Posts Tagged With: city historian robert von hasseln

Thane Panders to Latino Vote

Under the guise of an unadvertised “neighborhood meeting”, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane went shopping for the Latino vote last night as she and other subcommittee members, City Historian Robert von Hasseln and 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero met with select members of the East End neighborhood at Centro Civico.

As Recorder reporter Jarret Carroll described in his article; Residents, officials discuss ideas for the East End, this was a meeting supposedly organized to discuss neighborhood problems and develop a strategy for revitalizing the East End.

The problem again with Thane is communication, as no one informed the rest of the residents! There was no meeting notice posted in the Recorder or on the Official City of Amsterdam website or City of Amsterdam Facebook page. 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero told me he was only notified of the meeting briefly the night before and if it wasn’t for Centro Civico calling to remind him, he may not have attended himself. 5th Ward Supervisor Karl Baia was not invited. I live just a block away from Centro Civico and would have attended this meeting had I or the majority of the neighborhood been informed of this planned meeting.

I understand that there was a very large food spread, as if Centro Civico was expecting a much larger crowd.

Even Centro Civico was duped as no one else was invited to take part. This was about one thing, the Latino vote. Our Mayor has virtually ignored the Latino population for four years and finally realizes she may need their vote to stay Mayor of Amsterdam.

Carroll’s report states that Thane even promised the crowd Disneyland!

You don’t have to limit yourselves, you can also think of sculptures, painting and artwork … you can imagine your own Disneyland.

But all of those empty promises come with a price tag, to be paid with grant money the City has yet to secure.

The consensus of the people I spoke to agreed, this was pure political pandering by a Mayor struggling to stay in office.

Until Mayor Ann Thane opens lines of communication with ALL of Amsterdam’s citizens and realizes the public is on to her schemes, the reelection route will be a tough road to travel.

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

Amsterdam’s Proposed Zoning Update


Current Zoning Map

Amsterdam’s Zoning Update Committee will meet on June 1, 2011, at 6PM in the Council Chamber at City Hall to go over the last proposed zoning changes. The committee reintroduced the controversial City Historic District after convincing argument from City Historian Robert von Hasseln, who also provided guidance on its governance.

The arduous process of physically updating the ordinance and creating maps was primarily carried out by The Montgomery County Department of Planning and Economic Development who had to deal with contemptuous committee members like me. After an organizational meeting in October of 2009, County Planners Doug Greene, Ken Rose and Randy Siver (who was laid off this year by Montgomery County Legislators) met monthly for over a year to hammer out the details.

The Zoning Update Committee members mainly consisted of Mayor Ann Thane, Alderman William Wills, Corporation Council Gerard DeCusatis, Bob DiCaprio, Gerald Skrocki, Todd Fabozzi, Doug Landon and Bill Murphy. There were brief appearances by Fabiola Dayian and Mark Capone. Victor Giulianelli, CEO of St Mary’s Hospital attended with the hospital attorney when the committee debated changes that affected the hospital.

Some issues gave way to heated debate and soliloquy and it was not always obvious when we did or didn’t have a consensus because of sporadic attendance. The public meetings held last November and December were poorly attended as most people (including myself) had little knowledge of exactly what zoning entailed. I did get an education both in zoning and local government through this process and I am grateful to Mayor Thane for appointing me to this committee.

After the June 1st meeting, the plan is to the Common Council for a their review, a public meeting along with reviews by the City Planning Commission and County Planning Board. Notice then needs to be sent to surrounding municipalities and a state environmental quality review done.

Download the entire draft by clicking on the following link:

Zoning Ordinance Update


Previous blog entry with links to all of the Zoning Update documents can be found here.


Categories: Amsterdam, historic preservation, Law | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Looking Back

Meeting the City Historian Robert von Hasseln last week got me thinking about historic preservation.  How can the average homeowner in Amsterdam afford any type of restoration that is keeping with the original design plan?

I discussed briefly with Mr. von Hasseln about the possibility of preserving any architectural detailing or trim from old homes that were set to be demolished, so they could be reused in home restorations.  He stated his group, the Historic Amsterdam League did discuss such an effort, but put it on the back burner for now for lack of storage space and the necessary labor to recover such items.  I believe the cost of storage and recovery could be offset by resale of these items to those wishing to restore homes and possible receive some type of historic tax credit for doing so.

Restoration can be a very costly process and although it may be more cost effective to demolish,  we lose a bit of our history with every building that is taken down. The detailing on the trim of older homes just cannot be replaced today. This is evidenced by the stripping of detailing and bastardization of older homes by slapping on plastic siding, often removing transoms and porches forever altering the original design plan.

I did some research looking into the history of my house on Grove Street, pictured below as it appeared last summer.

This very prevalent design housed Amsterdam’s working class. This particular home dates back to the 1860’s and is one of the oldest of its style remaining on Grove Street. Brittle asbestos siding covers the original wood and decorative window transoms along with shutters have been removed. The original staircase is missing decorative balusters. All of these items exist in properties slated for demolition.

This image of the same house was scanned from a Xerox copy of an old property record card in City Hall. This was before urban renewal. Notice the close proximity of the house next door and behind. The car and antenna wires date the photo to the late 40’s or early 50’s.

The next undated photo was the home of David S. Dunlap located on 33 Grove Street, which no longer exists. It was located in the area that is now a parking lot on the north side of the Amsterdam Mall. This similar style home has a wrap around porch that we do not see in other homes of this style.

According to the 1900 census, Dunlap lived in the residence with his wife and children while operating the Dunlap Dry Goods Company on 51 East Main Street. As Dunlap became more prosperous, he moved to 280 Guy Park Ave and became a member of the school board.

I discovered an 1868 Map of Amsterdam from which is a great source of documentation for places as well as people. Notice how Amsterdam only occupied a very small section of the map. This is before Amsterdam was chartered as a city in 1885, before the Sanfords, before it acquired Port Jackson and Rock City and other surrounding properties. This is how Grove Street looked in 1868. My house is highlighted.

The next map is Amsterdam in 1905. In the 37 years that separate the two maps, the City of Amsterdam experienced the greatest increase in land, population and housing that it will ever have.  This is how Grove Street appeared in 1905.

1868 – The earliest owner I could find of my Grove Street home is listed on the 1868 map as F. Burke, although there were no other details available.

1870 – Prior to 1880 the US Census did not include street information

1880 – John Kennedy, his wife Mary Ann, daughters Mary and Kittie, twin sons George and John lived in 63 Grove Street. John was a carder at a woolen mill, his wife kept house and the children attended school.

1890 – US Census records destroyed by fire.

1900 – Checking the US Census information from 1900, I found the McNally family, born in Ireland, occupied the single family home at 63 Grove Street. Thomas McNally was a printer, his wife Elaine a homemaker, daughter Loretta a milliner, Catherine a dressmaker while Jessica and son Thomas were still in school.

1910 – A native NY family, the Dutchers lived in my house and converted the single family home into a two family, sharing it with the Powell and Calary families.  John Dutcher was a carpenter, his wife Sarah a homemaker. Son Fred Dutcher worked as a laborer, John Jr worked as a needlemaker in the needle factory. Alfred Powell (son in law) worked as a cutter in the knitting mill with his wife Alvirah a folder. Their three year old son Dewitt stayed home with his grandmother Sarah. Fifteen year old daughter Ida worked as a lacer in the knitting mill while twelve year old Hattie did not work. Ross Calary worked as a stainer in the knitting mill and his two sisters Sarah and Tressie worked as finishers. There were twelve people living in the house now occupied by me and my two cats!

1920 – The Hopkins family from Germany occupied one floor of my house. August Hopkins worked in the broom factory, his wife Frieda kept house while Lawrence and Charlotte worked in the knitting mill, daughter Grace worked as a clerk in ten cent store and Reinhardt, Elisabeth and Alice attended school.  Alexander Dressler, also from Germany lived on in the other half of the house with his Irish wife Helen and American son Sammy.  Alexander was an engineer who worked in the knitting mill.

1930 – Joseph Rios from Spain lived in my house with his Italian wife Lorrie and her brother Joseph Campanile.  Rios was a caretaker at the cemetery, his wife worked as a waitress in a hotel and her brother a clerk. The second apartment was occupied by Philip Webber from Russia who was employed as a retail clerk.

This map shows how the Grove Street area looks today after major restructuring from urban renewal that eliminated Maple Street, most of Liberty Street and the homes on either side and behind my house.

I have tried to illustrate the historic significance of the buildings that housed Amsterdam’s working class by describing the variety of ethnicities and work contributions of the people that passed through a single home. These are the people comprising the fabric of Amsterdam.

Can a home be considered historic even if it is not a mansion built by a millionaire? Do you know the history of your home? Is historic restoration even a possibility in Amsterdam? The answer is up to you.

Categories: Amsterdam, History | Tags: , , , ,

Zoning Update Meeting

Doug Greene and Ken Rose of Montgomery County Business Development Center anxiously wait for the public to arrive on Wednesday evening  in the Council Chamber at Amsterdam City Hall where proposed zoning changes illuminated the wall with the aid of a digital projector.

Doug Green dutifully covered each of the major changes explaining the reasoning that went into the process. He explained the major proposed change of eliminating the historic districts and implementing a city wide design guideline plan that would require new building and construction to comply with the basic guidelines that compliment their respective neighborhoods.

As with the other public meetings held for the proposed zoning updates, just a smattering of people were present. The local press wasn’t even interested.

Mayor Ann Thane tried her hand as videographer for the evening meeting, panning and zooming the camera to cover all the “action”.

St Mary’s Hospital CEO Victor Giulianelli thanked the Zoning Update Committee for their dedication and reminded us of the close relationship they maintain with the local neighborhood.

5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero inquires about historic building designation and the Chalmers Property. He is reassured by City Historian Robert von Hasseln that the designation has absolutely no bearing on the State approved demolition.

The most interesting segment of the night was presented by von Hasseln, who had a wealth of knowledge about historic districts, historic preservation and tax credits. He opposed the Committee plan to eliminate the Historic Districts from the zoning plan, suggesting instead to ease the historic regulations to a degree that is tolerable by the citizens residing in those districts. He further suggested that the Historic Amsterdam League could play a part in any needed input or even enforcement of basic guidelines for historic preservation that could earn the property owner tax credits or a tax break over a period of time.

The City Historian’s input was well though out and will be considered by the Zoning Update Committee after more input from the Historic Amsterdam League.

When approved by the Zoning Update Committee, the plan must be approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board and Amsterdam Common Council with another public meeting before it can be incorporated.

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

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