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$5 million to support community projects in Amsterdam

 Democratic Mayor Mike Cinquanti speaks outside 149 E. Main St. in Amsterdam
Lucas Willard
Democratic Mayor Mike Cinquanti speaks outside 149 E. Main St. in Amsterdam

Officials gathered in Amsterdam Tuesday to celebrate $5 million in federal funding that will support two projects key to the small city’s redevelopment plans.

The City of Amsterdam has been working to breathe new life into its downtown and reverse of the unintended effects of urban renewal.

Congressman Paul Tonko of the 20th District, a Democrat who calls Amsterdam home, spoke outside a vacant building that for a half-century was a popular restaurant on the city’s Main Street – an avenue that is today separated from the rest of downtown by the Riverfront Mall.

“Urban renewal oftentimes brings great work but then sometimes will create patterns that are difficult and they divided the community, somewhat,” said Tonko. “And so we need to revitalize by working with this project.”

Included as community projects in the recently-signed federal omnibus spending bill, Amsterdam will receive $5 million for two investments included in its downtown revitalization plan.

Three million will support a pedestrian connector for a planned multi-modal transportation hub. Two million dollars will go toward the establishment of a new community center at 149 Main Street.

Standing outside on a windy morning, Amsterdam Mayor Mike Cinquanti remarked on the history of the building.

“Some of you may not be old enough to remember Ed Sullivan, but Ed Sullivan’s mother and father lived in this building. And there was as guy named George George who made the greatest soup in the history of Amsterdam. He worked at Carmel’s Diner and he lived in this building, and I’ll never forget George George. But it’s a piece of history behind us,” said Cinquanti.

Located beside Centro Civico, the new community center will provide programs for children and adults. A large recreation center is envisioned behind the current structure.

“This community center, the massive recreation center which will be positioned alongside it, the revitalized Amsterdam Free Library, the residential apartments going in our city’s iconic seven-story downtown bank building, the new boardwalk which will kick off the promising development efforts moving forward on the Chalmers property are all reasons why people will be coming to and living in downtown Amsterdam again,” said Cinquanti.

The community center is being developed in a partnership between Centro Civico and the Boys & Girls Club.

Centro Civico’s Roxanne Marin said the federal funding is supporting the project that was delayed due to the pandemic.

“They started planning the center way before COVID-19. COVID-19 also put, unfortunately, a halt to this program and to the project stuff. Now we’re excited with additional funding we can proceed and COVID hopefully is in our past,” said Marin.

Justin Reuter, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Capital Area, said the community center and youth mentorship programs will be a “welcome addition” to the City of Amsterdam.

“Together we will bring services to those who need us most in this community and truly make a difference,” said Reuter.

The $5 million to support the community center and pedestrian connector are part of 10 community projects funded at more than $14 million dollars secured by Tonko, who has been touring the Capital Region to celebrate the investments.

“It’s the kind of assistance that’s been a long time coming that’s required because it’s about rebuilding a community, offering all sorts of opportunities, bringing in outsiders with the athletic center that will happen with this, and putting together an opportunity for the community to breathe life into some buildings that have been vacated, and then also connecting the pedestrian bridge to the downtown core,” said Tonko.

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