Syracuse

Almost 700 athletes will file into the OnCenter in downtown Syracuse this evening to kick-off this year’s New York Special Olympic Games.

The OnCenter will also host floor hockey competition. Alpine skiing will be at Greek Peak. And there are snowshoeing and cross-country ski races too.

Stacey Eder, the volunteer coordinator for the Special Olympics, says having their annual event coincide with the Winter Olympics in Russia will add to the excitement.

Sudipto Sarkar / Flickr

The Syracuse Common Council’s new health committee used its first meeting to discuss a smoking ban in the city’s Cathedral Square neighborhood.

The Cathedral Square Neighborhood Association has been looking to push out smoking for about three years. Now it sees a possible way to do that with the council’s newly formed health committee. The neighborhood includes the blocks surrounding Columbus Circle in downtown Syracuse.

There are a lot of questions left to be answered, like legality of such a ban and enforcement of it, said councilor Khalid Bey.

A fine for not shoveling sidewalks after big snowstorms for Syracuse residents may not be dead, despite being handily defeated in the Common Council a few weeks ago.

When councilor Bob Dougherty proposed fining residents $100 for not clearing walkways after snowfall, he found little support. Only fellow councilor Khalid Bey voted for the law with Dougherty.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Central New York's underground infrastructure - namely, water mains - was a big focus of a discussion about the region's infrastructure hosted by Rep. Dan Maffei Tuesday.

Maffei, a Democrat from Syracuse, gathered elected officials, engineers and administrators at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse to discuss infrastructure. One main message was that upgrades and maintenance of the region's plumbing and water pipes has been an often ignored or delayed investment.

Jon Lim / Flickr

As the Syracuse City School District goes into its budget process, it’s looking at a $24 million spending gap, a revenue problem stemming from years of stagnant state aid in the face of rising educational costs.

The District’s Chief Financial Officer, Suzanne Slack, decided to name this year’s budget report after a weather event. She saw a news story about frigid temperatures this winter caused by the Polar Vortex.

dougtone / via Flickr

Changes are coming to Syracuse’s West Street artery to make the roadway more pedestrian friendly and less of a barrier for the Near Westside neighborhood.

West Street was built in the middle of the last century, as Interstate 81 was paving through the city, as a way to move cars more easily. It’s six lanes wide and not pedestrian friendly, but many west side residents have to cross the street to get downtown or to the grocery store.

The Near Westside Initiative, a community advocacy group has been working with the state transportation department on a redesign.

oliver_hine / via Flickr

Three big roadways in upstate New York cities have made a top 10 list of freeways that should be torn down or filled in.

The Congress for New Urbanism says Syracuse’s Interstate 81, Rochester’s Inner Loop and Buffalo’s Skyway bridge are all roadways that do damage to the community and should be replaced. They’re also on the "Freeways Without a Future" list because there’s growing momentum to remove them.

The Chicago-based group advocates for more walkable cities and smart growth.

There are less than two months left for people to sign on to a health insurance plan and avoid tax penalties for not having insurance in 2014.  

Steve Wood, community health coordinator of the ACR Health Syracuse office, said they are continuing outreach in nine counties in central New York, encouraging people to get help from specially trained navigators who can help with the process.

Howie Hawkins, a perennial Green Party Candidate for office in central New York, is expected to officially jump into the race for governor.

Four years ago, Hawkins, a UPS worker who lives on Syracuse’s South Side, was one of seven candidates for governor, in a race that ultimately put Andrew Cuomo in the governor’s mansion and Hawkins in third. He wants to run again, and is hoping to get a little more respect this time after his showing in 2010.

“Last time I think, especially New York City media, said, 'oh he's  an upstate hick' and they totally ignored me," he said.

Destiny USA

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says giving the Destiny USA entertainment and shopping center a tax break to build a hotel would be “a mistake,” but the mayor actually has little say over those incentives.

Syracuse homicide rate at recent high in 2013

Feb 11, 2014
Tom Magnarelli / WRVO

The homicide rate in Syracuse was at a recent high in 2013. The city had 22 homicides in 2013, a 60 percent increase from the 13 homicides in 2012.

Sargent Tom Connellan, the public information officer for the Syracuse Police Department, said it is very difficult to predict a homicide.

"We can target gun violence, we can target a lot of other crimes, but sometimes these are just crimes of opportunity or crimes of passion. Some involved domestic related incidents. I don't want to trivialize any of these homicides because one is one too many," he said.

Destiny USA

The information gathering phase of a proposed 252-room hotel project next to the Destiny USA mall in Syracuse has started.

Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse both received letters last week from Destiny indicating a plan to build a hotel across the street from the mall. The developer is asking for tax breaks from the county consistent with deals other hotels have gotten. The difference, according to mayoral spokesman Tim Carroll, is that Destiny is going through the county.

Destiny USA

The owners of the Destiny USA mega-mall and entertainment center in Syracuse again have plans to build a hotel as part of its complex along Onondaga Lake.

The mall this week sent a letter to Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. A spokesman for the mayor confirmed they received the letter but had no further comment. The mayor has long opposed the mall's large and lengthy property tax break.

Crouse Hospital

A spike in heroin and prescription painkiller abuse in central New York is the reason behind the expansion of a program that helps addicts.

Crouse Hospital in Syracuse says it’s expanding its opioid program, the only one in the area, in response to a community need for methadone treatment. Monica Taylor, director of behavior health at Crouse, says it won’t happen overnight.

Vera House is encouraging adults and teens to talk about the issue of teen dating violence. The Syracuse agency hopes to get the conversation going by hosting a Twitter town hall session Tuesday.

As many as one in three teens will experience some kind of violence stemming from a romantic relationship, according to Vera House education director Loren Cunningham. But it’s often hard to get teens to open up about it.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

New York’s transportation commissioner says a final decision about the future of the elevated stretch of Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse will be made in a year and a half.

DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald discussed the future of the aging raised highway at a budget hearing today in Albany. "It's not an easy project," she said.

McDonald says her department will be out in March with more information on what impact to other roadways changes to I-81 could create, then it's on to the next step.

News Briefs: Tuesday, Jan. 28

Jan 28, 2014
Erin Gardner/File Photo

A new law requires New York hospitals to screen newborns for heart defects; unemployment rates are down in the state (for the most part); if you don't feel like shoveling that sidewalk, you may end up with a fine; and $56 million in funds has been awarded to New York hospitals. Catch up on the news of the day with WRVO's news briefs.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse has canceled two big exhibits in 2014 in an effort to stymie a large operating budget.

The museum lost $135,000 in 2013. Even by canceling two traveling exhibits slated for April and October, the museum’s leadership still predicts being in the red a total of $500,000 by the end of 2014.

The decision to cancel the exhibits was made at a board meeting this week. Had they not aborted on the two exhibits, the estimated deficit would have been $750,000.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Plans have been finalized for the new Saint Marianne Cope Museum and Shrine in Syracuse. This week, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities used Cope’s birthday for a digital groundbreaking, where a prototype of the center was unveiled.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Mayor Stephanie Miner is putting together a task force to consider the community and economic impacts of a new sports arena in the city of Syracuse. The mayor put the issue, which has had the town buzzing in recent weeks, in her annual State of the City speech.

"I am neither in favor of a stadium nor against a stadium, but there has to be a process where people can get their questions answered," Miner said.
 

The mayor says building a new stadium, to potentially replace the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University, is a huge decision that should be made together.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Cardboard boxes lined tables and were stacked 10 feet high in the Teamsters union hall on Syracuse's north side this morning. Dozens of volunteers, from six-year-old Marielle Emmanuel to Syracuse University athletes filled them with donated clothes and food.

For the 14th year, the United Way of central New York put on a clothing and food drive in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Many spend the day remembering the civil rights leader with a day of service.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center has expanded it’s primary care center in one poverty stricken Syracuse neighborhood. The new center will offer a single location where patients can get many medical needs met on the city’s near Westside.

The Primary Care Center-West has been around on Gifford Street since the mid-1990s. Medical Director Luis Castro says the expansion not only quadruples the size of the facility, but creates a kind of one-stop shop for patients.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO file photo

Syracuse lawmakers have made it easier for police to get involved with problem properties. Common Councilors agreed to revise the old disorderly houses ordinance into a modern day tool for police.

Common councilor Khalid Bey says he’s heard frustration from constituents who don’t see action when they complain about problem properties.

“I had a constituent who had an ongoing problem with a gambling house," Bey said. "Six months of complaints with no real recourse. Now police have an adequate tool to deal with such a compliant.”

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Another group has formed to weigh in on the future of Interstate 81’s path through downtown Syracuse. This one calling for a focus on moving people, not cars.

The elevated stretch of I-81 through downtown Syracuse is nearing the end of its 50 year lifespan. Area residents are entwined in a lengthy debate over its second life, which largely boils down to rebuild or reroute.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

In early November, Dr. David Smith resigned as president of the State University’s Upstate Medical University and University Hospital. Days before, the Times Union in Albany had reported Smith was close to leaving Syracuse’s biggest hospital to become president of Penn State University.

Instead, he’s found himself the subject of several investigations.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Some big changes are coming to the Court St.campus of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. It involves the sale of the campus, and moving a shrine to recently canonized St. Marianne Cope, who began her ministries as a Sister of St. Francis, in Syracuse.

The current campus on the corner of Court and Grant St. on Syracuse’s north side dates back to the 1860s, when a new order of Franciscan nuns bought the property. Over the past 150 years it’s been home to a convent, school, chapel and a day care, among other things.

As the deadline for health insurance plan applications approaches, one agency that’s offering individuals help with the process is finding itself very busy. ACR Health in Syracuse has exceeded expectations as far as signing people up in the state healthcare exchanges.

According to navigator Brian Vanbenschoten, ACR has already helped more than 1,100 people sign up for health insurance plans that will go into effect Jan. 1. That’s 300 more than the agency anticipated at this time.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Syracuse economic development officials have taken “the first step” toward taking ownership of the old Hotel Syracuse so it can be re-opened, in hopes this will be the last winter it sits dormant.

The construction that will re-open the shuttered building is still months away, though, as bureaucracy has to work its course first.

Cameron Group, LLC.

The developer behind a new bookstore and fitness center for Syracuse University will meet its construction deadline and get to keep tax breaks from the city.

Tom Valenti of the Cameron Group says they’ll break ground this week on the facility, which will be located just off of SU’s campus. They had until Friday to do so or lose the 30-year property tax break it won from the city in August 2012.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse are hoping to build on the success of government consolidation projects in the past to make more moves to modernize or consolidate government in the future. How the two biggest government entities in central New York will do this is isn’t quite clear, but they say they want to get the conversation going.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney used a snowy day in Syracuse to illustrate the idea of government inefficiency.

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