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Syracuse Council set to vote on sidewalk program, some still want changes

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
The Syracuse Common Council.

A municipal sidewalk program in the city of Syracuse, where the city would assume responsibility and maintenance over sidewalks instead of property owners, is set for a vote on Monday by the city’s Common Council. Some councilors still want changes to the legislation.

The sidewalk program is free in its first year, but an annual fee would go up each year until year six, when residential property owners would be paying $100, and commercial property owners would pay $300 annually.

Some councilors wanted the city to create a hardship fund to help those who can’t afford the fee. The city’s Chief Operating Officer Corey Driscoll Dunham said the mayor’s administration wrote in language that now says if funding is available, it will go to a third-party agency, like Home Headquarters, that would distribute the money to needy homeowners.

“As a bridge to get people, until we can really transition and now it’s just incorporated into the cost of owning a home, putting additional funding into those programs to assist property owners that not only might face a hardship in particular, paying a fee, but also for people who are already in the cycle of condemnation and are facing a significant cost to replace their sidewalk,” Dunham said. 

Under the current system, if the city condemns a sidewalk, a homeowner might have to pay, on average, $8,000 to get it fixed. The new program means the city would take on that cost.

Councilor-at-Large Khalid Bey said the new language is not strong enough. He wants something in writing that ensures protections for people on a fixed income.

“While, one person who is living on a fixed income may be able to pay $100 a year, it doesn’t mean that someone else in another neighborhood can,” Bey said.

He added that if the legislation has to be amended later, it can be. He also said even if it passes, he doesn’t expect repair work on sidewalks to begin until next year.

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.