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Syracuse's Tipp Hill residents fighting to keep halfway house far away

West side of Syracuse residents are again fighting to keep a halfway house for felons re-entering the community out of their neighborhood, saying the current facility is just fine where it is, far away.

The federal Bureau of Prisons' contract with non-profit Firetree, LTD. to operate a re-entry facility on the eastern edge of downtown Syracuse is up. Firetree, which is from Pennsylvania, has submitted a bid to have the contact to run the three-dozen bed facility renewed.

But Community Resources for Justice has also submitted a bid, to operate a similar-sized facility at the base of Syracuse's Tipperary Hill neighborhood.

Residents and lawmakers say the empty building on West Fayette Street that Community Resources for Justice want to move into is too close to homes, schools and the Boys and Girls Club.

"Five hundred feet is nothing. Mickey Mantle used to hit a baseball that far," said Sen. Charles Schumer Wednesday. 

Schumer and Rep. Dan Maffei have both sent letters to the Bureau of Prisons urging them to deny the bid. "The proposal makes no sense," Schumer said.

The bureau has to consider residents' concerns, Schumer and Maffei said.

"Facilities like this need to exist, but in the proper setting," said Janice McKenna, president of the Tipperary Hill neighborhood association. "We want to keep our children safe, we want to keep our elders safe. This is a walkable neighborhood and we want people to feel comfortable here."

Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO
Janice McKenna, president of the Tipp Hill neighborhood association.

This isn't a new fight the neighborhood association is waging, McKenna said.

Another bid to turn the same site into a halfway way house was made six years ago.

"We were able to squelch it," she said. "Before this happens again, we’re going to find somebody to develop that property so we don’t have to deal with it. That’s going to be one of our priorities."

Community Resources for Justice is a Boston-based non-profit that operates three halfway houses already, including one in Albany.

"We know what we're doing," said spokesman Paul Swindlehurst.

The facility would have no negative impact on the community, he said, and often times residents will spruce up the area around the facility.

The Bureau of Prisons sends offenders nearing the end of the their sentence to halfway houses so they can begin the reintegration process. They're given counseling and job training. Time outside the facility is strictly regulated and is often only allowed for working on job searching, a spokesman said.

Most residents spend a few weeks to a month at the re-entry facilities.