Grove Header- White.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Centerstate CEO President: Let's Build the Community Grid in Syracuse!

I81 Community Grid Reimagined Along Almond Street
NYS DOT website

The President of Centerstate CEO in Syracuse is encouraging the public to share their final thoughts about the State DOT Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and then let the project begin. Rob Simpson released a long statement on Tuesday as to why he feels the Community Grid option is the best way forward to solving long standing transportation issues and safety needs. He says the project has been adequately discussed and vetted for about 13 years now.

“This is a moment in time that we need to seize.  I think we have talked  about and discussed and debated this issue at length.  I believe it’s time for us to move forward, build the Community Grid and to realize the benefits that we believe it can bring to Central New York and our entire community.”

Simpson says a recent suggestion for an elevated skyway would only reinforce racist and oppressive conditions that revered historical figure Harriet Tubman fought against. Simpson also says it would cause an increase of traffic, air pollution, eminent domain of additional properties and construction disruptions. He thinks the Community Grid and improvements to a nearby highway is the real answer.

“We are on the cusp of being able to begin to build an improved and replaced I81 Business Loop Corridor and Improvement Site I-481 and we can put $2 billion dollars in capital circulating into our economy."

Simpson adds that all of the feedback from all sides are relevant and thinks the I-81 Community Grid has remarkable potential. The State DOT is holding a neighborhood meeting about the project August 31st from 6 to 8 PM at Grimshaw Elementary School at 59-57 Route 20, in Lafayette. The meeting will also be held at Chestnut Hill Middle School at 204 Salson Park Drive in Liverpool on September 1st also from 6 to 8 PM. For a list of 3 other upcoming meetings: click here or to see the full DEIS project details click here.

Here is Rob Simpson's full statement:

No More Delays: Time is of the Essence for I-81 Community Grid offers the best solution to address long standing transportation and safety needs, while benefiting the region socially and economically SYRACUSE, NY – Robert M. Simpson, president of CenterState CEO, in Syracuse, issued the following statement in response to calls for more time to study and comment on the future of Interstate 81, subsequent the New York State Department of Transportation release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the I-81 Viaduct Project.

“Since the New York State Department of Transportation’s (NYSDOT) release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on I-81, we have heard calls from special interests for even more time to review and revisit the recommended alternative. These represent nothing more than transparent attempts to further stall what has already been an over a decade long debate. Those calling for more time seek to dispute and discredit a laborious and meticulously thorough process by the NYSDOT and ignore the fact that the clear imprint of thousands of citizen and stakeholder comments can be seen within the current DEIS.

“This project has been discussed and vetted for the better part of the past 13 years. Countless studies and meetings have been dedicated to examining alternatives and developing the solution that best meets the community’s goals for the future. By our estimations, NYSDOT has participated in more than 430 meetings with community groups, organizations and other stakeholders, which includes at least 45 opportunities to engage with NYSDOT’s process through meetings open to the public, attended by more than 5,000 people.

“And let us not forget, among the last efforts to forestall the Community Grid was a ’tunnel study’ pushed by opponents of removing the viaduct that cost millions of dollars and several years of time only to reaffirm what NYSDOT had previously found – that a tunnel and/or depressed highway option were neither desirable nor practical.

“Most recently, there have been calls to consider an elevated skyway, which is nothing more than a new name for the elevated highway concept that has already been studied and dismissed through the course of the extensive I-81 process. It was rejected by the DOT because it would increase traffic and air pollution through the city, require eminent domain of more properties and create longer construction disruptions. A proposal that suggests using the name of Harriet Tubman, a revered historical figure who long fought the racist and oppressive conditions that would be reinforced by the skyway concept, is not how we as a community should seek to honor her legacy. Such a divisive skyway would only perpetuate deleterious impacts on the very communities of color who have lived in the shadow of I-81 for 60 years. Let’s honor the legacy of Harriet Tubman by creating solutions to address the racial and social inequities she fought.

“The highway is now four years beyond its useful life and no longer meets current federal highway standards for safety. At stake is injury and loss of life, increased costs and the possibility of missing a once-in-a generation infrastructure opportunity. “Unfortunately, it has become clear that those calling for more time on an already years long process, or that are introducing even more unachievable alternatives at the eleventh hour, are less interested in maximizing regional benefit than they are in reaching a point where there is no option but to patch, repair and hopefully retain the viaduct. This status quo mentality represents a shortsighted vision that puts parochial self-interests over what is best for the community as a whole – investment and progress.

“How much longer should we have to live with unsafe conditions on the highway? Or to reconnect our downtown, University Hill and Southside? To return property to the tax rolls and land to productive use? To put people, including our region’s historically marginalized populations, to work? Or to circulate $2 billion in investment throughout our economy via local contractors and small businesses? The answer is simple: not one more day.

“Not all our community’s social and economic challenges can or will be solved by the future of this 1.2 mile stretch of highway. And they cannot be solved with ‘more time.’ The NYSDOT has selected the best alternative to move this project forward. The Community Grid offers the best solution to address longstanding transportation and safety needs, while benefiting as many of the region’s residents and businesses as possible. We support the NYSDOT while they complete this legally mandated process, refine the plan one final time based on community input, and issue the FEIS and record of decision. After 13 years of debate, delay and continued disrepair, let us finally realize the many benefits that a Community Grid will bring.”

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.