An Ugly Incident On White Street

Garage At 66 White Street

I had a very disturbing experience today.

I was advised that the garage being built at 66 White Street now had windows on the second floor.  I would refer you back to my earlier blog on this.  Basically, the owner of this property received a variance to build a garage that was not supposed to be habitable.  The plans showed no utilities to the garage.  In fact, a representative of the contractor told the Zoning Board of Appeals, in answer to neighborhood concerns, that they had no plans for plumbing in the project.  In spite of this, following the approval  by the ZBA, the contractor dug a ditch to run water and sewage to the property.  A neighbor reported this to the building inspector.  Aside from the fact that the plans submitted to the ZBA had not included utilities, the work required a plumbing permit that the contractor had not bothered to secure.  A stop work order was issued.  The builder got  the permit and continued work on the garage. 

At the ZBA meeting at which the approval was granted (see earlier post),  a member of that board asked whether the ZBA needed to stipulate that no bathroom or other amenity be allowed on the second floor. Chair William Moore dismissed the question by saying that it would be illegal to do so.  I was told that when subsequently the building inspector questioned the contractor about the purpose of the ditch for plumbing  he was told they planned to put a bathroom in but declined to tell the inspector where it would be put. 

The important thing to understand is that this structure is not supposed to be habitable.  So I decided to go and photograph the new windows to let the readers decide whether this suggested a possible change in the approved use of this building.  I also wanted to see whether there would be room to put the bathroom on the ground floor.

 I do not know how clear it is in the picture, but there does not appear to be much space on the ground floor if there are cars in both bays and a stairway in the back.

As I was taking the pictures from the sidewalk, one of the men on site approached me and asked what I was doing.  I told him I was taking a picture with my phone for a blog I write.  In a very threatening tone he asked me for my name, address, and phone number.  I told him that he had no authority to require me to give him this information.  I then began walking home.  This person  followed me down the street.  I decided to take a picture of him as he was quite large and his manner  rather menacingIt all had a bit of a film noir quality. I was shocked when he grabbed my cell phone out of my hand.  I asked him to give the phone back.  He refused and told me that I was not going to take his picture.  I asked him repeatedly to return my phone, but he refused.  I then told him that if he did not return my phone I would call the police.  He still stood in a rather intimidating pose and held the phone above his head.  I then turned to go home to call the police.  At that point he put the phone on the ground.  I retrieved my phone and took a picture of his back as he walked away.  I could have followed him and waited to take a picture of his face but decided that this could very well lead to a further escalation which would do no one any good.  I have also decided that it would serve no purpose to include in this blog any picture of him.

It is really rather discouraging that in addition to the troubling handling of this project by the building inspector and the Zoning Board of Appeals, we should have this kind of behavior in what is really a very lovely, friendly neighborhood. 



13 thoughts on “An Ugly Incident On White Street”

  1. I have followed your even-handed, detailed reporting of this flagrant violation, wondering when the approval board is going to stand up and hold the owner accountable. The message that it’s OK to ignore the rules is aggravating and the bullying you experienced on a public street, shameful.

    On Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 8:18 PM, Saratoga Springs Politics wrote:

    > John Kaufmann posted: ” I had a very disturbing experience today. I was > advised that the garage being built at 66 White Street now had windows on > the second floor. I would refer you back to my earlier blog on this. > Basically, the owner of this property received a variance t” >


  2. 2 things:
    1) Fair warning: Anyone who messes with my man John answers to me!
    2) I believe that if someone specifically says ‘don’t take my picture’ or denies permission to do so, they are in the right legally – it is just good practice in any event… you can photograph any object, such as this house, er- garage, as long as you are not trespassing on private property. You do not have to disclose your personal info, though when I’m on the job I try to wear my press ID – it answers a lot of questions.
    Interestingly, just last night I was at a tavern shooting performers, and i took one of the crowd for ambiance sake… a lady came up to me and asked that i delete it, and i did – even letting her watch me do so. I probably could have stood my ground, as it was a public place, but what the heck – it wasn’t crucial and made her happy… she also told me that she worked for the CIA (!) which I did not believe, but this did not affect my decision.
    I would file a police report of this incident – put it on the record just in case. And borrow someone’s pit bull next time you go there!


    1. It looks like members of the ZBA (and possibly the building department) aren’t doing their job by enforcing the terms of the original building permit. That’s why the City Council needs the power to both approve and remove members of all city boards for cause, which seems to be the case here. It’s what real checks and balances are all about.


  3. Mr. Levy–

    The ZBA and the building dept (Jack D; et alia) are NOT doing their jobs.
    Just look at 23 Murphy lane with its Tyvek ripping and tearing in the wind.
    Is this SARATOGA SPRINGS or Schenectady?

    Well, in Schenectady they would have addressed this issue.
    The Gazetted reported today that their code enforcement officer was arrested.
    Reading this, fellas?

    Look at what they did to the sidewalk at 131 Lincoln Avenue and ripping Tyvek at 138 Lincoln.
    Incompetence reigns well at the MAYOR’s office and at DPW.
    The Skipster is MIA.

    And the flags on city hall are a valid leading indicator of the problems at hand. There is a metal rod (SERIOUSLY) hanging from the bottom of the NYS flag and NOBODY has done anything about it.

    Yes, I called the mayor’s office. They said it’s DPW’s responsibility.
    So, I called DPW. I encourage anyone to call and experience what I experienced.
    It’s almost like the inmates are running the asylum.

    And the U.S. flag is still at half mast for John Glen.
    Go see for yourselves!
    BUT all is well… the Friendly Sons banners are waving delightfully, on Broadway.

    G-d save us.


    1. Does city hall have all building permits accessible to the public? Does any one know what the story is with 131 Lincoln/Murphy Lane, or the new building at the corner of Lincoln and Jackson Street? These properties seem oversized for their lots. The one on Lincoln/Jefferson is a monstrosity. A couple months ago, the same owner of those two also had 129 Lincoln listed for about 500,000 and the ad stated they were building a second story.


  4. In all fairness, having a window on the second floor does not necessarily mean the owners are planning to make the second floor habitable. But it would let in enough light so the owners could browse through their storage containers, trunks, et al….if they are indeed going to use the space as a storage loft.
    But I would definitely file a police report on the incident. If the police refuse to make a report, then call the commissioner. Be careful next time. Don’t let the contractor see where you live.


  5. Hey Henry!
    “Be careful next time. Don’t let the contractor see where you live.”

    You must be joking.
    We’re talking about Teakwood, right? Like, Thad Smith?
    OR–Am I mixing this up with 17 Murphy Lane?
    Something’s not right.
    Somebody should make an old fashioned phone call.



  6. I’m plan to head over to White Street and take some pictures for myself. Anyone else in for a daily photo shoot?


  7. There has been a knowledge in the construction industry for many years that zoning and building codes are optional in Saratoga. This started years ago with the Johnson administration. If you complain the contractors will fit you for cement shoes.
    Zoning is supposed to make the playing field level. In Saratoga Springs everyone knows someone on the council, the code in question is then ignored or determined to be optional. This is John’s point.
    There are literally 100 of these converted carriage houses that are connected to water and sewer illegally, they make great summer rentals for the track at $1100 to $1500 per week or $6,000 per season or $60,000 over ten years. Nice money with no permits, fees, or taxes to the city. The city will maybe write a letter but that is about it.


    1. Where is Mayor Yes Yes on this,after all she is a leader,maybe if this was code blue or shelters of saratoga with a camera she’d be there…..hay she doesn’t get paid enough….this is dog droppings….come on!


    2. Paula–I don’t really understand your point that “everyone knows someone on the council, the code is then ignored….” What is the connection here? The codes are ignored by land use boards that are appointed solely by the Mayor. Other Council members have no role in this.


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