Resistance Grows
to Southside
Sewage Plant

by Ed Kinane

After numerous attempts to meet with NYS senator Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, on July 12 the Partnership for Onondaga Creek (POC) occupied Hoffmann’s office in the state office building in downtown Syracuse.

About ten of us arrived around 9:30 a.m. During our long day there Hoffmann’s staff ignored us. Hoffmann never appeared. Numerous reporters and photographers came by to record the sit-in.

At 6 pm when the building closed, Aggie Lane, Zac Moore, Quay Winfield and I insisted on remaining in the office and were arrested. See the accompanying box for our statement.

Police drove us in handcuffs to the public safety building where we were given appearance tickets (and donuts) and released. At our arraignment the next morning we pled not guilty to the charge of criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.

Blocking Bulldozers

At dawn on July 29 numerous POC members congregated at the vacated two-story apartment building at 111 Oxford St. The building, set on the banks of Onondaga Creek in one of the southside’s loveliest green spaces, was slated for demolition that morning to make way for the proposed sewage plant.

Five POC members scaled the fence and sat down before the demolition equipment. Each wore a red T-shirt hand-painted, “GO UNDERGROUND.” They held signs like, “Pirro, are you listening?”, a reference to County Executive Nick Pirro who — for obscure reasons – has adamantly championed the sewage plant.

Shortly after the demolition crew arrived, so did numerous police and a paddy wagon. The five – Gary Bonaparte, Mark Breen, Jacob Eichten, Laura MacDonald and Curtis Rumrill – were peaceably arrested.

They were given appearance tickets, charged with criminal trespass. At an arraignment several days later, they pled not guilty. All the POC miscreants thus far are being defended pro bono by attorney Joe Heath.

Civil Rights Complaint

Meanwhile the Partnership, with the help of the S.U. Law Clinic, has launched a Title VI administrative complaint with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The complaint alleges that the proposed above ground sewage plant will have “an adverse and disparate impact” on a minority population. The site is in a low-income residential neighborhood that is over 80% African American.

According to S.U. Law professor, Alma Lowry, “In its Complaint, the Partnership also alleged that the RTF [regional treatment facility – a sewage plant euphemism] would have significant adverse impacts, including:

• disrupting creek restoration efforts,

• altering the residential character of the surrounding community and contributing to creeping industrialization of the area,

• damaging community cohesiveness,

• producing unwholesome odors,

• creating an eyesore,

• disrupting the community through construction impacts,

• lowering property values and attraction for retail activities,

• and potentially exposing an already overburdened community to a wide range of additional hazardous chemicals.”

Would Nick Pirro and Nancy Larraine Hoffmann tolerate a sewage plant nestled in their backyards?

To join this struggle for civil rights for Syracusans, call Aggie Lane, 478-4571.

Ed, a native southsider, lives a hundred yards from Onondaga Creek and two blocks from the proposed sewage plant site.

 

Why we are willing to risk arrest in Senator Hoffmann’s office:

She needs to speak out about civil rights being violated here at home

For several years the Partnership for Onondaga Creek has sought to prevent the county from building an above ground sewage plant in a low-income, mostly African American residential neighborhood on Syracuse’s southside.

The neighborhood had only belated input into this arbitrary and ill-advised venture. (Effective, environmentally-sound, socially-responsible underground storage technology is a comparably-priced alternative.)

Construction of the above ground sewage plant is about to begin. Near the site, people have been displaced from their homes with very inadequate compensation; homes are being demolished.

Given the environmental racism at work here, the Civil Rights of southsiders are being jeopardized.

Our state senator Nancy Larraine Hoffmann is well known for her vocal support for Civil Rights…in Mississippi decades ago. While Senator Hoffmann continues to extract PR mileage from this credential, she refuses to acknowledge that people’s Civil Rights are being violated here in her own district.

Given that the proposed sewage plant requires millions of dollars of NYS funding, The Partnership has tried numerous times to discuss the issue with Senator Hoffman. Her staff, however, keeps giving us the runaround and shields Senator Hoffmann from meeting with us. Do they believe the “little people” aren’t worth her time?

Our patience is at end. We intend today to remain in Senator Hoffmann’s office until she signs our statement signaling her support for the Partnership’s EPA Title VI claim (seeking to prevent the building of the sewage plant).

If we are arrested for our peaceful and nonviolent Occupation, we can only thank those hundreds of civil rights activists years ago in Mississippi who have shown us the way.