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.