Amsterdam leaders rankled by racial slur in social media post

AMSTERDAM – Local leaders were left deflated after a new business owner, opening a nightclub in the heart of the downtown, used a derogatory word to refer to the city on social media.

The Daily Gazette first reported on the situation, quoting Corwin Hendy of Ravena, who posted on his Facebook page Wednesday asking for prayers as he sought Planning Board approval in “Amsterrico.”

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

“I talked to a few people that I knew, even people in the city, and heard the name plenty of times and didn’t take it in any derogatory way when people was using it, so when I thought about the word to myself and said the Spanish culture dominates the area so I looked at it as a nickname referencing it to Puerto Rico,” he said. “Not once did I mean it in any way of disrespect to the people or the city 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 instantly fixed the problem and apologized on the Amsterdam rebuild page that I was alerted by,” 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, said Second Ward Alderman Dave Gomula.

“People see that, they’re gonna say you’re against minorities. And there’s plenty of minorities in this city. I grew up in this city,” he said.

The nightclub is in Gomula’s ward. He said he plans to talk to landlord Joe Tesiero.

“Joe, are you sure this is gonna fly down there?” he said he would ask the landlord.

Mayor Michael Cinquanti said he spent Friday repeatedly going to the nightclub in hopes of meeting Hendy. He wants to talk with him about the city and how to be respectful of its ethnic mix. Amsterdam has the largest Hispanic population of any city in the greater Capital Region; according to the latest U.S. Census data, about 30 percent of the city’s residents are Hispanic.

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

Still, he said Hendy deleting the post was a good first step.

“Hopefully from this point forward he will do what he needs to do to build trust with the city and build a successful business,” he said.

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

Former alderman Patrick Russo said he’s encountered it many times – but never as a positive.

“That term really pisses me off. I used to work in Albany and I remember people would say to me, ‘Oh, Amsterrico.’ They were using it in a derogatory way to say Amsterdam is a s—hole,” he said. “People still say it when I go out to Albany. I’d have to 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 it’s not that 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 an existing commercial space, most recently used as a restaurant, but Planning Board members expressed some concern about the residential tenants who live upstairs. The nightclub will be open until 3 a.m., with live music, and the noise could be a serious concern. But landlord Joe Tesiero said other noise downtown hadn’t deterred tenants.