by Syracuse Alliance for a New Economy (SANE)
The Syracuse Alliance for a New Economy (SANE) is in the process of seeking a Community Benefits Agreement with the Board of Directors of the Near Westside Iniative, a major economic development project located in Syracuse, New York. The Near Westside Initiative (NSWI) is a $56 million project that will transform one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States (according to the last Census) into a community filled with market-rate condominiums, office buildings and an extension of the development currently taking place in downtown Syracuse. The project has already been jump-started using public dollars, and the NWSI will continue to seek an infusion of public monies to complete this massive project. SANE firmly believes that community residents should have a voice in the planning and development of the project.
Our initial research indicates that residents are not aware of the potential impact that this project would have on their neighborhood. Gentrification is at the forefront of resident concerns, as is the inability to access the jobs that will be available as a result of the initial construction and completion of the project.
SANE has partnered with Syracuse University students to conduct interviews of neighborhood residents to elicit their opinions, wants and desires in relation to the project. The students, under the direction of SANE and Prof. John Burdick, are working in pairs to cover the four quadrants that comprise the NWSI. Students are also assisting in analyzing the financing of the project to identify the source of the public monies and which elected officials are involved in releasing public dollars. SANE is presently conducting a series of public informational meetings for residents to provide the neighborhood with pertinent information and to identify a cadre of residents who will assume a leadership position and assist with negotiations with the developer on behalf of their neighbors. SANE is forming a coalition with neighborhood-based organizations in order to have a diverse pool of organizations and residents who are well informed and who are unified in the pursuit of a Community Benefits Agreement.
SANE is working with other community groups that have a stake in the community. We are working to engage the community with Syracuse United Neighbors, who is part of National People’s Action. Syracuse United Neighbors has organized in the community for many years, and now, we are working together to ensure justice for the residents of this area, who are mostly Hispanic.
Also vital to our coalition is St. Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church. St. Lucy’s is one of the most diverse and progressive churches in the Syracuse area. They are very active within ACTS (the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse) and are committed to supporting this campaign.
As the campaign goes forward, the question will remain: will Syracuse continue on the same old path of disregarding the disenfranchised, or will we follow a new path to empower those who are voiceless to ensure that everyone benefits from economic development? SANE is committed to ensuring that the path will change!