March for a Livable and Accessible Syracuse

Wednesday July 29, 2015


"Today at the 25 year anniversary mark of the Americans with Disability Act, we stand here together, and continue to be a morally bankrupt society, when as a community we cannot provide a roof over each others heads, and proper accommodations for each person's abilities in order to live with dignity.  

A few weeks ago, I attended the City’s Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report to HUD, detailing how federal housing and assistance funds were used here in Syracuse.  As I reviewed the report in preparation for this event, I was hard pressed to find information or even mention of assistance to those with disabilities.  

The report’s introduction does list “persons with physical disabilities” as a vulnerable population, and does include special needs housing development as a provided support service, but the details to understand further were unclear. Page 27 contained Table 17 “Special Populations Served”, and “Persons with Disabilities” were broken up by the mentally ill, chronic substance abuse, and Other - leaving me wondering what the needs of those 245 persons with other disabilities were, and whether any of the assistance provided was in the form of accessibility and livability improvements and renovations.

Another example of a lack of information on this topic is Appendix B, on Page 37 that indicates the Count of CDBG Activity & Disbursements. Total Housing program spending only lists acquisition and rehab as lump totals with no way of knowing whether any of this addressed accessibility and livability.

What does this tell me?  It tells me that even with a Citizen Participation Plan in place that includes the strategies of Emails, Mailings, Public notices, Distribution of information via social services agencies and other community organizations, The Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today Planning Councils, The Mayor’s Citizen Cabinet, F.O.C.U.S.,  and the Greater Syracuse Better Neighborhoods Bureau, that the lack of detailed information about physical disability housing assistance indicates a marginalization of the disabled community.

As Common Council candidate for the 2nd District of Syracuse, I stand before you as someone committed to providing for the needs of my neighbors whether they are of a different skin color, economic class, or physical ability. The 2nd district has a very high level of poverty which I witness every day, and therefore a large number of disabled persons as indicated by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, that locally, 42 percent of those reporting a disability in Syracuse also live in poverty.  

As Common Council candidate I regularly review the Council meeting agendas and notes online.  When reviewing the most recent available notes from July 13th I saw no mention of the ADA anniversary.  This may not be considered an oversight by many people, after all, the Council likely had quite a bit of business to undertake.  I however see it differently.  Without some sort of record or archive of recognition, I do not even know if our Counselors were aware of the significant date which just passed by.  Which is why when elected I will implement a formal social , economic, and environmental justice report at each council meeting in which we will remember and recognize relevant anniversaries and events that need spoken about and brought to the continued attention of our elected officials.

Will we continue to spend money on fancy lights, park renovations, and unneeded amphitheaters, or can you imagine a Syracuse in which we place people first?  What world news it would make if we spent our money first on homes and basic needs of our citizens, and second on frivolity.  Why can’t the newly seized, stabilized, and marketed land bank homes require a ramp for entry, or relevant accessibility renovations to make them available to everyone?  Whether or not I am disabled today, many of us will age into needing more accessible housing as well, and might prefer aging in place rather than being moved into a nursing home or other form of assisted living, which is what unfortunately befalls many of the currently physically disabled people in our community as they wait for accessible housing to come available.

The Green Party asserts that all people have a right to affordable, code-compliant housing and security in their tenancy. Guaranteeing this right requires increased availability of a range of housing options, access to resources for housing, maintenance, and means for individuals to access housing opportunities."

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