In 2023 State of the City, Mayor Walsh outlines "Next Level Growth"

Published on January 26, 2023

Mayor delivers address at Corcoran High School issuing a call to prepare our youth for the future

Walsh announces Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence “Community Violence Intervention Plan”

Mayor Walsh introduces goal to be a Vision Zero city to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries


Syracuse N.Y. – Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh presented a path to “Next Level Growth” in his 2023 State of the City address on Thursday from the auditorium of Corcoran High School.  Mayor Walsh said the State of the City is strong and outlined five priorities as Syracuse readies for a level of growth not seen in the city in more than seven decades: preparing our youth; making thriving neighborhoods; creating accessible and safe streets; investing in infrastructure readiness and resilience; and ensuring a sustainable city government.

In the City address, Walsh announced the completion of a new strategy and action plan to reduce gun violence developed in coordination with the city’s community partners in violence disruption.  He said implementation of the plan, which addresses the root causes of rising violence, begins immediately. Walsh also unveiled a major commitment to improve traffic safety.  He announced his intent to make Syracuse a “Vision Zero” city, an international program focused on eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The address additionally revealed new housing initiatives; a plan to redesign the city’s planning, zoning and permitting functions; and a proposal for a new city park at the Inner Harbor.

“We are, for the first time in decades, experiencing growth. Our prospects for the future are even brighter. Our great calling now is to prepare for Next Level Growth – to ensure that our decisions and action in the pivotal months and years before us create sustainable growth and opportunity for all,” Walsh said. “The decisions we make in the next few years will have impact long into this century.”

Speaking at Corcoran High, Walsh Focuses on Preparing Our Youth

Walsh’s address to the Common Council and members of the community, his sixth as mayor, was his second at a city school. He delivered his first State of the City at PSLA @ Fowler.  He reviewed investments being made in the Syracuse City School District and its facilities and efforts to ready young people for successful futures. In preparing for his address, Walsh and members of his administration met with four groups of high school students to listen to their concerns, ideas and input.

“What we saw and what we heard gave me reason for hope. These diverse and brilliant young people are fully engaged in and aware of what is happening in our community,” Walsh said. “They challenged and inspired us to do everything we can to make sure Syracuse in a place they want to be.”

Walsh reported on substantial completion of Joint Schools Construction Board Phase Two projects and said $300 million in state funding is ready for the start of Phase III projects at ten schools.

Mayor Unveils Community Violence Intervention Plan

As Syracuse and cities around the nation confront rising gun violence, Mayor Walsh introduced the new Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence “Community Violence Intervention” plan.  Walsh created the new City Hall violence reduction office in April of last year. The office is working in coordination with individuals and organizations who work to stem violence in analyzing the city’s gun violence problem.

The new strategy will go after the leading cause of deadly violence in Syracuse: conflicts between gangs and groups of young people. It focuses on four major contributing factors:

  • entrenched cognitive and behavioral conditions;
  • school absenteeism and limited career opportunity;
  • high poverty levels;
  • and lack of mental health support.

“In addition to the efforts of law enforcement, we must go after the root causes of violence and conflict,” Walsh said. “There will be counseling, mentoring, job, and school reentry programs. Through the coordinated efforts of our community violence intervention partners, we will find an enduring path to peace on our streets.”

Traffic Safety: Walsh Sets Goal to Become a “Vision Zero” City

Mayor Walsh announced plans to overcome another safety issuing facing the city: traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Walsh said Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council data show fatal traffic accidents have nearly doubled in the past ten years. Walsh introduced a goal to become a “Vision Zero” city. The program, which is under way in more than 45 cities around the world, works to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries while increasing safe, healthy and equitable mobility for all. He called it a “comprehensive approach to traffic safety that addresses everything from lane widths to land use to lower speed limits.”

Walsh said the city would begin developing a comprehensive plan for achieving Vision Zero and present it for adoption to the Common Council. He said his administration would also work with the Common Council and state government to introduce speed zone and red light cameras in school zones and bus stop arm cameras to issue automated violations.

“Make no mistake: the road to Vision Zero is a massive undertaking.  It will take funding, staffing and hard choices,” Walsh said. “Going after Vision Zero is one of those Next Level decisions we need to make now to benefit future generations.”

Mayor Announces Syracuse Housing Trust Fund

Walsh said his Resurgent Neighborhoods Initiative will continue to build new housing in the city. Citing “immense housing challenges,” Walsh presented a proposal to create a Syracuse Housing Trust Fund.  Walsh said the new tool will help residents and property owners repair small and mid-sized rentals; work with lending partners to enable more home repair loan approvals; and increase mixed income development to deconcentrate poverty. Walsh reported that initial seed funding is in place to begin a pilot program in the New 15th Ward neighborhood on the city’s south side.

The Mayor reported on efforts to crackdown on bad property owners and said there was a 20% increase in code violations issued in 2022. To address what he called the “rampant proliferation of smoke shops,” he said he would send legislation to the Common Council this year that would put a cap on the number of places selling tobacco and vaping product and would limit their proximity to each other and schools and public parks.

Walsh Says Syracuse Needs the Infrastructure to “Effectively Manage New Growth”

With significant population and economic growth anticipated, Walsh said Syracuse needs a modern, forward looking zoning code and an effective and efficient permitting process. He pledged to deliver the final draft Rezone Syracuse ordinance to the Syracuse Planning Commission and Common Council in February.  He also said his administration is working with Onondaga County to transition staffing for zoning and landmark preservation administration from the Syracuse Onondaga County Planning Agency back to city government. He said the move would allow the city to establish “a true “one stop shop” for city permitting and development, and at the same time free up County planners to better facilitate smart, sustainable development in the suburbs and city alike.”

Walsh noted that parks are a critical infrastructure for a growing city.  In addition to reporting on progess in Syracuse Parks Recreation and Youth programs and facilities, he proposed the creation of a new park at the Inner Harbor.  Located on land owned by the city, the new Trailside Family Recreation Hub will make it easier for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy our trails and waterways. The facility will offer a lending library and rental stand for recreational equipment and feature an inclusive playground and family picnic area.  He also promised to open the city’s first e-sports gaming center at a parks site.  Walsh also announced that the city would begin planning, design and right of way acquisition for Phase III of the Onondaga Creekwalk, extending the protected bike and pedestrian path from Kirk Park south to the city line.

Walsh Calls for Sustainable Growth and Opportunity for All

The 50-minute speech reviewed progress and presented nearly three dozen initiatives for the future.  Walsh also acknowledged enduring problems with poverty, housing, jobs, transportation and crime.

“We can be proud of the progress we are making but not without acknowledging that we have not accomplished enough,” Walsh said. “These conditions are not actually unique to Syracuse. At varying levels, they exist in every single municipality in the region, so we have a shared interest in overcoming them. With the largest economic investment in the history of the United States coming to Onondaga County, we finally can. Only, though, if we learn from the past.”

As Syracuse and Onondaga County ready Micron’s massive chip fabrication plant, considered the largest economic investment in the history of the nation, Walsh said his Next Level Growth priorities are designed to create growth that is sustainable and creates inclusive opportunity for all.  He called the area’s modern history of sprawl without growth “inherently unsustainable.”

“We can’t continue to consume precious land and resources – and we don’t need to. In the city alone, our infrastructure was built for roughly 100,000 more people than we have today, and our villages and town centers are similarly positioned to accommodate new growth,” Walsh said. “As we grow to the next level, we must avoid repeating history by also ensuring that our most marginalized communities benefit from new investment. We must achieve growth that is inclusive.”

Read Mayor Walsh’s full 2023 State of the City address here


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