Increase Economic Investment And Neighborhood Stability
The City of Syracuse should be a place where people can find safe and quality housing, start a business, or plan to develop or renovate a property with relative ease.
Below are actions steps implemented in 2019 to improve neighborhoods and attract economic investments within the City:
Syracuse Surge • Assessment • Police Districts • Body-Worn Camera Program• Police Cadet Classes • Poverty Analysis • Housing Stability • Bureau of Administrative Adjudication • Lead Funding • Vacancy Property Reduction • Parks Facilities Improvements • Hire Ground • Summer Youth Employment • Syracuse Build • Financial Empowerment Center • Blueprint 15 • Adopt-a-Block • Sledding • Deer Management • Permit Process Improvements • ReZone Syracuse • Syracuse Developmental Center • SEDCO Loans • Restore NY Funding • Gun Violence Reduction
Syracuse Surge is the City’s strategy for inclusive growth in the New Economy. A number of wins for the city aligned with the approach to move the Syracuse forward, including:
JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities Grant
In the spring, Syracuse was one of five cities to win a $3 million grant from JPMorgan Chase, out of the 250 applicants from throughout the country to compete in the challenge. The AdvancingCities five-year, $500 million initiative is a long-term investment in support for solutions that lead to inclusive economic growth and sustainability. The Syracuse Surge proposal included strategic investments that will target capacity building opportunities for all in the tech industry.
The City closed on a deal to take ownership of 17,422 street lights from National Grid in December 2019. More than a year of negotiations went into the legal final transfer of ownership. The conversion of the street light network to the cobra head LED lights began in early 2019, ending the year with over 55% (9,676) of the project complete.
Ownership of the street lights will allow the City to install smart nodes technology that can share important information about outages, street conditions, and weather patterns. An annual savings of $3 million will be saved on maintenance and energy costs alone. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020, concluding with the conversion of the decorative fixtures.
Assemblyman William Magnarelli introduced legislation to the New York State Assembly for the approval of the Syracuse City School District establishing the county-wide STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) school in June 2019. The bill passed unanimously in the Assembly and without any opposition in the New York State Senate after being proposed by Senator Rachel May. Estimated to be $75 million, the regional high school will be the first of its kind in the state educating students from both the City and Onondaga County for the jobs of the future.
Governor Cuomo announced plans for the school to include a workforce training center during his State of the State address in January 2020. The old Central Tech high school in downtown Syracuse will house the students once it is fully renovated. Partners include the City of Syracuse, Syracuse City School District, Onondaga County and SUNY Empire State College.
At year end, Verizon has submitted 75 permits to begin the installation of the 5G cell towers throughout the City soon after the Common Council passed the legislation in May. Syracuse is one of the first cities Verizon chose to begin the buildout of the citywide high speed wireless technology. Locations across the City will enable devices to have access to faster wireless internet, increase connectivity and solidify Syracuse as a smart city.
Microsoft will partner with the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County and Syracuse University School of Information (iSchool) to establish a Smart Cities technology hub in Syracuse. The Syracuse site will be Mircosoft’s first hub in the Northeast. The global technology company will deliver a broad curriculum of technology and digital literacy programs to local non-profits, community centers, educational institutions, employment and workforce development organizations, and businesses.
JMA Wireless purchased the former Coyne Textile building located on Cortland Avenue on Syracuse’s Southside. In October 2019, Governor Cuomo announced JMA’s plans to invest $25 million into the 120,000 sq. ft. facility, moving its manufacturing of 5G electronic technology from Texas to Syracuse. The company will create 100 new local jobs and work with training programs like the SUNY Educational Opportunity Center to hire residents for production and development positions.
The campus will serve as a manufacturing and edge development center that will develop the world’s first indoor 5G millimeter-wave radio system.
Bankers Healthcare Group
As a rapidly growing company providing financing services to healthcare professionals, Bankers Healthcare Group announced its plans to build its new financial headquarters on six acres at 300-324 Spencer St. near the Inner Harbor. The additional space will include a 100,000 sq. ft., five-story facility to be completed in 2021. Executives at Bankers Healthcare anticipate adding up to 300 more private-sector jobs over the next five years.
Since January 2019, Bankers Healthcare added 100 new employees to its roster. Three locations in both Franklin Square and Armory Square currently house their staff of 250. The company’s $35 million investment has proven its desire to remain in Syracuse.
Body-Worn Camera Program
The first full year the Syracuse Police Department had access to 100 body-worn cameras for officers to use was counted as a success. The one-year free trial for the technology ended in 2019; efforts are underway to expand the program to 220 cameras in order to outfit the majority of uniformed patrol officers. Both the officers and the community have seen the value in having the body-worn cameras, increasing transparency and the trust during police-community interactions.
New Police Academy Classes
The Syracuse Police Department graduated a class of 36 officers in January 2019. The second class of 35 recruits under the Walsh administration graduated in December 2019. A third class of recruits is set to begin training in January 2020.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey reported that the estimated poverty rate in Syracuse declined to 30.5% in 2018. In 2017, the poverty rate was 32.4%, indicating that the 1.9% decrease is proof that Syracuse is on the right track. The estimate is the lowest poverty rate Syracuse has seen in a decade.
The Hispanic population saw a significant poverty rate decline going from 58% to 35.8%.
More demographic information, including the poverty numbers, can be found on the U.S. Census data Web site at data.census.gov.
Evictions, for many residents, have led to compounding challenges that make housing stability more difficult to achieve. Factors including the ability to obtain a reference, find better housing options, sustain a job, maintain school attendance, and plant roots in a community are all affected by housing instability. One of the initiatives the Department of Neighborhood of Business Development (NBD) launched is a pilot eviction prevention initiative designed to decrease the frequency in which residents are forced to move.
The purpose of the “early intervention” system with the public housing authority and a privately owned apartment complex is to connect low-income renters at risk of eviction with supportive services. Because renters had access to legal assistance, repayment plans, and other options, the program helped to prevent 99 evictions over a twelve-month period. The property owners were able to save more than $336,000 in eviction filings and lost rent as a result of alternatives other than eviction.
The pilot was so successful that both participants have continued to fund support staff to advance early intervention work outside of the City’s funds, allowing the program to be expanded to other sites in 2019.
Additional housing stability efforts included:
- Over 3,137 homeless and housing-vulnerable households served
- 2,120 individuals or households maintained or placed in permanent housing
- 681 homeless or housing vulnerable households transitioned to being firmly housed
The Rental Registry Inspection program expanded in 2019. More single and two-family interior inspections were proactively scheduled by the Division of Code Enforcement inspectors for rental registry applicants. Seventy-five percent of interior inspections performed by inspectors met health and safety standards, receiving a rental registry certificate after the first inspection.
The Tenant Owner Proactive (TOP) pilot, prioritizing relationships with both tenants and property owners to proactively encourage compliance, continued throughout 2019.
Bureau of Administrative Adjudication
The Bureau of Administrative Adjudication (BAA) was established in 2019. The BAA allows for ticketing for code and zoning violations, increasing accountability and compliance to provide more stable, higher-quality rental homes for families. The BAA receives administrative support from the City of Syracuse Industrial Development Agency and is now housed in the Department of Law.
Prior to the implementation of ticketing, the average compliance for the Rental Registry was between 25-30%. Presently more than 60% of an initial pilot group of 1,000 properties were brought into compliance with the Rental Registry after being ticketed. The remaining properties were cited for one or more violations which have since been corrected.
The City secured a $4.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to remove hazardous lead paint and other home health problems. The grant was obtained with the support of Congressman John Katko and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. Partnering with Onondaga County, the City was able to assist in the remediation of a minimum of 230 housing units, and will offer $12 million in grants to landlords to remove lead from their rental properties.
The Division of Code Enforcement inspectors have started lead testing training. Under legislation to be proposed in 2020, Inspectors will have the ability to determine if surfaces on properties contain high levels of lead on site, making it easier to cite violations.
Vacant Property Reduction
Vacant residential properties decreased by 12.3% since 2017. It is estimated that since 2015, the number of vacant residential properties which includes apartments, multiple residences, single and multi-family homes went from 1,886 to 1,486. The current numbers represent a total decline of 21% over a five-year period to date.
Parks Facilities Improvements
The Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs opened the new playground at McKinley Park in July 2019. The $150,000 project was completed in late June. The renovation was celebrated with an official ribbon cutting for the playground at the park to celebrate the community’s support and excitement for the upgraded feature.
New fitness equipment stations were installed at Burnet Park. The added amenity provides easy access to park users who prefer an outside workout. Other Parks facilities that were improved include the:
- Onondaga Park greenhouse roof
- Thornden Park bathhouse roof/chimney
- Installation of Natural Playscape at Comfort Tyler Park
- Barry Park drinking fountain
- Schiller Park drinking fountain
- Bob Cecile Community Center windows
- Bob Cecile Community Center front entryway
- Bob Cecile Community Center kitchen
- Bob Cecile Community Center HVAC upgrades
- Bob Cecile Community Center accessible front desk
- Bob Cecile Community Center computer lab
- Elmwood Park sidewalk
- Burnet Park accessible path
- Firefighter’s Memorial Park lighting
- Firefighter’s Memorial Park fence
- Washington Square Park Save the Rain Project
- New basketball poles/rims at Skiddy Park
- Schiller Park soccer field rehab
- Burnet Park tennis courts resurfacing
- Schiller Park tennis court renovation
- Pillar lighting at Thornden Park
- Barry Park field house plans by Arcadis
- Homer Wheaton Park basketball court
- Sidewalk installation at Faldo Park
- Sidewalk installation at Slocum Park
- Restoration of Erie Canal Tablet
- Fabrication of new Republican Tree Tablet
The joint City and County alternative to panhandling program, Hire Ground, became a popular and celebrated resource in the community in 2019. The pilot program offering “a hand up, not a hand out” had 267 unduplicated participants in the first six months of its implementation. The program’s operator, In My Father’s Kitchen, works with individuals who identify as homeless and/or panhandlers, providing them with access to work opportunities, a ride to and from, meals, and referrals to health, medical and insurance providers.
There were 147 participants who have identified as homeless since the program started; 36 identified as panhandlers; 78 identified as both homeless and as panhandlers. Of those individuals, 30 of the participants have been referred to healthcare-related professionals and 51 to case management services. The program was able to see eight participants become gainfully employed as a result of their involvement with the initiative.
Summer Youth Employment
The City of Syracuse and Onondaga County worked to place 1,142 youth in jobs for six weeks through the Summer Youth Employment Program. The program placed students in positions in more than 60 organizations within public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The number of participants was exceeded in 2019 when compared to 2018.
Youth participants benefitted beyond the summer period. Some of the students received invitations to return in 2020, others gained connections to employers related to their field of interest or study, and some received the opportunity to be hired fulltime. The City of Syracuse had two departments hire participants in the program (Permits and IT).
Syracuse Build, an initiative announced in 2018, is designed to create a pipeline for residents to receive training, workforce development and access to local construction jobs. Anchor partners, which consist of the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, and Syracuse University, manage millions of dollars in capital projects annually. Anchor partner leaders have committed to solidifying opportunities for skilled residents within their own organizations and for the Interstate 81 viaduct project.
In 2019, the Steering Committee was established. Representatives from community and labor organizations like the Urban Jobs Task Force, CNY Works, and CenterState CEO joined the committee alongside the anchor partner designees. An operating partner in CNY Works was chosen and the search for a Syracuse Build director is currently underway continuing to push the agenda forward.
Financial Empowerment Center
Since the launch of the Syracuse Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) in eight locations throughout the city, 238 clients have received professional financial help. Individuals and families have seen the benefits of the one-on-one, expert, financial counseling offered to residents. The FEC is made possible through partnerships with nonprofit, local government, and philanthropic organizations.
In July 2019, Vincent B. Love was appointed as the CEO of Blueprint15 to begin leading the charge of the new nonprofit organization. The partnership between the City of Syracuse, the Syracuse Housing Authority, and the Syracuse City School District will focus on implementing a new vision for the $100 million redevelopment of the former 15th Ward neighborhood on the Southside next to Interstate 81. Love’s background in various leadership roles, financial management and community engagement all lend to the experience required to transform the community and restore its vibrancy.
Beautification efforts to make Syracuse a cleaner city continued throughout 2019. The City’s yearlong, citywide Clean-Up ‘Cuse Adopt-a-Block trash and litter pickup program invites groups and individuals commit to adopting a block to clean on a regular basis. The Facebook group grew to more than 90 members who held dozens of ongoing spring, summer and fall cleanups.
Burnet Park and Sunnycrest Park were both designated as sledding sites by Mayor Walsh. In addition to sledding, other fun, wintry activities such as snowshoeing and XC skiing are available to the community. More details about the Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs winter activities can be found in the Winter 2019-2020 brochure.
As a part of the report outlining the Tick and Deer Management Plan introduced in June 2019, deer damage management began in early December in designated locations throughout the City of Syracuse. White-tailed deer are overabundant in Onondaga County, carrying tick-borne infections, including Lyme disease, which have caused public health concerns. The large deer population has also been a factor in the increase of deer-vehicle collisions, and damage to green space ecosystems like neighborhood and residential gardens.
Syracuse is one of five municipalities in Onondaga County conducting a deer management program with the help of the United State Department of Agriculture. Following very specific guidelines for deer culling, federal wildlife managers will work until March 2020 to reduce the overpopulation of deer. The program is funded by Onondaga County with the support of County Executive Ryan McMahon. Residents can learn more about the program from the frequently asked questions sheet prepared by the City.
Permit Process Improvements
The Central Permit Office launched the new Zoning and Permitting Discovery Center using a model created by OpenCounter, a company that specializes in online workflows for municipalities. The Office of Accountability, Performance, and Innovation (API) worked with the Permit Office to determine the needs of customers when seeking a business or residence permit. Time for both staff and customers is saved due to having permitting details available online.
The Permit Office is also working with the API team to find additional ways to decrease time for permit approvals. The non-reviewable electric and HVAC permit applications are no longer filled out by a staff person, so the permits get into the right hands quicker. In 2019, residential permits were issued 24% faster than in 2018, and commercial permits were issued 40% faster. Between the permit portal and removing staff from unnecessary processes, an estimated 813 hours of staff time has been saved.
The team is also working on using technology to move from physical to digital plan review in the near future.
Permit Construction Values
In 2019, the City issued 3,368 permits, representing approximately $248.5 million of new investment.
The Fire Department completed one full year of a three-year agreement with Brycer, LLC for the provision of The Compliance Engine (TCE). The digital tool enables the Fire Prevention Bureau to track and bolster code compliance and reduce false alarm reports in order to provide a safer community. The comprehensive data pulled from the resource will determine which buildings have what types of systems, when they were last tested, and if there are any open deficiencies that could jeopardize their successful deployment in the event of an incident.
The ReZone Syracuse project will revise and update the City’s Zoning Ordinance and Map. Both have not been comprehensively updated in more than 50 years. The five goals for the project allow the City to: create a user-friendly ordinance; update the City’s zoning districts; modernize land uses; introduce uniform standards to improve the quality of development; and streamline development procedures.
The project team started the required New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), requiring “the sponsoring or approving governmental body to identify and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the activity it is proposing or permitting.” The next step in the process is a review of a recently prepared Draft Scoping Document, identifying issues to be addressed in the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The Final Scoping will document all public comments and be prepared for the Syracuse Common Council’s review and acceptance.
Syracuse Developmental Center
The former Syracuse Developmental Center was seized by the City for back taxes in August 2019. Prior to being seized, the 47-acre property located at 800 S. Wilbur Ave and 802 S. Wilbur Ave Rear owned by Syracuse Center, LLC was delinquent on more than $880K in taxes, including interest and penalties. The site also attracted looters, became an illegal dumping site, and posed a threat to public safety, resulting in continued use of City resources.
A number of departments worked to secure the site, including Code Enforcement, Public Works, Police and Neighborhood and Business Development. Through a request for proposal process, Pyramid Brokerage Company was selected to market the site to developers. The firm will work to bring potential buyers to the table interested in restoring the property back to productive use.
The Syracuse Economic Development Corporation, a revolving loan fund for the City, increased lending to small businesses in 2019. Five projects received a portion of $428,000 lent to businesses, leveraging $1.2 million in total project investments.
The City of Syracuse became the first large New York State city to offer PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing September 2019. Commercial properties seeking to make energy efficient upgrades or renewable energy installations can finance the improvements and repay the loan through a special assessment placed on their annual property tax bill. The funding resource is made available through Energy Improvement Corporation’s Energize NY initiative.
Restore NY Funding
Through RestoreNY, the City was able to invest $2 million in renovation and redevelopment projects in distressed communities. The grant dollars from the Empire State Development program are used to revitalize urban centers, encourage commercial investment and improve the housing stock in blighted neighborhoods. In 2019, the funding to support projects leveraged a total of $12 million in investments.
Gun Violence Reduction
Several initiatives the Syracuse Police Department (SPD) has implemented to combat gun violence include GIVE, Strategies for Policing Innovation (offender focused policing) and Trinity (juvenile prevention and intervention). As of December 2019, the number of individuals struck by gun fire was reduced by 15% (15 less people) when compared to the 2018 statistics. A report shows that there was also a 20% (18 less incidents of shots fired) reduction in the number of incidents of gun fire resulting in injury over the same time last year.
The SPD Criminal Investigations Division/Homicide Squad investigated 20 homicides in 2019, 18 of which have been solved and closed by arrest. The closure rate in 2019 was approximately 90%, well above the national average of 60-62%. The closure rate for homicides in Syracuse has consistently exceeded the national average since the homicide squad was created in December of 2016.