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CuseTown: Rare Look into the Streets of Syracuse

syracuse ghetto

CuseTown:

A Rare Look Inside the Streets of Syracuse

With Syracuse being a college-town, one would not think that Syracuse has the characteristics as other American cities, whether it is gentrification of the Syracuse ghetto or street activity with Syracuse gangs.

Residing in New York’s upstate region, along the New York Thruway, the city of Syracuse has many similarities to the other upstate cities of Albany, Rochester and Buffalo, from the racial makeup to the history of the urban communities.

Outside of the well-established University of Syracuse and its success in sport programs like basketball, little is known about this city of less than 150,000 with the Syracuse black and Latino population accounting for almost 40% of the total population.

The small city in upstate New York that has been famously known for the University of Syracuse and its prestige basketball program has another side, a side that can be referred as “CuseTown”.

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The West Side

While the Syracuse Latino population equals a total of 5% of the entire city, the majority reside on the city’s West Side, a small diverse community of African-Americans and Latinos.

The West Side is home to one of the city’s largest and oldest housing projects, built during the 1950s, the James Geddes housing project.

Before the 1970s, this side of Syracuse was mostly home to white families, but with an influx of Latinos and African-Americans many left for other Syracuse communities.

Currently, the West Side is one of the most sought-after destinations in the city for investors, whether they are citizens seeking private homeownership or to build a facilities and businesses.

The beginning process of gentrification, homes deteriorate in the Syracuse ghetto and are bought for lesser value than sold.

Gentrification began during the early 2000s as a proposal of almost 100 million dollars to renovate the Near West Side was put in place by the University of Syracuse and a couple of other foundations, which included non-profit organizations like Home Headquarters.

Home Headquarters, since 1996 according their website, have been promoting and providing homeownership opportunities throughout the city of Syracuse and neighboring communities of Onondaga County.

In the Near West Side project, in which the University of Syracuse has recently not been actively part of, dozens of homes were purchased, especially around Otisco.

With the purchase of real estate and properties within the Near West Side community, demographics and the overall racial makeup of the neighborhood seems to be changing.

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The South Side

The Syracuse black population has been in the city since the late 1800s with the city’s 15th Ward being the once primary destination for African-Americans in Syracuse.

The community would later become centered on Townsend Street with numerous businesses and establishments for African-Americans.

Unfortunately, starting in the 1950s and 1960s, urban renewal began to change the fate of Syracuse’s black community.

The claim of the Syracuse ghetto becoming inhabitable led to the city to begin to rebuild certain communities, replacing many of the homes with housing project complexes.

syracuse ghetto syracuse gangs

Pioneer Homes on the city’s South Side

Other construction projects included multiple public facilities and Interstate 81 that was placed directly in the heart of the community, furthering the demolishing of the community.

By the 1960s and 1970s, the Syracuse black population expanded into other parts of the city like the South Side, West Side, and East Side around E. Fayette Street.

As the era of the 1970s and 1980s entered, a new generation in the streets of the Syracuse ghetto as local youths formed cliques and Syracuse gangs within the inner city.

Into the 1990s and 2000s, the streets of Syracuse have been heavily publicized, especially on the city’s South Side for alleged Syracuse gangs activity.

From the 1500 ‘hood around South Avenue to the notorious Bricktown neighborhood in the Pioneer Homes, the South Side has had its own reputation in upstate New York.

*Above is a map that shows some of the Syracuse gangs and gives an example of how large the South Side is compared to the communities of Syracuse.
*Syracuse gangs are not actually gangs like the Bloods and the Crips but are cliques within a specific neighborhood that have formed.

Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, the South Side has seen its share of violence, ‘hood wars, and federal and state indictments that have sent dozens, if not hundreds, to jail.

Incarcerations have caused much damaged to many neighborhoods, from Brighton Brigade to 1-10, as ‘hoods are decreasing in size and cliques have become of the past.

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The East Side

The black population eventually would make its way into the East Side of Syracuse, but only north of East Genesee Street.

With large housing complexes and blocks like Lexington, the East Side or 5th Side gained its own reputation its small community with the likes of cliques like LAMA.

Currently, with its close location to the University of Syracuse and Syracuse’s downtown area, the African-American section of the East Side is in a process of change.

Changes include certain housing complexes being demolished within the Syracuse ghetto and new facilities being constructed along Fayette Street, all part of the process of rebuilding Syracuse’s inner-city community of the East Side.

The North Side

Little is known about the streets or urban communities of the North Side, other than that most of the urban community is based around Butternut Street.

Historically, the North Side has been predominantly a white community, but over the years African-Americans have slowly moved into certain parts of the North Side.

With gentrification taken place in parts of the West Side and East Side, many residents will have to find new neighborhoods to call home as the former communities are being transformed.

The future and fate of the Syracuse ghetto reside in neighborhoods like the North Side as Interstate 81 will still be the dividing line between the two societies as people are moving further south, further east or relocating to the North Side.

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Check out other urban communities of upstate New York.

*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

Sources:

“Federal Court unseals indictment against alleged members of V-Not gang”. Syracuse.com, 1 May, 2012 https://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/05/federal_court_unseals_indictim.html

Dowty, Douglass. “Cop reveals how many have died in 2-decade Syracuse gang war”. Syracuse.com, 25 Sept. 2018, https://www.syracuse.com/crime/index.ssf/2018/09/cop_reveals_how_many_have_died_in_2-decade_syracuse_gang_war.html

Eisenstadt, Marine. “As others left, they came to one of Syracuse’s poorest neighborhoods to build a future”. Syracuse.com, https://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/page/otisco_street_syracuse.html

Eltagouri, Marwa. “Law Enforcement responds to gang violence by breaking up off-camp parties”. The Daily Orange, 3 Oct. 2012, http://dailyorange.com/2012/10/cracking-down-on-crime-law-enforcement-responds-to-gang-violence-by-breaking-up-off-campus-parties/

Hand, Laura. “Syracuse gang crackdown update”. CNYCentral.com, 14 Sept. 2015, https://cnycentral.com/news/local/syracuse-gang-crackdown-update

Sieh, Maureen. “15th Ward Stood Tall, Fell”. Syracuse Then and Now, 21 Sept. 2003, http://syracusethenandnow.org/UrbanRenewal/15th_Ward.htm

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