Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Failed World Trade Center Memorial


City officials never told new Riverlink Park concessionaire Dan Nelli it was there, in fact they don’t want anyone to know about a piece of the fallen World Trade Center that sits hidden near the fence at Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park.  It was supposed to serve as a memorial to those who died in the tragic terrorist attack on American soil savagely killing over 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.

Robert von Hasseln, Amsterdam’s Administrator of Community and Economic Development who also holds the position of City Historian, wanted to make sure that Amsterdamians never forget that day when the hijackers took over American Airline flight 11 that changed course in the air over Amsterdam, New York, eventually crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Von Hasseln arranged to have a surviving column of the World Trade Center’s north tower transported to the City of Amsterdam to be memorialized in a fitting presentation at Riverlink Park.

The 11,000 pound, 18 foot column was unceremoniously dumped on the East end of Riverlink Park five years ago. There was supposed to be a monument built around the erect column with a public dedication ceremony in Spring of 2012. On December 15, 2011, Amsterdam’s Mayor Thane described the proposed memorial to Recorder reporter Jarrett Carroll;

The cement column will be planted upright into the ground once the ground is workable again. We will be mounting it as an obelisk on the section of land between the cafe and the blacktop, There will be a circular mediation area surrounding it with trees, explanatory signage and benches. It will be a strong symbol that will serve as both a visual and abstract representation.

The memorial was never built, the public dedication ceremony never happened. The World Trade Center artifact remains where it was dumped five years ago, hidden behind Riverlink Park’s event tent.

This serves as another failed promise of the Thane administration, a disgrace to those who died and a slap in the face to those Firefighters, Police Officers, Paramedics and volunteers who worked so hard to rescue victims of that attack.

Today I met the new Riverlink Park concessionaire Dan Nelli, whose contract includes maintenance and upkeep for the entire park. He is determined to help see that this forgotten memorial is displayed with proper respect.

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UPDATE # 1

Although Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane blocks all communication with me, a friend sent me her Facebook response to this blog article, which currently has over 9,000 views just for this post.

“What the author fails to mention is that we have never had funding to build the memorial. We have been begging individual donors and companies for design, engineering and materials. Recreation Director Rob Spagnola thinks he may have enough in the Recreation budget to get this done over this coming summer season. This has nothing to do with disrespect. This boils down to the dollar.” -Mayor Ann Thane

UPDATE #2

It seems Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane is changing her tune from her previous response trying to place blame on this writer for not contacting her first, which is a little difficult to do since the Mayor refuses to speak with this blogger and blocks all communication. Saving face in an election year? Talk about political spin!

There will be a story on this in the Recorder. Recreation Director Rob Spagnola gave an interview today to Nicole Antonucci. There is wild speculation and misinformation swirling since this hit on FB, which is really disappointing. The memorial has been designed and engineering specs drawn up. A landscaping plan has also been done. We have enough money in an insurance recovery line which was finally blessed of on by the council after several months of wrangling and we’ll get this done this season. This had been in the works but the author never attempted to talk with city staff about where this all stood before writing commentary that is clearly speculative and biased. The good thing is that so many people care and are willing to help. Please read the article. It will straighten out a world of misunderstanding.” – Mayor Ann Thane

Categories: Amsterdam, historic amsterdam league, historic preservation, History, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , | 20 Comments

The Apple


Tuesday, April 7, 2015, the World Peace and Health Organization celebrated the Goddess of Mercy on Grove Street in Amsterdam, New York.  Quan Yin is what the Chinese Buddhists call the Goddess of Mercy. Often depicted as the Goddess with 1000 arms because of her self-less dedication to help others and to remain in the earthly realm worlds until all other living things have completed their own enlightenment and thus become liberated from the pain-filled cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Buddhist Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi spoke to the gathering of WPHO staff and students yesterday, encouraging them to emulate Quan Yin and to get rid of ego that will block their path to enlightenment.  Apples were passed out to the congregation and the spiritual leader marveled at nature’s perfection. The apple tree with it’s many branches was not unlike the many arms of Quan Yin, reaching out and producing a product that relieves the pangs of hunger. He reminded the students that the farmer coats the apple with wax to prevent it from deteriorating and so must they continue to practice the Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Dharma to keep their bodies healthy so they can continue their mission of promoting world health, peace and harmony. It is not enough, Shi emphasized, to practice (meditate) and become energized unless you use that energy to selflessly help others.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Friends of Sanford Stud Farm Annual Gathering


In the 1870’s, carpet-manufacturing innovator Stephen Sanford was advised by his physician to “buy a farm and a couple horses” and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of life in the country in order to escape from the stressful environment of his busy internationally acclaimed carpet business. It was a “therapeutic” decision that would lead to one of the largest and most recognized thoroughbred breeding facilities in the nation.

The purple and gold colors of Sanford Stud Farm, also known as Hurricana for the winds that blew over the farm from the Mohawk Valley below, would grace the Winner’s Circle of the Kentucky Derby with George Smith. Sanford Stud Farm was also the first American stable to win the prestigious English Grand National Steeplechase.

Today, only a few of the magnificent buildings remain. The training track is a shopping mall and the monuments memorializing Sanford winners have all been removed from their original places of honor.

In spite of the deteriorating buildings the Sanford Legacy lives on, immortalized by the Grade II Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, The Hollie Hughes Handicap at Aqueduct and by the still-standing Broodmare Barn located on rt 30 in the Town of Amsterdam, New York.

Please consider a membership or donation to the immediate goal of the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm. The broodmare barn has been standing for nearly 200 years. However, due to the neglect of recent years, a significant portion of this irreplaceable structure is facing almost certain collapse. Without your support, one of Amsterdam’s major landmarks could be lost forever.

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Friends of Sanford Stud Farm  is a Not-For-Profit Organization in unison with the Town of Amsterdam formed to help oversee the restoration and preservation of the former Sanford Stud Farm as a heritage center because of its historical, educational, architectural and cultural signifigance. The Friends of Sanford Stud Farm is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit Corporation. On May 5, 2013, one of goals of The Friends of Sanford Stud Farm was realized in being recognized as a place of national prominence in getting listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Following the preview of the Sanford Legacy Exhibit at the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame on March 24, 2015, The Friends of Sanford Stud Farm held their annual social gathering and officer installation at Amsterdam’s Municipal Golf Course Clubhouse.

 2015 Board of Directors

President – Scott Friers, Vice President – Thomas Foster, Secretary – Linda Gates, Treasurer – John Lesniewski

Directors

Mary Ann Metz, Ron DiCaprio, Tom DiMezza, Jenny Brewster

It was a very nice evening catered by MUNI’s gracious concessionaire Laura Elmendorf who put out an excellent buffet. The evening opened with a speech by FSSF President Scott Friers. Sam Hidebrandt told a very entertaining story describing how a man was tricked by a shady tailor into buying an ill fitting suit. Sam was also chosen to receive the outstanding volunteer of the year award. He never ceases to amaze with his vast knowledge of the history of the Sanford family and thoroughbred racing and his dedication to the cause. Restorations on the Broodmere barn were extensive this year due to the efforts of volunteers, an engineer and Kucel Construction who also received awards. Many gave speeches including Victoria Tokarowski, curator of the Sanford Legacy exhibit, Pierre Manigault, Great Gandson of John Sanford, spoke about feeling part of our family here in Amsterdam.  Although he lives in Charleston, South Carolina, Pierre finds the time to attend our local events. He and his mother Landine Manigault have been generous benefactors to FSSF. Official proclamations signifying the importance of the Sanford Legacy were issed by NYS Senator George Amedore and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara’s office by their local administrative assistants. Town of Amsterdam Supervisor and member of the FSSF Board of Directors, Tom DiMezza spoke about the Town’s continued dedication to this project.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Friends of Sanford Stud Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Sanford Legacy


The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York previewed their latest exhibit, the Sanford Legacy, to the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm, select guests and the press on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. The exhibit, researched and designed by museum curator Victoria Tokarowski of Fultonville, showcases the significant contribution of Amsterdam’s Sanford family to the sport of thoroughbred racing. The exhibit opens to the public March 25, 2015 and runs through 2016. Tuesday’s event was attended by Sanford family descendent Pierre Manigault from Charleston, South Carolina, Son of Sanford jockey Louis Hildebrandt, Sam Hildebrandt, Montgomery County Legislator Barbara Wheeler, Town of Amsterdam Supervisor Tom DiMezza, Friends of Sanford Stud Farm President Scott Friers and several members of FSSF as well as the media. For more information just click on this link: National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame _SKR7989_SKR7991_SKR7998_SKR7994_SKR7999_SKR8002_SKR8008_SKR8012_SKR8019_SKR8020_SKR8021_SKR8026_SKR8028a_SKR8029_SKR8030_SKR8031_SKR8033_SKR8034_SKR8035_SKR8037_SKR8036_SKR8038_SKR8040

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

The Next Mayor of Amsterdam, Mike Villa


The Clubhouse of Amsterdam’s Municipal Golf Course, run by Laura Elmendorf, hosted the first social gathering for City Amsterdam Mayoral candidate Michael Villa last night. In attendance were about 150 people representing many generations, occupations and political parties. This show of force was a large sign that the citizens of Amsterdam want a change in leadership. Mike Villa believes he is the candidate with the leadership experience to make that change. Introduced by Amsterdam businesswoman and Recorder VP of Sales and Marketing, Pat Beck, Villa spoke of his plan to bring much-needed leadership, integrity and fiscal responsibility back to our city. He wants our citizens to once again take pride in the fact they live in Amsterdam, New York. Mike Villa was both grateful and overwhelmed by the large number of people supporting his candidacy.

You can contact Mike Villa or give to his campaign through his website, Mike Villa For Mayor.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, History, Politics | Tags: , , ,

The Year of the Ram


Amsterdam’s World Peace and Health Organization celebrated Chinese New Year today at the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street.  2015, according to the Chinese astrological charts, is the year of the Ram. Visitors from as far as New York City as well as Amsterdam residents attended the simple ceremony. Guests were invited to light an incense stick and make a wish for the new year on front of an ornate wall composed of over 1000 images of Buddha. After the incense lighting, guests gathered around a table of traditional sweet treats that all had symbolic meanings. Jennie Wong explained the cultural tradition of the Chinese New Year celebration after which, guests travelled to the Five World Buddha Temple on East Main Street to receive a 2015 Chinese calendar screen printed on bound bamboo.  Buddhist Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi was noticeably absent from today’s ceremony.

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

Celebration of Buddha’s Enlightenment


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Today the local Buddhist groups celebrated the day Buddha was enlightened. Despite the ongoing snow storm, a handful of local residents, including Recorder photographer Trevor Junquera, did participate in the formal Buddhist ceremony held in the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street. They parked in the adjacent parking lot owned by the Buddhists to attend the event. There was no parking available on city streets because of the snowstorm. The Buddhist organization is currently fighting the revocation of their tax exempt status for the parking lot, purely a measure of harassment perpetrated by the City of Amsterdam.

The beautiful celebration featured a performance by the Buddhist clergy that involved both chanting and song in honor of Enlightenment Day. The World Peace and Health Organizations’ spokesperson Jennie Wong told the story of Buddha’s enlightenment and how Buddhism came to China, both in Chinese and English. Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi presented gifts to the members and guests attending.  Both received 2015 calendars printed on bound bamboo and English speaking guests received a book describing the Buddhist leader’s mission in the USA. After the ceremony everyone was treated to traditional La Pa porridge, which was very tasty.

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After the ceremony, Jennie Wong showed me an email received from Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane in response to a cordial email sent inviting her to attend the Buddha’s Enlightenment Ceremony. The response by Amsterdam’s Mayor made Ms Wong cry. I was both disgusted and ashamed by the nasty, vindictive official response our standing Mayor sent this religious organization. The allegations in the response are totally false. Is this the kind of person we want representing the City of Amsterdam? It is time for new leadership.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Equality, Human Rights, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , ,

Amsterdam Assessor Targets Buddhists


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Jennie Wong, spokesperson for the WPHO and US citizen

Friday, January 16th, 2015,  is National Religious Freedom Day. Every year on January 16, the President of the United States issues a proclamation that marks the anniversary of Religious Freedom in the United States.  The tradition commemorates the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom adopted by the Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786. This statute on religious freedom eventually became part of the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof .”

The controversial establishment clause has been widely debated as used as political fodder since codification in 1791. Many US Supreme Court decisions were issued that further define its implementation. While the Supreme Court initially held that constitutional amendments (Bill of Rights) did not apply to state governments, the Incorporation Doctrine of 1925 reversed that opinion and held that these amendments also apply to state and local governments.

The SCOTUS decisions all support the fact that government cannot promote one religion over another or prohibit the free exercise of ANY religion.

History and current events continue to show the mix of government and religion often promotes bigotry leading to violence. Governments in the United States are prohibited by law from adopting or supporting any official religion, in fact our citizens are not required to believe in any form of religion. Although a majority of Americans are White and identify as Christian, we are neither a White or Christian nation. The US Census and Gallup polls show increasing diversity in both our ethnic and religious makeup.

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In spite of this increasing diversity, religious intolerance is still alive and well in the City of Amsterdam, New York. This blogger has written many articles describing the difficulties the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization has endured locally. The Buddhists moved here from China several years ago to establish a community promoting peace and harmony while teaching a healing meditative practice, the Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Dharma. The locals didn’t quite know what to make of the WPHO, unfamiliar with their culture while questioning their religious faith. To help combat bigoted attitudes and improve health, the Buddhists began teaching both their meditative practice and Chinese culture through organized events held at both the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street and the Five Buddha Temple on East Main Street. The events are well attended by open-minded locals and were featured in this blog as well as local newspapers. The WPHO also donated video camera systems to the Amsterdam Police Department to help combat crime after several of their properties were vandalized.

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Buddhist Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi

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WPHO donates video surveillance cameras to Amsterdam Police

Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi

Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi

Goddess of Mercy Temple Buddha's Birthday May 2014

Goddess of Mercy Temple – Buddha’s Birthday May 2014

Goddess of Mercy Temple

Goddess of Mercy Temple

Five Buddha Temple

Five Buddha Temple

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Parking lot for the Five Buddha Temple

Parking lot for the Five Buddha Temple

The Capital District Roman Catholic Diocese sold these former catholic churches, their rectory buildings and parking lots to the WPHO. This blogger lives across the street from the Goddess of Mercy Temple and it is great to see the property, once abandoned and stripped by the catholic church, restored to full function and occupied. It is also great to have the Buddhists as neighbors.

Both former catholic churches have been religious exempt from local taxation since their inception. This year, Amsterdam Assessor Calvin Cline, not a resident of Amsterdam or Montgomery County, decided to revoke the local tax exemption for the parking lots to both the Goddess of Mercy and Five Buddha Temples as well as clergy residences in Amsterdam. Representatives from the WPHO met with the assessor to correct this obvious oversight but Cline refused to give them any information or rationale as to why he initiated this action and refused to correct it. The Buddhist organizations owning the properties, Guang Huan Mi Zong, Inc and Western Supreme Buddha Temple, Inc are 501(3)(c) corporations, who file annual update statements. The Chinese Buddhists see this action as yet another form of harassment and discrimination on the part of the assessor and the City of Amsterdam who did not revoke the tax exempt status of any other religious or charitable organization this year.

This situation reeks of religious intolerance and bigotry.

In addition to filing an appeal with the Board of Assessment Review, which meets on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, the WPHO will be filing a complaint with the NYS Division for Human Rights.

When will the City of Amsterdam stop using laws and regulations as weapons to discriminately target people?

I hope the members of the Amsterdam Board of Assessment Review, former Mayor Mario Villa, John P. Bowers, and Fran Fora do the right thing and restore these exemptions.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Equality, Human Rights, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , , ,

NYCLU knocks Queen Ann off her throne


In a strongly worded response, attorneys from the New York Civil Liberties Union issue an ultimatum to City of Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane. The letter, dated September 22, 2014, advises the executive to rescind the employee gag order issued on August 6, 2014. The gag order attempts to restrict employee communication with members of the Common Council. The NYCLU gives the mayor 7 days to take action. The NYCLU has successfully sued other municipalities for similar behavior and cites State and Federal Court decisions supporting employees 1st Amendment right to free speech.

New York Civil Liberties Union response

Mayor Ann Thane’s employee gag order

Queen Ann of Amsterdam reading the NYCLU response

Queen Ann of Amsterdam reading the NYCLU response

Categories: Amsterdam, History, Human Rights, Law, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

Amsterdam’s Ungracious, Self-Serving Mayor


Mayor Ann Thane made an official statement today that the generous donation of video cameras in 2012 by the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization was “basically worthless”. What an ungrateful and unprofessional statement to make. This was a professional video surveillance system that should have been installed two years ago. The twenty camera wireless video surveillance system was donated by WPHO member Sky Deng, whose company LYD Technology USA Inc. produces the systems. Dr. Govind Rao even donated $6,000 to pay for the camera system installation.  Smaller scale video systems produced by Sky Deng’s company now cover the Amsterdam Goddess of Mercy Temple and rectory, Amsterdam Five Buddha Temple and rectory, private homes owned by the WPHO in Amsterdam as well as this blogger’s residence. These camera systems all run very well. Video clips from this blogger’s surveillance system helped the APD identify vandals that damaged property on Grove Street.

The City is now scrambling to save face after an incident last week where vandals caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to a downtown hotel that was closed pending renovation.

The statement posted by Mayor Ann Thane on Facebook:

In response to the senseless destruction at the downtown hotel, please know that our police department will hunt down these criminals and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Amsterdam Police Department Chief of Police Gregory Culick informs me that the camera guy was in his office yesterday to discuss finishing installation of the cameras they had ordered (the cameras donated to us by the World Peace and Health Organization two years ago were basically worthless.) New beat patrols had been instituted about a month ago. If you are willing and able to help be the eyes and ears of the APD, please call 842-1100 for more information.

This link to my 2012 blog article describes the camera donation: Buddhists Donate Security Cameras to the City of Amsterdam

This is a link to former Gazette reporter Ed Munger’s article describing the donation: Buddhists Give Amsterdam 20 Video Cameras

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane owes the WPHO a formal apology for that despicable statement and should accept blame for not following through with the camera installation. The Mayor keeps reminding us that she alone is responsible for the day to day operation of the city.

  Mayor Ann Thane, you failed the citizens of Amsterdam!

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Categories: Amsterdam, Media, Politics, Technology, WPHO | Tags: , , , , ,

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