Syracuse demands a bus hub for all

On Aug. 24, several organizations came together for a rally and march to protest the opening of the new Centro Transit Hub in Syracuse. The protest occurred during a ribbon-cutting ceremony inaugurating the new hub.

Disabled in Action of Greater Syracuse called for the protest, which was endorsed by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), the local chapter of the NY Civil Liberties Union and others. Protesters with a wide range of abilities gathered across the street from the ceremony, which featured local and state politicians as well as Centro executives.

DIA called for the protest because of Centro’s failure to deliver on promised design features that would have made the facility not only accessible to people with disabilities, but usable by people with a wide range of abilities. Centro promised to exceed the requirements under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, but instead actually violated several provisions.

DIA President Sally Johnston sent a warning letter to Centro on Aug. 9 stating that unless Centro addressed the community’s concerns further action would be taken against them. Anticipating that Centro would not respond, the ANSWER Coalition, which signed the initial letter, immediately began mobilizing the community.

Some of the key concerns involve the lack of seating and problems with signage. At the old hub, there were 107 available seats; at the new one there are only 47. Signage above each bus bay is too high, making it difficult for the vision impaired and those in wheelchairs to see.

During the rally, Garrett Boak, representing the ANSWER Coalition, spoke about the exclusion of input from bus riders during the overall process:

“The Mayor, the executives at Centro, the politicians and business people who worked to get the bus stop moved, they don’t take the bus. Workers take the bus. What’s the difference? If the mayor didn’t show up to work for a week, no one would know the difference. But if just one sector of the workers, let’s say the janitors, if they didn’t show up to work for even one day, everyone would know. That’s because we are the ones who actually make this city run. Yet we are the ones who get excluded from the decision-making process. At the very minimum, then, the bus should be affordable and accessible to all workers of all ages and all abilities.”

A catalyst for gentrification

The decision to move the hub is a catalyst for a major gentrification of downtown Syracuse. Developers are renovating a number of historic buildings to turn the heart of the city into a mix of urban living, retail and restaurants similar to what already exists in the Armory Square section. The racist and worker-unfriendly aspects of the move are obvious.

Throughout the rally, the chant “Make it right! Make it right!” echoed through the downtown main street.

Another major concern is the proposed limits on protesting and free speech within the facility. Barrie Gewanter of the NYCLU said that free speech rights will be severely restricted. Activists will need to acquire permits to distribute literature in the bus hub. As currently written under the proposed regulations, a permit could be denied for subjective reasons.

After the rally, protesters marched across the street to confront the politicians and Centro executives. After about 10 minutes, Sgt. Patrick Naylor informed us that if we continued to march down the sidewalk we would be risking arrest. Many continued on despite the warning, chanting, “This is our hub! This is our hub!”

After marching, protesters went back and began shouting down the speakers across the street.

The fight to make the bus hub accessible for all, and the fight against gentrification of which it is a part, are far from over.

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