The three council members who attended today’s special meeting at 12:30pm voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Michael Villa to negotiate a contract with Kassandra Tesiero to operate the Riverlink Park restaurant facility. Council members chose to move forward with her proposal over one submitted by Dan Nelli, who has operated the facility for the past five years under a five-year contract that expires this year. The two were the only proposals submitted. Council members Irene Collins and Dave Dybas were absent.
According to Alderman Jim Martuscello, who proposed the resolution, Tesiero manages both the Creek Stone Restaurant in Amsterdam and the Rolling Hills Country Club in Fort Johnson. He said his selection was based on the proposed menu, and on recommendations he received in regards to the two restaurants managed by Tesiero.
“A change is always nice too,” said Martuscello.
He added that despite a dispute between Nelli and the city back in 2017 which led to changes to the contract, his decision was not based on any negative feelings toward Nelli.
According to Martuscello, Tesiero’s proposal is to lease the facility from the city for $2000 per year over the course of three years, but said that there was “room for negotiation.” According to Nelli, who attended the meeting, his proposal calls for a one year contract with an option for a second year at $2500 per year.
After the meeting, Nelli said that he was shocked and disappointed with the decision. He said that no city officials reached out to him since he submitted his proposal two months ago to ask questions or clarify details, and wondered why the vote was taken so quickly with no discussion between council members on the issue during the meeting.
Nelli said that before he started operations at the facility in 2015, he spent $9,000 of his own money to construct the bar, additional seating, planters, lights, and a koi pond. He said he has also re-invested profits totaling approximately $12,000 into new equipment for the facility, including freezers, refrigerators, hot boxes, a convection oven, a sound system, and other items which he said were necessary to accommodate the large numbers of people during concert events at the park.
“In the first year we had some bumps and bruises, but in the last four years I believe we have run an extremely good operation down at the river, catering to many corporate parties. I have a ton of references,” said Nelli.
Nelli also said he has been active in fundraising for the Amsterdam Waterfront organization, working with them to increase the number of outdoor concerts.
“To have it end this way is absolutely disgusting,” said Nelli, “I’m just so frustrated.”