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Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Chance to Chat

Written by Hopeprint  • May 31, 2012

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Nicole Watts, Executive Director of Hopeprint, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis.
All of her posts are organized under the “Hopeprint” Category. You can learn about her organization and read more of her writing at hopeprint.org.

It was one of our first evenings together in the house on the Northside that we had come to make our home. The eclectic group of five of us sat at our dinner table ready to dive into this adventure we had decided to take on together. Top of mind for each of us was the question, “We’re here, now what?”

For the previous months, we had been guests in a number of homes around the Northside, being taught how to eat with our hands, tasting goat for the first time and experiencing the incredible hospitality extended to us. All along we kept wishing for a home to invite our new friends to, to get to know them, learn from them and have a mutual friendship. Now was our chance.

For next several months, our dinner table was filled with neighbors and friends from all around the world. Each meal was filled with lessons of culture, history and life that we drank up with excitement. Amidst the conversations, we continued to hear some resounding themes – (1) enjoyment of being invited into an American home to build mutual friendships and (2) having the opportunity and converse in the English they were learning during their classes throughout the week. After several meals with one neighbor, they told us, “We want more of this.”

At the same time, friends and neighbors of the Hopeprint Home residents were “peering in the windows” of our lives, longing to build similar friendships themselves. So, we opened our door on Tuesday evenings to invite both our refugee neighbors and American friends to meet over a meal and talk in English, building relationships along the way. The first Tuesday Evening gathered 7 refugee neighbors and 5 American volunteers. Months later, the Hopeprint Home was busting at the seams with 95 refugee neighbors and 25+ American friends, beautiful friendships that were impacting lives on both sides budding along the way.

In the past year, Tuesday Evenings have continued to be an anchor to our weekly lives, building bridges for mutual friendships as they continue to form. With programming offered for the children, we are able to invest in the younger members of our Hopeprint family through crafts, games, sewing, soccer and more. Thanks to the Refugee Assistance Program, Assumption Church and a friendly neighbor, we have been able to have additional space for those who gather. The Hopeprint Home continues to be alive with activity on Tuesday evenings, filled with a different adventure every week, conversing in English, eating home-cooked meals and building friendships that extend far beyond our four walls.

“Tuesday evening is my favorite time of the week.” (Hopeprint volunteer)



Growing to Learn

Written by Emma Voigt  • May 30, 2012

Karibu means ‘welcome’ in Swahili. What was once a vacant lot on Lodi Street is now the Karibu garden, which is certainly a welcoming place for gardeners. Two years ago, Alliance Bank inquired about making a donation to start a community garden. In response, the City of Syracuse reached out to the Northside Urban Partnership because of our past experience developing gardens through the Tapestry Community Garden on Isabella Street and our existing relationship with Syracuse Grows, an organization working to support and expand a city wide network of gardens.

Jonathan Logan, Program Manager of Place Making and Small Business Development at Northside UP, consulted the City of Syracuse’s database of vacant, city owned property that could be used for a garden. Logan said the possible sites were evaluated based on proximity to our office, sun exposure, and soil quality. The current Karibu location was a trifecta of all three needs.

Logan says many refugees come from agrarian societies where reading and writing in their own language is not a priority, which makes it harder for them to learn English. Therefore, a more hands on environment makes for an ideal learning opportunity. Under the instruction of English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Rozlynn Jakes-Johnson, the garden became that environment.

According to Jakes-Johnson, the students who use the garden have a strong desire to learn the English names for familiar plants. Because they already have knowledge about gardening, they are able to easily expand on that base. Jakes-Johnson believes learning through the garden is beneficial because it combines many different learning styles. Furthermore, she agrees, the familiarity of the garden setting makes learning less daunting.

Most of the Karibu gradeners are African refugees. In addition to vegetables like carrots, squash, and potatoes, they grow lenga lenga—a vegetable similar to collard greens and common in African cuisine. By providing a place to grow familiar foods, the garden helps refugees feel more at home in their new surroundings. According to Jakes-Johnson, it is also a source of empowerment, because the students are able to impart knowledge on their teacher in the garden. Jakes-Johnson explained how she was once pulling up what she thought was a weed when her students told her it was lenga lenga and that they used it in cooking. This year the gardeners are growing more lenga lenga instead of corn, which was highly susceptible to theft and vandalism. Thanks to the knowledge and experience of the refugees, the garden can adapt to the challenges it faces.

The garden also fosters leadership skills. All gardeners are required to put in an equal amount of effort if they wish to receive their fair share of the produce. Logan explained that the community leaders have a work schedule and if people do not sign in when they are scheduled to work, the garden leaders will call and check on them. Overall, the gardeners care for one another. They tend the garden together and are concerned about equitable distribution of produce.

Logan laments that this attitude does not seem to translate into a larger sense of ownership of the block the garden is located on because most gardeners live a few blocks away. Locating more gardens closer to gardeners’ homes could help increase the sense of ownership of many blocks on the Northside. Still, many of the neighbors routinely ask him how the garden is doing—an indication of a growing sense of ownership.

Jakes-Johnson noted that the garden is already becoming a positive place for Americans and refugees to meet over a common interest—fresh produce and gardening. Many English speaking Americans, who may not otherwise associate with refugees, stop by the garden and engage the refugees in conversation about their work. She also says that many students who have poor English skills are able to communicate well about gardening after their experience with the garden. This makes the garden an ideal environment for both learning and building relationships. The formerly vacant lot on Lodi Street is finding new life.

A New Tradition with a Long History

Written by Sarah Pallo  • May 29, 2012

Who would have thought that stained glass and hot dogs could go together? Scott Brennan, owner of Brennan’s Stained Glass, has successfully combined the two.

One year ago, Central New York’s oldest stained glass studio moved into Syracuse’s St. John the Evangelist Church. Today, they’re serving Hoffman hot dogs right outside the shop. That’s a lot of Syracuse history packed into one space.

The stand is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Check out the featured article on Syracuse.com and visit their website to learn more about all that Brennan’s Stained Glass has to offer!


Photo Friday: Around the Neighborhood

Written by Stasya Erickson  • May 25, 2012

Today, a few of us from the office went for another walk around the Northside. We stopped into shops, spoke with people on the streets and basked in the beautiful Friday sun. These walks always help me reconnect with our mission and charge my passion for this neighborhood. They also provide me with an opportunity to document the Northside. As you can imagine, there’s never a shortage of amusing activities taking place here and I treasure the moments when I get to capture them on film.

A few of the photos I took today are worth sharing, such as this one of a cat doing some parkour tricks on N. Salina St:















This dog, resting in a storefront:















This small figurine leaning on the foundation of a house on N. McBride:















And the Assumption towers, amid all that green:


Demolition of the Otisca Building

Written by Dominic Robinson1 Comment • May 24, 2012

Historic architecture is certainly one of the greatest assets on the Northside, which is why we’re sad to announce that the demolition of the “Otisca Building”, located on the corner of Butternut and N. Mcbride Streets, has begun this week. The building is an architectural gem and has long stood as the most prominent reminder of the Northside’s proud beer-brewing history (it was the long time home of the Ryan Brewery). Unfortunately, it has stood vacant, contaminated, and tax delinquent for decades, and despite countless attempts among activists, preservationists and public officials to save it over the years, nothing ever stuck.  Today Otisca is too far-gone to save. It would cost a lot of money just to stabilize the structure, and there have been growing concerns that the structure might collapse, posing a serious threat to public safety. And so it must come down.

The good news is that there are a great team of partners working to develop something good in its place. This past fall Northside UP and St. Joseph’s Hospital were informed by City Hall that an out-of-town developer was looking to acquire the structure through the Syracuse Urban Renewal Agency, and that they were going demolish the building to develop 54 units of low-income housing on the site. While St. Joseph’s and Northside UP’s neighborhood revitalization strategy certainly includes a strong affordable housing component, this felt a bit too much like a high-rise “housing project” from a bygone era. Overly-concentrated poverty in dense, low-income projects has proven to be a problematic strategy in cities across America. Luckily, Mayor Miner agreed with this sentiment, and she was willing to work with Northside UP and St. Joseph’s Hospital when we asked her to explore an alternative proposal. After many pots of coffee and creative brainstorming, we arrived at an alternative scenario in which St. Joseph’s would work with long-time partner, Home HeadQuarters, to acquire and stabilize the property. Since then we’ve turned to our partners at Housing Visions to redevelop the site. While the current building could not be saved, the site will maintain its architectural integrity. There are plans for a mixed-use facility with commercial space on the ground level and affordable housing on the upper floors. With Housing Visions taking the lead on the development, we are confident that the result will be quality construction and top-notch property management – just like they have done with Prospect Hill Homes.

It’s because of an incredible team effort between the City of Syracuse, Home HeadQuarters, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Northside UP, and now Housing Visions that the Otisca site will once again be a vibrant place on the Northside. Nevertheless, as we demolish the majestic structure that sits on the site, we are removing a piece of history and architectural beauty from this community. This moment serves as a reminder that we need better systems and tools in our community to address issues of blight and vacancy. It’s bittersweet to point out that as we tear down the Otisca building, Syracuse and Onondaga County have officially established something called a “Land Bank” – a unique tool that will allow local governments the ability to acquire, remediate and ultimately redevelop properties like Otisca. Had a Land Bank existed even ten years ago, the Otisca building might have been saved. It’s important to remember that on-the-ground efforts need to be supported by intelligent and effective policies. While Syracuse, like many post-industrial cities, has been a victim of short-sighted planning and policies in the past, it’s good to see us moving in the right direction. As we continue to make progress on a policy front, we will be able to preserve our neighborhood assets more effectively.

CNY Central Covers Land Banking

Written by admin  • May 23, 2012

Our director Dominic Robinson and Craft Chemistry’s Briana Kohlbrenner were featured in an article and video on CNY Central yesterday. “New tool to help Syracuse fight tax delinquent property owners” by Chris McGrath discusses local vacant properties and how the land bank for Syracuse and Onondaga County will help the city deal with this problem in the future.

“What’s exciting is that we now have a community-wide tool to address these very localized problems,” said Dominic Robinson. See the video and article HERE.


A Time to Reflect

Written by Sarah Pallo  • May 21, 2012

It was my first time in Los Angeles, a city that automatically makes me think about Hollywood and multi-million dollar homes. Yet the purpose of my trip was quite the opposite; I was embarking on a four-day orientation to prepare for my year-long commitment to community service.

AmeriCorps VISTA’s (Volunteer in Service to America) main mission is building capacity within organizations to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty. As a VISTA, you work and sometimes live in the community you are directly serving, so understanding the perspectives of those living in poverty is something AmeriCorps feels strongly about. At first, I was surprised at how much the topic of poverty was being covered at my orientation. Never before had I thought and talked so much about something so many try to ignore. Though the topic was tough to delve into, I soon found it was the most memorable experience I had that week. Breaking off into small groups allowed people to share their personal experiences with poverty in a very candid and respectful way, and these conversations eventually led to a deeper discussion and understanding about what poverty is, what causes it, and the stereotypes that surround it.

A recent opinion article in the Post Standard, titled “Poverty’s Traps,” outlined three main barriers to successfully overcoming poverty: culture of entitlement, culture of victimhood, and the culture of self-gratification. After my orientation, it seemed a very one-sided opinion on what the author believed to be the reasons why many are fated to be stuck in poverty, and it rightfully received several disagreeing comments in response. Mostly, I think this showed how delicate this topic is and just how many people it affects. My hope is that these conversations will start the real dialogue we need to have, one where we are committed to learning about each other and our communities, where we re-think the current system and start investing time and energy in programs and services that will lead to actual change.

My new position at Northside Up is already giving me the opportunity to have this discussion. I am working with people from all different backgrounds and learning that if you take the time to listen to a person’s story, you can begin to understand their struggles and see how determined they are to overcome them. Most importantly, you start to think of new ways to help them succeed. Many organizations in Syracuse and Onondaga County are already engaged in this community effort to solve poverty, and I am personally happy to dedicate my year of service to one of them.

Launching Health Train

Written by admin  • May 18, 2012

Northside UP is very excited to announce the launch of our second job training program– Health Train!

This program is designed to identify and prepare Northside and Syracuse residents for entry level positions within St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and throughout the local health care industry. Facilitated by the Northside Urban Partnership and Visions for Change, Health Train is based upon “Green Train”, the construction training program that we’ve piloted with CenterState CEO and other partners over the past three years.

The pilot Health Train program has been sponsored by St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center (SJHHC) and developed in collaboration with SJHHC human resources staff. The program will connect un-and-underemployed community members with entry level jobs and assist them in pursuing long-term career opportunities within the hospital. It’s been designed to create efficiencies within the hiring process for employers and reduce employee turnover.

This week, we held testing and tryouts and have selected 15 great candidates for the pilot program. The first day of class is Monday, May 21st. Stay tuned for lots of photos and updates on our first run!

Tryouts for Green Train 10

Written by Ploy Chapman  • May 16, 2012

Editor’s Note: Ploy Chapman is our Workforce Development Intern. Originally from Thailand, she came to Syracuse to get her masters and stayed. This post is her first article for our website.


I joined the Northside Urban Partnership team about a month ago as an intern. I was here at the very end of Green Train 9 and watched the participants work hard on a project at Adam’s Eden Camp and, later, graduate. We had so much fun and everyone got along so well that I could not imagine what it must have been like at the beginning of this training.

Last week we began screening candidates for our 10th Green Train Class in Weatherization and Construction. This offered me the chance to watch the program develop from the very beginning.

On the first day of tryouts, we had applicants come to the West Side Learning Center at 9 AM. After a short introduction and orientation to the program, we kicked off the process with academic testing. Due to the large volume of applicants, we had to split the group into two testing rooms. This testing is designed to identify ideal candidates for our program, ones who are able to comprehend and apply basic English and math skills. This can be scary for participants, as English may not be their first language and it has been a long time since they’ve been evaluated in these areas. I understand how nervous the applicants must be, because my native language is not English. However, academic test scores are not everything. Following the test, applicants come in for an interview where we look for sincere personalities and ambition. The next component, held during the second day of tryouts, is the construction assessment, where we test people’s skills for working in the construction field. After this, we make a selection of candidates we want to test further and hold a teambuilding workshop for them on the third and final day of tryouts. During this session, we watch how each applicant follows direction, takes the lead and interacts with team members. Last, the Green Train instruction team and Northside UP staff meet to discuss each applicant. It is very difficult to make the final cut, because you realize how significant this program is for someone who wants to better their life for their family.

After three long days of competitive tryouts, we made our final selections. Seventy individuals from all over the city applied for the training; after some difficult decisions, only twelve made the final cut. Those whom we did not accept are invited to try again for the next program, scheduled for winter of 2013. As for this 10th Green Train class, I am looking forward to spending time, sharing laughs and joys, and working with you all! Congratulations on your acceptance! We believe we’ve got a great class, which will start on Monday, May 21st.

Clean-Up Photos

Written by Stasya Erickson  • May 15, 2012

Last week’s park clean-up was a great success! Huge thanks to St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and Holmes, King, Kallquist & Associates for joining us in these efforts.

As always, more photos from the day can be found on our facebook page!