by Ed Kinane
After numerous attempts to meet with NYS senator Nancy Larraine
Hoffmann, on July 12 the Partnership for Onondaga Creek (POC) occupied Hoffmanns
office in the state office building in downtown Syracuse.
About ten of us arrived around 9:30 a.m. During our long day there
Hoffmanns 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.
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 southsides 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
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 Hoffmanns 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 Syracuses 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 peoples Civil Rights are being violated here in her own
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 arent worth her time?
Our patience is at end. We intend today to remain in Senator Hoffmanns
office until she signs our statement signaling her support for the Partnerships
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.