The Frustratingly Enormous Yet Elusive Potential of Amsterdam, NY

Posted: April 29, 2010 in Vision
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Welcome to the Pars Nova blog!  My hope is that this can be a place to discuss new ideas and direction for Amsterdam, NY  in a positive, objective and respectful manner.  Here’s to hoping anyway!

First, a little about myself – My wife Lisa and I have four children and have lived in the Amsterdam area nearly our entire lives. My wife grew up in the city, I in the town. She went to the Catholic schools, I went to the public schools.  I got my first apartment in the city around ’97 and my wife and I moved in together when we got married in ’99.  We are happy to call Amsterdam our home. We’ve travelled to plenty of places, but we’ve never felt the desire to live anywhere else.  I started my own web site design business (Anthem Design)  in 2000 which has steadily grown into a full time career. I am active at my church Love  City Fellowship and in the local Neighborhood Watch/Neighborhood Association. I’m also a musician, I play keyboards and sing a little. I’ve played in rock bands and recorded some studio albums too.

What amazes me about the people of Amsterdam is the fact that so many hold very high expectations for Amsterdam, even in the face of the city’s depressingly slow and steady economic decline over the past few decades. It seems most people have an instinctive sense that Amsterdam still has plenty of potential. We believe that just  like an underdog football team, one day we’ll rally and win the championship.  That spirit is one of the things I like about living in Amsterdam. But with high expectations come great frustrations, as that winning rally seems to get more and more elusive as time goes on.

The trouble is not that we don’t all agree on what the “goal” is.  We remember with pride how the city used to be an economic leader and we want to be respected that way again. When we see the old deteriorating mills we get depressed and we wonder why we can’t get new businesses to move into them.  We think if they can’t be fixed up, they should be torn down. We see old pictures of how our downtowns used to look – full of specialty shops, restaurants and attractions – and we want that back.  We wish our city had the same exciting downtown culture that some of our neighboring cities have.  While our city still has many nice neighborhoods, we fret over the number of houses and streets that are falling into direpair and wonder where it will stop. We want our residential areas to look the way they used to. Crime is increasing and the number of stable families is decreasing. We want to feel safe in our neighborhoods.  Lastly, but not least, our school system is good, but falls behind other districts in performance. We want to be known for having excellent schools.

The problem is not that we don’t share the same goals, the problem is that there is little agreement as to how to get there.  We’re like a team of capable players who can’t seem to agree on a gameplan.  I believe the single most important things that is missing from Amsterdam that hinders our progress is the fact that we do not have a clear, well defined strategy that a clear majority of our residents and leaders understand and believe in.  So how do we get there? There’s no easy answer, but my next few posts will deal with some of the core problems I see in the way things are done.

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