Op-ed column: Misplaced ecstasy

Amsterdam’s 5th Ward alderman, Richard Leggiero, says he is “ecstatic” over Judge Joseph Sise’s ruli

Amsterdam’s 5th Ward alderman, Richard Leggiero, says he is “ecstatic” over Judge Joseph Sise’s ruling that he won’t issue an injunction to stop the demolition of the Chalmers building in Amsterdam. I can understand a response such as “it’s sad but necessary that the building has to be demolished.” But ecstasy — defined by the dictionary as 1. Intense joy or delight 2. A state of emotion so intense that one is carried beyond rational thought and self-control — is a little hard to take.

It’s hard for me to imagine anyone being ecstatic about spending $2 million of taxpayers’ money to demolish a building that someone wanted to rehab. It’s hard for me to understand someone being ecstatic knowing that the $2 million would have made a great start toward rehabbing the Chalmers building.

It’s hard for me to imagine anyone being ecstatic knowing that the materials that cannot be recycled from the demolished building will end up in a landfill. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone being ecstatic knowing that Cohoes has 231 beautiful luxury apartments and is getting $230,000 a year in lieu of taxes for the Harmony Mills apartment complex that Uri Kaufman rehabbed, while Amsterdam is getting nothing.

Opposition to mayor

Several others have expressed their ecstasy as well. But is it really the demolition of the Chalmers building they are ecstatic about? Opposition to rehabbing the building never really seemed to be about demolishing it but about demolishing Uri Kaufman and, through him, demolishing Mayor Ann Thane’s chances of getting re-elected.

Several comments left on some Amsterdam blogs appear to support this contention. One anonymous coward commented, “This is great news!!! Hopefully by this time next year, none of us will have to look at the Chalmers building or Ann Thane!” Another person who at least had the courage to give his first name, commented, “Bye-bye Uri!!!!!” A third vocal opponent of rehabbing Chalmers stated, “That strange sound you hear is the weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Thane and Tonko households.”

Further evidence of the animosity directed at Uri Kaufman and Mayor Thane was exhibited by 1st Ward Alderman Joe Isabel on Al Roney’s show in early March. Isabel was so hostile and so dominated the show with his rudeness that Roney had to order Isabel’s microphone turned down several times so that he and Kaufman could get a word in. It was incredibly embarrassing to listen to and made not just Isabel look bad but reflected badly on the entire city of Amsterdam. (Click here to watch the interview).

Law not always sensible

I can’t fault Judge Sise for his ruling. A judge has to follow the law; however, the law is not always on the side of justice, morality, what’s best for the people or, in this case, common sense and reason. It’s not reasonable to spend $2 million to tear down a building when the same money could be put toward rehabbing it.

It’s not reasonable for the same people who don’t want to accept $16 million from the state to create a pedestrian bridge to be ecstatic about getting $2 million from the state to demolish a building at the foot of that bridge.

It’s also not reasonable for Alderman Isabel to state on Al Roney’s show that Amsterdam does not need luxury apartments like those which Uri Kaufman created in Cohoes because Amsterdam doesn’t have the kinds of people who can afford luxury apartments. Former Amsterdam Assessor Michael Chiara reiterated this notion on the April 15 podcast of the Show With No Name. Do these guys really think that down-at-the-heels Cohoes had people who could afford luxury apartments prior to rehabbing Harmony Mills?

It reminds me of the time I was on a church board and suggested we create a nursery. The rest of the board said we don’t have any babies in the church so we don’t need one. I pointed out the fact that without a nursery, it was unlikely that any young parents would ever attend the church.

Offensive statement

On the April 15 podcast, Chiara went even further than Isabel and repeatedly asked the rhetorical question “Why would anyone come to Amsterdam?” As one of many transplants in Amsterdam, I find the question/statement insulting. I can give dozens of reasons why people would come to Amsterdam, starting with the many lovely people who live here.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, whom I’ve rarely agreed with and never voted for, has stated that negative vibes from the Chalmers fiasco will go out to the development community and keep them from coming here. I agree, but maybe that’s what a tiny minority of Amsterdamians want.

Their dream seems to have been, “If we unbuild it, they won’t come.”

Judge Sise has made their dream come true, and they are ecstatic. Ecstatic over demolishing a building and creating a field of dreams — a field of dreams that will be nothing but a $2 million vacant lot.

Daniel T. Weaver lives in Amsterdam and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.

Categories: Opinion

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