Darlene Medley leads protesters in a demonstration at her rented property on Pond St. in Syracuse. Photo by Mike Greenlar | The Central Current.

Editor’s Note: As we close out Central Current’s very first year in publication, our team is reflecting on our coverage and the most important stories of 2022.

For one day this week, we’ll highlight each of our three coverage areas — Government & Politics, Justice & Equity, and Arts & Culture — to reflect on some of the best stories we’ve told, and the stories we hope to tell next year.

How do you think we’ve done so far? Have we identified the gaps in local news coverage most in need of more reporting? What did we do well in our first few months of publishing? What could we do better? We would love to hear from you with story ideas and feedback. Send our editorial team an email at newsroom@centralcurrent.org.

Deaths at Onondaga County Jail

At least three people died at the Onondaga County jail in the last year and a half. Two people detained there died by suicide and an infant prematurely born in her mother’s cell also died.

The state’s Commission of Correction urged the Onondaga County Legislature to look into healthcare at the jail because of the death of Angela Peng. She died by suicide at the jail in September 2021. The commission said the care Peng received was “inadequate.”

Women incarcerated with the mother who gave birth at the jail in August said the woman repeatedly said she was going into labor for at least two days before giving birth, but was ignored.

In recent months, the county put the contract for jail healthcare out to bid. Its contract with Proactive Health Care Medicine, which has also gone by NaphCare, ends at the close of the year. 

Tenants struggle with subpar housing conditions

Ericka Johnson on the front steps of her apartment at Brighton Place Townhouses, 508 W. Brighton Ave., Sept. 30, 2022. Photo by Mike Greenlar | Central Current.

More than 4,000 rental properties in Syracuse — nearly half — have open violations of city codes.

And that’s just the one and two-family properties whose owners are required to register with Syracuse’s rental registry. Over the last six months, Central Current reported on two large multi-family apartment complexes in the city, where residents complained of major issues with utilities including heat and water.

At Brighton Place apartments, Ericka Johnson’s two-bedroom apartment was suddenly rendered uninhabitable this fall after a ceiling collapse. Johnson shared how her family has weathered severe mice and cockroach infestations, ill-fitting windows, no heat, and busted doors at the apartment complex.

At Ballantyne apartments, residents have been living without operable heat for weeks.

Shatris Green told contributing reporter Eddie Velazquez how when she goes to sleep, a sense of danger lingers in the back of her mind — as she knows she and other residents have had to resort to unsafe means to heat their homes.

The state of housing in Syracuse will continue to be a big focus for Central Current. Velazquez over the year interviewed city renters, political leaders, landlords, housing advocates, and legal experts to explore some of the city’s biggest issues with rental housing.

As some pandemic-era rental housing regulations expire, Syracuse renters will gradually return to more familiar conditions of tenant living in 2023.

Starbucks unionization effort, closure

Starbucks workers who ran the Armory Square location considered whether to join national movements to unionize under the Starbucks Workers United collective.

More than a dozen “partners” — Starbucks’ designated name for its employees — filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in early June. The group even met with organizers in Buffalo who successfully unionized. But efforts stalled, as a leading organizer quit working at the store.

In October, Starbucks announced it would close the store, citing concerns for the safety of workers and customers.

Safety was one of the many issues raised by workers at the Armory Square in their union campaign. Employees said in their petition they wanted better policies for dealing with unhoused people who come into the store and remain.

Workers also said staffing levels and wages were reasons they considered unionizing.

Detention of child by Syracuse police

What started as a video by a local Syracuse man concerned about police officers’ treatment of a child quickly became a national story.

This spring, Syracuse police detained an 8-year-old boy and accused the boy of stealing a bag of Doritos from a local store. Video from the incident was picked up by morning television shows across the country. 

Then, later in the summer, the 8-year-old was handcuffed by Syracuse police after an incident in Schiller Park.  

The boy’s family and their lawyers sued the city and the police department over its treatment of the boy.

Syracuse Police headquarters on South State Street in downtown Syracuse. Credit: Julie McMahon

Attorney General’s investigation still ongoing

For the first time since the New York State Attorney General’s office announced its investigation into the Syracuse Police Department, some of its work became public.

Central Current interviewed 10 leaders and activists in Syracuse who attended listening sessions with the AG’s office earlier this year. They told the AG’s office of their experiences with the police department and their efforts to hold the department accountable. 

The AG’s office has been investigating the department for at least three years.

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Julie McMahon is editor-in-chief of Central Current. She's lived and worked in Syracuse as a reporter, editor and professor of journalism for more than a decade. Contact Julie at jmcmahon@centralcurrent.org.