Mayor tells Secretary Buttigieg that his top concerns are the neighborhoods in the shadow of the viaduct and ensuring that local people get career and job opportunities on the $2 billion-plus project
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh welcomed U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to Syracuse on Tuesday. Mayor Walsh and the Senators hosted a roundtable at the Syracuse University Center of Excellence with Secretary Buttigieg, the New York State Department of Transportation and local stakeholders regarding the Interstate 81 viaduct project and the American Jobs Plan infrastructure plan.
With the aging I-81 viaduct in the background at a press conference following the roundtable, Buttigieg talked about the lingering harmful impacts of urban highways on people and neighborhoods. He vowed his department will pay attention to the justice, environmental and local hiring considerations involved in the massive project.
“This is a remarkable place to illustrate what is happening in cities across the country. This city is rebounding in an extraordinary way, but the consequences of this legacy are still with us,” Buttigieg said. “Every decision about transportation is a decision about justice and a decision about our future.”
The Secretary’s visit to Syracuse was arranged by Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand. Buttigieg visited New York State to talk about the Biden Administration’s plan to invest in infrastructure. Schumer and Gillibrand also pushed for the Reconnecting Communities Act, which would provide federal investment in construction, planning, and community engagement to expand economic opportunity in New York and across the country by reconnecting and revitalizing areas that were harmed by the disruptive construction of highways through neighborhoods.
“We look forward to moving ahead on this transformational project. I believe the Community Grid, the state DOT’s preferred alternative, provides the greatest opportunity to right the wrongs created by the viaduct and lift people up in the future,” said Mayor Walsh. “Taking care of those in the shadow of the viaduct and putting local people to work are our top priorities.
At the roundtable, Mayor Walsh highlighted major community initiatives to prepare for local hiring, including the Interstate 81 Jobs Big Table with the Urban Jobs Task Force and other local partners and the Syracuse Build Pathways to Apprenticeship Program with Syracuse Common Council President Helen Hudson, the Central and Northern New York Building and Construction Trades Council, CenterState CEO Work Train, and the United Way of Central New York.
Senator Gillibrand, who has co-sponsored the Build Local Hire Local Act and has been a key partner on workforce planning in Syracuse, urged more progress to prepare for local hiring. “Syracuse is already at the forefront of this. Syracuse is already doing this and will be ready,” Gillibrand said.