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Archive for April, 2009

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

st-theresa

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing,
Dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

Sent to me today from my sister, God Bless.

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original

O Breathing Life, your Name shines everywhere!
Release a space to plant your Presence here.
Envision your “I Can” now.
Embody your desire in every light and form.
Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom.
Untie the knots of failure binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults.
Help us not forget our Source,
Yet free us from not being in the Present.
From you arises every Vision, Power and Song
from gathering to gathering.
Amen –
May our future actions grow from here!

the lord’s prayer – from the original aramaic

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poem

Foreseeing

Middle age refers more
to landscape than to time:
it’s as if you’d reached

the top of a hill
and could see all the way
to the end of your life,

so you know without a doubt
that it has an end—
not that it will have,

but that it does have,
if only in outline—
so for the first time

you can see your life whole,
beginning and end not far
from where you stand,

the horizon in the distance—
the view makes you weep,
but it also has the beauty

of symmetry, like the earth
seen from space: you can’t help
but admire it from afar,

especially now, while it’s simple
to re-enter whenever you choose,
lying down in your life,

waking up to it
just as you always have—
except that the details resonate

by virtue of being contained,
as your own words
coming back to you

define the landscape,
remind you that it won’t go on
like this forever.

“Foreseeing” by Sharon Bryan, from Flying Blind. © Sarabande Books, 1996.

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Bill Lorensen and family recently lost all of their personal belongings to a terrible fire on Mechanic Street last Tuesday night. These included irreplaceable antiques, photos, keepsakes, coin and gun collections, as well as everything a home contains in the way of comfort.

Friends of mine and I are organizing a fund drive to raise money and goods for this family to help them through this terrible time. First Niagara Bank has lined up an account, the Lorensen Support Fund, so that compassionate souls may contribute to the future of this family. $10 or $20 can go a long way when so much has been lost. We will also set up a drop off point for goods. Please look for information in this regard next week.

The city has been addressing issues painfully raised by the fire. We are conducting a water flow test of the distribution system on the hill, a plan of scheduled maintenance is being developed, and the hydrants and water lines will be mapped and accessible via the new AFD software. We have asked for money in our stimulus request to address thirty identified problem hydrants and will fund replacement/maintenance in the coming budget. We will send a fireman or code enforcement officer to walk all of the way around the rest of the 40 buildings slated for demo in the next two weeks.

Please keep the Lorensen family in your hearts and prayers. They have seen tremendous difficulty this year. Several immediate family members have recently passed away, they had just installed a four-day old roof before the fire and had been planning to celebrate the wedding of a daughter on May 9th. The wedding is still on, but their happiness has obviously been tempered.

The Lorensen family has long been know for giving to others. It’s time to give back. Your generosity can make the very real difference in the future of this family.

Thank you, all of you, kind neighbors

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my favorite shred

It just is.

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Today’s Citywide Cleanup was hugely successful.
We had a turnout of approximately 400 volunteers.

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We’ll be counting up the number of bags of litter that were gathered, but consider this – each person was encouraged to pick up at least two bags.

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Many, many individuals went above and beyond, sometimes hauling in 4, 6, even 9 bags at a shot. Some groups brought in 15 to 25 bags over the four hour period. Truckloads!

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Teams from churches, girl scouts, boy scouts, learn and serve, and businesses descended on neighborhoods long in need of attention.

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Union Street, Park Street, Cleveland Avenue, and playgrounds around the whole of Amsterdam were just a few of the sites that were reclaimed.

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Many commented that they went around the City to places they had intended to clean, only to find they were already cleared.

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I am humbled by the
participation of all of these proud, committed, enthusiastic volunteers that have decided to take back their City. We’re going to do this again. Stay tuned for more. It’s what “small city. big heart.” is all about.

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I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

– Stanley Kunitz
The Collected Poems. © W.W. Norton, 2000

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If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.

– Bertrand Russell

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Tell me if the picture of N. Adams, MA in the early 1990’s doesn’t sound much like the City of Amsterdam 2009. Once you digest that, look at the impact creative rehabilitation of the Sprague Electric Factory has had on that community.

Dramatic Economic Impact: Adaptive Reuse

(North Adams, MA — May 19, 2000) When MASS MoCA opened in May, 1999, its mission was not only to function as a laboratory for contemporary visual and performing arts, but to help drive the revitalization of the economically depressed town of North Adams, Massachusetts. The town had experienced a dramatic downturn in its fortunes as the national economy moved away from a manufacturing base toward information and technology services.

When Sprague Electric Company – the previous occupant on the site – vacated the complex in 1985 it left a gaping hole in North Adams. Four thousand people in a town of 18,000 found themselves unemployed. The population declined dramatically, the real estate market sank, and the unemployment rate soared.

Under the leadership of Joseph Thompson, MASS MoCA was conceived as an anchor and catalyst in the revitalization of the town. In addition to fueling tourism, MASS MoCA’s strategy was to create a campus that included office space for companies in the communications, high tech, and new media industries.

The results of this strategy include:

– the creation of more than 200 jobs in North Adams (unemployment rates are at 3.7%, the lowest the town has had in years).
– MASS MoCA originally opened with 20,000 sf of office space and has added 15,000 sf of commercial space over the past year. In response to the success of their strategy, it is now renovating an additional 34,000 sf, all of which is pre-leased.
– Rent on the MASS MoCA campus has more than doubled
– Properties adjacent to MASS MoCA have been renovated or purchased for commercial development, including office space and a hotel.

A few of the success stories, economic trends, and high points of MASS MoCA’s first year include:
– On March 28, one of MASS MoCA’s first new technology tenants, eZiba.com, announced a major investment and strategic alliance with Amazon.com. eZiba.com is a leading online retailer of handcrafted products from around the world; Amazon.com is investing $17.5 million in eZiba.com and introducing its product line to the online retail giant’s more than 17 million customers.
– Streetmail.com, which produces a weekly community newsletter delivered via e-mail, is another of MASS MoCA’s Internet business tenants. From a modest start reaching only 15 markets, Streetmail.com now serves more than 200,000 subscribers in more than 60 markets and is adding employees continuously.
– Another of MASS MoCA’s successful new media tenants is Resounding Technology, which was purchased by HearMe approximately six months ago. HearMe is the leading supplier of audio communication tools for the Internet.
– Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company, a computer animation and new media firm for the arts and the film and theme park industries, relocated its headquarters from Hollywood to MASS MoCA. Kleiser-Walczak’s recent projects include the stereoscopic computer-animated sequences for “The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman” ride for Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, and the visual effects for the Robert Wilson’s new media opera, Monsters of Grace.
– Storey Communications, a 18-year old book publishing company, has announced plans to move to North Adams and the MASS MoCA complex.

Altogether MASS MoCA’s commercial tenants have expanded North Adams’ tax base and are providing more than 200 jobs.
– Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company, 60 employees
– eZiba.com, 75 employees and growing daily
– The Advocate, Berkshire County’s weekly newspaper, 15 employees
– HealthShare Technology, a leading provider of healthcare information, 5 employees
– Streetmail.com, 40 employees and growing daily
– Geekcorps.org, 3 employees
– HearMe, 5 employees

While MASS MoCA opened with 35,000 square feet of commercial space available and is currently renovating an additional 34,000, there is a backlog of tenants who want to rent commercial space at the facility.

MASS MoCA’s success is also affecting changes beyond its campus
– Publications Resource Group, an online distributor of market research, just announced a major expansion. They will move into a currently vacant building in the North Adams’ business district and will double their workforce in the next few months.
= An investor and supporter of MASS MoCA has purchased nine Victorian houses across the street from the complex to rehabilitate these rundown properties and convert them into an inn to be run by the prominent Berkshire hotelier, The Red Lion Inn.
– The city is converting an auto repair shop and car wash adjacent to MASS MoCA into a park.
– A 15 year trend of declining population in North Adams reversed in 1998, the population been expanding gradually since.
– Current unemployment rates in North Adams are 3.7%, down from over 12% from the time MASS MoCA’s state funding was announced in 1996.
– Downtown storefront occupancy rates have more than doubled since 1996 from 35% to 78%.

Other Achievements

MASS MoCA’s attendance has already topped 100,000, surpassing the ambitious goal the institution set for itself at its opening last year.

MASS MoCA has about 2,500 members, about 50% residents of Berkshire county, the other half re from outside the area.

MASS MoCA not only offers visual and performing arts programs, but computer classes, Internet access, and job training programs at its computer center. The center has received more than 12,000 visits since it opened nearly equivalent to the entire population of North Adams. Also, more than 1,000 adults use the center to host their email accounts and web pages.

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My son, somewhat irritated, said to me, “You always do more than what is expected of you.”

May it always be so.

I was off to pick up six bags of litter.

It’s early afternoon on perhaps one of the prettiest days this year and I received a call from Tracy Wilson of Stewart Street. She called to to tell me that, because she was going to be out of town next week, she and her tenant had decided to clean up Evelyn hill. She had been hearing so much about the Spring Cleanup, she wanted to be a part of it, no matter what the predetermined timeline was. What wonderful news, but more importantly, what an inspiration.

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I told her that, unfortunately, the gift certificates for the free lasagna dinner were only for the 25th, to which she replied that she had no interest in our offering; she was much more interested in seeing that hill cleaned up.

This unremarkable photo of a stretch of road on the West End is a direct result of Tracy and her friend. They picked up six bags of refuse which my son and I were happy (well, I was) to pick up in my van and haul away. Now, the only remains along this roadway are the browning leaves God intended for fertilizer.

Which moves me on to my second category: what are people thinking.

My next photo is of this lovely day at Sassafras Park, where perhaps 40 children and adults were enjoying the warming weather. The very first thing you see when you drive up is the garbage can overflowing and blowing down the hill, while people blithely walk past it and sit only a few feet away on benches provided at the playground. I was stunned. One woman actually directed her son to throw a cup into the can while I watched!

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It is this total disinterest (pathological disconnect) that borders on the criminal. How can so many parents visit day after day and not take the opportunity to teach their children about civic duty and personal responsibility? How disappointing.

In the end, government can only do so much. The rest depends on us.

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Ethics of Adaptive Reuse
by Vani Bahl

Today’s renewed interest in “green” architecture should heighten attention to the ethic of preservation, as a cornerstone of sustainability. Now that the idea of recycling waste has permeated our culture, I believe we should adopt the slogan, “recycle wasted architecture.”

The case for adaptive reuse is not just nostalgic but economic. Construction costs are growing, we can’t afford to rebuild the environment every generation. By every accepted economic index, including increased tax revenues and increased business activity, recycling in architecture proves its viability.

For preservation to succeed, we have to shed our old habits of tearing down old buildings and starting over. Instead, we should see architectural residue from the past as a repository of vast physical, human, and cultural energy.

In Rajasthan, India, I have found numerous examples of 15th century structures that have been restored and reinhabited. The Neemrana Fort Palace, once a ruin, is now a heritage hotel. Other structures, reduced to near rubble, are crying out for new life. Though damaged, wall and ceiling surfaces can be restored, providing ready-made rich interiors. We can benefit from the several-century-old craftsmanship, preserving that human energy.

Preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation in architecture cause much less destruction to our natural resources than new construction. To appreciate this, architects must be sensitive to the energy used in the production and assembly of materials needed for new buildings, from then – origin to their end of life and subsequent reuse.

Statistics reveal that building construction consumes 40 percent of the raw materials entering the global economy every year. Interestingly, about 85 percent of the total embodied energy in materials is used in their production and transportation. Even before they reach the construction site, building materials have consumed large quantities of fossil fuels.

If all the hidden costs were spelled out in the balance sheet, the recycling of architecture would be perceived as the only rational strategy for the management of material resources. Then we could appreciate huge areas of abandoned and semi-abandoned built tissue as resources, not obstacles for future growth.

Modern construction methods are incredibly wasteful of resources. Up to 25 percent of the total waste generated in the United States, India, and other countries is directly attributed to building, construction, and demolition activities. These — often hidden — waste products can be environmentally hazardous and polluting, both as solids and in the atmosphere.

Demolition of existing buildings wastes the embodied energy as well as the energy consumed in tearing the building down, which can be considerable, given the quality and strength of older structures. Add to this the cost of incinerating demolition debris, and the wasteful use of land in fill sites.

Designers sensitive to sustainable practices can establish a recycling program to reduce the amount of solid waste resulting from construction and choose materials which are themselves either recyclable or reusable.

By contrast, adaptive reuse is much more labor-intensive than new construction, because it involves the reconditioning the existing structures to adapt to modern day requirements. This dependence on human resources encourages the local community to participate and potentially revives a vernacular rhythm in architecture. This activity can remind us that vernacular architecture is one cornerstone of our identity.

Conserving Cultural Energy
The evolution of our societies is reflected in our building types and styles. This relationship gives older buildings a character we value and identify with. However, the corporate mentality does not seem to appreciate the long-term economic value of buildings nor their cultural spirit. Such devaluation is part of so-called “globalization.”

The famous quote by Louis Sullivan, “form follows function,” seems to have become an outdated philosophy, as has “form follows culture,” by Indian artist Satish Gujral. Today’s corporate approach to architecture often would suggest that these sentiments could be reworded as “form follows fashion.” Many modern buildings do not reflect the richness and complexities of cultural evolution. Few contemporary designers seem to value the emotional spirit of architecture.

When a building of historic merit is preserved or restored for adaptive reuse, its cultural energy is also “recycled.” History brought back to active duty, and the elements of the built fabric — walls, floors, windows, doors, and roof — once again envelop a space to connect inside with outside to keep out the weather.

Very likely, the old structure was strategically placed to get the best views and optimum orientation to the sun and wind and climate. It might have been built to ensure security of the occupants and to strike a balance between the built mass and the open spaces.

Old buildings preserve the local culture and identity and create a sense of belonging. In a way, we recycle embodied human resource energy along with material energy. We bring alive the past to be a part of the future, creating important connections through time.

Do we wish to erase the link by dumping the stone that has witnessed passing phases of humanity into some land-fill site? Or, is it truly “green” to avoid the landfill and grind up community memory into bulk aggregate? When do we start to value real architecture above a consumptive fascination with mere newness and fashion?

Vani Bah!, Associate AIA, has worked on design and research projects in her native India and in the United States. Her work includes hotel design and planning, campus planning, housing projects, vernacular architecture, and historic preservation.

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“Live adventurously.
When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community?
Let your life speak.”

Statement issued by Aotearaoa/New Zealand Yearly Meeting, 1987;
quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice, 24:10

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poem

First Lesson

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man’s float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

Philip Booth

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O Thou kind Lord!
O Thou Who art generous and merciful!
We are the servants of Thy threshold and are gathered
beneath the sheltering shadow of Thy divine unity.
The sun of Thy mercy is shining upon all,
and the clouds of Thy bounty shower upon all.
Thy gifts encompass all,
Thy loving providence sustains all,
Thy protection overshadows all, and the glances of
Thy favor are cast upon all.
O Lord! Grant Thine infinite bestowals,
and let the light of Thy guidance shine.
Illumine the eyes, gladden the hearts with abiding joy.
Confer a new spirit upon all people
and bestow upon them eternal life.
Unlock the gates of true understanding
and let the light of faith shine resplendent.
Gather all people beneath the shadow of Thy bounty
and cause them to unite in harmony,
so that they may become as the rays of one sun,
as the waves of one ocean, and as the fruit of one tree.
May they be refreshed by the same breeze.
May they receive illumination from the same source of light.
Thou art the Giver, the Merciful, the Omnipotent


baha’i prayers – `abdu’l-bahá

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“Mayor Thane and the City of Amsterdam Common Council have announced a Informational Meeting to be held on Monday, April 20, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lynch Middle School Academy.

The Public Forum will be held to discuss the Chalmer’s and Bridge Street Reconstruction projects. Representatives from Saratoga Associates, Uri Kaufman, City Engineer Richard Phillips, EDZ Coordinator Fred Quist and URA Director Nick Zabawsky will be present to field questions from the audience.

The public is invited and urged to attend.”

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service

This and this alone is true religion:
To serve thy brethren.

This is sin above all other sin:
To harm thy brethren.

In such faith is happiness.
In lack of it is misery and pain.

Blessed be he who swerveth not
aside from this straight path.

Blessed is he whose life is lived thus
ceaselessly in serving God.

Bearing others’ burdens and so alone
is life, true life, to be attained.

Nothing is hard to him who,
casting self aside, thinks only this:

How may I serve my fellow man?

tulsidas – 16th century

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… you don’t think we’ve been resting on our laurels, I think its about time to update you on our latest pursuits in City Hall. It’s as helpful to me to witness this in writing as it is to you, as I also benefit from seeing where we’ve been and where we’re going.

I will be referring to my notebooks in order to run through the past four months. I am an avid note taker, as there are so many projects and meetings that layer one upon another. I cling to this practice like a cast-away to a wooden raft. The two notebooks I have here tonight take me back to the beginning of December, 2008. Therefore, my notes run more or less chronologically, though most of these tasks are still “works in progress” and thread through my notebooks in several sections.

– Bob Fetterly approached me to suggest that he would be interested in writing a white paper focusing on the Transportation Department and a suggested mechanic. What ensued was a comprehensive investigation of staffing, equipment, the facility and governmental mandates. Mr. Fetterly’s report resulted in the Common Council agreeing to staff a mechanic position in transportation and allowed for an application to DOT for an $800K stimulus grant. Mr. Fetterly set the terms for his services: $1 plus “expenses.” Thank you so much, Bob.

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Demolition plans were finalized in meetings between City Engineer Richard Phillips, Montgomery County Director of Public Works Paul Claybourn, Amsterdam Fire Chief Rich Liberti, Alderwoman Kim Brumley, Alderman Dan Roth, Plumbing Inspector Erwin Harnish and County Supervisor Barbara Johnson. Time lines, responsibilities, and expectations were hammered out, asbestos surveys completed, equipment purchased, licenses procured and a completed work plan was submitted to Department of Labor. CT Male and MOSA partnered with us as well. Because of the extraordinary push over the past year by these key players, seven derelict structures have come down and plans are being made for the lots that have been left vacant. Over 40 structures will be tackled next winter.

Whoa. I’m on page three of this first notebook. I need to find a more abbreviated way to post. I’m moving to salient points. Better for all of us.

– We’ve held several City/GASD Commission meetings to brainstorm solutions to regional scores/standing.
– We’ve had monthly meetings with Owen Goldfarb of the Local Government Assistance Project funded through the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC). Our goal is to establish responsible oversight of finances, timely and accurate accounting, budget analysis and strategic financial planning for the future.
– Our new Assessor has begun the arduous task of rehabbing a department that has long been in need of organization and updating. This year’s role was filed on time, years of records have been straightened out, and analysis has begun for future action.
– Letter’s have been written to the OSC, the Office of General Services (OGS), the Governor, Senator and Assemblyman to help Mohawk Lifts with state contracts. We will continue to doggedly support this City business in any way necessary.
– Exploratory work was begun to increase water flow to Edson Park. FGI is planning a $3M expansion there.
– The zoning ordinances/map rehab RFP was drawn up and sent out. We have seven replies in hand to be reviewed by the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Common Council.
Technological advances for City Hall are undergoing analysis, including the operating system for the Comptroller’s office, hardware and software upgrades, server capacity, security, internet/intranet connectivity and a new telephone system. Meetings have been held with the County as to how we may coordinate efforts and a schedule of work hammered out to address needs on this end. Service proposals have been sought from outside firms as well.
– The Property Disposition Committee has had several meetings to fine tune strategy. A scenario for demolished properties has been developed.
– Several labor contract negotiations have been ongoing. Labor management discussions are perennial.

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– Grants from DOT and the DORM Authority for the second phase of Riverlink Park are being persistently tracked. The Pedestrian Bridge contracts are being finalized at the state level.
– There has been discussion between AIDA, EDZ and the City regarding the formation of a Local Development Corporation (LDC) to facilitate economic development. We have an ongoing need to identify potential businesses/developers, available City property, zoning and environmental issues, and to get word out to the business community.
Stimulus projects have been identified and proposals sent to State officials.
Water distribution expectations and agreements have been negotiated with the Towns of Florida and Amsterdam.
– The new sales tax distribution agreement (drafted in October) was presented again to City Supervisors to submit to the County. Subsequently, several meetings have been held with City Supervisors to ensure unified support of our proposal.
– We’ve been working with Port City Preservation (PCP) to push forward the redevelopment of the Esquire Building at the Mohasco site. Several meetings have been held with Noteworthy to address any concerns the company may have with the proposed mixed-use rehabilitation of the neighboring building.

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– Physical improvements have been, and will be, ongoing at City Hall. A plan for regular maintenance, as well as a larger capital improvement plan for appropriate historic preservation, will be budgeted for.
– New members have been assigned to the Board of Assessment Review.
– The local registry legislation for property owned by out-of-town landlords has been implemented.
– A meeting was held in January with AIDA to decide organizational goals, mission, job descriptions and projects.
Marketing materials are in the final stages of development. Information has been gathered for the website, the home page has been built out, and the the back pages are in development. Interviews, copy writing, design, and photography are all underway for both the website and printed materials.
Software had been purchased to facilitate greater ease of response by the Fire Department in emergencies and to better code enforcement efforts. The system is expected to be fully operational by the end of the summer.
– Murray Gould of PCP made a public presentation to interested parties on the relationship between historic preservation and economic development. The prominent themes: follow the successful lead of other communities; change takes risk and commitment; look for solutions and minimize roadblocks.
Centro Civico has acquired a significant amount of money to construct a park on the East End and would like to partner with the City to bring this project to fruition.
– The City will partner with AHA, URA and Rivercrest Development to rehab architecturally significant buildings that had been slated for demolition in targeted neighborhoods. This will allow the City to retain taxable structures rather than maintain vacant lots.

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– The Downtown Development Committee has been meeting regularly and two community forums were held to ascertain the needs of property owners, to inform them of grant opportunities and to devise a unified vision for the area. The City has received a $500K Small Cities grant for enhancements to this area and will go for round three of the Restore NY grant to redevelop the Keybank Building with John Tesiero.
– A small committee has been coordinating the “Windows on Main” project. They are working with PTA’s and art teachers to dress participating storefronts and are planning a kick-off event in early May.
– An undisclosed construction firm of global proportion and a mammoth engineering firm, also a world-wide entity, paid us visits in relation to opportunities the AMD project in Luther Forest may bring us. Both recognize our attractive location, copious water sources, and affordable real estate. The billion dollar AMD project is expected to generate 4,500 white collar jobs regionally.
– The Via Ponte Committee has been working with Saratoga Associates to finish up South Side Brownfield Opportunity Activities (BOA). The City has also been awarded a North Shore BOA that will target the Chuctanunda Creek to Mohasco. This work will help secure funding for the relocation of the train station, marketing analysis, beautification and larger capital projects.
– I’ve been to regional meetings and training sessions hosted by the Center for Economic Growth, the NY Council of Mayors, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Preservation League, and have attended stimulus informational meetings hosted by Senator Chuck Schumer and the Governor.
– The Windswept Drive area will benefit in the way of increased pressure to residences and flow for fire hydrants when water transmission improvements are made to extend water service to Beechnut.
– The City recently completed a policy and procedure review by the OSC and is now going through a Budget Review and Audit. They will review internal controls and make recommendations to improve cash management and cost savings. Contemporaneously, the City is going through it’s annual audit as well.
– Shuttleworth Park, as well as other parks, have been assessed for safety improvements that will be put in place before the summer season begins.
Traffic patterns around the City have been analyzed by DOT and recommendations will be made for better flow downtown. An public forum will be held on May 7th at Lynch Middle School to garner input from residents.

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– We’ve been working with the Amsterdam Beautification Corps (ABC) to get ready for this summer season. Flowers have been ordered, a memorial urn will be placed at the intersection of Church and Main Street, and banners featuring our new logo will be ordered. Should be a stellar show this year.
– Upon my recommendation, Golf Course operations will be assessed by graduate students from Union College and a strategic business plan developed.
Riverlink Park Cafe will need restoration work before summer to allow for a new concessionaire to start at the building. Some carpentry and an intensive cleaning are in order. This year, a park attendant will be on site to ensure that the bathrooms, elevator, and public places are clean and that the gardens are watered and cared for. Look forward to new management, a great new menu, Canalfest and concerts on the River.
– Planned improvements to the Water Filtration and Wastewater Treatment Facilities are underway. All work will be completed by the time the new Beechnut facility goes online.
– Initial mapping and surveying of RT 5 West has been reviewed by the City. Engineering designs will be completed by fall of 2009 and implementation of roadwork will start in 2010. Subsurface utility improvements will be made in tandem with the resurfacing project.
– Key staff met to discuss borrowing practices for capital projects. Purchasing procedures were reviewed and recommendations have been made to standardize the bonding process (record keeping, administration, tracking). Cost savings may be realized by bonding for several purchases in a larger bond, rather than issuing individual bonds for each purchase. We will address this concept in this year’s budgeting sessions.
– Downtown Main Street has been photographed and renderings will be produced to illustrate “before” and “after” concepts in marketing materials.
Bridge Street plans were reviewed with staff from DOT, Saratoga Associates and our Engineering Department. These plans have been been scrutinized by DOT for months and new recommendations have been made. We will continue to work closely with all parties to ensure that the project breaks ground later this year.
– Plans are being drawn up to replace the aging Pool House at Veteran’s Field.
Staffing shortages and restructuring in several departments within City Hall are being considered. This will be addressed in the budgeting process.
– The City is involved in the formation of a Habitat for Humanity in Montgomery County. Currently, a formative committee will look to staff a governing board, develop the organization’s mission, bylaws, budget, operational goals and strategic plan. Volunteers are more than welcome.

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– The Waterfront Commission has revisited its described duties in the Charter and has made recommendations regarding changes. Their chief responsibility will be to ensure that the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and the City’s Comprehensive plan are followed in any waterfront development projects.
– Our Citywide Volunteer Cleanup on April 25th will kick off a week’s worth of opportunity at the MOSA transfer station, where City residents will be allowed to drop off for FREE from April 27 – May 2. More information will be released as details are finalized.
– Of course, putting the 2009/2010 budget together has taken several months of work. It’s looking good for the coming year, but our long-term goal must be to balance the the needs of our constituents while remaining fiscally responsible.

Any one of the topics above may run between a half of a page to four pages in length in my notebook. I may flesh out a few of them individually in future posts. Collectively, these are the tasks that drive minutes into hours over days in my office, so swiftly that the past fifteen months seem to have evaporated like breath on a warming window.

Meanwhile, every City department continues to address the day-to-day responsibilities under their charge. Streets are cleaned, water breaks are addressed, firemen and EMTs answer the call, police investigate when summoned, water is cleaned and pumped to your homes, waste water is whisked away for treatment, the buses run, the parks are being readied to open, dog and wedding licenses are issued, births and deaths are tracked, and life goes on. It is this quiet, perpetual motion of City work that is surprisingly gratifying and far too frequently unappreciated.

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The following is a press release written by the NYS Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officers. I am pleased and honored to have been awarded an opportunity to serve in this capacity. This appointment will allow me to develop new relationships across the state that will benefit our community, and to be mentored by exceptionally dedicated and intelligent people involved in public service.

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane Appointed to Conference of Mayors’ Executive Committee

Mayor Ann Thane of the City of Amsterdam has been appointed to the sixteen-member Executive Committee of the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials. Mayor John McDonald of the City of Cohoes, President of the Conference of Mayors, made the selection. The Executive Committee is responsible for establishing the overall policy for the Conference of Mayors.

In announcing the appointment, Mayor McDonald stated, “Mayor Thane is a progressive municipal leader who has been an active participant in NYCOM programs. Her commitment to quality public service in New York State makes her well qualified for the appointment, and she will be a major asset to our organization. I look forward to working with Mayor Thane to implement our statewide agenda.”

Ann Thane was elected Mayor of Amsterdam in November 2007, and immediately made history as the city’s first female mayor. Mayor Thane’s efforts have focused on aggressively and effectively marketing the City of Amsterdam to businesses and developers, and maximizing the city’s success in securing grants. She has also made open and transparent government a top priority. Mayor Thane previously served as Director of the Walter Elwood Museum in Amsterdam from 2001 to 2007 and has a strong background in community service within Amsterdam and Montgomery County.

The Conference of Mayors is the statewide association representing New York’s cities and villages. Since 1910, NYCOM has united local government officials in an active network of legislative advocacy, technical assistance and municipal training.

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I am greatly disappointed by the Recorder editorial section this morning. The public deserves much better than this misrepresentation of the facts.

Bridge Street reconstruction has not been held up by planned rehabilitation of the Chalmers building.

– Plans for Bridge Street reconstruction were submitted to DOT and meetings were held with their representatives, our engineer and Saratoga Associates last month. Because of concerns expressed by DOT, coupled with a need for a comprehensive approach to burying the utilities, we are planning a phased reconstruction of the street, beginning this year with actual digging and repaving of the street and new curbing. The second phase will cover right of ways (sidewalk, lighting, etc.)

– Grant writer Nick Zabawsky had submitted the paperwork for the funding extension last year and was approved months ago.

– Anyone, especially aldermen, expressing a desire to review documentation regarding this project have been provided such.

– Uri Kaufman has kept up steady contact with the City in regard to his project and has met every benchmark stipulated in the option agreement. Preliminary studies, testing, appraisals, architectural design work, market studies, and site plan reviews have all been conducted over the past year. The HUD 221 (d)(4) program, the mortgage insurance mechanism used successfully at Harmony Mills, has been held up because of the global financial upheaval. That said, Mr. Kaufman remains optimistic and expects this delay at HUD Buffalo to be lifted in the near future.

– Kaufman may extend the Chalmers option agreement for $50,000 in May.

– The City has given the developer the right of first refusal. However, the right of first refusal is based on an end use which constitutes the highest and best use for the site (180 upscale residential units) and best serves the needs of the City of Amsterdam, given the articulated strategy for Via Ponte, the pedestrian bridge, the waterfront and a revitalized downtown.

If the Recorder “really wants to know what’s happening with the Chalmers building”, they only need to ask. We are more than happy to supply them with the truth.

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Cilantro-Lime Chicken Fajitas with Grilled Onions

1-1/4 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup olive oil
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/4 teaspoons ancho chile powder

6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
3 large poblano chiles, seeded, cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips
3 large yellow bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips
2 red onions, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

12 8-inch flour tortillas

Optional toppings: purchased salsas, guacamole, sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced green onions, and chopped serrano chiles

Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Puree first 5 ingredients in processor. Season marinade with salt and pepper.

Place chicken in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Pour 1/3 cup marinade over; turn to coat. Arrange poblanos, bell peppers, and onions on large rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1/2 cup marinade over; turn to coat. Sprinkle chicken and vegetables with salt and pepper. Reserve remaining marinade.

Grill chicken until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Grill vegetables until tender, turning frequently, about 15 minutes for onions and 12 minutes for poblanos and bell peppers. Grill tortillas until charred, about 1 minute per side.

Transfer chicken to work surface; slice crosswise into strips. Fill tortillas with chicken and vegetables; drizzle with reserved marinade. Serve with toppings.

Bon Appétit | July 2005

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