Plans for Interstate 81's viaduct through Syracuse were slowed by a lawsuit that made claims about the plans' effects on residents. An I-81 street sign is pictured here. Photo by Michael Greenlar

The New York State Department of Transportation plans to appeal a judge’s ruling that the state needed to do perform additional reviews before tearing down the Interstate 81 viaduct.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed the appeal Friday, according to court records.

James’ initial filing doesn’t get into arguing the merits of the ruling by Judge Gerard Neri. The attorney general’s office filed the paperwork in New York State Appellate Division’s Fourth District. That court is based in Rochester and covers a 22-county region.

Neri ruled Feb. 14 that the project could largely move forward but that the Department of Transportation needed to perform additional environmental reviews before tearing down the viaduct.

Neri wrote that the state needed to review:

  • Air quality near Interstate 481.
  • Potential effects on water resources.
  • The impact of Micron on traffic.

The lawsuit was filed by Renew 81 for All, a group led by Onondaga County Legislator Charles Garland, former Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler and suburban politicians.

Renew 81 filed its lawsuit in September, a few months after the DOT finalized its plans to replace the I-81 viaduct that runs through Syracuse with a community grid.

The group argued the environmental review performed by the state was incomplete. For projects like the teardown of Interstate 81, the state must conduct environmental reviews that comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

At the time, Lanessa Owens-Chaplin, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Environmental Justice Project said she believed the DOT had done a “robust air quality review.” Owens-Chaplin has advocated for the community grid option.

Neri in his February ruling threw out claims by Renew 81 for All about the project’s impact on the South Side.

Owens-Chaplin called Neri’s decision regarding Micron’s effect on the project a “red herring.” He ruled ruled that size of the Micron project necessitated the state review its impact on traffic on Interstate 81.

Onondaga County Legislator Charles Garland, who championed the lawsuit, called Neri’s ruling a “mutual win.”

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Chris Libonati

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