Alissa Scott/Recorder staff Nick Greco, left, and Carl Zanella, shown Thursday, meet with a group of a dozen others to discuss the world's problems in a "meeting of the minds" at McDonald's on Market Street in Amsterdam every morning.
By ALISSA SCOTT
Recorder News Staff
For more years than they can count, a dozen or so "old folks," as they refer to themselves, have been meeting for early morning coffee to discuss everything from international politics to the deterioration of the city of Amsterdam.
"These folks were all successful businessmen at one time," 1st Ward Supervisor Vito "Butch" Greco said. "They see the condition of the city and they just get so depressed, because it's just not how it used to be. Nobody stays here."
"And who could blame them?" Joe Agresta said. "The taxes are too high. The city is deteriorating. You don't see too many people moving to Amsterdam. It doesn't have a good reputation for a city that a family with kids would want to move here."
On one side of the aisle, the men sat, and just across the aisle, sat the women. Of them all, Greco said there was "thousands of years of experience" if you added up all of their ages. Some of the other members joked with him because he wasn't in the 75 and older club and shouldn't be allowed to sit with them.
"[The city's reputation] is why housing prices are so low," Agresta continued. "That's why your taxes are so high. Schools are not ranked very high. The whole city does not have the best reputation."
They talked about the city's prime-time, when it was the "rug capital of the world," and how Amsterdam evolved into its current status.
"All the mills moved out and when the mills moved out, instead of making this a bedroom community, like Albany and Schenectady because that's where everybody worked, they tried to bring in industries," Agresta said. "And they brought an industry that didn't pay. Because of that, they lost their population. They lost their level of income in the city. And it's just gone down since then."
All the men nodded in agreement, repeating key phrases and throwing in their two cents. Once they had worn out one conversation, they quickly jumped to a new topic -- like the mayor, the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course or the recreation department.
"They're doing a hell of a job at Shuttleworth Park," Agresta said. "Brian Spagnola's doing a great job of revitalizing it. ... I think everybody agrees that he's doing a great job and he's bringing money into the city and the recreation."
"Even tourism," Greco added. "Everyone is coming from all over the area to see the baseball players. It's boosting it up, but you've got some people who hate to see people be successful. So there's a lot of criticism."
Across the aisle, the women, who said they were members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church but asked not to be named, discussed much of the same -- taxes are too high, the young people don't stay in the area and the Riverfront Center mall destroyed the city.
"They ran it right through our city," one woman, who said she's lived in Amsterdam her whole life, said. "It ruined us and they're not doing anything with it. And they hang these flower baskets everywhere, but look at the streetlights near the entrance of the city. I mean hello."
"I mean really," her friend said. "Small city, big heart? Please."