Buddha’s birthday was celebrated Monday, May 25, 2015 by both the World Peace and Health Organization and Guang Huan Mi Zong. Both organizations are owned and operated by local Chinese Buddhists. This year’s celebration was held in the main parking lot of the Five World Buddha Temple on East Main Street in Amsterdam, New York. Buddhist Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi described the significance of the celebration, which involved the ceremonial bathing of the Buddha, representative of rebirth or a new beginning. The event was attended by locals as well as Buddhists traveling from all parts of New York and China who received an energy blessing from Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi. The day was full of both religious celebration and colorful cultural performances.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ronco Construction came to Amsterdam this year to help repair roofs damaged by the hail storm in May. They rented 46 East Main Street with a six month lease and according to project manager Brook Reutter, they are thinking about making that a permanent satellite office for their company. Ronco wanted to sponsor a a block party for the city residents and with input from event organizer Sherri Crouse and Amsterdam Animal Control Officer Gina Kline, it was decided proceeds would go to help neuter or spay the stray animal population. The block party was held Saturday, August 23rd from 4-10pm with food and merchandise vendors, a DJ, live band, mystic readings and face painting.
The event was supposed to include the entire block of East Main Street from Church to Market Street and an event permit was obtained. Apparently an elected official made a call to DOT about the event who then notified Police Chief Culick who in turn told event organizers they needed 120 days notice in order to close the entire street. This resulted in the event being limited to 1/4 of the block, which seemed to accommodate those in attendance. Several city employees and elected officials were in attendance, Animal Control Officer Gina Kline, Director of Economic Development Rob von Hasseln, Alderman Rich Leggiero, Alderwoman Valerie Beekman and Mayor Ann Thane who turned her head and walked away when this taxpaying city resident greeted her with hello.
A big thanks to Sherri Crouse, Ronco Construction and the other volunteers who helped put on this benefit for a worthy cause.