Hookway Fields nears completion
The Oct. 24 completion date for construction on the Hookway Fields Project draws near, but relations between local residents and Syracuse University remain uneasy.
Though they expressed general approval of the construction’s progress and their protests have waned since the Common Council voted April 21 to approve the property’s zoning change, residents are still closely monitoring SU’s implementation of its revised proposal. Meanwhile, the SU community attempts to be optimistic about the compromises they have made with residents.
‘To my knowledge, construction is on schedule,’ said Jessica Crawford, associate director of SU’s Office of Government and Community Affairs. General Contractor Ballard Construction Inc., has leveled upper Hookway to match the elevation of lower Hookway, erected several 50-foot poles of lighting and planted evergreen trees around the property’s perimeter.
Residents are convinced SU and Ballard will make their deadline.
‘It’s very tailored. The people who carried out the plans are experts,’ said Eunice Atwell of 1240 Westmoreland Ave. ‘It’s very near completion.’
‘It looks nice and neat,’ said Harry Lewis of 935 Lancaster Ave., who has been a resident of the area for 42 years. ‘We hope it’s almost finished. There’s still sidewalk work to be done, but they’ve still got a week.’
Hookway is located in SU’s South Campus neighborhood and is bordered by Buckingham Avenue, East Colvin Street and Westmoreland Avenue. The 45-acre, $1.5-million project will result in five regulation game fields, two of which will be lit and irrigated, and one large multi-use play field. The construction brings many advantages to SU’s Recreation Services as well as the Department of Athletics, but few to the surrounding neighborhood. SU revised its original plan for the project to accommodate some of the residents’ requests.
Before this spring, the underdeveloped Hookway Fields was part of a zone designated Residential A-1 – ‘the best to live in as far as housing is concerned,’ said Lewis, president of the Southeast University Neighborhood Association. ‘[There's a] good quality of houses, no commercialism.’
To move forward with the Hookway Fields Project, SU first needed the approval of the city Planning Commission and then the Common Council. These approvals would lead to the rezoning of Hookway, from RA-1 to Planned Institutional District. The PID zoning forces SU to stick to its original construction plans and get approval from the city Planning Commission and Common Council for any changes.
Residents hope SU will stick to its pledge to continue to let them use a portion of the field.
‘SU says lower Hookway will continue to be available for neighborhood use,’ SEUNA said in its spring newsletter.
The university needs to reinforce more strongly that Hookway is private property, Crawford responded. It is a liability issue right now, and residents must follow protocol to use the fields.
The city is required to notify residents ‘within a 400-foot radius of Hookway’s property line’ of any potential changes in zoning, said Ken Balamut, a planner of the Syracuse Zoning Department. Many residents have noticed several homes for sale within this radius.
Ed Glassberg, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker, represents two estates for sale on the 1500 block of Westmoreland Avenue where it meets East Colvin Street. There is probably not a direct connection between the number of homes for sale and the Hookway construction, he said.
‘But the construction hasn’t helped sales. Buyers are anxious and they don’t know what to expect,’ Glassberg said.
‘Most of those sellers are older folks who have been there since the houses were built and they just wanted to move out,’ Lewis said. ‘It’s a confluence of factors, but sales may pause until everyone sees what’s going on [with Hookway].’
Residents also worry about the spillover for parking. Construction has added a parking lot for 60 cars and bus access to Hookway. Residents are concerned that this may not be enough for all the student-athletes, and that there will be more cars on their residential streets.
‘Most teams will arrive on a bus,’ said Mitch Gartenberg, director of Recreation Services, ‘or their coaches will have them run back to Manley. They won’t each drive up there in their cars.’
Residents are also closely watching the effectiveness of the drainage system. In efforts to limit the flooding of residents’ basements, the revised plan for Hookway details the use of existing drainage patterns to direct storm water away from homes. Last week’s heavy rains allowed the drainage system to prove itself to concerned residents.
‘I talked to residents by lower Hookway,’ Lewis said. ‘There were no flooding problems last week.’
Zoning, parking and drainage system aside, the direction and brightness of the lighting is the main concern of residents and was the hardest aspect of the project to compromise on, Crawford said. SU initially proposed that the stadium lights be extinguished by 10 p.m., but changed it to 8:30 p.m. at residents’ requests. A computerized timer will turn out the lights, which will only come on between April and November. Their brightness will be shielded by covers and diffused by rows of evergreen trees.
‘The lights make it too institutionalized. They look like hell, like giraffes standing in the middle of the desert,’ Lewis said. ‘We’ll call everyone under the sun if those lights aren’t out by 8:30 [p.m].’
‘We worked it out with the neighbors,’ Gartenberg said. ‘Major lighting just wasn’t in the cards for us.’
The new lighting limits will not provide as much playing time and space as he had anticipated. The lights are being placed the middle of the property, even farther than originally planned from the surrounding homes, he said. In addition, there will be no lights in the parking lot.
For the student-athletes who will enjoy the benefits of Hookway Fields, turning out the stadium lights earlier means less time for practice. The lights will be turned off only a couple hours after sunset.
‘Usually, field hockey, lacrosse and soccer wrap up at about 11 p.m.,’ said senior advertising major Becky Marks, a member of the club field hockey team. ‘The whole point of lights is to extend available time.’
Aside from providing a place of play for SU student-athletes, the Hookway Fields Project is significant to the financial well-being of the SU Department of Athletics and Recreation Services.
‘This is a moneymaker for SU,’ Lewis said. ‘The fields can be used to hold summer camps for all kinds of sports.’
Improvements on Hookway Fields will positively affect the recruiting of athletes who use the fields, and mainly soccer players, Crawford said.
While tensions remain, it is safe to say they have lessened. Differences aside, both the SU community and permanent residents of the area understand they must work together.
‘We’re getting a good deal,’ Gartenberg said. ‘It’s a fair compromise.’
‘[The PID resolution] is the best way to go,’ Crawford said.
‘It’s the best it can be under the proposed use,’ said Sarah Parsons, president of the Alliance for the Preservation of Neighborhoods. ‘It looks as best as it could.’
Thomas Wolfe is leaving his position as senior vice president and dean of student affairs to become the new president of Iliff School of Theology… Read more »
UPDATED: MAY 15, 4:35 p.m. Syracuse University students will soon see new living options in downtown Syracuse, after a new construction company revamps a vacant… Read more »
THEY'RE BACK: Syracuse pulls off furious comeback win against Yale to return to final four after longest absence since 1979
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Brian Megill sprinted over to Dominic Lamolinara and catapulted into his arms. The game was over. The unthinkable was no longer… Read more »