By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
The city of Amsterdam is considering taking over two properties through eminent domain in order to move forward with the redevelopment of the former Mohasco site.
The Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency held a public hearing Monday regarding the potential takeover of the properties on Forest Avenue, which AIDA Executive Director Jody Zakrevsky said are key in attracting companies to the site.
"Without the acquisition of these properties, the city has no ability to attract any large manufacturing industries to the city and no ability to increase job opportunities through the rest of the city," Zakrevsky said.
The properties in question include a 25,700 square foot parcel owned by ANC Properties LLC, which is part of Noteworthy Industries located at 336 Forest Ave. The other property is located at 356 Forest Ave. and is owned by Peter and Cindy Demitraszek.
Zakrevsky said AIDA had been negotiating with the property owners to purchase the parcels but when AIDA attempted to acquire the property earlier this year, Noteworthy withdrew interest.
Representatives from Note-worthy, as well as Peter and Cindy Demitraszek, attended the public hearing Monday to voice their opposition to the takeover.
Daniel Spitzer, an attorney representing ANC Properties, said the company is looking to expand but the takeover of the parcel may have some detrimental impacts, specifically to parking and access.
"We do believe the taking, as proposed, has significant consequential impacts," Spitzer said. "You are taking more of the business than just the properties in question."
As a result, the business may be forced to relocate out of the city and Spitzer said the company "reserves the right to seek damages for the loss of the business and relocation costs if necessary."
Concerns were also raised about the agency's motives behind the takeover. Spitzer said that while the company was not seeking to litigate, there are questions about whether the reasons for eminent domain are legal.
"One particular business may benefit from this and we congratulate that business. However, you may not take private property to give to another private owner. You may only take property as a general redevelopment plan," Spitzer said.
Peter Demitraszek agreed, stating that the takeover was not only impacting his business but also his sister and his son.
"I am here to protect my rights in the future if it comes to litigation," Demitraszek said. "Some type of agreement should be made mutually, sitting down and talking about it."
According to Zakrevsky, the city has been looking at the redevelopment of the Mohasco site for several years and has developed multiple studies and done extensive remediation work.
In 2008, Amsterdam received a $2.5 million grant to redevelop the site and adjacent Esquire building as part of the state's Restore NY program.
In 2009, redevelopment plans called for a data center, which is when AIDA entered option agreements with Noteworthy and Demitraszek.
Since then, plans for the data center fell through and the Esquire building has been demolished after falling into disrepair.
Zakrevsky said the state, Montgomery County and independent manufacturing companies have approached AIDA to identify properties in the city large enough to accommodate a new manufacturing facility up to 150,000 square feet.
However, the city doesn't have any available land to accommodate such a request which has resulted in the loss of multiple economic development and job opportunities.
Zakrevsky said the city has suffered, with 18 percent of residents living below poverty level, which is higher than the state's average of 14 percent. He added the city's unemployment rate is also higher at 8.7 percent, compared to the state's 7.3 percent.
"The city is in need of providing job opportunities for its residents," Zakrevsky said.