Central New York, Community, race, Syracuse, Transportation

Tearing Down a Geographical Barrier Between Racial Communities in Syracuse

By Erica Pieschke SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCCNews) – Over the past three years, the New York State Department of Transportation has tried to determine what the best replacement would be after tearing down Interstate 81. The initial reason to tear it down would be to enhance economic growth; however, there is another reason to be recognized.

Since Interstate 81 opened in the late 1960’s, it has posed as geographical barrier separating racial communities which also segregated neighborhoods between rich white communities and poorer black communities. Syracuse would have been better without it, according to Charles Pierce-El, a Syracuse native.

“When 81 came in, it really divided us and took away the power structure of  a certain ethnic group which happened to be African American poor people,” Pierce-El says.

In Syracuse the population living in poverty is:

  • 40% of black community
  • 11% of white community
  • 32.1% residents total

The Syracuse Housing Authority is an organization that provides public housing to low-income families.

“Historically, there’s always been an economic gap between people of color and whites in this community,” Bill Simmons, Director of SHA, says.

While this economic change might not happen over night, mixing the different ethnic groups together can help solve the segregated city. Step one to improving this is to tear down I-81.

“If you take it down, it opens things up visually,” Simmons says. “You can ultimately have a real world class neighborhood here.”