Buddhists vs. City Hall


Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi, Iris X. Ge, Elise Miao, Jennie Wong

Amsterdam’s World Peace and Health Organization along with the Guang Huang Mi Zong Organization met in NYS Supreme Court in Fonda this morning along with their Attorney James Melita to challenge a discriminatory property assessment from the City of Amsterdam’s previous administration. It seems the Thane administration, through City Assessor Calvin Cline, wielded their municipal power as a weapon against the local Buddhists by revoking the tax exempt status of their Temple parking lots and clergy residences.  No other religious organization had their tax exempt status revoked by the Assessor.

The current situation was not the first time that Assessor Cline tried revoking the Buddhist’s tax exempt status. It happened back in 2012 when Cline revoked the tax exempt status of two of their properties. In that case, Supreme Court Judge Joseph M. Sise issued a consent judgement restoring the tax exempt status and a declaratory judgement that Cline’s assessment was “unlawful, excessive and unequal”.

Under NYS Real Property Tax Law section 420a, property owned by religious organizations used for religious purposes is tax exempt. Section 462 states that in addition, property owned by religious corporations used for clergy residential purposes is also tax exempt.


Attorney James Melita pictured left

After the discriminatory treatment received from former Mayor Ann Thane  and Assessor Calvin Cline, the Buddhists were delighted to hear that Mike Villa was elected Mayor this year. In fact Mayor Villa met with the Buddhists on two different occasions to discuss the situation along with Dr. Rao and Jerry Skrocki. Mayor Villa was also appalled at the treatment the Buddhists received and on July 26, 2016, through the Common Council, issued resolution #16/17-12 which states;

“RESOLVED, it is the official policy of the City of Amsterdam to comply with all laws, rules, regulations protecting against discrimination and all departments, offices, boards and commissions, officers, employees, representatives and agents of City government shall in the performance of their duties, comply with federal, state and local laws, rules, regulations and policies regarding discrimination of any kind related to race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, national origin, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, and political orientation or affiliation.”

Unfortunately neither the Mayor or the Common Council can overrule a decision made by the City Assessor. The ONLY remedy aside from the Board of Assessment Review is to file an Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. That is exactly what the Buddhists have done and they have an excellent case with proof of discrimination. Because of the discrimination the Chinese Buddhists continue to receive, one of their own has just completed her first year of law school. Another became a registered voter in the City of Amsterdam and several others are undergoing the process of citizenship so they too can vote.


We sat most of the morning waiting for Calvin Cline to withdraw the discriminatory assessments but he is a stubborn old mule who would not concede. The judicial trial was adjourned until November of this year, giving Cline a chance to reconsider and save the taxpayers from a costly judgement.  In a city that is trying to be welcoming to new people as well as new business, we must treat everyone fairly and equally under the law.

We can do better than this!


Damage done today to the Statue of Liberty replica in the parking lot of Amsterdam’s Five World Buddha Temple

Categories: Amsterdam, Equality, Human Rights, Law, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , ,

Party on the Mohawk

Just a day before the Summer Solstice and the sun is shining on the Mohawk River in Tribes Hill, New York. Time for some fun in the sun! A little skeet shooting, swimming, boating and a cookout.

A perfectly fine day.


Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, mohawk river, Outdoors | Tags: , , ,

Skeeter Creek at Riverlink Park

Amsterdam, New York has a beautiful asset on the Mohawk River in the form of Riverlink Park. Called the best boat docking site on the Mohawk River, it offers such amenities as a restaurant, electric hook ups, pump out station, laundry and showers for boaters. One of the best features is the Riverlink Park Concert Series organized by the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation. The free concerts originally scheduled for Saturday evenings during the months of July and August, have expanded to June and September adding more concerts and events down by the riverside. For a schedule of activities please visit the Riverlink Concerts website. While you’re there, please donate to help the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation to continue to present these wonderful concerts for the public to enjoy.

Skeeter Creek, voted the best county artists in the Capital Region, played last evening.


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

Spring Fling 2016

Amsterdam, New York celebrates Spring with a street festival! Time to get outside, enjoy the weather and your neighbors. This year’s event was bigger than ever thanks to Mayor Mike Villa and the Recreation Department’s Director Rob Spagnola and his assistant Samantha Bonnano.  With rain forecast for the afternoon, most people visited in the morning. What a great event to bring Amsterdam’s community together.


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

Goddess of Mercy’s Birthday Celebration

While most of the Christian population celebrates Easter, Buddhists celebrate the birth of the Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin). Guanyin is an East Asian spiritual figure of mercy associated with compassion.

Amsterdam, New York’s World Peace and Health Organization celebrated Guanyin’s birthday today in the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street. Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi spoke to a gathering of both Buddhist monks, students and followers from all parts of the world where he encouraged the monks to teach the Dharma practice and spread peace and health throughout the world. He also spoke of his successor who would lead the Sangha in Amsterdam as he prepares to retire. There was singing and demonstrations of Tai Chi as the members shared their talents in honor of Guanyin. The celebration was joyous and the members left invigorated from the new mantra they practiced during the celebration.


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

A Spark Ignites in Downtown Amsterdam



A creative spark ignites downtown Amsterdam at Sharpshooters on Main Street.  Every Tuesday night from 8-11pm, local musicians get together to hone their craft. What a great idea that is bringing much needed life back to the downtown area. Where else can you go to enjoy free live music on a Tuesday night?

I first learned about the music venue from Tim Becker’s excellent article in the Mohawk Valley Compass.

Sharpshooters is not just an excellent billiards hall, they have many local brews on tap, pub food and a friendly atmosphere that is very welcoming. The owners have really struck a chord with open mic night. The local musicians are hungry to perform. Newcomers to the scene are anxious to share the spotlight and the more seasoned musicians just light up on stage as they rock out to some classic tunes. The music is loud and unapologetic. I was especially impressed by a young woman named Emily Shuttleworth who sang solo and also performed with a young man who went by the acronym Q oNe A. They told a story onstage with a creative fusion of rap and country music that was very well done.



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

Condolence, Compassion, Community

On the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attack that occurred on September 11, 2001, the people of the City of Amsterdam, New York came together.  Politics, animosity, religious and cultural differences were set aside so our community could remember family members, first responders and volunteers who were injured or tragically and needlessly lost their lives in that horrific event. The ceremony was also a source of consolation for friends and family members of the victims who carry that grief to this day.

A piece of the fallen World Trade Center was erected as a remembrance in Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park. It was a solemn occasion consisting of familiar rituals, song and music designed to console those who are still suffering.

A second Soul Relieving Ceremony was held the next day by the Buddhist World Peace and Health and Guang Huan Mi Zong organizations utilizing the cultural and religious rituals familiar to the Chinese group. They prayed for the injured, lost and those who suffered on 9/11/2001.

DSCF5510DSCF5442DSCF5449DSCF5450DSCF5451 DSCF5452
DSCF5472 DSCF5474 DSCF5475 DSCF5509DSCF5489DSCF5515DSCF5439DSCF5534DSCF5585DSCF5580DSCF5586DSCF5564DSCF5577DSCF5588DSCF5599DSCF5600DSCF5622DSCF5647DSCF5651DSCF5652DSCF5659DSCF5665DSCF5681DSCF5689DSCF5700DSCF5708DSCF5710DSCF5712DSCF5767

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

What I did Last Summer

Can’t believe it is Labor Day weekend already; the summer just flew by! I recently reviewed the images I took this summer for another project and thought I would post my favorites from summer 2015 here.

DSCF2619 DSCF3340 DSCF3332 DSCF3292DSCF3201 DSCF3227 DSCF3249IMG_2561 DSCF4490b DSCF2939 DSCF2491 DSCF2343 DSCF2127 _DSF0865 _DSF1178_DSF0858

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

American Pharoah

Tonight was the Travers Stakes race at Saratoga Racecourse and Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah did not win. He really didn’t have to because just appearing at this year’s Saratoga meet caused a major frenzy that really boosted track attendance. This blogger was not among the 50,000 people in attendance at the Traver’s Stakes. I did the next best thing and went to the Friday track warm-ups, which broke a record with over 15,000 people who came for just a glimpse of the horse that won the Triple Crown.

Saratoga Racecourse didn’t open for visitors until 7am on Friday and my friend and I arrived about 6:30am. We took a trip across the street to the Oklahoma Track where we got some great shots of the horses practicing in the morning fog at sunrise. Once we actually arrived at Saratoga’s main track where one can usually enjoy a leisure breakfast while watching the thoroughbreds warm up, we saw the very large crowd of people waiting for a glimpse of racing royalty. There was no room at the rail, people were planted in prime positions and would not move. My friend and I were shooting with cameras held high overhead to try and get some photos when a very gracious woman named Karen offered to trade her place when American Pharoah entered the track in exchange for one of my images.

The Triple Crown winning thoroughbred entered the track at 8:45am as promised escorted by a safety horse. They made one stop in front of the winner’s circle and one quick lap around the track before exiting promptly. People were frantically snapping photos on their cell phones and digital cameras. It was over in what seemed like seconds as the hoard of people now moved en masse to the parking areas where it took my friend and I about 40 minutes to get to Union Avenue. Despite the inconvenience, the opportunity was immensely enjoyed resulting in the following images. These images were shot with the FujiFilm X-T1 and the Fujinon XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens. Most of the images were shot at 1/1000 sec, f/5.6 at IS0 640. Continuous, wide area tracking autofocus was used with continuous high speed frames (8 frames/sec). Please do not copy or reproduce my images, they are my intellectual property and quite a bit of effort was spent creating them.

DSCF4490 DSCF4491 DSCF4497 DSCF4519 DSCF4537 DSCF4539 DSCF4550 DSCF4561 DSCF4563 DSCF4604 DSCF4606 DSCF4613 DSCF4615 DSCF4621 DSCF4637 DSCF4688 DSCF4729 DSCF4748 DSCF4757 DSCF4799 DSCF4912 DSCF4942 DSCF4947 DSCF4975 DSCF4988 DSCF5318 DSCF5336 DSCF5350 DSCF5353 DSCF5359 DSCF5360 DSCF5361 DSCF5365

Categories: Amsterdam Photography Club, Entertainment, Friends of Sanford Stud Farm, History, Outdoors, Photography | Tags: , , , ,

The Carnival is in Town!

“There has not been a carnival in the Town of Amsterdam in over 43 years!” exclaimed one local resident as he walked through the gate of the Carnival at Polar Plaza sponsored by the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm.  “It is larger than it looks from the road!’ was also heard among the many people in attendance. The professional midway put on by Gillette Shows is clean, safe and every child receives a prize on the many games of chance. The rides are amazing and fun. The carnival also sells pizza, hot dogs, fried dough, cotton candy as well as the decadent deep fried oreo cookies!

A portion of the proceeds from the carnival rides benefit the not-for-profit local organization Friends of Sanford Stud Farm. It is a fun event so please come, have a good time while helping the FSSF restore a national monument to local thoroughbred racing history. FSSF has an information table at the carnival entrance where they are selling raffle tickets to win a $1,000 cash prize and tickets for a takeout chicken dinner held in September.  Stop by and say hello!

The carnival is open Saturday August 15th from 1pm to 10pm and Sunday August 16th from 1pm to 6pm!

DSCF3284 DSCF3285 DSCF3286 DSCF3288 DSCF3292 DSCF3295 DSCF3299 DSCF3309 DSCF3312 DSCF3314 DSCF3315 DSCF3321 DSCF3323 DSCF3327 DSCF3330 DSCF3332 DSCF3340 DSCF3341 DSCF3404 DSCF3411 DSCF3414

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: