Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Photographer’s Right

The Incident
There is much misconception among the public about people’s right to photograph. This fact presented itself this weekend when two men from my neighborhood knocked on my door and asked if I was a photographer. When I answered yes, I was expecting an invitation to a neighborhood barbecue to take pictures. Instead I was barraged with accusations of illegally photographing one of the men through his bathroom window. “We seen you taking pictures from your window!” exclaimed one of the men. I explained that I take pictures of a lot of things from my window, but assured him that his bathroom window was not one of them. He then stated, “I don’t want you taking pictures of me, my house or my car!” He pointed to the gray apartment building across the parking lot in which he is a tenant. The owner of the building is an absentee landlord. I explained to him that I am free to take photos of anything I want, that I was not breaking any laws. He then became loud and starting shouting “Continue to take pictures and see what happens!” as he and his moral support starting walking back to the gray apartment building.

This man has not spoken two words to me in the two plus years that I have lived in my house. It is too bad that our first meeting was on bad terms. To prevent further escalation, I called the Amsterdam Police who sent a patrol car over to my house. The officer listened to my story and asked if I knew the men. All I knew was that they lived in the apartment house, didn’t even know their names. He stated there was nothing he could do, that the veiled threat was not enough to call for any charges. Then one of the two men stepped out of the apartment building and talked with the Officer while gesturing toward my house for about five minutes after which the Officer drove off.

Your Rights as a Photographer
You have the right to photograph anyone, adults or children, or anything as long as you are not violating anyone’s right to privacy. This right to privacy is defined as any area you would normally be free to remove your clothes or engage in intimate activities in a private area. In New York State, personal images are protected in part by NYS Civil Rights Law Article 5:

§ 50. Right of privacy. A person, firm or corporation that uses for advertising purposes, or for the purposes of trade, the name, portrait or picture of any living person without having first obtained the written consent of such person, or if a minor of his or her parent or guardian, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

So if you take photos of a kid playing baseball, you can’t sell or use the image as advertising without written consent from the parent or guardian. You can sell an image of the entire team playing, as long as exclusive rights have not been given to a specific photographer. You are free to use all these images for story telling or not for profit purposes.

And yes, you can shoot on private property if it is open to the public. That includes malls, retails stores, Starbucks, banks, and office-building lobbies. If you’re asked to stop and refuse, you run the risk of being charged with trespassing, but your pictures are yours. No one can legally take your camera or your memory card without a court order.

You can also shoot in subways and at airports.  Airport security is regulated by the Transportation Security Administration, and it’s quite clear: Photography is A-OK at any commercial airport in the United States as long as you’re in an area open to the public.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here is a downloadable version of The Photographer’s Right.

I’m not going to stop taking pictures of my neighborhood. My street is dominated by rental units owned by absentee landlords. There are many code violations which I report on a regular basis using photographic evidence. There is also drug activity reported. The neighborhood can only improve with time as people become aware of what is acceptable behavior according to the standards set by State and Local Ordinance.


Ordinance  232-1, 232-4 Maintenance or repair of motor vehicles in residential areas.

The Common Council of the City of Amsterdam hereby finds that the storage or presence of abandoned, junked or inoperative motor vehicles or the repair of motor vehicles on private property, except at a duly licensed repair shop or vehicle dealership, creates a public and private nuisance and is harmful to the public health, safety and welfare. Such vehicles present a source of serious injury, particularly to children, seriously harm the aesthetic qualities of the City and tend to depreciate the value of properties in the neighborhoods of the City. The Common Council finds that the problem can be diminished by permitting the storage and/or repair of such vehicles only within a garage or other enclosed structure and only under the restrictions as set forth in this chapter. 

It shall be unlawful for any person to perform automotive repair or maintenance on any motor vehicle in an area zoned for detached single-family or multifamily dwelling units in the City, except under the following condition: Any person may perform automobile maintenance or repair work on a currently licensed motor vehicle titled in his name or in the name of a member of his immediate family, provided that such work shall be done on the premises of his residence; and provided, further, that such work shall not be performed in violation of any other City ordinance.

Parking lot auto repair shop.

Multiple code violations and wheelchair taken from closed Park Hill Adult Home.

Categories: Law, Media, Photography | Tags: , ,

Of Cats and Catkin

It was another beautiful day in Amsterdam. Although the Summer Solstice does not occur until June 21st, Memorial Day (May 30th) is the traditional start of the Summer season. For me, the Summer starts when the hedges need their first cut and the Black Walnut trees flower. There are both Maple and Black Walnut trees in back of my house on Grove Street. While the Maple tree puts out leaves in early Spring, the Black Walnut waits until late Spring, a welcomed occurrence my first year here. I thought I had a bunch of dead trees I would have to cut down but discovered they were just late bloomers!

As I took on the arduous chore of trimming 50 feet of hedges, I noticed the Black Walnut trees had not only produced their compound leaves but also their male flowers called catkin. The Black Walnuts produced by these trees feed the local squirrel population. A large brood of squirrels live in a hollowed out tree across from my house in the wooded area bordering the south side of Green Hill Cemetery.

For me Summer started today May 25, 2011.

After trimming the hedges, I watered and fertilized them along with the flowers.

I made the mistake of letting the cats out on the balcony while I was watering the flowers. One look was all it took, the cats wanted out!

Spike is trained to walk on a leash, Lee…not so much. They usually just want to explore around the house and eat some grass. Spike likes the little walkway along the house. He hides in the hedges and watches birds.

They both like to sniff the hedges. Lee sticks close to the house and gets spooked easily by cars, noises and people. He can wriggle right out of the harness.

Now it’s time for some Motrin and a hot shower before these old bones start to stiffen and ache!

Categories: Amsterdam, Pets, Photography

Amsterdam Celebrates Spring

Karin Hetrick and Debbie Baranello, organizers of Amsterdam’s Spring Fling event pose with NYS Assemblyman George Amedore on Saturday, May 21, 2011.

Amsterdam was filled with events on Saturday as the Western part of East Main Street closed to traffic to host Spring Fling, an event to reintroduce Amsterdam’s downtown. The Street was full of vendors as a band played popular music for the crowd of people who showed up for this event. Simultaneously, Historic Amsterdam League conducted tours of historic buildings and the Noteworthy Indian Museum. The Wrestling Hall of Fame also hosted events this weekend culminating with an induction ceremony tonight at the Best Value Inn downtown Amsterdam.  The weather partially cooperated as clouds gave way to periods of intermittent sun among the rain. It was an event truly worth attending and if you didn’t get downtown, here are some images from my experience.

Dan Szabo Jr. promoting the FulMont Tea Party

Categories: Amsterdam, Entertainment, Media, Photography | Tags: , ,

The New Rules

Charlie Kraebel was right. Running a blog is not as easy as I thought it would be and I have made mistakes by not fact checking who posts on this blog, resulting in a series of personal attacks that should never have been allowed.  I can’t un-ring that bell. What I can do is enforce a set of rules.


I defend freedom of speech but my blog is not a platform for freeform personal attacks.  Elected and public officials are fair game when the comments relate to their job performance.

• You must give your full name and some type of verification before posting on this blog.

• Keep the conversation on the posted topics.

• You may not agree with my opinions or content of my blog. If you find this is the case, do not attack the administrator. Get over it or go elsewhere.

• I will delete comments that I consider in violation of these rules.

Categories: Law, Media

Amsterdam’s Proposed Zoning Update


Current Zoning Map

Amsterdam’s Zoning Update Committee will meet on June 1, 2011, at 6PM in the Council Chamber at City Hall to go over the last proposed zoning changes. The committee reintroduced the controversial City Historic District after convincing argument from City Historian Robert von Hasseln, who also provided guidance on its governance.

The arduous process of physically updating the ordinance and creating maps was primarily carried out by The Montgomery County Department of Planning and Economic Development who had to deal with contemptuous committee members like me. After an organizational meeting in October of 2009, County Planners Doug Greene, Ken Rose and Randy Siver (who was laid off this year by Montgomery County Legislators) met monthly for over a year to hammer out the details.

The Zoning Update Committee members mainly consisted of Mayor Ann Thane, Alderman William Wills, Corporation Council Gerard DeCusatis, Bob DiCaprio, Gerald Skrocki, Todd Fabozzi, Doug Landon and Bill Murphy. There were brief appearances by Fabiola Dayian and Mark Capone. Victor Giulianelli, CEO of St Mary’s Hospital attended with the hospital attorney when the committee debated changes that affected the hospital.

Some issues gave way to heated debate and soliloquy and it was not always obvious when we did or didn’t have a consensus because of sporadic attendance. The public meetings held last November and December were poorly attended as most people (including myself) had little knowledge of exactly what zoning entailed. I did get an education both in zoning and local government through this process and I am grateful to Mayor Thane for appointing me to this committee.

After the June 1st meeting, the plan is to the Common Council for a their review, a public meeting along with reviews by the City Planning Commission and County Planning Board. Notice then needs to be sent to surrounding municipalities and a state environmental quality review done.

Download the entire draft by clicking on the following link:

Zoning Ordinance Update


Previous blog entry with links to all of the Zoning Update documents can be found here.


Categories: Amsterdam, historic preservation, Law | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Boozin’ Pigs

Categories: Entertainment, Media | Tags:

Amsterdam’s 3% Tax Cap Remains in Place!

The City of Amsterdam Common Council unanimously voted NO to the proposal that would have removed the 3% cap on property tax and utility fees.

The proposed insurance contribution increase was tabled until next Tuesday.

The impact of last nights meeting weighed heavily on the Council members with a brief speech by Alderman Bill Wills regarding the value of trust in the voting public.

Who is irked now?


CBS 6 News just reported the Greater Amsterdam School District budget was voted down by a large margin.

Categories: Amsterdam, Law, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

The People Speak!

The public hearing for the City of Amsterdam budget was held Monday night on the second level of the Riverfront Center. There were twice as many people as there were chairs when the citizens of Amsterdam orally rejected the proposed budget containing a 10% increase in water fees a 4% increase in property tax and a 10% increase in retiree contributions to health insurance. The budget is also contingent upon the Common Council eliminating the 3% cap on tax and fees put into law by voter referendum.

The evening started with Mayor Thane giving a short speech which I will translate for Karin Hetrick as Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

The budget review committee sat at two tables with the Controller Heather Reynicke, Mayor Ann Thane, City Clerk Susan Alibozek and Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis on the left side of the room.  On the right side sat the Aldermen, Joe Isabel, Julie Pierce, Gina DeRossi, Bill Wills and Richard Leggiero.

One by one the citizens of Amsterdam and surrounding communities stepped up to the podium and spoke with passion and conviction as they addressed the budget committee. The citizens were represented by businesswomen, business owners, firemen, policemen, city employees, property owners, newspaper editors and retirees all with the same message:


My photos will tell the rest of the story:

Categories: Amsterdam, Law, Politics

Mayor Joseph Emanuele III

With the support of Hugh T. Farley, Republican Senator for the 44th District of New York State and George Amedore, Republican Assemblyman for New York State Assembly District 105, Joseph Emanuele III formally announced his candidacy for Mayor of Amsterdam. Running on the Republican ticket, Emanuele has on the job experience as former Mayor of Amsterdam (2004-2007).

It was a beautiful day for the announcement held at his home on Coolidge Road. Surrounded by Republican members of City, County and State government and a large constituency of supporters from the community as well as his family, Emanuele outlined his plan for the City of Amsterdam.

Joe Emanuele plans to retire from his teaching position in the Fonda-Fultonville School District in June of 2012. When asked how this will affect his job as Mayor, Emanuele responded that he will work as a part-time Mayor from January to June. Emanuele worked as a part-time Mayor from 2004-2007.

I asked Mayor Emanuele how he plans on dealing with economic development since he was responsible for removing this department from City government during his last stint as Mayor. He responded by stating that he plans on working closely with Montgomery County Business Development Center, that local government needs streamlining to be efficient and cost-effective.

I then asked who he had in mind for the position of Corporation Counsel should he be elected again as Mayor. There was a brief pause, followed by, “That’s a good question!” Emanuele then stated he has two candidates in mind that will be announced further down the road of his campaign.

Mayor Joseph Emanuele III, it has a nice ring to it that I think will catch on!

Categories: Amsterdam, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

Heart of Amsterdam Tour

Categories: Amsterdam

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