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State of the City: Syracuse Sheds Jobs as NY State’s Employment Picture Improves

A review of recently released monthly New York State Employment Statistics, the City of Syracuse is shedding jobs. Statistics from two successive reports during the month of November 2014, the Syracuse area lost 900 jobs; December another 1,800 jobs disappeared from the Syracuse area landscape. That “sucking sound” is the payroll of 2,700 people being vacuumed out of the Central New York economy. See: NYS Department of Labor January 22, 2015 Jobs Report

As we look forward to our State of the City Address perhaps a question should be, “What efforts are being made to increase the opportunity for employment in Syracuse?”  Not, “economic opportunity” for developers but the ability and the conditions conducive to Syracuse residents gaining meaningful employment.

Over the last year Governor Cuomo has floated several development projects targeting Syracuse. A new multi-purpose facility to replace the Carrier Dome, a reimagined New York State Fair infused with a 50 million dollar extreme makeover.  Some have argued against the aforementioned projects, that Syracuse needs to focus on obtaining funds to repair and/or replace our crumbling infrastructure.

Mayor Minor gives "State of the City"
Mayor Minor gives “State of the City”

That’s practical if you happen to be a 90 year old water main on the verge of bursting. The 25 square miles that comprises the City of Syracuse is in dire need of work that we can’t see, because it lurks beneath our roads.  Challenging city leaders to come up with solutions regarding infrastructure, an issue that’s national in scope, we are not alone.

The rumbling we’re hearing is not a Water Main forcing its way through a pothole. It’s not a deteriorating school, we’re rebuilding them. Downtown is being transformed as more development pours into this once abandoned shopping district. We’re adding luxury apartments and condominiums, the housing market is hot.

That sound is the fracturing of our Socio-Economic Infrastructure which has been decimated. From the number of job losses we’ve endured, you’d think someone would be shouting from the hilltops, “We’re in trouble here in Syracuse.” But instead, (insert Cricket chirping)….nothing, not a word about the massive job losses in our local area.

The Syracuse Common Council has come out in favor of an alternative to Interstate 81. If approved a portion of the highway will be removed and replaced by a 6 lane boulevard, changing the area dramatically. Removing a controversial elevated highway said to be a wall barring opportunity from those who fall on the wrong side of it.

Opportunity

Re-routing portions of Interstate 81 will cause a radical transformation of our city. The size of our public housing footprint especially Pioneer Homes will be reduced. Proximity to the demolition will force hundreds of residents to be relocated.  The Syracuse Housing Authority will build a new administrative building. Whispered plans include reducing population in public housing, capitalizing on the opportunities created by this massive project. Major stakeholders are going to Leverage this “opportunity” to bring in economic development to an area that has become increasingly valuable. Our nearby Ed’s & Med’s (education and medical) complexes are expanding.  Plans also include an expanded SUNY Campus attracting major retail, mixed- use residential and expansion of commercial opportunities.

If approved, there will be additional billions poured into the local economy as the entire inner core of Syracuse is reconfigured. Employment should be effected due to the need for labor, demolition, construction and relocation of the displaced.

Over 50 years ago a decision was made behind closed doors that resulted in unfulfilled promises to a population that was obliterated, the heavily African-American 15th Ward.  Truncating the chance of African-Americans to develop economically, a commercially viable neighborhood is the foundation of any sustainable community.

The African-American population never recovered from the sense of neighborhood that existed before the construction of Interstate 81, when almost the entire population was displaced.

This time we have an opportunity to transform our entire city with full participation of stake-holders, residents, businesses and governments. The process was transparent and allowed for the inclusion of multiple plans and visions. The challenge as it was over 50 years ago is to get it right.

According to the New York State Department of Labor, “Syracuse (-0.7%) was the only metro area in the state to lose private sector jobs between December 2013 and December 2014.”

The “State” of our city is critical condition if you fall on the wrong side of the opportunity index.  Recent reports of 12-13 year olds attacking and robbing a man, “children” brandishing weapons is a dangerous sign.  This means that we have a population of children who feel as though they have absolutely nothing to lose. If Destiny can’t handle 13 year old’s fighting or throwing bottles at patrons, what happens if terrorist decide to hit?

With the loss of 2,700 jobs within a 2 month period, Syracuse’s economic slide must be halted and any reconfiguration must include plans to empower the poor and the disenfranchised. As the hackneyed phrase goes, “a rising tide raises all boats”. This massive reconfiguration could enable Syracuse to patch the holes in our opportunity boat to be inclusive of the same population that was misled over 50 years ago.

 

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