Archive for August, 2010



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

– John O’Donohue, ANAM CARA, © 1997


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WMHT has garnered the funding necessary to move forward with its OUR TOWN: AMSTERDAM segment. They are recruiting volunteer storytellers to capture video to answer the question, “What is special about Amsterdam?” The resulting video will be incorporated into a 60-minute special airing this November.

Community members from Amsterdam are invited to attend an informational meeting and training session. Anyone interested in the production is invited to attend. There are no restrictions as to age or experience and no cost to participate. Please bring your camera to the meeting.

For more information about the project, please contact producer, Joanne Durfee at jdurfee@wmht.org, or call 518-880-3400. Participate online at wmht.org/ourtown.

Calling all Amsterdam residents…You are invited!

When: Monday, September 13, 2010 @ 7 pm
Where: Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy
55 Brandt Place, Amsterdam, NY

OUR TOWN: AMSTERDAM is underwritten by Amsterdam Printing, Beechnut, St. Mary’s Hospital and the Stewart Shops

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I’ll be hosting a public forum on Tuesday, August 31st at Amsterdam High School Cafeteria to discuss the proposed pedestrian bridge designs. Honored guests speakers will be Congressman Paul Tonko and NYS Canal Corporation Director Carmella Mantello. Residents will view a video presentation featuring current and future waterfront projects and will be given the opportunity to query architects and engineers from Saratoga Associates and the NYS Thruway Authority. Votes will be gathered to assist in making final design recommendations. The meeting will begin at 6pm. Participants should park in front of the school and enter through the front door as the parking lot is being resurfaced.

Bring your friends and family. This is an exciting project for Amsterdam.

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We need peeps to roll out base primer for a HUGE mural of the American Flag this Saturday! Please spend a couple of hours with us dusting off the east entrance to the City. Starts at 10am. Ladders and rollers with extensions appreciated. Paint, encouragement and laughter supplied.

Call 841-4311 to volunteer. Amsterdam NEEDS YOU!

Update: Much to our disappointment, the paint on the building was found to be too badly compromised to paint over and will have to be tested for lead. We will look into this while the artist may choose another site. Keep tuned, we’ll need your help when the time comes.

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New York State announced today that the City of Amsterdam received a $600,000 CDBG grant award to make improvements to our water distribution system. After a tragic fire last March, staff and I had drafted an action plan to address the ongoing problems of the aging system. Over the past year, we made our grant request, we’d been working on policies and procedures, and making incremental progress identifying areas of need.

Thanks to the efforts of our partners at McDonald Engineering and successful Grant Writer Nick Zabawsky, we have been awarded the maximum amount allowed in this competetive round to make important improvements to our hydrants, valves and water mains. Bravo!

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A proposal put forth by the fourth ward alderman to gut the Mayor’s operational lines for marketing, contractual services and operations will be considered at tomorrow night’s Common Council meeting. The proposal is pathetically shortsighted, overtly political and can serve no good purpose. I have now drafted an explanation of many of the activities of my office so that you, good reader, may be informed of this ill-conceived action.

Marketing funds have been used in the copywriting, design, and production of the following materials:
– website
– printed promotional materials (letterhead, business cards, presentation folder and customizable inserts)
– banners
– signage
– flyers, invites
– printed advertising

Future marketing efforts that will also incur planning, copywriting, design and production costs include:
– website hosting, updates and maintenance
– email blasts
– direct mailings
– web videos
– radio spots
– online marketing in other regions
– murals, flowers, signage & beautification

On average, we get 3000 NEW visitors a month to the City website. The site is regularly used by constituents for information, forms, phone numbers and event updates. We are launching six promotional videos THIS WEEK to further leverage this resource. The current proposal will leave me with less than half of what it costs to keep our website online and without funding for any other marketing efforts.

Most of the marketing revenues budgeted this year come from a grant from National Grid. In my two years and a half years in office, we have successfully raised the profile of the City of Amsterdam in the Capital District. I have attracted two significant development projects (the repurposing of Chalmers and Esquire buildings into apartments; one developer was turned away by the Council and one chose to very publicly back away from Amsterdam). I have been at the forefront of efforts to bring the State Data Center here and continue to work with local realtors and economic development agencies to garner the interest of site selectors for businesses and families relocating to the region because of Global Foundries/Tech Valley initiatives.

I have continuously encouraged collaboration between AIDA, URA, Council, Chamber, GASD, FMCC and the County.

My operational budget goes toward training seminars, trade magazines and materials, professional memberships, travel, office furniture and supplies, and other miscellaneous contractual expenses. The current proposal will leave me $200 for office supplies, which won’t even buy me a replacement toner cartridge for my secretary’s copier/fax machine.

In the absence of a Community & Economic Development Department (the natural entity to handle marketing and the following projects), I now oversee:
– the zoning rewrite committee
– downtown rehabilitation
– traffic re-patterning
– neighborhood revitalization initiatives
– city-wide clean ups
– property disposition
– brownfield opportunity areas rehabilitation

In the past, this department had a director, two grant writers and a secretary. Currently, the City has no grant writer either.

I also oversee the activities of the Engineering/DPW and the Codes Department. Projects include (but are not limited to):
– capital projects (Bridge Street Reconstruction, Chalmers Demolition, Riverlink Park Phase II, Church Street Reconstruction/Repairs – please note: all of these projects were inherited from former administrations that had failed to bring them to fruition)
– demolition of blighted properties
– water distribution/hydrant replacement strategy
– stimulus road program
– Water Filtration Plant improvements
– Waste Water Treatment Plant improvements

Professional engineering services are contractually provided by McDonald Engineering, CT Male Associates and Saratoga Associates, depending on the project. Since my time in office, we have never been without professional guidance or expertise.

I steadfastly advance the seven goals identified in the Comprehensive Plan.

My office shoulders these activities (and more) without staffing and very little funding. Wills now proposes (for blatantly personal reasons) to cut over half of my operational funding. To this end, I would ask, why? How will this action grow our tax base to fund staff, equipment and projects? What is the Wills plan for economic development? Why would anyone on the Council support this action?

This action will hurt the taxpayers of the City of Amsterdam.

We deserve better.

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The following are the three, current designs proposed for the pedestrian bridge. Engineering and design work is ongoing. Expected completion date is 2015.

Alternative One:

Alternative Two:

Alternative Three:

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WMHT-TV will feature the City of Amsterdam as part of a series of OUR TOWN videos documenting the people, places, and happenings of municipalities across the Capital Region as seen through the eyes and camera lenses of the people who live here. Residents will use their video cameras to show the heritage, personalities and unique characteristics that make their hometown “special”.

This is a tremendous opportunity for us to portray the personalities, businesses, activities and spirit of our City as captured by individuals that intimately know and love our families, teams, charitable works, and neighborhoods. These stories will collectively convey the heart and soul of Amsterdam and give the surrounding region a sense of what it truly means to live here.

My mind goes to the “Light Up the Sky” project as told by involved volunteers and organizers; the experience of a host family to a Mohawk’s Baseball player or exchange student; artists from Libery painting a mural in a City Park; the dedicated individuals that make lunch every week at the Inman Center and folks that attend; the AHS band as seen through the eyes of a student; musicians at Crossroads Church and the inpact of their joy and faith on the congregation; FMCC classes at the Mall or computer classes at Centro Civico and the experiences of their students; the commitment of staff at RCIL to clients with disabilities; Chamber mixers and the close friendships that have been formed; the extraordinary care given by healthcare providers at St. Mary’s and Wilkenson’s; planting and maintaining community gardens… the personal stories are endlessly warm and telling about our community.

The goal of this project is to create an outreach program that is intergenerational and engaging in innovative ways. The collection of OUR TOWN material will serve as the basis for a variety of related educational resources, including school curricular materials to ensure awareness and understanding of local history and civic engagement.

The OUR TOWN series will include an online community-sharing initiative that will encourage people to contribute pictures, videos and stories, as well as online forums for interactive discussion. An online OUR TOWN sampler may be viewed by clicking here.

The station will provide a training session and videotape for each volunteer videographer. Taping will occur over the span of a designated week in the coming months and then be edited into a final version by WMHT-TV. The resulting product will be shown at a screening event in the City later this fall and broadcast to the viewers in the tri-state area.

We will be announcing the date of a community forum to discuss this project with interested videographers in the very near future. We expect that the screening will be in November.

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August 3, 2010: Sponsored by our Amsterdam Neighborhood Association groups and the Amsterdam APD, National Night Out at Veteran’s Field was a great success despite the rain. We hope residents will continue to support the efforts of our friends and neighbors to make Amsterdam cleaner, safer and united. If you’d like to become involved in the neighborhood watch and/or beautification activities in your part of the City, please call my office at 841-4311 and we will put you in touch with the representative in your area.

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Just before the East End Clean Up, I walked the side streets off of East Main delivering flyers and spreading the word. I was struck by how charming these small stretches of roadway are. Though modest, most homes are obviously loved and cared for with great pride. I think if more people were to actually walk these areas, they’d find that yes, there are problem properties, but there is a predominance of residences that the neighbors are proud to call home. The following photos are of Kline Street, which had a bit of bad press a few months back. The residents I spoke with were anxious to let the rest of us know that they are happy to live where they do and several came out the following day to help with our clean up of the main drag.

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Morning Song

Here, I place
a blue glazed cup
where the wood
is slightly whitened.
Here, I lay down
two bright spoons,
our breakfast saucers, napkins
white and smooth as milk.

I am stirring at the sink,
I am stirring
the amount of dew
you can gather in two hands,
folding it into the fragile
quiet of the house.
Before the eggs,
before the coffee
heaving like a warm cat,
I step out to the feeder-
one foot, then the other,
alive on wet blades.
Air lifts my gown ˆ I might fly ˆ

This thistle seed I pour
is for the tiny birds.
This ritual,
for all things frail
and imperiled.
Wings surround me, frothing
the air. I am struck
by what becomes holy.

A woman
who lost her teenage child
to an illness without mercy,
said that at the end, her daughter
sat up in her hospital bed
and asked:
What should I do?
What should I do?

Into a white enamel bath
I lower four brown eggs.
You fill the door frame,
warm and rumpled, kiss
the crown of my head.
I know how the topmost leaves
of dusty trees
feel at the advent
of the monsoon rains.

I carry the woman with the lost child
in my pocket, where she murmurs
her love song without end:
Just this, each day:
Bear yourself up on small wings
to receive what is given.
Feed one another
with such tenderness,
it could almost be an answer.

“Morning Song” by Marcia F. Brown, from What on Earth. © Moon Pie Press, 2010

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Don’t forget to come down today to Post 701 for a great BBQ and Craft Fair. Over 40 vendors: food, artisans and games of chance! 10-4pm.

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