President Joe Biden and Sen. Chuck Schumer motion to the audience near the conclusion of the Micron event at OCC in Syracuse NY on Oct. 27, 2022. Photo by Mike Greenlar | 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.

Micron, the aquarium and the Inner Harbor

Maybe the biggest story of the year is that Micron announced its plans to come to the Syracuse area. The company said it planned to spend $100 billion over the next two-plus decades to build memory chip factories in Clay. 

While the back half of 2022 was brutal for the chip industry — Micron made plans to cut production of memory chips by 20% and pull back on capital spending — demand for memory and chips is expected to bounce back in the coming years. 

Micron’s arrival could have massive ripple effects on housing, job availability, education and transportation. 

The project has local leaders thinking about bus-rapid transit, robust STEM programs at K-12 schools and building out Onondaga Community College’s capacity to train students for careers in advanced manufacturing. 

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said selling Micron on a vision for the county and the Inner Harbor played a role in the company coming to the area. 

McMahon won a war of attrition to get nine votes for a proposed aquarium in the Inner Harbor. Garland traded his vote for housing in the South Side, much to the chagrin of community advocates who asked for the money that will be spent on the aquarium to go toward lead testing and a better public safety net. 

The county executive believes the aquarium will incentivize companies like Cor Development to make good on longtime plans to develop the area. 

Cor presented updated plans to Onondaga County Legislators this year that were similar to its plans from about 10 years ago. They plan to build mixed-use housing in the Inner Harbor. 

The county has a number of redevelopment projects announced in the last year expected to absorb population growth from Micron, including mixed-use developments at Shoppingtown and Great Northern malls. 

Elections

Republican Brandon Williams, candidate for 22nd Congressional District, speaks with reporters on Election Night. Photo by Michelle Gabel | Central Current

If voters needed a reminder that their vote matters, they got several in 2022. New York State Sen. John Mannion beat challenger Rebecca Shiroff in the area’s tightest race. He won by just 10 votes. 

There were other close races too: Toby Shelley, who had run for sheriff three times, finally won in his fourth go at the position. He won by about 3,500 votes in a race that could not be called before mail-in votes were counted. 

Shelley will be the county’s first Democratic sheriff in more than 40 years and has already promised department-wide changes.  

It took the Associated Press a week to call Brandon Williams’ win over Francis Conole in a race in which the candidates were separated by just about 3,500 votes. 

Mannion’s and Rachel May’s wins helped Democrats maintain a supermajority in the New York State Senate. Williams’ win contributed to one of the Republicans’ biggest national wins during election season: The party will be sending its biggest delegation to Congress from New York in 20 years. 

Interstate 81

March for Justice for I-81 demonstrators walk across Adams St. with I=81 in backround, August 14, 2021, photo by Mike Greenlar | Central Current

After more than 10 years of research, New York state finally looked to be in the home stretch of its long-awaited construction on Interstate 81. In April, it announced its decision to take down the 1.4-mile portion of the viaduct that cuts through the city. The state wants to replace it with a community grid that would reknit portions of the South Side and downtown Syracuse with neighborhoods east of the city. 

Eight months later, the project was halted. A lawsuit brought by Renew 81 for all — a group made up by suburban politicians, former Syracuse police chief Frank Fowler and Onondaga County Legislator Charles Garland — challenged the validity of the state reviews of the project. 

The lawsuit claims the teardown will increase traffic and hurt air quality, claims experts and DOT projections don’t agree with. 

Oral arguments on the lawsuit are expected to begin Jan. 12. 

The teardown is a billion-dollar project, one of three the area could see in the next 10 years — the others being Micron’s commitment and the remaking of Syracuse’s public housing. 

Chris Libonati

Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.