Heather Nellis/Recorder staff The grounds of a former chemical plant at 11 Edward St. in Amsterdam is the site of a breakout event scheduled Saturday by the 69ers Motorcycle Club.
By HEATHER NELLIS
Members of a motorcycle club that recently established a local chapter in the Rug City are revving their engines in anticipation of an outdoor "breakout" event Saturday.
The 69ers Motorcycle Club will gather at 1 p.m. on the grounds of what is reportedly its new clubhouse at 11 Edward St., according to a flier on the club's website. The day will feature live bands, food and drinks for $15 per person, and $25 per couple. The flier notes all are welcome, but "we reserve the right to refuse anyone."
The event will benefit the city's youth group Wishful Thinking. Club members have "guaranteed compliance" in meetings held during the past month with Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick and officials in the city Codes Department.
James Street resident Michael Newbury, who owns the former chemical plant at 11 Edward St., approached the police chief to notify him of his intentions while planning the event, Culick said.
Culick referred to the club as an organized motorcycle gang, or OMG, as the law enforcement community refers to such groups.
The club classifies itself as One Percenters, which is described by the National Gang Threat Assessment as "a group of motorcyclists who have voluntarily made a commitment to band together to abide by their organization's rules enforced by violence, and who engage in activities that bring them and their club into repeated and serious conflict with society and the law."
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates there are approximately 300 One Percenter OMGs in the country.
However, Culick and Mayor Ann Thane said they don't expect any trouble from the club, or at the event.
"[Newbury] let me know they're not looking to create waves. I told him all I want for my city is peace, and he agreed with that," Culick said. "I don't foresee any problems. I think the fact he approached me first is commendable."
When asked if she has fielded concerns from citizens about the establishment of the group or the upcoming event, Thane said the subject been circulating "the coffee shop circuit."
"Rumors can be very eviscerating," Thane said. "But Mike Newbury has approached the city over the past month, and is doing everything he can to ensure the event is peaceful, and has been working with the codes department."
"People should be vigilant, but don't be fearful," she added.
Culick said Newbury told him it is a group that "just likes to ride together in a club atmosphere," and described the members as men with good-paying jobs. Both Newbury and another club member who met with Culick told him they are longtime engineers at General Electric.
Culick said people might have a perception of motorcycle clubs because of the recent popularity of TV programs like "The Sons of Anarchy."
"People see shows like that and get nervous and scared; maybe because of the whole loud motorcycle aspect," he said. "I think a lot of it is the reputation gangs carry, and the Hell's Angels stigma."
But Culick doesn't think there's a reason to be nervous. He said there have been no calls to the police department to date in regard to the club. He said there has been a noticeable presence of motorcycles at the tavern at the intersection of James and Edward streets, but there have not been any calls related to that, either.
"We will let it play out and see how it goes," he said.
Culick doesn't anticipate any issues at Saturday's event, and promised a full police detail in conjunction with state troopers.
While the 69ers may be the first motorcycle club to root itself in Amsterdam, they are not rare. Neither are their breakout events, Culick said.
According to its website, 69ers Motorcycle Club is one of the oldest of its kind in the state, and has been around Brooklyn since the early 1960s.
Other chapters can be found in Staten Island, Troy, Sullivan County, Queens, and Puerto Rico, with others coming, the site says.
Statewide, between all clubs, Culick said there will be 40 breakout events between now and the end of the biking season.
"The events aren't uncommon. It's just uncommon to have one here in Amsterdam," he said.
Given what the event is, Culick said there is a mutual understanding between the group and the cops.
"There may be a handful of tickets for illegal equipment and loud pipes, but breakout parties are not uncommon, and I anticipate they will be on their best behavior if they know they're driving up to the cops," Culick said.
Newbury was called this week to comment for this story, and talk about the club, but said he would forward the interview request to the group's unnamed media representative, who did not call.
The only thing he did say was that the outdoor event will benefit Wishful Thinking.
"The reason we chose that was because the police chief, the mayor, and the code enforcement officer. We wanted to say 'Thank you for what you have done for us,'" Newbury said.
Beyond concerns of public safety, city officials have also addressed the event for compliance with the city's code and zoning laws.
"The fire chief, the code enforcement officer and myself met with them, and told them what we need and expect, and they are guaranteeing compliance. We will keep our eyes on them," Culick said.
The event will be held outside the structure, as the building is not up to code, and is zoned for manufacturing, Culick said.
There is also a possibility the building will never be approved as the clubhouse because of concerns of its structural integrity, he said.
"Code enforcement laid down the law because of the way the building, which was used as a chemical plant, is zoned. Because it's not cleared to have a party inside, they will be holding the event on the grounds," Culick said.
Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Senecal, who is reportedly working the case, didn't return a message seeking comment, but Tom McQuade, another city code enforcer, said there were a variety of concerns that had to be addressed in regard to the building and the event.
McQuade said the property was purchased from the city with the intent to be used as a "personal accessory garage" to the one-family home Newbury owns on James Street.
The building was described as a two-story multiple dwelling erected for manufacturing, and a permit is required for its use otherwise.
McQuade said several issues had to be addressed, such as parking, whether a tent will be erected because the building isn't cleared for entry, and bathroom use, considering there is no water running to the building, he said.
Culick said Newbury requested a permit to have a street festival-type event, and to block off the street, but the chief denied it.
"They can do what they want on their own property, but I couldn't let them close the street," Culick said. "There's an elderly population in the area, and I don't want to bother them."