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Cudmore: Marcus Breier, Amsterdam mayor and businessman

Cudmore: Marcus Breier, Amsterdam mayor and businessman

   Brooklyn-born Marcus I. Breier, a Republican, had never run for elected office when he defeated Democratic Party political icon Arthur Carter in Amsterdam’s 1963 mayoral election by 1,600 votes.

   While serving as the city’s chief executive, Breier continued to head his family’s clothing company, Breier’s of Amsterdam.  He worked at City Hall in the morning and went to his factory then on Edson Street in the afternoon.

   He was the first city mayor to serve a four-year term because of a change in the city charter.  However, under a provision in the charter change that was dropped after he left the mayor’s office, Breier was not allowed to seek a second term.

   He was the second Jewish mayor of Amsterdam.  The first was attorney Carl S. Salmon, Sr. who was elected to three two-year terms in the 1920s.

   Born in 1912, to Benjamin and Golda Stern Breier, Marcus was a 1930s era graduate of Cornell University and Cornell Law School. 

   He practiced law for a year before joining the family’s men’s clothes business, then named Marcus Breier & Son’s in honor of his grandfather.  His grandfather founded the firm in New York City in 1898.

   Marcus’ father Benjamin moved the company’s manufacturing to Leonard Street in Amsterdam in 1933, while Breier’s showroom was at the Empire State Building in Manhattan.

   “Nothing was easy,” Marcus Breier recalled in 2008.  “My father worked in Amsterdam all week and came home to New York City on the weekends.  It’s impossible to know the sacrifices people made in the Depression.”

   Breier married Amsterdam native Eleanore Cramer in the 1940s.  They had two sons and a daughter.

   On Breier’s watch the family business supplied the military with aviator jackets in World War II.  He, along with other menswear executives and the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers, helped popularize the Father's Day holiday.

   Breier credited state Supreme Court Justice Felix J. Aulisi, a longtime friend, with encouraging him to enter politics in the 1960s, saying, “He put the bug in my ear.”

   During Breier’s four years as mayor, urban renewal took hold in Amsterdam.  The public safety building on Guy Park Avenue extension was started and Veterans Park on Locust Avenue was developed.  The low-income and senior citizen housing projects on Division Street were begun as was the north-south Route 30 arterial highway.

   Breier worked with Democratic U.S. Rep. Samuel Stratton of Schenectady and Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to secure funds for Amsterdam for urban renewal and other projects.

   He instituted a youth employment program.  I was among those hired the summer of 1964 to work as a laborer in the city Public Works Department.

   The image of a Dutch-style windmill was made part of the city seal during the Breier administration.

   Breier was succeeded in office in 1968 by Democrat John P. Gomulka, who was elected to three four-year terms.

   Breier did not leave politics. In 1969 went on to win elections to multiple terms as Amsterdam First Ward supervisor, serving on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.  Breier also did a stint as county board chairman. 

   An active member of Congregation Sons of Israel, he was president of the synagogue on several occasions.  He also wrote a history of Amsterdam, available at the local library. 

   He and his wife Eleanore maintained a home on McClellan Avenue in Amsterdam for almost seven decades.  They also had residences in Northville, N.Y., and the state of Florida. 

   Marcus Breier died in 2010 in Miami, Florida at age 97.  He was buried at Temple of Israel Cemetery in Cranesville.   

   His six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren called him Pop.

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