SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – It’s one of the biggest proposals in years and one surrounded by a lot of controversy. The Onondaga County Legislature is scheduled to vote on the $85 million aquarium project in Syracuse’s Inner Harbor.

On Monday, County Executive Ryan McMahon said he feels confident heading into Tuesday’s vote. He believes some of the county legislators’ questions and concerns have been addressed and thinks he has enough support to get his aquarium proposal passed.

“The reality is we feel good. We feel the momentum is on our side with the vote tomorrow. The project itself is comprehensive and part of a broader plan when you look at all the benefits of it.”


The county executive needs at least 9 of the 17 legislators to vote in favor of the project. We know McMahon has secured at least one “yes” vote from Democratic Legislator Charles Garland in exchange for a $4 million housing investment in his district in Syracuse.

Just one day before the vote, we spoke with McMahon at a ribbon cutting for a new dog park in Legislator Knapp’s district in Lafayette.

Legislator Knapp didn’t feel comfortable sharing how he plans to vote on Tuesday, but NewsChannel 9 asked if he feels obligated to support the county executive’s aquarium after getting support for the new dog park and after McMahon secured a “yes” from Garland.

“We have a relationship where he didn’t need to come here today to secure my vote one way or the other. This is just a really nice project that we got done and it happened to open today, but again, the two are mutually exclusive, nothing to do with each other.”


However, some legislators, including Knapp, are taking pause before voting “yes” or “no.” One of Knapp’s concerns is the sustainability of the project.

“This thing is going to be wildly successful the first 10 years. I’m worried about 10 years out when things start to break and animals need to be refreshed to keep vibrant, and new folks coming in,” Knapp explained. “We need to make sure we’re going to have the savings account in place.”

Pamela Hunter, chair of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee and NYS Assemblywoman, doesn’t get to vote on the aquarium proposal, but she’s expressing her own concerns with the $85 million dollar project.

“I have had many conversations with different legislators, Republicans and Democrats, and I’ve never asked anyone to say and vote no, but my question is why are you supporting this project? I think that’s very important. There is no need for this to be voted on tomorrow. This is not a ‘we have to do this right now because time is of the essence.'”


“We’re a growing community and growing communities need to act like growing communities, McMahon explained. “You need the amenities to support that in many different ways for families. I think many of the questions legislators have had have been answered and it’s going to be gametime on Tuesday.”