Sign Petition to Demand Support for Neighborhoods In the Shadow of the Rt 81 Tear Down

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is circulating a petition making these requests of the NYS Department of Transportation in regard to the I-81 project:The removal of the I-81 viaduct must be conducted with environmental, racial, and economic justice at the forefront to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of community members who live in the shadow of the highway. To do this, the NYS Department of Transportation must:

  • Reserve and transfer the four acres of land to the City of Syracuse adjacent to STEAM at Dr. King Elementary School with a contingency that the land must be developed into a community land trust, and provide resources, oversight, and development by residents living adjacent to I-81 viaduct. 
    • Protect residents by conducting a health needs assessment to determine who is best suited to be relocated due to the fugitive dust and hazards of construction. A health care access center must be placed within walking distance to Martin Luther King W. The State DOT must also ensure there are independent monitors of daily air quality, lead exposure, and compliance with federal regulations.
    • Conduct testing of the raised viaduct prior to demolition, to assess health risks from leaded paint, leaded gasoline, and housing dust. The State DOT should implement stronger safety standards to protect residents from fugitive dust. This should include requiring construction contractors to provide higher levels of protection for residents, and supplying residents with lead-resistant abatement technology.
    • Reduce the speed limit for the business loop to 20 miles per hour in and around STEAM at Dr. King Elementary School and within 50 feet of residential neighborhoods.

If you would like to sign the NYCLU petition, go HERE.

Protesting the Closure of the W. Onondaga St. Walgreens

Twiggy Billue of Jubilee Homes speaking against the closure of Walmart at 522 W. Onondaga St.

Members of Syracuse United Neighbors, Jubilee Homes and the West Onondaga Street Alliance held a noon-time protest on February 2nd about the closure of the Walgreens store on W. Onondaga St. near South Ave.

The store is due to close on February 21st. This is a very large corner lot in the middle of a rebuilding neighborhood. We understand that the trend nationally is away from brick and mortar stores, with pharmacies relying on the internet. But we will not allow this rushed closing to be paired with an unplanned future.

Children, families, senior citizens and people with disabilities live in this neighborhood. They rely on the services Walgreens provides–especially its pharmacy. The people working at this store are mostly city residents who rely on their pay to survive. We will not allow anyone to be blindsided by this closure.

Merely taping a photocopied notice to the front door stating that the store will close in less than a month is not enough. Our groups will fight for our neighborhood.

Jubilee Homes has built over 100 owner-occupied stores in this neighborhood, as well as spearheading the campaign to bring a Price Rite supermarket to South Ave. Pathfinder Bank is rehabbing the old AAA building right next door to Walgreens into a spectacular new bank branch. New York State recently awarded the city a $10 million grant to assist the business corridors along both W. Onondaga St. and South Ave.

Our groups will work together to bring Walgreens and the city to the table to discuss the future of this building. Walgreens claims that its vision is “to be the leading partner in reimagining local healthcare and wellbeing . . .” We will hold them to their word.

Protecting Our Community from Lead When the Rt. 81 Bridges Come Down

Press Conference December 8, 2021 corner of MLK East and Oakwood Ave.

A coalition of groups held a very important press conference in our neighborhood on December 8th. Standing in the shadows of both MLK, Jr. Elementary School and the hulking elevated highway of Rt. 81, representatives from Families for Lead Freedom Now, Occupational Heath Clinical Center, and the CNY chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union called the press conference “Creating Opportunity for Health and Safety on I-81 Demolition.”

While it looks good for the NYS Department of Transportation to finally choose the Community Grid model for reconstruction of the Rt. 81 Viaduct, our community’s health is still buried in the details of how the state takes down the massive structure of bridges and roadways that run right through our neighborhoods.

That is why this coalition is asking the state Department of Transportation to go above and beyond regulatory minimums to ensure that the lead that is sure to be released during demolition does no more harm to residents and the workers tasked to bring the elevated highway down.

Letter sent to the Department of Transportation outlining demands to eliminate lead poisoning during the demolition of the Rt. 81 elevated highway

The demands that this coalition has developed to protect our community residents and construction workers have been sent in a letter to the NYS Department of Transportation:

  1. Conduct a Health Impact Assessment-a recognized tool by the CDC for public health on infrastructure projects.
  2. Independent Safety and Workplace Monitor–especially important to monitor the demolition of the bridges.
  3. Jointly-designed Lead Exposure Control Plan–input from community stakeholders within a half-mile radius of project.
  4. Funding for a “Health Care–NYSDOT–Community” partnership. Public health education of nearby residents, regular testing and monitoring of air, soil and children’s blood levels. Modeled after similar programs in Boston and Cincinnati.
  5. Conference with officials from the E.P.A.–This project is taking place in a community that has suffered violations of environmental justice for many years. This falls under the E.P.A.’s monitoring function.

Unfortunately, the state has not responded to these demands and seem content to let the sub-contractors working on the project take responsibility for lead safety. This is unacceptable–and this issue is far from over.

The Suburban Business Interests Trying To Stop The Community Grid from Replacing Rt. 81 Through Our Neighborhoods

Thank you to Syracuse.com reporter Michelle Breidenbach for writing a powerful article that rips the mask off of “Save 81” and the business interests that have profited off of the historic abuse of our neighborhoods on the Southside. https://www.syracuse.com/state/2021/12/save-81-powerful-forces-masked-as-grassroots-movement-fight-to-keep-interstate-through-syracuse.html

The article makes clear that “Save 81” is willing to continue the pain and suffering that Rt. 81 has caused our historically African-American neighborhood. The history of segregation and economic impoverishment caused by running Rt. 81 through our neighborhoods means nothing to “Save 81.” They care about moving suburbanites through the city as fast as possible and delivering them to their businesses in the northern suburbs.

Shame on those in the article who fell for the B.S. that “Save 81” is peddling–and still support them.

Mayor Walsh Responds to SUN’s Request for More Police Cameras In Our Neighborhoods

SUN met with Police Chief Kenton Buckner in October when he held “National Coffee with a Cop Day” We presented him with a request for corner police cameras at 13 different locations–on S. Salina St., South Ave., W. Onondaga St., Bellevue Ave., Rowland St., Hartson St., and Delaware Ave. We also sent this information to Mayor Ben Walsh.

In an October 27th letter, Mayor Walsh outlined his plans for using $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money to boost the corner camera program.

“SPD is beginning its expenditures with 26 existing cameras that need to be replaced. Chief Cecile tells me the locations highlighted in your letter are good strategic locations and will be considered for new installations once they determine how much money is left after replacements.” The specific locations the Mayor mentioned for new installations were the corners of Rich and Bellevue, Palmer and Bellevue, Coolidge and Bellevue, and Onondaga and Bellevue.

The Mayor also mentioned that the city is also advocating with New York State for funding for 12 additional cameras–which are priced at about $15,000 per camera. When we find out about whether the city was successful in getting this funding, we will make sure that the city installs cameras in all of our suggested locations.