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NYCLU Raises Concerns About Gentrification With I-81 Replacement and City Rezoning Project

Scott Willis

Syracuse’s pending new zoning ordinance combined with the replacement for I-81 has some raising concerns about gentrification.  The New York Civil Liberties Union says there’s nothing in the ReZone Syracuse project that calls for affordable housing in the corridor. 

NYCLU Project Counsel Lanessa Chaplin says with the continued demand for downtown housing, they anticipate new projects will include more apartments.

"What that means is basically there will be mixed use housing.  You'll have commercial businesses with apartments on top.  If you don't have an inclusionary zoning rule that says if you're going to build a commercial business with apartments on top, a certain percentage has to go to affordable housing."

Credit SOPCA
The ReZone Syracuse proposed zoning draft map.

Chaplin is primarily concerned about residents living in Pioneer Homes, from Adams to Burt street.  The final ReZone Syracuse draft map shows it would be zoned Mixed-Use Business-Urban Core, versus a residential designation.  That’s the same as James Street near downtown and around the Inner Harbor.  Chaplin says the state DOT’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement on I-81 last spring sparked their response.

"One of the things they recommended was one and two bedroom apartments on the southeast corridor, which is a community of color with 67 percent living below the poverty line.   We started to pay attention to why they're recommending one and two bedroom apartments in an area that has concentrated poverty."

City planners have been working on updating the old zoning map for more than three years.  They’re preparing a final scoping document to present to common councilors as part of the state’s environmental quality impact review process.   Additional opportunities for public comment will follow.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at