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For over 30 years, the Onondaga Citizens League has represented an outstand- The Onondaga Citizens League fosters informed
ing example of citizen participation in public affairs. Founded in 1978, OCL public discourse by identifying and studying criti-
is an independent, not-for-profit organization that encourages civic educa- cal community issues affecting Central New York,
tion and involvement in public issues. The OCL’s annual study on a topic of developing recommendations for action, and
community-wide relevance culminates in a report designed to help citizens communicating study findings to interested and
comprehend the issue and its implications, and give decision makers recom- affected groups.
mendations for action.
When the “What Does It Mean to Be Green?” Study Committee began meet-
ing in early 2009, the enormity of the subject of environmental sustainability Jason Allers
required much discussion and research in order to define the study topic to Sandra S. Barrett, Executive Vice President
something “manageable.” Those broader discussions of sustainability, ecosys- Betty DeFazio, President
tems, and sustainable human settlements added much to our understanding Donna DeSiato, Ph.D.
of the breadth and interconnectivity of the issues. Hanah Ehrenreich
David Holder
After months of study, the Study Committee came away optimistic about the Heidi Holtz
future of Central New York and our ability to marshal the combined efforts of Virgil Hutchinson
municipalities, citizens, schools, businesses, and other institutions to make a Stephen Kearney
positive impact not only on this community, but also as an example to others. Karen Kitney, Secretary
Given the huge importance of the issue, the Onondaga Citizens League hopes N. Thomas Letham, (Emeritus)
that this study report contributes, in a significant way, to the community ac- Benjamin Lockwood
tion. Donald MacLaughlin
Anthony Malavenda, Vice President
Special thanks are due to the Study Committee and its co-chairs, Jason Allers Paul Predmore
and David Holder. We also extend appreciation to the individual and corpo- Grant Reeher, Ph.D.
rate members of OCL, listed elsewhere in this report, who support the work of Wendy Riccelli, Treasurer
the League through their membership dues and financial contributions, and Kimberly Scott
to University College of Syracuse University, which provides the administra- Cynthia Stevenson
tive and organizational support without which the Citizens League could not Douglas Sutherland
function. Merike Treier

The Onondaga Citizens League is open to any individual or organization in Onondaga Citizens League
Central New York. While some join to become involved in the study process, 700 University Avenue, Room 406
many become members to support the concept and practice of citizen in- Syracuse, NY 13244
volvement in public policy issues. More information on OCL is available on our
website, Phone: (315) 443-4846
Fax: (315) 443-4410
Sandra Barrett Email:
Executive Vice President Website:

Jason Allers, Study Co-Chair Samuel Gordon

David Holder, Study Co-Chair Kuki Haines
Carol Boll, Study Writer Stephen Kearney
Peter J. Arsenault Daniel Kelley
Sandra Barrett Karen B. Kitney
Diane Brandli Richard Martin
Mary-Jean Byrne-Maisto Rebecca Madden-Sturges
Emanuel Carter Sarah S. McIlvain
Frank Cetera Greg Michel
David Coburn Carlo Moneti
Megan Costa Greg Munno
Lori Dietz Evan Newell
Khristopher Dodson Chethan Sarabu
Chris Fowler Sara Wall-Bollinger

Introduction i
Given the complexity and breadth of the issue, this committee went to considerable lengths to engage experts in many
fields of sustainability- experts both local and national, with sound backgrounds, a deep understanding of “green” phi-
losophies, and a rich regional experience. We also solicited the opinions of many non-experts, lay-people if you will, for
this topic also relies heavily on public opinion, and individual politics. What we found was encouraging and, in some
cases, even inspiring.

Dozens of committee meetings, several public presentations, and many private conversations were responsible for the
content and recommendations of this year’s study. As a result, there are many individuals to whom we owe our grati-

First, to the committee itself, whose dedication and enthusiasm for the topic provided for an honest and insightful
glimpse into this picture of sustainability, and the effect it has on our region. They also provided guidance and direction
when we appeared to be going off-track. Their support and their many opinions helped keep this study in focus, and
without it, we would have been lost.

Second, to the presenters and speakers at the 10 public sessions, whose thoughtful comments and knowledge of each
topic provided the facts and figures that ultimately led to the many recommendations presented in this study. Special
thanks to Dr. Richard Smardon and Emanuel Carter of SUNY ESF, whose rich understanding of our regional ecosystem
provided a wonderful canvas on which to start. To Peter Arsenault and Diane Brandli of GreeningUSA and the work they
had done on the broader picture of sustainability proved immensely helpful. To the many city and county employees
who apprised us regularly of our local municipal progress in our studied areas of sustainability; especially to Megan
Costa and David Coburn, whose individual efforts on this committee, and as presenters, were key components to this re-
port. Special thanks to Sam Gordon, to whom we are indebted for the excellent job of designing the layout of the report.

Furthermore, special thanks should go to our current slate of leaders in both city and county government. Their recent
efforts in creating a sustainable region can be seen in recent policy implementation for each of the city and county
administrations; and whose recent collaborative efforts would give cause to even the most skeptical that our elected
leaders are beginning to understand the importance of sustainability to the long-term health of the region.

We also thank this year’s study writer, Carol Boll, who turned the committee’s work into what we believe is a well-crafted
and valuable report. And to Colleen Karl-Howe for her skills of organization, her constant communication with the com-
mittee, and for her keen eye for all things sustainable, we are grateful.

Finally, as is the case with every recent OCL study, we relied heavily on the skills, resources and dedication of Sandra
Barrett, the League’s executive vice president. Her leadership and patience are only two of her many virtues. Thank you
Jason Allers and David Holder

ii Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

Table of Contents
1 Introduction: What does it mean to be Green?
2 The Big Picture: Attributes of a Sustainable Community
3 Why Should We Care: Benefits of Sustainability
4 Local Efforts
5 Scope of the Study and Methodology
6 Findings and Recommendations

9 Land-Use Patterns
13 Green Land Use Recommendations

15 Transportation
18 Green Transportation Recommendations

21 Waste Management
24 Green Waste Management Recommendations

27 Energy
29 Green Energy Recommendations

31 Green Building
32 Green Building Recommendations

35 Stormwater and Related Issues

PROMOTING SUSTAINABILITY 37 Water Infrastructure Recommendations
38 Conclusion
40 Epilogue

Appendices and Resources

Introduction iii
At the outset of
this yearlong study
process, the Onondaga
Citizens League study
committee agreed
that, “... pursuing
sustainability as
a goal is not only
the right thing to
do for our planet
but essential to our
collective well-being
as a community
and region. “

photo: clinton square

What Does It Mean to be Green?
Forty years ago, communities, residents, and cities, including Syracuse, have These questions guided OCL’s
with the historic observance world, both now and into the signed onto the U.S. Confer- process of inquiry.
of the first Earth Day, the envi- future. We’re finally catching ence of Mayors’ Climate Pro-
ronment emerged as a public up with the ancient Haudeno- tection Agreement, pledging At the outset of this yearlong
and political cause to address saunee wisdom that says ev- to reduce their cities’ carbon study process, the Onondaga
threats posed by air and wa- ery action and decision must emissions to 7 percent below Citizens League study commit-
ter pollution and unabated be made with consideration 1990 levels by 2012. And a tee agreed that “green” is good
population growth. In recent of the effects on the seventh 2009 survey by Living Cities, an and that pursuing sustainabili-
years, the environment has generation to come. international collaboration of ty as a goal is not only the right
stormed back into the public 21 of the world’s largest foun- thing to do for our planet but
consciousness—this time fu- While “green” may be the dations and financial institu- essential to our collective well-
eled by worldwide scientific environmental marketing tions, found that more than 75 being as a community and
consensus on the potentially buzzword of the day, sustain- percent of cities already had region. This report outlines
catastrophic effects of climate ability—loosely defined as detailed sustainability plans some of the reasons behind
change, concern over the de- meeting the needs of today’s in place or were currently de- that conviction addresses the
pletion of natural resources generation without compro- veloping plans for decreasing issues and lays out recommen-
and nonrenewable energy mising the needs of future their carbon footprint. dations in areas we believe
sources, and growing recogni- generations—has become have the greatest potential for
tion of the political and eco- the mantra of this burgeon- Recognizing this growing positive change.
nomic need to reduce reliance ing movement. And local gov- trend, the Onondaga Citizens
on foreign oil. ernmental leaders have been League (OCL) decided to study
among the vanguard in pur- the issue in the context of On-
At the heart of this resurgent suing policies that further its ondaga County. What are local
movement is the acknowl- goals. municipalities doing to be-
edgement that we can no come more sustainable places
longer afford to live and do As just one example of the to live and work? What more
business as usual—that our widespread interest in sustain- could local governments, busi-
choices have serious conse- ability at the municipal level, nesses, institutions, and citi-
quences for the health of our mayors from more than 1,000 zens do to further that effort?

Introduction 1
Sustainable communities The Big Picture: Attributes of a Sustainable Community
don’t just happen; they At their most fundamental level, sus- Green spaces and forest canopies in
tainable communities function in har- cities, for example, do more than pro-
come about through careful mony with the natural ecosystem in tect wildlife habitat. They also:
planning and forward- ways that protect wildlife habitat and
species (and the services they provide, + Remove air pollutants and
thinking policies that such as pollination and pest control);
result in more equitable use of natural
sequester huge quantities of
greenhouse gases.
integrate the needs of being resources; consume less energy and
less acreage per person; and reduce + Reduce residential energy use—
environmentally responsible; the community’s carbon footprint. But
they also generate a myriad of other

and heating and cooling costs—by
moderating temperatures and
socially equitable; and benefits—economical, environmental,
health, and personal—sometimes in
offering wind protection.

economically beneficial. unexpected ways. + Protect community watersheds.

+ Encourage pedestrian and bicycle

friendly streets.

12 Traits of Sustainable Communities

GreeningUSA, a Central New York-based mentally responsible; socially equitable; and + Transportation and mobility options: improved indoor environments,
not-for-profit organization that advocates economically beneficial. Communities are not designed and and other green technologies.
for sustainable com- built around the needs of cars.
munities, says, “For In its 12 Traits of Sustainable Communities, Instead, residents have access to a + Non fossil-fuel-based or
better or for worse, GreeningUSA has identified the critical qual- variety of public transit options and renewable energy: Sustainable
existing communi- ities that sustainable communities share, walkable, bicycle-friendly streets. communities increasingly work
ties have made, and including these six, which serve as the focus to replace fossil fuels as an energy
will continue to make, areas of this report (for more information on + Water-based infrastructure systems source with alternative sources like
decisions that affect the 12 Traits visit that take the long view: Solutions to solar, hydro, wind, and biodiesel.
the long-term and short-term sustainabil- infrastructure issues like wastewater
ity of all three of these areas. The quality of + Land-use planning and resource treatment and delivery consider the + Waste management that is holistic
life and long-term viability of a community, preservation: Development patterns long term when addressing and values based: Management of
however, relies on the fundamental deci- reflect the concepts of “new urbanism”— short-term problems. waste is based on the recognition that
sions that leaders and citizens make (or by mixed-use development, walkable when we throw something away, there
default don’t make) to nurture and sustain communities, and a variety of + Environmentally responsible (green) is, in fact, no “away”—all trash winds up
all three. ”Sustainable communities don’t housing types. It’s “smart growth” buildings and housing: Buildings and somewhere. Emphasis is on reduction
just happen; they come about through care- instead of sprawl, with less homes are environmentally friendly, and reuse rather than disposal.
ful planning and forward-thinking policies emphasis on commuter lifestyles and feature energy efficiency,
that integrate the needs of being environ- and more on holistic community living. informed material selection,

2 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

Why should we care: Benefits of Sustainability

photo: Tully Street Rain Garden, Amy Samuels, Onondaga Enviornmental Institute
Clearly, concern for which largely represents the “green” piece of the
the environment— sustainability movement—drives much of this
interest. But in Syracuse and Central New York—
as well as across the country—policymakers, businesspeople, educators,
and individuals increasingly recognize that making environmentally re-
sponsible choices isn’t just good for the environment. It’s good for busi-
ness, good for communities, and essential for maintaining a high quality of
life and happiness for all.

Whether the motivation is cost savings and economic opportunity, qual-

ity of life, or concern for the planet, sustainability has taken firm root in
the way many cities do business, and we believe that’s a very good thing.
Cities from Copenhagen to Chicago have used sustainability policies to
transform their communities’ fortunes and position themselves among the
most desirable cities in which to live and work.

Municipal Leadership
Sustainability Municipal and business leaders, in spaces, easy accessibility to the necessary training for a

has taken root particular, have identified a number

of powerful benefits to embracing

common destinations, and
other pedestrian-friendly
green work force.

“green” policies and practices in their features. A study by the + Revitalized downtowns and
in the way communities, including:

Congress for the New Urbanism
reports that access to protected

neighborhoods through
an infusion of green business
many cities do +

Lower, more stable, energy
costs and greater U.S. energy

green spaces can raise property
values by 5 to 50 percent.

and the kind of people-friendly
development—walkable and

business, and

independence through the
use of energy-efficient building + Higher quality of life and health

bicycle-friendly streets with
easy access to schools,
technologies and domestically for all residents through such jobs, parks, and other popular
we believe

produced renewable energy
sources like wind, solar,

assets as cleaner air and water,
pedestrian- and bike-friendly

destinations; attractive
streetscapes; mixed-use
that’s a very hydroelectric, and biomass.

neighborhoods, and abundant
natural spaces within the

development and housing; and
green spaces—that attract

good thing. +

Increased property values
for homes with money-saving
urban environment.

young professionals and
innovators, and lure business
green-building features and + Expansive economic and industry to the region.
in neighborhoods with opportunities in the green
- OCL Study Committee attractive streetscapes, green tech industry and in providing

Introduction 3
Local Efforts
In Syracuse and Onondaga County, our own leaders !
newable energy; adopting a green-building standard
have taken an active interest in sustainability. Former for municipal building projects; and establishing a city-
Mayor Matt Driscoll, whose administration embraced
the moniker “Emerald City” to trumpet its engagement
wide energy management system, among many other
measures. Such efforts have earned the city national !
in green initiatives, launched a variety of sustainabili- notice, including a spot (17th) on Popular Science mag-

ty-related actions before leaving office in 2009. Those azine’s list of America’s 50 greenest cities.
initiatives include powering City Hall with a mix of re-

City of Syracuse Onondaga County Other Examples

Current Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner continues At the county level, officials have already taken or are Add to those efforts our region’s abundance of higher
that focus on sustainability, listing it along with the currently pursuing a number of measures promoting education institutions and cutting-edge research fa-
environment among the priorities in her 50-point plan. sustainability. To name a few: creation of an Environ- cilities like the Center of Excellence in Environmental
mental Sustainability Advisory Committee; develop- and Energy Systems, and we have plentiful assets to
Since assuming office, she has created a Bureau of Plan- ment of a County Sustainable Development Plan to fuel a movement toward creating a sustainable Cen-
ning and Sustainability to champion environmentally promote responsible land-use decisions and discour- tral New York. In fact, Syracuse University, Upstate
friendly and sustainable practices. The City of Syracuse age sprawl; signing of the Climate Smart Community Medical University, Le Moyne College, SUNY College
this spring agreed to find out how it measures up in Pledge; and implementation of energy-efficiency and of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Onondaga
GreeningUSA’s 12 Traits of Sustainable Communities greenhouse gas reduction measures. Early in her ad- Community College, all signatories of the Association
program and rating system. As one of the first com-
munities in the nation to use this program, the city
ministration, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Ma-
honey devised a revised Onondaga Lake cleanup plan BINGHAMPTON !
of College and University Presidents Climate Com-
mitment, are already taking steps toward achieving
will be scored on 36 overall criteria using objective that substitutes a combination of “gray” and “green” carbon neutrality in campus business and operations,
data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency infrastructure for three additional neighborhood treat- and promoting sustainability education throughout
(EPA), the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census, ment plants. The “Save the Rain” plan calls for an ex- the curriculum.
and other sources. Further, participating communities tensive system of green solutions—tree trenches, rain
will be scored on their initiatives in sustainability. The gardens, green roofs, rain barrels, and porous pave- Many other examples, from The Post-Standard’s Green
combined scores of data and initiatives will allow for a ment—to catch and absorb storm water, preventing it CNY publication and blog on, to the Syr-
comprehensive assessment of the level of sustainabil- from flowing into sewer systems. acuse City School District’s Go Green initiatives to rain
ity currently being achieved. gardens and rain barrel workshops, green business

entrepreneurs and car-share programs abound. And
throughout the region, there are efforts like Cornell’s

“Rust to Green” initiative to help upstate rust belt
communities like Utica and Binghamton
shift to sustainability.

Survey Results
Not surprisingly, our research also found that Central zens believe that “Being Green” is important and that com also found that Central New Yorkers are greener
New Yorkers care deeply about the environment and they are very concerned about protecting our water than you might think—and are even greener than New
are very supportive of policies that protect or improve resources, improving our air quality and reducing en- Yorkers or Americans as a whole by some measures.
the environment. ergy usage. And politicians considering “green” legislation, take
note: A whopping 91 percent of registered voters in
When the study committee, with the help of Maxwell While OCL’s surveys were not designed to be statisti- OCL’s phone survey said they favored candidates who
School Public Affairs students, surveyed local elected cally valid, the results probably give us a good reflec- are supportive of policies that preserve and protect the
officials, high school students, and registered voters tion of the general population’s green attitudes. A environment (see page 9 for additional details).
in Onondaga County in early 2010, we found that citi- recent survey by Earthsense LLC reported on Syracuse.

4 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

“What Does It Mean to Be Green” Surveys

The OCL Study Committee spent over For the high school survey, all 135 of these efforts on a scale of 1 to 5, slight increase in taxes, while elected
a year learning from experts on the seniors in the classes OCL surveyed with 1 being not important at all and officials believed such taxes would be
environment and sustainability. Ex- at Corcoran High School, East Syra- 5 being very important. We asked the deemed unacceptable by
pert knowledge, however, is only one cuse-Minoa High School, Fayetteville- elected officials to rank both their own their constituents.
prerequisite for moving Onondaga Manlius High School, and Jamesville- personal preferences, and then to es-
County toward a greener, more sus- DeWitt High School completed the timate how their constituents might Another sign of this disconnect is that
tainable, future. The specialists help written survey. But whether those answer the same question. elected officials ranked policies that
us understand the situation and to students’ opinions are representative promote walking and biking as their
suggest better alternatives. But it is of other seniors at other Onondaga Averaging the scores of 1-5 on all 10 least important environmental goal.
the actions of average citizens, and County schools cannot be known. environmental questions, here are the The officials thought that walking and
their representatives in government, rankings: biking, along with improving public
that will ultimately shape the future of On the elected officials survey, 218 transportation, would rank last for
Central New York. local elected officials with policy in- Students 3.65 their constituents as well. However,
fluence in Onondaga County (town Residents 4.06 both the registered voters and the
So the Study Committee conducted supervisors, mayors, legislators, etc.) Officials 3.98 high school students ranked walking,
three surveys to better understand received the survey. Fifty-one of Constituents 3.45 biking and public transportation sig-
where we, as a community, stand on them completed it, either in paper or nificantly higher. Additionally, on the
environmental issues. The surveys email form. Not a single environmental issue open ended question, “Do you have
were structured to give OCL a bet- among the 10 received an average any suggestions about what can be
ter sense of: (1) what people value; For more details and to complete the score of less than 3 (somewhat impor- done to make our community more
(2) how those values play into larger version of the survey used during the tant). Both the high school and regis- green?”, more people focused on
issues of sustainability; and (3) how telephone sample yourself, see the tered voter groups ranked reducing transportation than on any other is-
those values can inform approaches Appendices to the report at http://on- water pollution as their top environ- sue, with multiple respondents calling
to building a greener future. mental priority, where as the elected for better public transportation and a
officials picked reducing energy use, culture that promotes walking
The surveys consisted of a random We believe the surveys have value, which ranked second among voters. and biking.
telephone interview of Onondaga giving us a glimpse into where people
County voters; a student survey com- stand on these issues and providing a Interestingly, the elected officials cor- Other studies have identified a bike-
pleted at four county high schools; basis for further research and engage- rectly guessed that voters would pick able community as something Onon-
and a survey sent to every elected of- ment. At the very least, the surveys tell water quality as their No. 1 concern. daga County residents keenly desire,
ficial in the county. us how those sampled — a diverse However, based on our surveying, including FOCUS Greater Syracuse’s
Volunteers randomly made 482 tele- group of 263 people with no involve- they underestimate the sacrifices vot- original community benchmarking
phone calls, culled from the list of ment in OCL — rank various environ- ers are willing to make to further en- study, which ranked bike trails as its
81,131 registered voters in the county. mental policy initiatives. vironmental causes. Elected officials top priority. It’s surprising, then, that
That led to 77 completed surveys — a indicated that they themselves were more progress has not been made in
margin of error of +/- 11 percent. Al- What emerged from the surveys is a more supportive of environmentally this area.
though small by telephone survey strong sense that Onondaga County beneficial policies than they thought
standards, the sample did end up be- residents deeply value the region’s their constituents would be. Yet our For politicians who favor sustainability
ing representative of the demograph- natural resources and want them telephone survey found residents ex- initiatives, take heart: fully 91 percent
ics of the county, with good distribu- protected. OCL asked all three survey tremely supportive of these policies. of registered voters said they favored
tion among Republicans, Democrats groups to rank the importance they candidates who are supportive
and non-enrolled voters; men and place on policies that improve certain Also, 68 percent of the registered of policies that preserve and protect
women; young and old; and city and environmental assets, such as clean voters surveyed indicated that they the environment.
suburban residents. water, open space and mass transit. would support policies that improved
Respondents ranked the importance the environment even if it meant a

Introduction 5
Scope of the Study and Methodology
So what does a When we chose this study in areas relating to sustainability. We explored current research
topic, the sheer breadth of the and studied the actions other cities, both here and abroad, have
sustainable community subject compelled us to limit taken toward becoming
look like? the study’s scope to a hand- sustainable communities.
ful of key, often overlapping,
areas that we believe pose both challenges and opportunities We also conducted surveys to get a picture of the common per-
for Syracuse and other municipalities throughout Onondaga ceptions and values of citizens, students and public officials on
County. While sustainability is often broadly defined to include our topic, and we facilitated community discussion on the OCL
social and economic issues, the Study Committee limited its fo- Facebook page and study blog. Following are the findings and
cus primarily to those areas relating to the environment and pro- recommendations that grew out of this information-gathering
tection of natural resources. These key areas primarily focus on process.
the overarching goal of reducing pollution in our air, land, and
water, and decreasing the size of our carbon footprint by reduc- While our elected leaders must set both the tone and policies
ing greenhouse gas emissions. that will drive the effort to “be green”, we also recognize their
need for support, affirmation, and engagement from an in-
This study looks at those areas within the context of our com- formed public that recognizes the value of sustainability poli-
munity and explores the problems and possibilities of each in cy—to our economy, our environment, and to our overall qual-
terms of sustainable practices. For each area, we also offer rec- ity of life. Everybody plays an important role in promoting and
ommendations that we believe are both possible and practical achieving the objectives of sustainability. We hope this study
for policymakers, businesses, and/or individuals to take in order serves as one tool to educate and motivate residents, business
to make sustainability part of a new, improved version of “busi- owners, and leaders to embrace sustainability as both smart pol-
ness-as-usual.” Over the course of a year, from spring 2009-spring icy and the right thing to do for Syracuse and Central New York
2010, we hosted a series of public study sessions, forums, and today and for the generations yet to come.
panels featuring local and regional experts—scientists, scholars,
municipal planners, transportation officials, and others working

6 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

Findings and Recommendations
Communities celebrated for their sustainable, environmentally friendly
qualities share a number of essential characteristics and assets. Among
them are efforts in six specific areas:
Oneida Lake


Land Use Patterns:


Baldwinsvill e
CICERO Transportation: Waste Management:
Clustered, mixed-use Tree-lined streets with dedi- Effective and expansive recy-
development around existing North
cated bicycle lanes, walking cling, and reuse, with a focus


B Ubusiness and community cen-
ss L

paths as well as buses, and on reducing the amount of

ters with walkable neighbor-

other public transit options – waste produced.

hoods and business districts

a focus on moving people, not



and ample green Gspace both



just cars.

EDDES Syracuse

ELBRIDGE within and aroundSolvay

the metro MANLIUS
Fayettev ille



Marcel lus Manlius



Energy: NATION

LAFAYETTE Green Buildings: Water Infrastructure:
A clear movement away from Energy-efficient buildings Rain gardens, porous pave-
dependence on fossil fuels and homes, both new and ment, trees, and other “green”
and toward the use of green
existing, with a focus on reuse infrastructure that reduces




and renewable energy. of existing structures. water pollution and the need




for more “gray” infrastructure.





HHD'S: 124,090 TULLY
AREA: 61 SQ. MI.


POPULATION: 458,336 Tull y
HHD'S: 181,153
AREA: 122 SQ. MI.

Introduction 7

Over the last several decades, the rate
of sprawl in Onondaga County has been Baldwinsvill e
nothing short of relentless. Since 1970,
the amount of “urbanized” land in the
county has increased 92 percent—ex-
panding by 50 square miles in the 1990s North


alone. In the last 10 years, almost 7,000 Syracuse

ss L
new residential parcels have been cre- VAN BUREN
ated, including 147 major subdivisions

encompassing 2,600 acres—all with no

new population growth. SALINA



GEDDES Syracuse


Fayettev ille



Marcel lus Manlius


Patterns Skaneateles

map source:
Syracuse Onondaga County
Planning Agency











HHD'S: 124,090 TULLY
AREA: 61 SQ. MI.


POPULATION: 458,336 Tull y
HHD'S: 181,153
AREA: 122 SQ. MI.

One of the ironies of living “green” is the fact Syracuse ranked a distant 67th among the
As residential sprawl has marched
that residential living in leafy, low-density
suburbs—characterized by expansive yards,
100 largest metropolitan areas.
ever deeper into surrounding
increasingly large homes, and car-dependent Over the last several decades, the rate of
lifestyles—causes more damage to the envi-
ronment, and leaves a significantly deeper
sprawl in Onondaga County has been nothing
short of relentless. Since 1970, the amount of
towns and countryside....the City of
carbon footprint, than living in high-density
cities. New York City —with its compact,
“urbanized” land in the county has increased
92 percent—expanding by 50 square miles in
Syracuse and older village centers
mixed-use neighborhoods, heavily used pub-
lic transit and walkability —ranked fourth
the 1990s alone. The sprawl has so thoroughly
eclipsed the “first-ring” suburban communi- have suffered a substantial loss of
lowest in carbon emissions per capita based ties bordering the city that development pres-
on transportation and residential energy use,
according to the Brookings Institution’s 2008
sures now extend into a third ring of outlying
towns and villages—Lysander, Elbridge, and
residents—factors that suggest a
Blueprint for American Prosperity report. Marcellus among them—and formerly
rural areas.
clear correlation between suburban
sprawl and urban decline.
In the last 10 years, almost 7,000 new Expansion of sewer
residential parcels have been created, infrastructure.
including 147 major subdivisions en- Since 1998, more than 12,000 acres
compassing 2,600 acres—all with no have been added to the sanitary district;

new population growth. On average, in 2007 alone, more than 57,000 feet of
the county sees 160 new units outside new sewer pipe was installed for new Oneida
the existing sanitary district annually. developments. Lake
According to the Syracuse-Onondaga CICERO

County Planning Agency (SOCPA), this Burgeoning network VAN BUREN

countywide expansion of new roads. SALINA Madison

has brought with it: Over the last 10 years, municipalities in

Onondaga County have added 61 miles
SYRACUSE 1990-2000 Census
Larger houses and lots. of road, mostly residential streets. Daily DEWITT
Onondaga County

On average, home size is up 40 percent -17,000 to -1,000

vehicle miles traveled is up 43 percent Cayuga -1000 to -250
from 20 years ago, consuming more en- SKANEATELES ONONDAGA

since 1990, and the average vehicle com- MARCELLUS -250 to 0

ergy. The average urban/suburban par- 0 to 250

mute time is more than 20 minutes and 250 to 1000
cel size for residential units is nearly an
1000 to 3,000
growing each year—short by some stan- LAFAYETTE
acre in size. Lake
dards, perhaps, but far from a OTISCO County

“sustainable” goal.
Expansion of water SPAFFORD
Between 2001 and 2008, a total of 290
miles of new water main was installed, Cortland

along with 1,611 new hydrants, 15 new map source:

pumping stations and 13 new Central New York Regional Planning and
storage facilities. Development Board
Land Use Patterns 9
This pattern of sprawl without cant portion of our household reational facilities, offices, and while less than 10 percent of
growth has spawned a wide carbon emissions, decisions on streets, all of which consume en- suburban/rural construction is
range of challenges that are tak- where and how we live, and the ergy and resources to build and rental or affordable housing.
ing a serious toll on our environ- way those decisions dictate our maintain. This expansion with-
ment. Among them: transportation needs, have re- out population growth leads to Health problems.
sulted in a much larger per cap- abandonment of existing build- Increased incidences of life-
Increased reliance on cars and ita carbon footprint than in most ings and the need to maintain threatening obesity, asthma, and
a larger carbon footprint. metro areas. new infrastructure along with cardio-vascular problems among
As residents have moved farther the old. residents in Onondaga County,
and farther from city, town, and Loss of farmland, forests, and as well as nationwide, have been
village centers, common destina- open spaces. Beyond the environment, sprawl linked to the way we live, includ-
tions like schools and shopping The expansion of housing—and also poses significant economic ing communities that discourage
districts have become less eas- larger houses on larger lots— and human challenges, includ- walking, encourage driving and
ily accessible, and our workday has cost the county 30,000 acres ing: air pollution, and lack sufficient
commutes have become longer. of prime farmland since 1980. vegetation and green space.
Development patterns that con- In addition, this conversion of Abandoned city neighborhoods
tinue to favor single-use devel- green space to landscaped/built and older village centers. Reduced economic
opment over mixed-use make environments has damaged Flight from the city and other competitiveness.
walkability impractical and per- natural habitats and heightened older community centers pro- Suburban sprawl and the re-
petuate our reliance on cars for concern over lawn chemical us- duces significant educational, sultant imbalances in wealth,
even the simplest errand. age and storm water overflow. racial, and wealth imbalances. racial makeup, and educational
Some neighborhoods are marred resources take a substantial toll
Challenges to mass transit. Abandonment of existing by neglected and empty houses, on a city’s viability as a thriving
A thriving public transit system infrastructure and buildings. buildings, neighborhoods, and regional hub capable of attract-
is only feasible when sufficient Conversion of rural areas into business districts, and poverty is ing new residents, workers, busi-
community density exists to sup- suburban developments creates concentrated in older urban ar- ness, and industry.
port the service. With personal demand for new buildings and eas. More than half of Syracuse’s
vehicles accounting for a signifi- facilities, including schools, rec- housing stock is renter occupied,

As residential sprawl has marched ever
deeper into surrounding towns and country-
side, county population growth overall has
stagnated, and the City of Syracuse and old-
er village centers have suffered a substantial
loss of residents—factors that suggest a
clear correlation between suburban sprawl
and urban decline. Between 1970 and 2000,
the city’s population dropped by 50,000
while town populations rose by 35,000 and
the County overall lost 15,000 residents.

10 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

Higher demand on tax dollars.
As sprawl radiates farther into
new plan will result in a shared
community vision for sustainable
While county government itself
has no power to limit develop- In short,
new territories, the need is cre-
ated for new schools and fire sta-
development that puts an end to
the relentless sprawl creeping
ment in its towns, the County
Legislature does have the power unsustainable
tions, hundreds of miles of new
water and sewer lines, and miles
ever deeper into our surrounding
countryside. The plan would fo-
to limit the expansion of the sani-
tary district boundary, and the sprawl eats up our
of new streets. And with no net cus on “smart growth” principles Department of Water Environ-
population gains—again, sprawl that include compact, mixed-use ment Protection has the authority farmland, increases
without growth—the available development; walkable neighbor- to allow or disallow access to the
revenue to pay for these expand- hoods; transportation choices; existing trunk sewer system with- our reliance on
ed services and infrastructure preserved open space; and, in in the existing sanitary district. .
continues to shrink. general, development patterns
that strengthen
These controls, along with incen-
tives, could be used to promote
cars, pollutes
Higher costs for services.
Services spread over greater area,
existing communities. the principles outlined in the
Sustainable Development Plan,
our atmosphere,
for fewer people, means higher
costs for all. As an example, from
“Smart growth” is a win for every-
body: It benefits municipalities
limiting irresponsible growth and
encouraging development in or
generates higher
2001-2008 the cost per 1,000 gal-
lons of water was up 78 percent.
by keeping a lid on infrastruc-
ture costs; it benefits businesses
near existing community centers.
The County Executive has voiced
levels of greenhouse
The amount of water delivered
actually decreased 11 percent.
through increased accessibility
and pedestrian traffic; it benefits
a commitment to adhere to the fi-
nal plan, which also will be used
gases, spreads our
In short, unsustainable sprawl
the environment by reining in
carbon emissions and other pol-
as a tool for educating the public
about planning and land-use de- tax dollars too thin,
eats up our farmland, increases
our reliance on cars, pollutes our
lutants; and it benefits residents
through, among many other
cisions and for illustrating out-
comes and consequences of dif- promotes urban
atmosphere, generates higher lev-
els of greenhouse gases, spreads
things, higher property values
and lower transportation costs. In
ferent choices.
blight, and seriously
our tax dollars too thin, promotes fact, a 2009 study report by CEOs At the federal level, the adminis-
urban blight, and seriously di- for Cities revealed that in 13 of tration’s Partnership for Sustain- diminishes our
minishes our collective economic the country’s 15 major real estate able Communities, run jointly by
fortunes. We—policymakers, markets, higher levels of walkabil- the Environmental Protection collective economic
business leaders, and residents— ity were directly linked to higher Agency, the Transportation De-
must start to recognize the conse-
quences of our land-use choices
home values. And a 1996 national
homebuyers survey found that
partment, and the Department of
Housing and Urban Development,
and policies and take actions to nearly three-quarters of the re- embraces the idea of “livable com-
reverse this trend. spondents expressed a desire to munities.” The Sustainable Com-
live in a community where they munities initiatives support the
County leaders have already could walk or bicycle everywhere. dense, transit-oriented housing
taken one step toward that goal In light of wildly fluctuating gaso- typically built in urban centers,
by working on a new Onondaga line prices in recent years, grow- which helps to conserve unde-
County Sustainable Develop- ing awareness of global warming, veloped land, reduce pollution
ment Plan. Working in conjunc- and a desire for healthy living, and greenhouse gas emissions,
tion with the Syracuse-Onondaga we suspect that number has only and promote transit, biking, and
Planning Agency, leaders hope the gone up. walkability. And in June 2010,

Land Use Patterns 11

the EPA picked Central New York as sewers, for example—toward exist- all of its citizens. However, state in- with smart growth principles, with
one of 25 Climate Showcase Com- ing communities rather than toward frastructure funding decisions have priority given to existing infrastruc-
munities, granting $500,000 to the subsidizing more sprawl. While it supported settlement and land-use ture and projects that are consistent
CNY Regional Planning and Devel- doesn’t go as far as some would like, patterns that necessitate expan- with local governments’ plans
opment Board to help local govern- it is a VERY significant step in the sive and expensive infrastructure for development.”
ments develop strategies to reduce right direction and gives munici- resulting in new roadways, water
greenhouse gas emissions by mak- palities leverage for instituting their supplies, sewer treatment facilities, For Syracuse and Central New York,
ing their buildings more efficient, own smart growth rules. utilities, and other public facilities land-use considerations may sim-
“greening” their transportation at great cost to the taxpayer and ply be the most critical, and com-
fleets, and adopting building codes The state legislation says the mea- the ratepayer. With this pattern of plicated, piece of the sustainability
that promote sure is needed because “Sprawl is a dispersed development, public in- puzzle. We are heartened by federal
sustainable growth. problem that has exacerbated New vestment in existing infrastructure and state action and by our city and
York’s financial crisis. The exten- located in traditional main streets, county leaders’ efforts to pursue
In New York State, the State Pub- sion of infrastructure to areas that downtown areas, and established responsible development and urge
lic Infrastructure Act (A. 8011, have traditionally been green fields suburbs has been underutilized, municipal leaders and residents to
S.5560B) passed in the Assembly on have caused runaway expenditures and those areas have suffered eco- embrace those efforts as well. To-
June 16, 2010. This “Smart Growth” and economic costs. This bill seeks nomically. New York State needs to ward that end, we offer the
bill basically states that any state to stop the bleeding by reprioritiz- focus on smart spending that sup- following recommendations:
department should make capital ing state infrastructure expendi- ports existing infrastructure and de-
decisions on infrastructure projects tures. New York State has a history velopment in areas where it makes
in a manner consistent with the te- of leading the way in protecting the economic and environmental sense.
nets of smart growth. The bill would environment, encouraging econom- This bill would require state infra-
shift state spending—on roads and ic activity, and pursuing equity for structure funding to be consistent

Snapshot: Land-Use
Planning—Portland, Oregon

In 1979, the City of Portland established an urban growth that limit housing opportunities for low-income individu-
boundary (UGB), as required by state law, to control ur- als, residents have shown their support for the UGB by re-
ban sprawl by drawing a clear distinction between urban jecting (in increasing numbers) repeated ballot initiatives
and rural land. The boundary is regulated by an elected designed to dissolve the boundary. By law, the city must
regional government—known as Metro—that encom- maintain within the UGB enough land to accommodate
passes three counties and 25 cities in the Portland region. 50 years’ (originally 20 years’) growth.

In confining large-scale development to land within the While only three states mandate such boundaries--Ore-
UGB, the boundary protects farmland, forests, and other gon, Washington, and Tennessee—some U.S. cities have
natural resources and promotes the efficient use of land, created their own UGB’s, including Minneapolis, Virginia
public infrastructure, and urban services. The result has Beach, and Lexington, Kentucky. Outside the United
been a thriving urban center in which to live, work, and States, UGB’s, also sometimes known as greenbelts, can
play. The boundary encourages development patterns be found in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto, among other
that support mass transit, provide easy access to open cities.
green spaces for residents, and balance the interests of
developers, farmers, and environmentalists. And while
some challenges remain, including high property values

12 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

GREEN LAND USE hope of reining in sprawl or becoming a
truly sustainable community. We would

villages. Also concentrate public
investment in public infrastructure
RECOMMENDATIONS: urge that the County’s Sustainable De- in priority areas. Development
velopment Plan and other municipalities’ should promote compact, mixed-use
plans include: neighborhoods that are both
+ Promote Sustainable walkable and supportive of
Land Development + Farmland, forest, and open space mass transit.
Patterns. protection, particularly for areas in
the county that are uniquely rich in + Endorsement of “complete streets”
agricultural value. principles that enhance walkability of
Land-use patterns across municipal
neighborhoods, accommodate
boundaries may well pose the most
+ Natural resource and habitat bicyclists, and generally slow
comprehensive challenge as we look to
protection, including protection down traffic.
become a more sustainable communi-
of significant natural open spaces,
ty. Suburban communities in particular
protection of water resources (lakes, + Creation or expansion of bicycle lanes
must strive to restructure their develop-
streams, rivers, etc.), and protection throughout the county to encourage
ment patterns around transit in order to
of the diversity of plant and animal fewer car trips.
grow and prosper without adding more
life in the area. Protective techniques
roads, cars, and unnecessary car trips.
We strongly urge county leaders to com-

might include storm water
management; creation of new
+ Use Zoning Ordinances
plete the Sustainable Development Plan
permanent green spaces, including as a Tool.
and all municipalities and school districts
multiple small “pocket” parks
throughout the county to embrace similar Municipalities should review and revise
throughout the city; and possibly a
sustainable land-use principles. Toward zoning ordinances to ensure building and
“greenbelt” surrounding the county.
that end, we endorse intermunicipal plan- site planning that allow for higher densi-
ning that focuses on protecting natural ties and more mixed-use development.
+ Incentives that promote and provide
corridors and ecosystems and promotes These characteristics increase walkabil-
for priority investment areas
the logical and efficient use of land. While ity to neighborhood destinations and im-
encouraging development in
land-use is a local issue, the county en- prove the viability of public transit.
existing community centers
compasses a collective of local govern-
both within the city and within
ments and without collaboration across
each of the county’s towns and
local municipal boundaries, we have little

Land Use Patterns 13

Complete Streets
Complete streets, as depicted in this artist
rendering for the Connective Corridor proj-
ect, are designed and operated to enable
safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicy-
clists, motorists and transit riders of all ages
and abilities must be able to safely move
along and across a complete street. Places
with complete streets policies are making
sure that their streets and roads work for
drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicy-
clists, as well as for older people, children,
and people with disabilities.


photo: Syracuse University Connective Corridor

Transportation data
Transportation is another essential factor in creating ing to the Brookings Institution’s Blueprint for American
on Onondaga County
sustainable communities—and one closely intertwined
with land use. Sustainable communities have the den-
Prosperity report.
reveals a heavy reliance
sity and compact development patterns to support Alternative transportation can substantially reduce
multiple transportation options, including mass transit
systems, walking paths connecting neighborhoods with
greenhouse gas emissions, as illustrated by New York
City’s surprisingly low per capita carbon footprint. Al-
on private vehicles.
common destinations, and dedicated bicycle lanes. The
Syracuse metro area’s carbon emissions from transporta-
ternative transportation options also improve overall
air quality, lower our dependency on fossil fuels and for-
Where NYC ranked #1
tion are much higher than the average U.S. metropoli-
tan area. The transportation portions of our per capita
eign oil, reduce gasoline costs, revitalize neighborhoods,
boost the local economy, encourage healthy lifestyles, for least per capita
carbon footprint increased 3.6% from 2000 - 2005 and and make urban living more efficient and desirable.
continues to rise faster than other metro areas, accord- emissions from cars,
Syracuse ranked a
dismal 91st out of 100.
While Centro provides bus service percentage of city residents car- to the suburbs over the past sev- is not the solution either, for even
in Syracuse and several surround- pool, use public transportation, and eral decades has contributed to the “green” cars are unhealthy when
ing counties, transportation data on walk or bike to work than suburban steadily increasing commuting dis- they help perpetuate sprawl, eat
Onondaga County reveals a heavy county residents. tances and increased reliance on into our personal time, and contrib-
reliance on private vehicles. While personal vehicles over other modes ute to a sedentary lifestyle.
the Brookings report ranked New The Brookings Institution’s study of transportation.
York City #1 for least per capita car- also ranked Syracuse one of the If we are to curtail our dependen-
bon emissions from cars, Syracuse highest - 83rd - in terms of vehicle Our car-driven lifestyles generate cy on cars, we need to rethink our
ranked a dismal 91st out of 100. miles traveled (VMT) per capita. In more than carbon emissions and air housing choices, and our municipal
Our poor ranking reflects the fact 2005, the average VMT per Syracuse pollution. They also add a substan- leaders need to ensure that we have
that 80 percent of Onondaga County resident was 11,946 miles. By com- tial burden to our household cost of access to alternative modes of trans-
residents drive to work alone, ac- parison, Rochester ranked 4th with living. A study by the Chicago-based portation. Earlier this spring, U.S.
cording to 2000 Census figures – a VMT of 7,055, and Buffalo-Niagara Center for Neighborhood Technol- Secretary of Transportation Ray La-
and that was up from 75% in 1990. Falls area ranked 5th, with a VMT of ogy found that transportation costs Hood issued a new policy statement
During the same period the number 7,066 miles per resident. Forecasts now are the second-highest house- calling for full inclusion of pedestri-
of county residents who used public prepared by Global Insight for the hold expense, after housing, in ans and bicyclists in transportation
transit or carpooled to get to work NYS Department of Transportation some areas of the country. The cost projects. He endorsed the “complete
decreased by 45% and 23%, respec- estimated that per capita daily VMT of driving to work, school, grocery streets” approach that would cease
tively, and the number of people in in Central New York would increase stores, and other destinations is favoring motorized transportation
the county who walked or biked to about 30% by 2030. making otherwise affordable homes at the expense of non-motorized.
work decreased from 5.3% to 4.1%. in modest suburban neighborhoods Among other points, the policy state-
In the city, 66% of workers drove The movement of population with- increasingly unaffordable. Replac- ment urges transportation agencies
alone (Census 2000) and a greater in Onondaga County from the city ing traditional cars with hybrids of all sizes to consider walking and

Transportation 15
Onondaga County Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) sharing the road with cyclists. ing FOCUS Greater Syracuse’s
Cold weather turns out to be original community benchmark-
less of a factor in discouraging ing study, which ranked bike
cycling than one might think: In trails as its top priority.
12,000 Bicycling magazine’s ranking of
the most bikeable cities in the The American Automobile As-

country, seven of its top 10 are sociation estimates that pub-

10,000 northern cities—with lic transit can save individu-
Minneapolis ranked number one als $9,215 annually, and these
8,000 and Portland, Oregon, second. cost-saving benefits were dem-
Internationally, Amsterdam onstrated locally when Centro
and Copenhagen are considered ridership skyrocketed in 2008
6,000 tops, with 40 percent and 32 as gas prices hit all-time highs.
1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 percent bicycle commuting But Centro faces numerous chal-
rates, respectively. lenges, including a loss of oper-
ating funds from the state and
FACT bicycling equal to other trans-
Alternative transportation is a from fares, the difficulty of ac-
big issue for Onondaga County commodating the region’s devel-
portation modes; provide con-
residents, according to OCL’s opmental sprawl, and general re-
A Brookings Institution study ranked Syra- venient choices for people of all
surveys. While elected officials luctance on the part of the public
cuse one of the highest - 83rd - in terms of ages and abilities; and maintain
ranked policies that promote to use its services regularly. The
vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita. In sidewalks and shared-use paths
walking and biking as their least company last year raised fares
one year, the VMT per Syracuse resident in the same way roads are main-
traveled 11,946 miles by car. By comparison,
important environmental goal and cut services for the first time
tained. The New York State Leg-
Rochester ranked 4th with a VMT of 7,055, and thought that walking and since 1995. It anticipated hav-
islature is also considering Com-
and Buffalo-Niagara Falls area ranked 6th, biking, along with improving ing a $6 million funding shortfall
plete Streets legislation.
with a VMT of 7,066 miles per resident. As public transportation, would in spring of 2010, necessitating
depicted in the graph above, vehicle usage rank last for their constituents more service cuts in the
has increased dramatically since 1990. Syracuse, a city whose origins
as well, both the registered vot- near future.
predate the automobile, is for-
ers and the high school students
tunate to have compact, easily
we surveyed ranked walking, Centro is taking its own steps
walkable neighborhoods, which
biking, and public transportation toward making its operations
could become even more pedes-
significantly higher. Addition- more sustainable and its ser-
trian-friendly with some street
ally, when asked, “Do you have vices more convenient. It runs
and sidewalk improvements.
any suggestions about what can a compressed natural-gas fleet,
For cyclists, the city has taken
be done to make our commu- a more environmentally clean
steps to designate bicycle lanes
nity more green?”, more people alternative to other fossil fuels,
in some city neighborhoods and
focused on transportation than with 10 hybrid electric vehicles.
portions of the business district;
on any other issue, with multiple On those diesel buses it still runs,
others are planned as part of the
respondents calling for better it uses a biodiesel fuel mix. An-
Connective Corridor’s East Gen-
public transportation and a cul- other positive step taken by Cen-
esee Street redesign. Some city
ture that promotes walking and tro was the installation of bike
bike lanes, however, share space
biking. Other studies have iden- racks on buses. The company
with alternate-side parking, and
tified a bike-able community as is pursuing “next bus” technol-
safety is always a major concern
something Onondaga County ogy that will add several conve-
with motorists still adjusting to
residents keenly desire, includ- nience features for customers,

16 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

Steps towards Greener Transportation CuseCar, Car-Share
According to data from the Surface Trans- amenities as benches, planters, CuseCar, a Syracuse-based community
portation Policy Project (April 2003), 55 trees, and lighting. car-share program now in its second year,
percent of Americans say they would pre-
fer to walk more and 68 percent favor ad- + Develop an on-road bicycle net provides another option for individu-
ditional funding for walking and biking work with dedicated bike lanes as well als who use alternative transportation to
facilities. During presentations to the OCL as shared-use walking/biking paths get into the city for work. The program,
Study Committee, the Syracuse Metropoli- that connect major destinations. And with membership plans for individuals
tan Transportation Council (SMTC), shared provide ample parking facilities,
and businesses, provides members with
several recommendations for Syracuse and including some covered
Onondaga County municipalities to encour- spaces, for bikes. access to alternative-fuel vehicles on an
age biking and walking, including: hourly basis, saving them gas money and
The SMTC also recommends employers pro- parking fees. CuseCar currently maintains
+ Zone for high-density, mixed-use vide incentives for employees to carpool five hybrid vehicles and is preparing to
development around destination or use alternative forms of transportation,
centers (again, compact development), something several large local employers add 10 more. Synapse Partners, which
ensuring that residents are within a already do. In addition to other initiatives, runs the program, says it has had limited
one-quarter-mile walk of those Syracuse University participates in the Zip- success so far and may take another year
destination centers. car program, which provides employees and or two to catch on. The service is not yet
students who use alternative transportation
available citywide. Onondaga County is
+ Within those “pedestrian sheds,” retrofit with a car if needed during the work day. SU,
existing shopping plazas with Onondaga County, and Onondaga Commu- among the employers who participate
walkways, bus pull-offs and shelters; nity College also offer, in conjunction with with CuseCar, providing discounted mem-
add safe-crossing features and Centro, pre-tax bus passes for employees bership and fees to county workers.
sidewalks; and create pedestrian- and a guaranteed ride home in the event of
friendly streetscapes with such emergency.

including the ability to track, online, their pre-tax pay. Employees then re-
the anticipated arrival of a scheduled coup the funds by submitting a claim
bus. It also offers free or reduced-fare after the fact.
services for major-destination em-
ployers, including SU, Onondaga Com- With the Baby Boom population ag-
munity College, and SUNY Upstate; and ing, the wildly unpredictable nature of
its Fare Deal program enables employ- foreign fuel supply and costs, and the
ers to offer workers the opportunity to environmental, political, and personal
purchase bus passes with pre-tax dol- consequences of our choices becoming
lars. Employees of Onondaga County, more evident, we must pursue every
for instance, under the county’s “Flex means possible to encourage the use
Plan,” can estimate how much they will of mass transit or other alternative
spend on bus passes annually, and the modes of transportation. We offer the
county then deducts that amount from following recommendations:

Transportation 17
GREEN TRANSPORTATION cess to and within public and private developments such as the
regional transportation center, shopping malls, and office parks.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Short car trips account for a large percentage of our vehicle miles
traveled, and the more we can do to encourage alternatives to
driving, the more we can develop “green” habits.
+ Refocus priorities.
+ Take Advantage of Commuter Options.
We must refocus local transportation policies and spending from
speed and auto-centric construction to local streets and transit.
Use the Centro Park ’n’ Ride option that services suburbs in vir-
Municipalities should pursue strategies that allow safe access
tually every direction. Riders can park their car for free at desig-
on public roads to bicycles and pedestrians as well as cars, to
nated locations and ride the bus into the city. (See a complete
encourage residents to bicycle or walk to their destinations. Ex-
list of areas covered at Arrange
perience in other places has shown that “if you build it, they will
to carpool or use alternative modes of transportation. Use car-
come.” Dedicated bicycle lanes and pedestrian-friendly street
sharing programs such as CuseCar and, on the SU and SUNY-ESF
features including lighting and safe crossing zones encourage
campuses, Zipcar. These are innovative programs designed to
biking and walking. The New York State Legislature currently has
meet the needs of individuals who might like to carpool or ride
under consideration a bill that endorses this “complete streets”
the bus to work but who also might want or need a car for er-
approach. If passed, the legislation would recognize bicycle,
rands or appointments during the workday.
pedestrian, and transit modes as integral to the transportation
system, and require bicycle and pedestrian ways and safe access
to public transportation for all travelers. We urge our state law- + Encourage More Employee Incentives.
makers to support this pending legislation.
Employers that already offer incentives to encourage their em-
The Syracuse Common Council recently approved “complete ployees to carpool, walk, bicycle, or use other alternative modes
streets” revisions to parts of East Genesee Street that will reduce of transportation to get to work should be commended, and
the number of traffic lanes and create bicycle lanes on both other employers should be encouraged to do the same. In addi-
sides of the street, better connecting the University Hill area tion to its Zipcar program, for instance, Syracuse University will
to downtown and the businesses and institutions in between. help employees find carpool partners and allow registered car-
Municipal centers, including the city and villages in Onondaga poolers to share the same parking space, reducing their campus
County, should develop and adopt “complete streets” legislation parking costs by half. Employers should familiarize themselves
setting principles and practices to guide all public transporta- with the full range of incentives already available, such as Cen-
tion projects to encourage safe walking, bicycling, and transit tro’s Fare Deal program, or formulate incentives that work for
use. Through zoning ordinances and site plan reviews at the mu- their own workplace. And we urge employees to break free of
nicipal level, a requirement should be made for pedestrian ac- the one-person, one-car mindset and consider carpooling or

18 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

using alternative modes of transportation, such as bicycles, as
much as possible. By doing so, they will save money; reduce oil
consumption, pollution, and carbon emissions; avoid the stress
generated by commuter traffic; and—for those who live within
walking or biking distance—promote good health.

+ Promote Use of Low-Carbon Emission

Vehicles and Alternative Fuels.

Reducing vehicle usage should be the number one transporta-

tion goal. For remaining trips, individuals, governments, insti-
tutions, and businesses should use compact, hybrid or electric
vehicles and alternative fuels (as many Centro buses already do).
The city and county should also prepare for a future with the
electric car by installing charging stations in places like public
parking garages and requiring new structures to be wired for car
chargers, and studying likely hot spots for new e-car buyers.

+ Coordinate Land Use Planning with

Transportation and Incorporate Smart
Growth Principles.

To create walkable communities, municipalities throughout

the county should establish land-use planning policies based
on smart growth principles. Local planning, site design require-
ments, and incentives should promote density, mixed-use de-
velopment, accessibility to transit, and pedestrian and bicycle
amenities, as defined in “complete streets” principles.

Transportation 19
In February of 2010, Syracuse University
Food Services started composting food
waste from their food service establish-
ments. The photo to the right shows a
Syracuse University Physical Plant truck
dumping 4.45 tons of food waste on
May 6, 2010, at the Onondaga County
Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA)
Amboy Compost Site in Camillus. Food
Services has sent a total of 18.33 tons of
food waste to Amboy for composting
since February.


photo: Syracuse University Sustainability Division

household in
Onondaga County
Sustainable communities know that when it comes to de- The average household in Onondaga County generates the
ciding where we throw our trash, there is no “away.” Every- equivalent of about one ton of trash per year, or 3.5 pounds
thing winds up somewhere. The U.S. dumps 4.6 pounds per person per day (this does not include recyclables). That’s
of trash per person per day, according to EPA figures, and
more than half finds its way to landfills or into an incinerator.
slightly lower than both the U.S. average of 4.6 pounds and
the New York State average of 4.1 pounds. Our recycling
generates the
Americans are in love with “stuff,” and consumer spending is
a primary driver of our economy. But with this consumer-
rate countywide is among the best in the state—67 per-
cent compared to about 50 percent statewide. Paper and equivalent of about
one ton of trash per
ist culture comes an ugly reality—depletion of our precious organic waste account for more than half of all solid waste
natural resources in the constant manufacturing of material statewide, while plastic accounts for about 17 percent. That
for new products; landfills despoiling our countryside and figure includes plastic bottles, rigid containers, and film
generating greenhouse gas in the form of methane; and in-
cinerators that require careful monitoring of emissions lev-
plastics. In Onondaga County, plastic accounts for about 19
percent of all disposed trash, with the largest component in
year, or 3.5 pounds
els of mercury and other pollutants as they convert waste
to energy.
the form of film plastic, which includes such items as gro-
cery bags, shrink wrap, and garbage bags. per person per
day (this does not
include recyclables).
In September 2008, Westport be- percent and more in the use of bags. limits the production of greenhouse The Onondaga County Resource
came the first town in Connecticut The bulk of the tax revenue goes to- gases and other pollutants, and re- Recovery Agency (OCRRA), which
to ban plastic shopping bags. Resi- ward cleaning up the Anacostia Riv- duces the need for landfills, which oversees solid waste management
dents say the ban has prompted a er, into which an estimated 20,000 have dropped from more than 350 for the county (and the waste-to-
70 percent increase in the use of tons of trash flow each year, much in the late 1970s to about 47 – al- energy plant in Jamesville operated
reusable bags and reduced by an of it in the form of plastic bags. The beit larger - today, as recycling rates under agreement with Covanta),
estimated 20,000 the number of city instituted the tax after aggres- have increased. According to figures believes that in order to minimize
plastic bags used weekly by the sive recycling efforts proved inad- from the state Department of Envi- what goes into our landfills and
town’s 10,000 households. Just as equate to slow the growing problem ronmental Conservation, paper re- waste-to-energy plants we must fo-
important, it has inspired residents of plastic bags clogging the river and cycling in New York State has saved cus on reducing, reusing, and recy-
to a greener mindset overall. In its tributaries. 6.7 million cubic yards of landfill cling. We agree. While our waste-to-
Washington, D.C., the result of a new space and reduced greenhouse gas energy plant has been cited as one
5-cent tax on shopping bags has New York last year passed legisla- emissions by 5.2 million tons of car- of the top five renewable energy
surprised even supporters of the tion requiring most large stores and bon. Every ton of paper that is recy- facilities in the world, and it may be
measure. Within the first month of chains to set up recycling programs cled saves 463 gallons of oil, 7,000 preferable to methane-generating
the tax going into effect last January, for plastic bags. That same legisla- gallons of water, and 17 trees. Prod- landfills, the most sustainable way
the monthly average total of plastic tion also requires stores to offer ucts made from recycled aluminum to treat solid waste is to minimize
bags used by consumers dropped or sell reusable bags for require 90 percent less energy and the production of it “upstream.”
from 22.5 million bags to 3.3 million their customers. account for 90 percent less air pol-
bags. Even if the city’s figures are lution than “virgin products.”
not totally accurate, retailers them- The benefits of recycling are clear: It
selves are reporting drops of 50 saves energy and natural resources,

Waste Management 21
Among the steps some states are life cycle when they such as old computers, TVs, and that happiness comes from the
pursuing to limit the amount of create products, for instance
other unwanted electronics from acquisition of ever more quan-
solid waste they have by designing for reuse and consumers for recycling. The e- tities of stuff. As with so many
to dispose of: recyclability, reducing use of
waste legislation, already in ef- other areas of sustainability, we,
toxic substances, and fect in 22 other states, not only along with OCRRA, believe that
+ Zero-waste policies that creating take-back programs will remove these toxin-contain- residents must begin to under-
among other features ing products from our landfills stand the trade-offs and conse-
include curbside + “Pay-as-you-throw” policies and incinerators; it also will en- quences of their choices. With
pick-up of residential that provide incentives for courage manufacturers to design both of these needs in mind, we
food waste—one of the most residents to limit the amount products with components that offer the following
potent generators of of trash they dispose of can be recycled or reused. recommendations (on page 24):
methane when sealed in
landfills—for composting New York State took a bold step While such policies can go far
in the right direction earlier this toward reducing waste, we also
+ Product stewardship policies spring when it passed a land- need widespread educational ef-
that require manufacturers mark bill requiring that manu- forts to counteract cultural forces
to consider the entire facturers take back e-waste that relentlessly push the notion

Snapshot: Food Composting—

Seattle, Washington
Residents of Seattle, Washington, have participated A year later, the city’s efforts appear to be paying take another 6,000 tons of leftover food and food
in curbside recycling for nearly two decades. But in off. According to figures compiled by The Seattle containers out of landfills.
2005, the city took its sustainability efforts to a new Times, Seattle residents today are “recycling” food
level when it launched a voluntary curbside com- at 10 times the national average. The city’s com- After food and yard waste are converted into com-
posting program that allowed homeowners to in- posting rates have increased steadily since collec- post and aged, the bagged compost is distributed
clude food scraps with yard-waste pickup. tion began in 2005; but between 2008 and 2009, to stores around Seattle for residents to purchase
rates climbed by an unprecedented 47 percent. and use in their yards and gardens.
As part of a new Zero Waste Strategy, the city During 2009, the Times reports, Seattle Public Utili-
ramped up its commitment even more in 2009, ties collected 26,400 tons of food scraps from Se-
moving from biweekly to weekly pickup and add- attle residents’ homes—enough to produce nearly
ing a requirement that all single-family households 10,000 tons of compost. About 48 percent of Se-
rent a composting bin or commit to tending a back- attle’s waste is now composted or recycled; the city
yard composting pile. There is no penalty for non- hopes to hit 60 percent by 2012 and 70 percent by
compliance with the weekly pickup; instead, city 2025.
officials believed that the rental fee—$5 or $7 per
month—would encourage buy-in by homeowners. In further efforts to meet that goal, city officials in
City officials also expanded the list of compostable July of this year passed legislation requiring that all
food items to include meat and dairy scraps. takeout service ware containers, plates, and cups
sold in fast-food restaurants be recyclable or com-
postable. City officials anticipate the new law will

22 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

The Sustainable Plate
Food lovers have always known the shed, Central New York is the most + Foster relationships between residents with easy access to fresh
obvious benefits of eating produce productive and diverse agricultural consumer and farmer. produce; they also help with storm
fresh from the garden. But today’s lo- region of the state—and yet less than water retention, raise property val-
cal foods movement is about much 1 percent of the food grown here is + Lower costs by eliminating the ues, reduce crime, and build
more than taste. Whether it’s called consumed locally. Central New York- need for grocers and community pride.
the 100-Mile Diet, the Slow Foods ers daily spend about $3 million on distributors.
Movement, or simply “locavore” eat- food, but local farmers see only about Locally, Syracuse Grows provides
ing, the desire to purchase and eat 7 cents to the dollar. + Cultivate among consumers a resources for individuals, schools,
locally grown produce stems from a taste for seasonal foods. churches, and other groups interest-
growing awareness of the complex Local farmers’ markets, of course, are ed in setting up a community garden.
links between environmental deg- a reliable source for local produce, CNY Bounty, which functions as a A grassroots coalition of individuals
radation, climate change, and our and the Syracuse area is fortunate to “virtual” farmers’ market, also offers and community groups, Syracuse
global food systems. have many markets, both seasonal fresh, local produce from more than Grows provides resources, education,
and year-round. Community Sup- 90 small and medium-sized farms advocacy, and assistance with every-
It’s been estimated that the average ported Agriculture (CSA) farms are throughout Central New York. Avail- thing from soil testing to greenhouse
piece of food travels 1,500 miles from another increasingly popular option. able produce lists, with prices, are construction.
farm to plate—whether by rail, truck, CSA’s provide weekly shares of sea- posted weekly on the CNY Bounty
ocean freighter, or air. Such a long- sonal produce to subscribers who web site (; customers For more information on the local
distance journey not only consumes sign up at the beginning of the grow- make their selections, and produce foods movement, Syracuse area farm-
fossil fuels; it also generates carbon ing season. Shares may be delivered is delivered either to a distribution ers’ markets and CSA’s, and local com-
dioxide emissions and necessitates to homes or picked up at neighbor- point or directly to the customer’s munity garden opportunities,
the use of preservatives, irradiation, hood distribution points. In addition home. Based in Madison County, CNY contact Syracuse Grows (syracuse-
and other processes to ensure the to the environmental benefits, CSA’s: Bounty also currently has distribution, Slow Food CNY (slow-
foods’ fitness for transport and sale. sites in Fayetteville, Manlius,, or Syracuse First
Processing and packaging designed + Guarantee revenue for farmers and Liverpool. (
to further prolong freshness of pro- regardless of seasonal weather
duce, as well as large-scale industrial and harvest conditions. Urban agriculture—in the form of
farming techniques, can also cause community gardens, urban farms,
harm to the environment + Reduce the farm-to-plate and orchards—is yet another way to
and local ecosystems. distance to about 40 miles. promote local eating, and cities of all
sizes—from Detroit and San Francis-
Even in Central New York—a region + Feed the local economy as co to Albany and Binghamton—have
abundant with farmland—relatively farmers send 73 percent of their launched urban gardening and farm
little of what’s grown here actu- earnings back into the programs that are transforming va-
ally reaches our plate. According to a community. cant lots into productive green space.
SUNY-ESF study of the regional food Such efforts not only provide city

Waste Management 23
+ Reduce the Amount of + Expand Food Waste
Waste We Generate. Composting.
The most sustainable way of treating waste is by reducing the After paper, organic waste makes up the next largest segment
amount we generate in the first place: of the waste stream. About 14 percent of the waste stream in
the county is food waste, and this same waste, when sealed in
+ We encourage state and federal legislators to support landfills, generates methane gas, a greenhouse gas even more
“product stewardship” policies, making manufacturers potent than carbon dioxide. In Onondaga County, food waste
accountable for product disposal and encouraging them to goes to the waste-to-energy plant. Some communities that are
design for recyclability and reusability. The state’s new leaders in waste recycling have food composting for residents
e-waste legislation is a significant step toward this goal. who do not do at-home composting. For instance, San Francisco
recently passed its own mandatory composting law believed to
+ Consumers: Make wise choices when purchasing products, be the strictest such ordinance in the country. Residents of that
avoiding disposable products in favor of those that can be city use three color-coded trash bins—one for recycling, one for
recycled or reused. trash, and one for food waste. At OCRRA, food waste is a com-
ponent of the waste-to-energy stream through incineration.
+ Restructure Financing of OCRRA has piloted a pre-consumer (restaurant, food preparers)
compost project, accepting food waste from a few businesses
Solid Waste Management. and institutions. OCRRA’s compost sites accept yard waste from
some municipalities and residents. OCCRA is now accepting
We must rethink financing of the solid waste management sys-
post-plate waste from Syracuse University and the composting
tem so there is an incentive to reduce trash volume, while main-
operations are generating income. We recommend that
taining support for OCRRA’s conservation, recycling and public
OCRRA move ahead to expand its food composting experiment
education efforts. Under the current system, OCRRA’s revenue
to make food composting a revenue center to help support
mostly comes “tipping fees” for waste dumped at the incinera-
OCRRA’s programs.
tor or landfills. If OCRRA is successful at reducing wastethrough
recycling or other programs, it actually loses revenue. Total OC-
CRA costs are about $69 per ton of trash; for about that amount + Create County Incentives for Use of
a household in Onondaga County gets an entire year of solid Reusable Shopping Bags.
waste management program – a real bargain. Compare that to
Tompkins County’s charge of about $50 per year per household While plastic and paper bag recycling efforts are to be com-
plus tipping fee or Westchester County’s $100 plus tipping fee. mended, recycling only ameliorates the problem; it does not
Sustainable waste management financing programs must rec- eliminate it. The real objective is to REDUCE the amount of
ognize the cost and value of waste minimization efforts instead waste generated in the first place by helping County residents
of relying on waste volumes to support them. OCRRA’s recycling, to change their behavior, and by increasing our awareness of
composting, education, and other “green” efforts must be sup- environmental issues. Reusable bags are readily available, often
ported in new ways, whether through user fees, the county’s from stores themselves, and experience in other communities
general fund, and/or new revenue-generating activities. has shown that imposing fees on the use of thin plastic bags

24 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

has been phenomenally successful in significantly reducing the Local companies and incentives can also build on national pro-
number of bags shoppers used. In addition, bag fees, a portion grams by some product manufacturers of such items as carpet,
of which would be turned over to the County, provide funds for ceiling tile, movable office partitions, etc. Since many commer-
environmental education programs or cial and institutional buildings are more likely to remodel or rear-
other environmental initiatives. range their space before they build new, these interiors-focused
programs can significantly reduce construction
+ Recycle and Reuse and remodeling waste.
Construction Waste.
+ Public Education.
We recommend promotion of programs that provide incentives
for recycling and reuse of waste from remodeling, demolition, The U.S. economy is largely driven by consumer spending. And
and new-construction sites. Builders can earn points toward the consumers, unfortunately, increasingly purchase disposable
U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification by using recycled products. As consumers, we need to recognize the impact and
materials. Other local incentives could be developed. consequences of our behavior and choices on the environ-
ment—both in terms of the amount of waste or trash gener-
There are positive things happening. The Syracuse Habitat for ated and in terms of our level of support for reusable/recyclable
Humanity ReStore is a great example of diverting reusable build- products instead of disposable ones. Schools should continue to
ing and home improvement materials from landfills and put- incorporate sustainability principles in their own practices and
ting them to good use. D-Build, a Syracuse-based organization throughout the curriculum. And OCRRA should continue efforts
whose website brings together sellers and potential buyers of to promote “reduce, reuse, recycle” campaigns, expand entre-
reclaimed materials, is helping to create a market that will make preneurial revenue-generating efforts such as food composting,
it economically worthwhile to “deconstruct” a house, rather than and seek other funding sources to pursue its
simply demolish it and send the rubble to a landfill. And Patch- public education mission.
work is an emerging enterprise that uses reclaimed materials to
utilizing them to patch and renovate old structures
or create new ones.

Waste Management 25
Wind Resources in Central Legend
St Lawrence

The map to the right depicts wind re- and Northern New York NYtransmission

sources in Central and Northern New Average Wind Speed

York. There is a substantial wind resource <VALUE>
in Central New York especially along the 3.6 - 5.3 m/s 8.05 - 11.86 mph
shore of Lake Ontario and the Tug Hill
Jefferson 5.3 - 5.9 m/s 11.86 - 13.20 mph
Plateau. The Onondaga escarpment in
5.9 - 6.3 m/s 13.20 - 14.09 mph
Madison County also presents opportu-
nities for large scale wind power genera- 6.3 - 6.7 m/s 14.09 - 14.99 mph
tion as evidenced by the wind farms in 6.7 - 7.2 m/s 14.99 - 16.11 mph
the town of Fenner. The hills in southern
7.2 - 7.7 m/s 16.11 - 17.22 mph
Onondaga County also provide
adequate wind resources for 7.7 - 8.3 m/s 17.22 - 18.57 mph
small-scale generation. 8.3 - 8.9 m/s 18.57 - 19.91 mph
8.9 - 9.8 m/s 19.91 - 21.92 mph

9.8 - 12.5 m/s 21.92 - 27.96 mph

map source: NREL, National Renewable

Energy Laboratory

Lake Ontario

Energy Herkimer





ENERGY Energy conservation
The burning of fossil fuels to generate energy for our As a country, we consume 25 percent of the world’s en-
and efficiency only
buildings, transportation systems, and industries is
the single greatest source of climate-changing green-
ergy while comprising just 5 percent of its population.
According to the Brookings Institution, carbon emis-
go so far; for more
house gas emissions. Fossil fuels—notably coal and
oil—also despoil our waters with acid rain and pollute
sions nationwide have increased by almost 1 percent
each year since 1980, with emissions from the residen- sustainable solutions,
our air in ways that can cause serious health problems. tial, commercial, and transportation sectors increasing
In addition, their supplies are limited and in the case
of oil—the most commonly used fossil fuel—largely
by more than 25 percent over the last 25 years. We are
an energy-hungry country with an unsustainable ad-
we need to vigorously
imported, leaving us vulnerable to price spikes, erratic
supplies, and shifting political dynamics. Yet fossil fuels
diction to fossil fuels.
pursue measures and
remain our primary source of energy in the U.S.
policies to replace fossil
fuels with renewable
sources of energy.
Regional Trends
Statewide, our energy numbers In fact, according to a Brookings stripping, reduced travel, cluding a virtual tool for pin-
are better than the national fig- Institution report, as emissions lights-off practices, etc. pointing energy-saving measures
ures, with 76 percent of our en- from residential, commercial, and In offices, plug-in equipment room by room—to facilitate en-
ergy coming from fossil fuels transportation sectors have gone accounts for more than 20 ergy savings for both homeown-
versus 86 percent nationally and, up, emissions from the industrial percent of total electric ers and businesses.
because of the abundance of hy- sector have gone down due to usage, which could be
droelectric power, a greater per- the shift from energy-intensive reduced by turning off Several Central New York munici-
cent of our energy is generated manufacturing to a service and computers at night and palities have already begun taking
from renewable sources. New knowledge economy. As a result, unplugging appliances. steps to reduce their energy con-
York State’s per capita energy “(c)onsumers are increasingly the sumption. The Central New York
consumption is among the lowest driving force of domestic energy + Adoption of energy-efficient Regional Planning and Develop-
in the country, due to New York consumption and carbon emis- technologies—compact ment Board (CNY RPDB), through
City’s public transit system and sions,” the report states. fluorescent lights, LEDs, its Energy Management program,
a greener mix of power that in- Energy Star appliances, and is currently assisting DeWitt, Os-
cludes hydro and natural gas. So how do we best pursue sus- other green technologies wego, and Oswego County in per-
tainable energy practices? The forming a baseline energy inven-
Homes and commercial buildings New York State Energy Research + Use of renewable energy tory of government operations
account for nearly 40 percent of and Development Authority (NY- sources—wind, hydro, solar, and identifying NYSERDA pro-
total U.S. energy consumption SERDA) recommends, in order of and biomass, among others grams that can help them reduce
and 39 percent of carbon dioxide preference: their energy use.
emissions, through heating and The U.S. EPA and Energy Star web
cooling, lighting, and operating + Conservation—through sites offer a variety of resources Syracuse uses a mix of renewable
appliances, among other factors. building insulation, weather in all three of these areas—in- energy to power City Hall and also

Energy 27
FACT has installed energy-efficient as Madison or Oswego County, payback period for residential
street lighting and traffic signals. opportunities do exist. One such and commercial PV systems.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, solar re-
Municipal buildings have been possibility is creation of “com-
sources in Central New York are adequate for
retrofitted with energy-efficient munity wind power” projects. Other renewable energy sources
supplementing electrical consumption. In
fact when, corrected for our longer days in equipment; facilities have un- Community wind power, in and alternative fuels
the summer months, Central New York’s so- dergone comprehensive energy which operations may be owned that hold potential:
lar resource rivals areas in the southern U.S. audits; and monitoring and by residents, are an option for
control measures have areas that are too small to make + Biomass—organic matter
been implemented. large-scale projects cost effective used to produce biofuels
but could support small clusters and biopower. SUNY
In recent years, Onondaga Coun- of five to 10 industrial-size tur- ESF is on the cutting edge

Photovoltaic Solar Resources ty has retrofitted 13 county facili-

ties with energy efficient lighting
bines. Community wind farms
are already in operation in the

of research with willow
shrub plantations.
and improved district heating/ Midwest and in Europe, and a
cooling at its downtown facili- feasibility study for such a proj- + Biogas —energy obtained
ties and HVAC systems at vari- ect is under way in Fabius, with from manure and landfill
ous locations, among other funding from a U.S. Department waste. This is particularly
measures. It also anticipates of Agriculture Rural Business En- feasible among farmers
using an Energy Efficiency and terprise Grant. The Sodus School collaborating regionally, as in
Conservation Block Grant un- District last year won voter ap- Cayuga County.
der the federal stimulus pro- proval to erect a single turbine to
gram to follow up on or initiate help power its school campus. + Bioenergy—use of
additional energy underutilized forests,
performance measures. Solar power is another option for timberland and cropland to
Central New York business own- produce grasses or willow
But energy conservation and ef- ers, residents, and municipali- for electricity.
ficiency only go so far; for more ties. While the cost is still greater
sustainable solutions, we need than the cost of wind power, pho- + Biodiesel—made from
to vigorously pursue measures tovoltaic (PV), or solar electric, vegetable oil or animal fats,
and policies to replace fossil fu- systems currently outnumber and already in use on many
els with renewable sources of small-wind systems primarily farms. The process has
energy. Residential and business because of planning and zoning been implemented by
tax credits are already in place regulations that make wind pow- SUNY ESF students.
as incentives for promoting use er more difficult to pursue. With
of renewable energy, including NYSERDA incentives, 30 percent While the costs of installing al-
wind, solar, and biofuels. federal tax credit, 25 percent ternative energy technologies
kWh/m2/Day New York State tax credit, sales remains relatively high, New
NYSERDA reports that 2009 tax exemption, and the option York State last fall attempted to
.8 6.0 5.0 4.0 3.0 .2
>6 >2 was a record year for the wind for municipalities to exempt so- address that issue by passing the
power industry, and while On- lar electric equipment from lo- Property Assessed Clean Energy,
ondaga County does not hold cal sales and property taxes, it or PACE, bill (A 4004 /S.66004-
map source: NREL, National Renewable Energy Laboratory the same potential in this area is possible to greatly reduce the A). The legislation eliminates the

28 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

up-front cost of alternative tech-
nology or energy efficiency proj- GREEN ENERGY
ects by allowing property owners
to pay for the improvements over
15 to 20 years through an increase
in their property taxes. Currently, + Conservation. + Protect and Promote Access to
the enabling legislation only al- Alternatives.
lows municipalities to use federal While the adoption of energy-efficient technolo-
funds to establish PACE programs, We urge municipalities to protect the rights of en-
gies and the use of renewable should be pursued,
but there is no bill that would al- ergy customers to pursue options such as wind or
low local governments to finance
reducing energy consumption through less vehicle
travel, more building insulation, and lights-off and solar power. Municipalities, through zoning, plan-
the programs through local bond
equipment shut-off should still be a primary goal. ning policy, sales and property tax exemptions, and
financing mechanisms. NYSERDA
is establishing a pilot program to other means, must do everything they can to en-
assist municipalities in setting up + Purchase Green Power. courage—not discourage—access and availability
to “green” energy. Models in which alternative en-
alternative financing mechanisms.
ergy companies develop solar or wind projects for
We applaud the City of Syracuse for choosing to
Sustainable energy measures pro- public or private customers should be investigated
power City Hall with a mix of renewable energy,
moting conservation, efficiency, and piloted here. And access to alternative energy
and replacement of fossil fuels
and we urge other municipalities to follow that ex-
sources – biofuel refueling stations, electric vehicle
with renewables are critical to our ample. Residents and businesses, too, can opt for
recharging stations – will be critical to the early and
efforts to address climate change, “green” energy. As more homeowners, businesses,
successful adoption of new technologies here.
stabilize energy costs, and assure and municipalities select renewable energies to
an ongoing supply. In the process, heat and power their homes and buildings, costs for
they have the potential to create these alternative fuels will decrease, bringing them
regionally based, diversified en- more in line with fossil fuels but without the harm-
ergy systems that are both good ful, and costly, ramifications.
for the environment and good for
the local economy. Entities such
as CNY RPDB Energy Manage-
ment Program, NYSERDA and the
Clean Tech Center will be critical
to growing green industry here. In
an effort to move our city, county,
and local municipalities toward all
of those goals, we offer the follow-
ing recommendations:

Energy 29
A green roof is a roof of a building that is par-
tially or completely covered with vegetation
and a growing medium, planted over a wa-
terproofing membrane. It may also include
additional layers such as a root barrier and
drainage and irrigation systems. Also known
as “living roofs”, green roofs serve several
purposes for a building, such as absorbing
rainwater, providing insulation, creating a
habitat for wildlife, and helping to lower ur-
ban air temperatures and combat the heat
island effect. There are two types of green
roofs: intensive roofs, which are thicker and
can support a wider variety of plants but are
heavier and require more maintenance, and
extensive roofs, which are covered in a light
layer of vegetation and are lighter than an
intensive green roof.

Green Building

photo: Syracuse Center of Excellence Green Roof

GREEN BUILDING Green Building Resources
Green building programs establish volun-
tary guidelines, mandates, or incentives for
The construction, heating, cooling, and powering of build- + Generate opportunities for green-collar jobs promoting green/sustainable building prac-
ings—residential and commercial—accounts for nearly + Reduce energy and water costs tices. Of those municipalities that have green
one-half of all greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S. With + Reduce waste building policies, more than 90 percent follow
that fact in mind, cities and counties across the country + Increase market value standards set by the U.S. Green Building Coun-
are taking steps to reduce emissions, and significantly cut + Create healthier, higher quality indoor environments cil’s Leadership in Environmental and Energy
energy and operating costs of their buildings, by establish- Design (LEED) voluntary certification system.
ing green building policies for municipal buildings and, in Green building programs at the municipal level are catch- LEED standards ensure that buildings are de-
some more progressive areas, for commercial and residen- ing on in a big way, increasing by 50 percent over the last signed, built, and maintained in ways that
tial buildings as well. three years. Twenty-four of the 25 largest metropolitan re- minimize their environmental impact and are
gions in the country have green policies for their center healthier places for their occupants, whether
Green buildings, like so many features of sustainability, cities, and surveys by The American Institute of Architects homeowners, employees, or schoolchildren.
generate numerous benefits. They not only contribute to (AIA) show that at least 138 of U.S. cities with populations Projects are awarded points based on various
the future well-being of the planet; they also: of 50,000 or more already have or are currently developing criteria—siting and impact on ecosystem, wa-
green building mandates. ter and energy efficiency, and indoor air qual-
ity, among other factors. How well a project
meets those criteria determines its level of
certification: LEED-Certified, Silver, Gold, or
Platinum. (For specifics on this program and its
As part of its early embrace of ondaga County does not have a Platinum-certified buildings. certification process, go to
sustainability objectives, the City green-building policy yet, its En-
of Syracuse in 2007 became one vironmental Sustainability Advi- While municipalities most com- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
of the first cities in the state to sory Committee is in the process monly establish green building Energy Star program also offers resources and
adopt green building standards of developing such a policy. It mandates for new construction, guidelines for individuals interested in build-
for all new construction and ma- also has installed various roofs the LEED certification process ing an energy-efficient home or commercial
building. The program uses proven technolo-
jor renovations of city-owned on the county penitentiary to can be applied to any part of a
gies and advanced building techniques for
municipal buildings. The law re- test energy efficiency and storm building’s life cycle. In fact, while construction, and homes that successfully
quires that all major renovations water runoff features. setting green building standards meet high energy-efficiency standards on final
and new construction of public for new municipal construction evaluation receive Energy Star certification.
buildings meet, at minimum, ba- In addition the Onondaga County is certainly a step forward, ap-
sic LEED certification standards, Industrial Development Agency plying them to retrofit existing
and Silver certification standards has established a Green PILOT buildings generates far greater
whenever possible. The majority Tax Credit Program to encour- benefits, since the number of
of other cities that have green- age businesses throughout On- existing buildings is far greater
building mandates also strive for ondaga County to pursue LEED than the number of new build-
Silver-level certification. certification for new construc- ings constructed in any given
tion projects. For projects that year. Further, construction it-
Counties also are getting into the qualify, the credit reduces prop- self—even of a green build-
act. Among the top 200 counties erty taxes based on the level of ing—creates significant carbon
in the country by population, LEED certification achieved. The emissions. Green building con-
the AIA reports that 48 have or credit ranges from 4.8 percent of sultants note that some of the
are currently developing green the building cost for basic cer- most cost-effective ways to cut
building mandates. While On- tification up to 15.6 percent for building emissions—improving

Green Building 31
insulation, lighting, air-condition- In spite of occasional criticism resulting in lower operating costs. + Tax incentives
ing, and water heating—are often among builders that green building + Bonus density for developers
done as building retrofits. mandates would prove too costly, The International Code Council + Expedited permitting
LEED certification, even at the Silver (ICC), which is the source of the + Permit fee waivers
Some municipalities are going be- level, is not hard or terribly costly to building codes adopted in New York + Subsidized LEED fees
yond building mandates for their achieve. Much of it has already be- State, has developed a “Green Con- + Energy-efficiency block grants
own properties and establishing come standard because it has been struction Code.” The 2010 Public + Revolving loan funds for
them for private construction as recognized to just make good busi- Version of that code currently is be- green projects
well. A survey by Living Cities, a ness sense. According to research ing reviewed and in some cases ad-
global collaborative of philanthrop- done by the USGBC, basic LEED opted by localities. The final version We are encouraged by the steps
ic foundations and financial insti- certification typically adds little or is expected to be available in 2011 Syracuse and Onondaga County
tutions, found that one in four of nothing to common construction and incorporated into the full “fam- government already have taken to-
the country’s 40 largest cities have costs, and while the highest level ily” of codes in the 2012 edition. ward establishing green building
established green building man- of certification—LEED Platinum— mandates for municipal buildings.
dates for private construction. That might increase initial costs by 10 Aside from mandating green build- But, given the substantial impact
same report found that nearly half percent to 12 percent, that expendi- ing standards, cities have employed buildings have on our environment
of those cities have programs sub- ture is typically more than recouped a variety of incentives to encourage and well-being, we would like to see
sidizing insulation, energy-efficient by the 30 percent to 60 percent im- green building, including: more. We offer the
appliances, and weatherization. provement in building performance, following recommendations:


+ Support Green Construction We urge local elected and appointed leaders
to establish green building requirements for
maintenance of their buildings. We also en-
courage building owners to pursue certifica-
Code. all existing and new buildings and facilities tion under LEED for Existing Buildings:
owned or operated by Central New York local Operations and Maintenance.
We recommend that New York State support government agencies in each of the towns,
the adoption of the ICC’s emerging Green
Construction Code at the state level as soon
villages, school districts, etc. In addition to + New Construction and
the environmental and health benefits, green Major Renovation:
as possible. buildings also promote fiscal responsibility of
public funds. We urge local government leaders to pass
+ Municipal/Government legislation that requires building owners,
Buildings: + Existing Buildings: designers (architects, engineers, etc.) and
constructors to meet minimum standards of
In order to maintain their credibility and dem- Because existing buildings comprise such a green construction and renovation, as set out
onstrate the importance of green building, lo- substantial portion of our building stock, we by such national programs as the U.S. Green
cal governments need to lead the way—and, see a particular need for outreach and educa- Building Council’s LEED certification standards
in fact, they already are in many cities and mu- tion in that area. We urge local organizations the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
nicipalities. The City of Syracuse already has a involved in green and sustainable building op- Energy Star Program. The Energy Star web site
green building policy, and county leaders are erations and maintenance to encourage, and ( offers a wealth of resources
considering one as well. Such leadership sets provide the necessary education for, building and information on how homeowners, build-
an example for others and responds to pub- owners and operators to follow green and ers, and businesses can make their homes or
lic demand for environmental responsibility. sustainable principles in the operation and

32 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

Snapshot: Green Building—
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Since the election of George Heartwell as its part-time throughout the city. Office furniture manufacturers fellow mayors from cities and small towns across the
mayor in 2004, Grand Rapids, Michigan, has embraced Herman Miller and Steelcase both have LEED-certified country at a green-building conference that same year:
sustainability in a number of ways. But Heartwell’s lead- buildings, and the retired chairman of Steelcase gave
ership in the area of green building, in particular, has po- $20 million for construction of the LEED-Gold certified
sitioned the former Rust Belt city as a national model in Grand Rapids Art Museum, the world’s first art museum “If it can happen in Grand Rapids, it can happen
sustainable building practices. With more LEED-certified to earn LEED certification. Among the city’s many other anywhere. The culture of a place can change, and
buildings per capita than any other city in the country, LEED-certified buildings are a hotel, school and univer- the culture of every place must change. If we do not
Grand Rapids has earned recognition from the United sity buildings, a performing arts center, and a rehabili- become more sustainable, then the future of the
Nations as a center of expertise in sustainability. tated Greek Revival building housing a local nonprofit. United States is grim indeed. If we do not become
more sustainable, then our vision of a world that
The city (pop. 200,000) mandates that all new munici- The city’s embrace of green building and other measures gets progressively better with every generation is it-
pal-owned construction and major renovation (more adhering to sustainability’s triple bottom line has trans- self a vision. If we do not become more sustainable,
than 10,000 square feet and $1 million) meet LEED cer- formed the city into a showcase for sustainable practices then our grandchildren will curse the days we lived
tification standards, and it offers incentives and educa- and generated a surge in economic development as the and the ways we lived. It has to happen. There’s
tion to encourage green building for private commer- formerly industrial city moved to a more knowledge- nothing more important than that.”
cial projects as well. In fact, private manufacturers have based economy. Skeptics were won over, and in 2007,
helped lead the surge in green building development Heartwell was re-elected to a second term. As he told

workplaces substantially more energy effi- property tax incentives or other enticements impacts on the environment, economy, and
cient and monitor energy performance. for private building owners who embrace society. In light of that, we urge local home-
green building practices. builders and remodelers to learn the benefits
Whether new or existing buildings, the fol- of, and practice, green building construction.
lowing specific recommendations apply to + Multi-family Housing: We also urge homeowners themselves to rec-
particular building types: ognize their own responsibility in practicing
Rental units in Central New York collectively good environmental stewardship and to par-
account for a large percentage of households, ticipate in state and local programs for green
+ Commercial Buildings: and the adoption of sustainable building improvements to existing or new homes. By
methods at those sites can have a significant doing so, they will increase their property val-
Commercial, industrial, and institutional impact. We urge local landlords and other ues and make their home more appealing to
buildings represent a large percentage of multi-family housing owners to embrace potential buyers.
the building stock in Central New York and, green building practices. And along with that,
collectively, can make a dramatic difference we urge local government leaders to develop In all of the above cases, regardless of building
in our carbon emissions and sustainability local property tax incentives or other entice- type, the benefits of green building are the
profile. We urge local business and ments to facilitate that effort. same: reductions in operating costs; reduc-
institutional leaders to educate themselves tions in carbon emissions; a healthier work/in-
on the benefits of green buildings and
use green construction methods for all + Single-family Housing: door environment for employees, customers,
and residents; a favorable public image; and
building construction and renovation as increased market value. Progress in each area
well as for the operations and maintenance Single-family homes are the most numerous
can be measured by monitoring reductions in
of existing buildings. We also encourage type of structure in Central New York and ac-
trash, energy expenditures, and sick leave.
local government leaders to develop local count for significant amounts of energy use,
water consumption, waste, and negative

Green Building 33
A rain garden is a garden which takes ad-
vantage of rainfall and stormwater runoff
in its design and plant selection. Usually,
it is a small garden which is designed to
withstand the extremes of moisture and
concentrations of nutrients, particularly
Nitrogen and Phosphorus, that are found
in stormwater runoff. rain gardens are sit-
ed ideally close to the source of the runoff
and serve to slow the stormwater as it trav-
els downhill, giving the stormwater more
time to infiltrate and less opportunity to
gain momentum and erosive power. On
the surface, a rain garden looks like an at-
tractive garden. It may support habitat for
birds and butterflies, it may be a formal
landscape amenity or it may be incorpo-
rated into a larger garden as a border or as
an entry feature.


photo: Tully Street Rain Garden, Amy Samuels, Onondaga Enviornmental Institute

Aging water infrastructure, as well as environmental con- This type of overflow—rainwater mixed with human and
cerns for clean water, is compelling municipalities nation- industrial waste and debris—is a common problem in cit-
wide to focus on water infrastructure. Rainwater flowing ies where aging sewage systems were designed to handle
over roofs, streets and parking lots picks up pollutants both sewage and rainwater. As a growing percentage of
that wind up in our streams and lakes - a major cause of the natural landscape is converted to sidewalks, parking
water pollution in suburban and rural areas. In addition, lots, and streets, preventing rainwater from reaching the
high levels of precipitation, particularly from intensive soil beneath, the volume of flow to these combined sewer
rainstorms and heavy snow melts, can cause serious prob- systems increases, and they are proving inadequate
lems when they overload the combined storm water and to the task.
sewage system and cause untreated overflows to spill into
area bodies of water.

photo: Tully Street Rain Garden

Tougher federal standards will to focus on ways of eliminating or capture, and often One initiative associated with the
soon force municipalities to do a decreasing the effects of combined recycle, rainwater. county’s “Save the Rain” program
better job controlling stormwater sewer overflows on Onondaga is the development of a matching
runoff. New approaches – called Lake and its tributaries. When + It reduces maintenance grant program for green projects
“green infrastructure” – rely on County Executive Joanie Mahoney and treatment costs of gray on public and private properties.
soil, trees and plantings to natu- took office two years ago, she put infrastructure and would Given that green infrastructure of-
rally absorb, store and filter rain- a hold on all new public “gray in- reduce the necessary size of a ten is more costly than traditional
water, allowing it to soak down frastructure” construction proj- new regional treatment and/ infrastructure, these grants are
through the soil and slowly release ects, including a new downtown or storage facility. designed to encourage their use
into the watershed. Some munici- regional treatment facility, in favor by covering the difference in cost,
palities have instituted their own of exploring the feasibility of green + It prevents flooding and we hope developers and oth-
tougher standards. In Philadel- infrastructure solutions. Green in- and erosion. ers take advantage of them.
phia, for example, rules state that frastructure, already popular in
all new buildings must capture the Europe, Seattle, Portland, and nu- + It adds green spaces— Onondaga County has said it
first inch of rain on site, feeding merous other cities, has numerous community or rain cannot adequately treat the is-
grass and trees instead of draining benefits: gardens, urban parks, trees, sue of lake and tributary pollu-
into the sewer. Stormwater fees and other greenery— tion through green infrastructure
based on the size of impervious + It diverts rainwater away from creating recreational alone. However, we are encour-
surfaces, incentivize green roofs storm sewers before it opportunities, increasing aged by its commitment to pursue
and rain gardens. becomes a problem. Rain property values, and those measures in concert with
gardens, porous pavement, contributing to the health traditional gray infrastructure.
The good news locally is that On- trees, planters, green roofs, and vitality of neighborhoods We also offer the following recom-
ondaga County government has cisterns, and rain barrels and communities. mendations (on page 37):
launched a green infrastructure are just some of the green
initiative, titled “Save the Rain,” infrastructure used to

Water Infrastructure 35
Snapshot: Onondaga County Save the Rain Program
Since signing a consent judgment and cost of any future “gray” facili- and social marketing, in addition to green landscape designed to man-
in 1998, in which Onondaga County ties. In addition, the use of green in- its reimbursement program for green age storm water runoff naturally.
agreed to improve its wastewater frastructure will continue to protect infrastructure projects called the Officials also announced plans to
infrastructure and reduce sewage water quality in Onondaga Lake and Green Improvement Fund. construct several large holding tanks
discharges into the Onondaga Lake, its tributaries. to temporarily store runoff from
Onondaga County has completed The Green Improvement Fund offers overflowing sewers. The New York
more than 30 “gray” infrastructure Save the Rain was created by Onon- financial assistance to businesses State Department of Environmental
projects at a cost of more than $300 daga County to educate the public and non-profits to install green infra- Conservation Commissioner Peter
million. These investments have and enhance urban settings by build- structure on their property. The fund Grannis announced, "This can make
produced significant improvements ing and developing green infrastruc- invests in projects including green the Syracuse area one of the national
in Lake water quality. However, On- ture throughout the community. The roofs, bioswales, porous pavement, leaders in the emerging green infra-
ondaga County continues to face campaign aims to raise the public’s rain barrels, cisterns, tree trenches/ structure movement."
water infrastructure needs, leading awareness and understanding of tree planter boxes, and storm water
public officials to the creation of the what they can do to help reduce planters.
Save the Rain campaign. By reducing storm water runoff and improve
the amount of storm water entering the environment. The Save the Rain In December 2009, county officials
sewers during storm events through Campaign includes, a comprehen- announced that more trees, plants
the use of “green infrastructure,” the sive strategy of workshops, trainings, and environmentally friendly solu-
County hopes to reduce the need for demonstration projects, advertising tions will be a large part of the new

photo: Tully Street Rain Garden, Amy Samuels, Onondaga Enviornmental Institute
36 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?
+ Capture Stormwater on-site. + Develop support resources.
Municipalities should adopt new minimum standards To promote such citizen engagement, municipalities
for green infrastructure or low-impact development for should develop resources and supports to assist resi-
all new or developments or redevelopments. dents who are interested in installing green infrastruc-
ture on their properties.
+ Citizen Participation.
+ Rally Support from the Business
City and suburban property owners can play their own
part in protecting water quality and reducing runoff.
Among the actions homeowners and other property
We also urge lawmakers and business leaders to en-
owners can take on their own properties: installing a
courage private developers and the entire business
rain barrel to capture runoff from roofs and gutters and
community to implement green infrastructure as “com-
reuse in the garden; planting a rain garden; using porous
mon” practice in the development and construction of
pavement for patios or other paved areas; and conserv-
new projects.
ing water by watering early mornings or evenings. In
addition, residents should never dispose of household
or yard waste, oil, or other toxic fluids in storm drains,
culverts, or waterways.

Water Infrastructure 37
Over the last decade, municipal leaders across the We commend Syracuse and Onondaga County And while embracing green energy, retrofitting
U.S. and around the world have stepped up to ac- leaders for the efforts they already have made to buildings for energy savings, or expanding our
knowledge that for the health of our planet and the make our communities more sustainable. But we alternative transit options may initially cost more
well-being of future generations, we cannot con- believe more can, and should, be done—by gov- than doing nothing, we would urge skeptics to take
tinue to live without regard to the consequences ernment, the business community, and by resi- the long view. As Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings
of our choices. Those consequences grow increas- dents themselves. We all have a part in this effort, Institution says, sustainability is not simply “a luxury
ingly obvious as we hear daily about the effects of and our elected officials need to know we not only to be funded in flush times and abandoned when
greenhouse gases on our climate; the depletion of support their efforts but are willing to take respon- the economy weakens.” For in spite of sustainabil-
our natural resources; the degradation of our air, sibility for our own role in changing our community ity’s short-term costs, the damage we invite by
water, and natural ecosystems by fossil fuels; and and our culture. doing nothing is incalculable while the long-term
the security risks posed by our reliance gains—financial and otherwise—are profound.
on foreign oil. The task is not without significant challenges, and
some of the most important measures—reining Clearly, sustainability is a sprawling and somewhat
By embracing sustainability and its goals, we not in sprawl, for instance—will require collaboration daunting subject. But it really boils down to what
only protect the environment and our precious across municipal borders. Yet along with those our indigenous neighbors, the Haudenosaunee,
natural resources. We also promote the long-term challenges comes opportunity. Central New York have known all along: For better or for worse, the
vitality of our city and village centers, generate for- is blessed with tremendous natural assets and a choices we make today will determine our qual-
ward-thinking economic opportunity, and protect wealth of technical and educational resources. ity of life for generations yet to come. Now more
and enhance the quality of life for all, now and into Embracing sustainability not only will protect our than ever, we have a moral and practical imperative
the future. natural landscapes; we believe it also has the ca- to acknowledge that wisdom, rethink our choices
pacity to revitalize our city and position it as a cen- while we still can, and embrace our role as respon-
Becoming a sustainable city, county, and region, ter of innovation and leader in the emerging green sible stewards of this planet.
however, requires profound changes in the ways economy. For a city working to reposition itself as
we live, lead, and do business. And while the ben- a thriving regional hub, “going green” is a critical
efits are clear, collectively we are not likely to sum- move in the right direction.
mon the necessary resolve to effect lasting change
without vigorous leadership from our community
leaders and public officials.

38 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

+ Everybody Must Accept Responsibility.
The first step toward achieving a sustainable community is
conserving our natural resources. No matter where one lives or
works, whether public official, private citizen, business person,
or retiree, we all have a role to play, and we are all responsible
for the outcome. We must be mindful of our choices—how we
consume and dispose of goods, where we choose to live, how
we get to work, for example—and recognize that those choices
do have consequences.

Creating a sustainable community also clearly requires a merg-

ing of minds around policies and actions based not on self in-
terest but rather on the collective good. County, city, town, and
village governments, public authorities, and school districts all
must take steps to reverse the practices of the past 50 years and
set a deliberative course toward creating a healthy, sustainable
community. We do that by rethinking the way we design and
maintain our urban centers and neighborhoods; where we lo-
cate our schools, libraries, town halls and parks; and how and
where we build our roads, among other things. In the process,
we not only reduce our carbon footprint and conserve precious
resources; we revitalize our city “core” and other community cen-
ters, which strengthens our entire region.

photo: Children from the Near Westside use the new crosswalks along the Connective Corridor

Conclusion and Overall Recommendation 39

In organizing the work of this Onondaga Citizens League study, the study
committee had a fairly clear understanding of the basic challenges that were
part of such a comprehensive study. The topic alone was wide and varied as
sustainability touches so many potential elements. Passions on this topic run
deep and managing expectations becomes a truly constant task. Measuring
perceptions across a diverse community creates challenges in collecting a
truly representative mix of people.

To this end, the report that you’ve just finished captures the intent of this
grand attempt of measuring local perceptions. And thanks to the work of
numerous individuals, we are pleased to provide a snapshot in time of how
Syracuse stands on the sustainability battlefield. We are also pleased to report
that our work includes pointed comparisons with leading communities in the
sustainability marketplace.

This work is important because it provides a benchmark measurement on

where we are in sustainability practices. It provides solid and sometimes sim-
ple steps for improving our position in each of the selected sustainability cat-
egories. The recommendations also help us embrace a level of accountability
within the public sector, private business and as individual residents within
our community.

In short, the study committee went into this process knowing that our topic
was nearly infinite. Hopefully you will agree that the process we followed
organized this expansive topic and produced a final report that will provide
value and insight for years to come. It might not be easy being green, but at
least we know where we stand.

David Holder & Jason Allers, Study Topic Committee Co-chairs

40 Onondaga Citizens League: What does it mean to be green?

2009 – 2010 OCL Members

OCL Corporate Supporting Members Joseph Ash, Jr. Arthur Fritz Harvey Pearl
Rosamond Gifford Charitable Corporation Harold Avery Edgar Galson Stanfort Perry
Unity Mutual Life Insurance Company S. Jeffrey Bastable Edmund Gendzielewski Eleanor Peterson
Eric Mower & Associates, Inc. Kay Benedict Sgarlata Edward Green Eric and Joanne Pettit
The Community Preservation Corporation Frank Bersani Eileen Hathaway Krell Onetia Pierson
Carrie Berse Irving Hill Arnold Poltenson
Fred Bobenhausen David Holder Paul Predmore
OCL Corporate Basic Members
Hugh Bonner Heidi Holtz David Reed
The Pioneer Companies
Minna Buck Susan Horn Grant Reeher and Kathy Sowards
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
Thomas Buckel, Jr. Virgil Hutchinson, Jr. Wendy Riccelli
Home Aides of CNY
Katherine Byrnes Pam Hyland M. Catherine Richardson
Chris Capella-Peters Stephen Kearney Maryann Roefaro
Wendy Carl Isome Daniel Kelley Beth Rougeux
SUNY Upstate Medical University
Virginia Carmody R. Christopher Kight, Martha Ryan
United Radio Service
Maryann Carrigan Karen Kitney Dene Sarason
Charles Chappell, Jr. Lois Kriesberg Peter Sarver
Le Moyne College
Carol Charles Steven Kulick Marian Schoenheit
CenterState CEO
Helen Clancy Thomas Letham Bernice Schultz
Green & Seifter
Linda Cohen Minchin Lewis Lynn Shepard Scott
Dennis Connors Stan Linhorst Adelaide Silvia
OCL Contributing Member Mary Anne Corasaniti Rebecca Livengood, JoAnne Spoto-Decker
Laurence Bousquet Megan Costa Benjamin Lockwood, Cynthia Stevenson
JoAnn Cucci Betty Lourie, Nan Strickland
OCL Supporting Members George Curry Donald MacLaughlin Edmund Sullivan
Barbara Carranti Ian Cuthill Janet and John Mallan Miriam Swift
Patti Giancola-Knutsen Elizabeth Dailey George Mango Edward and Mary Jane Szczesniak
Karen Hanford Lisa Daly Andrew Maxwell Mark and Harriett Tetley
Marilyn Higgins Sarah Dam Nancy McCarty Merike Treier
Alexander and Charlotte Holstein Betty DeFazio Thomas McKeown Gregg Tripoli
J. Edward Kaish Lance Denno John McCrea Forbes Tuttle
Anthony Malavenda Donna DeSiato Sarah McIlvain Anastasia Urtz
Judy Mower Robert Dewey Sarah Merrick Elaine Walter
Elizabeth Nolan Diane Dwire Maude Morse Sara Wason
Pamela Percival Carol Dwyer John and Nancy Murray Volker Weiss
Vito Sciscioli Hanah Ehrenreich Toby Nadel Paul Welch
Kimberly Scott and Greg Scammell Marion Ervin Walter Neuhauser Carol Wixson
Siegfried Snyder Julia Evans Evan Newell Kathleen Wojslaw
Douglas Sutherland John and Virginia Felleman Margaret Ogden and Timothy Atseff Frank Woolever
OCL Basic Members David Foor Mary Pat Oliker
Kevin Agee Chris Fowler Donna O'Mahony Rohde
Russell Andrews and Linda Henley Craig French Anthony Ortega

Epilogue and Resources 41



Onondaga Citizens League

700 University Avenue, Room 406
Syracuse, NY 13244

Phone: (315) 443-4846

Fax: (315) 443-4410
printed on 100% post consumer processed chlorine free paper For a list of previous studies please visit: