Monthly Archives: April 2012

Apartment Complex Buyer Wants 35 Year PILOT


The troubled Highland and Holland Garden Apartment complex in Amsterdam that I wrote about here is about to be sold.  Liberty Affordable Housing Inc., with a listed address as P.O. Box 549, Rome, New York 13442, is asking the City of Amsterdam for a 35 year payment in lieu of taxes.

Fourth Ward Alderman Dave Dybas has been less than honest with the public when he stated to Recorder reporter Jarrett Carroll;

“It’s truly, at least to my thinking, not a pilot.”

I don’t know that many people would agree with his thinking, since the document states that Liberty is asking for a 35 year PILOT. For that matter, the public should be able to read and make their own assessment of the facts and proposal submitted by Liberty.

The proposed PILOT agreement submitted by Liberty to the City of Amsterdam can be found here.

The current assessed value of both sections of the complex is $2, 409,800, it pays $182,036 annually in taxes, excluding water use fees.  The proposed agreement sets a base sum to be submitted to the City each year with a 2% increase annually. The proposed agreement is for a 100% exemption from City, School, County and State taxes for a 35 year period. It assures that the current assessment of the property will not be raised for 35 years, even if improvements are completed. It also assures that sewer use fees will remain the same for 35 years.

The agreement states that 109 of the apartments will be restricted Section 8 families and the rest restricted to low-income tenants described as those with incomes not to exceed 60% of the area median income.

I am not sure how the City can negotiate for the Greater Amsterdam School District, Montgomery County or the State as they are all separate taxing authorities or if accepting the PILOT agreement the City will be liable to pay the apartment complex’s share of those taxes.

I guess we will find out on May 8th, when the Common Council meets to discuss this PILOT agreement.  Let your Aldermen know how you feel about this 35 year PILOT agreement. Amsterdam Common Council phone numbers can be found here.  Email addresses as follows:

Mayor Ann Thane – athane@amsterdamny.gov

1st Ward Alderman Joe Isabel – jmisabel@verizon.net

2nd Ward Alderman Valerie Beekman – vbeekman@amsterdamny.gov

3rd Ward Alderman Gina DeRossi – gderossi@amsterdamny.gov

4th Ward Alderman Dave Dybas – ddybas@amsterdamny.gov

5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero –  rleggier@nycap.rr.com

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

In Celebration of Earth Day


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Categories: Art, Celebration, Photography | Tags: , ,

The Many Faces of Michael Chiara


I hoped Michael Chiara would make a difference as Amsterdam’s 5th Ward member of the Board of Supervisors for Montgomery County, New York, but a recent experience proved otherwise. On March 7, 2012, as a 5th Ward resident, I called Supervisor Chiara to express my dismay at the Board of Supervisors passing a resolution to give public funds to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, a Catholic church for the celebration of a Catholic ritual. Details of this 1st Amendment violation can be found in a previous Grove Street Grumble post entitled, Letter to the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.

Chiara required me to put my complaint in writing and send it to his 7 Montgomery Street address. A copy of that letter can be found here. To date, I never received a response from the 5th Ward Supervisor. He has, however made several statement to local media concerning my complaint. On Wednesday April 11, 2012, Chiara is quoted by Recorder reporter Heather Nellis as stating:

I won’t be pushed around. This is putting a tinge on this area. What’s next? We salute the flag. How far are we going to allow this to go?

In another Recorder article about the Shrine funding on April 5, 2012, Chiara states:

It’s a wonderful thing that’s happening in this area, I’m very proud of Auriesville, I’m very proud of Kateri — my mother wrote a beautiful poem for that years ago that didn’t have anything to do with my decisions of that. It’s a shame something as beautiful as this has to turn into a group of people who want to make a big issue. This is not a state religion, as the original idea was about separation of church and state had to do with creating a state religion. Everyone has freedom of what they want to believe in, and it’s a shame this has to happen. In my opinion, this is still a Judeo-Christian country, and I’m proud to say in God we trust.

With no response from Chiara, I took my complaint to Americans United for Separation of Church and State , an organization fighting this very issue since 1947, and to journalist Carl Strock who writes for the Gazette. Strock supported my argument, his article was published in the Gazette. AU supported my position by sending a strongly worded letter on my behalf to the Montgomery Board of Supervisors. The letter can be found here. Several County Supervisors have contacted me with their support, stating they realize now a mistake was made and the right thing to do is correct it by rescinding the award to Our Lady of Martyrs. A motion to do the same will be introduced at the April 24, 2012, meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Chiara’s newly elected position is still surrounded with controversy that Chiara seems to thrive on. From the first meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, Chiara made his stubbornness known by refusing to sit with the rest of the Board because the seat occupied by the former 5th Ward Supervisor was taken, despite the fact that the Board of Supervisors had no assigned seats. Chiara chose instead to sit in the area designated for the public. These actions were described by the Chairman of the Board as petty and pathetic. In a statement to Recorder reporter Heather Nellis, Chiara noted,

It’s sandbox 101, It’s a matter of principal. They just can’t stand I was elected.

Small in stature and large in ego, the opinionated Michael Chiara is well-known in Amsterdam. While outspoken, he is still a very private person who refuses to use internet social networking as a means of communication. Amsterdam’s south side still retains some of the character of its Italian-American heritage and that is where Chiara resides. A devout Catholic, Chiara even mounted a crucifix on the outside of his Montgomery Street home. If I were to describe him physically, he would be the secret love child of Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman. A friend recommended I meet with Chiara to discuss an astronomical increase in my assessment in 2009. We met briefly in a south side coffee-house and he proved to be knowledge but apprehensive. I felt he was there more to find out who I was than to help me. He did tell me where to go to Fonda to get information from County sources.

Controversy seems to follow Montgomery County Supervisor Michael Chiara. His election to the post as representative for the City of Amsterdam’s 5th Ward made history in 2011 as the first ever to win by write-in ballot. That was not an easy feat to carry out and was strongly supported by Attorney Robert Going, who was Chiara’s co-host on the podcast The Show With No Name. Chiara left the show after his candidacy was announced and never returned. Prior to TSHWNN, the duo hosted a popular radio talk show on Amsterdam’s WCSS 1490AM where the conversation included often uncensored political commentary about local government officials. Chiara and Going were booted off the air after the station manager received a complaint from Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane. Even before starting the radio talk show, under the Administration of newly elected Mayor Ann Thane, Michael Chiara was allegedly forced out of his job as Amsterdam City Assessor where in 2008, he was accused of using the office as a personal club house holding private meetings with then City Attorney Robert Going and others. A month before Chiara retired as City Assessor in July 2008, Amsterdam Detectives confiscated a computer from Chiara’s office as part of an investigation of alleged wrongdoing. In June of 2008, Chiara is quoted by former Recorder reporter Bill Sheehan as stating:

Nobody told me anything, and I think that’s very discourteous. What do they think they’re going to find? All it had on it was RPS-4 which is the standard state program that we use to do everything. If they’re looking for [revaluation] information, it’s on my computer. They don’t have mine. I can guess who might be harassing me, and If I think I am being harassed I’m going to file a lawsuit.

In October 2008, Police Chief Brownell stated the investigation of the computer was closed, that he found no criminal wrongdoing but noted there may have been an alteration to the hard drive, but nothing of a criminal nature, to Recorder reporter Bill Sheehan. In response, a retired Chiara stated:

The investigation was a political bunch of nonsense. They ought to be looking at [high taxes] and they better start giving people some relief.

In 2007, Amsterdam City Assessor Michael Chiara was accused of not performing his job by Alderman William Wills who in a Recorder article published December 1, 2007, Wills stated Chiara was given $10,000 above his salary for two years in to pay for extra help in performing a revaluation of Amsterdam’s properties. He went on to state only a few adjustments were done. Chiara’s response to the allegation was:

I’m doing my own impacts based on some of the numbers that I have…doing numerous calculations based on my own analysis. This is serious and I don’t want to make any mistakes,” he said, adding the impacts “are immense.

In a September 16, 2007, a Recorder review of the short film, Amsterdam, NY True Stories of the Rug City, featuring Michael Chiara, he is described as The Man Who Won’t Be Told He Isn’t King. The 27 minute film was produced by Colin Bannon with filmmakers Rob Rombout and Roger Van Eck. The review goes on to not only denigrate the film but Chiara as well, describing him as an unprofessional, disheveled, frenetic buffoon. In the film, Chiara is carted around Amsterdam by the filmmakers as he gives commentary. At one point in the documentary while describing Amsterdam, Chiara states:

We’re gonna go forward, and I’m the man who’s gonna take us there. My house — that’s where city hall basically runs from

According to another Recorder article published in 2004, the controversial Chiara was booted off the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency where he served as Chairman. In May 2004, Chiara stated to former Recorder reporter Bill Sheehan:

That’s the council’s prerogative under state law. It’s not the first time I’ve been thrown off the board. I think this is the third time.

 

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Michael Chiara is not the innocent, patriotic altar boy he professes to be. History tells us differently. Just as he often argued for elected officials to do the right thing, increase government transparency and lower taxes. I’m demanding he do the same. Get over the ego-driven politics and whatever his religious affiliation is telling him to do and act according to the framework provided by Federal, State and County law. He was elected by and for the residents of the 5th Ward of the City of Amsterdam, not the Catholic church.

Update:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State makes a second appeal to the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors to rescind the public money awarded to the Shrine.

The 2nd letter can be found here.

Update #2

The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs declines the grant from the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors. From an article published in the Recorder, written by reporter Heather Nellis, the Shrine event coordinator Beth Lynch states:

“We are what we are — a highly visible and deeply Catholic entity. We’re glad that we can contribute to the economy as far as tourism is concerned, but that’s not our main focus — we are a Catholic shrine, and we’re not going to agree that we have to do something on secular terms.”

This is exactly the point I have been trying to convey all along. No secular purpose = no public funding.

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

Perseverance


With great perseverance, the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization continues their mission of health and peace in the City of Amsterdam.

per·se·ver·ance 
[pur-suh-veer-uhns]  noun
1. A steady persistence, course of action, purpose, state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
2. Theology . continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.

The happiness and peace you see in the faces of the members of the WPHO is a reflection of their inner beauty. Despite rejection by some members of our community, religious property exemptions taken away by Amsterdam City Assessor Calvin Cline, $6,485 in fines from the City of Amsterdam and repeated burglaries and vandalism of their properties, they continue forward. With the main group continuing their mission in San Francisco and Hong Kong, a core group steadfastly moves from property to property, securing, cleaning and renovating buildings.

I want to introduce you to some of these dedicated people that have become my neighbors and friends.

Regina Law and Juliana Leong

Regina Law, Angus, Joshua Rosenstein and Mo Ming Che

The rectory building of the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street (seen in this August 2011 photo) was boarded up because of several previous burglaries, one I documented here.

The group decided it would be beneficial to move some of their members in this rectory building. To prepare for the move, they have been performing daily renovations. Boarding up a building may help prevent theft but it also sends a signal to would be thieves that the building is unoccupied.

On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, at about 1:40pm Angus and Juliana were working on renovations in the rectory while the rest of the group worked elsewhere.  Suddenly they heard the sound of breaking glass on the second floor. Juliana ran up to the third floor and called the Amsterdam Police. She knew dialing directly would get them there sooner than calling 911.  Angus not realizing what had happened responded to the second floor bedroom where she heard the noise and was confronted by two male burglars who she described as dark-skinned but not black, thin and tall with dark hair.  She estimated the intruders at around 16-18 years old. Upon seeing Angus, the burglars fled back through the second floor window,where they gained access to the building by climbing on a trash can and scampering over the walkway roof and throwing a paint can through the window glass. The storm window slammed shut as the second male exited. Angus noticed a third similar looking male on the sidewalk outside the window.

I noticed two police cars respond to Grove Street as well as the rest of the WPHO work crew. I went over to the rectory building to photo document the incident. The following photo shows the second floor storm window with clear handprints on the outside. The burglars slid the storm window up before breaking the inner locked window.

The next photo shows the second floor bedroom where the burglars entered the building.

Amsterdam Police Officers took statements from the two WPHO members while two Amsterdam Detectives collected forensic evidence.

This incident was particularly disturbing because it happened near my home in broad daylight, yet it was not reported in the local media. The public needs to be aware of the increasing incidents of burglary in the City of Amsterdam.

Two weeks ago the WPHO property at 10 Leonard Street was burglarized once again.  A hole cut in an outside fence and a rope used, allowing  access to the second floor where burglars entered by breaking a window, taking machinery and scrap metal.



Both properties were once again boarded up, secured and padlocked. While the constant repairs may temporarily delay rehabilitation efforts, it does not deter the WPHO mission.

Through all of this adversity the WPHO members remain cautiously optimistic, using training in meditation to find that calming spiritual center that allows them the consciousness of being.

Categories: Amsterdam, Human Rights, Law, Media, Photography, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , ,

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