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Syracuse Mayor: Railroad Bridge Report "Woefully Inadequate" to Determine Safety of Viaduct
July 19, 2018, 8:39 pm | Source
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh is calling a railroad bridge inspection report “woefully inadequate” in order to determine if the railroad viaduct through the city is safe. The summary report comes two weeks after two 40-foot concrete sidewalls tumbled onto South Clinton Street. It’s clear Walsh is a bit frustrated by the lack of information regarding the condition of the structures beyond their “capacity to safely carry traffic” as stated in the report of an inspection performed two years ago. Given the July 5 th wall collapse, Walsh says the designation is clearly not sufficient to deem the bridges safe. “ Key sections of the report also call into question the reliability of the inspections performed. For example, the area of the collapse is described as in ‘fair to good condition.’ More troubling, only 13 of the 35 structures were characterized as ‘no safety hazards found.’ With that limited information provided, we can only conclude the remaining 22 structures pose some safety hazard to

Syracuse Youth Bring Urban Delights Farm Stand to Downtown Farmers Market
July 17, 2018, 8:49 pm | Source
The Urban Delights Farm Stand re-opened today in its first appearance this season at the Downtown Syracuse Farmers’ Market. Residents gravitated towards the fresh produce. Youth ranging from 15 to 21 years-old operate the stand as a summer job. They’re hired through Central New York Works or Jubilee Homes to garden and sell their crops around Syracuse. 19-year-old Karisa Kirby is one of ten workers who not only gain work experience, but also educate CNY’s youth about organic produce. “We have got a lot of kids that come and they have never touched soil in their life. They’re like, ‘What’s a compost?’” Kirby said . “One thing they know about is maybe collard greens but a lot of the vegetables they really don’t know anything about.” Some young adults such as Ira Dancil started this program with no gardening experience. But he and others now know what it takes to grow fruits and vegetables. “First they taught me how to plant seeds, then maintenance by weeding, so it keeps the plants

Syracuse to Re-dedicate Nearly Forgotten WWI Monument on 100th Anniv. of Battle
July 13, 2018, 8:00 pm | Source
A nearly forgotten WWI monument on the southern edge of Downtown Syracuse will be rededicated Sunday to mark the 100 th anniversary of the regiment and battle it commemorates. WAER News met Curator of History at the Onondaga Historical Association Bob Searing at the monument in Billings park bound by S. Warren, E. Adams, and S. Salina Streets. A rededication ceremony will be held Sunday from noon to 3:00, with the official program from 12:30 to 1:30. It’ll feature a formal military call to assembly, posting of the Guard, Invocation and Benediction, in addition to several speakers, including writer Sean Kirst. A 100 th anniversary commemorative plaque will also be installed on the monument.

Synthetic Marijuana Overdoses Soar in Syracuse; Police Trying to Find Source of "Bad Batch"
July 12, 2018, 9:11 pm | Source
Syracuse Police are investigating what’s behind a rise in “spike” overdoses this week. Synthetic marijuana overdose cases across the city have increased from one or two per day, to upwards of 20, with more likely going unreported. Sergeant Rick Helterline says this may be due to what he calls a “bad batch.” “This stuff is just a mixture of chemicals. The people who are buying have no idea what's in there. It's not regulated in any way, it's not monitored. What we found recently is something that's in whatever they're using is causing more severe reactions than usual.” Reported overdoses are affecting a wide age range, from people in their teens into their 60’s. Officers are monitoring interactions this week in an attempt to track down the source of the batch. Helterline says the unpredictability of the drug is making it especially challenging to track. "We haven't been able to track the specific batch or specific brand that is causing this. The way they package it, it could be the same

Erie Canal Cyclists Stop in Syracuse, Marking Halfway Point Between Buffalo and Albany
July 11, 2018, 10:27 pm | Source
More than 700 cyclists stopped in Syracuse Wednesday night on their trek across the state on the 20 th annual Cycling the Erie Canal tour. The ride also marks two other milestones: The bicentennnial of the original canal, and the centennial of the barge canal. WAER’S Scott Willis caught up with some of them earlier in the day at a rest stop at Sims store in Camillus, the halfway point between Buffalo and Albany on the 400 mile journey.

Syracuse's Innovation Team Seeks Resident Input at "Ideation Sessions" on Housing Stability
July 11, 2018, 9:39 pm | Source
The City of Syracuse Innovation team is looking for input from residents about challenges with…and ways to improve housing stability in their neighborhoods. The first of three “ideation sessions” will be held Thursday at the Westcott Community Center. Housing stability is the I-team's priority area for 2018, and director Adria Finch says the team comes to the table already knowing what’s causing “instability.” There’s transiency…data show about a quarter of the city’s population moves every year. Many of them might be due to evictions…roughly 10,000 annually. She says finding out why is key. " Is the eviction related to income. Is the eviction related to high utility costs. Is it related to perhaps housing quality, or is there a retaliatory eviction." Break it down further, and Finch says you might see challenges facing landlords and owners. " We have a housing quality problem here in Syracuse. Sometimes it's too expensive to fix-up a property. That requires people to move because

Rescue Mission Breaks Ground on $5.8 million Food Service Center Expansion
July 11, 2018, 9:16 pm | Source
The Rescue Mission broke ground Wednesday on a new $5.8 million expansion project to remodel its food service center in Syracuse. The much-needed upgrade has been about two years in the making. With lines often out the door, the additional space is designed to serve more meals to people and cut down on wait times. Carolyn Hendrickson with the Rescue Mission is ready to help the growing need for meals and housing. " This project in particular is near and dear to my heart. I'm so excited to see us at this juncture and seeing the project come to fruition." A long-time client of the mission for the past five years is Angela Jackson. With three kids and another on the way, she’s looking forward to the expansion being not only larger but, safer. " It's going to be great. They needed it. They needed more space in here. A lot of people don't come here because they have to wait in line. A lot of people don't come because they don't want their kids around other people, sometimes homeless people.

CNY Muslim Groups Reflect on Local Support in Face of Supreme Court Travel Ban Ruling
July 2, 2018, 3:04 pm | Source
Many Central New Yorkers were directly affected by the Supreme Court ruling on the travel ban. Recent refugees and immigrants, as well as local residents, were impacted emotionally and in concrete ways if they were hoping to be reunited with family members from other countries. Local Islamic groups had a response some might find surprising. In response to last week’s Supreme Court decision on the travel ban, Central New York Islamic Groups had a different reaction than just coming out in opposition. And that came from the communities’ response to them. “We had people from the community, volunteer lawyers and law enforcement groups from 4 or 5 different agencies, approach us in a good way, saying that we support you and that’s not necessarily our stance,: said Yusuf Soule. "So we felt a lot of love right from the beginning.” Yusuf Soule of the Islamic Council of Greater Syracuse is an American Muslim who works at the Northside Learning center and the Mosque of Jesus, Son of Mary at the

Familiar Arguments About I-81 Replacement at "Fact Finding " City Council Meeting
June 13, 2018, 5:40 pm | Source
The Syracuse common council Tuesday evening re-ignited the debate over what to do with I-81 though the city, because councilor Joe Driscoll says the topic is so important. " When this meeting was announced, the overhwhelming feedback was 'haven't we had this discussion enough? I've heard about this on and on, to death.' My response would be 'no we haven't.' This is the most important decision to affect this region for 50 to 100 years, so it's worth a couple more discussions. " Driscoll says turnover on the council prompted the meeting. He says current members want to pass an updated resolution asking the state to include certain information in its long-delayed environmental impact statement on the replacement options. Those from the various sides of the debate were invited to council chambers, and dozens packed into chambers to hear familiar arguments. Barry Lentz is with the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse, and is a proponent of the community grid option. He understands

Grilled Cheese, Homemade Flatbread Join Fruits, Veggies, and Flowers at Downtown Farmers Market
June 12, 2018, 8:28 pm | Source
The Downtown Farmers Market kicked off its 46 th season Tuesday in Clinton Square with beautiful food and live music. Downtown residents and lunch breakers enjoyed the music of Miss E and the Resonators. They perused the wares of dozens of local vendors, and haggled and swapped recipes with farmers, bakers and craftsmen. Market Director Chuck McFadden said opening day couldn’t come soon enough. " It's going really great. The weather couldn't be better. Folks are happy to be here. We've had people who live downtown begging us to start earlier than we do. But you have to give the farmers time to grow some product." McFadden says as interest in the farmers market has grown, the market has been able to take on more diverse and unique vendors. Downtown resident Gabrielle was excited to find and try new things. " We come with an open mind. I was looking for some greens, but they don't have many fresh, loose greens. I was excited by the strawberries. They're good. We bought some. So this Za

Ex-Convict Spearheads Project to Replace Makeshift Shrines for Murder Victims with Memorial Trees
June 8, 2018, 10:12 pm | Source
Two Syracuse men have teamed up for a new way to honor gun violence victims. Founder of the I Apologize Foundation Rashawn Sullivan and Onondaga Earth Corps assistant Saptarshi Lahiri hope to plant a tree for each person killed by bullets on the city’s south side. The project might be unexpected given Sullivan’s dark past. " I have lived a life of violence. I actually had ended a young man's life before. When I came back out, I noticed a lot of memorial sites had liquor bottles and alot of negative attributes. I wanted to change the narrative." Sullivan served 17 years in prison for a 1997 murder. He was released on probation in 2015. Lahiri with the Earth Corps says trees can be healing. " The inner city has the least amount of tree canopy. It's been found that the more trees you have in a space, that leads to greater tranquility and better social relations, and we want to do that for the south side community," Lahiri said. " This is a way to shift the narrative, and put some life on

Syracuse Fire Department Drone Takes Flight as a New Response Tool
June 8, 2018, 9:36 pm | Source
The Syracuse Fire department Friday demonstrated its Unmanned Aerial System operation, or drone as part of a training exercise that caps off a week-long course. The city and the department were recently awarded a Certificate of Authorization by the FAA to use the drone as a response tool. The drill was almost like preparing a plane for take-off…chatter could be heard on firefighter radios as the operator announced the various pre-flight actions. As the H-520 drone took flight, firefighters stood by with hoses near burning barrels of lumber. Captain Tim Gleeson says the machine is outfitted with thermal imaging and a video recorder. " We're going to use that video to train our responders and show them different heat signatures, and what good extinguishment looks like." Another, smaller drone provided the command and control view. Gleeson says most departments use drones for seach and rescue and wildfire applications. But he says they spend the past year trying to translate that to an

City's "Healthy Housing 101" Aims to Educate Potential Homeowners, Landlords about Code Issues
June 7, 2018, 9:57 pm | Source
A dilapidated home with cracking paint and weeds growing through the front steps on Syracuse’s South Side is going to serve as the focal point of a Safe and Healthy home tour. The house is situated behind another home after a long walk-up a cracked driveway. Director of Code Enforcement Ken Towsley says inspectors will lead the public tours and point out what hazards needs to be addressed. “This idea came out in the last few months about how we can educate the community. The TOP program we started last November on the north side opened our eyes to an education process our inspectors were able to provide to community groups. We're working with the I-Team on ways to be more proactive. This is one of the ways we figured out we could utilize Land Bank and this house that is available to us.” Towsley says homes like this are a part of the inventory of the Syracuse Land bank and can actually be enticing to buy for non-occupant landlords. Low interest loans are provided through Home

New Website Collects, Presents CNY Data on Local Needs in Hope of Spurring Action
June 7, 2018, 8:59 pm | Source
The Central New York Community Foundation has launched a new website that aims to spur action on any number of issues facing the region…from housing and lead exposure, to literacy and education. The site congregates data from multiple sources so users can monitor progress. Vice president of community investment at CNYCF Frank Ridzi says there are many efforts underway to improve the community, but no central place to see how we’re doing. "It's really hard to sustain an effort and keep working at something if you can't see any progress." The data come from a number of sources…the U.S. Census Bureau, the state departments of labor and education, and the City of Syracuse to name a few. " The Community Foundation has used for along time to guide our decision making and grant making. But we realized they're not that easy to access. Some are here, some are there, and you have to keep a list of websites to go to. We wanted to make it easy for people." Ridzi says it’s aimed at multiple

Urban Jobs Task Force Calls on Trade Unions to Recruit Minorities Ahead of I-81 Project
June 6, 2018, 3:11 pm | Source
The Urban Jobs Task Force of Syracuse is circulating a petition demanding trade unions create recruitment and retention programs for minorities and city residents for the upcoming I-81 project. They ask that until this happens, the State Department of Transportation must deny unions a project labor agreement. President of the Task Force Deka Dancil led activists Tuesday in front of the State Office Building on Washington Street to announce their demands. “ No longer can we or should we stand idly by while watching multi-million dollar projects and improvements being completed in the 9th most segregated city in the country without them benefitting city residents.” She says trade unions need to start recruiting now so that city residents and minority workers will have a fair chance when construction commences. Genghis Muhammed is a lifelong Syracuse resident who has struggled to find a job despite his qualifications. “ I'm OSHA certified and have a degree in electronics. Despite my

CNY Agencies Selected to Receive nearly $14 million in Grants to Combat Poverty
June 5, 2018, 2:47 am | Source
Nearly two dozen agencies across Central New York have been selected to receive a combined $14 million over five years to address poverty in the region. The funding comes from a pot of $50 million designated for solely that purpose under the Governor Cuomo’s Upstate Revitalization initiative. Onondaga County is the lead agency of the 24-member Alliance for Economic Inclusion. County Executive Joanie Mahoney says everyone came to the table and prioritized which agencies and services could have the biggest impact. “We’re not just putting fires out. We’re looking at us as a region, and we’re looking at systemic problems, and we’re trying to address as many of the components of a very complicated issue of poverty as we can. The beauty of this is we have real resources behind hit now to fund these agencies that have been doing good work.” Wayne O’Connor is regional executive director of the Hillside Family of Agencies, which is home to the Work Scholarship Connection. The agency is

Student Tenants Go on "Rent Strike" Against University-area Landlord Over Uninhabitable Conditions
June 4, 2018, 5:27 pm | Source
Several student tenants are holding what they’re calling a “rent strike” against a university-area landlord over ongoing unsafe and unsanitary conditions in their apartments. They accuse Syracuse Quality Living, or SQL, of failing to address infestation, structural problems, lack of heat, and numerous other habitability issues. WAER News caught up with the latest group of tenants who recently marched with supporters to the rental office to demand action. Rising Syracuse University senior Eddie Salinas says the apartments appear to be very nice on-line, but he was a bit taken aback when arrived in Syracuse last summer for a tour of 1322 Madison St. "They opened the door, and my room was kind of a disaster. There were bags of garbage on the floor, it was really dusty, there were stains on the floor. I have a balcony in my room, so when she opened the door, there was broken furniture and more garbage. It wasn't really a good first impression." Salinas says the balcony also slopes

Syracuse Taxi Drivers Tell Councilors that Ride Hailing Services Have Devastated Their Business
May 30, 2018, 9:55 pm | Source
Syracuse’s taxi companies and independent cab drivers say ride sharing services Uber and Lyft have basically wiped out most of their traditional customer base. Common Councilors got an ear full at a committee meeting Wednesday about how the city needs to level the playing field by stepping up regulations on ride sharing…while easing the numerous, costly, and strict regulations for traditional cabs. Frank Manzi with Yellow cab says his business has dropped by more than half. "I've reduced from 43 to 19 cabs. We have no protection. We're spending $300 a tag for nothing. They [police] harass us, they're writing me tickets." Ramona Bellavia with Bellavia Transportation says their intake numbers are also down. "We pay $300 for the right to go to different places to do pick-ups. The last time I worked, I tried to go into the taxi stand. I couldn't. It was full of Uber and Lyft. I asked, 'Why are you here?' They said, 'Because we want to be.' By the time I went to get an officer and explained

A Memorial Day Remembrance: Syracuse WWII Veteran Dies with Dream Unfulfilled for Late Son
May 26, 2018, 5:25 pm | Source
( Editor's note: The original story was first broadcast and published June 6, 2016. The following is an update to reflect Lawrence Reilly, Sr's passing, and also to mark Memorial Day.) A World War II Navy Veteran who sought unsuccessfully for nearly 49 years to have his late son's name and 73 others added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall has died with that dream unfulfilled. Lawrence Reilly, Sr. was 93 when he passed away Wednesday. According to his obituary, Reilly was originally from Long Island, and lived there before his military career took him to California in 1964. Twenty years later, he moved to Florida, before settling in Syracuse in 1999. Reilly joined the navy in 1942, and served in combat during WWII. He was discharged in 1948, joined the reserves in 1955, and recalled to active duty in 1961. Reilly then served two deployments to Vietnam on the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge and three on the Frank Evans, the last of which ended with the sinking that killed his son. He retired

Civil Rights Group Calls for SPD Body Camera Policy to Include Community Input
May 22, 2018, 9:28 pm | Source
A Central New York civil rights watchdog group says the expansion of the police department’s body camera program is only as good as the policy that guides their use. One hundred officers could be wearing the cameras by early next month as part of a one-year trial. Yusuf Abdul-Qadir commends the Walsh administration’s effort to improve transparency and accountability in the police department. But the director of the CNY chapter of the NYCLU wants to make sure that the policy being drawn up between SPD and the county district attorney’s office is comprehensive and inclusive. “ There are particular measures we have to take to ensure that the impetus behind wanting body cameras Calls from community members, both locally and the national conversation that we’re having about police accountability, need to be thought through not just through the lens of the criminal justice system, but thought through from a whole host of perspectives like civil rights and civil liberties.” Abdul-Qadir says a

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