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Syracuse Common Council Awaits Amended Agreement With SU To Maintain Part of Thornden Park

Thornden Park is known for its brick walkways. This one is along Ostrom Ave.
Scott Willis
Thornden Park is known for its brick walkways. This one is along Ostrom Ave.

Syracuse Common councilors continue to postpone voting on an agreement with Syracuse University to maintain a portion of neighboring Thornden Park.  The matter was first presented in early October, and has generated concerns among neighboring residents. 

Details of an amended agreement are still being worked out with the Walsh administration, but councilor Michael Greene says one of the biggest concerns has been withdrawn. He says residents were worried the university was given too much discretion to make changes without community input.

"The language gave the University the ability to submit permits to make changes to the park, and if the city didn't respond within five days, they were automatically approved. That was the biggest problem because unfortunately have the capacity to mobilize everyone to respond within five days."

Thornden Park has a rich history predating its purchase as a city park a century ago. At 76 acres, it’s one of the city’s largest parks, and borders part of the University’s east end along Ostrom Avenue. It features an amphitheater, lily pond, pool, playground, basketball and tennis courts, as well as ample greenspace. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

The proposed agreement with SU states the university wants to maintain part of the park, including replacing and maintaining sidewalks and adding crosswalks along Ostrom Ave. But some residents like Christina Capella-Peters aren’t fond of the language and what it implies. She spoke at at council’s finance committee in late October, chaired by Councilor Greene.

"Throughout the document, maintenance and repairs are referred to as 'being related to Syracuse University's use and enjoyment.' Why is that? These are public parks for public use. Maintenance and repair tasks shouldn't be in response to any one user group."

Athena Mandros lives nearby and is a member of the Thornden Park Association.

"The problem is is that it creates creep from SU, and my concern is that residents of the area will be left out of that area of the park."

Councilor Greene knows there’s a range of opinions.

"Some people have said we don't want the University to do anything in the park whatsoever. Some people have a little more nuance and understand the city's financial position and the ability to maintain all the parks throughout the city, and that the university could be a valuable partner. But they have to be constrained in a way that makes sure they don't have too much authority to make changes."

An amended agreement is expected within the next few days, which will likely spark more discussion among councilors and the public.

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