Monthly Archives: June 2012

Duanwu 2012


The Chinese Duanwu Festival was held by the WPHO at 10 Leonard Street in Amsterdam, New York on June 23, 2012. The second floor of the former factory building was transformed into a performance space where Buddhist Master Ziguang Shang Shi gave an invocation welcoming guests and monks to celebrate the life of poet Qu Yuan that was briefly described in yesterday’s blog post. There was song, dance, Tai Chi, an interpretive reenactment and plenty of zongzi for everyone to enjoy.

 

 

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Categories: Celebration, Entertainment, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , ,

Duanwu Festival and Open House


Duan Wu Jie, which literally means Double Fifth Festival, is a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month based on Chinese calendar. Duanwu is celebrated to commemorate the life of poet Qu Yuan, who was both a scholar and a public official born into the royal Chu clan.  Qu Yuan (339BC-278BC) regarded as one of the greatest Chinese cultural icons that ever lived, he was the first author in China to have his name associated with his verse. Qu’s unique style of verse (sao), broke traditional four character verse by adopting verses or varying length. His works are known as the Chu-ci or Songs of the South.

Legend has it that Qu Yuan suffered with depression after being slandered by corrupt public officials and went into exile. Anxiety and depression coupled with the military capture of his country’s capital, caused Qu Yuan, to commit ritual suicide by holding a large rock and wading into the Miluo River in protest. According to folklore, people threw rice into the river to keep the fish and evil spirits away from Qu Yuan’s body. Qu Yuan’s spirit appeared to his friends and asked them to wrap the rice in silk packages to ward off the dragon.

These rice packages became the traditional food known as zongzi. During Duanwu, people will prepare and eat rice dumpling (zongzi) made of sticky rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. It is often stuffed with meat and vegetable fillings.

Duanwu is also often called Dragon Boat Festival since Chinese communities in many countries hold Dragon Boat races in spirit of Duanwu celebration.

The World Peace and Health Organization would like to invite the public to a Duanwu Festival on Saturday, June 23, 2012, at 10:00am. The free Festival and Open House is being held at 10 Leonard Street in Amsterdam, New York. The WPHO celebration of Duanwu will include a Chinese cultural exchange of song and dance as well as the traditional zongzi.

The building at 10 Leonard Street is a 44, 527 square foot, former home of Breton Industries. The WPHO envision it as a place for cultural exchange and worship. This building along with every other property purchased by the WPHO in the City of Amsterdam had all the copper stripped from it.  That did not alter the mission of the WPHO to continue moving forward with their goal of making Amsterdam a city of peace and health. They have been dutifully working on this property along with others to realize their mission.

This week the WPHO has concentrated their efforts on 10 Leonard Street to hold their first public festival there.  Like a well oiled machine they work together cutting  about an acre of weeds from the yard and building performance platforms on the second floor. They tell me I won’t recognize the place when finished and decorated for the festival.

Please join the members of the WPHO for this Chinese cultural event! It is free of charge and a great opportunity to meet the members of the WPHO, learn about Chinese culture or just see the factory building and discuss plans for its future use.

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

Amsterdam’s Administrator of Economic Development


 

With a forty-five thousand dollar salary in place for the City of Amsterdam Administrator of Economic Development, a search for the proper candidate will soon take place.  During last night’s Common Council Meeting, Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis referred to the city charter when reminding the Alderman, the position is filled  by Mayoral appointment.  Let’s take a look at what the charter states the duties of the Administrator of Economic Development really are.  Some people will be in for a few surprises.

Article XXII
Community and Economic Development Department (§ C-149 – § C-150)
[Added 5-20-1997 by L.L. No. 5-1997]
§ C-149
Establishment of Department.
A Community and Economic Development Department shall be headed by an Administrator appointed by the Mayor, with Common Council approval, for a term of office coterminous with the Mayor’s term, to serve at the Mayor’s pleasure.
§ C-150
Duties of Administrator.
The duties of the Administrator shall be as follows:
A. To act as a full-time administrator of the Urban Renewal Agency and Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency offices to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive approach to community and economic development within the City of Amsterdam.
B. To develop and administer a combined and integrated staff to support the Urban Renewal Agency, Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency and other community-based programs recognized by the Common Council.
C. To administer and keep detailed financial records according to generally accepted accounting principles for each of the above respective departments, programs and volunteer initiatives.
D. To aggressively seek, prepare, review and administer all aspects of grants sought by the City of Amsterdam and maintain detailed financial and administrative records of every grant received by the City.
E. To appoint, with the Mayor’s approval, project managers when grant budgets permit for various projects that may come under the jurisdiction of this Department, after seeking the advice of the Board of Directors of the agency involved.
F. To oversee all volunteer community-based initiatives, recognized by resolution of the Common Council, and to provide administrative services and technical support to the various community-based initiatives so recognized.
G. To coordinate the financial affairs of the Community and Economic Development Department with the City Controller.
H. To assist the City Planning Commission in updating the City’s current Master Plan.
I. To advise and coordinate with City and county planning offices.
J. To undertake any other community and economic development duties deemed necessary by the Mayor.

Full-time administrator of both Amsterdam Urban Renewal and Amsterdam Industrial Development Agencies and act as accountant for both agencies!

Develop and administer staff for both offices any other community based projects recognized by the Common Council.

To develop and administer grants. Why did the budget just pass with separate funding for a grant writer?

What Mayor Ann Thane thinks the job description should be:

CEDD Draft Job Description

MISSION
The City’s Community & Economic Development Department provides leadership and technical assistance to business, residents and elected officials to:
– Provide direction and momentum for revitalization of the City’s commercial and industrial areas;
– Maintain a business friendly and investment friendly atmosphere to encourage economic development;
– Provide a system for sustainable development and preservation of the City’s historic fabric;
– Develop and support activities and programs that increase the quality of life in the City of Amsterdam

RESPONSIBILITIES
The CEDD is responsible for the areas of economic development, planning, downtown redevelopment, historic preservation and physical regeneration of the City. This includes retail and industrial development assistance, staff support to City boards and not-for-profit community organizations, marketing, comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance revisions, and historic landmark designation.

MAJOR SERVICE ACTIVITIES
– Assist new and existing businesses with expansion or retention projects.
– Develop and Assist a Downtown Amsterdam Business Improvement District (BID).
– Provide staff support to the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Micro-enterprise Committee.
– Develop/update marketing materials for ongoing economic development in the City.
– Provide development planning services.
– Administer the City’s business loan fund and other grant programs.
– Support the city’s cultural heritage and other tourism efforts.
– To undertake any other community and economic development duties deemed necessary by the Mayor.

DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
– Business Data Tracking
– Business Outreach and Retention
– Project and Contract Management
– New Business and Business Expansion Entitlement Processing
– Liaison Between the Local Business Community and City Resources
– Overall Management of Marketing and Economic Development Efforts

General Assistance
The Department of Community Development will provide a number of services to make the process of opening or expanding a business as easy as possible. The Department will provide direction on what permits are needed and who needs to be contacted. The Department will act as a liaison with other economic development agencies such as the Amsterdam Industrial Agency, Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County Industrial Development Agency, and the Empire Zone, and act as an advocate for businesses with other city departments.

Revolving Loan Fund
The Department of Community Development will develop and administer a City Loan Fund. Businesses that create or retain jobs in the City of Amsterdam may be eligible for assistance. Example: A business can obtain loans of up to $30,000 for equipment, real estate acquisition or improvements, or working capital. Loans can be obtained for to 5 up years. Current rates may be the prime rate -1 for targeted businesses such as manufacturing and niche retail or restaurants. Other businesses receive a prime +1 rate. Decisions on loans will made by a committee of local peers who run businesses or live in Amsterdam.

At last night’s meeting of the Common Counsel she added Communications to include updating the City’s website to that list.

The Common Council needs to decide if the job description in the Charter should be changed. If left to her own devices, Queen Ann would have the poor Administrator at her beck and call.  A personal servant to walk two steps behind her and to the left to pick up anything she may have dropped along the way.

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

Queen Ann Prevails!


Amsterdam’s Mayor Ann Thane got her wish at the June 19, 2012 meeting of the Common Council. Despite the large public outcry, the budget committee voted to fund a $45,000. Economic Development Director proposed by the Mayor.  Alderman Richard Leggiero proposed the position be removed from the budget, only to be met with an extremely long-winded soliloquy from Mayor Thane as to why it should stay in.  The only other changes to the budget so vehemently opposed by the taxpaying public were a reduction in the proposed raise for Corporation Counsel from $15,000 to $6,000 and a reduction in the sanitation rate to bring it under the 3% tax cap proposed by Alderman Gina DeRossi. Apartment buildings with 4 or more unit may now install water meters instead of paying a flat rate. That was changed for favored son William Petrosino’s Guy Park Avenue School/apartment building. The Assistant Recreation position remained in the budget as did other raises for appointees and grant writing. The Aldermen increased the budget for more laptops, printer and software for themselves. Alderman Isabel stated that Amsterdam would likely see a large budget increase from the dissolution of the insurance trust from the County.

The official property tax is now $15.14 per thousand. Flat rate water fee is $346.53/year, Sewer $271.36/year, Sanitation $223.75/year.

With Corporation Counsel acting as the Controller inputting changes in his laptop computer and dictating the results, the modified budget passed. 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero voted NO to the modified budget and Controller Ron Wierzbicki abstained from all budget votes.  Alderman Joe Isabel who stated he would vote no to the proposed $45,000 position, flip-flopped and voted YES to a one year trial. The Aldermen also wanted in on the selection process. Corporation Counsel reminded the Aldermen that the Economic Development position was a Mayoral appointment.

There were also various year-end changes to departmental budgets and a proposed city employee insurance plan sent back to committee.

The people spoke, the Mayor and majority of the Budget Review Committee ignored them!

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

The Politics of Art


It was a great idea that has gone sour.  I wrote about the proposed Amsterdam Center for the Arts back in March of this year, when the city then realized it owned the building that formerly housed a mental health outreach Center for St. Mary’s Hospital at 305 East Main Street. Before that it was a furniture store and a church prior to that. Until last year, it was the polling place for two sections of the 5th Ward. The city had paid the utility bills for the building for years and did not realize that either.  No wonder the Controller is having such a hard time with the budget!

Mayor Thane proposed the space be used for an Art Center. I attended the meetings as I thought this would be great for our community.  As a published photographer who has had a few gallery showings of fine art prints, I realized there was no gallery space anywhere around here.  I decided I would support this effort and attended the planning meetings, made suggestions offered my help with photography and marketing. I had a lot of time and committee experience to give to the effort, until politics got in my way.

After a few meetings with the public, the Mayor decided to hand-pick an advisory committee headed by her former Administrative Aide Thom Georgia. The rests of the committee were women, many who did not take part in any of the planning meetings, but were personal friends of the Mayor.  The newly formed group met privately and would not answer any email inquiries.  They held one public meeting on June 7th where the committee members Thom Georgia, Julia Caro, Jessica Murray, Gail Talmage and Janet Tanguay introduced themselves and presented a mission statement. That is all they had for the interested public who had waited for some sign of progress from the group.  I had many questions, but they were not readily answered.  I asked what role the advisory board played and if the Amsterdam Common Council had approved of this endeavor. Georgia snidely stated, “We only answer to the Mayor.” Prior to establishing an advisory board, the Mayor contracted with an Urban Hip-Hop Dance group to use the center for dance lessons, without Council approval.

Today the advisory board announced they were now an incorporated private entity calling themselves, the Amsterdam Creative Canvas Foundation. The advisory board members were now trustees and another woman, Patrice Vivorito was also named a trustee. I do not know her as she has not attended any of the meetings.

It seems to me that the correct process is for the city’s legislative body to negotiate and approve contracts and use of city property with the Mayor acting as executive to sign the contracts.  I don’t see where this now private corporation has any authority to make decisions about the disposition or use of city property without the approval of the Amsterdam Common Council.

I was a big advocate of creating a community art center for the City of Amsterdam, as you can see in this earlier article, but I can no longer support this tainted effort. The public no longer has any input and micro-management has destroyed what should have been an inclusive democratic process.

I really thought Ann Thane could put party politics aside for the betterment of the community, but I was wrong. It was made very clear when she mistakenly sent me a copy of an email intended for Roberto Milan in which she labels me a looser.

Sour Grapes?

Update:

A newly elected member of the school board for the Amsterdam School District, a former City of Amsterdam Councilman and former Corporation Counsel agree with my assessment of this unsavory situation. The discussion of the Art Center takes place at 18:30 in the video.

Categories: Amsterdam, Art, Human Rights, Law, Photography, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

Body Language


You can tell by the grimaces, postures and hand gestures that the citizens of Amsterdam, New York are not happy with the budget presented to them on June 12 by the Common Council, the Controller and the Mayor.  Issues presented include a $15,000 raise for the City’s part-time Corporation Counsel (who received a vote of no confidence from the Common Council), a new $45,000 appointed position in Economic Development, a $10,000 part-time Event Coordinator, raises for the Assessor and Recreation Director,  in a year when utility fees and property taxes are going up, in a city that is among those with the highest taxed property in New York State.

This is Amsterdam 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero who consistently voted down the appointment of Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis, the pay raises and the budget as it currently stands. He truly represents the will of the people.

Once again I’ll let the pictures tell the story. (If you make to the end of the photos, there is a brief video of excerpts from the Public Hearing).

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

Sanford Stud Farm Open House


It wasn’t the kind of day they had hoped for, but the Friends of the Sanford Stud Farm still entertained a good number of people today during their open house just off route 30, next to Walgreens in the Town of Amsterdam. The rain kept some people away and according to volunteer coordinator Scott Friers, only five cars showed up from the scheduled New Wave Cruiser’s Car Club because of the weather. By the time I arrived at 2:00pm, there were only two cars left; but the show must go on and inside the barn there were an array of vendors and prizes to be raffled off.  Montgomery County Board of Elections had a booth encouraging voter registration.  I even signed on to be an election inspector.  Representatives from Historic Amsterdam League were there raising money for the organizations historic marker program. Bob Cudmore was there selling his books with the profits going to charities. There was food and a kettle corn vendor.  There was a bouncy house for the kids and horses in the barns once again. It was a nice diversion even for a rainy day, all for a worthy cause.

Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, historic preservation, History, Pets, Sanford Stud Farm | Tags: , , , , , ,

Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Enhancement Dharma Class


The Western Supreme Buddha Association and the World Peace and Health Organization will jointly hold a free “Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Enhancement Dharma Class” from June 28th to 30th for improving people’s health. Attendees will experience an incredible health enhancement during the short three-day dharma practice.

Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi wishes to teach people the Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Esoteric Dharma, which has been kept secret for thousands of years, to better everyone’s health; enhancing their adaptability to this rapid-changing world and their chance of survival. This Esoteric Dharma is the highest form of supreme esoteric yoga which channels the Buddha Light throughout human body. It can quickly improve human genes, and help to prevent or even eliminate most diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, etc. It is unique and practical. Devoted practitioners can experience spiritual advancement, change their karma, develop their virtues, and eventually enter the blissful Heaven on Earth. This Esoteric Dharma is the hope of all human beings and nations for overcoming disasters and achieving peace and health.

Many people came to the Five World Buddhas Temple from different places around the world to celebrate the Buddha’s Birthday; making their pilgrimage, or attending the Health Dharma Class. They all highly praised the wonderful effects obtained from practicing the Guang Huan Mi Zong Esoteric Health Dharma.

“I read about Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi in the

newspaper last year, and this year I finally met him. I have tried many different types of meditation before, but they never had any effect. The Holy Master taught me something that really worked. I saw a bright light in my mind, and my whole body felt energized, I could feel my consciousness reaching out into the universe, it was wonderful!” Shared James who attended a Guang Huan Mi Zong Dharma class on June 8th, he added that he was interested in signing up for the advanced class.

His classmate Sandra told her story, “I have been suffering from back pain for years. Different doctors I have seen could never help me, I was afraid I would never get better. A friend told me that they attended this class and that Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi could help me. I wasn’t too sure, but with nothing else to do, I gave it a try. The effect was immediate, after the third day the pain was almost totally gone, it is a miracle, I can’t believe it, I am so grateful!”

Tuition of this 3-day Health Dharma class: Free!

Date: June 28 to June 30, 2012 (Thursday to Saturday)

Time: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Venue: Five World Buddhas Temple, 262 East Main Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Contact number: (518) 853-1873, (518) 577-7387, (518) 312-9871

E-mail: info@ghmz.us


Categories: Amsterdam, WPHO | Tags: , , ,

A Copper Caper


With taser drawn, he waits silently on the lawn of the former Park Hill Adult Home in Amsterdam, New York.  Ready to react to any situation that may jeopardize his safety or that of his fellow Police Officers and the citizens of Amsterdam.

Over the past several weeks, Park Hill has been the target of local copper thieves who have already done hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to this historic building by gutting the heating system and water lines. The former nursing home went into foreclosure over a year ago and is now owned by a bank who have done little to protect and secure its contents. You can read about some of its history here.

Whether it was the Strawberry Moon or the Venus transition, people have behaved badly on Grove Street lately. Last night about 1:00am I woke to the sounds of slurred cursing. I went outside to find a man so intoxicated he was laying on the sidewalk in front of the Former Park Hill adult home. Then I discovered someone stole my full trash can put curbside for pick up today!  Two women walking by last night after the police arrived stated they saw two teenaged men, one white, one black wheeling a trash can full of copper pipes down Forbes Street. Their description of the can led me to believe it was mine. Apparently they ditched the trash bags inside and used it to haul away copper from the Park Hill Adult Home.

This morning during a visit from my brother and sister-in-law, a car did a three-point turn in front of my house and started driving the wrong way down the one way street, pulling into the driveway next to Park Hill.  Armed with my iPhone, I decided enough was enough and confronted these would be burglars as they pulled out of the driveway with copper pipes in their vehicle.  I stopped the vehicle and ordered them to return the pipes. As they complied, I photographed them, the vehicle plate number and then called the Amsterdam Police who arrived about 15 minutes later.

The building was thoroughly searched both last night and again this morning and secured by the responding Police Officers.

The photos of the alleged perpetrators is being withheld due to pending litigation.  With my statement and the photos, the APD were able to name the individuals responsible and now have some evidence to work with to help curtail the theft of copper on Grove Street… or so we thought.

Just a few hours after this mornings incident, I was checking the property of the adjacent Goddess of Mercy Temple with Jennie Wong when we discovered the side door of Park Hill propped open with a bucket.  Once again I notified the APD and this time the response was immediate and large! The APD covered all the entrances and exits, once again doing a systematic search.  I did not see anyone taken into custody.

As the night falls I notice the APD making frequents rounds of the area. Hopefully, Venus is finished transitioning and I can get a full nights sleep!

Update: Reported in the Amsterdam Recorder 06/12/2012

Amsterdam Police Department

• Two Amsterdam men were each charged with petit larceny, a misdemeanor, and trespassing, a violation. Jose Reyes, 38, of 20 Garden St., was arrested June 5, and Jimmy Rivera, 44, of 27 McDonnell St., was arrested June 6. Their charges stem from an incident on Grove Street where the two men allegedly stole copper form a vacant building. Reyes were held pending arraignment, and Rivera was released on an appearance ticket to appear in Amsterdam City Court at a later date.

Categories: Amsterdam, Law, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , ,

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