Lessons From Troy, NY for Amsterdam, NY

I found this first-person account of moving to Troy compelling for its parallels to here (Troy’s Magnetic Appeal ):

On my first visit, I gaped in awe at the magnificent Victorian architecture along the Hudson River: triangle-shaped office buildings, marble banks, ornately adorned retail shops, old-world brownstones, tree lined streets and outdoor cafes. For three years, I stood on my soap box extolling the virtues of the Collar City to the locals only to be scoffed at as they recounted the horrors of drive-by shootings and arsons. Then, I walked my talk and moved there.

Today, my apartment along the Hudson has a waiting list. Developers have bought all but a few of the most magnificent Troy structures and are turning them into luxury lofts, unique offices for startups, fast-growth tech firms and supporting professions. Bars and restaurants are popping up and becoming the most talked about places to go. Am I a real estate psychic? Maybe.

And sorry but I do need to mention that this city rejected residential development along the Mohawk and continues to scoff at those who might envision otherwise.

Still, there is hope , I believe.


Counterpoint: Rogo responds to Golf Carts and Golf Budgets

In a previous exchange, I told Rogo that I would post whatever he provided in terms of writeup and documentation as a way to get facts out on the golf course. Here is what Rogo provided me. (Note to readers: I am posting exactly what was provided to me with none of my own edits or commentary per my agreement with Rogo with one exception: I masked out his private email address for privacy reasons):


Rogo responds to golf budget questions:

ROGO <abcdedg1234@nycap.rr.com> Sat, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:10 AM
To: flippinamsterdam@gmail.com
I really not bullshitting but it does get agravating. Here are the numbers from city budget,please note in 12/13 hospital ins (acct8850)62K was taken out for 1 person hospital ins. (corrected in later yrs to appox 11-12K)In 11/12 same thing 79K also bs admin fee to city of 50K.In 10/11 same but 95K.09/10 actually bad year but that was with full time city workers there with full benefits. This was changed by a real golf commission to put seasinal employees there to cut costs. years prior not really that bad. Also look how far budget numbers and actual numbers are off What do you think??
ROGO <abcdedg1234@nycap.rr.com> Mon, Jun 15, 2015 at 9:46 AM
To: Flippin’ Amsterdam <flippinamsterdam@gmail.com>
city of amsterdam website.2014-2015 adopted budget. find golf enterprise fund on bttom tab. You have to scroll across to find it. Get cart numbers later
Thanks Rogo

Rogo response to golf carts ()

ROGO <abcdedg1234@nycap.rr.com> Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 11:57 AM
To: Flippin’ Amsterdam <flippinamsterdam@gmail.com>
Carts hard to explain. But i’ll start at beginning. Gerry decusatis thought part rental was 20 per person, whil in actuality pro rented 20 per cart (10 perperson)If you look at city budget they originally put in 165000 and adjusted to 127856 in 14/15. in 15/16 more accurate number 58405, guess from actual numbers last year. Expenses for carts
cart lease   28000
The pro was compensated in new contract appox 20000 per year in new contract
Also city agreed to pay some of his payroll as part of compensation. summer help went up about 15000 plus unemployment fo them must be added in. Also gas and maint. of carts must be added on. This will add up to alot more than 58405. This was all caused by thane administration thinking the pro was making a ton off money off carts. Hope this helps. This is getting crazy.

City Residents Eagerly Embrace Next Controversy

Amsterdam, NY (June 23, 2015) — With the completion of new pedestrian bridge drawing nearer and the roiling debate on its construction subsiding, city residents were increasingly concerned at the prospect of nothing against which to rail and gripe in the coming months and years.

But thanks to sixth ward Alderperson Lynn Bylyn, city residents now have something to consume their negativity and complaining — relocating the city’s train station to its downtown.

At the heart of the controversy lies the Amsterdam Amtrak station , voted by travelers as the most depressing station along the Northeast corridor. Located in a flood plain at the very western edge of the city and architected with the grace and charm of a tool shed, the station sits alone and disconnected from the rest of the city.

In an effort to rebuild and revive the morbid downtown area, city leaders are discussing the possibility of relocating the train station to build up the downtown core especially in light of the potential draw of visitors to the controversial pedestrian bridge. City leaders believe that improving access to rail will draw and encourage growth to the downtown area and impact the city positively.

Sensing a shift in momentum toward progress and revitalization, many city residents quickly jumped onboard the train station as the must-have controversy for their daily gnashing and wailing.

According to Alderwoman Lynn Bylyn her letter merely reflects the questions and concerns of the community. “Many people are afraid of what will happen if the train station gets moved, especially seniors. I’ve heard that the mayor skulks along the rails disguised with a black cape and a handlebar mustache. Will the mayor tie seniors to the tracks or even worse raise taxes? We don’t know. What about the bandidos who chase and rob trains on horseback?  How will we catch them with the new pedestrian bridge that all but assures a clean getaway? We need answers”

Similar concerns were voiced by local town resident Shirley Madd, “Well, people get upset with me because I don’t live in the city and always bash the city. Well, I’m against this bridge, I’m against this train station, I’m against tying seniors to railroad tracks;I’m against bandidos — they’re Spanish!  I’m thrilled that I can rail against the train station — my bridge shtick was getting worn. Now I can ride this issue for years and years to come. Thank god!”

Some longtime residents fondly recalled the former train station , its wonderful architecture long lost to the city’s lust for demolition and suburbanization. While some residents expressed hope that the train station might be rebuilt with some attention and care to its architecture, almost all felt exhausted at the prospect of fighting against the groundswell of negativity around yet another issue for no good reason.

Longtime resident Filippe Ino expressed it best, “Why spend time and energy fighting against people who put forth nothing but fight against everything?”

Common Council** Priorities: Golf First, Everything Else Last

From Mohawk Valley COmpass:

According to the agenda for the June 16 Common Council meeting which was distributed by the City Clerk’s office yesterday, Alderman Ed Russo has sponsored an ordinance which would completely eliminate chapter 28 of the city code. That chapter is what created and defined the powers and duties of the Golf Course Commission.

There is no question that the Council’s ostensible concern for the Charter extends as far as the first tee. To get their way at the golf course — which without question runs counter to the public interests of city residents– the Council will brazenly proceed with or without the Charter and their feigned concern as ‘keepers of the Charter’ and the ‘will of the people’ as reflected in the Charter. What rubbish.

At first, I could honestly care less about extending a perk to golfers — there are way more important things to address.

But when you get fed constant narratives from the Council and golfers on the ‘sanctity’ of the Charter, on how city residents ‘pay nothing’ for the course, how ‘no other golf course charges trail fees’ , how the Council ‘researched’ trail fees, how the Council is ‘fiscally responsible’ and ‘running things like a business’– all demonstrably false narratives at that– I just can’t take it. Couple that with their attitude that anyone who does not play golf should have no say in the administration of the course and that pushes me over the top.

I’ve always supported the golf course as a public good and a positive for the city– it  truly is a wonderful asset; but the Council has now started to convince me that the course is a liability– it drains energy and political capital from more important things. And seems to elevate the interests of a select few well above the interests of the many, many of them golfers themselves.

The Council is not helping golfers, it’s turning public opinion — mine at least– against them and ultimately hurting the course and golfers in the long run.

** When I say Council, I am not referring to Ms. Beekman who seems measured and considered in her decision and policy making and therefore not subject to my criticism.


City of Amsterdam: Doers , Do-Nothings and Say Anythings

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara on the City of Amsterdam, a doer (From the Recorder):

Santabarbara announced Sunday morning, during a South Side press conference and with U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and Mayor Ann Thane at his side, that he secured $1 million to complete the pedestrian bridge. If this funding hadn’t been realized by today’s date, the vision for the bridge was in jeopardy. Now, however, the plan can be implemented as hoped. The money comes from a pool of available state funds allocated specifically for waterfront projects, Santabarbara said.

Former Assemblyman and now State Senator George Amedore on the City of Amsterdam, a do-nothing (from the Recorder editorial (May 27, 2010):

Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s disheartening for Amsterdam residents to hear their elected representative in the New York State Assembly — Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam — dismiss the planned pedestrian Mohawk River bridge. In a recent news segment on WRGB-TV, Amedore is seen on camera denouncing the project: “It’s actually inexcusable to me because right now, without anyone, it’s gonna not just be a bridge to nowhere, but just a ghost of Amsterdam will walk across that bridge.” The assemblyman goes on to say later in the segment that money should be spent on improving the city’s infrastructure.

He then states that he knows the money is part of the Transportation Bond Act, but asks aloud, “Why can’t it be redirected?” Instead of asking a television reporter, perhaps Amedore should ask someone in the state Legislature. If he really thinks it can be redirected, why isn’t he doing something about it? After three years as Amsterdam’s assemblyman, he has had plenty of time to find out the answer to his question. The problem is that he already knows the answer — it can’t be redirected. The money is specifically intended for the bridge project. Yet, Amedore continues to play dumb and criticize the project because it was the brainchild of his predecessor — longtime Democrat Paul Tonko. 


So what exactly has Mr. Amedore delivered to the city during his time in elected office? What tangible development project or infrastructure has Mr. Amedore delivered? Nothing.

Likewise, our current Common Council , with the exception of Ms. Beekman and Mr. Leggiero (on this issue at least), is the embodiment of say-anything and do-nothing. Here’s your do-nothing Council in action (from Daily Gazette, After decade of fighting, Amsterdam pedestrian bridge rising, May 16, 2015)

Republican First Ward Alderman Ed Russo said several months ago that he is opposed to the bridge and noted the city and county voted against it in 2005. “The bridge is not the right move for the city,” Russo said, adding that the city should instead be focused on tearing down dilapidated houses that are eyesores.

Third Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler, a fellow Republican and a longtime opponent of the bridge and critic of Mayor Ann Thane, an avid supporter of the bridge, wishes the city could have used the money to repave its roads. “This was all [Tonko’s] baby,” she said. “He got the ball rolling on it. But it’s here, and now we have to work with it.”

Let’s face it: the city needs investment regardless of whether it is public or private– it needs both. And it needs leaders who will work to acquire that investment. Not like the Amedores and our current and previous Councils who belittle the city and seemingly work against development in the city.

We’ve had the do-nothings and say-anythings for far too long. About time we had some leadership who work on doing something.


The Truth on Golf Cart Fees

Here is the claim by the Council as echoed by Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler (from The Recorder: Despite resolution, cart fees still being charged):

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler, who originally was for the fee, said she changed her mind after surveying surrounding golf courses.

“We are the only ones who appear to be charging a trail fee, especially on someone’s own golf cart,” she said. “From that standpoint I voted it down.”

I’d be interested to see which courses were surveyed as my research shows that golf carts are priced per person. From some Google searching, I’m also finding that the norm is to charge trail fees as courses struggle, like ours, to keep up revenues so they can continue operations and make improvements. So I am fundamentally questioning the claim.

Here are screen grabs from Schenectady, Saratoga and Rolling Hills,respectivelygc1



I’ll update this post if anyone can show me which local courses do not charge a per person fee on golf carts , whether owned or rented.

The Art of the Impossible

Three things strike me on the pushback to funding art on the bridge:

1) The city has spent $6 million plus dollars in demolition to create parking lots. Yet $325K on art work — something constructive — is deemed outrageous.

2) The new meme is that somehow the art work is too focused on the City of Amsterdam and as such, it will limit interest. I don’t get this at all — if you visit a historic site, you are necessarily learning about that specific site. I don’t see whhy the artwork has to make reference to anything outside of Amsterdam. I think we have enough history to make it stand on our own.

3) The reasons for (1) and (2) above originate from the belief that the city holds nothing of interest for residents or visitors alike. As the recently completed County survey of local attitudes proves, the level of local negativity exceeds most other places on a national level. In other words, what really is at play is more of the negative, do-nothing, fatalism that inflicts the city year after year, decade after decade. So this is not really about art work at all — it’s merely another melodrama in how much the city sucks and why nothing will work here.

It’s the art of the impossible here.

Simple as that.