Now that the I-81 viaduct will be replaced, the NYCLU is dedicated to working alongside community members to ensure that the civil rights of Syracuse residents are protected, and the injustices of the original construction are not repeated. Syracuse now has a unique opportunity to ameliorate the harm done by the initial razing of the 15th Ward and address racial inequities in housing and education. We are concerned, however, that the ReZone plan relies heavily on zoning provisions that will harm low-income Syracuse residents and people of color.

The original construction devastated a neighborhood that was home to Syracuse’s working-class black community, previously known as the 15th ward.  Its construction severed the social fabric of the community, razed swaths of buildings, and physically isolated southeast Syracuse from wealthier neighborhoods.  The ReZone can either entrench existing levels of segregation and lack of affordable housing or create openings to rebuild Syracuse along more racially and socioeconomically integrated lines. It is critical that city officials prioritize the health and welfare of Syracuse’s residents, neighborhoods and schools at every step of their decision-making process.

Zoning ordinances play an integral role in the urban redevelopment process. In this case, any acceptable zoning plan must include ameliorative measures to combat the potential for gentrification and displacement of current residents. Syracuse should be actively working to repair the harms to educational and economic opportunity for Black Syracusians that resulted from the original construction of the I-81 viaduct. It can do so by implementing inclusionary zoning and Open Communities initiatives throughout the city and crafting zoning language that mitigates the excesses of gentrification, promotes affordable housing, and reinvests public money into communities that have seen historical disinvestment.

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