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Demolition of 60 Syracuse Land Bank properties could be delayed by funding cuts

File Photo
Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank
City of Syracuse
The Syracuse Land Bank demolished its first house in March 2014.

The Syracuse Common Council will soon have to decide if they want to override Mayor Stephanie Miner’s veto to a number of amendments the council added to the budget. Those amendments include cuts to the funding of the city’s land bank.

Miner released a list of 60 properties scheduled for demolition that will have to be put on hold unless the council restores funding to the land bank, which takes over tax-delinquent properties. Many of the properties on the list have had a number of police calls and complaints ranging from drugs, trespassing, arsons and shots fired.

Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright said those are the immediate concerns. But the bigger concern is that the land bank would have to dip into its fund balance to complete some demolitions.

“The sooner the better, because if it’s slated for demolition, just letting it sit longer is letting it continue to drag down surrounding property values, continue to attract criminal activity and it’s a real quality of life issue,” Wright said.

"Not only will it improve quality of life and property values immediately in the surrounding area, it will help us achieve our mission too. Often times, there is a demolition candidate across the street from a house we're trying to sell. We would be in a better position to attract buyers to come into these neighborhoods if we can clean up the rest of the problem at the same time,"  Wright said.

But spending from their fund balance could have consequences in the future. Wright said the land bank’s deficits are likely to increase as the best properties get sold first and inventory and expenses continue to grow.

“What that does is it shortens our longevity," Wright said. "We’re trying to plan ahead so that we don’t have to ask the city for $1.5 million every year, that we’ll get to a point where we’ll ask for a much small annual support.” 

But councilors have the votes to override a veto. Withholding the land bank's funding is their attempt to reduce the city's much larger budget deficit.

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.