Syracuse

Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank/City of Syracuse

The city of Syracuse is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, but one organization is hoping it can ease things by educating landlords.

Part of the problem is timing. For the last year, the Syracuse Land Bank has been buying properties seized by the city for back taxes, according to Sharon Sherman of the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network.

"Hundreds of properties have been foreclosed on and are making their way into the land bank, but very few have been sold yet, so that’s taken quite a few out,” Sherman said.

Syracuse is facing a host of challenges and opportunities; front and center among them are the replacing of I-81 and the economic development of the city.  On this edition of the Campbell Conversations, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney sit down together with host Grant Reeher to discuss these key issues. 

Note: See the transcript below for highlights of the conversation.

Overall, sales tax revenue in New York increased for the first half of this year, but revenues were mixed across the state.

Across the board, New York saw sales tax revenue grow $177 million over the first half of this year, according to numbers tallied by the state comptroller's office. That's a 2.5 percent jump, but it's been an uneven increase, with some counties seeing big gains, while others decreased.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There is a nationwide racial disparity when it comes to breast cancer. The mortality rate is 41 percent higher for African-American women than Caucasian women. But a special program at Pioneer Homes in Syracuse hopes to put a dent in that number.

The idea is to get the 149 women over the age of 40 in this public housing development to get a mammogram, which can detect cancer in its early stages and can lead to better survival rates.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There’s a movement afoot in the Syracuse area to get more people to install solar energy technology in their home or business.

Peter Wirth of Fayetteville installed solar panels on his home two years ago. And one of the most frequent questions he hears is,

“Does it work in central New York? Well, it’s produced almost 100 percent of our power for the last two years,” said Wirth.

Courtesy of Upstate Drone Resisters

Activists opposed to drone warfare continue targeting the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base north of Syracuse.

During a protest at the air base last week, local upstate drone activists were joined by some members of the Atlantic Life Community Activists, an East Coast-based group of pacifists.

Community job training program will expand

Jul 24, 2014
Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A minority workforce training program on Syracuse’s North Side is being expanded with the help of several local agencies.

Northside UP, a community group targeting the immigrant population in the northern sections of Syracuse, has been running training programs called Green Train and Health Train. The second has placed a few dozen people on the payroll on St. Joseph’s Hospital, also located on the North Side.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

For the third time in six years, Republican John Sharon will challenge Democrat Sam Roberts for the 128th Assembly District seat.

Sharon admits going into a race in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans overwhelmingly, it doesn’t look promising.

“Just do that red-blue math, the numbers are not good," Sharon said. "But I’m not concerned about that, because I’m trying to reach out to the people who live here. And say, look, I’ll work for you, I will listen to you, I’ll be accessible, I’ll be visible, I’ll give you everything I’ve got every day.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Technological times have changed since the Tech Garden set up shop on Warren Street in Syracuse almost ten years ago.

Six months ago, the technical infrastructure at the Tech Garden was sadly lacking.

"The projection wasn’t widescreen, it wasn’t high-definition," said Seth Mulligan, Tech Garden Innovation Services vice president. "The Internet was crashing and it was slow.”

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The sight of cranes in the air, and shovels in the ground abound in central New York this summer.  That doesn’t jive though, with the latest job figures from New York state that the Syracuse area continues to lose jobs at an alarming rate.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A ceremony in Syracuse Friday launched the new face of cancer treatment in central New York. The Upstate Cancer Center is ready for patients, and assistant director Dick Kilburg says its innovative design merges nature and advanced cancer-fighting technology.  
 

"Basically what we’re doing with this facility is bringing all the services under one roof, and being able to offer patients what they deserve in this community," Kilburg said. "All the extra services that a cancer center should be offering.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse could be a potential landing spot for unaccompanied immigrant children who’ve been crossing the Mexican border in droves in recent months. Mayor Stephanie Miner is hoping a letter to the president can bring those kids to central New York sooner rather than later.

Miner is asking President Barack Obama to consider forming a partnership between Syracuse and the federal government to help with the humanitarian needs of the kids, who are waiting for deportation hearings.

She says dealing with immigrants in the past, and in the present, is in Syracuse’s blood.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is beginning it’s second century in Syracuse.

When the zoo opened it’s doors 100 years ago, visitors were treated to some birds and a bear. Director Ted Fox says it’s important to take stock after a century.
 

"One hundred years really means a lot to us," Fox said. "It really demonstrates the support of this community from what it was, with four acres and a few animals, to 700 animals and 43 acres now. We’re constantly adding new exhibits.”

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Syracuse University campus would be greatly impacted by the reconstruction of Interstate 81 through the city, a university working group has determined.

When visitors to the Syracuse University campus exit the Interstate 81 viaduct, they’re currently faced with an “unattractive city fabric,” the study concludes.

"The experience of the University is not such a good one because it’s not so clear how to get to the university," said dean of architecture Michael Speaks, who led the group, adding drivers must navigate a "cluttered path."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The Starwood group is now building two hotels in Syracuse’s Inner Harbor. Word of the second hotel came at the groundbreaking of the first.

With developers and dignitaries on hand for the groundbreaking of an Aloft Hotel in Syracuse’s Inner Harbor, Jeremy Cooper of Starwood Hotels made an announcement.

"In addition to this groundbreaking, another Starwood Hotel is being built right here in the Inner Harbor. The Element Syracuse Inner Harbor Hotel is expected to open in 2018," said Cooper.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Syracuse public school district and the state attorney general's office say they've reached a settlement to curb the district's alarmingly high suspension rate.

The district will amend its code of conduct under the agreement. 

The attorney general's civil rights office launched its investigation in October 2013, after several complaints.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the city can't have a modern economy without access to high-speed Internet and strong phone service.

Miner has recently called for better broadband in Syracuse, and has signed a petition to the state's Public Service Commission asking for an investigation into broadband's rollout in the state.

"And what I have seen firsthand is a number of businesses who said they wanted to locate to Syracuse, or expand in Syracuse, but couldn't because of a lack of access to affordable broadband or telecommunications," Miner said.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

It’s what every commuter hates when trying to get to work in the morning: red lights. They slow drive times down and waste gas, but the city of Syracuse is working to upgrade its traffic light system, so drivers see more green.

"By coordinating the traffic lights, what happens is, we can tell the traffic light not only how long to be green in a certain direction, but when to go green," explains Harry Carlson of the city's public works department.

City seizes Hotel Syracuse through eminent domain

Jul 3, 2014
Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The City of Syracuse has used legal channels to take control of the Hotel Syracuse after several efforts to redevelop the historic downtown lodging site have failed.

Syracuse and its economic development arm, the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency, transferred title of the property to the site's developer, Ed Riley.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A museum and shrine honoring St. Marianne Cope is ready for visitors. The center will honor a woman raised in central New York and who became a saint two years ago.

The museum sits on North Townsend Street, in the shadow of St. Joseph’s Hospital on Syracuse’s northside.  Cope was one of the founders of St. Joe’s and current CEO Kathryn Ruscitto says there will always been a connection.

“The reason we are such a unique institution is because of the roots that started with St. Marianne,” Ruscitto said. “So we are just delighted to have it on our campus.”

Syracuse has the second highest number of homeless children in New York state outside of New York City, according to recent statistics. There are 957 homeless children in the city of Syracuse, 1,401 in all in Onondaga County. Now one organization that deals with that population is hoping a new program will help ease that number.

This is the time of year things start getting busy at local homeless shelters.  

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Tighter curves built into a new Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse could mean fewer buildings along the highway’s path would need to be torn down.

Rebuilding the mile and a half of elevated interstate through the city is one of two options transportation planners are recommending for how to replace the current, aging viaduct.

But a new viaduct would have to be significantly wider than the current one in order to be up to highway standards. It could also be up to ten feet higher.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Syracuse looks less likely to go through its own Big Dig, as state highway transportation officials recommend a tunnel or depressed highway are not the best options for a rebuilt Interstate 81 through Syracuse.

Transportation officials have been considering several variations of four core options for a new I-81: a rebuilt viaduct, a street-level boulevard, a tunnel, or sunken roadway.

SU nixes contract with developer for new bookstore

Jun 20, 2014
Cameron Group, LLC.

After years of trying to build a new off-campus bookstore and fitness center, Syracuse University's efforts took a big step back Friday.

The university canceled its contract with the developer it had selected to build the project along the 600 block of University Ave., just north of the school's main campus. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A new, higher level of medical care is now available at the Onondaga County Justice Center. The new infirmary is located in the downtown Syracuse jail that holds prisoners awaiting trials or transfer to other facilities.

There has always been space for an infirmary in the almost 20-year-old jail, but cost considerations kept Onondaga County from staffing it. Now, the medical organization the county contracts out to can offer the advanced level of training needed for the staff that already works in the jail’s medical unit.

Ken Hawkins / Flickr

Syracuse police officers have reached a new labor contract with the city, more than three years after the old one expired.

It's not uncommon for police union contracts to lapse, but this one stretched on for a while, mostly over health care costs and coverage.

The new contract is for five years, but it applies retroactively to when the old one expired at the end of 2010. The 428 Syracuse police officers will have to pay about twice as much for health insurance, but will get two percent raises for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Syracuse nixes smoking in parks; approves alarm fee

Jun 10, 2014

The Syracuse Common Council has snuffed out the right to smoke in city parks and publicly-owned downtown gathering areas, like Clinton Square.

The council also formally added the dropping of cigarette butts on sidewalks to its anti-littering ordinance, punishable by a $50 fine.

The laws were written by councilor Bob Dougherty and Khalid Bey, who said they will shift the habits of smokers and protect people in public who don't want to be near second-hand smoke.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Paying for street parking from your smart phone will soon be an option in the city of Syracuse. Public Works Commissioner Pete O'Connor says the option to pay by phone will be available once meter readers get new hand-held devices they use to scan cars parked on city streets.  

“On the app, there will be a map. You’ll punch in what block you’re in. The meter will pop up for that block, you punch in what time you want, what credit card you want, and your license plate number. That’s it.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There will be skating at the Meachem Ice Rink in Syracuse’s Valley neighborhood starting in October.

The rink closed earlier this year after a series of mechanical problems made it impossible to make ice. State Sen. Dave Valesky and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli combined forces to get more than $450,000 from the state’s capital budget to pay for installation of an ice mat.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says it is the latest innovation in the ice rink world.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The city of Syracuse parks department has a big "help wanted" sign up, because there aren’t enough lifeguards to staff the city’s eight outdoor pools this summer.

The pool at Thorndon Park is filled and ready to go, but a shortage of lifeguards could put parts of the upcoming swim season in peril. Parks commissioner Baye Muhammad says the city still needs to hire 53 lifeguards to open all pools in the city.

And if they don’t find lifeguards?

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