Gloversville Library Gets Pulitzer Prize winner’s support

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An extensive article in the New York Times about Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo’s support of the Gloversville Free Library is boosting the historic institution’s efforts at renovation and reinvention.

Russo, who grew up in Fulton County, has used Gloversville and his impressions of it for such novels as “Empire Falls,” “Nobody’s Fool” and “Mohawk,” even when the books were ostensibly set in a different fictional location.

He grew up going to the Gloversville library, he told the New York Times; “I have such fond memories of the place, going there Saturday mornings with my grandfather or mother, who would wait forever for me to pick books. I just have this feeling that if it weren’t for the Gloversville Free Library that I probably would not be a writer.”

$2.4 Million Raised So Far

Local fundraising efforts have so far raised $2.4 million of the $7 million needed for the first-ever renovation of the 111-year-old Beaux Arts building. Town leaders have started fund drives for capital repairs to the library three times in recent decades – in the 1970s, 1995 and 2003, but the efforts did not produce enough donations for the job.

“This time we’re not giving up,” Barbara Madonna, the library’s executive director, told NYT reporter Steven Greenhouse. “We need to do this renovation for the kids. A library is so important for them. And we need to do this as a catalyst to lift the whole town.”


“I just have this feeling that if it weren’t for the Gloversville Free Library that I probably would not be a writer.” — Pulitzer Prize Winning Novelist Richard Russo


Since the last fundraising effort, the library became an independent entity, rather than a department of the city government. It shifted its funding stream from the city budget to a direct tax approved by voters each year along with the Gloversville Enlarged School District budget. Those changes made the library’s funding more stable, allowing it the breathing space to pursue a new capital campaign.

The library’s boiler is 100 years old, the wood shelving is decrepit, and the library has neither a wheelchair ramp nor air-conditioning. But architecturally, it is a shining jewel smack dab in the center of Gloversville’s downtown. It was built with a $50,000 donation by steel baron Andrew Carnegie in 1904. Its soaring 35-foot-tall lobby is the focal point of a vibrant community haven that already attracts about 9,000 visitors a month for library transactions, toddler story times, reading and knitting groups and “unplugged” activities for teenagers.

In addition to replacing the century-old boiler with forced air HVAC, the restoration project includes upgrades to plumbing, electrical and lighting systems, installing an elevator for access to all three floors (only one floor is currently used) and making the building handicapped accessible.  A cozy reading room, a children’s section with atrium windows, five public meeting rooms and a concert space are envisioned.

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“One reason Mr. Russo is so interested in the renovation is there’s very little place for children these days outside of school,” said Elizabeth Batchelor, a chairwoman of the fund-raising campaign, told the NYT.  “For many kids, a library can be a ladder out of poverty.”

According to a story in The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, the New York Times article sparked a renewed interest in the fundraising campaign from individuals and potentially, from a foundation.

Russo’s role as honorary chairman is largely symbolic – he lives in Maine and is working on his next novel. But his involvement has raised the project’s profile beyond the 15,000 residents of Gloversville to a national audience that may be willing to support the library’s mission and the preservation of the historic building.

Mohawk Valley Land Bank is Encouraged

Herkimer County has officially encouraged a plan to create a six-county, not-for-profit corporation that would be allowed to acquire and improve derelict properties.

The proposed land bank would have the power to acquire vacant sites, rundown and abandoned properties and tax delinquent parcels. It would also have the power to borrow money to secure the sites and find buyers interested in making the properties productive.KMVB LOGO

Under a state law enacted in 2011, any tax district with foreclosure powers is eligible to form a not-for-profit land bank with approval from the state’s urban development corporation. The idea behind a Mohawk Valley Land Bank is that a regional public authority would have more focus and greater resources to make sure the properties aren’t disposed of at far less than they are worth. The authority could also work with buyers to make sure the properties are secured and redeveloped, rather than persisting in dereliction and tax delinquency.

The Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful (KMVB) committee of the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District has so far held three informational meetings in Johnstown, Herkimer and Oneonta exploring the creation of a land bank to include Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego and Schoharie counties.  A proposed land bank is one of four parts of KMVB’s anti-blight campaign, which also encompasses the use of the Keep America Beautiful Community Appearance Index, the Great American Cleanup and Adopt a Spot.

The Herkimer County Legislature passed a resolution Feb. 18 to encourage continued investigation of forming a regional land bank. According to the MVEDD, state legislation allows for 20 land banks in New York, and 11 land banks have already been approved. There are 120 land banks in the nation.

On Tuesday, March 3, the group will hold an informational meeting at SUNY Oneonta’s Red Dragon Theater, 108 Ravine Parkway, Oneonta. All meetings begin at 6:30 PM.

“Blight is a problem in communities everywhere, and Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful (KMVB) is doing something about it,” said Bob Albrecht, chair of the KMVB Board of Directors.

Steve Smith, executive director of MVEDD, said, “Municipalities are looking for help in dealing with blight, whether it is rubbish along the streets or abandoned houses. We think our six-county network together with KMVB volunteers can make a difference.”

 For more information

Mohawk Valley Economic Development District

Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful’s Facebook page

New York State Land Banks: Combating Blight and Vacancy in New York Communities – PDF

Vacant Properties: The True Costs to Communities – PDF

2011 New York State Land Bank Enabling Legislation – PDF

Land Bank Guidelines -PDF

 

Specialty Sausage Plant to Open in Gloversville, NY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For information contact:  Michael Reese, President & CEO
518-762-8700, ext. 110, miker@fccrg.org

Johnstown, NY (March 12, 2013) – The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth announced today that a start-up company owned by Spanish food products entrepreneurs will soon open a production facility in Gloversville, NY for the curing and packaging of cured meat products.

Pata Negra, LLC will operate the 23,000 square-foot plant at 20 Industrial Parkway in Gloversville, the former home of Perrone Leather. Using technology developed in Spain, the company will manufacture cured meats using US and imported pork and all natural Spanish spices. With the aid of local engineer Stephen Smith, the building at 20 Industrial Parkway is being renovated to create the special drying rooms needed to provide strict controls for temperature and humidity. The firm expects to employ up to 12 people once it reaches its sales target, after the sales ramp up period.

Michael Reese, President and CEO of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth explained that the company is owned by Spanish entrepreneurs widely involved in all aspects of the gourmet food industry in Spain and Europe (livestock, Ibérico Ham and sausages making, retail gourmet stores, prepared foods, etc.) as well as in other sectors all around the world, including the real estate, robotics, and financial industries.

“We are very pleased to welcome Pata Negra to our growing cluster of food processing companies,” said Mr. Reese. “CRG worked closely with the company over the last year to identify a location for their production facility and arrange financing for the building’s purchase, renovation and equipment.”

Pata Negra LLC is owned by European firm Pata Negra Jan, S.L. The management team includes Mr. Ignacio Rodriguez Saez de Ibarra, General Manager; Mr. Pablo Allende Villanueva, Financial Controller; Mr. Antonio Libran, Technical Director and Operation Manager; and Mr. Alfonzo Blazquez, Production Manager. Mr. Blazquez was the spearhead of the Spanish Chorizo making in the US through his former company, Hispamer Industries, LLC in Fultonville, NY.

According to Mr. Saez de Ibarra, the location in Fulton County is strategic for Pata Negra, which plans to become a major provider of Spanish-style cured meats in the Northeast.

“This location provides us with right location and the water, sewer, warehousing, transportation access, and employment resources we need to be successful,” Mr. Saez de Ibarra said. “We are very pleased with the support we’ve received from the county and local business community and look forward to starting operations this spring.”

Pata Negra will focus initially on producing Spanish Chorizo with US pork meat. Chorizo (pronounced choritho) is a dry-cured pork sausage flavored with garlic, pimenton (paprika) and other spices. Demand for high-quality charcuterie products is growing in the U.S. Pata Negra will supply restaurants and retailers throughout the Northeast through a range of specialty food distributors.

Fulton County: Rich in Resources and Bold Ideas

Fulton County Center for Regional Growth (FCCRG – fccrg@fccrg.org), the economic development agency for Fulton County, NY, proactively aids companies from around the world in building and expanding in Fulton County. FCCRG assists with the many details of site selection, financing, and advocacy at the local, regional, and state levels. All FCCRG efforts are focused on promoting job growth and increasing the quality of life in Fulton County.