NYCLU wants I-81 surplus land for community land trust
The I-81 Viaduct Project will free up around 20 acres of land in Syracuse once the aging infrastructure is taken down. One group wants to make sure it is used the right way.
The New York Civil Liberties Union sent recommendations to the state Department of Transportation and the City of Syracuse regarding the surplus land from the I-81 viaduct project. NYCLU wants to see the state give the land back as a community land trust and use the space for affordable housing developments.
Lanessa Owens-Chaplin, the director of NYCLU’s Racial Justice Center, said they want to prevent community displacement and gentrification.
“What we see happening here is, people will be displaced as property taxes go up, as rents increase and as developers start to develop in this new area,” Owens said. “Our goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The City of Syracuse is also looking to get that land from the state and convert it for affordable housing and development use. Owens-Chaplin said part of NYCLU’s work is holding the city accountable and making sure regardless of who the land goes to, it is used to better the community.
“Promises are not enough,” Owens said. “We need something in writing. We need something that can demonstrate they will actually get what they said they would do, done.”
For some Southside community members like Oceanna Fair, the Southside leader for Families for Lead Freedom Now, the land trust would offer a way to repay the community.
“NYSDOT has a chance to make a difference in the harm that it caused when it put that highway into our community,” Fair said.
Victoria Coit, a senior director for NYCLU, said the work being done by community members and representatives today, is all part of creating a better, stronger community.
“A healthy community, I always say, doesn’t just happen,” Coit said. “A healthy community is built, it takes a lot.”
The state has not yet announced any decision regarding the land.