Fight over mural may be drawing to a close


A dispute between Mayor Ann Thane and the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency over the preservation of a downtown mural may soon be resolved.

Thane sent a letter to the AIDA board Friday afternoon listing three "strong recommendations" in covering up the mural, if the agency does not want to take any additional measures to preserve it.

She has publicly advocated for restoring and preserving the mural, a depiction of Old Fort Johnson plastered on the four walls of a room in 44-46 Main St., a property AIDA owns. The mural -- the value of which has never been determined -- is peeling in places and is damaged with spray paint along the bottom.

Though neither AIDA's executive director or chairman has said it wants the mural removed, it has looked toward hiring a real estate broker to market the building with the painting covered up. That broker, Michael Sampone of Pyramid Brokerage Co., has since retracted his services to avoid what he called a "cat fight" between both parties.

The board's Building and Grounds Committee chairman, Pat Baia, has also recommended the agency cover the mural.

In her letter, Thane first requested the board have the mural photographed and documented. So states the letter, "an experienced local photographer has volunteered his time and equipment at no charge. This information has been conveyed to your executive director. All that is required is your concurrence and completion of an insurance liability form."

Second, she said she'd like the building's contractor to reattach the larger, loose portions that are peeling. This, according to the letter, can be accomplished "quickly and inexpensively" by using wall paper paste to prevent further deterioration.

These suggestions lead up to "appropriately" covering up the mural, Thane wrote, with material "that is not in direct contact with the mural and by means of attachment to the wall that are the minimum necessary and of a type that could easily be removed and repaired at a later date. No special coverings, barrier materials or fasteners would be required."

Thane said this in no way means she's giving up or changing her opinion about its historical value.

"I still regard a larger preservation effort now as both feasible and desirable and that a preserved mural could be a marketing asset -- for both the building and the city -- certainly now, but also at a later date," Thane said in the letter. "Taking the above actions would keep the mural intact while also permitting additional research on it until such time."

Thane said she doesn't think this is the best option, but an option that serves both of their concerns.

"As your board continues in its stated intent to disregard the mural and build the space out generically, every effort should be made to preserve the mural," Thane said in the letter. "It is my hope that at a later date, a more enlightened owner will restore this lost masterpiece, building a new and better future for the downtown through insight into its past."

During its next board meeting on Sept. 26, AIDA will be discussing new marketing options, after the announcement of Sampone's withdrawal, as well as a report from VK Restoration. The company, from Holyoke, Mass., is a fine art and historic restoration business which has evaluated how much restoring the mural would cost.

Executive director Jody Zakrevsky was unavailable for comment. Barone said he hadn't received the letter yet and wouldn't comment until he read it and talked with Zakrevsky.