Celebration

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: , , , , | Leave a comment

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: , , , , , , ,

One Hail of a Party


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.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Outdoors, Pets, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Tropic Rhythm at Riverlink Park


Saturday night Riverlink Park took a trip to the Caribbean Islands with the traditional sounds of the Hispanic Culture as Tropic Rhythm made a repeat performance. Tropic Rhythm is a Latin American Band based in Albany, New York whose musical repertoire includes an arrangement of Bolero, Merengue, Salsa, Rock and Roll, Oldies (50’s & 60’s), Motown, R & B, and Jazz. There was a good crowd gathered to enjoy this popular band and the angelic vocals of Dashira Cortes.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Music, Outdoors, Riverlink Park | Tags: , , , , ,

Sanford Stakes Centennial


Saturday July 19, 2014 marked the 100th run of the Sanford Stakes at the Saratoga Raceway. The race is named for Amsterdam’s Stephen Sanford (1826-1913) , born in Mayfield, NY, member of the US House of Representatives, who among other ventures, ran the Hurricana Farm where he trained Thoroughbreds. The farm was renamed the Sanford Stud Farm by his son John Sanford II, Congressman and carpet manufacturer, born in Amsterdam in 1851, who built his home on Church Street (what we now know as Amsterdam’s City Hall).  Sanford descendant Landine L. Manigault, her son Pierre Manigault and his daughters India and Gigi Manigault were at Saratoga Raceway for the Sanford Stakes. Pierre Manigault lives in Charleston, South Carolina and is Chairman at Evening Post Industries and Garden & Gun Magazine. His mother Landine Manigault lives in Stonington, Connecticut and is the daughter of Gertrude Sanford Legendre, sister of Stephen “Laddie” Sanford and Sara Jane Sanford, children of John and Ethel Sanford whose parents were Stephen Sanford and Sara Jane Cochrane.

Friends of the Sanford Stud Farm celebrated with a visit to the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame, followed by a luncheon at the Saratoga Raceway track-side clubhouse.  Amsterdam artist Dan Czech designed the Sanford Stakes Centennial commemorative poster using period design. Pierre Manigault presented Friends founder Sam Hildebrandt an original purple and gold Sanford jockey silk. Sam’s father Louis Hildebrant was a very successful Sanford jockey.

It was a humid day but the air-conditioned clubhouse was a great way to watch the races. Some things have changed at the track since my last visit in the late 80’s. High definition flat screen monitors abound, posted on kiosks throughout the grounds with a huge monitor at center track. Cigar smoke fills the air as people study their racing sheets to place their bets. The racetrack grounds serve as impromptu campsites as people bring lawn-chairs, coolers and food, selecting a site on the lawn to claim stake for the day. The clubhouse patrons decked out in their finest causal attire, enjoy the day in the style. Beer and alcohol flowed on both sides of the fence, fueling shouts of enthusiasm as well as groans of disappointment.

The 7th race was the Sanford Stakes and thanks to the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm, I had a place at the finish line and access to the Winner’s Circle for the race. Big Trouble won the Sanford Stakes in the last stretch as he shot from 4th place to victory. The Sanford Stakes Cup was presented to Big Trouble jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. and trainer Tony Dutrow by John Sanford’s great granddaughters India and Gigi Manigault. A slew of reporters soon flooded Winner’s Circle including reporter Adam Shinder from The Recorder. Congressman Paul Tonko appeared in Winner’s Circle to support one of Amsterdam’s Historic events.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, History, Outdoors, Sanford Stud Farm, sports | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tropic Rhythm at the Amsterdam MUNI Clubhouse


It was Friday the 13th and we were on our 3rd day of continual rain. The flood alert issued by New York State for Montgomery County didn’t stop the dedicated fans of music, dance and great food who did attend the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation Fundraiser held at Amsterdam’s Municipal Golf Course Clubhouse. The rain did force the celebration indoors where the Clubhouse concessionaire and chef extraordinaire Laura Elmendorf served a most delicious pig roast with all the fixings. Tropic Rhythm donated their time and talent to aid Riverlink Concerts. Their most wonderful combination of Boleros, Merengue, Rock and Pop tunes kept the well-fed attendees on the dance floor all evening. The combination of music, food and great conversation made us all forget about the torrential downpour outside.

Those that missed the chance to hear Tropic Rhythm and the angelic voice of lead singer Dashira Cortes will have another chance as they perform in the Riverlink Park Concert Series on August 2, 2014.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Music, Riverlink Park | Tags: , , , , ,

Amsterdam’s Spring Fling 2014


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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Music, Outdoors, Pets | Tags: , ,

A Dragon on Grove Street


It’s not everyday that you see a dragon slithering down your street but that is exactly what happened today as the World Peace and Health Organization celebrated Buddha’s Birthday. The opening ceremony started at the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street in Amsterdam, NY with Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi sounding the drum and summoning their ceremonial dragon. The celebration continued at the Five Buddha Temple on East Main Street where a ceremonial bathing of the Buddha took place.

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

Riverlink Park Fundraiser


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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Music, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , ,

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