If Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane is determined to make sure a mural discovered in a downtown building is preserved forever, we have a solution. Take a picture. It'll last longer.
The Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency owns a building at 44 Main St. and is in the process of converting it into apartment buildings. AIDA has spent a considerable amount of money so far on the project, which is now being held up after workers discovered a crumbling mural on the third floor.
The artwork is in poor shape. Parts of it are lifting off the wall or peeling away. Huge chunks are missing. There are several spray paint markings from an old tenant. Local historians aren't even sure of the painting's historic and monetary value. The mural itself depicts Old Fort Johnson and the area around it. Potential tenants of the AIDA apartments don't need a painting of the site. They can drive a short distance west and see the thing in person.
We don't understand why it's so important to hold up a downtown revitalization project to possibly preserve a painting in poor condition that may or may not even be worth the material it's drawn on.
We agree with the mayor that much of Amsterdam's history was lost when the city thought it was a good idea to put a bunch of arterials through the busy parts of town and then plop a mall in the middle of it. The Rug City has yet to fully recover from those bad decisions.
It's also no secret Thane is a major supporter of the arts. We appreciate some of the creative flair and culture she's tried to inject into Amsterdam. Her work to get the Creative Connections arts center on East Main Street is an artistic outlet the city needed.
Her efforts to paint murals across town and around City Hall have done much to improve the look of the city, and she's been effective in rounding up volunteers to help out.
The mayor is also on the right track when it comes to reviving what's left of restoring Amsterdam's downtown. The soon-to-be-finished traffic reconfiguration in the area will make it easier for people to get there, and that block of Main Street isn't as empty as some people think it is. The AIDA project is just another component of those downtown revitalization efforts. Converting the building into apartments could be a draw for younger people, as mixed residential/commercial models have been fairly successful in other cities that have rebuilt their downtowns.
It should also be pointed out that the building belongs to AIDA, not the mayor. The agency owns the building, and it has every right to do what it wants with it. The fact that the agency is willing to conform to some of Thane's wishes and has even allowed the city to research the history of the mural is a show of good faith on AIDA's part.
However, Thane's heavy accusations that the agency has no interest in the building or economic development isn't going to create further feelings of goodwill between the agency and her office. The comments were unnecessary, untrue and are further evidence that the mayor struggles at times to play nice with others, especially those who aren't in 100 percent agreement with her.
The mayor needs to walk away from this fight. It's not worth it, and there's no need to create friction between AIDA and City Hall over this.