Posts Tagged With: ann thane

Buddhists vs. City Hall


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Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi, Iris X. Ge, Elise Miao, Jennie Wong

Amsterdam’s World Peace and Health Organization along with the Guang Huang Mi Zong Organization met in NYS Supreme Court in Fonda this morning along with their Attorney James Melita to challenge a discriminatory property assessment from the City of Amsterdam’s previous administration. It seems the Thane administration, through City Assessor Calvin Cline, wielded their municipal power as a weapon against the local Buddhists by revoking the tax exempt status of their Temple parking lots and clergy residences.  No other religious organization had their tax exempt status revoked by the Assessor.

The current situation was not the first time that Assessor Cline tried revoking the Buddhist’s tax exempt status. It happened back in 2012 when Cline revoked the tax exempt status of two of their properties. In that case, Supreme Court Judge Joseph M. Sise issued a consent judgement restoring the tax exempt status and a declaratory judgement that Cline’s assessment was “unlawful, excessive and unequal”.

Under NYS Real Property Tax Law section 420a, property owned by religious organizations used for religious purposes is tax exempt. Section 462 states that in addition, property owned by religious corporations used for clergy residential purposes is also tax exempt.

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Attorney James Melita pictured left

After the discriminatory treatment received from former Mayor Ann Thane  and Assessor Calvin Cline, the Buddhists were delighted to hear that Mike Villa was elected Mayor this year. In fact Mayor Villa met with the Buddhists on two different occasions to discuss the situation along with Dr. Rao and Jerry Skrocki. Mayor Villa was also appalled at the treatment the Buddhists received and on July 26, 2016, through the Common Council, issued resolution #16/17-12 which states;

“RESOLVED, it is the official policy of the City of Amsterdam to comply with all laws, rules, regulations protecting against discrimination and all departments, offices, boards and commissions, officers, employees, representatives and agents of City government shall in the performance of their duties, comply with federal, state and local laws, rules, regulations and policies regarding discrimination of any kind related to race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, national origin, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, and political orientation or affiliation.”

Unfortunately neither the Mayor or the Common Council can overrule a decision made by the City Assessor. The ONLY remedy aside from the Board of Assessment Review is to file an Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. That is exactly what the Buddhists have done and they have an excellent case with proof of discrimination. Because of the discrimination the Chinese Buddhists continue to receive, one of their own has just completed her first year of law school. Another became a registered voter in the City of Amsterdam and several others are undergoing the process of citizenship so they too can vote.

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We sat most of the morning waiting for Calvin Cline to withdraw the discriminatory assessments but he is a stubborn old mule who would not concede. The judicial trial was adjourned until November of this year, giving Cline a chance to reconsider and save the taxpayers from a costly judgement.  In a city that is trying to be welcoming to new people as well as new business, we must treat everyone fairly and equally under the law.

We can do better than this!

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Damage done today to the Statue of Liberty replica in the parking lot of Amsterdam’s Five World Buddha Temple

Categories: Amsterdam, Equality, Human Rights, Law, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , ,

The Riverlink Concert Experience


With a first class boat docking facility, restaurant and beautiful scenic grounds, Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park on the Mohawk River in upstate New York hosts an annual concert series presented by the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation.  Every Saturday evening during the months of July and August you can enjoy free concerts. Yesterday was the 6th annual Jamboree with bands Dark Don’t Catch Me Here, Locust Honey and the Nellies. For more information about the concert series please visit the Riverlink Concerts website.

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

Cheez Doodles


I provide the service, and once I’m paid I can provide Cheez Doodles.
—Amsterdam Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis

The Cheez Doodle quote from 2010 describes the use of public money by DeCusatis to pay (or not pay) his secretary. After presenting the 2012 Common Council with a new contract that included a 25% pay raise, DeCusatis was not approved for the job of Corporation Counsel. The current salary for the City of Amsterdam’s Corporation Counsel is $59, 117.

The job of Corporation Counsel is part-time and DeCusatis chose to work from his own office, yet wanted pay for the extra work done by his secretary and included items such as a $60./month stipend instead of using a City owned cell phone.

Things were not all rosy when it came to the job performance of the Corporation Counsel. Under the City’s employ, DeCusatis has often acted outside of the scope of his duties regarding Council Meetings, speaking out of turn as if he were a member of the Common Council. During meetings, the Corporation Counsel’s role is an advisory one, to clarify questions about legal issues.

While DeCusatis worked with Ann Thane for a several years on the Waterfront Commission, it is often speculated that he has a great influence on decisions made by the Mayor. He has been the subject of heated debate by the Common Council and the community.

The City is being sued for $900,000 by the American Home Assurance Co, to recover monies paid to Thomas Eliopoulos owner of the former Edy Brush Company factory building that burned  July 14, 2010, due to arson on Brookside Ave. The building was foreclosed by the City and contained a large inventory of books and other property.

The City was also sued by Uri Kaufman which required the hiring of an extra attorney to represent the City.

Apparently DeCusatis has infuriated the Common Council ambushing them with a new contract increase of $15,000 tacked on to his appointment resolution.  When the appointment was voted down, DeCusatis quoted Public Officer’s Law stating he stays in the position. Let’s look at that section of Public Officer’s Law:

Public Officers Law/Article 2/ § 5. Holding over after expiration of term. Every officer except a judicial officer, a notary public, a commissioner of deeds and an officer whose term is fixed by the constitution, having duly entered on the duties of his office, shall, unless the office shall terminate or be abolished, hold over and continue to discharge the duties of his office, after the expiration of the term for which he shall have been chosen, until his successor shall be chosen and qualified; but after the expiration of such term, the office shall be deemed vacant for the purpose of choosing his successor. An officer so holding over for one or more entire terms, shall, for the purpose of choosing his successor, be regarded as having been newly chosen for such terms. An appointment for a term shortened by reason of a predecessor holding over, shall be for the residue of the term only.

The Amsterdam City Charter describes the appointment here:

C-41 Law Department

There shall be a Law Department, the head of which shall be the Corporation Counsel, who shall be appointed by the Mayor subject to approval by the Common Council as a part-time officer of the City.

Most people are not aware of this Charter provision:

C-29 Powers and Duties of the Common Council

I.  Should the Mayor fail to appoint any position required by the City Charter within 90 days of a vacancy therein, then the Common Council may directly appoint such position.

In my humble opinion, the longest the Common Council has to deal with this cheesy situation is three months. Hopefully they will have hired a new Corporation Counsel by then. This whole incident makes me wonder if the outrageous salary demand during a fiscal crisis, was Gerry DeCusatis’ way of bowing out of the appointment.

My congratulations to the members of the Amsterdam Common Council who had the balls to vote against the DeCusatis appointment. It will be interesting to see how Ann Thane functions without  him.

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

Show Me the Money!


There is bound to be last-minute drama as the clock ticks down to Election Tuesday. The slugfest has already started. The current Mayor must be fuming over the Recorder, the City’s official newspaper, endorsing  her opponent Joe Emanuele III for Mayor of Amsterdam.  Ann Thane came out of her corner swinging as she accused Joe Emanuele of campaign finance fraud in her blog Amsterdancin’. In the post sleight of hand, Thane states:

I am baffled by the claim that Joe Emanuele is paying for his materials, when his NYS Board of Elections Campaign Finance Reports do not show this activity or the resources to produce them.

She goes on to suggest that we check the campaign finance reports and see for ourselves. So I did.

The latest reports listed on the site were the 11 Day Pre-General Election reports

Friends of Joe Emanuele, 49 Coolidge Road, Amsterdam, NY 12010, listed as the committee managing the Emanuele campaign finances.  (Joe Emanuele’s address)

The Emanuele campaign took in a total of $13, 607.40 with $95.00 unitemized.

His largest contributor was CCS Telecom who donated $5,000 ($4,000 of that contribution is listed as being returned).

$2,518.00 from a fundraiser

$1000.00 from Hayes & Wormuth, Inc, 207 Wallins Corners Rd, Amsterdam, NY 12010

$500. from Theodore J. Danz

$100. from Casale Public Affairs who was later hired to manage Emanuele’s campaign eventually earning a total of $2,000 (so far reported)

Friends of Ann Thane, 2 Norris Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010, listed as the committee managing the Thane campaign finances. (Philip Lyford’s address)

The Thane campaign took in a total of $12, 192.00 with $4,792.00 unitemized and $1,500. owed to Phil Lyford her campaign manager.

Thane’s contributions came from a variety of sources:

The largest contributor were 4 members of the Raeburn family from Balston Spa and Lockport, NY who’s combined donations totaled $3,500.

$500. from Paul Tonko.

$300. from Legal Focus Consultants, 12 Stuyvesant Oval Apts MA, New York, New York 10009. Gee, who could that be?

$100. from RB Catering LLC, 3 Boulder Bend, Scotia, NY 12010 who soon after were awarded another 3 year contract for the Riverlink Café without going out for bid.

$150. from CT Mall ASS PC another contractor that does business with the City.

It looks like you have to give to a campaign fund to get hired. There are several examples of this on both candidates financial disclosures. I’m more uncomfortable with the unitemized contributions than what the candidates did or didn’t pay for advertising.

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

Joe Emanuele Needs a Lesson


I have not received any campaign related material in the mail this year. However, it was recently brought to my attention that one of my photos was used in election campaign material without my knowledge, permission or license.

I was first made aware of this by Ann Thane’s blog entry where she described the image of her as “unbecoming”.  Owning a rather large collection of unbecoming images of the Mayor, I looked into the matter and confirmed it was, in fact my image.

The photo in question was a photo of Mayor Ann Thane that I took during a public meeting at the Riverfront Center on May 16, 2011, where the proposed increase in water fee and elimination of the 3% tax cap was being “discussed” by outraged Amsterdamians.

My intellectual property was illegally obtained from my blog and can be found here.

The Emanuele camp maintains that they legally used the photo because there was no Copyright notice on my blog. WRONG!

The posting of Copyright notice is not required, though often used by people in an attempt to ward off thieves.  Copyright is automatic and inherent when a photographer snaps that shutter and takes the photo. The registration of images with the US Copyright Office is also not required to enact Copyright law. It is helpful for tort action against violators.

The Emanuele camp is also not aware that all of my images contain owner information including Copyright notice embedded with each electronic image that can be seen with any photo editor.

These photos are someone’s work product. You wouldn’t think of stealing from a bank or department store, but somehow think it is OK to steal from the internet. It is NOT OK to use images from the internet for your own purposes. It is against Federal Copyright law.  Those images are the intellectual property of the photographer (yes even unbecoming images are intellectual property).

A link to the US Copyright Office can be found here.

I will be sending Joe Emanuele a cease and desist and letter along with a demand for payment (temporary license) for using my intellectual property in his campaign literature.  Consider this public notice.

Update:

Reporter Jarrett Carroll covered this story in todays edition of the Recorder. His story can be found here.

In his story, Sparks Fly Over City Mailer, Carroll identifies Vince Casale, Emanuele’s campaign manager as responsible for using my photograph to create the flyer.

Vince Casale, Emanuele’s campaign manager, said the photograph was taken from the Internet and falls under public domain, claiming permission was not necessary.

This is a common misnomer that is totally false. Public domain does not equate to “the Internet”. Public domain refers to items produced prior to 1923 or those who Copyrights have expired (Copyright has an initial lifespan of 70 years). Public Domain may also refer to works created by the government, like published laws.

But Vince Casale said the image was found online and is fair game.

There was no copyright on the photo. I checked for one because I deal with this sort of thing all the time,” he said. “There’s nothing there, there is no reserved rights or anything like that.

Thanks to the Berne Convention of 1988 a Copyright statement is not required.  At the moment of creation, when the artwork is “fixed” in some tangible form, copyright applies automatically. For a photographer, when you press the shutter release you are making a photo and gaining copyright to that photo at the same time. You don’t have to declare copyright or file any paperwork.

My camera provides additional protection by embedding a Copyright statement in each photo I take, including my name and year.

It looks like Vince Casale also needs a lesson.  Maybe Joe Emanuele should deduct the fee I am imposing from his salary.

 

Categories: Law, Photography, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

Prediction or Prophecy?


While researching the 2007 mayoral election in Amsterdam, New York, I found a couple of interesting articles from the Recorder. The first, written as a letter to the editor, was published October 7, 2007:

Ann Thane not qualified to be mayor

 As a former member of the Walter Elwood Museum board of directors and as a non-city resident I would like to say that I was not sorry or surprised to read of Ann Thane’s departure from the museum. Simply by looking at the museum’s non-profit public information (form 990), which is available online, you can see that during most of Ann’s seven years, the museum has been run at a deficit, has had a minimal face-lift and the number of children that the museum serves has been steadily declining. Yes, she is an artistic person and has a pleasant and fun-loving personality. However, financially the museum is not in good shape. Ann has only managed a staff of two part-time people, of which one position has turned over several people within a four-year time frame. This does not quantify an effective manager and cannot even compare with the overseeing of a city’s personnel that includes eight unions. Had Ann implemented and followed some form of her four-point plan that she proposes to the residents of the City of Amsterdam, perhaps the Elwood Museum would not be on the verge of closing its doors yet again. As director of an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of heritage and tourism whose own vision statement is to “promote a dynamic, rich, unified community that values its heritage” Ann really stunned me when she commented to the press about tearing down one of the Town of Amsterdam’s most historic buildings, having a nearly 200-year history. Before city residents vote for the mayor take note, take action and vote for the person with the most qualification to run the city effectively, that in my opinion is John Duchessi.

TOM FOSTER, Amsterdam

The second, written by Recorder Staff as part of an editorial titled Duchessi is the right choice for Amsterdam,was published October 31, 2007. This is the section describing 2007 mayoral candidate Ann Thane:

Thane, former director of the Walter Elwood Museum, is another one of the quirks about this race. This is her first foray into the political arena — and she’s shooting way over her head for the top job. She has already defeated (by more than 200 votes) Duchessi in the Democratic primary. Her candidacy has created a lot of buzz. Unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. We have for years lamented the lack of effort on the part of the local party committees to drum up enough qualified candidates to run for office. So when someone does volunteer to put their ideas on the line and their personal life on hold to make a run for a thankless job, this should be greeted with respect and appreciation. That being said, we admire Thane for her willingness to try to make a difference. After speaking with her, however, we don’t believe she can. Our concerns are numerous and are topped by the fact that she has a real chance of winning — which could send the city into a downward spiral. With the swift pulling of the wrong lever, the part-time lack of leadership we have stumbled through in the past four years at City Hall could very well be replaced by a full-time lack of leadership. Substance is a key word in any election campaign, and is the main ingredient missing from Thane’s. She initially comes across as a fresh new package — the bright light so needed in this wounded city. The package, however, is empty. Her platform has no legs. She appears comfortable with her lack of accountability, is exceptionally vague on major issues, has no real idea of how toimplement any plan she may have for the future of Amsterdam, and gives little indication that she understands how city government operates. She says economic development efforts should be more coordinated but offers no solution (“It’s something we need to look at,” she says); she admits she hasn’t been privy to the latest city/town water negotiations (“I don’t know the whole picture”); she speaks of starting up a community business center but offers no concrete information about it (“We need to look at that”); she would consider rezoning Main Street west of the mall but is not clear on the how or why (“We need to start thinking out of the box and not recycling the same old ideas”). Thane admits the 8-to-5 aspect of the mayor’s job is attractive to her. She believes her talents are for leading, jokes that she suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, and can juggle many balls at one time. Thane appears hooked on marketing the city of Amsterdam, developing a Web site, and selling the city. And although she’s not entirely clear on who her target audience might be (“That needs to be assessed”), she is confident her marketing strategies would work. “You can sell ice to Eskimos. It worked for me,” she told us. Mind you, there is little substance to this plan, other than her interest in having town residents help pay to maintain the Web site. Or maybe AIDA could help pay for it. Her answer was vague. As if she, too, was hearing it for the first time. She’s enthusiastic, energetic and in way over her head. We wish her luck, however, because this is, after all, Amsterdam. And the electorate is impossible to handicap. Can this city afford to wait while its next mayor completes on-the-job training, or would it be in our best interests to choose an administration prepared to hit the ground running? The answer, and the future of the city, are in the hands of the voters.

It’s something we all need to look at!

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

Story about a Debate


This is a story about Amsterdam’s mayoral debate held October 25, 2011, in the conference room of Riverfront Center.  With questions and answers covered extensively in the local media and many tuned in to the live broadcast, this story is about what you didn’t hear.

The Recorder sponsored mayoral debate was a disappointment.  Nothing was gained in terms of useful information about the candidates that had not already been revealed.  The canned questions posed by Recorder Editor Charlie Kraebel did not reflect what the actual voting public wanted to ask, instead were crafted by editorial staff of the Recorder, none of who live or vote in the City of Amsterdam.

The structure of the planned event leaked to the public weeks ago as described in my blog here.

This information irked Recorder Editor Charlie Kraebel who attempted to dispel the information in Tim Becker’s blog Pars Nova here.

The event was exactly as described before. Only the two candidates appearing on the ballot were allowed to take part.  Questions were limited to Recorder staff only.  The event was not open to the public, but limited to 20 invitees each from the participating candidates. It was broadcast live by WCSS.

I attempted to get an invite to cover the event early in the process to no avail.  I made a last-minute appeal on the WCSS Facebook page to get a seat at the debate.  About 5:30PM yesterday, 4th Ward Alderman candidate Diane Hatzenbuhler knocked on my door informing me that I had a seat because of a cancellation, that I should get to Riverfront Center at 6pm.

Arriving at the WCSS station, I saw Charlie and Rebecca chatting inside.  Kraebel glanced in my direction through the glass and then executed an eye roll towards Rebecca.  I ducked my head in the room and asked if this is where the debate was to be held. I was told it was in the conference room just down the hall and did not start until 7PM.

Arriving at the empty conference room, I saw some tables set up at the far end of the room with 40 chairs lined up in front of them, only filling up half of the room.  A newly employed security guard stood at the entrance.  WCSS employee and 1st Ward Alderman Joe Isabel walked by. I asked him about the cancellation and was told he has no say in who attends; it was up to the Recorder staff.

The security guard was handed a list of invited guests and was told to only admit people on the list and the press.  She was specifically told that the man in the plaid shirt (me) was not a member of the press. I was not alone in my predicament as others who were told to come as replacements were also left out.

The candidates soon appeared, each with their political posse.  It seemed as if the entire staff from the Recorder attended.  When it was clear that the 40 seats were not filled, those of us waiting were allowed in.

Recorder Publisher Kevin McClary introduced the event, reading from a prepared speech on his iPad he never made eye contact with the audience.  He is much smaller in stature and demeanor than I anticipated from the limited contact I have had with him through emails.  In sharp contrast, the physical appearance of the Recorder’s light-hearted humorist and Executive Editor Kevin Mattison is larger than his words.

The space agreed to by Recorder and WCSS staff was just not suited for a debate.  Although there was enough amplification, it was difficult to see the candidate’s faces. The two candidates sat behind a table at the same level as the audience. Some elevation would have helped. A good part of communication is taking in visual clues from facial expressions. This is one reason people are often misunderstood in blogs.  Personally I am much more adept with photography and visual communication than the written word, but most of you already know that.

The two candidates answered questions posed by Kraebel who sat at an adjoining table next to Rebecca who represented WCSS but remained silent during the debate.

Kraebel was robotic in posing the questions and never really probed deep enough.

Joe Emanuele has a poker face.  Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red power tie with pumpkin, he answered the questions calmly with very little hand gesturing.  He did not react when confronted or criticized.  Thane dressed in a tweed business suit with modest jewelry and toned down makeup. Thane’s facial expressions while Emanuele spoke were very telling as she often smirked mockingly at the audience.  When speaking, Thane frequently gestures with hands and arms flailing, at times self-consciously pulling her arms down to her sides. Thane tends to be very emotional when speaking in public, sometimes choking up as if about to cry. I have noticed this behavior in past speeches and was clear during her final statement.  If you have never tried it, public speaking can be very difficult.

There was applause at different points in the debate for both candidates.

The one redeeming factor of this debate is that we heard Joe Emanuele answer questions about his candidacy. Other than his first mayoral announcement that I recorded here, we have not heard much from this candidate.

The third mayoral candidate who was not invited by the Recorder to take part in the debate is William D. Wills.  Not supported by either major political party, write-in mayoral candidate Wills was given equal time by WCSS and went on the air immediately after the conclusion of the Recorder’s debate, to answer the same questions posed to the other two candidates.  With the support of his wife and daughters present during the broadcast, Wills entertained each question read to him by his daughter.

While I feel that Wills is the best choice for Mayor of Amsterdam, he may have hurt his chances with his off and on again campaign and refusal to accept campaign contributions from political parties. He was the only candidate to answer questions I posed to all three.  Those questions and his answers can be found here.

It is no secret that I openly support write-in candidate William D. Wills for Mayor. While I appreciate the fact that an attempt was made by the Recorder to present Amsterdam with a mayoral debate, I cannot get past the fact that Wills was excluded.

The last Mayoral debate held on November 6, 2007, did include a write-in candidate not supported by a major political party.  I would also liked to have heard answers to some questions posed by some actual residents of the City of Amsterdam.

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

Amsterdam 2011 Mayoral Debate Photos


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

Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park II


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

City Administrators Respond to Locked Gate


My blog entry from yesterday describing the cancellation of the Riverfront Park Phase II dedication scheduled for today, also brought to light the continuing problem of access to Riverlink Park.  Since 2007, citizens have complained about locked gates preventing access through the pedestrian walkway that links the parking lot of Riverfront Center with Riverlink Park.

The following inquiry was sent to the Amsterdam Common Council:

From: Gerald Skrocki

Subject: Riverlink Park

Date: October 13, 2011 5:30:51 PM EDT

I went down to Riverlink Park to take some foliage photos today around 11AM. I got as far as the walkway gate only to find it chained and padlocked.

Why am I denied access to a city park? Who has the key to the gate?

Jerry Skrocki

To date I have received the following three responses from Amsterdam Common Council members.

From: William D. Wills

Subject: RE: Riverlink Park

Date: October 13, 2011 5:47:17 PM EDT

One of the quotes of mine that the Mayor is fond of is from Will Rodgers:

“Denial is not just the name of a river.”

From: Joseph M. Isabel

Subject: RE: Riverlink Park

Date: October 13, 2011 9:54:26 PM EDT

Gerald,

It used to be locked at night by the police. Sometimes it was left locked and the police had to be called.  Lately it has been left open. I really don’t know what the current policy is.

I think Rob from recreation could tell us. I will try to talk with him.  I don’t know if there is a city employee down there anymore.

Alderman-Joe

From: Ann M. Thane

Subject: Re: Riverlink Park

Date: October 14, 2011 11:16:43 AM EDT

The APD will ensure that the gate is opened in the morning and closed in at night. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. A.

Mayor Ann M. Thane, City of Amsterdam

This is an example of how effective communication can resolve issues.  My confidence in the process is temporarily restored.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to look into this issue and respond to my inquiry. A special shout out to Daily Gazette Reporter Ed Munger for contributing background information.

Update: Photo taken October 14, 2011, 1:30pm

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

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