Interview with Pam Swart, candidate for first ward alderwoman

Pam Swart said in a recent interview at the Walter Elwood Museum that she is running for the position of first ward alderwoman in order to help make sure the City of Amsterdam is a place where her children and grandchildren will want to stay and call home.

Swart said she believes her past business and work experience will be valuable on the council if elected in November. She and her husband Dave owned and operated a wallpaper and paint shop called The Color Place where she was involved in all aspects of the business and gained experience in both sales, budgeting, and accounting. She received her bachelor’s degree in human services from Empire State College and currently works as a sales representative for WCSS radio station. She also hosts a weekly radio show on the station called “Let’s Talk” and is a member of the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation.

When asked about her vision for the city, Swart said, “I can see young people wanting to come live here. They already are.”

She said the successful mixed-use development projects beginning to take shape within the city’s downtown area are signs of good things to come.

“I was amazed at a lot of those apartments upstairs, over the shops at Main Street, are rented. And they’re beautiful loft apartments. And when the [former Key Bank] building gets done, I think you’ll see more restaurants coming in, and restaurants bring people to cities.”

Swart said that she considers the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge as the heart of the city’s downtown development effort, and that the recently awarded $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant will propel that development.

“I just wan to see everything grow around it,” said Swart. “And I think that, especially, now that we won the $10 million, I think this is really going to push Amsterdam forward.”

She said Mayor Michael Villa recently made excellent choices for appointments to the local committee who will work with New York State to plan on how to utilize the DRI funds.

“The members are a great cross section of our community. There are great minds on that committee and I’m excited to see them work together and see what they come up with,” said Swart.

One development that she is concerned about, however, is the proposed apartment complex proposed by KCG Development for the former Chalmers property.

“Revitalization to me means in part, new life,” said Swart. “I don’t think that the current proposal does this. Amsterdam already offers a wide variety of affordable housing. I don’t think we need more affordable housing. I’m afraid that many landlords that depend on their rent for income to keep their homes, are going to lose renters…I do see that as a problem.”

Swart says she has heard from first ward residents, mainly seniors, who were at first excited about the possibility of selling their houses and moving into the apartments, but are now having second thoughts after seeing the public plans.

“I hear concerns over this project as it’s currently proposed,” she said. “They want balconies overlooking the beautiful Mohawk River, and especially in-unit laundry areas. That is a major thing for them.”

If elected, Swart said that she would advocate for those features to be incorporated into the project plans.

Asked about what the city should do about the municipal golf course which has run deficits in the past several years, Swart said that looking at what other area golf courses are doing would help, and credited Mayor Villa for already visiting the Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

“The bottom line is…the mayor seems to be trying everything and if we can’t manage a profitable golf course for the future, then it’s time to look into alternatives,” said Swart.

“I don’t think I would like to sell it…it’s an asset to the city. You sell it then you have no say in it. That’s a lot of property to have no say in,” she said. “I think that we should do everything we can possibly to keep that golf course but if not, I don’t think I’d want to sell it, that would be the last thing I’d want to do.”

Swart said she would also like to do more to develop neighborhood pride, not only in the first ward, but in all the neighborhoods of the city.

“Whether it’s neighborhood cleanup, block parties, neighborhood watch –  get neighbors helping neighbors and then they take pride in their property,” she said. “That’s something I would try to do in the first ward. And I would hope we could do it everywhere because when you enjoy where you’re living, it’s a whole different atmosphere, and I think we need that here.”

Swart will appear on the Democratic party line on this November’s ballot. She faces Patrick Russo who will appear on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence party lines.

She is endorsed by New York State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

Tim Becker

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