Syracuse

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

If Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s proposed budget is approved as is by the Common Council, the city will soon beef up its police and fire departments.

Miner says even as the city budget continues to be tight, it’s time for the new officers, with more than 200 potential police and fire retirements looming this year.

"You always are trying to manage, and manage and looking at how many retirements you're going to have and how many you’ve already had, where your needs are and how you can balance those needs,” Miner said.

The Syracuse Housing Authority, the agency overseeing publicly-subsidized housing in the city, is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

As it marks the milestone, the authority has a waiting list 3,000 names long to get into one of its units. There are twice as many people waiting to get a Section 8 voucher that helps low income people pay rent. And the federal dollars coming to SHA is significantly less than it used to be.

Still, SHA executive director Bill Simmons says the authority is doing more and they’re moving in a "unique direction" toward a focus on home ownership.

Like other newspapers, The Syracuse Post Standard has struggled in recent years, and it has made significant changes in the way it delivers the news and how it tries to interact with the public.  In this edition of the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher talks with Tim Kennedy, the person now in charge of navigating its course.  Find out why he sees a bright future of opportunities for the Syracuse Media Group, despite the hits the company has taken.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Along with a spike in heroin and other opiate use in central and northern New York has come a jump in the number of  drug overdose deaths. One Syracuse health organization hopes to bring that number down by teaching people how to administer a drug that can stop the effects of an overdose.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Syracuse-area advocates of universal pre-kindergarten want lawmakers to include it in the state budget expected to be approved in Albany in the next ten days. Supporters crystallized their argument for pre-K  at a news conference at Delaware School on Syracuse’s west side Thursday.

The call to  include universal pre-K in the state budget came from business leaders, like Centerstate CEO president Rob Simpson

Ellen Abbott

A house that opens its doors to pregnant women who don’t have anywhere to live will soon open on Syracuse's Northside.

Joseph’s House, a project conceived by two women who are anti-abortion, seeks to offer pregnant women in crisis another option besides abortion.

Kitty Spinelli of Skaneatelas and Maria Miller of Fairmount are the founders of Joseph’s House, which is housed in a home more than 100-years-old in an undisclosed location on the city’s Northside.  

They said they are already getting calls about pregnant women who have nowhere to go.

The city of Syracuse now has a document to base its urban planning decisions on for the next three decades.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

It’s said that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. In Syracuse, that’s a little truer. A sixth of the population claims to be of Irish ancestry, more than any other city in New York state.

It was the potato famine in Ireland and the rise of the salt industry in central New York both happening in the mid-1800s that brought so many Irish people to the city, according to Dennis Connors, curator of the Onondaga Historical Association.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank is going into the deconstruction business. Taking apart old homes piece by piece will be an option to just tearing them down.

In the last year, the land bank has acquired 165 properties that had been seized by the city for back taxes. Many are in such bad shape they have to be torn down. Instead of demolition though, Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright says there is some money available for deconstruction.

After a year of delays and re-writes, Syracuse lawmakers are finally set to vote on a new comprehensive plan for the city.

City planners had been working on the vision for how the city should look in 2040 for two years. Then it went to the council, where lawmakers had a lot of questions and proposed changes, which caused them to continually delay voting on it.

Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank/City of Syracuse

After a year on the job, the Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank has issued its first progress report, which notes that several steps have been taken to start reclaiming Syracuse neighborhoods from dilapidated and decaying homes.

First the numbers. The Syracuse Land Bank has acquired 165 properties across Syracuse over the past year. Twelve have been sold or have sales pending; 21 are currently for sale; 26 are slated for demolition;  and 57 are vacant lots.

Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank/City of Syracuse

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank has torn down its first house. Crews demolished a vacant home just off South Salina Street on Syracuse’s Southside Monday, after the land bank determined it was deteriorated beyond repair.

It’s the first of 25 properties slated for demolition this year, by the organization that buys dilapidated properties and either rehabs them or tears them down.  The idea is to deal with properties that are a drag on neighborhoods and magnets for crime.

hectate1 / via Flickr

New York state transportation planners have opened the discussion about the best way to speed up train travel through upstate New York.

Passenger trains running between Buffalo and New York City right now run at about 50 miles per hour and are often slowed more by competing freight train traffic.

mrsmecomber / via Flickr

Syracuse's Hancock International Airport, the region's major passenger airport, is now under the control of a private authority after an official handover from the city of Syracuse.

The hope is the airport will be more cost-efficient and creative.

Hancock airport was the last in the state to transfer to private control. It was a long process, said Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz is touring the state, talking with cities about aging infrastructures, hoping the state can come up with some help for communities plagued by collapsing streets and broken water mains.

It’s been a really horrible year when it comes to water main breaks in the City of Syracuse, said water department superintendent Paul Trovato.

"Between the cold and being old that’s what the problem is,” he said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The race for Congress in the Syracuse area's 24th District is heating up. Republicans in the district that includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and part of Oswego County, will decide who gets the party nod at a convention this weekend in Syracuse. The eight Republicans who want the chance to run against incumbent Dan Maffei got to make their case in front of a roomful of conservatives Thursday night.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Since Syracuse lawmakers handily defeated the idea of fining property owners who don’t clear snow from their sidewalks, they’ve begun discussing a bigger picture solution for snow-filled walkways.

Some Syracuse city councilors sat down Wednesday with public works, school district and parks department officials. They also talked to heads of community groups that organize sidewalk shoveling teams in the winter.

Syracuse’s recently created stadium task force sat down together for the first time Tuesday. Its job is to take a deeper look at the idea of a new athletic venue in the city that the mayor put the brakes on a few months ago.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner had too many unanswered questions to get behind a new stadium for Syracuse University next to the Kennedy Square redevelopment project on the city’s Near Eastside.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Water department crews have spent a lot more time this winter digging into frozen ground, shoveling asphalt and sifting through mud to find holes in Syracuse’s plumbing as an unusually high number of water main breaks is putting a strain on city resources.

Since the beginning of the year, the city’s century-old water system has sprung more than a hundred leaks. That’s more than two a day that city works crews have had to patch and twice the number the city normally deals with.

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.

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