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State Of The City: Syracuse Must Keep Momentum To Solve Persistent Problems Says Walsh

Scott Willis

Optimism. Confidence.  Windows of opportunity.  A city that is surging.  Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh expressed all of that in his State of the City address last night.   

But he also acknowledged there’s more work to be done.

Walsh says many numbers seem to be pointing in the right direction; population is growing, monthly job gains are among the strongest in the state, financial ratings agencies upgrading their outlook for Syracuse’s finances, vacant housing is down; and poverty rates are lower, but still too high.  Now, Walsh says, the city has to keep that momentum going by seizing the opportunity to tackle some of the most intractable problems.  One is a new ordinance aimed at lead paint.

“We made a lot of progress in recent years, ramping up funding,” said Walsh. “But we need to give our code enforcement officers tools they need to proactively get into properties where they know lead exists to test for it and remediate it before it gets to the children.”

Housing and neighborhoods figured prominently in his address.  Walsh is launching the Resurgent Neighborhoods Initiative, aimed at doing more neighborhood planning at the block level.  Under that umbrella, his team is working on an infill housing project to build 50 new single-family homes and 75 two-family homes to fill gaps left by vacant and abandoned properties.

“It’s expensive. It’s difficult. But it’s absolutely critical to support the growth we’re seeing in the city, and to ensure that there is quality affordable housing for our residents.” said Walsh. “We wouldn’t be able to do it on our own, but by convening all of the right partners to the table, we’ve established a vision. We have a plan. We’ve already identified funding.”

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh stands next to SUNY Upstate Medical University Interim President Dr. Mantosh Dewan. His state of the city address was held in the 4th floor lecture all in the Academic Building on the University's campus.

In his address, the mayor also announced a plan that builds upon existing effort to clear snow from the city’s busiest sidewalks to include additional snow removal as well as repairing broken sidewalks.  Walsh is also creating an Office of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility to look internally at ensuring all city departments reflect the people they serve.  

He spent several minutes highlighting no less than nine pieces that have fallen into place under the Syracuse Surge in just one year.  That’s the strategy for inclusive economic growth aimed at the neighborhoods just south of downtown.  Walsh says he believes all of it is possible…by simply saying “we can.”

“I continue to feel a great sense of urgency to take advantage of this window of opportunity that we have, where so many of us are working together and are aligned,” said Walsh.“And so everything that I talked about I can truly say that I am passionate about. We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve accomplished a lot already.”

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
Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.