The city of Amsterdam is surrounded on the north, east, and west sides by the town of Amsterdam. The city developed on both sides of the Mohawk River, with the majority located on the north bank. The Port Jackson area on the south side is also part of the city.
The city is within the original, now defunct town of Caughnawaga (a Mohawk word meaning "at the rapids"), formed in 1788 in northern Montgomery County after the Revolutionary War. Caughnawaga was also a historic Mohawk village in the area.
The first Europeans to settle here were Dutch immigrants about 1710. They called the community Veeders Mills and Veedersburgh after Albert Veeder, an early mill owner. After the American Revolutionary War, many settlers came from New England. Anglo-American residents changed the name to Amsterdam in 1803. In 1773, Guy Johnson built Guy Park, a stone Georgian mansion. A Loyalist, he fled to Canada during the Revolution. The mansion has been preserved and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was incorporated as a village on April 20, 1830 from a section of the Town of Amsterdam. New charters in 1854, 1865, and 1875 increased the size of the village. In 1885, Amsterdam became a city, which subsequently increased in size by annexation of the former village of Port Jackson on the south side of the Mohawk River; it became the fifth ward of the city.
The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 was an economic boom to the city, which became an important manufacturing center. It was known for its carpets. In 1865, the population of Amsterdam was 5,135. By 1920, it was 33,524. Through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was a destination for immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, who initially worked in the factories.
Amsterdam experienced serious flooding damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in late August 2011. This flooding threatened properties at the river's edge due to erosion and water damage.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.3 square miles (16.3 km²), of which, 5.9 square miles (15.4 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.9 km²) of it is water. The total area is 5.41% water.
The city developed on both sides of the Mohawk River and Erie Canal. The Chuctanunda River flows into the Mohawk from the north at Amsterdam.
As of the census of 2010, there were 18,620 people, 8,324 households, and 4,721 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,176.4 people per square mile (1,226.4/km²). There were 9,218 housing units at an average density of 1,573 per square mile (607/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 80.4% White (68.1% Non Hispanic White), 3.8% Black or African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander and 3.4% from two or more races. 26.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 8,146 households in the city. The average household size was 2.24. In the city, 25.0% of the people were under the age of 18 and 15.8% were age 65 or older. The median income for a household in the city, based on data from 2007 to 2011, was $38,699.
The enclosed shopping center is named the Amsterdam Riverfront Center. Once filled with clothing shops, the mall complex has been adapted for offices of doctors and politicians, radio station WCSS, and an off-track betting site.