As you open the door to the Syracuse Innovation Office, your eyes catch the brightly painted walls, a sitting area with literature on cities and data science, the chalkboard wall covered in names and drawings. To your right is a conference room, decorated wall to wall in gigantic white post its; layered in smaller multicolored ones. Each note contains a problem, solution, or idea. In the final room sits the team of dedicated city innovators, busy working on improving economic opportunity in Syracuse.
Driving through many of Syracuse’s neighborhoods today, one can’t help but notice the boarded up vacant houses, trash-strewn vacant lots, crumbling porches, and chipping paint. One might ask, how did this happen? How did we get here? And, what impact does neighborhood blight have on the city and its residents? What are the consequences to living in unstable and unsafe housing? And how does it affect our residents’ access to opportunity?
As the i-team mentioned in their last post, Syracuse is an older City with older building stock. Historic buildings and neighborhoods with real walkable neighborhood centers are an asset that Syracuse should celebrate. As more and more people want to live in neighborhoods with character, Syracuse has that to offer. Just as these older neighborhoods are built atop aging infrastructure, which requires maintenance, the homes themselves typically require more maintenance than a new home would. On top of that a weak real estate market and concentrated poverty leave many homes suffering from deferred maintenance.
Infrastructure Week - a national week of attention dedicated to elevating infrastructure as a critical issue impacting everyone - is this week.
In Syracuse, improving infrastructure is one of Mayor Miner’s top priorities, and if you have followed this blog, you will know that the innovation team has focused its efforts on infrastructure for more than a year. Our infrastructure report, detailing the work done so far, is available here.
There’s been a lot of talk about “poverty” in Syracuse lately. National reports have identified Syracuse as owning one of the highest rates of poverty in the country – and according to one study, the highest rates of concentrated poverty among Blacks and Latinos. This national attention has provided a necessary shock to the system. Business, political, and community leaders are rallying around the issue of poverty (and concentrated poverty) more than ever before. New York State, meanwhile, has commissioned anti-poverty initiatives in Syracuse, along with several other Upstate cities, where similar dynamics of concentrated poverty are prevalent. For those of us who have long been working in the low-income communities of Syracuse, this is all welcome. For us to really move the needle on poverty, it must become a community priority. However, in order to “do something about poverty”, we must be committed to a deeper understanding of the issue and strategies that lead to real and lasting change.
When we started our Economic Opportunity research, transportation access was a major theme that arose. It’s hard to find or keep work if you can’t get there. All of the members of our team have cars and drive to work, so transportation challenges aren't something that we typically experience. So we decided to take the bus to see what public transit in Syracuse was really like.
Today, we are excited to release the City of Syracuse’s Open Data Policy. This policy is different because we are asking you to comment on it before it is made official. Visit this site https://documents.mymadison.io/docs/city-of-syracuse-open-data-policy and state your support or opposition. Additionally, you can comment or leave notes so the policy can be changed where appropriate.