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Community efforts bring a new sign to downtown Syracuse

A new sign welcoming people to downtown Syracuse vs the old welcome sign
David Haas
A new sign welcoming people to downtown Syracuse vs the old welcome sign

Last year, David Haas finally had enough of driving by the same dilapidated, graffiti-tagged, weeds-surrounded sign on West Genesee Street and West Street welcoming him to Downtown Syracuse.

“If you go by and you see that it's full of graffiti and weeds and ugliness you think ‘is this what I'm going into,’” said Haas.

So he posted on his well-known Syracuse History Facebook page that it could use a makeover. To his surprise, that post got more than just a few comments.

“Luckily, I have a lot of good people around me who didn't just add to my thoughts or complaints, but kind of said, ‘okay, what can we do to fix this,’” he said.

The next thing he knew, he was part of a committee of volunteers determined to put a sign there that truly reflected the energy of Downtown Syracuse.

One member was Merike Treier, the executive director of the Downtown Committee of Syracuse.

“So David Haas, who's with Syracuse History, had kind of started the conversation off,” said Treier about how she first heard of the project. She said she was immediately on board.

“Any opportunity we have to engage with the community and help improve or beautify spaces is something we're always excited about,” she said.

So they got to work with the help of a number of partners including Nicole Bishop of Digital Hyve–who also saw Haas’ post.

“So David posted on Facebook–Syracuse History–and kind of was talking about the old sign and how there's a lot of graffiti behind it and, you know, it wasn't really kept up very well,” said Bishop who immediately wanted to help.

So she made the two designs that would later be put to a public vote.

“I love Syracuse,” said Bishop. “It's so pretty and being able to be in an effort like this and actually like helping and contributing it's like such a special, special place to be, truly.”

The winner of the public vote is what stands there now. A blue and gold sign–reflective of the historic colors of the Empire State–with a 3D printed emblem reading “Syracuse” encapsulated by the words “downtown welcomes you.” It’s accompanied by manicured landscaping and is, of course, graffiti-free.

However, this year-and-a-half-long project is about more than just a new sign. Its importance is two-fold for the people who made it possible. Bishop said the sign finally matches the energy of downtown.

“I feel like this sign and what it represents is not only like a community coming together to better our community but also just like beautifying the space and kind of like matching what the efforts are going on right now in Syracuse,” she said.

To Haas, the importance lies within the process.

“I'm more excited by how the process came about,” said Haas. “For all the people stepped up. And then for us to give the community the opportunity to be a part of it and vote.”

And Treier said she’s blown away by this community effort.

“To see the level of engagement and attention and interest people have in engaging with our downtown community, it's just it's invigorating, it's really exciting to see that, and people feel connected,” said Treier.

Haas said he never thought a Facebook post would turn into this. And yes, it is just a sign change, but for him, it’s all about the community that made this change happen.

“I know the sign isn't like a huge event and a huge undertaking in accomplishment, but it is an accomplishment,” he said. “It is an example of what we can do when we're all working for one goal.”

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.