Business

Meet Laura Elmendorf


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The Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course has been local news for the past few months. A new Common Council with a supermajority vote and a Mayor used to getting her own way have stalled contracts for both the golf pro and the concessionaire at MUNI.

Laura Elmendorf is the concessionaire without a contract who has successfully run the restaurant and bar at the golf course.  Still negotiating her contract, Laura is busy planning for this year’s events.  Although the concession used to be open on weekends during the winter, this year it is closed because a contract was never negotiated or signed last year.

As a board member of the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation, this blogger had the opportunity to meet and talk with Laura while planning a fundraiser to be held at MUNI in June. Every year the Foundation is tasked with raising money, organizing and presenting Riverlink Concerts to the public free of charge. Laura is very pleasant, knowledgeable and personable. She seems much wiser than her years. My visit to MUNI was to get a better idea of the layout and space. The AWF fundraiser will be announced as soon as we have a firm commitment, that being easier said then done.  Laura was ready with menu choices, reasonable prices and suggestions. The venue was larger than I imagined and the views were gorgeous, even in the winter!

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I sincerely hope the responsible parties take care of these contracts soon before scheduling opportunities are lost.

Categories: Amsterdam, Business, Celebration, Entertainment, Outdoors, Photography, Politics, Riverlink Park | Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s Time for Queen Ann to Abdicate!


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Queen Ann of Amsterdam, New York

They say she “means well” and Mayor Ann Thane has done a lot to improve Amsterdam’s image but the overbearing need to micro-manage every aspect of OUR City is a detriment to economic development. One would think that after serving as Mayor for five years, Thane would learn to delegate authority, trusting in the many talented people that make up both city government and the constituency. We see the control issues pop up time and time again, from censoring the populace to insisting on exerting influence on issues that are clearly not under the jurisdiction of the elected position of Mayor.

A Brief History

There was the Chalmers building fiasco:

A Chalmers Love/Hate Story

Removing the State imposed 3% tax cap.

Her Majesty Queen Ann has Spoken

The City of Amsterdam Zoning Update that is being held up since 2011 by Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis:

Amsterdam’s Proposed Zoning Update

There was the Art Center:

The Politics of Art

Raises for everybody!

Body Language

A Piece of the World Trade Center that was to be a memorial to 911 still sits rotting at Riverlink Park without any fanfare, dedication or respect.

The Forgotten Memorial

Then there was the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency’s purchase and rehab of a building on Main Street that was held up by the Mayor’s insistence that a damaged mural by an unknown artist in the building be preserved.  This blogger even volunteered to photograph the mural for the archives to help settle the back and forth debate between the Mayor and the AIDA. That situation, to my knowledge, is still not resolved.

The Current Situation

Meet Bala Peri

A man from Virginia, Balakumar Periyasamy, buys the former Park Hill Adult Home on 52 Grove Street in Amsterdam, New York with long-term plans to open as an assisted living facility for Veterans.  To run the home the NYS Department of Health requires a license that takes about two years to get. Having invested a lot of money in building, including the payment of back taxes to the city, Mr. Peri announces his plans to open a restaurant and hotel in the 52 room complex until such time as the adult home license is approved. This project would give local jobs and add to our local economy but requires a variance from the Zoning Board and site plan approval from the Planning Board.

Bala is very excited about the plans and invites local dignitaries to visit the facility. The President of FMCC and members of his executive team visit the building anticipating the need for overflow student housing.  He leaves the tour excited about the possibility commenting that it is in better shape and larger than he originally thought. Bala invites Mayor Thane to tour the building and she does so commenting how beautiful and large the building is stating she would do what she could to help him with the project.  Bala then invites journalist Alissa Scott from The Recorder to hear his plans for the restaurant and hotel.  Alissa writes an excellent article, published in the Recorder on December 9, 2013, that would have helped further the project along had it not been for disparaging comments quoted from Mayor Ann Thane.

Thane said she doesn’t think Peri should go through with student housing. “I actually don’t think that will work because there’s too much in the way of state regulations that would need to be done to make that ready for students,” Thane said. “The cost would be too high.”She also doesn’t think a hotel would well-suit the community’s needs. “To propose a hotel, you have a high-end hotel going in across the river at the castle and you have a Hampton Inn and they have much better locations,” Thane said. “IfI’m going to book a room in a hotel, I don’t want to stay in the room that was a senior cubby hole.”

Thane goes on to suggest what Peri should do with HIS property, stating she is not sure the area can support another adult home. This from an elected official who touted economic development in her election campaign.  Bala’s vision is not for a high-end hotel like the proposal for the Amsterdam Castle or the new Hampton Inn. It is for students or the budget minded traveler, the 99% who can’t afford to stay at a high-end hotel.
Here is a business person who invested in our community buying a building that was left to deteriorate, who already employed a dozen local people to help with his project. Mayor Ann Thane’s damning comments may have a harmful effect on Bala’s project before any approvals are granted from Zoning or Planning.

My personal experience catching the criminals who stole thousands of dollars of copper from the building is chronicled in the following link.

A Copper Caper 

For the greater part of 2013, this blogger exhibited much restraint in not posting political critiques or commentary but this situation just crossed a line.  The Republican supermajority Common Council taking office on January 1st will dethrone Mayor Thane’s veto power.  She may as well abdicate now and negotiate a compromise as she will soon be forced to trust the legislative body of the City of Amsterdam.

Categories: Amsterdam, Business, Law, Park Hill Adult Home, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

Meet Bala Peri


Mr. Bala Peri (Balakumar Periyasamy) is an American citizen from Leesburg, Virginia.  He has a wife and two young children with whom he recently shared a cross-country trip making stops at all the National Parks along the way. Bala now works for the IRS in the IT department but plans on retiring and moving his family to New York. Bala’s reason for the move is to oversee his new investment that he hopes will help finance his children’s college education.  Bala’s new investment is the former Park Hill Adult Home at 52 Grove Street in Amsterdam that this blogger previously described in the 2011 article Park Hill Adult Home for Sale and the 2012 article A Copper Caper.

This historic building was once the mansion of an early Amsterdam landowner, it then became a convent for the Sisters of St Joseph who taught at the former St Mary’s School before the transition into an adult home. The original building has two rounded towers nestled on either side of a three-story cross-shaped building. There is a large wrap around porch on the front and eastern side of the building.  All of the original woodwork including complete sets of pocket doors, ornate moulding, staircases and six fireplaces are in excellent condition.  An upstairs room is fitted with stained glass windows bearing religious symbols of the Catholic faith. There were several additions built on the West and back sides of the building including fifty-three patient rooms, an industrial kitchen, day room, dining hall, nurses station and even a beauty salon.

Bala purchased the buildings mortgage from the bank that foreclosed and had traveled back and forth from Leesburg to Amsterdam for the past two weeks to supervise work on his new investment. He began by hiring a team for a much-needed carry out of accumulated junk and a good cleaning.  A security system was installed including video cameras and motion detection alarms. General building maintenance and repair will start very soon.

It has only been two weeks and Bala has already employed five people from this neighborhood to work on his project.  A consulting team has been through the building to advise Bala of the steps he must take to get licensed to run an adult care facility.  Bala will run under the name Trilok Noble Care, Inc.  A member of the consulting team is a retired NYS Department of Health inspector. Bala will be meeting with a representative from NYS Veterans Affairs next week. He would like to open an adult home for Veterans, however the licensing process may take up to 20 months.  In the interim he wants to get his building in working order so he can use it as a bed and breakfast facility.

I commend Bala for his willingness to invest in our city and for his initiative and drive. He previously established a successful adult home in India.  He has three close relatives in the United States who are physicians and will provide needed references.  He has already provided employment for our citizens with the number soon to increase.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Business, historic preservation, History, Park Hill Adult Home | Tags: , , , , ,

Marketing the City of Amsterdam: Part 1


The Basics – What’s Out There?

The Official Tourism Site for the State of New York  is usually the first website people will visit to get information about a New York State destination. Looking at the regional map we would assume Amsterdam is located in the Central New York region. Clicking on the map of NY Central Region opens the tourism website for Central New York.

Montgomery County is not listed as part of  the Central, or any region on the NYS region map!

On the NYS Official Tourism website, we can click on the header CITIES & TOWNS, from there we are presented with an entry box where you can type in Amsterdam. You are then presented with the following description:

What is wrong with this picture? First of all Amsterdam is listed as a town. There is a town of Amsterdam, but the site is describing the city of Amsterdam. The Noteworthy Indian Museum has been closed for some time now. The Walter Elwood Museum closed since last year’s flood.  None of the underlined links are working. The majority of the locations described (Fort Johnson, Lake George, Halcyon Farm B&B, The Brown House) are neither in the town or city of Amsterdam.  There is no Visitor Center or garden at Riverlink Park.

Clicking on the SEE & DO tab for Amsterdam brings up the following:

Out of the five Locations listed, only the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course is operational and in Amsterdam. The New York State Outdoorsman Hall of Fame is in Vail Mills/Broadalbin.

Clicking on the EVENTS tab gives us the following for Amsterdam:

Finally, clicking on the STAY tab brings this up:

Here we have some useful information, places to stay actually in the city and town of Amsterdam (along with a few that are not).

Overall, I would say the New York State Tourism website failed in terms of marketing Amsterdam. The outdated information and lack of an accurate, viable description of our  history and local events is not helping. The NYS Tourism link to the Amsterdam Mohawks baseball website and schedule is dead. Updated links, including the Riverlink Park Concert Series, would draw more people to this area.

Failure to include Montgomery County or Amsterdam in any of the identified regions is just inexcusable.

Categories: Amsterdam, Business, Entertainment, Media, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Center for the Arts


The second meeting of Amsterdam residents and representatives of established creative and support groups from surrounding communities met Tuesday evening at 305 East Main Street in Amsterdam, New York, to further develop Mayor Ann Thane’s vision establishing a Community Art Center for the recently vacated building.

The group members represent a variety of ages, ethnicities, talent and experience with the common goal of utilizing the former church building as a vehicle for creative expression and education. Attendance at last night’s meeting indicated a 30% increase from the first meeting on March 15, 2012.

The City of Amsterdam has been very supportive of sports and recreation, investing money in the continued improvement of Shuttleworth Park, the home of the Amsterdam Mohawks, and Riverlink Park for boaters and the Summer Concert Series. What is lacking is a Center for the Arts, an outlet for creative expression for all age groups.

With the decline in government support of our school system, it is unfortunate that art and music programs are the first to be eliminated. It is not just students who suffer from this educational blight, it is also the communities who lose out on the next Kirk Douglas, Steven Spielberg, Ansel Adams, Frida Kahlo or Steven King.

The Center for the Arts can fill that gap with little or no cost, providing a physical place for use as a meeting space for established groups, a learning center to nurture creative talents, a performance place for music & theater and as a gallery space for displaying the work of local artists. The Center will be self-sustaining through fund-raising efforts, grant writing and rental fees for use of the space to community groups.  A formal organizational plan was written and a business study completed by Jessica Murray, President of the Mohawk Valley Creative Alliance, indicating the need as there is no Center for the Arts within a 45 minute drive of the City of Amsterdam.

The misconception that may people have when they hear the word Art is that it is just the physical act of drawing or painting. The creative arts are so much more than that, encompassing a range of activities.  A small list would include writing, creating music, dance, acting, singing, cooking, photography, cinematography, illustration, animation, graphic design, sculpture, pottery and the list goes on.

The proposed Center for the Arts will be able to introduce both young an old to a world of possibilities they never imagined for themselves. In 1974 Actress Tatum O’Neil won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe at age 10 for her 1973 performance in Paper Moon. Ann Mary Robertson Moses better known as Grandma Moses, started her art career at age 70 after being introduced to painting as therapy for her advancing arthritis. Her 1943 painting Sugaring Off sold at auction in 2006 for $1.2 million. These achievements were possible because their talent was nurtured by an introduction to the creative arts.

A Center for the Arts in Amsterdam will be that vehicle to drive creative talent in our own community to places they never thought possible. The Creative Arts bring a community together, crossing political, socio-economic and cultural barriers.

You can help this effort by calling or emailing your Aldermen and let them know that you support an Amsterdam Center for the Arts.

















Categories: Amsterdam, Art, Business, Media, Photography, Politics, Technology | Tags: , , ,

Enough With the Signs Already!


This is the view that assaults drivers as they cross the bridge and enter the City of Amsterdam for the first time.  On top of GPS units giving wrong directions to cell phones,  Blackberries, iPods and iPads,  Amsterdam decided to add one more element to catch the attention of already distracted drivers in the form of new business ads on the bottom of the City’s streetlight banners.

The new signs do negatively impact the safety of our residents by further distracting drivers traveling on Church Street. One driver not familiar with Amsterdam, ran the red light on Church and hit my car friday afternoon, claiming they never saw the traffic light because they were distracted!

The City may want to reevaluate the number and placement of these signs on Church Street. No marketing campaign is worth risking the safety of our residents.

Update:

The signage pictured in the image violates the City of Amsterdam Zoning Codes and as such, should have required a special permit to allow these signs to be erected.  The following is the current City of Amsterdam Zoning Code regarding signage and advertising material:

§ 250-29. Sign regulations.

Signs may be erected and maintained only when in conformance with the provisions of this section and § 250-65  of this chapter.

A. General standards. The provisions contained in this section shall apply to all signs and all use districts, regardless of designation:

(1) Any sign or use of signs not specifically permitted by provision of this chapter is prohibited.

(2) No sign shall be located in such a way as to interfere with driver vision of other traffic.

(3) Any illuminated sign or lighting device shall employ only lights emitting a light of constant intensity, and no sign shall be illuminated by or contain flashing, intermittent, rotating or moving light or lights. In no event shall an illuminated sign or lighting device be so placed or directed so as to permit the beams and illumination therefrom to be directed or beamed upon a public street, highway, sidewalk or adjacent premises so as to cause glare or reflection that may constitute a traffic hazard or nuisance.

(4) No projecting sign shall be erected or maintained from the front or face of a building a distance of more than three feet, nor shall any sign project into or over a public right-of-way.

(5) No sign shall be higher than the height limit in the district where such sign is located, nor shall any sign be placed on the roof of any building.

(6) No portable or temporary sign shall be placed on the front of any building or premises, except as otherwise provided herein.

(7) No sign shall be freestanding, except that one freestanding sign shall be permitted for each planned shopping center, as defined in this chapter, and for each major commercial or light industrial use located on an individual site in excess of two acres of land area. The gross surface area of such freestanding signs shall be included within the maximum sign area allowable in the applicable zoning district. Any such sign shall be located not less than 15 feet from any street line and not less than 10 feet from any other lot line.

(8) No sign or part thereof shall contain or consist of banners, posters, pennants, ribbons, streamers, spinners or other similar moving, fluttering or revolving devices. Included are signs which are mechanically animated, such as moving, rotating or revolving signs. Said devices, as well as strings of lights, shall not be used for the purposes of advertising or attracting attention when not part of a sign.

(9) All signs shall be constructed of wood, metal or other durable material approved by the Building Inspector.

(10) No sign shall advertise a product or a service not principally available on the premises where such sign is located.

(11) Not more than two signs, as defined herein, shall be permitted on any premises.

(12) A canopy or an awning shall be considered to be a sign when displaying letters, numbers or symbols that advertise or announce a place, person, product, service or concept, except that a street address shall not be considered to be a sign. A canopy or an awning displaying signage shall not be considered to be a projecting or a hanging sign. A canopy or an awning displaying signage on more than one side shall be considered to be one sign and the allowable aggregate gross surface area of the signage shall be determined in accordance with the regulations of the zoning district in which it is located. An awning displaying signage shall be located on the lowest floor occupied by the business or service it is advertising or announcing.

(13) Without prejudice to the existing nonconforming status of any sign, the owner of a sign and the owner of the premises on which each sign is located shall be jointly and severally liable to maintain such sign and supporting structure, including its illumination sources, in neat and orderly condition and good working order at all times and to prevent the development of any corrosion, rotting or other deterioration in the physical appearance or safety of such sign or supporting structure. Unsightly, damaged, deteriorated signs or signs in danger of falling shall be put in order or removed upon written notice from the Building and Zoning Administrator.

B. Signs in residential districts. The following nonilluminated, accessory signs are permitted in the most restricted residential districts (R1, R2 and R3) and may be erected without issuance of a permit or payment of a fee, except that in the Historic Resources Overlay (HR-O) District all such signs identified in Subsection B(2), (4), (5), (6) and (7) shall be subject to review and approval by the Planning Commission.

(1) Nameplates and identification signs indicating the name and address of the occupant, provided that they shall not be larger than two square feet in area. Only one such sign per dwelling unit shall be permitted, except in the case of corner lots where two such signs, one facing each street, shall be permitted for each dwelling unit.

(2) For multiple-family dwellings and for buildings other than dwellings, a single identification sign not exceeding six square feet in area and indicating only the name and address of the building and the name of the management may be displayed, provided that on a corner lot two such signs, one facing each street, shall be permitted.

(3) Signs advertising the sale or rental of the premises upon which they are erected by the owner or broker or any other person interested in the sale or rental of such premises, and signs bearing the word “sold” or “rented” with the name of the persons effecting the sale or rental may be erected or maintained, provided that:

(a) The size of any such sign is not in excess of six square feet.

(b) Nor more than one sign is placed upon any property, unless such property fronts upon more than one street, in which event one such sign may be erected on each frontage.

(c) Such sign or signs shall be removed within a reasonable time period after the premises has been sold or rented.

(4) Institutional signs of schools, colleges, churches, hospitals or other similar public or semipublic nature may be erected and maintained, provided that:

(a) The size of any such sign is not in excess of 12 square feet.

(b) Not more than one such sign is placed on a property, unless such property fronts upon more than one street, in which event one such sign may be erected on each frontage.

(5) Signs designating entrances or exits to or from a parking lot and limited to one sign for each such exit or entrance and to a maximum size of two square feet each shall be permitted. One sign per parking lot designating the conditions of use or identity of such parking lot and limited to a maximum size of nine square feet shall be permitted, provided that on a corner lot two such signs shall be permitted, one facing each street.

(6) Development signs advertising the sale or development of the premises upon which they are erected, when erected in connection with the development of the premises by a builder, contractor, developer or other persons interested in such sale or development, may be erected and maintained, provided that:

(a) The size of any sign is not in excess of 20 square feet.

(b) Not more than one such sign is placed upon any property, unless such property fronts upon more than one street, in which event one such sign may be erected on each frontage.

(c) Any such sign shall be removed by the developer within 15 calendar days of the final sale.

(7) Artisan’s signs such as those of mechanics, painters and other artisans, may be erected and maintained during the period such persons are performing the work on the premises on which such signs are erected, provided that:

(a) The size thereof is not in excess of 12 square feet.

(b) Such signs are removed promptly upon completion of the work.

C. Signs in business, medical/institutional, commercial and light industrial districts. The following accessory signs are permitted in any business, medical/institutional, commercial or light industrial district (PB, RB, MR, CLI, LI or WF) in accordance with the following regulations and upon issuance of a permit by the Building Inspector. The aggregate gross surface area of all signs on a lot shall be as specified in the following table:

PB and RB (Professional Business and Retail Business) .5 square foot per foot of lot frontage, not to exceed 30 square feet
MR (Medical/Residential) .2 square feet per foot of lot frontage, not to exceed 20 square feet
CLI and WF (Commercial/Light Industrial and Waterfront) 1. square foot per foot of lot frontage, not to exceed 60 square feet
LI (Light Industrial) 1 square foot per foot of lot frontage, not to exceed 100 square feet

D. Temporary signs. All signs of a temporary nature, such as political posters, banners and signs of a similar nature, including school, church or civic functions, shall be permitted for a period not exceeding 30 calendar days, without permit or fee, provided that such signs are not attached to fences, trees, utility poles, regulatory signs or the like; and, further, provided that such signs are not placed in a position that will obstruct or impair vision or traffic in any manner. Such signs may not represent a commercial product, activity or enterprise and shall not exceed 30 square feet per side.

E. Directional signs. Businesses and public destinations shall be allowed not more than two off-premises directional signs in a district zoned for commercial or light industrial use as a special permit use subject to the provisions of Article VII of this chapter and the following requirements:

(1) In locations with more than one directional sign, all such signs shall be affixed to a common standard and shall be graphically coordinated and arranged so as to present a neat and orderly appearance.

(2) No directional sign shall exceed six square feet in area. In areas with more than one directional sign, the aggregate area shall not exceed 30 square feet.

Chapter 64. ADVERTISING MATERIAL

Article I. Defacing Trees and Poles

§ 64-1. Affixing bills and advertising matter; penalty.

It shall be unlawful for any person to affix or cause to be affixed to any tree, electric light or telephone pole in any street within the city, any printed bills or other advertising matter. Every person violating this article shall be deemed guilty of a violation punishable by a fine of not more than $250, imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or both such fine and imprisonment.

Article II. Bill Posting and Distribution

[Adopted 9-8-1897]

§ 64-2. License required.

No person shall engage in and carry on the business of bill posting or bill distributing or sign advertising or sample distributing in the City of Amsterdam without previously having obtained a license so to do under the provisions of this article.

Categories: Amsterdam, Business, Law, Media, Photography, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

The Drop Shop


Amsterdam’s newest downtown business is The Drop Shop in the former Hotaling Florist building on 27 Division Street. Proprietor Michele D’Onofrio is very pleased with this great location right off of Pearl Street next to the First Niagara Bank. The building with 3,360 square feet of retail space is also ideal for the multifaceted business that Michele has envisioned.

The Drop Shop is a consignment sales and storage place for both large and small items. The customer pays 3% of the asking price when dropping off items for sale. If the item sells within 30 days, the customer will get 95% of the asking price. If the item does not sell there is an extra 3% charge due each month the item remains in the shop.  There are already dozens of items available for sale in the shop.

Store hours  are now Fridays 3-6, Saturdays 10-2 and Sundays 10-3 but will be expanding in a just a few months. Arrangements can also be made to drop off or view items at other times by contacting the store.

You can get more information about The Drop Shop by calling (518) 843-4300 or by emailing dropshop27@yahoo.com

Michele is an artist at heart, with a degree in Graphic Design she found her real passion in creating flower arrangements. She uses real flowers, silk flowers and has even created a realistic looking flower arrangement out of feathers. This second facet of her business is Silk N Lace Bouquets which includes wedding and formal gowns at very reasonable prices. A collection of vintage women’s  gloves still in their original packaging, manufactured in Gloversville, rounds out the wedding collection. Michele also sells gowns for young ladies as well as christening gowns.

The third facet of Michele’s business is selling David Oreck Candles. As a scent specialist for the David Oreck Candle Company, Michele can help customers start their own home shows.

It is great to see downtown Amsterdam slowly coming back to life!  Downtown encompasses much more than East Main Street. I wish Michele well in her new small business endeavor. The Drop Shop may even be a great place for an old photographer to sell some of his fine art prints!

Categories: Amsterdam, Art, Business | Tags: , , , ,

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