In a strongly worded response, attorneys from the New York Civil Liberties Union issue an ultimatum to City of Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane. The letter, dated September 22, 2014, advises the executive to rescind the employee gag order issued on August 6, 2014. The gag order attempts to restrict employee communication with members of the Common Council. The NYCLU gives the mayor 7 days to take action. The NYCLU has successfully sued other municipalities for similar behavior and cites State and Federal Court decisions supporting employees 1st Amendment right to free speech.
Mayor Ann Thane made an official statement today that the generous donation of video cameras in 2012 by the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization was “basically worthless”. What an ungrateful and unprofessional statement to make. This was a professional video surveillance system that should have been installed two years ago. The twenty camera wireless video surveillance system was donated by WPHO member Sky Deng, whose company LYD Technology USA Inc. produces the systems. Dr. Govind Rao even donated $6,000 to pay for the camera system installation. Smaller scale video systems produced by Sky Deng’s company now cover the Amsterdam Goddess of Mercy Temple and rectory, Amsterdam Five Buddha Temple and rectory, private homes owned by the WPHO in Amsterdam as well as this blogger’s residence. These camera systems all run very well. Video clips from this blogger’s surveillance system helped the APD identify vandals that damaged property on Grove Street.
The City is now scrambling to save face after an incident last week where vandals caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to a downtown hotel that was closed pending renovation.
The statement posted by Mayor Ann Thane on Facebook:
In response to the senseless destruction at the downtown hotel, please know that our police department will hunt down these criminals and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Amsterdam Police Department Chief of Police Gregory Culick informs me that the camera guy was in his office yesterday to discuss finishing installation of the cameras they had ordered (the cameras donated to us by the World Peace and Health Organization two years ago were basically worthless.) New beat patrols had been instituted about a month ago. If you are willing and able to help be the eyes and ears of the APD, please call 842-1100 for more information.
This link to my 2012 blog article describes the camera donation: Buddhists Donate Security Cameras to the City of Amsterdam
This is a link to former Gazette reporter Ed Munger’s article describing the donation: Buddhists Give Amsterdam 20 Video Cameras
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane owes the WPHO a formal apology for that despicable statement and should accept blame for not following through with the camera installation. The Mayor keeps reminding us that she alone is responsible for the day to day operation of the city.
Mayor Ann Thane, you failed the citizens of Amsterdam!
The Farmers’ Market in Amsterdam has a variety of fresh produce and prepared foods as well as merchandise vendors. It operates every Saturday from 10am to 2pm at 100 Church Street in Amsterdam, NY. This week the market had 26 vendors to choose from.
We have been down this road before…literally. Shrine Road in Auriesville, NY to be precise. The scenario plays out like this, a financially troubled Catholic Shrine sells off a chunk of its land including a former Jesuit dormitory to the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization, who refurbish the building making it their headquarters, home and temple. Originating in China, the group renames it the Western Supreme Buddha Temple. At first they share the land harmoniously with the Jesuit Priest Murray who is very cordial and accommodating to the WPHO. In 2012 Father Murray moves on to another assignment in Buffalo and Jesuit Belgarde takes his place. Belgarde is not at all like his predecessor and begins a campaign of terror against the Buddhists, first by blocking all the access roads to their property and then refusing to meet with them to discuss the situation. This ends up in court with a dismissal after Belgarde’s supervisor, Jesuit Provincial David S. Ciancimino grants the WPHO access to their building from both Shrine Road and the gravel road off of Ripley Road built by the Buddhists and aptly named Friendship Road. This blogger documented the history of Belgarde’s campaign of terror. It can be found in the following series of links.
Apparently Belgarde does not follow orders very well. This year his harassment resurfaced like a failed exorcism. He had his maintenance worker block Shrine Road again and also block off part of Friendship Road built by the WPHO! Once again he refuses to communicate with the group and when they begin to protest the action, he has his maintenance worker tear up the road in front of the Buddhist Temple with a backhoe. When the Chinese Buddhist students begin to protest on their own property, Belgarde calls the Montgomery County Sheriffs Department. The WHPO calls the NYS State Police and we have a confrontation resulting in an injury to a 100lb. female WPHO student who was shoved to the ground by a 300lb. male Lieutenant in the Montgomery County Sheriff Department. The student was treated for her injuries in a local hospital. This incident and other unnecessary use of force during this peaceful protest was documented in still images and video. Over a dozen police officers responded when an inexperienced police officer called for backup.
The WPHO hired attorney Sarah Green to represent them and protect their rights. As much as people would like to believe otherwise, there is religious intolerance and racism inherent in this incident. There is no reason why the two groups can not exit harmoniously on this beautiful piece of land overlooking the Mohawk Valley. The Auriesville setting exudes peace and tranquility, it is too bad Jesuit Belgarde can’t see that.
Ronco Construction came to Amsterdam this year to help repair roofs damaged by the hail storm in May. They rented 46 East Main Street with a six month lease and according to project manager Brook Reutter, they are thinking about making that a permanent satellite office for their company. Ronco wanted to sponsor a a block party for the city residents and with input from event organizer Sherri Crouse and Amsterdam Animal Control Officer Gina Kline, it was decided proceeds would go to help neuter or spay the stray animal population. The block party was held Saturday, August 23rd from 4-10pm with food and merchandise vendors, a DJ, live band, mystic readings and face painting.
The event was supposed to include the entire block of East Main Street from Church to Market Street and an event permit was obtained. Apparently an elected official made a call to DOT about the event who then notified Police Chief Culick who in turn told event organizers they needed 120 days notice in order to close the entire street. This resulted in the event being limited to 1/4 of the block, which seemed to accommodate those in attendance. Several city employees and elected officials were in attendance, Animal Control Officer Gina Kline, Director of Economic Development Rob von Hasseln, Alderman Rich Leggiero, Alderwoman Valerie Beekman and Mayor Ann Thane who turned her head and walked away when this taxpaying city resident greeted her with hello.
A big thanks to Sherri Crouse, Ronco Construction and the other volunteers who helped put on this benefit for a worthy cause.
Sponsored by Centro Civico and Nathan Littauer Hospital, Summerfest 2014 took place from 1-7pm at 143 East Main Street in Amsterdam, New York. The event was geared towards healthy living with local practitioners demonstrating techniques to help achieve that goal. From acupuncture, meditation, Tai Chi to Mazor robotic spinal surgery and making healthy food choices, this event had something for everyone. There was also a bounce house and crafts for kids to take part in. A DJ provided entertainment and there was a variety of local food vendors. People waited patiently for the free schools supplies provided by Centro Civico. Across the street from the event were representatives from the New York State Nurses Association, supporting the unionization of nurses at St Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam. The event was a great way to spend an otherwise gloomy afternoon.
Saratoga Springs, New York comes alive during the Thoroughbred racing season. Its streets, restaurants and parks are full of visitors. For a photographer, this is a great opportunity to practice your skills and get photos that may normally be out of your comfort zone. With three trips to the track this year, this blogger has got a lot of practice. My third trip was monday, August 11, 2014. If you get to the track about 8am, there is plenty of parking and not too much traffic. If you are not planning on spending the day at the races, you can still visit the track for breakfast or just to watch the horses warm up on the track. There is no charge for this with your trackside parking fee ($12) refunded if you leave before 10am. Leaving the track at that time gives you the opportunity to visit Saratoga’s other attractions. The following photos represent an inexpensive and enjoyable half-day trip. These photos are my intellectual property and may not be used or reproduced without permission.
Friends of Sanford Stud Farm is a charitable organization dedicated to preserving the history of Stephen and son John Sanford’s thoroughbred horse farm in the Town of Amsterdam. The original training track and some of the barns were demolished to build a mall but a few of the structures still remain visible from route 30. Friends of Sanford Stud Farm has accomplished a great deal in their goal of creating an education heritage center, preserving and restoring the remaining barns owned by the Town. The other barn structures off route 30 that were part of Hurricana are privately owned and the land is for sale. With the help of the organization and Town of Amsterdam the 1880 Hurricana Stock Farm is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Stephen Sanford (1826-1913) born in Mayfield, NY, built the Hurricana Farm to raise and train thoroughbred racehorses to compete at Saratoga Racecourse in 1880. Stephen’s son John Sanford II (1851-1939) born in Amsterdam, inherited Hurricana and became very successful in the racing industry. John changed the Hurricana Farm name to Sanford Stud Farm. John’s daughter Gertrude Sanford Legendre (1902-2000) born in Aiken, South Carolina, was a very colorful figure. An American socialite, Gertrude enjoyed big game hunting and exploring for the American Museum of Natural History. During WWII she worked for the Office of Strategic Services and became the first woman captured by the Germans and was held for 6 months until she escaped to Switzerland. In 1930 Gertrude and Sidney Legendre bought one of the oldest buildings in South Carolina, the Medway Plantation (c1686). Gertrude was the inspiration for the 1929 play “Holiday” written by Philip Barry and later made into a movie starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Gertrude Sanford and Sidney Legendre had two daughters, Bokara and Landine. Stories and photos of Gertrude and her daughters appear in the New York Social Diary.
Landine Legendre married Peter Manigault (1927-2004) of Charleston South Carolina, owner of the Evening Post Publishing Company. Landine and Peter Manigault had a son Pierre Manigault who is now the Chairman at Evening Post Industries, Garden and Gun Magazine and the American College of Building Arts. Pierre Manigault and Lee Van Allen, had two daughters India and Gertrude (Gigi) Manigault, who lives with their mother in the Miles Brewton House in Charleston, South Carolina .
The organization could not have accomplished so much without funding from private donations. The largest benefactor of Friends of Sanford Stud Farm is the Manigault family. On Sunday July 20, 2014, Landine Manigault, Pierre Manigault, Gigi Manigault and family friend Clara Saad visited the Sanford Stud Farm. Pierre expressed an interest in starting a summer program at the Sanford Stud Farm for students from the American College of Building Arts in Charleston, of which he is Chairman and one of the founders. The girls just wanted to have fun.
This is what happens when you let preteens take photos with your camera!
Saturday July 19, 2014 marked the 100th run of the Sanford Stakes at the Saratoga Raceway. The race is named for Amsterdam’s Stephen Sanford (1826-1913) , born in Mayfield, NY, member of the US House of Representatives, who among other ventures, ran the Hurricana Farm where he trained Thoroughbreds. The farm was renamed the Sanford Stud Farm by his son John Sanford II, Congressman and carpet manufacturer, born in Amsterdam in 1851, who built his home on Church Street (what we now know as Amsterdam’s City Hall). Sanford descendant Landine L. Manigault, her son Pierre Manigault and his daughters India and Gigi Manigault were at Saratoga Raceway for the Sanford Stakes. Pierre Manigault lives in Charleston, South Carolina and is Chairman at Evening Post Industries and Garden & Gun Magazine. His mother Landine Manigault lives in Stonington, Connecticut and is the daughter of Gertrude Sanford Legendre, sister of Stephen “Laddie” Sanford and Sara Jane Sanford, children of John and Ethel Sanford whose parents were Stephen Sanford and Sara Jane Cochrane.
Friends of the Sanford Stud Farm celebrated with a visit to the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame, followed by a luncheon at the Saratoga Raceway track-side clubhouse. Amsterdam artist Dan Czech designed the Sanford Stakes Centennial commemorative poster using period design. Pierre Manigault presented Friends founder Sam Hildebrandt an original purple and gold Sanford jockey silk. Sam’s father Louis Hildebrant was a very successful Sanford jockey.
It was a humid day but the air-conditioned clubhouse was a great way to watch the races. Some things have changed at the track since my last visit in the late 80′s. High definition flat screen monitors abound, posted on kiosks throughout the grounds with a huge monitor at center track. Cigar smoke fills the air as people study their racing sheets to place their bets. The racetrack grounds serve as impromptu campsites as people bring lawn-chairs, coolers and food, selecting a site on the lawn to claim stake for the day. The clubhouse patrons decked out in their finest causal attire, enjoy the day in the style. Beer and alcohol flowed on both sides of the fence, fueling shouts of enthusiasm as well as groans of disappointment.
The 7th race was the Sanford Stakes and thanks to the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm, I had a place at the finish line and access to the Winner’s Circle for the race. Big Trouble won the Sanford Stakes in the last stretch as he shot from 4th place to victory. The Sanford Stakes Cup was presented to Big Trouble jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. and trainer Tony Dutrow by John Sanford’s great granddaughters India and Gigi Manigault. A slew of reporters soon flooded Winner’s Circle including reporter Adam Shinder from The Recorder. Congressman Paul Tonko appeared in Winner’s Circle to support one of Amsterdam’s Historic events.