Neighbors demand change on Shonnard Street

Shonnard Street and Oswego Street on Syracuse's Near West Side.

It's the middle of the afternoon, and most cars driving down Shonnard Street don't seem to recognize the 30 MPH sign.

"People don't abide by that anymore, they don't care anymore, " Christie VanDuzer said. She's lived on Shonnard St. for four years.

This past May, speeding played a role in the death of a 2-year-old girl. Jameisha Stanford was playing outside when a car jumped the curb, hitting her, her brother and father, but Jameisha didn't survive.

Months later and a memorial remains in place; a constant reminder of what happened that Spring afternoon.

"There's a lot of people that think it should go, " VanDuzer said. "I don't think it should. It should stay there and be a constant reminder of what can happen when people come into a neighborhood that's not theirs, try to take it over, and figure it's their escape route."

It's not just speeding that's plaguing parts of the Near West Side. Some neighbors tell us shootings, robberies and drug deals happen too often. CBS5 found more than 100 reported incidents from 2014-2016, all on Shonnard Street.

St. Lucy's is a beacon of hope in the neighborhood. In the past, the parish provided services for neighborhood families who've lost loved ones to tragedy, including Jameisha's.

"We're in a position where we can do a lot of good for a lot of people and the good stuff that we do isn't going to change the bad stuff that people are living with," St. Lucy's Pastor, Jim Mathews said. "We can help them, it's a band-aid."

Pastor Jim Mathews is in his 26th year with St. Lucy's. He's seen first hand how the neighborhood has changed for the good and the bad.

"You can see the drugs being transferred right on the street, in our parking lot, on our back porch. I see people shooting up right on our back porch," Pastor Mathews said.

Those drug deals lead to more cars using Shonnard Street as an escape route, as Christie VanDuzer puts it. She's raising her six grandchildren on Shonnard Street. Recently, she says she's noticed a lack of police presence in the neighborhood.

"I don't know if maybe they've changed their territories or something like that but we can't blame it on the police, either," VanDuzer said.

The Syracuse Police Department tells CBS5, "Syracuse Police patrol, and routinely respond ,to all types of calls on Shonnard Street and all streets in the city of Syracuse on a daily basis. These traffic complaints range from parking violations, stop sign violations, speeding, and many others."

Now, VanDuzer continues to lead the way in the neighborhood, pushing for a pocket park on her block. Made possible through Syracuse Land Bank, the park would give children a safe place to play. But that's not all the neighborhood needs.

"There's no simple answer. What can be done? , " Pastor Mathews asked. "A whole lot of stuff I suppose. Families need to come together so they will have a good basic unit to raise children."

It will take a city-wide effort, but Shonnard Street remains hopeful for the future.

"I understand it's not the best neighborhood, but there's a lot of decent human beings who live here," VanDuzer said. "We've got to come together."

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