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Amsterdam Receives $10 Million Downtown Revitalization Grant

From left to right: State Senator George Amedore, State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Amsterdam Mayor Mike Villa, Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort
Lucas Willard
From left to right: State Senator George Amedore, State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Amsterdam Mayor Mike Villa, Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort

The City of Amsterdam has won a transformative grant from New York state to make major upgrades to its downtown.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul appeared at Amsterdam City Hall Wednesday, admiring the Mohawk Valley city’s history, architecture and charm. Though the purpose of Hochul’s visit had been leaked a few hours before the announcement, local residents and officials exploded with applause after the Democrat declared that Amsterdam had won a top economic development prize.

“To an outsider who comes periodically, you need to know that you have something really special here today,” some Hochul. “But today we have an opportunity to take it to a whole new level. And that is why I’m so honored to announce that you, Amsterdam, the people of this community, are the recipients of a $10 million Downtown Revitalization award. Congratulations.”

After three tries, this year marked Amsterdam’s first time winning the Downtown Revitalization Initiative award, one of 10 given annually across the state in the program created by the Cuomo administration. Communities that make their pitch for the award are chosen by the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils.

Mayor Mike Villa said city leaders were optimistic for the $10 million grant.

“We were hopeful, but we were hopeful last year too,” said Villa. “We thought we did a pretty good job last year as well. But you learn from some of the things you could have done better. We advanced projects that weren’t quite ready then that are ready now. And I really think the state is paying attention.”

In August 2016, the riverfront city saw the completion of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge after years of planning and $18 million in state funding. The city has also been the recipient of several infrastructure-related grants in recent years to assist with water and sewer issues.

For the DRI award, the city will first put together a team to discuss uses for the grant, but officials have already outlined some priority projects.

On that list are a Community Center and City Recreation Center, a multi-modal transportation center and relocation of the city’s Amtrak station, the construction of a new library, and streetscape and parking improvements to the Chalmers Mills Lofts, a former industrial site.

Mayor Villa hopes the projects will support growth.

“I think all of that will encourage development along Main Street. We do have some possibilities down there that I can’t speak to right now, but again, this is a shot in the arm for the City of Amsterdam  that gives us the capital to work with to bring these projects to light,” said Villa.

Amsterdam, in Montgomery County, is a half-hour drive from Canajoharie, where another transformative project is taking shape through state and federal funding: the partial demolition and remediation of the former 1 million square foot Beech Nut factory.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort reflected on the teams of local residents and officials who have brought such projects to reality.

“I came down with…I’m sick with everything under the sun. I have a new daughter that’s in school for the first time and apparently she’s bringing everything home,” joked Ossenfort. “ So I’m leaving the Association of Counties coming back from Rochester yesterday, and I’m tired and I’m cranky. I walk in that door after a three-hour drive, and there my little girl is with a congratulatory balloon and a card. And that’s when it hit me. This isn’t about us. This is about the future. This is about how we’re going to leave this area for our kids and our grandkids. And that’s the truly exciting thing about it.”

Ossenfort said the card read:

“Good things come to those who wait. Great things come to those who get out and get after it.”

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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