SARATOGA SPRINGS A restaurant that’s a horse racing institution sued the city Thursday, seeking to overturn a new ordinance making three streets around it one-way during racing season.
The lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa by Racing Restaurants of America, which operates the famous Siro’s restaurant on Lincoln Avenue.
The new traffic pattern went into effect Friday as fans first arrived at Saratoga Race Course.
Judge Thomas D. Nolan held a brief hearing Friday morning in Ballston Spa and denied Siro’s request for an immediate preliminary injunction.
Siro’s is located at 168 Lincoln Ave. — just outside the clubhouse gate — and says the decision to make Lincoln Avenue a one-way street during the six-week race meet will hurt its business. Siro’s seeks to have the law adopting the one-way streets annulled as arbitrarily and improperly adopted.
“The significant changes in the traffic pattern shall be confusing to both motorists and pedestrians traveling to the racetrack and traveling to Siro’s,” the owners state in their lawsuit.
The City Council on Feb. 18 adopted the new traffic pattern on streets just west of the track, after holding a public hearing at which nobody from the public spoke. The changes were adopted unanimously at the request of city Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen.
Under the new arrangement, Wright Street has only eastbound travel between Nelson Avenue and Frank Sullivan Place; Frank Sullivan Place has only northbound travel between Wright Street and Lincoln Avenue; and Lincoln Avenue has only westbound travel between Frank Sullivan Place and Nelson Avenue. The arrangement is only in place during the racing season.
Mathiesen on Friday said the area around Lincoln Avenue becomes congested with both vehicles and pedestrians, and city police and code enforcement personnel have asked for the change for years. Limousines, taxis and shuttle buses are all part of the traffic mix, he added, along with a large volume of pedestrians.
“It’s been a problem for years,” Mathiesen said.
The one-way system was discussed, but not enacted, in 2007, he noted. Mathiesen was not public safety commissioner at the time.
“We believe the inconvenience is outweighed by the increase in safety and security,” Mathiesen said.
He said the plan was discussed with the New York Racing Association before adoption, and officials there agreed to it. Siro’s, however, says in the lawsuit that it and other neighbors were never notified of the proposal prior to February’s public hearing.
“If the property owners and residents of Lincoln Avenue, Frank Sullivan Place and Wright Street had been notified of the proposed ordinance they would have been in attendance at a public hearing to opposition its adoption,” the lawsuit asserts.
The restaurant’s lawyer, Jeffrey Jamison of Albany, said he had found no evidence a traffic study was conducted or any effort made to conduct an environmental impact review.
Siro’s has become an institution next to the track since it was opened by James Siro in 1936. The restaurant is only open during track season and for a few other racing-related dates each year.
“Its reputation, and hence its ability to survive and succeed, is entirely dependent on accommodating the patrons of the short horse racing season in Saratoga Springs,” the restaurant’s court papers state.
On Friday, there were signs of confusion among motorists on Lincoln Avenue, with a car with Massachusetts license plates seen proceeding toward the track — which is now the wrong way.
“I’ve only got two cars in my lot,” said resident Rose Tait, at the edge of the property where she normally parks a lotful of customers.