Over the last several months, neighborhood stakeholders have started meeting over concerns for the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans for the I-81 reconstruction. The group, made up of leaders from Northside UP, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, the Mission Landing Home Owners Association, Northside Business Partnership, Northeast Hawley Development Association (NEHDA), ACTS Moving People Transportation Coalition, and American Institute of Architects (AIA), were especially interested in the “Common Features” of the plan that would impact Franklin Square and the Northside.
Last week, these concerns were brought to a public meeting at the Samaritan Center to get input from the community and urge DOT to explore a design that would not interrupt the revitalization of our neighborhoods. 150 residents, business owners, developers, and public officials came to the meeting to hear more about these “Common Features” that could demolish 19 buildings on the Northside and Franklin Square, including commercial, residential and historic properties.
Douglas Sutherland of Franklin Properties, LLC presented on the features for the first half of the meeting. Comments and concerns from the audience followed, many of which emphasized the importance of preserving jobs, exploring other types of transportation, and staying involved in DOT’s process as plans move forward.
Our Director, Dominic Robinson, stressed, “We should be prioritizing quality of life over the ability to get out of the city.” He continued to explain that DOT is listening to the concerns raised and that the community should stay involved with the process.
Barry Lents, a member of the Moving People Transportation Coalition and one of DOT’s stakeholder advisory groups, urged everyone to attend DOT’s fall Open House event where many of the “Common Features” will be explored further.
Photo credit: Scott Willis / WAER News
In the days following the meeting, several news outlets interviewed stakeholders and reported on their concerns, including “Will I-81 rebuild destroy historic Syracuse buildings, block off North Side from city?” from Syracuse.com, “Syracuse’s Northside Stakeholders Say I-81 Project Would Significantly Impact Neighborhoods” from WAER, and “Northside Urban Partnership Director Says I-81 Proposal Would Hurt Neighborhood” from TWC News.
Yesterday, an editorial on Syracuse.com entitled “Community needs more details about I-81’s impact on Syracuse’s North Side,” further explored the concerns on the Northside and in Franklin Square: “Our own reporting has shown that the 690-to-81 ramps are likely to plow through 19 buildings, many of them historic, in the Hawley-Green, Little Italy and Franklin Square neighborhoods. That’s a whole lot more than DOT’s own estimate of two to five building acquisitions contained in its April 2015 scoping report.”
This week DOT also released the details for their fall Open House event: Thursday, October 6th, 3:00 – 8:00 PM at the Oncenter (800 South State Street). At this meeting Project Director Mark Frechette will give a brief project overview and project team members will answer questions. Attendees will also expect more information about the current status of the various alternatives under development, new traffic information showcasing travel times to various destinations, and anticipated property impacts for the different alternatives.
Concerns about the Northside were voiced three years ago when DOT first began conversations about I-81 and requested feedback from the community. At that time, representatives from the Northside drafted a letter to the editor that outlined their goals for the I-81 project, stating, “We on the North Side are proud to be a part of a resurgent Syracuse and are committed to continuing our progress – which is why the conversation about Interstate 81 is so important to us.” The public meeting was an extension of this conversation that will extend to the DOT’s Open House on October 6th.