AMSTERDAM — After a decade working for the Schenectady Department of Development, Daniel Gray is now eager to support ongoing revitalization efforts in Amsterdam as the city’s new director of community and economic development.
“I’ve always found a lot of parallels between Schenectady and Amsterdam,” Gray said Friday. “Amsterdam is really in a good position to start moving forward economically, and through community development and the housing side. Pulling those three things together, and moving them in tandem, is something I’m excited to work on.”
Mayor Michael Cinquanti said Gray brings a depth of experience and existing connections to his new position in Amsterdam. Gray began this week after being selected from a pool of applicants for the opening posted in March.
“He has a lot of experience in housing and revitalization of neighborhoods,” Cinquanti said. “He started on Tuesday and is digging right into the myriad of economic development projects and initiatives here. He has a lot of experience in a lot of what we’re in the middle of.”
Gray worked in the Schenectady Department of Development for the last 10 years. Most recently, he served for two years as the supervisor of community development, managing federal coronavirus relief aid to that city and allocations to projects with local groups, as well as the $3.5 million allocated to the entitlement community by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“He is familiar with the integration of the development process with the political process. He understands how to get things done in government and worked with many of the same people we are,” Cinquanti said.
As the director of community and economic development, Gray will receive an annual salary of $74,500 in Amsterdam. He earned $68,364 last year in Schenectady, according to public payroll data published by the Empire Center online at SeeThroughNY.
Gray is filling the opening created by the departure of the city’s former director, Amanda Bearcroft. She resigned in mid-March to take a position with the state Department of State overseeing community revitalization programs.
The city hired Bearcroft to re-establish the shuttered Community and Economic Development Department, while overseeing administration of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) state grant award in October 2018.
“Amanda Bearcroft was certainly wonderful at what she did,” Cinquanti said. “She certainly had multi-talents and it’s going to be hard to fill her shoes, but I think we’ve got the right person to grow into those shoes, and I’m looking forward to working with Dan and he’s looking forward to working with the city.”
Cinquanti met with Gray on his first day to go over priorities coming into a position where there are dozens of active projects and initiatives to manage. The initial focus will largely involve securing gap funding to move forward with several projects underfunded through the $10 million DRI grant.
Project costs have increased steeply in the years since the city was awarded the DRI grant and developed initial plans and estimates. The city has been forced to seek additional sources to fully fund several projects. Gray will work on funding applications alongside Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, Amsterdam’s community development and grants assistant, and consultant Nicholas Zabawsky.
Cinquanti is especially eager to secure the funding for the recreation center planned on land now carrying eastbound on Route 5 and for the elevated boardwalk planned on the former Chalmers Knitting Mill site to connect with the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook (MVGO) Pedestrian Bridge.
Planning for the demolition of the former strip mall off the Five Corners intersection, anticipated in September using a $2 million state grant award, is another priority. Preparing bid documents to identify a developer to stabilize and renovate 20-22 Main St. with a separate $1 million state grant is another focus, as well as overseeing updates to the city’s planning documents.
“He is hitting the ground running on all of those things,” Cinquanti said. “It will be a team effort and he is a quick study and he will be up to speed.”
Gray said the many projects and initiatives underway in Amsterdam attracted him to the position in the first place. After observing the local progress as a native of the surrounding community, he is eager to be part of the forward momentum in the city.
“I’m excited to start here,” Gray said. “I appreciate the fact that the mayor brought me on board. It seems like a great community. I look forward to working with the city municipal government, as well as residents.”
Gray holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He is originally from Glenville and graduated from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School.
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.