Riverlink cafe contract in arbitration

A dispute has arisen between the City of Amsterdam and Dan Nelli, operator of the restaurant facility at Riverlink Park. Mayor Michael Villa said Tuesday that the dispute is in the process of being brought before an independent arbitrator, rather than a courtroom, which is required under the terms of a five-year contract to operate the facility which was awarded to Nelli in 2015.

At Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, one couple who said they had booked their wedding reception at the facility for this July, asked during the public comments time whether they would still be able to hold their event.

The couple said they had decided to hold their reception at Riverlink after hearing good reviews from others and after checking out the park personally.

“No events will be cancelled at Riverlink park,” said Villa in response to the couple.

When reached for comment, Nelli said that he has been upfront with his customers in regards to the dispute, in which he said the city is calling for the termination of his contract. As a result, he said several events have already been cancelled by planners due to the uncertainty over the result of the arbitration.

Nelli said that the arbitration is scheduled for late April, which he said was “terrible timing.”

“I don’t know why they waited until now to do this,” said Nelli. “The whole season’s going to be lost. The whole thing is outlandish in my mind.”

Neither city officials or Nelli were willing to speak on-record about the details of the dispute, however Nelli said that he believes the city’s accusations are baseless.

“I believe what they are saying is completely, 110% unjust. The two years I’ve been down there, I’ve bent over backwards, and worked harder than anyone has at that cafe, to bring new events in, to make sure service is good, increase tent parties, increase traffic flow.”

Nelli added, “I’ve asked several times for meetings with the city, to sit down and discuss what’s going on to come up with some type of conclusion, whatever it has to be…they’ve refused every single time to meet with me. I’m not really sure why.”

Nelli said that he is willing to refund deposits to any customer who wishes to cancel due to the dispute.

After the first season of operating the facility, Nelli spoke before the Common Council in December 2015 to ask about upgrades to the facility’s kitchen equipment in order to accommodate more people. No action was ever taken in regards to the requests. At the same meeting, Diane Hatzenbuhler, alderwoman at the time, said she had observed that the park was not being maintained well.

Nelli’s contract specifies that his staff is responsible for maintaining the grounds of the park in lieu of paying a regular rental fee.

At the same meeting, Alderman Ed Russo disagreed with Hatzenbuhler’s assessment of the maintenance situation, and there was debate as to whether some of the issues brought up by Hatzenbuhler, such as deteriorated benches and picnic tables, fell under Nelli’s responsibilities or not.

During the same meeting, Recreation Director Rob Spagnola said he did have some issues with Nelli’s operation during the 2015 season, but that those issues had been worked out.

“Dan should be commended,” said Spagnola at the meeting. “He took a big risk, he put a lot of his own money in, the very first year, and I think going forward we’re moving in the right direction.”


About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

9 Responses to Riverlink cafe contract in arbitration

  1. AvatarVinny Jendrzejczak says:

    Dan Nelli made Amsterdam finally have a safe and fun place for EVERYONE and ANYONE to go to. Whether you drink or not, have kids and want a family night or just want to have some fun, all felt welcomed in the safe and fun environment. The city of Amsterdam gave him a hard time from the get go and should be ashamed. This is exactly why Amsterdam is what Amsterdam is. Instead of helping him and communicating with him, they ignored and pushed him away. This is heartbreaking and hopefully everyone who knows about this will speak up! Everyone!

  2. AvatarKaren Bliss-Reid says:

    I have dealt with Dan on events, dined, and been entertain more since hes been at the riverlink then ever before in the 20 years ive been here…i always commented to others how i would drive by on many different occasions seeing him cleaning, hosing down the entire area the play ground fixing, pulling weeds,painting, sprucing up…he has really made that area look more inviting then its ever been. Definitely more entertaining…I am shocked and sickened by this article ….if.you wont help him and make it work the way he needs things done you will definitely lose my participation and patronage and I will be letting everyone know why….

  3. AvatarMichele Tomlinson says:

    It’s difficult to weigh in without the details, but it is not difficult to see the breath of life that has blown into the Riverlink Park area, which must also be attributed, at least in part, to the Restaurant & their staff; who I have witnessed working so hard to equally deliver an exceptional experience, as well as, the meals they serve.
    It’s in the best interest of the Park & Community to resolve whatever is causing the dispute and to do so quickly & discretely to ensure the positive energy that has been created doesn’t flow down the Mohawk like so many other proud ventures have. Use that “Bridge” to cross the differences that currently separate you & remain focused on the facts, not personal agendas. Although it sounds like Mr. Nelli has reached a decision; but remains contractually bound, I hope an agreement can be developed that satisfies him or releases him so The Community can continue to enjoy & boast about The Riverlink Park. Arbitration vs Litigation appears to be an indication to do so. We are counting on you! Thank you for your service to The Community.

    • AvatarTom Foster says:

      I think you misunderstand the disagreement…it is not Dan that want’s out of the contract, it is the City that wants him out! Maybe the confusion is in him offering people their deposits back? Which that makes perfect sense in that respect because if he is thrown out of the park then the brides or whoever is able to book with other caterers!

    • AvatarTim Becker says:

      Tom is correct, I just made a slight edit to make that a little clearer, sorry!

      Also, I should point out that arbitration is not the same as mediation. When two parties agree to mediation, it usually indicates that both are willing to compromise. But in this instance, both parties had to use an arbitrator rather than take it to court because that is what the contract specified.

  4. AvatarRIck Vertucci says:

    Where do I start? Amsterdam has a fantastic asset in the Riverlink Park and the bridge. My wife and I absolutely love going there on summer evenings to enjoy the river and Dan’s food. NO ONE works harder or promotes the park more than Dan. He has truly made the place known to many. He is constantly improving the Riverlink (expanded the seating, new bar, coy pond, bigger menu) etc etc. Anyone who knows Dan knows he has put his heart and soul into everything he does. It’s refreshing to see someone young putting everything he has back into the community in which he lives. He donates his time and resources to provide meals for the needy, and donates to great events like the “Thanks4Giving 5k” at Shuttleworth Park that raises money for Dr. Tom Catena in the Sudan. Sad to see politics raising it’s ugly head in the city of Amsterdam again. Dan has improved the Riverlink greatly, kept the park in extremely good condition(as opposed to other city parks) and will continue to work hard for it’s future success. The mayor and certain Foundation member as well as aldermen need to stop with their politics! It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep Dan Nelli!

  5. AvatarDolores Hebert-Danelorich says:

    We held our 60th class reunion at the Riverlink Park last year and it was fabulous. Everyone had a great time and the food was fantastic. Thank you Dan Nelli for all your efforts on our event everyone remarked on how good the food was.

  6. AvatarSherry Kline says:

    Our son’s wedding was held at Dan Nelli’s venue at Riverlink Park in September 2016. Dan did a great job with making everything look great, even cleaning up after the geese! I never saw any areas that were unkempt or littered. As a matter of fact he even made sure that we didn’t take anything out into the Park that wasn’t allowed. The meal was a barbecue and the food was good. We had a great day thanks to Dan and his staff!
    My husband and I have eaten at the restaurant several times and have never seen anything like litter or even trash bags visible! They are very accommodating and even put up the rain curtains one evening when a storm just snuck up on us!
    I think Dan has done a wonderful job growing and maintaining a very nice business in the park and it just serves to enhance the bridge area!

  7. AvatarThom Georgia says:

    I know this city’s business & economic development plan has always been to chase away prospective investors & entrepreneurs. It’s just how they roll. But now they attack one of us?; a city resident with long-standing commitment to the community?!

    Not only will this mayor & council look a gift horse in the mouth, they’ll cram their fists through its teeth, down its throat & then bemoan when the poor thing startles and craps on the road.

    I know this mayor is no stranger to bankruptcy filings, but c’mon, this city doesn’t need to drive out businesses! Unless corporate bankruptcy is the administration’s idea of economic development…I can’t really tell; a year in & he still doesn’t have any discernible plan.