Update: Downtown Real Estate and Saratoga Casino

Corner of Broadway and Washingto
Wrap Around Indigo
421 Broadway
421 Broadway – Building On Left, Two Doors Down From Putnam Market
Borders At Broadway and Washington
Simulation of Indigo Side Facing Washington
Rendering of Indigo, the side facing Washington

There has been quite a bit of activity in the downtown property world.  A huge amount of construction and renovation is planned for the corner of Broadway and Washington.

According to the Albany Business Review:

  1. Fingerpaint’s founder and head has signed an agreement to purchase their headquarters, the old Border’s Books building, and its 55 space parking lot from a real estate firm in Buffalo.  The price was not disclosed.  The ABR reports that the company has been paying about $500,000.00 a year in rental fees.  It is encouraging that Fingerpaint has made this commitment to downtown.
  2. A group from Brooklyn has purchased 421 Broadway for $3.3 million dollars from Mel Macy and Saratoga Inn LLC.  The building has three small retail shops on the first floor and seventeen apartments above them.  The same group bought the Roohan building where Putnam Market is housed.
  3. All of this is in addition to the ambitious plans by the developer of the Adelphi Hotel to build a separate hotel and spa on Washington Street.  The new facility will back up to the rear of the Adelphi.
  4. A developer has selected Bonacio Construction on what is described as a $50 million project involving the renovation of the Rip Van Dam and the construction of a related building around the corner on Washington Street.  The project will incorporate an Indigo Hotel with 96,000  square feet.  As best I understand it, the final building will wrap around the corner with the building housing Starbucks sandwiched in.


On the casino front Moody’s has issued an analysis of the explosive expansion of gaming venues.  The title does not encourage: “Cannibalization of Gaming Revenue Continues in Northeast.”  It reports that Saratoga Casino revenue has dropped 14% in the last twelve months going from $168 million to $144 million since the opening of the Rivers Casino in Schenectady.  This is before the 1.2 billion dollar Resorts World facility in the Catskills opens in February which the report predicts will also negatively impact Rivers.

Update on Charter Change

I got the following email from SUCCESS representative Richard Sellers:

“The Saratoga Springs Charter Referendum vote judicial review seems to be on hold waiting for the New York Appellate Court to rule on a relevant case from Essex County. We’ll have to wait and see how the appeal goes before our case moves forward. 

GUESSING: This could be another 6 weeks until we get back into Saratoga County.” 

In the meantime the Watertown, New York city council voted 4-1 not to renew city manager Sharon Addison’s contract when it expires in June.  The mayor of the city voted to support her.  The city has been in a protracted legal battle with the fire department which has left the department without a contract for three and a half years. Ms. Addison came to Saratoga Springs twice at the invitation of the Charter Review Commission to advocate for the city manager form of government.    Watertown has formed a charter review commission to consider whether it should continue to use the city manager form.  This is a link to a story from North Country Public Radio.





Saratoga County Sues Over Opioid Crisis

An article in the January 22nd edition of the Gazette Newspaper reported that the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors has engaged the law firm Napoli Shkolnik PLLC to represent them as part of a lawsuit regarding the opioid epidemic.  Apparently, as part of the legal strategy, the county passed a resolution declaring the epidemic to be a “public nuisance.”

The agreement with the law firm is on a contingency basis.  The County puts up no money but should the County prevail, the law firm will receive a share in the settlement.

A brief internet search indicated that this law firm which is located on Long Island has agreements with municipalities in other states.

In its September 12 edition, the Post Star reported that attorney Donald Boyagian of Saratoga , who the paper identified as being affiliated with a national law firm, had pitched a proposal to the Warren County Board of Supervisors for litigation against the manufacturers of opioids.  The national law firm is Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC.  They had already been engaged by fifteen counties including Fulton County.  Oddly, the article in the Post Star reported that Schenectady had signed on with Boyagian’s group while the Gazette reported that Schenectady had signed on with Napoli Shkonink.  It could be Schenectedy county vs the city of Schenectady.  http://poststar.com/news/local/local-counties-pitched-for-opioid-manufacturer-lawsuits/article_7f5d177a-c830-5df8-92d9-9ed8e28c7113.html

The Post Star reported that the “…law suits go after counties  for what Boyajian called ‘concerted, aggressive, fraudulent marketing schemes’ that resulted in thousands of addicts who turned to heroin when the pain killer pills become less effective for them over time.”

The Post Start subsequently reported in their November 15 edition that Warren County had selected  Napoli Shkolnik to represent them.  While there were reservations raised at the Warren County board meeting, they voted unanimously to approve the agreement.  http://poststar.com/news/local/with-some-apprehension-warren-county-opts-into-opioid-lawsuit/article_a3663a93-b6b9-5f9c-84e0-91bddf280a13.html

Given the disturbing history of cronyism in Saratoga County I was curious about the history of our county’s involvement in this process.  I contacted our new Supervisor, Tara Gaston, who responded promptly with the following.


I appreciate you reaching out to me. As far as the background – the decision to sue, and the discussions behind that, were made before I took my position on the Board. I will say that the purpose is to be able to recoup some of the excessive costs the County has had to spend on fighting the opioid epidemic. The County chose to hire a well-known firm that has been handling this issue for other municipalities. I am currently in discussion with the County Attorney, and potentially with Napoli Shkolnik itself, to get more information on the strategy and costs, although it is currently my understanding that, it is a contingency-fee case with a similar strategy as tobacco litigation.

Again, while this isn’t a lot of information now, I am having on-going discussions regarding the litigation to make sure that the interests of the City (and County) are represented. I also urge anyone interested in this to attend the public hearing on the proposed local law. It will be at the Board (40 McMaster Street Ballston Spa) February 14, 2018, at 4:28PM. http://www.saratogacountyny.gov/event/public-hearing-428pm-2/

Additionally, comments can be made at the public comment period on February 27, 2018 (or any other Board meeting). Unfortunately,  24 hours’ notice is required in order to speak at the meetings, so please make sure to share that so that individuals who want to comment can. I am also happy to accept comments at my official email above, or on my Supervisor Facebook page, which I will make sure are considered as well.

– Supervisor Tara N. Gaston

Saratoga Brewing Company and Tap Room Suddenly Closes

Saratoga Brewing Company which started making beer in 1997 has suddenly closed. The company has been operating out of a property at 131  Excelsior Avenue owned by Stewarts Shops.   SBC has brewed beer for a number of companies here in New York.  This is the story from the Saratogian January 17 edition.  http://www.saratogian.com/article/ST/20180117/NEWS/180119835

The reason for the sudden closing in the story was confusing.  This story from the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California cast more light on the situation.

The local Saratoga brewery is part of a larger empire run by Vijay Mallya whose corporate headquarters are in London.  Mr. Mallya is fighting extradition to India over charges of fraud and money laundering.



Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and Sustainable Saratoga Host Event Addressing Building Heights

[JK: I received an email from the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and Sustainable Saratoga with information about a presentation regarding standards for building heights in downtown Saratoga Springs.

Modern urban planning acknowledges that the proportions between building height and the width of related streets and sidewalks are key to creating an environment that attracts people on foot.  The canyon effect of having large buildings sandwiching narrow streets creates a sunless dead zone.

This  presentation comes at a time when the city’s land use boards are reviewing two  proposals for six story buildings  in the city’s  core. It should be an interesting event.]



A Closer Look at Building Heights

Retaining Saratoga Springs’ Character & Charm

Tuesday January 30, 2018 7:00PM ​Empire State College | 2 Union Avenue | Room 126

Come attend a presentation about building heights in downtown Saratoga Springs. Planner George Jacquemart of BFJ Planning will offer perspectives on how people react to building heights. Following the presentation, there will be a panel discussion with local developer Sonny Bonacio of Bonacio Construction Inc.; local architect Matt Hurff of Frost Hurff Architects; Doug Kerr, Chair of SSPF Advocacy Committee; and Kate Maynard, Principal Planner for the City of Saratoga Springs. Free and open to the public.​






Yepsen Lands Job With Mercury Public Affairs

Joanne Yepsen has been hired by the firm “Mercury Public Affairs” as a “Senior Vice President.”  The firm, which has offices globally, has an office in Albany.  Their website offers the following description:

“Mercury is a high-stakes public strategy firm. We provide results for the world’s most successful companies, leading advocacy groups, governments, political parties, NGOs, and prominent public and political figures.”

In the January 17th edition of the Saratogian Ms. Yepsen describes her anticipated role as follows:

“Mercury’s national platform will allow me to work on the issues that have mattered to me my entire career, while delivering winning results for clients,” said Yepsen. “I look forward to working with the team on a wide range of bipartisan issues.”

In talking to friends familiar with Mercury, they describe the company as a high pressure operation in which positions such as the one Ms. Yepsen has taken, are expected to generate a great deal of income for the firm.

Michael McKeon who is a partner in the firm was the communications director for Republican Governor George Pataki.  An article from Politico from 2010 described him organizing a group called Republicans For Cuomo.

Mercury’s website boasts how they helped engineer the elections of Chris Christi in New Jersey, George Pataki in New York, and Arnold Schwarzeneger in California, emphasizing the fact that they were Republicans running in predominantly Democratic states.

This is not a warm and fuzzy organization.

Mercury cites their success in defeating “sophisticated activist investors on behalf of medical tech company board of directors.”

They boast that they “Developed successful strategy for global automaker to keep union out of US.”

Most recently they have been drawn into the Robert Mueller web regarding work they did on behalf of Paul Manaforte who has pleaded guilty to lying to Federal investigators.   According to the article there are potential legal issues for Mercury because “The firms involved with the Ukraine project did not initially register as foreign agents at the time…”

Contacted by the Washington Post, Mr. McKeon would neither confirm nor deny that Mercury had received subpoenas from Mr. Mueller.  There is a delicious irony that Mercury’s website describes this same Michael McKeon as having “provided crisis communications counsel to some of the world’s top companies and individuals thrust into the media spotlight.”

The Post story also notes that “Mercury, which has prominent Republicans among its senior partners, had worked on the Ukraine lobbying project [Manaforte’s deep pocketed client] with the Podesta group, led by Anthony Podesta, brother of John Podesta, who led Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”  The globe has become a very small place and these strategic firms are bi-partisan in the sense that they are happy to work with whomever is paying them.