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Main Street closure conflict escalates

Witnesses say that Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler demanded the westbound lane of the portion of Main Street that was closed for the Farmers’ Market be re-opened and then proceeded to remove street closing signs during a heated argument Saturday morning. The incident comes on the heals of a recent veto by Mayor Ann Thane of a common council resolution passed in September which requested the police chief cease allowing the weekly partial closure of the street for the Farmers’ Market. The resolution claimed that businesses were being negatively affected by the weekly closure from 10am to 2pm which started in June. However, local businesses have given both positive, negative, and neutral comments in regards to the impact of the market.

According to Market Manager Sherri Bardascini Crouse, Hatzenbuhler arrived at the market Saturday morning and drove past the street closed sign near the intersection of Chuctanunda and Main Street in order to park, and then went into the New Paris Shop. Shortly afterward, a police officer showed up at the scene. According to Police Chief Greg Culick, the police department received a call at approximately 11:25am from Hatzenbuhler with a complaint about the parking situation.

Haztenbuhler said Sunday she went to Main Street in response to a call from Philomena Iorio, the manager of the New Paris Shop, who said there were no parking spaces left on the street, possibly due to another special event also going on at the same time. Hatzenbuhler said she contacted the police department because she observed an illegally parked car blocking the open section of Main Street.

Shortly after, Hatzenbuhler came out of the New Paris Shop, approached the market area, and demanded the opening of the westbound lane of Main Street. Crouse said she confronted Hatzenbuhler and refused to move the signs. Haztenbuhler then moved the signs from the westbound lane herself. Crouse said she moved the signs back and prevented Hatzebuhler from moving them again.

Ayla O’Donnell, a vendor at the market, also witnessed the incident.

“Sherri told her that she was not going to allow her to move the barriers and repeatedly asked her to leave at which time [Hatzenbuhler] moved closely to Sheri’s face and exclaimed ‘f— you’ and walked away,” said O’Donnell. “I can say I was shocked at the use of her profanity.”

Hatzenbuhler returned to the New Paris Shop. Shortly after that, additional police showed up at the scene. Haztenbuhler said she was told by the police that she would need to leave the signs alone. After spending some time at the New Paris Shop, Hatzenbuhler left without further incident.

According to Iorio, the partial closing of the street has had a negative impact on her dress shop since the market began operating every Saturday starting in June. Iorio said she has operated the business on Main Street for approximately 40 years.

“I love the farmers’ market, it’s a good idea,” said Iorio on Monday, but added that she didn’t think the street should be closed for it.

Iorio said that the majority of her customers come from out-of-town and are not familiar with Amsterdam’s streets. Although the storefront is not within the closed section of Main Street, and the east entrance to the street is opened, Iorio said that customers approaching from the west side of Main Street don’t know how to get to her store.

Iorio said she was “fed up” with the situation and that Mayor Ann Thane had not responded personally after repeated calls to her office. She said that inquiries to the police department were referred back to the mayor’s office. She said that Hatzenbuhler and Alderman Ed Russo were the only officials who had responded to her problem.

In regards to Iorio’s calls, Thane said on Monday, “I have suggested through my secretary that she contact the other shops on Main Street so that they work through their issues as a group.”

Police Chief Greg Culick said Monday that his position was that the market had the right to continue its closure of the street because the common council had yet to override Thane’s veto. Culick said he would comply with the resolution requesting he cease allowing the weekly closure if the veto were overturned and on the advice of the corporation counsel.

Previously, Thane disputed the authority of the council to direct the chief.

“Direction of staff is an executive function,” wrote Thane in her veto statement. “I will not direct the Chief to disallow this partial closure.”

A resolution to override the mayor’s veto is on the agenda for tonight’s common council meeting at 7:00pm at City Hall.

About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

18 Responses to Main Street closure conflict escalates

  1. Thom Georgia says:

    I think we buried the lead here: Hatzenbuhler broke the law and, even more egregious, potentially placed innocent pedestrians at risk of bodily injury!

    For kicks and giggles, I checked the NYS MUTCD-supplement (Manual on Traffic Control Devices). Hatzenbuhler plainly broke state law by removing a police-erected traffic barricade put up for the purpose of pedestrian safety. Moreover, she stands in violation of city code by circumventing the police chief’s authority to direct his dept. to erect traffic control devices (§228). This needs to go to the ethics board, and the public integrity bureau of the AG’s office.

    • Diane says:

      At no time was anyone ever in any danger. Both myself and Ms. Crouse were standing directly where the signs had been placed by Ms. Crouse and were put back by her while we were both standing there.

      • Thom Georgia says:

        Yes, people were put in danger! By your own admission you removed the barriers (illegal action), but more importantly, your actions directly resulted in drawing Ms. Crouse into the street which was, at that point, without traffic control devices in place. Your hissy-fit could have caused a vehicle to strike her. Your negligence, irresponsibility, and criminal activity are warranting your immediate arrest and, if you had any decency or respect for others, your resignation and disappearance from public life.

  2. Pam says:

    This has to be a Saturday Night Live sketch, right? Most nice cities have Farmer’s Markets in their commercial district and people love them. I can only shake my head.

  3. Mike Wieszchowski says:

    Diane Hatzenbuhler overstepping her bounds in nothing new and it is disturbing to see her, as a public official, disregard the laws. It amazes me how everyone in this City’s government is more concerned about being right and putting down the opposition rather than listening and compromising. In this case it is simple, simply put up a couple temporary wayfinding signs during that time period directing the traffic from the west to the other main street entrance. You can’t make everyone happy, but you can come to a middle ground that everyone can live with.

    • Diane says:

      Mike the intention was to compromise with the opening of the far right lane and putting up barricades to alert people to traffic………quite simple. The other compromise would have been for them to move into the parking lot that the city leases, right there and be off the road altogether.

      • Rob Millan says:

        There was no ‘compromise’- the resolution was vetoed as the Common Council cannot direct the Chiefs of either department to do anything. You forced a compromise that doesn’t exist. And you cannot just create your own parking space by removing a police-imposed barricade.
        Also, ‘At no time was anyone ever in any danger.’ – that is incorrect; you placed pedestrians in danger by removing the barricade. Yes, someone replaced it, but that was only after you illegally removed it.

  4. diane hatzenbuhler says:

    (1) The reason I drove around the barricade was to park. There was no place to park in the front section as there was a billiards tournament and everything was full. I planned on stopping in to see Dan Weaver on the way out and I was in front of his store. There were already 3 cars parked from the corner to the bookstore.

    (2) Yes, I did call the APD, as someone in an SUV was parked in the criss-cross area at the end of the center parking lane. The back of the SUV was so far into the driving lane, there were maybe 6 inches between the SUV and a passing thru vehicle, and another one on the right parallel to the sidewalk. When they arrived, I showed the APD the situation and they went into the billiard hall and handled the situation. To the best of my knowledge, nothing else transpired.

    (3) After speaking with Philomena, I went down to the other end of Main St to ask Ms. Crouse to please open the emergency side of the street. As I approached Ms. Crouse was on the phone, so I asked where the mayor was. She said she was speaking with her and I asked that the mayor come and discuss the situation. The mayor refused and again I asked Ms. Crouse to open the side lane for traffic. Again she refused.

    (4) I went back to the New Paris Shop with the witness, Ayla following me and telling me to get out of their market, I was not wanted there. She also made negative comments about the New Paris Shop that I ignored.

    (5) Upon returning to the store,
    Philomena asked me to call and request Mr. Russo to join us. Mr. Villa also joined him. All of us discussed the situation bringing to light the complete lack of cooperation among the businesses and not knowing what the other was doing. Ms. Crouse is the chair of the downtown business association and has had one meeting to which only certain employers/businesses were invited. We continued chatting and asked what else could be done and Philomena just asked to get the street open as it was impacting her business on Saturday’s. It is her busiest day of the week for fittings and pick ups. The shop also has certain lines that are only carried in her store, such as the Pendleton Line and customers come from every direction to just check out this line.

    (6) In a few minutes, we said our goodbye and headed to our vehicles. At this point, I was extremely frustrated for Philomena since nothing was resolved. So when I got to the barricades I moved them out of the way. Ms. Crouse comes running up the street yelling for me to put them back, I didn’t
    ………..and she was yelling and told me to go f… off, to which I responded with a f…you. and left. Now I have never been one to swear, but unfortunately, this whole situation was so wrong and neither the mayor or Ms. Crouse cared. It was all about them and this flea market.

    (7) I stopped in the bookstore and gave the owner some information and then left.

    (8) Since the road was closed the only way out was a u-turn, which I did slowly and left. The video clearly shows that I was not speeding, but driving very cautiously.

    Tim, it is unfortunate that the true facts could not have been stated as I gave them to you. I took the time to give you the information and much was left out.

    • Tim Becker says:

      Diane, I summarized your comments as I did with everyone I talked to. Believe me, there were plenty of other comments I heard from people that would not be flattering to either you or certain businesses. But my purpose here was to collect the facts that were corroborated by multiple people (not just one person) in order to arrive at an account which was accurate and factual. I see nothing in what you wrote above which substantially changes the situation or refutes anything I wrote.

  5. Diane says:

    I have no problem with people stating the truth, but since Ms. Crouse did not, this Ayla individual was not spoken to but came after me and was ignored, and then Ms. Jobin accusing me of repeatedly swearing, I must come to my own defense. If Ms. Jobin heard anyone swearing it was Ms. Crouse and what has been called “her potty mouth”. And she surely should be concerned about her grandchildren listening to that talk at every flea market. I take responsibility for my actions and always have, but I will not have others accusing me of things I have not done, nor would be in my character to do……..contrary to what the minions will be saying.. Thank you, Diane

    • Dawn Jobin says:

      For the past 2 years I have been a part of the farmers market and never once have my grandchildren been subject to such unprofessional display as we witnessed last Saturday at the farmers market. I take pride in being a Proud Nana and being a vendor at the farmers market and have never felt that it wasn’t a place for my grandchildren to spend time. They have learned alot about responsibility and respect for others and serving the public. They even sold lemonade to make money of their own and took pride in it.
      The story that was told by the Alderwoman is not the truth as many witnesses can attest to how the Alderwoman was the attacker.

  6. Thomas Pajak says:

    Any vehicle going through a police barricade or detour without approval by the police dept in my opinion has broken the law no matter what good reason ..also handling of any equipment setup specifically by the police dept for a specific reason should not be moved or adjusted without approval of the police dept..if there was written permission by all vehicles by the police to park in non parking spaces then this is not an issue..if in any situation this isn’t the case then the law was broken as stated above…there is no gray area to this situation..in my opinion either you did or didn’t have permission by the police dept to move equipment meant for the safety of bystanders…as a city official this has to be reviewed…the arguing isn’t the story

  7. Dan Weaver says:

    The bottom line is this–there can be a farmers’ market downtown without shutting off the street. Nothing else matters in light of that statement. This is the only compromise worth talking about. Real leadership would have realized this a long time ago and moved the market off the street. Then everyone would be happy. The truth is this has become a power play–a power play between the mayor and the common council and a power play between the two markets. It is simply a childish peeing contest.

    As an aside, and in support of Philomena, I had my third book signing with Bob Cudmore on Saturday. These signings are always very popular. This time, however, we only sold half the number of books as any previous signing. Maybe the cause was not the closed street, however, that possibility cannot be discounted. This is not anecdotal documentation as has been suggested about loss of business because of the street closing. The city may use anecdotes to document its finances. I do not.

    A photo was posted on fb by one of the leaders of the downtown market showing I was losing business because there were people waiting in front of my store at noon and I was supposed to be open at noon but was not there. Two corrections. I do not open at noon on Saturday but at 12:15 because of the time it takes to get from the radio station to my store. The second correction is that the woman in the photo, when she found out her photo was on fb, said she was not waiting for the store to open. She was in my doorway to get out of the rain.

    The other point which I have made over and over again is that downtown businesses were never asked in advance as to whether or not we thought the street should be closed, in spite of one person’s repeated remarks to the contrary.

    If only the mayor has the power to direct the police chief to close or open the street, then the ball is in her court. Keep the farmers’ market going, but keep the street open–the only course of action worthy of the off repeated word “leadership.”

    You can argue with these points all you want. I will not argue back because there is no argument that can justify any action other than this compromise.

    Also, I have no problem with the street being closed off for Spring Fling. Thousands of people come down for one day, and it helps my business. It is another thing to close it every Saturday for weeks on end for a farmers’ market that has few vendors, fewer farmers and is sparsely attended.

    This incident will be discussed on my talk show today.

    • Sherri says:

      Holy Cow! An actual voice of reason and common sense.

    • John Fischner says:

      Are you joking? If you’re going to have vendors selling things on a street, you NEED to close said street for the absolute safety of the pedestrians, regardless of how many or how few vendors there are. That is just irresponsible “leadership,” as you put it, to keep the road open to traffic just to satisfy the moanings of the failing and stagnant small businesses on the road. I don’t think closing one lane of a road one day a week for a few hours is the source of your business problems.

  8. Kim says:

    Businesses can complain all they want about customers not being able to get to them. Interesting the Book Hound’s hours on a Saturday are listed as 11-3 and yet he isn’t open until 12:15. I would say that is the issue, not a market. And the New Paris Shop? No hours listed online. You don’t think that’s an issue for someone wanting to shop there? Maybe the market should be moved to Sundays when nothing is open anyway, then they can complain about missing all the foot traffic. Your next story should be about failing business in Amsterdam…because they’re never open when they should be!

  9. Dan Weaver says:

    II am a little disappointed that people have been allowed to post incorrect information in these comments. First, it is not one lane of the road that is closed on Saturday. It is two lanes of one block. Secondly, my store hours for Saturday are posted as 12:15 to 3:15. I do not know why Kim assumes she can be a spokeswoman for my business. Contrary to Kim’s confidence assertion, I am always at my store when my sign says I will be there. When I take time off, I post a note on the door and post the info on my fb page. Furthermore, my business is not failing. It takes a lot of business moxie to sell books in a city where people are unable to read the HOURS OPEN sign on a store or my post above clearly stating my Saturday hours. Finally, no one is suggesting that the road be open while a farmers’ market is on Main Street. We are suggesting that there are other safe locations downtown where it can be held with out creating traffic problems.

  10. Kim says:

    My point is, putting a sign on your door that contradicts the hours posted on your website is an issue. If I looked up a business website to check the hours then drove there to find a sign on the door the chances of me going back are slim. I’m not talking about just your business Dan, but local businesses in general.

    I can understand people having issue with the street closed for a market. On the other side of that can’t people see it may take a bit to catch on? Can’t people see that it works in Schenectady and Troy? Why does everything in this area need to be so difficult? Why must everyone get a say or opinion on everything? A simple market has turned into complete chaos and it’s not only sad but embarrassing as well. Having 2 markets at the same time and day every week shows some people just can’t compromise.