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Judge considers oral arguments in I-81 court case

Lawyers present oral arguments to Judge Gerard Neri in Interstate-81 case
Jessica Cain
Lawyers present oral arguments to Judge Gerard Neri in Interstate-81 case

Attorneys involved in the case that could delay the multibillion-dollar Interstate 81 project are waiting for a decision from State Supreme Court Justice Gerard Neri.

In court on Thursday, Judge Neri told the attorneys he had been studying papers submitted by both sides for weeks, and now he will consider their arguments to make a decision. He did not give a timeline for when that decision might be made.

In November, Judge Neri issued a temporary stop to construction in response to a lawsuit filed by the group “Renew 81 for All.” He later modified that to say the state could work on paperwork related to the project, but it could not begin physical construction.

Alan Knauf, an attorney representing Renew 81, told the judge on Thursday that the I-81 project needs to be more thoroughly reviewed before getting started. He brought up multiple concerns with the “community grid” plan, adding he believes the project could lead to pollution on Syracuse’s South Side.

Knauf also asked the judge to consider delaying the start of the project until the state can thoroughly examine the effect Micron’s arrival could have on the area.

“The governor’s talking about it in the State of the State. Senator Schumer compares it to the Erie Canal,” said Knauf. “This isn’t just any old little project that somebody’s building a store, or building a building. This is a huge impact on this community. And everybody wants it, and everybody wants it to be a success. It really would be irrational to say, ‘Oh, well we’re stuck with this decision, even though we haven’t started building it, yet.’”

Speaking on behalf of the New York State Department of Transportation, Meredith Lee-Clark, an assistant attorney general, told the judge the DOT met all statutory and regulatory obligations while evaluating the project. She argued the state’s review showed the project would have a minimal impact on air quality in the area.

Lee-Clark said details about Micron’s arrival have not been outlined, yet, and asked for the I-81 project to be able to move forward, since it’s “shovel ready” and has undergone a thorough environmental review.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.