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NYCLU Statement on Appellate Decision Supporting I-81 Viaduct Demolition

SYRACUSE – In response to the Appellate Division’s ruling in Renew 81 For All v. NYS Department of Transportation against Renew 81’s efforts to halt the demolition of a crumbling portion of the I-81 viaduct in Syracuse, New York, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from Racial Justice Center Director Lanessa Chaplin:

“We’re glad the Court recognized what we, fellow advocates, and Syracuse residents have known for generations: replacing the I-81 viaduct with a raised highway is not an option under any circumstances. Our community has spoken loud and clear at countless marches, rallies, and through over 5,000 public comments submitted to the state. Any attempts to ‘save’ I-81 are intent on preserving a symbol of structural racism that has supercharged segregation, decimated land value, and polluted the environment, and we will fight these attempts in court every step of the way.

“The work doesn’t stop here. The NYCLU and our partners will make sure the injustices of the original construction are not repeated, ensuring stability, dignity and economic opportunity for the communities most affected during construction. Most importantly, we will fight for the land surrounding the viaduct to be permanently returned to the 15th Ward in the form of a Community Land Trust. There are many decisions ahead for NYSDOT as they redevelop the viaduct area, and the NYCLU will make sure that the community grid construction process focuses on the residents most impacted by the viaduct’s decades of harm.”

In 2022, the New York Civil Liberties submitted an amicus brief underscoring the environmental and racial justice necessity to tear down the I-81 viaduct to remedy the displacement and destruction of the 15th Ward and replace it with the Community Grid. The NYCLU argued that Renew I-81’s plan to keep the highway in place or build a new, higher structure would have perpetuated the same racist history and failed practices of the past five decades, forcing Black residents to shoulder the effects of the highway for the benefit of the predominately whiter, wealthier businesses and residents in the suburbs.

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