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NY Lawmakers Unresponsive to Syracuse’s Plea for Water Main Fixes and Infrastructure Funding

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The city of Syracuse still needs money from New York State, but Mayor Stephanie Miner isn’t backing down.

Miner has been asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo for state funds for months, and in late 2014, she submitted the Syracuse Billion proposal.

Among the expenses that Miner wants to see paid by the state is $726 million for the city’s aging water mains. So far in 2015, the water mains have broken 100 times.

Water problems have especially plagued the city during the winter months, which have been especially cold. Much of that water comes from local reservoirs and groundwater supplies; groundwater itself provides 95% of fresh water for the United States and is the source of drinking water for about half of all Americans.

Up through the beginning of March, more than 100 Syracuse residents found themselves without any water at all, some as long as 11 days.

One resident, Robert Steingraber, had to boil snow in his kitchen to have water to wash his dishes and flush toilets. He also had to shower at a relative’s house in another town.

The problem began for Steingraber when a National Grid crew broke a water main on Feb. 27.

Another resident, Emma Brennan, might have to pay as much as $3,500 herself to repair her water service once it thaws. She was also left without water during the cold temperatures at the end of February.

But so far Cuomo has yet to offer support. After weeks of waiting for a response, Miner received a no from Cuomo on Feb. 4 regarding her plan.

In a visit to Syracuse, Cuomo had a different solution for the city: “Show us how you become economically stronger and create jobs. Then you fix your own pipes.”

Miner and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have criticized the state in a joint statement alleging that Albany lawmakers are underfunding public schools. In Syracuse alone, the state still has not paid $25 million owed to the city school district since 2006.

Local lawmakers, however, hold mixed opinions in the debate between city and state funding. Common Councilor Kathleen Joy sees both sides, but thinks that Miner should use more of Cuomo’s ideas in her repair plans.

“Overall, we need to embrace creating jobs and having an opportunity so if you have a job, [you can] get a better job,” she said. “It’s sustaining jobs so people come here and stay here.”

Common Council President Van Robinson, however, says that the city will still require state assistance in some way, and that problems with the infrastructure go hand in hand with the city’s economic woes. Robinson said that the state should identify the worst problems and then “use whatever means available to attempt to get the money to repair them.”

“It can be done through economic development (too),” he said. “You’ll be building a new city, providing jobs and eventually a taxable piece of property. It all goes hand in glove.”