Archive for August, 2009

I am pleased to announce that the City of Amsterdam will receive $10.6 million to support the planning, design and construction for a major upgrade of the City’s existing water treatment plant, which is over 30 years old and cannot meet current standards. The work includes a new sedimentation/clarification process to improve pre-filter solids removal, a new ultraviolet (UV) disinfection system; a new carbon contact system for taste and odor control, corrosion control treatment and a multi-level intake system at the City’s Steele Reservoir.

The City has also received a $400,000 grant from the New York State Office of Community Renewal under the Community Development Block Grant program. This grant will be used for the Bridge Street reconstruction project and will offset a portion of the cost of burying or relocating utility lines along Bridge Street. Our goal is to make Bridge Street more attractive and to enhance the ambiance and historic character of the area. This funding will be used in conjunction with several other grants which have been obtained by the City for the Bridge Street project, including a $500,000 Federal transportation grant, a $125,000 grant from the New York State Department of State, and a $150,000 grant from the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency.


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ocean bound

“Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,)
Cease not your moaning you fierce old mother,
Endlessly cry for your castaways, but fear not, deny not me,
Rustle not up so hoarse and angry against my feet as I touch you
or gather from you.”

– Walt Whitman


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“I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”

— Margaret Thatcher

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The day your son calls you on the telephone
and is no more your boy, you know
he is someone else’s man.
Hi, Mom! he calls across a chasm.
You guess the joy that carved it,
and you cry, Hello!

She will be the bridge, now,
between you and your son.
Overnight he has become shy with you.
Now that he knows her secret
he has guessed your own, guessed
the journeys that his father made
to fetch a son from darkness
on the other side of utter letting go.

Hello, you say, and suddenly remember
how in the fourth grade he brought a pigeon home.
How, as if it were an ordinary coming home,
he opened the front door, walked in and called,
Hi, Mom! How his eyes were pleading,
with love, like pinions, feathering the air.

– Pat Schneider, from Long Way Home. © Amherst Writers & Artists Press, 1993.

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Everything you can imagine is real.
– Pablo Picasso

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As you are perhaps aware, we had received great interest from planning firms around the region and across the state to help facilitate the redrafting of our zoning ordinances. This has been in discussion for a year or more, as is evidenced by the press release issued after our joint meeting of the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals last summer.

“A joint meeting between the City of Amsterdam’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals was held on Thursday, August 28th and presided over by Mayor Ann Thane. The meeting was called to bring both bodies together to discuss the updating of the City’s zoning maps and legislation and the need to incorporate suggested changes articulated in Amsterdam’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan. “It has become increasingly evident that this work must be done now, given several recent projects that have been brought to the attention of these boards”, said Thane, referring to a proposed biodiesel plant, as well as storage facilities, in areas that are predominantly residential in the Fourth Ward.

Suggestions for change were numerous. The Mayor’s office will ensure that each board member is provided a binder containing contact information of board members & aldermen, relevant Municipal Law & local ordinances, zoning maps, training opportunities, meeting minutes, pertinent resolutions, sample applications, and most importantly, the comprehensive plan. Both boards recognized the need for clarification and simplification of the permitting process. It was agreed that classifications should be added to the schedule of usage, the section of code that explains what structures are appropriate for any given area. Guidelines must be established for the historic overlay districts and the downtown district expanded. The permitting fee structure must be also revisited to reflect a sliding scale for applications and penalties strengthened for work that has occurred without a permit. Planning Commissioner Pam Ritter recognized that “a push for compliance and enforcement is especially important.” It was noted by the group that an effort must be made to educate the public as to the permitting process and that information must be streamlined and easily available to interested parties.”

I am asking that you please contact the aldermen to strongly urge them to proceed with the award of the zoning rehab to HB Solutions. This group had been chosen after a much publicized RFP process – documented in area newspapers and posted to on-line professional associations, and sent to two residents that had expressed interest in this project. The seven responses were reviewed by my office, the City Engineer, URA, and representatives from each of the Planning and Zoning boards. A recommendation was put forward to the Council, was discussed and approved in committee, and allocated for in this year’s budget. A resolution was moved at a Council meeting when it was suddenly suggested that the County facilitate this process.

The County was then contacted and indicated that at the time of the RFP, they could not provide us the service we had requested given the time restraints. There is now talk that they may be able to start our project in a year, perhaps for less money, though the particulars have not been put into writing.

Let me be very clear here: I have great respect for the County.

We are looking at a process that once started may take as long as nine months to complete; I am distressed to think we are now pushing this out almost another two years. Additionally, I would suggest our reputation is once again at risk: we set a dead line, have people expend time and expense to jump through hoops, and then change the game plan.

I had anticipated the County Planning Department would be intimately involved as a partner in this process, but not as the lead in this holistic project. I would suggest that HB Solutions offers a highly qualified, experienced team of professional project managers, economic development planners, architects, and attorneys. Their expertise comes from years of work with municipalities like ours across the state. I feel we are best served in accessing the immediate and exceptional talents, resources and capabilities of the HB team.

My frustration is that we have been trying to move this process forward for so long. At last year’s joint meeting, it was widely recognized that these revisions were needed as soon as possible to address problems mentioned in the excerpt above and in regard to possible revitalization of areas in the City through economic development. My concerns now focus on redevelopment along the River, in our downtown, in residential neighborhoods and at the Esquire site. We have several exciting projects in the works that make this project so necessary.

A resolution has been put forward to move this project forward at Tuesday night’s Council meeting. I hope you will support my efforts to bring positive change to this community. We must not keep putting off what should have been done years ago. The community deserves better.

The contact for the aldermen is as follows:

First Ward:
Joseph Isabel 843-5185
P.O. Box 581, 26 Yale Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Second Ward:
Daniel V. Roth 542-0723
7 Creekway, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Third Ward:
Kim Brumley 843-4311
75 Evelyn Avenue, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Fourth Ward:
William Wills 843-4660
17 Catherine St., Amsterdam, NY 12010

Fifth Ward:
Richard Leggiero 843-0808
101 Florida Ave., Amsterdam, NY 12010

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This moment was too darned fun not to risk the obvious opportunity for predictable jabs. My new friends shared their infectious delight with me as they picked up their proclamation celebrating National Clown Week.

Sometimes, the Gods send just who you need when you need ’em.


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