SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Interstate 81 is surrounded by homes and housing complexes that will be affected by the possible construction of the community grid. According to the DOT’s 15,000-page report, the DOT says that zero dwelling units, four commercial properties and 35 employees will be displaced from environmental justice communities.
While this might seem minimal, neighbors and community advocates who live right next to 81 are seeking answers about the process to ensure their voices are heard.
“Everyone is really concerned. It’s an issue that’s been going on in their neighborhood and a lot of times the first question is am I going to lose my homes,” said Lanessa Chaplin, Project Counsel, the CNY Chapter of New York Civil Liberties Union.
For months, Chaplin and Yusuf Abdul-Qadir have spent their time canvassing neighborhoods and holding workshops to inform the affected public about the reconstruction process of I-81.
“Our primary concern and our only concern is that the residents who live along the viaduct are protected during the construction process and also protected after the construction process through development,” Chaplin said.
In its current state, the highway is in the backyard of many of Syracuse’s low-income residents. According to the CDC, living near a highway and being exposed to traffic pollution is linked to asthma, heart and lung disease and childhood cancer. One resident says she can’t sit in her yard because of the smog from the highway.
City and State DOT leaders say its their job to make sure they reach all communities. As of now, they say no residents will be permanently displaced and no communities will be demolished.
“So there’s properties for which we had zero residential impacts physically impacting them. During construction that’s a different discussion as to what those impacts are whether that be noise or equipment there are some very sensitive areas through this whole corridor not just the Southside but downtown and the northside and we want to work with the community and to protect the interests of those individuals and ensure that we can minimize impacts as much as possible,” said Mark Frechette, DOT Director of Planning and Program Management.