Tagged with " Saratoga Springs"
Feb 27, 2021 - Uncategorized    No Comments

New police policies up for review in Saratoga Springs

How could Saratoga Springs improve police and community relations and address any racial disparities in policing?

Those are two of the many questions tackled by a task force whose recommendations are available for people to question during a Zoom meeting Wednesday. The recommendations and meeting registration are on the front page of the city’s website. Here’s the link to read the report and register for the meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1.

After public input (provided in writing and at the online forum) is gathered, the task force will polish its report and submit it to the City Council. Municipalities across the state have until April 1 to adopt (and begin to implement) a plan to improve police department policies, practices and community relations.

I watched the task force’s most recent meeting, when recommendations prepared by its subcommittees were voted on for inclusion in the report that I, for one, intend to read. Task force members have invested a lot of time and effort.  

The creation of the task force was ordered last June by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, spurred by the need to do something concrete in the wake of the May murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and the nationwide protests that followed in response to that and other racially biased and needlessly deadly law enforcement (including more than a half-dozen in New York state).

The governor’s order spells out the rationale, goals, requirements and deadline and leaves it to locales (a sensible and politically expedient assignment) to tailor a plan best suited for their community. The carrot for meeting the deadline is continued receipt of state money (and federal money funneled through the state) to local governments. However, I’m not clear how the multitude of municipalities’ plans with be measured for both content and implementation. No one benefits from a report gathering virtual dust.

Fresh pairs of thoughtful, informed eyes can improve just about any operations, including police departments. That said, many desirable policies regarding police procedures and accountability already exist; more transparency would show how diligently they are followed.  

How is racial and other bias recognized and addressed? What are Saratoga Springs’ policies regarding use of force, including chokeholds; no-knock warrants; and penalties for misconduct? How are those terms even defined? What alternatives exist during and after calls that involve someone who appears mentally ill and dangerous? Those are among the questions that I’ll have in mind as I review the recommendations and the rationales for them.

Feb 5, 2021 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Nonpartisan local elections and top vote-getter races make sense

The March 16 elections in Saratoga County’s village of Ballston Spa will for the first time be nonpartisan, to the credit of both local Republicans and Democrats. Mayor Larry Woolbright cut to the chase in a story about the change by the Times Union’s Wendy Liberatore: “We call ourselves ‘A Village of Friends’ and then every two years when we have an election, we act like complete morons.”

Nonpartisan local elections make sense.

I want water clean, taxes fair, streets snowplowed; to know 911 will bring well-trained police or firefighters; places for kids to play; and downtown, the arts, and parks protected and supported.

I want representatives who are responsive, innovative, civil, forward-thinking, environmentally conscious, sensitive to local social and economic issues, consensus-building problem solvers. I want to know their positions, plans, and track record for community service.

For all of those things, the character and ability of the person is more important than their political party.

Saratoga Springs, whose voters elect both Democrats and Republicans, should consider a return to nonpartisan races, which is how city elections were set up when I became a reporter at The Saratogian in 1977. Though this system was new to me, it turned out it’s overwhelmingly common nationwide in municipalities large and small.

At the very least, the city’s two representatives on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors ought to be the top two-vote getters in an open race for both seats, same as how school board members are elected.  

Instead, candidates for Saratoga Springs supervisor must run on a party line specifically for Seat A or Seat B, even though the positions are identical. This is inherently unfair when the loser of Seat A gets more votes than the winner of Seat B. Better for the citizens to elect the top-two vote-getters in nonpartisan elections.

Whatever the municipality, having candidates run as individuals rather than on a party line won’t automatically make local government better. But I like the basic idea of focusing on people over party.

I won’t lie. A candidate’s positions on political and social issues beyond the usual scope of local government will matter to me, especially if all other things are equal. That’s still a matter of character more than party affiliation.   

For now, I’ll watch with interest the upcoming elections and subsequent running of Ballston Spa as the county seat joins several other Saratoga County villages that hold nonpartisan elections.  

Jan 18, 2021 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Still waiting for Saratoga police records re Darryl Mount case

Signs at the June 2020 Black Lives Matter march in Saratoga Springs are reminders of remaining questions about the death of Darryl Mount.

On Aug. 26, 2020, I asked Saratoga Springs for public police records pertinent to the still-pending civil lawsuit against the city brought by the mother of Darryl Mount, a Black man who died from injuries suffered in an August 2013 chase by several officers.

I’m still waiting.

The task of responding to requests for records regarding Saratoga Springs police has been delegated by City Hall to the very law firm defending the city and its police officers – including those in the Darryl Mount case.

Saratoga Springs and other municipalities across the state have been swamped by requests through New York’s Freedom of Information Law since last summer, when the state at long last made certain police disciplinary records accessible to the public. With that in mind, I’ve offered to prioritize my admittedly large request and to review records piecemeal, yet haven’t received a single document.

I don’t doubt that the city’s FOIL officer needs help responding to requests. Still, it feels like a conflict for the private attorney hired to defend the city and police to also be in charge of reviewing and redacting records that may reflect negatively on the defendants.

Here’s my FOIL request timeline:

Aug. 26: I submitted to the city attorney a request for numerous public records pertaining to officers involved in the Darryl Mount case and complaints about excessive force.

Sept. 15: I emailed the attorney noting that the Aug. 26 request had not been acknowledged.

Sept. 16: The city apologized for this oversight, promising a response granting or denying my request within 20 business days. (I believe this was an honest mistake, but I was back at the end of line even though two weeks had elapsed since my request.)

Oct. 23: About 25 business days later, I informed the city that I still had no response.

The city later that day advised me that the documents “have been forwarded to counsel for the Saratoga Springs Police Department for review and possible redaction” and that I “may reasonably expect a response by Nov. 30.”

Nov. 30: Nothing.

Dec. 4: The city emailed that “due to the scope” of my requests the city needs “some additional time to respond” and that I should expect a response in “approximately 45 business days.”

By my count, that brings us to Feb. 9, 2021 – more than five months from my initial request.

Other cities and police departments are denying or delaying requests for records that should be public (with some redactions). I’ve been assured my request is in the process of being granted. I could consider the repeated extensions tantamount to a denial that I could officially appeal. But I am inclined to wait optimistically for Feb. 9.

My expectation is that these records will shed light on police behavior and procedures that could address at least some of the unanswered questions about the death of Darryl Mount. That, I believe, is worth waiting for. But for how long?

Dec 8, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Tell Saratoga Springs to nix demolition by neglect on historic Phila Street

Adjacent 65 and 69 Phila St. in downtown Saratoga Springs have been neglected for years.

The owners of two longtime neglected, vacant houses at 65 and 69 Phila St. are seeking permission to tear down both adjacent buildings in order to build anew. Saratoga Springs should not reward property owners who intentionally neglect their vacant property, particularly houses of architectural significance in historic zones as is the case here.

This request will be heard Wednesday, Dec. 9 by the city’s Design Review Commission. You can put in your 2 cents by emailing Jennifer.merriman@saratoga-springs.org by noon Wednesday. Go to the city website to sign up to participate in the meeting by Zoom.

The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation notes both houses were constructed in 1851 in the Italianate style, one with white clapboard, by an architect and builder, and the other in red brick, by a mason. Both are contributing buildings to the East Side Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

The owners have let the buildings deteriorate since buying them more the 15 and 25 years ago, respectively, and any hardship they now claim is self-imposed.  

Years ago, the city denied the owners’ request to turn these two adjacent lots into three. The owners continued to neglect the two houses even as they bought and owned other vacant houses in the city. They have had multiple opportunities to sell the Phila Street properties, as documented by the Preservation Foundation, which even underwrote a structural assessment for serious buyers.  

The Preservation Foundation will make the case Wednesday that these building are worth saving and should be reviewed in accordance with the city’s Historic Review Ordinance.

The city will continue to lose structures of historic and architectural significance if property owners are rewarded for their intentional neglect (and, according to the preservation foundation, piecemeal removal of architectural features) and allowed to profit from the land sale for new construction.

Another day, let’s talk about the city’s culpability as rules regarding vacant properties have been ignored with impunity. For now, let’s try to prevent this specific demolition by neglect.

Sep 28, 2020 - Uncategorized    3 Comments

Protect your vote in Saratoga Springs: Reject charter change

I’ve long criticized Saratoga Springs’ form of government in which elected council members oversee specific aspects of City Hall, creating silos of administration. But the charter change now on the ballot would replace that shortcoming with one far worse – a ward system that would drastically reduce every city resident’s representation on the City Council and make elected officials less accountable.

I’m voting no.

The claim that residents would gain better representation with wards is false and grossly misleading.

The ward system minimizes our individual clout as voters. It eliminates council members’ accountability to all but the sixth of the city that elects them. We would get to vote for a mayor and only one of six council members, with no promise that even that one candidate – let alone the other five – would feel compelled to address the concerns of our particular neighborhood. 

I looked at a map of the election districts to see how areas were lumped together in the proposed charter (in Article XI, section C) to form six wards. Here are three examples:

Ward Three stretches from the city neighborhoods around the Caroline Street School to the sprawling estates in the Beacon Hill Drive area off Meadowbrook Road and the rural developments north of Route 29 toward Wilton.

Ward Four would combine the South Side (everything south of Lincoln Avenue, including Jefferson Terrace) with all the Saratoga Lake and Lake Lonely developments, more than three miles and a world away.

Ward Six puts together the downtown West Side (including the Beekman Street arts district) with the more suburban housing around Buff Road.

You get the idea. Check out the map yourself. 

Bottom line: Every citizen should be able to vote for all of the City Council members.

There are other reasons to reject this charter change. Promised cost savings are dubious as is the timing of the ballot proposal, with people unable to assemble to discuss the pros and cons, not to mention the city budget hole caused by the pandemic. And the idea of a city manager appointed to oversee all city operations makes sense — but not accompanied by the unnecessary creation of a full-time mayor as proposed.

I could get behind a new charter with an appointed city manager beholden to a City Council whose members answer to all Saratoga Springs voters.

This charter change would radically reduce our voice. Vote no.

Aug 26, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

7 years after Darryl Mount incident, Saratoga Springs records may shed light on police conduct

Darryl’s name was held high at Black Lives Matter rally June 7 in Saratoga Springs.

We’re at the seventh anniversary of the day a Black man named Darryl Mount was chased by white police in downtown Saratoga Springs and ended up below a construction scaffold, dying nine months later from his injuries. A civil lawsuit brought by Mount’s mother against the city is still pending. A remembrance walk is scheduled for Monday.

An independent or internal investigation of the pre-dawn incident might have uncovered police misconduct — or could have cleared the officers of suspicion of wrong-doing in what they called an accident. Instead, the city refused to sanction an independent probe and lied about conducting an internal one.

No wonder at the Black Lives Matter march in Saratoga Springs this past June 7 you could see “Justice for Darryl” signs here or there, and that an event is planned for the Aug. 31 anniversary of the fatal chase. The nationally pervasive police culture of protecting your own, whether or not they deserve it, disrespects and endangers both the public and the officers doing their job with integrity.

I am not anti-police. It breaks my heart when citizens are the victims of the people sworn to protect them. And it also breaks my heart when officers who put their lives on the line are disrespected, demonized and murdered. Cases of egregious police misconduct seem few and far between in Saratoga Springs; not to jinx us, but it’s rare – as it should be – for shots to be fired in this city by citizens, let alone police.

I believe Black Lives Matter and I believe that most police officers are decent human beings.

Darryl’s name was on signs at the June 7, 2020 Black Lives Matter rally in Saratoga Springs.

A protest walk is a baby step toward cultural change. This summer, the state Legislature repealed section 50-a of the Civil Rights Law, which means the public can finally see police disciplinary records in New York. So today I formally requested documents related to conduct complaints against members of the Saratoga Springs Police Departments — including the officers involved in the 3 a.m. Darryl Mount chase back in 2013.

My interest in the Darryl Mount case is not new. As managing editor of the local newspaper, The Saratogian, at the time, I accepted the word of the police chief and his boss that they were doing an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct.

Then, on the fifth anniversary of the incident, in an article published by the Times Union, I cited sworn depositions revealing that the then-chief had intentionally misled the public about an internal investigation. The deception surprised and saddened me, as the chief had earned respect with a positive track record, including work on behalf of domestic violence victims and the introduction of bodycams. But I digress.  

A few months later, planning to write a broader story about SSPD handling of misconduct allegations, I requested data on complaints between 2014 and 2018. The response came shortly thereafter, in May 2019, in the form of a press release-style statement from the chief loaded with raw data. It raised even more questions that I knew I couldn’t get answered, and I set it aside. Until today, thanks to the state’s repeal of 50-a.

The chief’s May 2019 statement reports that from 2014 through 2018, the SSPD dealt with almost 161,000 calls for service and more than 6,800 full body arrests. There were 134 force reports (only about 2 percent of total arrests) and 77 personnel complaints – that is, 77 internal investigations.

Of the 77 complaints (24 generated by supervisors and 53 by citizens), 18 were for rude behavior, 49 for “various police-related issues,” and 10 alleged excessive force.

Twenty-seven of those complaints against officers were sustained, the chief wrote: “Eight resulted in disciplinary action; two officers resigned prior to the commencement of disciplinary action; and seventeen complaints were closed with counseling or retraining for minor violations of policy.”

What was the outcome of the excessive force allegations? What disciplinary action was meted out against whom, and for what? Were there repeat offenders? Did resigning officers slip away with pensions and then go on to some other law enforcement job? Were any of the cited officers involved in the Darryl Mount case?

Let’s not speculate about what the records I’ve requested will show. The purpose isn’t to embarrass or harass good police officers, but to peel away the secrecy that taints them in the eyes of the public. I’ll keep you posted. 

Aug 25, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

R.I.P. Ray Watkin; your legacy in Saratoga Springs lives on

The Saratoga Springs mayor who sued the federal government to save the downtown post office, ran a Broadway bootery frequented by Skidmore students, and officiated at my marriage (twice, kind of) passed away Sunday, Aug. 23.

Ray Watkin at his 90th birthday party in June 2019 with the McNearys.

He was 91 and, truth be told, Raymond Watkin had a good run.

Ray will be buried Wednesday alongside his wife Joan, a talented artist who died in August 2013. Her work adorned the walls of their home, and he adored her.

Last time I spoke to him was on his 91st birthday in June. I meant to stop by to say hi. I didn’t. Least I can do it let the world know he hasn’t been forgotten.

Here’s the piece I posted in 2019 as a 90th birthday tribute:

When you go inside the 1910 post office on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, look around. Look up at the leaded glass skylight. Notice the murals on the walls from the 1930s. Admire the arches and architectural details remaining in one of the most elaborate lobbies of its kind in New York.

This historic gem exists because one local guy sued the federal government – and won.

That guy is Raymond Watkin, who turned 90 on June 9.

Watkin was mayor from 1974 through 1980. He was mayor when the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation was established and when the post office and other properties were designated components of a new Broadway Historic District. When Watkin couldn’t convince his City Council colleagues to step up, he personally sued the federal government — and literally stopped the destruction of the post office.

The turning point of downtown occurred during his tenure, as local and federal initiatives and investments began to restore and ultimately preserve Broadway storefronts, setting the stage for today’s thriving downtown.

At the time, I was a rookie reporter covering the city for The Saratogian, the daily newspaper. Back then the City Council elections were non-partisan, which seems fitting for local races, though no one loves to schmooze about politics more than Ray Watkin.

Ray Watkin’s faux marriage ceremony 42 years ago at the Golden Fox in Albany. Because he lacked jurisdiction, he married Jim and I the day prior in City Hall — and it was lovely.

I don’t think I ever got a scoop out of Mayor Watkin, but he does have a special place in my heart. In 1978 he officiated my wedding – two days in a row. As our big day approached, Watkin informed us he didn’t have jurisdiction at our wedding venue in Albany. So my now-husband Jim picked me up at the newspaper and we went across the street to City Hall, where Watkin married us in a lovely, brief and intimate ceremony. He then performed the faux formalities the following day before more than a hundred unsuspecting family and friends.

Thought I’d share these couple of stories on the occasion of Ray’s 90th, to publicly thank him for a memorable marriage ceremony and for his legacy to the city.

Jul 20, 2019 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Thank you, Marylou, for everything

A limited edition Yankee Candle features the scent of the classic Marylou Whitney rose commissioned by her husband on her 85th birthday. She passed away July 19 at age 93.

The stately “Welcome to Saratoga Springs” statue of Native Dancer surrounded by flowers where Union Avenue meets Congress Park was one of Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson’s many exceptional contributions to this city. I go by it all the time, and I always think of Marylou and John, always meaning to tell them both, thank you. Thank you for this beautiful gift.     

I think I told them all of this before. But I meant to send Marylou a note about it a few weeks ago, when I saw people posing for photos in front of the statue, as I often do, year-round. I procrastinated, as I often do, even knowing that Marylou was in failing health. Yesterday, on July 19, 2019, she passed away at her home in Saratoga Springs.

I first met Marylou close to 40 years ago, when I became managing editor of The Saratogian. My husband and I enjoyed her black-tie summer galas, attended by a mix of local people, big names in racing, and assorted celebrities. Crowds would gather in Congress Park outside the Canfield Casino to watch Marylou’s grand entrances and try to spot some of the rich and famous guests. Saratoga Springs was revived as a place to be in no small part because of Marylou’s parties, beginning well before my arrival in the city, the Whitneys’ generosity and their role in horse racing, and the sheer power of her personality.

My colleague at The Saratogian, Jeannette Jordan, whose duties included society coverage, and her husband, Augie, hit it off with Marylou. They’d frequently meet up for dinner at places like Winslow’s. “You didn’t have to have money to be a friend of hers. She loved everybody and was kind to everybody,” Jeannette told Times Union reporter David Lombardo (yes, my son).

Yet not everyone was kind to Marylou. Sometimes people would complain to me that the newspaper had “too much” coverage of Marylou Whitney. I’d explain they were mistaken to brush her off as merely a socialite, the wife and later widow of the accomplished C.V. Whitney, rather than the philanthropist, horse owner and lover, and keen businesswoman she really was. They didn’t understand or appreciate how important she has been, for decades, to Saratoga Springs and horse racing. She did plenty for this city — without seeking recognition.  

Marylou was extremely gracious, generous, smart — and funny. A few years ago, she and her husband, John Hendrickson, were driving on Route 50 heading home when they passed my husband and me walking to a show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (which, by the way, she helped create back in the 1960s and supported for decades). Months later we saw them, and Marylou leaned in to tell me, “If you need a ride to SPAC, let me know.”

Marylou and John, nearly 40 years her junior, married in 1997. Longtime friend Maureen Lewi yesterday told The Times Union: “No one thought so in the beginning, but it was a match made in heaven. They both know how to have fun and they both have such generous hearts.” Maureen is right. John has truly been a loving husband and, as the need arose, a devoted caregiver.

Marylou and John have generously donated millions of dollars, countless hours and hands-on leadership to continue to benefit the city – enhancing Saratoga Hospital and other health care institutions (especially in Kentucky); creating, funding, organizing and attending programs for the backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course; underwriting much of the celebration of local thoroughbred racing’s 150th anniversary in 2013, including the old-fashioned Floral Fete. This was one of the most amazing, heart-warming things I ever saw in this city – some 40,000 people lining Broadway to cheer a parade of dozens of people on homemade floats.

Today I’ll brave the heat to visit the Congress Park garden of long-stem, scented pink Marylou Whitney roses that John commissioned for her 85th birthday. Classic, like Marylou herself. I’ll stop for a selfie at Native Dancer’s “Welcome to Saratoga Springs.” And I’ll say thank you, Marylou. Thank you for this beautiful gift. Thank you for everything.

This beautiful gift to Saratoga Springs welcomes people approaching downtown from Union Avenue, the main thoroughfare that runs from Saratoga Race Course to Congress Park.
Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson were “honorary chairs and hosts” (read: major planners and underwriters) of the 150th anniversary of racing, including the extraordinary old-fashioned Floral Fete along Broadway.
Jul 17, 2019 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Saratoga Race Course is a good thing … but we’re at risk of too much of a good thing

Kind of an ordinary weekday feel to opening day, perhaps because it was on a Thursday and a week earlier than in the past nine years.

A horse walked into a bar and the bartender asked, “Why the long face?”

“The longer racing season,” replied the neigh-sayer.

This year’s Saratoga Race Course season started eight days sooner than the norm for the past nine years. Eight days too soon, I think.

The cachet of Saratoga’s racing season is due in large part to the exclusivity of its limited engagement at the historic track. The Thursday, July 11 opening day felt like any weekday at the track.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy going to the track, and I’ve gone twice already (though not for the whole day, which is just too long); I won with my late dad’s favorite trainer, Linda Rice, on opening day and I saw hat contest participants and brought home my picnic cooler give-away on Sunday.

I’m grateful to be living in a lively, thriving city, which hinges to a great degree on the success of the New York Racing Association, which runs Saratoga and the downstate Belmont and Aqueduct thoroughbred tracks. I appreciate new seating options at both end of the Saratoga grandstand to lure new and young visitors.

However, for me, living in walking distance from both the track and Broadway, the earlier start was one more weekend of tourists taking over my favorite restaurants and planning travel around anticipated traffic jams – especially when the track coincides with big concerts at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, as was the case with the Dave Matthews Band on July 12 and 13.

Not the worst problems in the world, I admit. But since a slow day at Saratoga makes more money for NYRA than a good day at Belmont or Aqueduct, I worry about continued lengthening of the Saratoga season. Total betting from all sources for these first four days at Saratoga was $73.4 million, exceeding betting on the first four days last year by more than $1.7 million.

In a tongue-in-cheek column in July 2016, the Times Union’s Tim Wilkin wrote: “Saratoga used to be known as the August place to be as the meet was 24 days, all in August. Then the light bulb went on at NYRA. Extend the meet! It grew to 30 days in 1991, then 34 three years later. In 1997, it was up to 36 days. In 2010, it hit 40 days. … Maybe they should run from the Fourth of July to Labor Day.”

Now, without adding racing days, the season is a full week longer. Instead of closing only on Tuesdays, the track will also be closed every Monday, the least popular racing day, except for Labor Day.

Though the earlier opening for Saratoga was ostensibly because of construction of an arena for the NHL Islanders on the Belmont property, who wants to bet on the length of future Saratoga meets?

I want the track to do well and for related local businesses and the local economy to benefit. I get that any inconvenience to local yokels is nowhere on NYRA’s priority list. But I worry about the bigger picture – the risk of losing the exclusivity that makes the Saratoga racing meet special.  

One of NYRA’s improvements in recent years was letting patrons buy and sell reserved seats online.
Give-away on first Sunday of 2019 season was a new item: Picnic cooler
Live music in the gazebo behind the grandstand is always a treat.
Jun 17, 2019 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Celebrating Mayor Ray Watkin’s legacy on his 90th birthday

Mayor Watkin pronounces Jim and Barbara husband and wife on July 8, 1978 — for the second day in a row. The day before he officially married us in City Hall.
Ray Watkin shares a laugh during his 90th birthday party in his backyard on June 9, 2019, with Nancy McNeary and her brother-in-law Fred McNeary.

When you go inside the 1910 post office on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, look around. Look up at the leaded glass skylight. Notice the murals on the walls from the 1930s. Admire the arches and architectural details remaining in one of the most elaborate lobbies of its kind in New York.

This historic gem exists because one local guy sued the federal government – and won.

That guy is Raymond Watkin, who turned 90 on June 9.

Watkin was mayor from 1974 through 1980. He was mayor when the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation was established and when the post office and other properties were designated components of a new Broadway Historic District. When Watkin couldn’t convince his City Council colleagues to step up, he personally sued the federal government — and literally stopped the destruction of the post office.

The turning point of downtown occurred during his tenure, as local and federal initiatives and investments began to restore and ultimately preserve Broadway storefronts, setting the stage for today’s thriving downtown.

At the time, I was a rookie reporter covering the city for The Saratogian, the daily newspaper. Back then the City Council elections were non-partisan, which seems fitting for local races, though no one loves to schmooze about politics more than Ray Watkin.

I don’t think I ever got a scoop out of Mayor Watkin, but he does have a special place in my heart. In 1978 he officiated my wedding – two days in a row. As our big day approached, Watkin informed us he didn’t have jurisdiction at our wedding venue in Albany. So my now-husband Jim picked me up at the newspaper and we went across the street to City Hall, where Watkin married us in a lovely, brief and intimate ceremony. He then performed the faux formalities the following day before more than a hundred unsuspecting family and friends.

Thought I’d share these couple of stories on the occasion of Ray’s 90th, to publicly thank him for a memorable marriage ceremony and for his legacy to the city.

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