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Syracuse’s volunteer-led Adopt-A-Block is a year-round effort in neighborhoods

By Eric Reinhardt

Date:

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh on June 13 outlined the City’s Adopt-A-Block program while speaking at Washington Square Park at 101 Washington Square on the city’s north side. The program asks for individuals, organizations, schools, and businesses to volunteer to take responsibility for the cleanup of at least two city blocks on a year-round basis. (ERIC REINHARDT / CNYBJ)

SYRACUSE — Adopt-A-Block, a program of the City of Syracuse, has individuals, organizations, schools, and businesses volunteering to take responsibility for the cleanup of at least two city blocks on a year-round basis. 

“This is our fifth year doing Adopt-A-Block to clean up litter and beautify our neighborhoods and save the waterways,” Elizabeth Hradil, constituent services and intergovernmental relations coordinator for the City of Syracuse, said. 

She spoke at a June 13 ceremony at Washington Square Park at 101 Washington Square on the city’s north side.

“As the seasons go in Syracuse, it always tends to be right after the snow melts that we all begin to pay attention to the amount of litter throughout the community,” Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said in his remarks at the event. “We of course have it accumulating throughout the winter and the snow covers it up and then when the snow melts, it’s a rude awakening for all of us.”

Walsh went on to note that Earth Day activities in April involve community cleanups with several groups participating. “And then, unfortunately, many people kind of forget about it.” he added.

The mayor stressed to the gathering that dealing with litter is a year-round problem. The city’s sanitation team, environmental-services division at the Department of Public Works, and grounds crews at the city’s parks are working on it throughout the year, but, as Walsh put it, “It’s not enough.”

“We need everyone’s help,” he noted. “When we all come together, we can achieve amazing things, and that’s what the Adopt-A-Block program is all about.”

The program started in 2018. Similar in nature to Adopt-A-Highway, the city asks community members, neighborhood-block groups, and businesses to adopt a minimum of two blocks somewhere in the city that they commit to keeping clean throughout the year. 

Those involved commit to at least one cleanup per month, weather permitting. 

“Not surprisingly, when we announced the program, the community stepped up in a major way and has continued to step up over the past four years,” Walsh said. 

As of the June 13 announcement, about 140 groups around Syracuse had adopted a minimum of two blocks in every part of the city. Walsh noted that Syracuse has a lot of blocks, representing “a lot of opportunities” to get more people involved.

Volunteer provides insight

Syeisha Byrd, neighborhood resident who also spoke at the event, believes the program is important because “when you look good, you feel good.”

“How often have you gotten dressed in the morning, looked in the mirror, and thought I’m not feeling great in this outfit and you change your clothes,” Byrd said.

It’s the same feeling she gets when she sees garbage outside her home in her neighborhood, so she disposes of it.

Byrd went on to say that the group she leads for Adopt-A-Block got up early on Earth Day this past April and spent three hours cleaning their blocks.

“We laughed. We smiled. We complained when the bags got a little too heavy, but the best part was our neighbors who stopped and said hello and introduced themselves,” Byrd said. The neighbors that came out of their homes to thank us or drove by us, beeping their horns.”

The difference between Earth Day cleanup and Adopt-A-Block is that the City’s program is a year-long commitment. 

“It’s not just a one-and-done,” she added.

Byrd concluded her remarks with a call to action, encouraging people who participate in the program to take pictures and share them on Twitter via #KeepingCuseClean. In its document outlining the Adopt-A-Block program, the city also asks that participants tag its Twitter account @Syracuse1848 if they’re posting photos about their clean-up effort. 

Individuals or groups interested in signing up can do so at syrgov.net/adoptablock or contact Hradil at ehradil@syrgov.net or (315) 448-2489.       

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