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CNY Community Foundation Invests $2M to End Lead Poisoning in Syracuse Children

Onondaga County Health Department

The Central New York Community Foundation will be investing more than $2 million to help combat childhood lead poisoning in Syracuse.  More than 11 percent of Syracuse children tested positive for elevated blood lead levels in a 2017 Onondaga County Health Department study.  Lead poisoning has lifelong impacts on young children, including reduced brain activity, learning disabilities, and even violent behavior.

Foundation President and CEO Peter Dunn says the life-altering effects of lead poisoning on children can’t be undone.

As a community, each poisoned child comes with a cost that is paid by all of us. These complications not only incur a significant social expense, but also undermine all community efforts to increase literacy rates, encourage high school completion, and mentor our young people into successful leaders.”

Dunn adds reducing lead poisoning is not at the top of Washington’s to-do list. He’s trying to turn that around with the Community Foundation initiative.

Hopefully, philanthropy’s investment also is a positive attribute that helps in new funding proposals that are submitted at the federal level. Federal funding around lead poisoning abatement has been declining, so hopefully we are able to make a case to our legislators and representatives that this is an area that deserves significant additional investment.”

According to Syracuse mayor Ben Walsh, the process of reducing lead poisoning is a collaborative one and will require the leveraging of resources by everyone. He wants parents to be aware of the danger as the city tries to mitigate the problem completely.

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
CNYCF President and CEO Peter Dunn explains the foundation's commitment at the Southwest Community Center. Seated is CNYCF board member Tim Penix.

The city and the county have partnered to apply for [$4.1 million] additional lead funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. We are waiting to hear on that announcement, but in lieu of that, the county has stepped up their efforts as have our other partners, and the announcement from the Community Foundation is certainly welcome.”

The first $440,000 phase in the initiative will focus on creating lead-safe housing and renovations on existing homes.  There will also be additional grants over the four-year program to further the development of safer housing.  

Here's a list of the initial grants:

Greater Syracuse Land Bank: $43,750

  • Conduct lead inspections on all of its Syracuse properties

Home HeadQuarters: $150,000

  • Pilot a no-cost window and exterior door replacement program for low-income rental property tenants in the high-need neighborhoods in Census Tracts 23 and 54

Home HeadQuarters: $20,000

  • Train contractors and landlords to be EPA certified for properly completing lead safe home renovations

Housing Visions Unlimited: $150,000

  • Support the construction of new, lead-free affordable rental apartments on Syracuse’s Northside.

PEACE, Inc.: $1,000

  • Identify weatherization service applicants who fall outside of its income eligibility requirements for referral to Home HeadQuarters’ window and door replacement program

Tomorrow’s Neighborhood Today (TNT) and Home Headquarters: $30,000

  • Educate residents on the dangers of lead poisoning and facilitate lead testing and remediation in at-risk homes
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