springs, Massachusetts and New Hampshire seized over one ounce of cocaine, over twenty pounds of marijuana, approximately $50,000 in cash and a small amount of LSD. The majority of the marijuana was intercepted and seized out of state prior to reaching the streets of Saratoga Springs. Additional information on the arrests and seizures occurring out of state are not available, as the Saratoga Springs Police Department is not authorized to speak further on those investigations.

The Saratogian is following the story and will have more details soon.

Wednesday, May 28

National desk revisited

With just one primary contest remaining before the Democratic presidential hopefuls head into a heated summer battle -- at the end of which Barrack Obama will be named the party's nominee -- we have a decision from the DNC. Apparently, Florida and Michigan were only half-naughty when they moved their own primary contests up to take place before "Super Tuesday."

At this point, if you readers are anything like me, you're getting a little weary of this whole drawn-out selection process. Had I been at that meeting, I would have advised the the DNC to exact a heftier punishment on the two wayward states, if for no other reason than they're adding more drama to what I think should be a cut-and-dried process.

Why our system requires these two senators to effectively stop doing their job for more than a year, while still on the tax payer's doll is beyond me. We need to find a system that allows party members to select a nominee without the years-long campaigning, the millions spent, and the prolonged absences of two of 100 senators. Think about it: if you missed as much time from your job as Clinton and Obama have missed from theirs, wouldn't you find that pink slip in your mailbox pretty soon? Especially if the reason for your absences was that you were seeking another job?

Let's get it over with already.

Tuesday, May 27

Autism conference draws Govorner

Well, I'm back and rest from a nice long weekend. I hope everyone else had a good holiday too! This from Roy McDonald's office:

Assemblyman Roy McDonald (R,C,I-Saratoga) will be a participating in a press conference hosted by Governor David Paterson and the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities on Wednesday, May 28 at 10:30 a.m. as they launch a statewide autism research effort.

The event will be held in the Blue Room of the state Capitol. Joining the Assemblyman will be his wife Angela, daughter Stephanie, son-in-law Matt and their children, Jacob (5 ½ y.o.) and David (3 ½ y.o.), both of whom have been diagnosed with autism. McDonald has long championed autism awareness around the state and currently serves as Chairman of the Assembly Republican Autism Awareness Task Force.

Friday, May 23

Leaving town...

Don't worry, it's just for the weekend. I'll be back on Tuesday. Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 22

Lights Out!

Yup, it was lights out here at The Saratogian for a couple hours this afternoon, as it was for most of downtown Saratoga and Wilton and Greenfield. When the power blinked out, and my computer, the nexus of my universe here at The Saratogian, became a useless chunk of metal, glass and plastic, I stared at it blankly for a few moments, and picked up my notebook and went out for a walk.

It seemed that hundreds of Saratogians had gone through a nearly identical thought process. With most businesses now so intimately bound to technology that work is impossible without them, there were a lot of people with nothing to do milling around Broadway. From people in suits, to retail clerks, to waiters and waitresses, it was a veritable cornucopia of those who couldn't work out on the street this afternoon.

Happily, the outage occurred between gushing downpours, so those of us on the street were able to enjoy being outside in the sun and relative warmth. Everyone seemed a little confused, but still happy for the unexpected break. It felt a little like a fire drill, except there were no teachers yelling at you to be quiet. It was a nice day, and it was nice to enjoy it that way.

Wednesday, May 21

Memorial Day Parade

How much do you love a parade? If you're anything like me, the conglomeration of shinny fire engines, horses, marching bands and carefully choreographed dances, is a singularly fascinating experience.

I especially love that there in Spa city we like our parades so much, that we make sure to get it in when we're sure everyone is in town, on a Wednesday. One year ago, before I was privy to the details of such events, I was quite surprised to come out of Boarders and see a parade on Broadway. "Hmm...," I though to myself. "Why is there a parade on Wednesday?"

Well, I still haven't heard a good answer to the question, but I'm fairly confident it has to do with the fact that people want to get out of town on the weekend, and there wouldn't be anything more disappointing than a parade without anyone watching.

So, I was heartened to see the sidewalks relatively crowded today with people coming out to watch our parade, despite the cold temperatures. From what I've heard, today's parade is just a taste of what's to come on Flag Day.

Tuesday, May 20

Ride of Silence

Just went you though Bike Week was over... I realized that it's still Bike Month here in the state of New York.

Tomorrow is what I think might be the month's most important event: The ride of Silence. This is a 12-mile ride that will pass by three ghost bikes: bicycles painted white and installed as memorials to cyclists killed in collisions with cars.

To quote one of my favorite cycling bloggers, BikeSnobNYC: "Every day each one of us is a wayward SUV and a can of white Krylon away from becoming a ghost bike, and that's the way we like it."

Well, I don't know if I really like my daily commute to be a death-defying experience, but I recognize that at times, it can be. And sometimes, there's no escaping death. Tomorrow's ride will remember any of the 600-odd cyclists killed each year when crossing paths with a vehicle. This is a very necessary homage. Although the ride will only visit three ghost bikes, there have been nine cyclists killed by cars in recent years.

If this ride were local, and not in Albany, I would go and participate, but alas, it's too far away. For anyone who has more time free to travel about the capital district, the ride begins at 6 p.m. at the Corning Preserve. You can contact Claire Nolan at for more information.

Anyone with a bike and helmet is welcome, and rider are encouraged to wear a black armband to honor the deceased.

Monday, May 19

Experiments in video

I spent most of my morning today making a video about The Saratoga Automobile Museum's Spring Auto show. This is one demand on the time of a modern multi-media reporter. And to answer the question of my thousands of teen-aged fan, no, I will not have my on-camera appearance in this video. You'll have to wait until I find the time for a haircut before that happens.

In any event, since I spent way too much time on the video, I don't have any time left to blog. Since you don't have anything to read here, I'm assigning you to go and watch this video instead. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 18

Busy night for the SSPD

If you read tomorrow's police blotter, you'll notice several drug related arrests. This may not be unusual for a Saturday night here in the Spa city, but I think the way in which some of these people get caught is somewhat amusing.

For instance, in one of the arrests, a police officer (I don't know if he was in plainclothes or uniform), was walking down a street. Suddenly, another person on the sidewalk tries to nonchalantly throw a small white baggie into some bushes. Hmm... If he'd only managed to keep his nerve. Too bad, look's like he's getting a felony drug rap now... Obviously not all drug arrests are that easy, but it's all in a days work for law enforcement.

All in all, SSPD made eight arrests between 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, with the vast majority occuring between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The most interesting of these has to be the man who was arrested for peeing on a parked police car. Now come on, that's just asking for trouble.

Thursday, May 15

National bike to work day

That's right, Friday is national ride your bike to work day. I won't be participating, since Friday is my day off, but I'm giving myself a pass, because I ride my bike to work everyday that I do work anyway.

There are many reasons to ride your bike to work, not the least of which is that it's a whole lot cheaper than driving. For instance, I have a special bike that I only use for riding to and from work. I bought it about a year ago, and it cost me about $300. Throw in a few more bucks for a good lock, and some other accessories, and we'll say that I spent about $400 in all. How quickly do you go through $400 worth of gas?

Obviously, the figure depends on what kind of vehicle you drive, but I'm willing to bet that even someone driving an ultra-efficient hybrid to and from work will go through more than $400 wroth of gas in a year. And my bike will last a lot longer than one year.

I know it can sometimes be hard to ride a bike in the winter, but now that summer is here, excuses are waning. It's time to get out and ride. Even some of my co-workers here are considering riding bikes. I think it's time you did to.

I found this nifty tool today, which can help you calculate the cost/benefit of riding a bike, versus driving a car on your daily commute. It's a table on the bottom of the website. Check it out if you get the chance, you might be surprised at how much you'd save over the course of a year, even if you only rode to work once or twice a week.

Alright, I'll get down off of my bully pulpit now. Have a good weekend.

It's a Democrat!

Ok... I know this story is already old news, having broken nearly two hours ago, but I just want to say for the record, that despite my efforts to write and post the story before 1 p.m., it has not yet appeared on our website. For anyone out there reading, here's the story:

It’s a Democrat!


The Saratogian

BATHESDA — U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand gave birth to her second son on Thursday morning.

The boy, named Henry Nelson Gillibrand, weighs 7 pounds, 14 ounces, and is 20 inches long. He was born at the Bathesda Naval Medical Center.

Mike Russo, Gillibrand’s district director, said both baby and mother are resting comfortably.

Gillibrand, D-Hudson, put in a 14 hour day on Wednesday working on legislation, and chose to deliver her second child in Washington D.C., to avoid missing votes on the floor.

Henry Nelson joins the congresswoman, her husband Jonathan, and 4-year old Theodore.

Gillibrand was due on May 18, and delivered three days early.

Reach Andrew J. Bernstein at or 518-583-8729 ext. 219.

Wednesday, May 14

Welcome to the Globe

I've never been much of a fan of Shakespeare, but I have to think that some of our Planning Board meetings are akin to what it must have been like to go watch plays at the Globe Theatre, back when Romeo and Juliet was hot off the presses.

At tonight's meeting, when Matthew Jones took the floor to discuss the proposed Arcadia Communities senior living at the intersection of Seward and Morgan Streets, he was all but met with boos.

The room was packed with detractors, and not one person spoke in favor of the proposed 4-story building. Each time someone spoke out against the proposal the audience would cheer. Each time a Planning Board member said something negative about the project, the audience would cheer. All the while, they standing room-only crowd talked amongst itself about the project's many shortcomings.

It's wonderful to live in a community where the citizens take such an active interest in local happenings, but I feel it's time I made a suggestion of my own: Since the volunteers on the Planning Board have to put up with all of these malcontents, lets move the meetings up an hour, the Planning Board has a chance of leaving city hall before midnight.

Tuesday, May 13

From Gillibrand to your wallet: cheaper gas prices

Rep. Gillibrand Votes for Lower Gas Prices

Sends Message to President Calling for Relief for Upstate Families

Washington, DCToday, Congresswoman Gillibrand followed up on her call last month for the President to take immediate action to lower gas prices by voting in favor of H.R. 6022, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Fill Suspension and Consumer Protection Act. This legislation is similar to the proposal that Congresswoman Gillibrand announced to bring immediate relief from record high gas prices. On April 3, the Congresswoman sent a letter directly to President George W. Bush asking him to suspend planned future purchases for the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This proposal would keep oil in the market, and according to market analysts, could reduce prices at the pump up to $0.25 a gallon.

“Upstate families are struggling with record high gas prices and rising food costs in this economic downturn,” said Congresswoman Gillibrand, a Member of the House Armed Services Committee. “This proposal sends a clear message to the President that immediate action must be taken to bring relief to the American people. For our long-term economic strength and national security, we must make substantial investments in new energy technologies, including non-food based biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol, and other renewable energy sources to break our dependence on foreign oil and tackle global climate change. This long-term energy policy will not only move America closer to energy independence, but will also revitalize our agricultural and manufacturing sectors, and grow new ‘green collar jobs right here in Upstate New York.”

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve Fill Suspension and Consumer Protection Act will temporally suspend purchases for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve through the end of 2008, till the price of a barrel of oil falls below $75. The Congressional Budget Office has found that for every $10 reduction in the price of a barrel of oil there is a $50 billion stimulative effect on the economy at a time when we desperately need it. The average price of gasoline in the Capital District has reached a record high $3.87 a gallon. The national average for a gallon of gasoline has increased nearly 160% since January 2001.

Monday, May 12

Special City Council Meeting

The City Council will meet in a special session at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss plumbing fixtures.

This issue comes to light after a man from Ferguson Waterworks turned up at the last meeting, and wanted to know why his company was being based over for a contract to supply the city with plumbing fixtures, when they had entered the low bid.

It turns out that although Ferguson had the low bid, they were not located nearby, and had problems getting things to the city in a timely manner. The now have a location in Clifton Park, and still want the city's business.

The only item on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting is on the Account's Department agenda, which says the city will award bid to both Ferguson and competitor Vellano Brothers, Inc., who were originally selected.

How will the two companies split the contract? Your guess is as good as mine. Be there, City Council room, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Thursday, May 8

Bike Month stuff

As you already know, May is bike month. And here in Saratoga Springs, next week is Bike Week. Events here in the city are organized by the Saratoga Healthy Transportation Network, and include a bicycle give-a-way on Saturday (and only the economically disadvantaged need apply). Everyone in the city is encouraged to bike to work next week, as part of "Bike to Work Week."

I've heard that Supervisors Yepsen and Veitch and Commissioner Kenneth Ivins III will all be riding somewhere. I gather that Ivins will ride to city hall, but I'm not sure about Yepsen or Veitch who don't have offices in City Hall. Anyhow...

If you ride a bike to work this week, next week, last week, I want to talk to you for a story I'll be writing next week. If you're an employer who provides bicycle parking for your emlpoyees, I want to hear from you to. Tell me about your bicycle commuting habits, I'm all ears.

phone: 583-8729 x219

On another note, there will be a special bonus Friday post tomorrow, as I will be in New York City on Sunday. Originally, the trip was to celebrate Mother's day, but my Mom decided to split town when she heard I was coming.

Wednesday, May 7

Racino Security

Local journalist, fireworks advocate, and my occasional drinking buddy Kyle York addressed the City Council at their meeting last night with concerns about the amount of funding requested by Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim to cover police overtime at the Racino. Public Safety officials have said the overtime is necessary following the withdrawal of the New York State Police.

Kyle stated last night (and has since told me in greater detail) that most other gambling facilities have ten uniformed security officers working the floor. Kyle objected to the fact that city officers were used to patrol the Racino, when, in his estimation, private security should handling security.

Although we covered the issue when it first broke, Kyle's comments and subsequent emails led me to investigate a little more. It turns out, according to Commissioner Kim and Chief of Police Edward Moore, that city police officers do not regularly patrol the racino, but instead respond on as-needed basis to back up private security and file charges. While private security can legally detain an out-of-control patron, they can't file formal charges. Coincidentally, some of the security officers at the racino are retired SSPD officers.

In addition, if there is a large crowd, an officer might be detailed to walk through the facility as part of a regular patrol before proceeding with other operations. In cases of special events or exceptionally large crowds, Moore said officers might be sent to the Racino to back up private security, just as they do at the track during the racing season. And this is where the overtime issues -- and presumably, Kyle's objections -- arise.

But if you ask me, the money is well spent. Here's why:

The only difference between this function, and the police's service at the track (police control large crowds of people) is that the Racino pumps a large amount of money into the city, to the tune of $3.4 million, or ten percent of the city's budget. Saratoga Springs doubtless had a sweet deal when we were getting all that money and investing relatively little in "hosting" the facility. So, now we have to spend a little bit of that revenue to protect the continued revenue stream. Seems like a small price to pay.

Tuesday, May 6

Council side note

One item was pulled from the consent agenda at Tuesday night's meeting. An award of a bid to Vellano Corporation for water and sewer pipe fittings of various sizes. The item likely would have gone through unnoticed, but a representative from Ferguson Water Works stood up at the meetings and asked the council why his company, which was the low-bidder on an RFP for the fittings in 2007, was passed over.

While the city is not obligated to selected the lower bidder in awarding contracts, at a council table nearly surrounded by "fiscal conservatives," the cheap choice would be the logical choice. Commissioner Scirocco, while not well-acquainted with the bid, said the previous administration selected Vellano because Ferguson, which was not located locally) was unable to deliver neccessary parts in a timely manner.

Since that time, Ferguson has established a location in Clifton Park, and remains the low-bidder on the contract. Scirocco pulled the item in the interest of looking into the matter further.

Monday, May 5

Price Chopper no more? Nothing new in the industry

I just came across this post on a New York Times blog, which pertains to a trend in New York city of local grocery stores rolling in their fruit stands and selling off the last of the flour before being replaced by high-end stores.

Given the furor generated by the rumored sale of the down town Price Chopper, I thought local readers might find this interesting.

On a side note, the latest rumor is that the sale will be finalized at the end of the summer, but of course, no official word on this.

Sunday, May 4

Street sweepers

Here's a funny thing that I see on the way to work every Sunday morning: employees of the Caroline Street bars outside sweeping up mounds of cigarette butts, scraping up wads of discarded gum, and hauling barrels full of empty beer cans out of their establishments. Usually, but the time I'm coming through, it's around 10 in the morning, about six hours after last call, and the employees cleaning up look tired, and sleep deprived, unhappy to be out of bed while all the patrons are still comfortably asleep.

I never stick around to watch this professional version of the hung-over college morning clean up, but I wonder if the bar backs and other cleaners "lucky" enough to be assigned to clean up duty form a little post-coital camaraderie. Look at all the beer we sold last night... how'd you do?

On the flip side, perhaps they remain strictly competitive, and don't get into the nity-gritty of a Saturday nights' reverie and spoils. Who knows. What I do know is the number of calls to the Saratogian's "Sound Off" line on the topic of drunk bar flies carousing up into the residential quarters of Caroline Street is staggering.

Caroline Street and the nightlife that centers there is arguably one of the things that makes Saratoga most unique in the capital region, but one can only wonder how sustainable the late-night/early morning last call is in Saratoga Springs. While a hallmark of our community, it only benefits a handful of businesses, while irking, apparently, most of the city.

In all of this, you've got to feel bad for the employees of D'Andrea's and Esperanto's, which have arguably the longest hours of any businesses around: cleaning up at 4 a.m. to the hang-over crowd not yet ready for eggs at Comptons, and then open in time for lunch the next day, while the surrounding bars are still putting out their trash. Gaffney's, with it's lunch business, comes close, but you don't see the same staff there at 4 a.m. as you do the next day at noon, as happens occasionally at the other two restaurants.

But of course, I wouldn't know anything about any of this.

Thursday, May 1

Can you hear me now?


I've just come from a special joint-session of the city's three land use boards, where board members heard a proposal for a cell tower to be placed along Route 50, heading toward Ballston Spa. The board members are greatly concerned about what a cell tower might look like in such a locations, and rightly so.

To date, SBA, a communication property development company, has done a good job disguising its cell towers, particularly in the barn and silo over on Crescent Ave., which I had ridden by on my bike dozens of times, and not noticed that it wasn't a barn until it was pointed out to me earlier this week.

But the trouble with the current proposal is that the necessary tower needs to be 125 feet tall. That's one large silo. Instead, SBA is proposing a "stealth pine." The problem that I see is that no matter how you dress the tower up, it will still stick out like a sore thumb to anyone paying attention, if for no other reason than that it's going to double the height of the surrounding trees.

But that's not to say we shouldn't have the tower, and it's not to say we shouldn't try to disguise it. I'm as attached to my phone as the next guy, probably more so, since I don't have a home phone, and I fully understand that the infrastructure to support those phones is essential. But we can't have both a pretty landscape and uniform cell coverage.

So, that leaves us striving to find some middle ground, and it seems the this stealth pine could be the ticket. But we'll see.