Cleaning Up Syracuse's Front Doorways
5/24/2007 09:21:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Cross-posted from Cleaning Up Syracuse blog, at Syracuse.com:

The recently released Brookings Institution report refocused attention to the downtown revitalization effort. Sean Kirst's article in yesterday's paper very elegantly summed up the report and how we can move forward:
To change Syracuse - to really change the patterns draining strength from the region - we need to dare to begin thinking in that way. The simple truth is that these big Upstate cities essentially operate like old eight-cylinder Buicks. Reform has usually meant tinkering with the engines, but in the end - no matter what you do - those engines are obsolete.

We need leaders who are ready to start trying out new models, and citizens with the courage to at least contemplate the switch.

Central New York, in many ways, remains a fine place to live, and the Brookings report is right: Syracuse has great potential. But it cannot and will not revive unless we all make a commitment, on some level, to be part of the change.
I hope that this blog will grow to be "part of the change".

Imagine instead of entering downtown Syracuse via corridors of abandoned warehouses, deserted sidewalks, scrub brush, and crumbling walls you were greeted with a welcoming atmosphere, with signs of growth and hope. Where you were met with a proud "Welcome to Syracuse - [enter upbeat motto here]" sign as you came off the exit ramp into downtown. Where sidewalks were lined with lamp posts and trees.

The crumbling and decaying buildings that separate the west side of the city from Tipp Hill and the burbs create not only a physical barrier between two areas of city, but a psychological one as well. I love the hand painted "warehouse district" signs stapled to the telephone poles along West Fayette Street, a sign that there is a spark of pride in that neighborhood - A rally against the destitution that has plagued that area. The city should tap into that energy, and help break down those psychological and physical barriers. Right now West St. is cutting that area off from the vibrant Armory Square area. I am not proposing the city re-route West St., but it certainly could work to make it more pedestrian friendly. How about an elevated cross-walk on Fayette over West? Or widening sidewalks and extending crossing times? How about a similar effort such as down by the Inner Harbor, with new sidewalks, lightposts, and landscaping extending down from SU's Warehouse to South Geddes St.? It has been proposed in the past, but how about letting some of Delavan Art Galleries' finest paint a mural along the sidewalk underneath the train tracks? There are many ways that we could stoke the optimism and growth of Armory beyond its current boundaries, into the Near West Side.

The same could be said for the lack of connection between the North Salina St. area and Hanover Square. The two are separated only by a few blocks. There happens to be a large highway interchange that presents somewhat of a physical barrier, as you must pass underneath the elevated highways to get from one neighborhood to the other. I believe that the barrier is more a mental one than a physical one. That stretch of sidewalk at first glance is a long, lonely and empty one. Just foreboding enough to compute as a distance that should be driven when in fact it is less than 1/2 a mile.

The separation between SU Hill and downtown has been discussed ad nauseum. "Should 81 be torn down?" is a question that I have been hearing since the 1980's. Let's just stipulate that it will not be torn down, and look at other psychological barriers to movement from the University Hill to downtown. I believe that the barrier is much taller than the height of the 81 overpass. How can we encourage people to travel down the hill after SU games, or to head into the city for dinner and drinks, and perhaps take in a concert? I think that we need to encourage a mixed re-development of this area. When I drive down Adams or Harrison, or look on the overhead view from Google Maps, you know what I see? Parking. Tons of parking lots. Oh, and a few buildings. The path from SU Hill to downtown has been designed for the auto, and not the pedestrian.

Lets imagine walking under the 81 overpass, past Harrison Center, to a new row of restaurants, coffee shops, walk-up apartment buildings all on the sidewalk, hiding new parking buildings behind them. The Oncenter hotel, doesn't stand alone, but instead is incorporated to this new "Harrison Square" area. Pedestrians walk from an evening at the Everson, to sip coffee on sidewalk tables. Residents of the renovated Hotel Syracuse Condos spend warm summer evenings walking down to do some window shopping. Now you've given people a reason to walk downtown from the hill. Employees in the Axa towers now have a great spot for lunch. People who live in the Pioneer Homes have a reason to cross Adams St. and the Near Southside can become more incorporated into downtown. 81 doesn't even cross your mind anymore.

Cleaning up Syracuse must go beyond keeping litter off of the roadsides. We must clean up these vital entryways into the downtown area, and encourage the type of growth the Brookings Institution spoke about. Let's treat these three areas (W. Fayette beyond West Street, The Northside-Hanover Square connection, and the newly named "Harrison Square" area) as the welcome mat to downtown. We as a city can overcome both the physical and psychological barriers that stand in our way.

poison.jpgI wrote to my local grocery store - Wegmans - to see how they intended to keep melamine and cyanuric acid tainted food off of store shelves. They tend to be a very proactive store, that prides themselves bringing local products, and had a organic food section prior to it becoming mainstream.

After waiting for several days, I was pleased to get a response to my inquiry today. I have replicated the letter in full, below.

I hope that our readers take the time to write to their supermarkets and groceries to ask them the same question. To me it is unconscionable that these poultry and pork products that may contain poison have been allowed to enter the food stream. I will gladly publish any responses that you get back.

Without further ado, here is their response:

Hello. Thanks for your e-mail. We can certainly understand your concern about the possibility that some products could be implicated in the tainted wheat gluten/pet food recall and thank you for contacting Wegmans. Pardon the length of this e-mail but I think you'll agree there are no short answers and we want to be thorough in responding.

Our food science and quality assurance team have been keeping us up-to-date on this very complex situation almost daily, since the original pet food recall, and will continue to do so as necessary. We pride ourselves on providing concise and accurate information to our customers in a timely manner.

The issue has caught us, and the entire food industry, by surprise. This is the most current information we have about the product(s) in question, but new information becomes available daily. We are monitoring the issue very closely and staying in close contact with our supplier partners.

I'd like to share with you what our suppliers have told us:

Chicken

Mountaire Farms (Wegmans' fresh chicken supplier)

"Mountaire Farms does not directly feed our poultry any wheat gluten, rice protein, or any other high protein ingredient sourced from China. This applies to both the broilers and the breeder stock. We also do not incorporate into any of our poultry diets any of the raw materials from the pet food industry that have been recently contaminated with the identified adulterants."

Murray's (Supplier of Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Chicken)

"Please rest assured that Murray's chickens receive a 100% antibiotic free vegetable diet comprised of corn and soybean meal. The corn used to feed Murray's chickens is grown in Eastern Ohio, South New York and Pennsylvania. The soybean meal is from Iowa. None of the grains used to feed our chickens is ever imported."

Pilgrim's Pride (Wegmans' rotisserie chicken and frozen IQF supplier)

"Pilgrim's Pride's flocks are fed a wholesome mixture of corn, wheat, and soybean meal, all of which are sourced in the United States. Pilgrim's Pride does not import any corn, wheat, wheat gluten, soybean meal or rice ingredients from China."

Perdue

"Our feed formulations are developed by our company nutritionists, and all of the protein ingredients are from the United States. We have standardized quality control procedures for all of our ingredients and finished feeds, and have full-time feed quality control associates in each of our feed mills. In light of recent news stories, we have also begun a program of random sample testing of our feed ingredients to ensure no traces of melamine found....Perdue does not have any chicken flocks in Indiana, nor have any Perdue flocks anywhere been affected."

Wegmans Eggs

Wegmans' own egg laying hens are fed a corn and soybean meal diet. Much of the corn is grown on our farm; the rest is grown locally in New York State. The soybean is sourced domestically. Flaxseed used in the Omega 3 diet is imported from Canada. Wegmans Egg Farm does not import any of the ingredients recently identified in the pet food industry as having been contaminated, nor do we import any feed ingredients from China. This also applies to our breeder stock.

Turkey

Plainville

"Plainville Farms' turkeys are fed a wholesome vegetarian diet consisting of corn, soybean meal, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and oils. No meat, bone meal, animal fats, or wheat glutens are procured or added to our feed. All of our feed is either produced on our own farms or sourced from suppliers with the U.S."

Fish

The only fish carried by Wegmans that is grown in China is (farm-raised, frozen) tilapia. Tilapia does not require as much protein as other species, and we have been assured by our supplier that the protein used is free of the contaminated ingredients recently associated with other recalls. (Wegmans' Director of Seafood Operations Carl Salamone was in China when this story hit the media and got this information directly from our supplier.)

Farmed Raised King Salmon

Taplow Feeds (feed supplier for Creative Salmon, our supplier of farm-raised king salmon) "This letter confirms that none of fish feed supplied to Creative salmon contain any contaminated wheat gluten." The only wheat products used in the feed formulation are from Canada and are certified organic.

Frozen Salmon

Aquagold Seafood (supplier of frozen salmon)

"Cultivos Marinos Chiloe certifies that all the protein sources, including Fish meal, Soy Bean Meal, Wheat Flour, Wheat Mids, Corn Starch, Gluten Meal, Shrimp meal, Feather Meal and Fish Oil, that we use in our Salmon feed production, are not purchased from Chinese suppliers.

In response to the recent Melamine events, we are implementing a testing and monitoring program to ensure that our feed supply does not contain Melamine." (Wegmans clarified the last sentence. It means that they are confident with their current feed. But since they've never had to test for melamine in the past, they are now implementing additional testing and monitoring procedures to ensure that there won't be a problem in the future.)

Fresh Farm-Raised Atlantic Salmon

EWOS Canada Limited (this company owns MainStream, supplier of farmed Atlantic salmon, and produces and supplies its own feed) "EWOS Canada Limited does not and has not used wheat gluten as an ingredient in the feeds we have supplied to you [Wegmans]. As such, there is no exposure to the issue of contamination of melamine coming from wheat gluten originating from China."

Hogs

(It's been reported that pet food contaminated with melamine may have been mixed into the feed supply of a limited population of pigs in California, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Utah, and possibly Ohio. None of the pigs entered the food supply.)

Hormel (Wegmans' supplier of fresh pork)

"The purpose of this letter is to assure you that none of the hogs used by Hormel Foods Corporation are raised in any of the locations implicated thus far, and thus, have not been affected by this issue."

Aliments Breton Foods Canada - duBreton Meat(supplier of Food You Feel Good About pork)

"Aliments Breton does not use grain that comes from China in any of its feeds. Aliments Breton never used any grain from China in its feed manufacturing process, (nor) plan to use any. Pigs produced by Breton farms and processed at duBreton Meat are fed by Aliments Breton feeds." (It is forbidden to import into Canada any grain or grain by-product from any country, except for corn, soybean or soy meal. To do so, one needs a Canadian Wheat Agency permit.)

Fresh Mark (supplier of Wegmans' hams)

"We have diligently investigated this issue with various government agencies, our food safety consultants, suppliers, and the American Meat Institute and can confirm no raw materials procured by Fresh Mark were from the population of animals that consumed the contaminated feed."

Cattle

Meyer Natural Angus (supplier of Wegmans FYFGA beef)

"Meyer Natural Angus does not use any wheat gluten and/or rice protein concentrate in any beef feed products."

Bakery Products

Wegmans' Bakeshop

All of the vital wheat gluten used in the production of baked goods is sourced within the U.S.

I hope this helps to answer your questions. We appreciate your feedback and your business. Food Safety is a top priority for Wegmans for both our customers and our employees and their families. We're doing our best to stay on top of this issue and will continue to do so.

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to respond.

Wegmans Consumer Affairs Team

I think that this is a very thorough response, and I am satisfied with it. I am happy to learn where the farms are located that provide the store with their meat too.