Amsterdam leaders blasted with racial slurs in social media post

AMSTERDAM — Local leaders have been deflated after a new business owner, opening a nightclub in the heart of the city center, used a derogatory word for the city on social media.

The Daily Gazette first reported on the situation, quoting Ravena’s Corwin Hendy, who posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday asking for prayers as he sought Planning Council approval from ‘Amsterrico’.

Reached on Saturday, Hendy said he thought the word was an innocent nickname for the town.

“I spoke to a few people I knew, even people in town, and heard the name many times and didn’t take it in a derogatory way when people used it, so when I thought of the word for myself and said that Spanish culture dominates the region, so I considered it a nickname referring to Puerto Rico,” he said. “Not once did I I didn’t mean that in a way that was disrespectful to the people or the city of Amsterdam.”

* He added that he deleted the post as soon as he learned it was a derogatory word.

“Once it was brought to my attention, I immediately addressed the issue and apologized on the Amsterdam reconstruction page which I was alerted to,” he said. “Once again, I apologize to the city of Amsterdam, New York and the community.”

It’s not a good start for a new business, Second Ward Alderman Dave Gomula said.

“People see that, they’ll say you’re against minorities. And there are a lot of minorities in this city. I grew up in this town,” he said.

The nightclub is in the Gomula district. He said he planned to speak to owner Joe Tesiero.

“Joe, are you sure it’s going to fly over there?” he said he would ask the owner.

Mayor Michael Cinquanti said he spent the day Friday several times at the nightclub in hopes of meeting Hendy. He wants to talk with him about the city and how to be respectful of his ethnic mix. Amsterdam has the largest Hispanic population of any city in the Greater Capital Region; according to the latest US census data, approximately 30% of the city’s residents are Hispanic.

“I don’t like going through social media,” he said. “I want to meet him. This is a very hurtful comment for the people of this town. We are proud of our cultural diversity. It is not a term that should be used.

Still, he said Hendy’s deletion of the post was a good first step.

“Hopefully from now on he does what he has to do to build trust with the city and build a successful business,” he said.

The bigger question, he said, is how Hendy could have used the word without intending it in a derogatory way.

Former city councilman Patrick Russo said he met him on several occasions – but never in a positive way.

“That term really pisses me off. I was working in Albany and I remember people saying to me, “Oh, Amsterrico”. They used it in a derogatory way to say that Amsterdam is an asshole,” he said. “People still say it when I go out to Albany. I should correct them.

His family has owned a business in the city, Russo’s Bar and Grill, for 102 years, he said.

“People come here and they say, ‘Oh, that’s not so bad,'” he said. “It’s not fair. I hate it when people use that term.

On Wednesday, Hendy received approval to open Club VPL at 32 E. Main St. The nightclub is moving into existing commercial space, recently used as a restaurant, but Planning Board members have raised concerns about residential tenants who live upstairs. The nightclub will be open until 3am, with live music, and noise could be a serious issue. But landlord Joe Tesiero said other downtown noises haven’t deterred tenants.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement