Thursday, July 06, 2006

Speak of the devil...

...And appear he does. After a pronounced spate of silence, Merlin Development owner Bruce Levinsky has reared his ugly head once again in Saratoga Springs.

For the few who haven’t been disparaged by Levinsky in one way or another, he’s best describe as the city’s prototypical villain, an arrogant, dodgy weasel who wouldn’t think twice about bulldozing an orphanage if he thought there was a dime to be made from it. Among his accolades, the developer has angered, argued with, or sued just about everyone in the city. And if you happen not to be one of those people, just wait. He’ll get around to you.

Once again, Levinsky is set to spar with city officials over the fate of the flailing historic Rip Van Dam Hotel, one of two remaining Victorian-era lodges still remaining on Broadway. With its rolling piazza –the only one of its kind still in existence in the city –the Rip is a miniature example of the majestic hotels that once lined the main street of Saratoga Springs.

Levinsky aimed to change all of that nearly a decade ago, when he set his site on what was then a moderate-priced motel that had fallen into disrepair. In his typical arrogant fashion, the developer drew up grandiose plans to turn the structure into a 100-room Ramada Inn with luxury suites and 350-seat banquet facility; a process that basically meant tearing down the entire building and starting from scratch.

Of course, the city’s Preservation Foundation balked at the idea and told Levinsky to rework his plans around maintaining the building’s historic façade. And so ensued a lengthy court battle in which the developer ultimately lost.

Perhaps to prove that he’s not a sore loser –or just a loser period –Levinsky decided to scuttle his plans for repair work and allow nature to take its course on the Rip Van Dam, a structure that was in dire need of repair even before he bought it. And now, the hotel is about ready to fall into the ground, according to the city’s engineer.

Levinsky claims to have a plan ready to fix the building. He’s also got an “alternate” plan to demolish it, despite the fact that it’s 166 years old and a historic part of the city. Given his history with the building, it doesn’t take much common sense to realize which option he’ll ultimately choose.

But as dastardly as Levinsky is –and he’s about as dastardly as they come –he’s not alone in his scheme to sidestep city preservationists by simply allowing historic structures to rot into the ground.

Take for instance, the two eyesore properties along Phila Street just north of Putnam, which are quite literally the only ones that haven’t been completely renovated. The owners claim they don’t have enough money to fix them up. Yet somehow, they’ve got enough to bulldoze them, clear the debris then build a new, more impressive structure behind them.

Cases like this are depressing, given the craftsmanship that 19th century architect put into these buildings. Unlike the modern travesties that are erected with aluminum framing and faux-brick siding, these structures were forged out of hardwood with granite foundations. Were it not for a handful of slum owners who couldn’t be bothered in funding general upkeep, many of these buildings would be able to stand another century without fail.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, the city is almost powerless to do anything about owners who could care less about things such as the historical importance of buildings and what they mean to a community.

But perhaps it’s in their purview to reinstate tar-and-feathering as a local alternative for developers like Levinsky. Make such a decision based on referendum vote. Or perhaps city leaders could take a cue from the nearby Green Mountain state and simply have a judge send him packing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next time you pull one of my stories and rewrite it to your own editorial satisfaction, could you provide a link to my original story?

Or maybe, instead of rewriting my story, you could actually do a little research of your own?

Christopher Diakopoulos
Staff Writer
The Saratogian

1:11 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


Thanks for responding! It's good to know that someone over at the Saratogian bothers to read half an iota into the community that surrounds it.

Now, on to your issues; first, the article is linked in the second sentence; so much for subtle observation.

Second, I'm not one to consider attending a city council meeting research per se.

And lastly, if you honestly think I'd bother to rewrite anything in that paper, you're sorely mistaken.


8:42 PM  
Anonymous Milhouse said...

Easy fellas. You're both out of line here. Christopher, I don't see that Horatio did anything wrong here. Yeah, he basically rewrote your story, and maybe he should have been more deliberate in stating his source, but anyone who reads this guy's blog knows full well what his style is. He could use a spell-checker every once in a while, but otherwise we all know what he does is carp from the sidelines and use the local media to do his research for him. Also, you really shouldn't be showing your bitterness in public like that. It reflects poorly on yourself and your paper.

Horatio, I've been in the smalltime journalism business before and it's not easy. What's far easier is to take potshots from the sidelines like you do. A lot of it is warranted, but do us all a favor and stick to the fact-based critical commentary and away from the cheap shots like, "And lastly, if you honestly think I'd bother to rewrite anything in that paper, you're sorely mistaken." The fact is that is exactly what you did.

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Patrick Pipino said...

Good Article. I just came across this blog by accident, and proceeded to read every post since its inception.

While some of the things Horatio has levelled at the mainstream media are clearly deserved, the tone certainly could be a little more civil in some areas, such as the castigation of college student David Lombardo's pieces he wrote in place of his mothers editorial.

Either way, I have bookmarked this blog and will watch it with interest in the future. It seems honest, and the writer well informed in most areas. I would feel better if there were a way to communicate directly with Horatio or if we knew his/her identity.

5:10 AM  

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