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City, county and private agencies come together to help fix problem neighborhoods in Syracuse

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner (center) and Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler (left) stand in front of an abandoned house on the city's west side.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner was on the city’s west side on Thursday, highlighting efforts of police and other officials to improve troubled neighborhoods. But some residents are upset that some neighborhoods have been struggling for years.

The corner of Fitch Street and Dudley Street on Syracuse’s west side is in rough shape. There are about three or four vacant homes with broken windows and residents complain about needles and syringes in their yards.  

But work is now being done to cut down the trees and overgrown areas that neighbors say criminals and drug dealers use to hide drugs and to escape police. Addressing environmental concerns in tough neighborhoods is part of Syracuse’s Problem Oriented Policing program. Miner says city, county and private agencies are coming together to help solve these types of problems.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Workers clear away overgrown trees and brush on a vacant property.

"It's not just about the police, it's not just about cutting back trees, its about how all the systems of government and nongovernment, in terms of National Grid and the lights, all work together," Miner said.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler said after work is done in an area, police talk with neighbors to try to get them to form neighborhood watch groups to help sustain the collected effort being made by city agencies.

"We realize that by removing those areas, that minimizes the ability for the criminal element to flourish in those neighborhoods," Fowler said.

Some Syracuse residents came to the press conference to voice their frustrations with neighborhoods like this one. Rich Puchalski of Syracuse United Neighbors said his organization has been trying for years to get some of these abandoned homes torn down.

"The bigger issue is seeing some funding to rehabilitate these blocks," Puchalski said. "Put up new houses. Whether they be rentals or owner occupants, that's another question."

Both Miner and city activists highlighted the importance of the Syracuse Land Bank which is seizing tax delinquent properties. But Miner said that process can take between three to nine months to go through the courts. This corner is just one example in a city that still has more than 2,000 vacant properties.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.