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In State of the City speech, Walsh says Syracuse is surging, but more needs to be done

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City of Syracuse
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Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh gives the State of the City address at Upstate Medical University Thursday

It was a year ago in his State of the City address, that Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh introduced the idea of the Syracuse Surge, a massive development plan meant to lift parts of the city out of poverty. During this year’s address, Walsh said Syracuse is surging, but noted there are still things to be done.

Walsh chose to make his yearly speech in Upstate Medical University’s academic building. From a huge lecture hall, an expansive bank of windows opens up to Syracuse’s Southside and downtown. Walsh wanted to point to the accomplishments in those areas, but he didn’t count on snow clogging the view for a good portion of his remarks. But by the end, city lights twinkled in the distance.

"Syracuse is surging again, my friends. We can see it through these windows. We really can now, look," Walsh said to laughter from the audience. "And we have a window of opportunity before us, a responsibility right now, to keep working to drive Syracuse to its best days ever."

Walsh touted a number of accomplishments: fewer vacant houses dotting city streets, more police officers and firefighters on the job, and several new economic development projects, including tech driven programs that light the streets and develop drone startup companies. 

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Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh speaks with the media following his State of the City address Thursday

And Syracuse’s poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation, is the lowest it’s been in a decade. Looking to the future, Walsh outlined a number of initiatives, many meant to improve the quality of life, especially in poverty-ridden areas of the city. A Resurgent Neighborhoods Initiative, among other things, will lead construction of 50 new single-family homes and 75 two-family homes to fill the gaps left by vacant or abandoned properties.

"It’s been a long time since there’s been a comprehensive strategy for new housing development in the city. It’s expensive, it’s difficult, but it’s absolutely critical," he said.

Walsh also will propose a new lead ordinance that will proactively inspect buildings as part of the housing code, create a Quality of Life Commission, and an Office of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility. 

Entering his third year in office, Walsh said he feels an urgency to move ahead while state and local leaders are on the same page.

"So many of us are working together and are aligned," he said. "And so everything I talked about I can truly say I’m passionate about. We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve accomplished a lot already.”