Author Archives: Gerald Skrocki

About Gerald Skrocki

I am a freelance Graphic Designer and Photographer. I retired in 2002 from my job as NYS Correction Lieutenant. I am a single gay man, a Veteran of the US Army who owns his own home in the city of Amsterdam, New York. I do volunteer work for a few not for profit agencies and belong to both the Schenectady Photographic Society and the Amsterdam Photography Club.

Sanford Heirs Visit Hurricana


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.

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Tom Foster, Pierre Manigault, Scott Friers, Linda Gates

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Louis "Sam" Hildebrandt, Jr.

Louis “Sam” Hildebrandt, Jr.

 

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Gigi Manigault and Clara Saad

Gigi Manigault and Clara Saad

 

This is what happens when you let preteens take photos with your camera!

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Categories: Amsterdam, historic preservation, Sanford Stud Farm | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sanford Stakes Centennial


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.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, History, Outdoors, Sanford Stud Farm, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Riverlink Concert Experience


With a first class boat docking facility, restaurant and beautiful scenic grounds, Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park on the Mohawk River in upstate New York hosts an annual concert series presented by the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation.  Every Saturday evening during the months of July and August you can enjoy free concerts. Yesterday was the 6th annual Jamboree with bands Dark Don’t Catch Me Here, Locust Honey and the Nellies. For more information about the concert series please visit the Riverlink Concerts website.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Entertainment, Music, Outdoors, Riverlink Park | Tags: , , , , , ,

Adirondack Animal Land


Located on route 30 in Vail Mills, New York is Adirondack Animal Land, a great place to take the family for an educational adventure. That is how a few members of the Amsterdam Photography Club spent their first day of Summer. With a large variety of animals to photograph and a Safari ride through animals roaming without cages, it was a fun photographic challenge.  If you are interested, their website is adirondackanimalland.com.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Outdoors, Pets, Photography | Tags: , , , ,

The Tyrant that is Thane


The City of Amsterdam, New York was invigorated by a newly elected Common Council this year. The citizens, not happy with the way taxes were going up and spending was increasing, elected conservative representatives who wanted to make a change. With a highly critical state financial audit, finances are in shambles and our elected officials still do not know how much money is in the city fund balance. Despite these facts Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane continues to increase spending, raising salaries and creating new staff positions at City Hall. Not happy with the take charge attitude of the new Council members, Thane took them to court and sued to get a ruling in her favor about the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course Pro Contract. She continually vetoes any legislation proposed by the Council even if it has unanimous support. This effectively delays the passage of all legislation. She gets on local radio and makes press statements that berate and belittle Council members and anyone who gets in her way.

The public, embarrassed and humiliated by Thane’s behavior, went to the Common Council asking to revise our city charter changing ambiguous wording to prevent misinterpretation and added costly court proceedings. The Common Council appointed a Charter Review Committee (of which this blogger is a member) who would study and recommend changes. Thane stated that a Charter Review Committee was not necessary, that there were more important things to do.

“The mayor agreed with the commission idea in the beginning, but she does not agree with the appointments. What do you do when you have a mayor for six years and she’s relentless? She does not give up; it has to be her way or no way.” — Alderman Diane Hatzenbuhler

Corporation Council Gerard DeCusatis who by law is supposed to support and advise the Mayor and Council, only does so for the Mayor. Soon after the Council appointed Charter Review Committee had its first few meetings, the Mayor appointed her own Charter Review Committee, who she insinuated in The Recorder were more intelligent than the Council appointed committee.

“What I’m looking for are intelligent people to weigh in on a document that’s affected the community for a long time.” –Mayor Ann Thane

This derailed weeks of work already accomplished by the dedicated committee appointed by the Council. As  explained to me, the Mayor’s Committee takes precedent over any other Charter Review Committee who, with this action, can not send any Charter related questions to the ballot for referendum vote in the 2014 general election. Attorney Peter Califano, Chairman of the Mayor’s Charter Review Commission, cited this 2008 NYS Supreme Court decision as the standing ruling on the subject.

After exchanging emails with Peter Califano, I discovered that both of our Committees had a common goal, to strengthen the separation of powers by removing the Mayor as presiding officer of the Common Council.  The Mayor presiding over Council meetings, promotes arguments and obstructs the flow of governance. For Ann Thane who tries to micro-manage every aspect of city government, it only increased her already over-inflated ego.

As many of you know I was an active member of the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation, whose mission was to fund and organize concerts at Riverlink Park that are free to the public every Saturday evening during the months of July and August. Our Committee consisted of four dedicated members who give a lot of time and effort for Riverlink Concerts. I donated a few hundred photos and designed hours worth of advertising design that appeared as posters and ads in local and regional newspapers. All of that has come to an end as I resigned from the Foundation a few weeks ago. Mayor Ann Thane could not keep her control-freak hands off of the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation as she held a secret meeting with Congressman Paul Tonko, Amsterdam Economic Development Director Rob von Hasseln, Grant Writer Nick Zabawski and Waterfront Foundation President Paul Gavry. It seems despite the spin put on the situation, the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook (Pedestrian Bridge) is way over budget and Gavry was told that the Waterfront Foundation would seek grants to fund the 1.6 million dollars of artwork a select committee decided should go on this bridge. In order to carry this out, five new members that they selected would be added to the board of the Waterfront Foundation. This effectively weighted our vote, giving the Mayor control of the Foundation. Of course when we were seeking funding for concerts or wanting to increase our membership for the past two years these people were nowhere to be found. Neither Congressman Tonko, Mayor Thane or the five new Waterfront Commission members came to support the Riverlink Concert fundraiser held at the Amsterdam MUNI Clubhouse on June 13th. They did not consider the impact this new fundraising project would have on grant applications to fund the concert series.

I really loathe politicians, they chew you up and spit you out. It seems my every attempt at civic duty was derailed by this Mayor. It’s been over three years since I sat on the committee to update the Zoning Code along with Montgomery County Planning who were paid by the City to write the new code. The Mayor’s Corporation Counsel DeCusatis sat on the document for over two years for a “legal” review. Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler had me review the document with the codes department earlier this year to get their advice. We are now 6 months into the new Council’s administration and this document still has not been presented to the Common Council for a vote. It increases the area of what is considered Amsterdam’s downtown core and eases restrictions making it much more business friendly. A little follow through and cooperation would really help our local government instead of the costly and obstructionist display of power and disrespect flaunted by Mayor Ann Thane who feels free to lambast and personally attack others when they disagree with her.

Overpriced art pieces Ann Thane insists must go on the pedestrian bridge:

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Categories: Amsterdam, Equality, Law, Politics, Riverlink Park | Tags: , , ,

Tropic Rhythm at the Amsterdam MUNI Clubhouse


It was Friday the 13th and we were on our 3rd day of continual rain. The flood alert issued by New York State for Montgomery County didn’t stop the dedicated fans of music, dance and great food who did attend the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation Fundraiser held at Amsterdam’s Municipal Golf Course Clubhouse. The rain did force the celebration indoors where the Clubhouse concessionaire and chef extraordinaire Laura Elmendorf served a most delicious pig roast with all the fixings. Tropic Rhythm donated their time and talent to aid Riverlink Concerts. Their most wonderful combination of Boleros, Merengue, Rock and Pop tunes kept the well-fed attendees on the dance floor all evening. The combination of music, food and great conversation made us all forget about the torrential downpour outside.

Those that missed the chance to hear Tropic Rhythm and the angelic voice of lead singer Dashira Cortes will have another chance as they perform in the Riverlink Park Concert Series on August 2, 2014.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Music, Riverlink Park | Tags: , , , , ,

Amsterdam’s Spring Fling 2014


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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Music, Outdoors, Pets | Tags: , ,

A Walk in the Park


It was too nice of a day to stay indoors, so I walked down to Riverlink Park. On the way there I saw the True Value Hardware store was converted to Ace Hardware with the entrance moved to the North side of the building, blocking what was a drive thru from Liberty Street to Church Street (You can still drive around through the parking lot). Riverlink Park was closed for construction recently but with the official opening of the Erie Canalway last week, I figured it would be open. It was open but there is still a lot of construction to be done. A generator is providing power at this point and both of the towers on the other side of the walkway are in the middle of some concrete work. Handicap access to the elevator is still closed off. The park still has a long way to go before it is fully operational. I walked under the rt. 30 bridge on the Mohawk and found a new dirt roadway to the Eastern bank where the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook is being built. I still can’t get used to that name and I’m afraid no one else will either. They will continue to call it the Pedestrian Bridge or the Bridge to Nowhere. Steel rebar is in place where I assume concrete will soon be poured for a bridge support on the East bank next to where the Chuctanunda Creek flows into the Mohawk. You can see the cranes in place working on the South side section. I continued taking pictures on my walk back until the light started to fade into a bright magenta sunset.

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Categories: Amsterdam, History, Outdoors, Photography, Riverlink Park | Tags: ,

A Dragon on Grove Street


It’s not everyday that you see a dragon slithering down your street but that is exactly what happened today as the World Peace and Health Organization celebrated Buddha’s Birthday. The opening ceremony started at the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street in Amsterdam, NY with Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi sounding the drum and summoning their ceremonial dragon. The celebration continued at the Five Buddha Temple on East Main Street where a ceremonial bathing of the Buddha took place.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, WPHO | Tags: , , , ,

Riverlink Park Fundraiser


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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Music, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , ,

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