Friday, September 10, 2010

Ten (Green) Things for Syracuse

I brought my soap box into work this morning, so without further ado, here's my list of Ten (Green) Things I'd like to see for Syracuse. Forgive me if you've heard me grumble about some of these before, but I do go on, don't I ...
  • Walkable neighborhoods—My colleague Carissa Matthews walks to work, and this morning enjoyed chatting with school kids waiting for their bus and other neighbors she might not have bumped into in a car, one of whom was helped after she tripped on a broken sidewalk. Yes, walkable neighborhoods means fixing sidewalks, painting lines, making pedestrian crossings work, planting grass—not weed—verges.
  • Abandoned Office Building Law—Once an office building has been unoccupied for five years, a review must be held to determine whether it's allowed another five years on the market, or whether it qualifies as historic or significant, or whether it should be deconstructed. There are way too many abandoned office buildings in our downsized city, giving us a "rotting teeth" look.
  • Mini-Parks in abandoned lots—The mini-park on Warren Street is an excellent example of what can be done with an abandoned lot, whether short term or long. More mini-parks, less parking lots.
  • Environmentally friendly parking lots—But if Murbro or another parking company buys a lot, their contract must stipulate environmentally and aesthetically friendly features, such as rainwater capture and green infrastructure landscaping.
  • Plastic bag ban—I wrote about this in my last blog, and, amazingly, California voted down the ban. So, Syracuse, we could be a national leader if we ban the biggest symbol of our throw-away, oil-dependent culture/economy!
  • Municipal Composting & Recycling Centers—I've been longing for composting centers ever since I started traveling to Montreal, where large composting bins are all over the Outremont district, and close to garden allotments. In my home town of Brighton, England, glass/plastic/paper recycling centers (on street corners) have been commonplace since the late 1980s.
  • Pedestrian Zones—Another common feature in English and other European cities. Armory Square in particular could go completely pedestrian or allow buses and taxis only (as the main shopping street in Brighton—Western Road—does). This, of course, encourages a public transportation/walking/biking culture.
  • Return of Erie Blvd median to a naturalized state—I understand local green infrastructure experts are thinking of ways to return some areas of Syracuse to its naturalized (swampy) state, as a way to solve our storm/sewer issue. Erie Blvd east of the city is massively, stupidly wide (because it was a canal, then a railroad—much too wide for a road!) The median of this thoroughfare could be turned into a beautiful and useful pilot/demonstration project.
  • Parking rates that pay by the size of car—Economic incentives work. Until Australia-bound prison ships were paid by the inmate walking off the ship rather than onto it, death rates on those ships were as high as 50%. The economic incentive to treat prisoners well reduced it to 1%. So, stop people using F-350s and Suburbans as commuter cars and introduce "pay by the weight" (or by the class: sub-compact, compact, etc) parking in our city.
  • Tear down I-81—It will be a huge project and one that will cause plenty of inconvenience, but it will create jobs (the Obama Administration is thinking along these public works lines) and we already have the alternative north-south route in place (I-481). Let's git r done!
Got any (green) wish list items for Syracuse? If so, please e-mail them to me!

—Martin Walls, Syracuse Center of Excellence