Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh’s February community briefing, held on February 17, shared COVID-19 updates and job opportunities; highlighted SCSD News, CNI Grant application submission; honored Black History Month

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh held his monthly briefing on Thursday, February 17. You can watch the full briefing here.

COVID-19 Update
According to the Onondaga County Health Department, as of Monday there were 80 active cases of COVID-19 in the City of Syracuse.  That’s down from more than 3,800 at the time of our last briefing.  We haven’t seen a report lower than this since last July. Mayor Walsh highlighted that there are two important notes about this number: with the growth in home testing, we expect the actual numbers are higher, and the County Health Department notes this data is based on the number of people who are within five days of their positive test, meaning this data pool was collected differently than the prior month. It reflects the anticipated decline in Omicron, but while it appears we’ve gotten through this phase, COVID-19 has shown it can be unpredictable.

Looking at regional data reminds us that we are still not where we need to be in this pandemic. The overall positivity rate is 6.1% regionally, compared to 2.8% statewide.  The Central New York and Finger Lakes regions have the lowest hospital bed capacity in the state at 10% available beds and Intensive Care Unit availability statewide averages 19%, while regionally we’re averaging 11% bed availability. This data shows our hospitals are still experiencing strain and our infection rate is not where it needs to be.

We need to be ready for what comes next with the pandemic.  And we still need to protect our hospital system. We all should still be taking the responsible precautions – most important, getting vaccinated or boosted. As we remain vigilant and take precautionary measures, the City has received a new supply of at-home test kits from the State, with more anticipated in the near future. Early next week we will announce the specifics of a distribution plan that will include:
– a large senior living center;
– vulnerable populations in two City neighborhoods – Washington Square and Eastwood; and,
– walkup distribution events at City Parks’ Community Centers and City Libraries.

We will share details as soon as they are available.

ARPA-Funded City Rent Relief
As many tenants and landlords are still struggling with unpaid rent issues, Mayor Walsh reminded the community that the rent relief program for City of Syracuse residents, funded with American Rescue Plan dollars is still open. This rent relief program is targeted to community members with a gross income between 81% to 100% of the area median income – people who have not qualified for other programs but have still face serious financial strain due to the pandemic. For a family of four, that’s a family income that could range between $64,000 to nearly $80,000. For more information, visit and scroll down to the bottom of the page, where you will find the City of Syracuse rent relief section.

Syracuse City School District (SCSD) Graduation Rate Rises Again
On Wednesday, February 16, the New York State Education Department released some very important news for SCSD. For the third straight year, the school district saw an increase in its graduation rate, reaching another historic high. Among the Class of 2021, 77.2% earned a high school diploma after four years – compared to 70.7% of students in the Class of 2020 and 64.5% of students in the Class of 2019.

For the second consecutive year, the District also saw an improvement in the graduation rates of English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and students of color. This is an amazing accomplishment at time but especially given the challenges of the pandemic. Mayor Walsh shared congratulatory messages to students and their families, City teachers, staff and administration, as well as Superintendent Alicea and the Board of Education.

Connecting the Old 15th Ward – Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Grant
Deputy Mayor Owens shared an update on another major milestone: this one involving the neighborhood south of the downtown often referred to as the Old 15th Ward. Deputy Mayor Owens has led and effort with the Syracuse Housing Authority, submitting the massive Connecting the New 15th Ward Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant application late last week. The Choice Neighborhood Implementation grant is HUD’s premier “place making” neighborhood program.

City of Syracuse with SHA as co-applicant has submitted a grant application for $50 million to comprehensively invest in the neighborhood, requiring a minimum of 6:1 investment match in public and private capacities. Blueprint 15 is a key community partner. This grant application is part of reimagining a 118 acre neighborhood adjacent to an obsolete, elevated interstate viaduct, I-81, where over 1,000 units of public housing are currently located.  The goal is to create a mixed use, mixed income neighborhood where families – especially children – thrive and have genuine hope for successful futures and expectations that they will make important contributions to the world around them.

Deputy Mayor stressed that the key to interrupting generational poverty is the alignment of three pillars: quality, affordable, mixed income housing; best in class cradle to college educational pipeline; community health and wellness. This 10-12 year phased construction process creates over 1,400 units of new housing as well as a multitude of neighborhood amenities.

Job Opportunities
Mayor Walsh and Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner shared new job opportunities for Syracuse residents. Syracuse Surge is our strategy for inclusive growth in the New Economy, and part of that effort is Syracuse Surge: Careers in Coding. Mayor Walsh shared that sign-ups are underway for a 24-week free coding boot camp, offered through the Hack Upstate Careers in Code program, at This program is one of many Syracuse Surge workforce training opportunities available to city residents – see all of what is available on our Syracuse Surge partner, Centerstate CEO’s, website at

Police Chief Buckner also highlighted that the Police Department is recruiting. Recruitment personnel strive to develop and maintain a racial and ethnic composition within the Department that mirrors the demographic composition of the City of Syracuse. Sign up for the next Civil Service Police Exam by February 22; the exam will take place April 9, 2022. For more information, call (315) 442-5227 or email

Black History Month
February is Black History Month – an important time for our city and nation to honor the contributions of Black Americans. Mayor Walsh highlighted that the City is featuring heroes and heroines to this community online with Syracuse #BlackStories.  So far, we’ve honored Dr. Sarah Loguen, one of the first woman black physicians in our nation; Judge Langston McKinney, the esteemed city court judge for whom McKinney Manor is named; Libba Cotton, the great blues and folk musician, and there are more tributes to come. You can find their full stories in this Our City blog.

Mayor Walsh also shared that this Saturday, the SU basketball game against Boston College honor Emanual “Manny” Breland, offering half-time honors for the Syracuse basketball great and local community legend. Mayor Walsh will declare Saturday, February 18, 2022, Manny Breland Day in the City of Syracuse as he shares the proclamation at the game.

Manny Breland, who was born in the 15th Ward, was a star SU player who led the Orange to its first NCCA berth and the Eastern Finals. More important, as the proclamation reads, “Manny Breland is known throughout Syracuse and beyond not just as a scholar-athlete with a legacy of service, but as a mentor, role model, father and friend.” If you’re going to the game, don’t miss half time; if not, Mayor Walsh encouraged taking time to remember and honor Emanuel “Manny” Breland (1934-2021).

Full briefing available here:

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