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Hamburg Street, Roundabouts, New Developments
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ROTTERDAM
Effort afoot to rejuvenate Hamburg Street
Merchants take steps to reverse decay

BY JUSTIN MASON Gazette Reporter

   Bill Carney remembers a very different Hamburg Street than most people see these days.
   By the end of the workweek, the mood was electric along the bustling two-mile commercial corridor on the town’s eastern border, the longtime resident recalled. As an adolescent, he’d catch a jam-packed bus at Curry Road Extension and then ride several miles into the heart of what was then the town’s main street.
   “They used to walk 10 deep,” he reflected while tending bar at D’Angelo’s Play-by-Play off Hamburg Street. “The sidewalks were filled.”
   People from all over town and from neighboring Schenectady would come to the strip, Carney said. They’d move between the Rolling Green Lanes bowling alley and the Rollerama, maybe grabbing a slice at Joe’s Pizza in between.
   Hamburg Street provided the ideal commercial haven for the homes built in the Coldbrook and Carman neighborhoods during the post-Korean War era. As the population of the suburban town grew, so did the businesses along Hamburg Street, which once supported three major grocery stores.
   “Everybody went downtown,” Carney said. “This was the only street in Rotterdam in its heyday.”
   Five decades later, the landscape of the mixed-use corridor between Curry Road and Altamont Avenue has changed markedly. The few remaining sidewalks are empty and choked with we eds, while acres of barren street-front parking lots accent the desolation of the many empty storefronts.
   Despite commuter traffic pouring through the area from surrounding developments near Interstate 890 and Thruway Exit 25, many of the small plazas along the street struggle. The former bowling alley has been demolished and all three grocery stores have folded; vacant spaces remain empty for years.
   With no town sewer system, most large retailers pass on the sprawling vacant properties. The remaining store owners point to broken streetlights and run-down properties as evidence of the street’s modern decay.
   But a recently formed group of business owners known as the Hamburg Street Merchants Association has taken strides to reverse the spiral. They’ve caught the attention of town and county officials, who are now seeking ways to rejuvenate the street.
   “We’re not only going to bring back the street, we’re going to bring back an area that in the past saw some great business,” said Supervisor Steve Tommasone.
   Like many business owners off Hamburg Street, Jim Troy of Carman Paint and Hardware remembers when business flourished. During the mid-1970s, he moved into a small shop on East Campbell Road across from the heavily trafficked Albany Public Market, which was later purchased by the now-defunct Grand Union supermarket chain.
DEVELOPMENT SHIFTS
   “That was where the traffic flowed into and out of Hamburg Street,” he said. “There was a fair amount of bustle on Hamburg Street back then.”
   At the time, there were few businesses on Altamont Avenue, and Wilmorite’s Rotterdam Square mall was nothing but a vision. The businesses on Hamburg Street were the only game in town.
   Development in the town shifted from east to west during the 1980s, bringing massive expansion to a previously rural end of Rotterdam. In 1988, a $6.7 million reconstruction of Altamont Avenue was completed, including a connection to Schenectady’s sanitary sewer system.
   At the same time, construction was completed on Rotterdam Square. Many Hamburg Street business owners point to the mall opening and the massive commercial development along Altamont Avenue as the prime reasons for the eastern commercial corridor’s demise.
   The last blow for Hamburg Street was the closure of the 35,000- square-foot Grand Union in 1999. Suddenly, the area was forgotten, said Frank DePalma, the owner of DePalma’s Screening and co-director of the merchants association.
   “It got overlooked,” he said. “The other side of Rotterdam — Curry Road and Altamont Avenue — got all the development.”
   What followed for DePalma, a 36-year resident of the town, was years of frustration. He said many residents and businesses shared this frustration but lacked a unifi ed voice to call for help.
   In January, DePalma, Carney and Sam Vavala, the owner of Christopher’s Tuxedos, decided to do something about it. They visited many of the roughly 70 businesses along the street and invited them to an informal meeting of the merchants association at the Play-by-Play.
‘POSITIVE SIGN’
   After a tenuous start, the merchants association appears to be taking hold, though DePalma readily admits the group is still in its infancy. During their most recent meeting, more than 50 business owners turned out to discuss a plan to revive the street.
   The meetings also have caught the attention of town and county officials. Tommasone and board member Robert Godlewski frequently attend meetings; county Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen has met with the group and is planning to speak at their October meeting.
   Gillen said the formation of the merchants association is a good first step in revitalizing Hamburg Street. With cooperation among the business owners and the town, he said Metroplex can begin to explore grant and other opportunities for the area.
   “We think it’s very important for an area to come together and work together,” he said. “They are doing this, which is a very positive sign.”
   Metroplex is now considering expanding the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp.’s facade program, which has provided $1.6 million in funding for improvements and spurred an additional $2 million in matching funds from property owners since its inception in 2002. Gillen envisions broadening the program to other regions of the county, including Rotterdam’s Hamburg Street.
   Metroplex has also fostered a relationship between the merchants association and Schenectady’s Upper Union Street Business Improvement District, an organization that now includes 65 properties and more than 90 businesses. Gillen said the “crosspollination of ideas” among the organizations could lead to ideas for improvements on Hamburg Street.
ZONING, DESIGN STUDY
   Renewed focus on the street also comes at a time when a regional organization has taken interest in the area near Exit 25. The town and the Capital District Transportation Committee are completing a zoning and design study for the area, with an emphasis on redeveloping Hamburg Street into a bustling mixed-use corridor, complete with street-front shops, sidewalks and landscaping.
   Drafts of the study single out the long-dormant Grand Union building as a potential hub for a commercial district to serve the thousands of residents living nearby in Carman and Coldbrook. The study anticipates that a sewer line will eventually connect Hamburg Street into Schenectady’s sewer system.
   Tommasone said the town will aggressively seek investors to help bring a sewer line down Hamburg Street, similar to a deal now in the works in the western part of town. With a comprehensive plan in place to guide development, he said the town could help create the main street Rotterdam has lacked for decades.
   “We see a community where you can go down to the local store, where children can walk on sidewalks and not the shoulder of the road,” he said. “This is what we want to have come back to the area.”
COMMITMENT QUESTIONED
   The owners of the former Grand Union, however, have questioned Tommasone and the Town Board’s commitment to the Hamburg revitalization after their property was left out of an application for a grant aimed at helping municipalities rehabilitate or remove run-down properties.
   The Grand Union property was included in the town’s application for funds under the Restore New York Communities Initiative last year but left off this year in favor of a project to redevelop the former Curry Road Shopping Center. Simmons argued the town is again ignoring Hamburg Street in favor of other areas in Rotterdam.
   “Mr. Tommasone indicated to us that Hamburg Street was the No. 1 priority,” said a visibly angry Dave Simmons during a standing-roomonly Town Board meeting last week. Simmons and Skip Renaud own the former supermarket property. “Basically, we want to know what happened.”
   Despite the recent stumbles, DePalma is confident efforts to reinvigorate the street will succeed. He’s noticed that many store owners have taken a greater interest in maintaining their properties than in the past, something he attributes to the positive feeling merchants are feeling toward revitalizing the street.
   “What we’re looking to do is keep the businesses we have and add to them,” he said. “The trickle-down effect will come to all of us.”

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Bill Carney, left, owner of D’Angelo’s Play-by-Play Sports Bar & Grill on Hamburg Street at Argo Boulevard in Rotterdam, talks with lunch patrons Ralph Caprara, center, and Robert Waddell on Thursday afternoon.

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Traffic moves along Hamburg Street in Rotterdam, which has seen a downward slump in businesses in recent years.

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
At Carman Paint and Hardware on East Campbell Road off Hamburg Street in Rotterdam, mechanic Mike Sawyer works on a snowblower while Jim Troy, owner of the business, looks on.
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senders
September 30, 2007, 5:33pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted Text
Development in the town shifted from east to west during the 1980s, bringing massive expansion to a previously rural end of Rotterdam. In 1988, a $6.7 million reconstruction of Altamont Avenue was completed, including a connection to Schenectady’s sanitary sewer system


As folks ran as fast as they could and as far as they could from the disintegrating City of Schenectady----gee, maybe that is why Mayor Stratton hasn't 'really noticed' Duane ave and the city's end of Hamburg Street?????


...you are a product of your environment, your environment is a product of your priorities, your priorities are a product of you......

The replacement of morality and conscience with law produces a deadly paradox.


STOP BEING GOOD DEMOCRATS---STOP BEING GOOD REPUBLICANS--START BEING GOOD AMERICANS

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September 30, 2007, 5:35pm Report to Moderator
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As for the current buzz---we need to keep the town board status quo to continue on the path of planning and building.....stagnation=death......move it or loose it......we as a town need to realize that a well laid plan is better than a quick made buck.......I'm ready....anyone else????


...you are a product of your environment, your environment is a product of your priorities, your priorities are a product of you......

The replacement of morality and conscience with law produces a deadly paradox.


STOP BEING GOOD DEMOCRATS---STOP BEING GOOD REPUBLICANS--START BEING GOOD AMERICANS

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biaggio
September 30, 2007, 5:43pm Report to Moderator
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I'm ready..............
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September 30, 2007, 11:29pm Report to Moderator

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This is just one example of why Mr. Tommasone should be re-elected this year. He appears to have a handle on the issues with talks already underway for the development of Hamburg St.

And this is also one example of why Mr. Robert Godlewski should NOT be even considered for the country legislature seat, in which he would be our representative. Then for sure, we will get nothing!


When the INSANE are running the ASYLUM
In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. -- Friedrich Nietzsche


“How fortunate for those in power that people never think.”
Adolph Hitler
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BIGK75
October 1, 2007, 3:59pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from bumblethru
This is just one example of why Mr. Tommasone should be re-elected this year. He appears to have a handle on the issues with talks already underway for the development of Hamburg St.

And this is also one example of why Mr. Robert Godlewski should NOT be even considered for the country legislature seat, in which he would be our representative. Then for sure, we will get nothing!


Another example (for both) is the fact that Mr. Tommasone wanted to (and now has, I assume) apply for grants to bring the former K-Mart at the Curry Road Shopping Center to put it back on the tax rolls.  Mr. Godlewski, on the other hand, wanted to put a new town hall and police station there at what cost?  major, no doubt.  The Curry Road Shopping Center is just about totally off the tax docket now as it is and will be a relief to the Mohonasen (and Rotterdam in general) taxpayers once something is finally done with it.
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biaggio
October 8, 2007, 11:17pm Report to Moderator
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any concrete news to talk about ??
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bumblethru
October 11, 2007, 1:59am Report to Moderator

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Only what we have heard at the town meetings. Grand Union's development seems to be soley dependent on sewers. Which I would assume they knew before they bought the building. That building wasn't going to attract anything without sewers. If it could, it would have long before these two gents invested in it. So now they will have to sit tight while Rotterdam discusses with metroplex on funding for connecting Rotterdam sewers into Schenectady.

The folks in that area have got to be patient STILL. Although I share their frustration, all of us in this town have to realize that there is 30 years of NOTHING BEING DONE in line with infrustructure or proper planning for the future. You might say that Rotterdam is starting from the ground up. It's gonna take time and money!!


When the INSANE are running the ASYLUM
In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. -- Friedrich Nietzsche


“How fortunate for those in power that people never think.”
Adolph Hitler
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October 11, 2007, 10:04am Report to Moderator
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Hold....hold......hold......hold........we will keep this track we are on until it is finished......


...you are a product of your environment, your environment is a product of your priorities, your priorities are a product of you......

The replacement of morality and conscience with law produces a deadly paradox.


STOP BEING GOOD DEMOCRATS---STOP BEING GOOD REPUBLICANS--START BEING GOOD AMERICANS

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biaggio
October 22, 2007, 12:40pm Report to Moderator
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Looks like the car wash activity has come to a halt......?????
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rollarama
October 22, 2007, 8:07pm Report to Moderator

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Not true!  The car wash is moving ahead, off schedule ofcourse.  We ran into some unforseen problems and delays, but it is full steam ahead, rest assured.  Hope everyone can be patient and understand this is a HUGE undertaking.  Most of the new equipment is in, with the exception of the vacuums.  Had to order some more equipment which is going to take a few weeks.  We hope to be up and running in a few weeks.
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bumblethru
October 23, 2007, 12:48am Report to Moderator

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Glad to hear that things are still moving forward. But sorry to hear that you have to WAIT! It is a very large undertaking and when you tackle things this involved, it seems nothing is ever on time and things just don't run as smoothly as we'd like. Glad you are still hanging in there. It must be frustrating for you as well. But never fear, we will be waiting patiently right along with you.


When the INSANE are running the ASYLUM
In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. -- Friedrich Nietzsche


“How fortunate for those in power that people never think.”
Adolph Hitler
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October 23, 2007, 1:30am Report to Moderator
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Yeah.....


...you are a product of your environment, your environment is a product of your priorities, your priorities are a product of you......

The replacement of morality and conscience with law produces a deadly paradox.


STOP BEING GOOD DEMOCRATS---STOP BEING GOOD REPUBLICANS--START BEING GOOD AMERICANS

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mikechristine1
October 23, 2007, 3:20am Report to Moderator
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OK, here is the idea.  Hamburg St and hamburgers.  A great idea for some building.  Open a Fuddruckers hamburger restaurant on Hamburg st.  With their lucious burgers, they could surely come up with something called the Hamburg St hamburger



Optimists close their eyes and pretend problems are non existent.  
Better to have open eyes, see the truths, acknowledge the negatives, and
speak up for the people rather than the politicos and their rich cronies.
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senders
October 25, 2007, 1:20am Report to Moderator
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Cant we save those places for Altamont Ave...??? I went to Fuddruckers and found it to be more like those Buffets....??  How about a Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesdays.......????

I LOVE your idea of Hamburg St. Hamburgers......LOVE IT.......


...you are a product of your environment, your environment is a product of your priorities, your priorities are a product of you......

The replacement of morality and conscience with law produces a deadly paradox.


STOP BEING GOOD DEMOCRATS---STOP BEING GOOD REPUBLICANS--START BEING GOOD AMERICANS

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