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SU will provide in-kind maintenance for part of Thornden Park

thornden park walkway
Scott Willis
/
WAER News

Syracuse Common Councilors have approved a five year, $11 million agreement with Syracuse University to provide in-kind maintenance for part of Thornden Park. Monday’s 6 to 3 vote comes after nearly four months of meetings and discussions between councilors, administration officials, and concerned community groups. The park is in Councilor Joe Driscoll’s district, and he says voting yes on the final draft came after much consideration.

“There’s been multiple iterations of it. I definitely have not taken the concerns of the community lightly. I’ve tried to do my best, to do my research and research that the autonomy and authority over Thornden Park remains with the city."

Members of the Thornden Park Association were among those who repeatedly expressed concerns that SU was aiming to take control of the 11 acres closest to the university along Ostrom Avenue. But the agreement states that is not the case.

Turning over any part of the historically designated park is strongly discouraged by state law, and would require an act of the state legislature. SU will have to get city permission for everything it does in the park, and councilor Chol Majok says the administration will provide an annual report of all work performed.

“In my mind, it will add a little relief to the questions people have about what SU will be doing, and how they will execute this contract with the city. Having that layer of transparency between the community, the city, and SU I think helps.”

Majok also is also requesting that SU include and pay city youth in some of the maintenance projects. New councilor Jennifer Schultz was one of three no votes.

“This contract is very unclear. It’s loaded with statements you can’t easily understand. We need to understand those details, both as the council and the community. The city needs to understand it. This just doesn’t provide that clarity.”

Councilors Amir Gethers and Latoya Allen also voted no. Under the agreement, the city will receive an additional $3.5 million in revenue over five years, which will be used to hire an additional code inspector to focus specifically on the University neighborhood. It will also increase the level of maintenance in Thornden Park. That, in turn will free up the chronically underfunded and understaffed Parks Department to focus on other parks across the city.