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How will Syracuse stimulate itself?

"I would like to keep ourselves open to working with other municipalities, especially the county," said Councilor Bea Gonzales.

She said these are the worst of times and the best of times.

Let's step back in time

What the stimulus package is to our 21st Century economic crisis, Public Works Money was to the Great Depression. In the interest of using history to our advantage, maybe it would benefit Syracusans to remember how public money was spent the last time around.

One major difference in this new century, though: New Yorkers don't have a Governor-turned-President whose progressive policies could fund public projects in the Syracuse area and create jobs for hurting CNY workers.

According to Dennis Connors, curator of History at the Onondaga Historical Association, that's just what we had going for us in the late 1920s, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was Governor of New York. It was our gain that Roosevelt was compelled to test run what would later become the WPA, under the name Emergency Recovery Act in New York State.

Through the program, the Emergency Work Bureau was created in Onondaga County, which was charged with rooting out shovel-ready projects and putting people to work on the state's dime.

The result were two of Syracuse's most recognizable icons: Onondaga Lake Park and Route 690.

"Those were things that obviously put a fair number of people to work and really had long lasting, transformative impact on the community," Connors said.

Onondaga Lake Parkway

Picture an Onondaga Lake gutted by the salt industry and horribly polluted by local factories, but also bare of public recreation space. That is the Onondaga Lake of the 1930s, a prime target for development through state aid.

The creation of the park itself, along with the Salt Museum, marina and picnic areas, and the Onondaga Lake Parkway on top of the abandoned Oswego Canal were all made possible through state funding. Later, when federal money came through in the form of WPA dollars, the boathouse was erected.

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