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Author Archives: Mary Beth Schwartzwalder

Photo Friday: Before and After

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 8, 2017

Spurred by a NY Main Street grant several years ago, the building at 507-513 North Salina Street has continued to receive new improvements, restoring its historic facade and adding new windows on the upper floors.

Awesome job, George Angeloro! Keep up the amazing work.


Photo Friday: The Welcome Garden

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 1, 2017

Named after the Swahili word for “welcome,” the Karibu Garden is a bright, burst of color on Lodi Street. Thanks to Hopeprint, the fence got a new coat of paint and a mural along the back wall this summer.


Photo Friday: NEHDA’s Community Photography Show

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • August 25, 2017

Photo credit: David Haas. To view all of the submissions to the Northside Photography Show, visit: www.facebook.com/pg/NehdaInc/photos/?tab=album&album_id=839331309570203

Photo credit: David Haas. To view all of the submissions to the Northside Photography Show, visit: www.facebook.com/pg/NehdaInc/photos/?tab=album&album_id=839331309570203

This collage by David Haas was submitted to NEHDA to be considered for their Northside Photography Show on September 8th.

Do you have photos of the Northside? Submit your image by September 1st by sharing it to NEHDA’s Facebook page. Check out their album for details about how your photo could be displayed at their event.


From Syracuse.com: “Like a well-made jacket . . . “

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • August 24, 2017

Earlier this week, Andrea Henderson published an article and series of photos on Syracuse.com about Middle Earth Leather, a staple of the Northside business district. The shop, lined with leather bags and jackets, counters ready with patterns, vintage sewing machines, and rolls of leather show the love and attention each product receives from this family-owned business on North Salina Street.


Photo Credit: Syracuse.com / Andrea Henderson

Photo Credit: Syracuse.com / Andrea Henderson

Like a well-made jacket, Middle Earth Leather weathers the changing retail climate


“While at the factory, Frank unexpectedly found his passion for custom leather making. He inherited the ability of pattern making from his mother, but had never used his talent until the day he purchased a poorly designed hat.

After recognizing his skill set, he began making his own belts and sandals. Occasionally, he would sell some of his custom items to co-workers who were looking for a new belt or a pair of shoes.

‘I never wanted to work in a factory all of my life,’ Frank said. ‘I would dream of becoming more independent.’

Frank gained an entrepreneurial spirit from his mother, Dorothy Westfall. She owned and operated her own dressmaking business in Syracuse, was a college graduate before World War II ended and was handicapped all her life, with one foot longer than the other. Her principles to continue life with every ounce of energy resonated with Frank during his early days of running his company – and certainly now, during a bleak time within the retail industry.

‘I am just trying to survive my second phase: Internet shopping,’ Frank said.

To help maintain Middle Earth Leather Works presence during the age of online shopping, his daughter, Kalley, 30, who is formally trained in graphic design, runs the company’s website and social media platforms. Not only does Kalley bring younger experience to the company, but she also assists her father with sewing, designing and selling products.

‘The Internet has the ability to have the accessibility of anywhere,’ Kalley said. ‘That is something that my dad is very shy about, only because of the amount of products we are making and being able to supply the demand.’

As generations evolve, so do the buying habits. Internet wholesalers like Amazon have the buying power to sell products at a lower rate, but often extract sales from smaller businesses that rely on the local purchasing power. In an era of accessibility and affordability, Frank cannot lower his prices to compete with larger companies who sell at lower price points.

Even though Kalley is a millennial, her mindset is like her father’s when it comes to business. While continuing to learn patternmaking and entrepreneurship, she plans to grow the company by learning how to function in every aspect of the business, whether it be how to use new equipment or how to broaden the company’s selling scope via the web.”

Visit Syracuse.com to read the article and view all the photos. To learn more about Middle Earth Leather, check out their website and follow them on Facebook.

Photo Friday: Pineapple on Salina

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • August 18, 2017


August 2013: “I suppose it is a matter of taste . . .”

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • August 17, 2017

If you have zucchini growing in your Northside garden, it’s time to do as Joe’s grandmothers did and cook up the delicate blossoms to share with loved ones (or, to savor all by yourself). We’re throwin’ it back to August 2015 when Joe was making omelets and reminiscing about the Northside gardens of his childhood.


The Zucchini Flower (originally published August 15, 2013)

by Joe Russo

Editor’s Note:  Joe Russo is a “Nortsider”, a retired teacher, and an aspiring writer. We’ve asked him to share his stories of the past and offer his perspective on the present and future of our neighborhood. His posts will appear each month under the category, “Old Times on the Northside”.

What would a backyard garden be without a few Zucchini plants? Famous for being productive and easy to grow, everybody likes Zucchini. In fact, the biggest problem most energetic gardeners have is they don’t have enough friends to take all the surplus zucchini. All the Northside moms and grandmothers traded zucchini recipes. Zucchini bread, fried zucchini, stuffed zucchini… how about zucchini with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese? The list goes on and on. Both my grandmothers had a special recipe they did not share with friends outside the family. It is a real delicacy.

I remember going into the backyard garden and watching either of my grandmothers carefully pick the biggest brightest zucchini flowers they could find. The flowers were delicate so they had to be handled with care. They made it clear that what they were about to prepare was very special.

The first step was to carefully clean the zucchini flowers. The second step was creating an egg batter. There are many variations and it seemed to depend on what herbs were in season. My grandmothers always used brown eggs. I suppose it is a matter of taste. Salt, a little minced garlic and whatever herbs seemed freshest that day were whisked into the egg batter. They would whip up the batter with one or two eggs depending on how many people wanted to eat. I always liked fresh chives chopped up with the garlic. I also like to add about 2 tablespoons of flour to the egg batter to give it a thicker consistency.

They did not deep fry the flowers but lightly sautéed them in olive oil. They cook very quickly so I would put only one or two at a time in the frying pan. When the oil was sufficiently hot the grandmothers dipped each flower in the batter coating as thoroughly as possible. Be careful to sauté the flowers for 2 minutes or less. I keep a few chopped chives and some minced garlic on the side and sprinkle them on each flower as they are cooking. Drain the sautéed flowers in a platter with paper towels for a moment or two. Make sure you eat them while they are still hot. No grandson can wait very long to taste one of these.

In recent years I have developed a Zucchini Flower Omelet, which is pictured below. My friends who did not have an Italian grandmother seem to prefer this more familiar style. Either way the taste is memorable.



Photo Friday: Cat on Guard in Hawley-Green

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • August 11, 2017


Summer Fun: Union Park in the ’80s

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • August 10, 2017

Syracuse.com’s photo essay, Beating the heat: Vintage summer fun in the water, features several photos taken at Union Park in the 1980s.

Left: "George Stuben, 4, Alby Stuben, 6, and John Conners, 8, cool off at a fountain at Union Park on North Salina Street. Photo taken on Aug. 17, 1986 by Nicholas Lisi." Right: "Melissa Stevens, center, who lives on North Salina Street cools off in Union Park. Photo by Dick Blume, taken July 7, 1988." Photo credit: Syracuse.com.

Left: “George Stuben, 4, Alby Stuben, 6, and John Conners, 8, cool off at a fountain at Union Park on North Salina Street. Photo taken on Aug. 17, 1986 by Nicholas Lisi.” Right: “Melissa Stevens, center, who lives on North Salina Street cools off in Union Park. Photo by Dick Blume, taken July 7, 1988.” Photo credit: Syracuse.com.

For the entire series of photos, check out the full story here.

World Refugee Day: Community Orientation Highlights

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • July 27, 2017



Last month, InterFaith Works organized a Community Orientation, featuring a conversation between Abdul Saboor (a refugee from Afghanistan who oversees the Match Grant Program at InterFaith Works) and Dominic Robinson (our Vice President of Economic Inclusion at CenterState CEO) and a panel discussion with a variety of service providers in our community. Guests enjoyed refreshments as they learned more about the refugee experience and the ways citizens can help support New Americans in Syracuse.



Quotes from ABDUL SABOOR

“When you go from being detached from your home, from your country, from the place where you built your dreams on, when you go to leave those places, it’s not easy. It’s something that I personally wish for no one. But, this is a journey, and this is something that I had to make in order to survive, in order for us to continue our dreams. This was a very, very rough transition. Grass root agencies such as InterFaith Works, Catholic Charities, ARISE, and others who are willing to accept and to do the resettlement at the grassroots level, are the ones who are actually going to welcome these families from the airport, from the housing, to making their appointments, to getting an ID card, a benefit cards, and helping and establishing a life, jobsyou can name it and every step of that process is easier said than done.

It requires a lot of effort and it is not the job of the resettlement agency alone. It takes a neighborhood, it takes a community. I don’t think InterFaith itself alone could do the resettlement work that they’re doing right now if it wasn’t for community support . . .  Because I lived there, I can see how society, the pillars of our communities are not based on the individual. It depends on all of us . . .  We do it hand-to-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder with those individuals and we try to make sure they succeed because their success is our success. And by ‘we’ meaning us as a community, as Syracuse. Because if they struggle, we struggle.”


“When I first arrived, I had 3, 4 priorities that I had to establish. First thing was I had to get a job. Becoming self-sufficient in a place where I had no friends at that time in my life was a number one priority. . . But, this life was not about me only. I had a wife, so, building a family, making sure that my family accepts the new neighborhood we’re going to live in as home . . .  Bombs, and kidnappings are no longer the impressions that we have to worry about. Survival no longer becomes a question. I’m a special case. [As an English-speaker] I had the ability to speak and communicate and break all my frustrations out, and sit down to someone like Dominic and InterFaith Works and complain about all the challenges I’m facing—my wife didn’t have anyone. And it goes along to the many, many hundreds of women and men and childrens who are coming into our doors. While you have so much to say, you can’t say it.


“Next time you visit Destiny Mall. There’s a lot of Cubans that are in Destiny Mall right now. They’re just living in those shadows, but I’ll be honest with you – if you do get the chance to say ‘hello,’ and you have the opportunity to ask him about his background, I will almost guarantee that everyone of those guys were either a nurse or a doctor. So, by just excepting that they’re going to start from zero, a jump that a majority of us would not take—becoming a janitor and going to Destiny Mall. But, they happily do it because it provides them income. But yet, they take off that doctor hat and they accept the janitor hat. . . . If you get the first job it will get you going, so that you can get the second job, you can get the third job, and eventually end up exactly where you come from.”




I was really enamored with the idea of neighborhood-level work. Thinking, if we could community organize, we can get neighbors to work together, that’s kind of the currency of all good social change . . . I happen to be a white male who grew up with an upper-middle class background. You know, I drew the longest straw possible in our world. But, I think the dynamics that I was interacting with were all part of this larger system of inequality that we’re all trying to work against. So, it’s kind of a matter of saying, ‘Okay, I’m working in a community that has a lot of refugees,’ but I think the underlining principle is the same:  there are people across our country, across our community who have the answers, who have the ability and the power within them to change their communities, to live good, productive lives, to provide for their families and for whatever reason, they face barriers to that. And so, I think the organizing theory in this work for me over the years, is always trying to build better systems to allow that self-empowerment to be possible . . . Get out of the way. Let business owners take hold, let people enter into leadership positions within their workforce, and not try to be too forceful for what it means to help, but rather create the tools and vehicles that allow that to be possible.”

“When facts don’t sink in, I think we have to tell stories. I’ve had the luxury you know, these past years, of experiences where you’ve talked about the resiliency, you talk about the people who keep putting one foot in front of the next, in front of the next and all of those challenges, all of that gut-wrenching, soul-sucking amount of work that it takes just to flee political persecution to come here, to start a new life, to go to work oftentimes in a place that is far below your skill set, but to do it because you have to put food on your table—whatever it is. I would just ask, ‘Why wouldn’t you want that person in your community?’ And, when we also know that there is a net economic contribution that in fact the more productive we are, the more jobs there are. We’re not taking jobs away. When a group of people are creating an impact, more jobs come. There’s actually a scarcity mindset that is far too prevalent now, that we have to hoard all the opportunity, when in fact, if we only welcome people, we create a reality of abundance. I think that’s the story we have to do a better job of telling.”  




The Community Orientation ended with a panel representing many of the service agencies who help refugees transition to life in Syracuse. To begin, Beth Broadway, Executive Director at InterFaith Works, introduced the panel and stressed the importance of each role these organizations play in refugee resettlement: “We know that ecosystems are best when they are diverse. And when that diversity is lost . . . it makes it very vulnerable. And resilience in that ecosystem is reduced and that is making it ultimately endangered. The same is true for our human family. That when our human family is not diverse, the system is not as resilient and we are endangered at that point. We recognize . . . that to do refugee resettlement work, it’s an ecosystem that requires many different parts. And if the parts are diverse and require many different way of interacting and providing support, we will be stronger for that.”

The panel included Christina Costello, Director of Health Services at Catholic Charities; Janet Lenkiewicz, Income Maintenance Specialist at Onondaga County Department of Social Services – Economic Security; Jacki Leroy, Director of ENL Services at the Syracuse City School District; Shelly Tsai, Staff Attorney at Legal Services of CNY; and Khadija Muse, Bridging Case Manager and Women’s Empowerment Program Director at ARISE. Participants talked about their own experiences working with the refugee community and answered some questions from the audience.

The Orientation was followed by a World Refugee Day celebration with music, presentations, and food at Dr. Weeks Elementary School. To learn more about the days’ events, check out this photo gallery from Syracuse.com and some of the photos and videos posted by InterFaith Works on Facebook.

There are many ways you can get involved with the refugee community in Syracuse. Abdul suggests talking with volunteer coordinators at InterFaith Works and Catholic Charities to volunteer your time or donatea variety of different items to their programs. If you’d like InterFaith Works to come talk to your church or civic group, reach out to info@interfaithworkscny.org.

Photo Friday: Instagram Takeover by Humans of Syracuse

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • July 21, 2017

“I have been accused, on occasion, of favoring the Northside on my blog. There might be some truth to it! It’s only because the Northside is amazingly vibrant and giving. From families that have made their home there for generations, to brand new Americans, I am welcomed on the streets, in their homes, churches, mosques and temples. The diversity is incredible and energizing. It’s true, I <3 the Northside.” – Kathe Harrington, Humans of Syracuse

You can follow Kathe’s 7 day takeover on our Instagram.