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NYCLU on Passage of Syracuse ReZone Plan

SYRACUSE – Today, the Syracuse Common Council passed ReZone Syracuse, a revision of the city’s zoning ordinance, which fails to provide protections for the Black community living adjacent to the I-81 viaduct in downtown Syracuse. More than 50 years ago, the construction of I-81 devastated a neighborhood that was home to Syracuse’s working-class Black community, known as the 15th Ward.

In response, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from the Director of the Environmental Justice Project Lanessa Chaplin:

“Urban development should never come at the cost of marginalizing already vulnerable communities. By passing ReZone, the Common Council and Mayor Ben Walsh are repeating the awful history of urban renewal and the original I-81 build – but instead of displacing residents by razing a community to make way for a highway, developers will now be emboldened to price this community out.

“Syracuse has some of the most segregated housing in the nation. Passing this plan is not only a setback for housing accessibility, but it is an affront to the City’s predominantly low-income Black and Brown families under direct threat of displacement. Today, Syracuse lawmakers have sent a chilling message to its Black and Brown residents: that developers’ interests are more important than those who endured the fallout from the racist decisions of the past.

“New land development should improve the lives of people living near the viaduct, not push them out through gentrification. We urge the City of Syracuse to advance measures to combat the gentrification and displacement of 15th Ward residents, and repair the harms to housing, educational and economic opportunities for Black Syracuse residents that resulted from the original construction of the I-81 viaduct. Anything less is a backslide on racial justice that will be felt for generations to come.”

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