Sometimes we say things and don’t realize what we have really said. Such is the case with those in the City of Amsterdam who oppose the Chalmer’s Mill Lofts workforce housing project because they say the plot of land the housing project will be built on, the site of the former Chalmer’s Knitting Mill near the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge, is prime real estate better suited to luxury housing. What these opponents are really saying is working people don’t deserve to live on prime real estate or on waterfront property and that property should be reserved for people with money. What they are really saying is it is okay for the rabble, the “basket of deplorables” to live in the planned housing development for the east end or anywhere else in the city but not on the waterfront.
It is that time of year when many of us watch the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. In the film, Bedford Falls’ wealthiest man, Mr. Potter, opposes the housing development the Baileys want to build. Just as George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is about to leave town after his father’s death, he confronts Potter at a board meeting of the Bailey Building and Loan Company and says, “ Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that the rabble you’re talking about…they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”
And that’s what KCG Development is trying to do—build a 130 unit workforce housing project so that Amsterdam’s working people can work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath. It just so happens that they will have a couple of decent rooms and bath overlooking the Mohawk River. Is it too much to have Amsterdam’s working people live on the waterfront? The elite think it’s too much, although it was okay for the working class to live and work there when the river was an open sewer.
While there might be legitimate reasons for opposing the Chalmers Loft Mill project, arguing that it would be better if condos or luxury housing were built on the site instead of workforce housing is not one of them. It is an argument that smacks of elitism and snobbery and tells us a lot about the person making the argument but nothing about why the project should not go forward.
(Stay tuned for more commentary on Amsterdam’s Chalmers Lofts Mill housing development in the coming days.)
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