After years of delays, work has begun on a new look for Syracuse's Inner Harbor, but the city and the project developer now say Washington holds the key for progress on the effort. YNN's Bill Carey says they're asking the federal government for new money to handle some very basic needs.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The first signs of the new project are there. Large areas of contaminated soil cleared away, making room for construction of a hotel and new residential units. Still to come, the transformation of other areas of the Inner Harbor into retail, commercial and public use areas. The City of Syracuse is banking on the project for growth.
“Temporary and permanent jobs, initially over the span of a few years and extending for an undetermined amount of time would be great. Especially if a large portion of those hires are Syracuse residents,” said Syracuse Common Councilor Khalid Bey.
The city says the developer is ready to get going on the project, but the big question is infrastructure. Who will pay for things like roads, piping and lighting?
Senator Charles Schumer says it would not be feasible for the City of Syracuse, itself, to cover the majority of those costs.
“If you had to get it out of the city, and you said, take it out of police, take it out of schools, it inevitably would create the kind of fighting and delays that we don't need,” Schumer said.
Still, the work needs to be done before the massive project can proceed.
“If we don't have sewers and water to expand the project any further, it would, basically, come to a halt,” said Paul Joynt of COR Development.
The city is now asking the federal Economic Development Administration for $2 million in grants that would go toward the infrastructure efforts. Schumer says he's asking the EDA to "fast track" those monies. Even at a time of high deficits and tight federal dollars, Schumer says it's the type of spending that makes sense.
Schumer said, “One of the reasons we have a budget deficit, not the only, is the economy is so slow. Which means, first, revenues and taxes are lower, because there's fewer jobs, less economic activity, and costs are higher. More unemployment insurance. More food stamps So, this actually will save the federal government money, if it's successful, down the road.”
The Senator is optimistic Syracuse will win the federal grant. He says the money could be approved within a matter of months.
The Inner Harbor project covers a 28 acre site. The total project price tag is put at $350 million.