CITY: Heritage Park* is a City of Syracuse Project related to the result of over three years of community dialogues and Columbus Circle Action Group Common Ground Recommendations, which called for the reimagination of the current Columbus Circle and the area across Onondaga Street known as the “Powelson site” into a larger heritage and education site that celebrates the resilience to oppression and the contributions of our richly diverse communities.
A MANAGEMENT TEAM will recommend to the Mayor’s Office and is responsible for:
- Landscape Architecture Design & Consultation
- Educational Content Development, Packaging, and Delivery (signage, technology. exhibit components)
- Engineering Design
- Organization and Administration
- Budget Determination
- RFP Development for feature element(s)
- Fund Development Support
- Organization & Administration (meetings, notices, minutes, records, etc.)
- Implementation Management
The Management Team is comprised of:
- Environmental Design and Research (EDR) – Jo Anne Gagliano, for Landscape Architecture Design,
- C&S Engineers – John Trimble, for Engineering Design, and
- Bea Gonzalez: Commission Representative, Facilitator
The Management Team will also work with the City of Syracuse and the Italian American Task Force regarding the interpretation of the existing monument, the potential relocation of removed monument elements, and the potential modification of the remaining monument in order to continue to use the existing monument space as a tribute to our Italian American community.
The Italian American Task Force members are:
- Clelia Ilacqua
- Fr. Fred Manarra
- Nick Petragnani
- Emil Rossi
- Ralph Torillo
- Colleen Zawadzki
*: Working Name
A HERITAGE PARK ADVISORY COMMISSION is responsible for recommending to the Management Team regarding content and ideas/recommendations that will inform the design, as well as a name, for the new park. The Heritage Park Advisory Commission members will bring their expertise to bear in regards to representing Stakeholder Groups for community input, as well as to the fields of history, art, public art, urban planning, engineering, landscape architecture, exhibit development, content development and delivery, education, Cathedral Square neighborhood issues, and downtown development in the process. For the Commission members who represent Stakeholder Groups, their primary responsibility is to gather and edit content from those Stakeholder Groups relative to two specific questions:
- What are the contributions of your community to the Greater Syracuse community?
- What are the obstacles of oppression experienced by your community in Syracuse?
The Heritage Park Advisory Commission will also gather ideas from the community regarding artistic and educational representation in the park.
COMMUNITY: The community can participate through public comment opportunities as they are scheduled or anytime at heritageparksyracuse.org to incorporate the voices of all Stakeholder Groups regarding all oppression experienced, and all contributions made, by their communities.
The Columbus Circle Action Group, after three years of community dialogues, has clearly defined the reimagined space to be a Public Park with a Heritage and Education theme that focuses on acknowledging our community’s history of oppression and recognizing the contributions, to our community, by those who experience(d) oppression. Focus on the Onondaga story and experience is recommended.
In general terms, the Action Group expressed the desire for the park to be aesthetically beautiful, contemplative, and peaceful with a landscape, artwork (“Feature Element”), and an educational component.
In order to fulfill the recommendations of the Columbus Action Group regarding the content to be represented in the new park, the Commission and the Task Force must gather, and accumulate, and edit the input from the Community Stakeholder Groups themselves, and the community at large, so that it can be provided to the Management Team to be represented in the design of the landscape, content development and delivery, and feature elements (including RFP development).
Thanks to technology, the majority of the eventual educational component of Heritage Park* will be available to a wide audience through the use of QR code access, mobile and virtual platforms, and related website and links. Therefore, we will be able to incorporate all Stakeholder Groups, all oppression, and all contributions. Though there will be some educational content delivery on-site, the emphasis of the use of the physical space will be on the establishment of a public park with the themes and content expressed through natural (landscape) and artistic representation.
Only the space as defined above, which includes the existing Columbus Circle (including any potential modifications to the existing monument, as well as landscaping and educational content in the area outside of the perimeter of the existing fountain basin) and the area across Onondaga Street (known as the “Powelson Site”).
Community dialogues over the past three years have confronted the controversy over the Columbus monument in Columbus Circle that began in the early 1990s. Our city is not unlike many other cities across the country that are confronting their histories of oppression and the symbols that many perceive as offensive, regardless of the original intent of the purpose of some of those symbols.
The Common Ground Recommendations (meaning all representatives agreed) from those dialogues called for the removal of the Native Plains bronze faces, and two of the bronze plaques from the existing monument, as well as for the reimagination of the Circle to establish Heritage Park*.
Our city is situated on original Onondaga land, which is in the capitol of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, whose oppression relates directly to the effects of the landfall of Columbus in 1492 through the Doctrine of Discovery, which first appeared here, locally, in the late 16th/early 17th centuries and continues to affect the Onondagas today. Our city also has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of poverty in our Latinx and African American neighborhoods and we are also a large refugee resettlement community. Our community was built on immigrant labor and settlement from all over the world, and many of those populations experienced oppression and also made many contributions to our community. It is important for us, as a community, to acknowledge our history of oppression and to recognize the contributions that these populations have made to our community, and that is the recommendation from the Columbus Action Group, on which this Project is based.
Our city has taken a very intentional, measured, and inclusive approach to the issue. We are not a city who has had its monument torn down by a mob. This is just another step in a process that began a long time ago and is continuing to evolve. This is the logical next step in that evolution regarding the issues at hand.
We have a history of progressive action in our community that fought against slavery and for abolition, freedom of thought and religion, affordable public housing, as well as women’s rights and freedom from British rule. We are the birthplace of democracy in the western hemisphere, and it is time again to be intentional in acknowledging issues that plague many of our marginalized communities, while recognizing the contributions of those communities to our common identity.
The process begins with the vision that has been provided by the Columbus Action Group and we are building on the work that has already been done in the community over the past three years. It is important to keep the Project focused on those specific recommendations and scope. The first task is to gather and condense the content generated by our outreach efforts relative to the two specific issues from the community, and particularly from the Stakeholder Groups, regarding oppression and contributions. The Commission will distribute, accumulate, sort and record the responses.
The community will be asked to provide (in as few words as possible – single words or short phrases) examples of oppression that were/are experienced by their Stakeholder Group. All information provided will be recorded. Similarly, they will be asked to provide words/short phrases that represent the contributions to our community by those Stakeholder Groups, and all of that information will be recorded as well.
People who want to offer their ideas of what they hope to see in the park or what the “Feature Element(s)” should be, or what it should be called, or how the park should/could be used may do so by sending their ideas to the heritage Park Advisory Commission at heritageparksyracuse.org and we will record all of those ideas, and take them into consideration as well.
The Heritage Park Advisory Commission will assemble the content to a final selection of words and short phrases that encapsulate the oppression and contributions for each Stakeholder Group, as well as ideas relevant to design (for landscaping, content packaging and delivery, and Feature Element), and name to recommend to the Management Team.
Stakeholder Groups and Commission representatives will ensure the development of educational content (from “museum” length descriptions/summaries, to more in-depth content like published articles, images, interviews, etc., to links to educational resources for further study and research) from the words/phrases provided by the Commission.
The Management Team, in consideration of Commission input and recommendations, represented by Bea Gonzalez, will develop design concepts specific to Landscape Architecture (EDR), Engineering (C&S), and Educational Content Packaging and Delivery. The Management Team, in collaboration with the Commission, will develop an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the design and fabrication of the Feature Element(s) Work of Art.
The Management Team, in consideration of input and recommendations from the Commission and the Italian American Task Force, will recommend a design for the Feature Element(s), and recommend a final design, as well as a name, for the entire park to the mayor and his team at City Hall for approval.
In consultation with the Management Team, the City of Syracuse will choose the parties to implement the design. The Management Team will supervise and manage the implementation in consultation with the City of Syracuse.
We hope to have the new park proposal developed and to recommend it to the city of Syracuse by the end of December 2021. Subject to any necessary approvals, if all goes well, we hope that Implementation could begin in the Spring of 2022 and be completed by mid-summer (July) 2022 in time for the Arts & Crafts Festival.