Building A Better Future
The Structural Racism Built into I-81, and How to Tear it Down
In 1960, approximately 11,000 Black people lived in the City of Syracuse, with as many as 90 percent living in the 15th Ward. That neighborhood became the focus of an urban renewal project that included the construction of the I-81 highway, which ripped through the heart of the 15th Ward. The result was displacement and the destruction of what had been an under-resourced, working-class, but still vibrant neighborhood. In all, 1,300 residents were displaced by the original construction of the 1.4 mile stretch of the I-81 viaduct.
Now the viaduct has reached the end of its useful life and must be replaced. The I-81 project could be the catalyst for knitting back together what the highway destroyed. By taking a hard look at the harms done to people in the past, there is a real chance to improve housing conditions, health outcomes, and economic and educational opportunity for all people in Syracuse.