AIDA learns cost of hiding a wall with another wall


Following a letter Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane sent to the Amsterdam Industrial Develop-ment Agency last week, the board's executive director has received quotes for building false walls inside 44-46 Main St.

The walls would cover an existing mural splayed from floor to ceiling on the third floor of the former United Way building, a property AIDA owns.

Controversy has surrounded the mural since early summer when AIDA began to work in the mural's room. The mural depicts Old Fort Johnson surrounded by a river scene, speckled in tepees and trees. Some areas are peeling and the bottom of the mural was damaged with spray paint by the previous tenant.

Thane and a group of city residents have advocated for the preservation of the mural, pushing its historical value, which has yet to be determined.

While AIDA has not made a decision about what to do with the mural, its board entertained hiring a real estate broker, who called it a "marketing limitation." The broker, Michael Sampone of Pyramid Brokerage Co., has since retracted his offer to avoid what he called a "cat fight" between AIDA and the mayor.

In the letter, Thane requested the board have the mural photographed and documented; reattach the larger, loose portions that are peeling; and third, "appropriately" cover it 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."

According to a proposal submitted by AB Construction & Environmental LLC of Gloversville, to build the false walls as described in the mayor's letter, it would cost $15,111.

The proposal describes the supplies and parts that add up to the grand total. To frame all four walls, including supplies, it would cost $1,700. Labor to frame the walls would cost $3,000. To sheet rock and tape the "approximately 2,560 square foot" area, it would cost $3,840, and miscellaneous carpentry to box the windows and doors would cost $1,500. The company quoted gluing the peeling mural pieces, as stipulated in the letter, at $3,000.

The total includes labor and materials.

Board member Michael LaCoppola asked Jody Zakrevsky, AIDA's executive director, how much it would cost to just drill directly into the mural.

"What's the difference between us just doing it like it was a normal wall and either painting or sheet-rocking it and putting screws in it and making it look like a normal apartment?" LaCoppola said. "As opposed to spending $15,000 to box everything in so it's aesthetically pleasing for somebody to uncover this Capone's vault and see this in the future? What's the difference in price?"

If it's a great difference, LaCoppola, to which other board members agreed, said he'd rather spend that money on restructuring the building's facade.

Zakrevsky said he would have to rerun the numbers, but more than likely the funding to cover the mural would come from the facade's budget line.

Zakrevsky said he would have that estimate for the next meeting.

Pat Baia, director of the board's building and grounds committee, said he agreed with LaCoppola, but not with abiding by the letter sent by the mayor, which Baia called condescending.

"This letter is from someone who has a political agenda," Baia said. "Because of her pernicious actions, we lost a good Realtor who had multiple listings. I've contacted on my own two Realtors who refused to do it. ... Because of the emails and political posturing to promote two of the mayor's candidates in the 3rd Ward and in the 1st Ward, she scared away a competent Realtor."

Two AIDA board members, chairman Ronald J. Barone Sr. and Ed Russo, are running for seats on the common council, which Baia said is the reason Thane is so displeased with the decisions of the board.

Barone and Russo are Republicans, and Thane is a Democrat. Barone is seeking the 3rd Ward council seat against Debra Baranello, while Russo is running in the 1st Ward against Kenneth Mazur. Baranello and Mazur are Democrats.

"I was really hoping the mayor would be here tonight so we could clear the air and she chose not to," Baia said.

Zakrevsky said he suggested it would be beneficial for Thane to attend the meeting, giving her a chance to explain her letter, but she did not show.

Thane said she has not received an email from Zakrevsky regarding the mural since Aug. 28. That email was in regard to a restoration company that took samples of the mural.

Since, William Wills, a former alderman and a licensed real estate broker, has sent a letter to Zakrevsky expressing his interest in marketing the building. Wills was not at the meeting.

Zakrevsky also presented the board with a report by VK Restorations, a fine art and historic restoration business from Holyoke, Mass., which evaluated how much restoring the mural would cost.

"I was pleasantly surprised," Zakrevsky said. "They estimate the cost to basically put back the pieces of the mural that are lifting, reattach it with paste, hand draw by their artists the missing sections that are not there anymore, completely remove the [spray paint] and spray a protective covering over it for $65,000."

Though a lot less than Zakrevsky said he anticipated, it was still costly for most of the board members.

Decisions about how to move forward and which route to take will be discussed in a committee of the whole meeting prior to AIDA's next meeting.