“What we need in the city is someone, I think, who can solve problems,” said Patrick Russo, candidate for City of Amsterdam First Ward Alderman during a recent interview at the Walter Elwood Museum.
After graduating from Amsterdam High School in 2003, Russo said he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in information technology from SUNY Morrisville. Currently he works as a network security consultant for Unisys.
“I solve people’s problems,” said Russo in regards to his current job. “Not every client’s the same. Everyone has a different way of doing things.”
He said he became motivated to run for the council position because he found himself frequently bringing issues in his neighborhood to the attention of his alderman. Instead of complaining, Russo said he wants to bring his problem solving skills to the council.
Having lived for a time in the downtown area of Albany, NY, Russo said he has seen first-hand how a neighborhood can be transformed.
“They re-did all their downtown buildings and put apartments there and people moved in. And now it’s like a nice little community down there,” he said.
Russo recalled seeing the number of residents in his neighborhood grow from around 100 to over 1,000.
“Albany did it, Troy did it, Schenectady did it. I don’t see why we can’t,” he said.
He ended up moving back to Amsterdam to be closer to family and friends, but also mentioned other positives that factored into his decision such as the relative safety of the city in comparison to other cities in the region, as well as relatively low housing costs.
If elected, Russo said he would pay attention to the cleanliness and upkeep of the first ward homes and streets. In particular, he hopes to hold banks who own foreclosed properties accountable for maintaining their properties.
Russo said he is generally supportive of plans for an apartment complex proposed to be built by KCG Development on the former Chalmers property on the south side.
“Someone who gets out of college and gets a job in this area could go move in there and afford to live,” said Russo.
However, he doesn’t think that shared laundry facilities on each floor are going to be attractive to potential renters and would like to see in-unit washer and dryers added to the plans.
With a restaurant and banquet hall also included in the plans for the site, residents have expressed concerns about parking. Based on his experience visiting other downtown areas in cities such as Schenectady, Russo said he believes that visitors to Amsterdam will not be deterred by having to park several blocks away from their destination.
“If you have a parking problem that means that people are there spending money in your community, supporting the businesses that are there,” he said.
He added that for large events, the solution is to use shuttles to transport visitors between remote parking lots and the south side downtown area.
While the city has plans to add several more lots which will help the situation, Russo said, “You don’t want to take the section that you’re trying to rebuild and fill it with parking lots. That’s not effective either.”
In regards to the city’s budget, he said, “To me that is the biggest issue in the city.”
“It wasn’t created overnight and it’s not going to get fixed overnight,” he said.
“Short-term is going to be tough,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some decisions that people are not going to like. And that’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Russo said if elected, he will talk with individual department heads in order to find ways to cut expenses.
To improve revenues over the long-term, Russo said he supports the continuation of economic development plans for the city’s downtown areas, especially with the recent $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant awarded to the city, as well as the continuation of regular foreclosures.
When asked how he would approach reversing the municipal golf course’s years of budget deficits, Russo said he is in favor of giving city officials and the golf course commission more time to improve the situation.
He believes that lowering golf course rates will help attract more people to use the course, which should be the course’s goal.
“You can’t keep raising rates on the people who are golfing there,” he said.
He would only consider leasing the course to a third-party operator as a last resort and that he does not see selling the course as an option.
“To me it’s one of the best assets we have in the city,” said Russo.
On November’s ballot, Russo will appear on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence party lines. He will face Pam Swart on the Democratic party line.
Visit Russo’s campaign Facebook page for more information.