AIDA says downtown renovation moving on


Now that a real estate broker has retracted his offer to help the Amsterdam Industrial Develop-ment Agency market 44-46 Main St., the AIDA board says it's like the project has taken two steps backward.

"That seems to be what happens in Amsterdam," Chairman Ronald J. Barone Sr. said Wednesday. "Things seem to be going forward, then all of a sudden, they regress. This is why we get nothing done."

The property, the former United Way building, contains a mural on the second floor. It depicts Old Fort Johnson, surrounded by a river scene, teepees and trees. One wall is distressed and peeling and spray paint has damaged the bottom. The entire mural stretches across the four 16-foot walls.

Mayor Ann Thane and other city residents have been advocating its preservation, claiming it has historic value.

During a Common Council meeting Tuesday night, Michael Sampone of Pyramid Brokerage Co., who presented a marketing plan to AIDA earlier this month, withdrew his offer. He said he and his company were "attacked" by Thane on Facebook and he no longer wishes to be involved in the "cat fight" between the mayor and the agency.

"It's unfortunate that Mr. Sampone was upset by apparently something that was shown on Facebook," Jody Zakrevsky, AIDA's executive director, said. "I felt sorry for him that he felt personally attacked by what was said."

Barone said the situation was blown out of proportion, as AIDA was still negotiating a contract with Sampone.

"Everybody jumps the gun," Barone said. "That's the problem in this city, everybody jumps the gun.

"I would worry about my finances before I'd worry about what we're doing," Barone said, pointing to the city's lack of balanced books and a current procedural audit by the state.

Barone and Zakrevsky said that although it's unfortunate the board couldn't do business with Sampone, the agency will proceed and find another person to market the building.

"Interestingly, today, a couple of realtors approached us about taking on the project," Zakrevsky said. "Obviously, at our next board meeting, we'll be discussing other options to hire another realtor firm."

Thane has said she's been trying to visit with a group of people interested in fundraising for the mural, but has been ignored.

During the last Common Council meeting, Thane said she would appreciate the courtesy of a reply from Barone.

On Wednesday, Barone said he has not received a single request to enter the building from Thane or anyone else in the city.

Zakrevsky, on the other hand, said he has passed all requests on to Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Pat Baia.

Once AIDA's insurance company learned the board had been letting the public into the building during construction phases, the agency was told anyone who wants to enter must sign a notice indemnifying AIDA against any liability suits.

"I do know that I relayed to the chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee that [Thane] has had an interest, and I think he's waiting for her to directly talk to him about going in the building," Zakrevsky said. "There just seems to be some miscommunication between everybody."

He added that Thane has been in the building this summer several times, as have Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis, city Engineer Richard Miller, and employees of the the city Department of Building and Codes.

Once AIDA signs on with a real estate agency, its will work to market the second and third floors as residential quarters and the ground floor will be commercial.

Zakrevsky said the board is looking for someone specialized in selling commercial properties, as they are more in tune with industrial spaces.

AIDA will next meet Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. At that time, members plan to discuss a report from VK Restoration, a fine art and historic restoration business from Holyoke, Mass., which has evaluated how much restoring the mural will cost AIDA, and also new marketing options.