Current Issue

Are decisions on Syracuse’s South Side Inclusive?

While a swarm of proposals affecting the South Side have been announced, much of the chatter over the past few months seems to center on missed opportunities. From Crouse Hospital’s now-canceled Sears building renovation to confusion over where $200 million from the newly announced Syracuse Surge would be spent to the ongoing quagmire surrounding the future of I-81, there’s certainly no shortage of things to discuss.

Mayor Ben Walsh announced the Surge, an initiative to develop Syracuse’s workforce for the future digital economy, in this year’s State of the City address. He said its signature investment would create The Southside Campus for the New Economy by renovating the former Central High School building and expanding the city’s technical educational offerings. Learn more about this proposal in the upcoming March print issue.

Walsh stressed the way to make a lasting impact here is to provide jobs for our youth.

The takeaway for many leaders and residents on the South Side: $200,000 would be invested in the neighborhood. But after the speech, updated plans revealed that some of the money will be spent elsewhere in the city. The mayor said in his speech “ripples of opportunity form the South Side will spread to every quadrant of the city.”

Community meetings have strived to inform South Side residents on such plans for economic revitalization. How to repurpose the crumbling I-81 viaduct, a restructuring of public housing managed by Syracuse Housing Authority (SHA) and even the canceling of a plan by Crouse Hospital to renovate the former Sears Building have been hot topics.

The city and its residents have known for years that the viaduct was deteriorated and nearing the end of its lifespan. The debate over what to do about it reopened the decades-old wounds caused by its construction and the resulting destruction of the 15th Ward. Years later, what remains is a lack of understanding on just what will happen and when.

For I-81, the Central New York Civil Liberties Union has hired Lanessa Chaplin, project counsel for the Central New York Chapter, to hold regular meetings to inform and collect community input on how the final plan will reshape the neighborhood’s landscape.

And with looming construction around the I-81 viaduct, Blueprint 15 was announced to redevelop public housing proprieties owned and managed by SHA for a neighborhood welcoming all, meaning all income levels and both single and family-friendly units. While hints of redevelopment have been peppered into community meetings over the last few years, a public announcement came last month in a joint partnership with The Allyn Foundation, SHA and the school district. Blueprint 15 states its goal is to restore the neighborhood with a nod to the nostalgia of the old 15th Ward. Yet columnist Ken Jackson, publisher of Urban CNY, called the plans “Negro Removal 2.0.”

Finally, public outcry last year withdrew a $20 million redevelopment deal by Crouse Hospital of the former Sears building. Some feared it would bring drug users in and attract drug dealers to the adjoining corners. Others felt residents never had a chance to fully understand the revitalization plans, depth of offerings — including job creation — and overall impact.

Common in all these instances are meetings, sometimes public, sometimes not, sometimes over the course of several months, or in the case of I-81, several years. Sometimes those meetings generate news coverage, sometimes they do not.

What’s clear is that citizens, government and the media all need to work together to ensure those meetings are more inclusive, better attended and bring about a deeper understanding of these projects and their impacts.

To read the full March issue, visit here

— Ashley Kang, The Stand Director

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