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Amsterdam mayor, developers at odds over mural
The third-floor room at 44 Main St. that used to be a speakeasy in the 1920s could soon be someone's living quarters or office. The people renovating the space believe the odds of finding a tenant are greater if they paint over a mural showing patoral scenes of the Mohawk valley, including a rendering of the city's historic Fort Johnson. The city's mayor says that decades-old artwork should be preserved.
"I've been showing the building for seven years and hoping for some sort of downtown revitalization," says Mayor Anne Thane. Her hope has been that someone would take over and make creative use of that space, to include the art of the walls. "Two years ago I encouraged the United Way to sell it to AIDA (Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency), because the presumption was that they would preserve the mural," says Thane.
"My board, at this point in time, is recommending we just cover it up, paint over it and just move on," says Jody Zakrevsky, Executive Director of AIDA.
Zakrevsky says restoring the mural would cost at least $60,000. He estimates building a wall in front of it and leaving the mural as is would cost about quarter of that - a cost the AIDA board is reluctant to spend, figuring the odds of anyone ever removing the wall to restore the mural are slim.
Asked whether the city ever considered buying the building, Thane said, "The city is not in a position to purchase the property and in fact, AIDA had suggested that they would be the ones to be able to take the building on and get the grants."
"The city hasn't offered any financial incentive for us to restore it or to keep it," says Zakrevsy. Asked whether it would be possible for the city to rent the space, he said that would be possible. He says his group recognizes some people see local value in the mural and if there were a way to save it, they would. He says his group does not have the money to do it. "We're kind of in a state of confusion as to what to do with it," Zakrevsky says. He said he expects his board to meet again November 21.