Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh delivers his 5th “State of the City” address
By Teagan Brown
SYRACUSE, N.Y.— During his fifth State of the City address Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh presented several goals and plans for a city he said is “resilient and ready.”
The address, held at JMA Wireless Technology, looked first at how Syracuse has grown and will continue to do so. Walsh said what makes Syracuse’s strategy for inclusive growth in the economy, or “Syracuse Surge,” different from most economic growth plans is how it’s “about people.”
As a part of Syracuse Surge, the SUNY Educational Opportunity Center will be fully renovated and expanded. The Salina First Development secured funding and will begin renovations and construction. This includes adding light manufacturing, office, retail, and mixed income residential living. Next door the Syracuse Community Health Center will be building a $22.5 million facility.
Walsh acknowledged the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the community, including the more than 900 deaths in Onondaga County.
“The pandemic is far from over, Syracuse’s recovery, though, is already underway,” Walsh said.
Syracuse received $123 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds in 2021, and the city has already planned out more than $45 million of that funding.
There’s a new ARPA dashboard that allows citizens to see the progress of this spending and what has already been completed.
Walsh spoke strongly about nuisance properties in the city. He said he is done with the “unconscionable behavior” these properties hold. Walsh said crackdowns on these properties will increase. The fine for a first time offense will increase from $1,000 to $2,500. To aid in these crackdowns, an additional attorney will be added to the law department to focus specifically on these nuisance abatement hearings.
Growth of the city is a sentiment that was present throughout the Mayor’s address, including when it came to the 15th Ward neighborhood, a place he said was negatively impacted by the Interstate 81 viaduct.
To repair the damage done by I-81, Walsh said they hope to secure a $50 million grant from HUD’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative that will transform the area.
While Walsh spoke on the improvement of individual neighborhoods, he said the city will also focus on the improvement of downtown. The Revitalization Initiative Reward will allow Downtown Syracuse to grow and spur more opportunities for its residents, according to Walsh.
Another project about to begin is tearing down Interstate 81’s viaduct-like structure and replacing it with a community grid. Walsh thanked New York State Governor Kathy Hochul for her commitment to this $2 billion investment.
While Walsh spoke on long anticipated investments, such as I-81, he presented a number of new programs, plans and initiatives to work on in 2022.
One being the new Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence which will work with residents, law enforcement and violence prevention experts to identify factors causing gun violence in Syracuse. Although violent crime went up 3% in 2021, shooting incidents were down at least 10%.
“We must do more to make our city safer, and we will,” Walsh said.
The Syracuse Fire Department said they graduated their “largest and most diverse class in history” in 2021.
Along with these newly graduated firefighters, SFD will also receive a new state-of-the-art fire tower to use for training which will replace their 80-year-old tower.
Walsh acknowledged the challenge of all of the goals and plans he laid out.
“Our goals to ‘reach higher’ are aggressive and they will be difficult to accomplish because Syracuse city government – like other cities in New York – still faces severe long term fiscal challenges,” he said.
He closed his speech by saying the city “must reach higher together” and “stand side by side.”
You can view the full State of the City address here