Riverlink Cafe, Chalmers project decisions upcoming

No agenda has been released yet for a special meeting of the Amsterdam Common Council scheduled for tomorrow at 12:30pm. However, two issues were discussed at the regular meeting last Tuesday as being important enough to warrant a special meeting: choosing who will operate the restaurant facility at Riverlink Park, and an extension to the purchase contract between the city and KCG Development.

Council members are considering two proposals for the restaurant facility. One is from the current proprietor, Dan Nelli, and the other is from Cranesville Properties, which owns the Riverfront Center and several other properties in the downtown area.

First operating under the name Dan’s Backyard Barbecue, Nelli was awarded a five year contract back in 2015 which is now due to expire. After his first season in 2015, Nelli proposed upgrades to the kitchen and hot water system, but was met with resistance by the council at the time.

Heading off arbitration over a dispute, Nelli and the city negotiated changes to the contract in 2017 having to do with maintenance responsibilities, event revenue, and event scheduling.

Council members tabled a resolution at last Tuesday’s meeting that would extend the purchase contract between KCG Development and the city for the construction of a 120-unit apartment building and banquet hall on the former Chalmers property. Mayor Michael Villa said that he had concerns over the language of the contract that needed to be addressed.

The project has been at a standstill as KCG Development is waiting to see if they are awarded low income housing tax credits by New York State. According to the contract, failure to obtain these credits would allow KCG to back out of the project. The tax credits, once awarded, would be sold by the developer to investors to raise money for the project.

Another problem, according to Villa, is that the city has not yet received an award letter for a $1 million grant from the Empire Sate Development Corporation (ESD) for the project which was announced back in 2017.

When asked about the situation in November, Villa said, “The funding was initially announced a year and a half ago, but until the city receives an award letter, it’s just talk.”

“We’ve had discussions with ESD…It’s something that’s above and beyond my head, at the state level, up in the hierarchy,” he added.

Villa said that KCG Development had not backed out of the project and expressed determination to continue with the project.

Mayor-elect Mike Cinquanti suggested in November that the project could be relocated to another site, stressing that the Chalmers property, being on the waterfront, is a prime piece of property.

During a public hearing about the project held in 2018, Congressman Paul Tonko, and Amsterdam resident and former state legislator who was instrumental in the construction of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge, expressed strong displeasure with the project in that the straight-line design of the buildings didn’t compliment the curved design of the bridge, and that the banquet hall would not provide a panoramic view of the bridge and the Mohawk River.

Tim Becker

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