I consciously tried to ignore this issue as it was being covered in the local papers and discussed in the local blogs, but I just could not hold my tongue any longer. The issue of the Chalmers building development/demolition has grown into something quite absurd.
To make a long story short, there is a huge cement and brick structure on the banks of the Mohawk River overshadowing Amsterdam’s South Side. The former Chalmers Mill building has been abandoned for years and is such a state of disrepair that chunks of it are literally falling into the street.
The building was scheduled for demolition as a part of the Via Ponte project to revitalize the South Side. All that was sidetracked when novice Mayor Ann Thane entertained a proposal from developer Uri Kaufman to redevelop the building into luxury apartments similar to what he accomplished in Troy with Harmony Mills. The Common Council approved a contract with Kaufman to purchase the building that had a timetable with specifics.
Not everything Uri Kaufman touches turns to gold. Kaufman has also had a series of failed projects including Victory Mills in Schuylerville, the Statler building in Buffalo and the English Station power plant on the Mill River in New Haven. Lets face it, he is in it for the money and history shows us if he can’t get construction costs covered with grants and public funding, he bails.
After a meeting and presentation from Kaufman, the public learned that he had not met the requirements of the contract and became skeptical of the project. The issue soon divided the city with the Common Council severing the contract. This should have been the end of the issue and this is where Mayor Thane, in my opinion, lost a lot of respect from her constituents when she relentlessly pursued the issue despite public outcry. The building was nominated for placement on the National Registry of Historic Places by Kaufman. The Common Council announced their disapproval through a resolution that was later vetoed by Thane. The dialog between Kaufman and Thane was captured in the form of an email conversation in which she responds with the candor of a smitten schoolgirl. At one point she even wished them (Common Council) at the bottom of the Mohawk.
The issue seemed to blow over and for months we heard nothing more from Kaufman. The building was finally set for demolition again. A bid was accepted from an outside firm with contract in place and date set. Then the city received notification that the Chalmers building was accepted for placement on the national registry. The building is now eligible for federal historic tax breaks. Soon after that notification, Uri Kaufman filed a lawsuit against the City of Amsterdam for breach of contract. Kaufman is also trying to block the demolition. Recent findings of local newsmen indicate that Thane has been in contact with Kaufman all along, some bloggers even concluding that Thane had something to do with the lawsuit. The Mayor denies any conspiracy stating that she is going along with the wish of the people to demolish the building.
A Common Council meeting tonight is scheduled to address that very question. Two Alderman will propose that all correspondence concerning this issue be made public.
As it should be.
Update: JibJab admitted a mistake with the quality of the downloaded video and has corrected it. This post now has the updated video which was meant as a political parody of the professional relationship between Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane and developer Uri Kaufman. It is just comedy relief with no malicious intent.