Most stories about Interstate 81 in publications other than The Stand do not include the voices of South Side residents. That’s one of the things we learned from our reader survey. Less than 20 percent of those surveyed remember seeing a South Sider in the last article they read about I-81.
This lack of coverage on how South Side residents feel about the future of I-81 is problematic because much of the South Side will be disproportionately affected by the construction to either replace — or more likely remove — the elevated 1.4-mile stretch of the interstate that runs through the city.
Understandably, readers have a lot of questions. These include concerns about homes being destroyed; the length of the construction project; the impact on traffic and public transit; the effect on economic development along Salina Street; the creation of jobs for minorities; worries about dust and other health effects; and the fear of gentrification.
The Stand wants to provide information addressing these concerns and to share perspectives from residents, experts and local advocacy groups. Our goal is to give residents the information they need to develop their own informed opinions and so that they can ask pointed questions when the state Department of Transportation opens its final comment period on the project.
The DOT has said it will release a draft environmental impact statement by spring 2020. The public can then comment on the impact statement for 45 days. The construction of 81 caused irreparable harm to the city, particularly to the predominantly Black, South Side neighborhood known as the 15th Ward.
But that doesn’t mean tearing down the highway and replacing it with a surface level grid — which is the state’s current preferred option — is universally accepted by South Side residents. And it is clear that whatever plan is enacted will affect the daily lives of residents for years to come.
The board of The Stand wants to include as many South Side voices as possible to spark community participation in the decision making process. As such, we want to hear from you, and will be dedicating a large part of our Winter issue to sharing as many South Side perspectives as possible. We will accept letters to the editor of up to 350 words on I-81. All submissions will be reviewed by our editors and compiled into a collection of perspectives by and for South Side residents. And in addition to your letters, we’d love to hear your story ideas as they relate to I-81, both currently and with a historical perspective. We look forward to hearing from you.
Email letters and story ideas to Ashley@mysouthsidestand.com or mail to Attn. The Stand, South Side Communication Center, 2331 S. Salina St., Syracuse NY 13205. Please send by Nov. 12.