About Hawley-Green

Often touted as the LGBTQ neighborhood of Syracuse and named after the intersection of Hawley Avenue and Green Street, this neighborhood takes pride in its diversity. And with newly rehabilitated homes and small businesses popping up, this active — and activist — neighborhood is one to watch.

Main Character

The Passions of Saint Michael

By Eric King

With a home healthcare non-profit, a thriving salon, and a knack for bringing in business to the community, Michael DeSalvo plays a key role in the life of Hawley-Green.

At the Harrison Center next to All Saints Parish in South Syracuse, fluorescent lights on the low ceiling cast a sterile glow on the white dry-wall and cinder block-basement. Folding tables, chairs, and a buffet of vegan food attended by volunteers in chef’s whites fill the space. People share exclamations about the meal being served. “Have you tried the curry soup?” an older woman wearing a pink “pussy” hat asks as she wanders around the room. The crowd of mainly gray haired diners easily easily boasts an average age of 60.

A line builds at the door. But the people aren’t trying to get in — they are headed out. But they also want to talk to Michael DeSalvo, who just finished another successful fundraiser dinner for the Friends of Dorothy House, his home-based service that provides end-of-life care for people with AIDS. At tonight’s dinner, the exiting guests feel more like a church congregation leaving a service and waiting for their turn to chat with the priest and earn his blessing. At 58, DeSalvo, totally bald and goateed, towers over the grandmas that shuffle up to him to say goodbye, leaning over to hug them, his eyes expanding with interest as they share the details of their lives. The comments and the questions come at DeSalvo in rapid fire: I want to do a fundraiser for so-and-so’s liver surgery. Can you draw me a map so I know how to get back here? What is the recipe for the roasted beets? A woman in a jean jacket asks him, “Were you at the march?” It’s late January, just three days after the Women’s March on Washington. “I didn’t go to the march because we cooked. So, I did my part here,” he says. His husband, a chef who caters the fundraisers, cooked for 200 people. 300 showed up. DeSalvo, who is a Catholic worker, tells her, “Everybody got fed, and then we had like six pieces of chicken left over for the people that helped us cook. It was loaves and fishes!”

His home at 212 Wayne St. in Hawley Green works with Hospice of Central New York home care, medical care, and nurse visits, and they depend on donations from the community and fundraisers like these. He and his husband Nick Orth have cared for more than 40 people with AIDS, with some becoming healthy enough under their care to leave. But the Friends of Dorothy House serves as just one of their community efforts. He is a perpetual fixture in the activism and peace movements in Syracuse, members of which make up the majority of the dinner patrons. DeSalvo and Orth provide housing and support for the people who protest the use of military drones at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base and visit them when they are arrested. They also cook and deliver food to charities in Syracuse that help people living in poverty.

DeSalvo says his career in activism and service started in 1986 when he began working with Jail Ministry at a group of Central New York prisons. The first person DeSalvo visited in prison was HIV-positive. In fact, DeSalvo was one of the first people to start HIV support group in prisons. “I was the only one willing to go in and sit with the dying,” he says. DeSalvo describes the conditions as inhumane. “There were points where they were chained to the beds,” he says. After that, he dedicated himself to advocating for people with HIV. “It kind of put me on my path because he came out to me right away that he was positive, and what was going on, how people were being treated,” he says.

A few years later, in 1992, DeSalvo and Orth moved into the house on Wayne Street. Two weeks after moving in, a friend of his asked if he would cut someone’s hair who was living with AIDS and very sick. That friend was Michael Cassler. He lives on Gertrude Street in Hawley-Green, and he used to volunteer in the house. He considers Michael and Nick family. “I was taking care of a friend who was dying. I was basically going to work, going to his house to take care of him, going to my house to take care of stuff, then going to a part-time job,” Cassler says. “I was kind of burned out. It was my first close experience dealing with someone with HIV and AIDS on a personal level.” When DeSalvo arrived at the house, he saw how dire the man’s situation had become. “I saw all the rotting food. He was filthy, ” DeSalvo says. He offered to take the sick man home with him. He said yes, and moved in three weeks later. “So, shit now I have to figure this out,” DeSalvo recalls. “It just was not an ideal thing to do when you just move in with somebody. And the house was worn down, but we did it.”

DeSalvo and Orth have cared for people living with AIDS ever since, regardless of race or religion, free of charge. “Almost anyone can come to our house and be O.K.,” DeSalvo says. He remembers when they started the service in the early ‘90s, they were housing everyone from poor people of color to well known, affluent white people who had lost everything because of HIV. “We thought, this is a neighborhood where it was diverse enough that almost anybody could come, so we liked that about it,” he says, referring to that time as “the days of the dancers and the lawyers” and noting that those days have faded. Now, in 2017, people who have the financial and personal stability to get treatment and take their medicines are doing well independently. “Our house has really changed,” he says.

Their 25 years of service has delivered many unexpected gifts and head-scratching coincidences. For example, when their first guest died, someone showed up unexpectedly to pay his respects. When DeSalvo opened the door, he recognized the first person he had visited in prison. The former inmate and the deceased were friends. Then, four years later, the first person Michael visited in prison would die in his arms.

When he’s not moonlighting as a hospice manager and HIV/AIDS awareness advocate, DeSalvo runs Hairanoia, his salon at 101 Green St. in the Hawley-Green neighborhood. He went to beauty school after growing up on the North Side. “I’m not a transplant,” he says. “I had friends in the neighborhood growing up.” With his home, charity, and business in a two-block radius, DeSalvo demonstrates a tangible investment in the area. But his involvement in the neighborhood doesn’t stop at activism or service; it extends to advocacy for his neighborhood and its businesses. In fact, Hairanoia sits at the center of a commerce bloom in the rapidly revitalizing Hawley Green. In the past eight years, DeSalvo has brought three new businesses to the corner. Laura Serway and Cindy Seymour of Laci’s Tapas bar, located directly across the street at 304 Hawley Ave., moved into the space in 2010 because they knew DeSalvo. “I knew Laura for years and years,” DeSalvo says, adding that she said she wanted to be across from him because he’s “a good anchor.’” But “magnet” more accurately reflects his ability to draw businesses and new residents to the area. “I love connecting people,” he says.
Across from Hairanoia sits Syracuse Soapworks, owned by Rick Reina, who moved his business into the space two years ago after DeSalvo hinted to him that the camera store at 226 Hawley Ave. was about to close. “When the camera guy retired I said, ‘Don’t put it on the market. Let me call a couple people,’” DeSalvo says. “I called the Soapworks guys. They were there in an hour.” Reina credits DeSalvo with much of the neighborhood’s improvement. “He’s very outgoing. I think he was one of the pioneers down here,” Reina says. “The neighborhood was still in pretty rough shape when he came down here.”

Then there’s Thanos Import Market, which moved in next door to Hairanoia last summer after DeSalvo told Joe Carni, a client of his and Thanos’ general manager, that the wine shop next door was leaving, and a space was opening up. Next door to Soapworks on Hawley Avenue is The Bear Garden, where Willard Doswell, an event manager, and Joe Downing, an associate professor at Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music, live and put on cabarets throughout the year for charity causes. Proximity to DeSalvo and his activities sold them on a new home on that block. “We’re very close friends with them, and they wanted to come be in the neighborhood with us,” DeSalvo says.

Before DeSalvo bought Hairanoia in March of 2000, it was an adult video and book store, a place where people bought crack and prostitutes worked out of the back. He tells stories of seeing people in the neighborhood who would walk almost to the corner but then turn around and walk back because they were too scared to go any further. “I came in, and this corner was like abandoned,” DeSalvo recalls, adding that the blight meant few people wanted to live in the neighborhood. “It was pretty bad around this spot. Then I did my thing, and I’m a networker.” Now his salon serves as a visual welcome mat with a bright yellow exterior and well-maintained planter boxes on all the windows. A hand-laid, mosaic tile floor greets patrons in the salon waiting area, which features a huge black-leather sofa, a coffee table filled with foot-high stacks of magazines, a pastry case, a coffee maker, and a humidifier. Photos on the wall show the building’s original use as a pharmacy, but DeSalvo insisted on keeping the original architectural elements (tin ceiling; commanding crown, door, and shoe moldings; light fixtures), which add to the salon’s charm.

DeSalvo’s work also played a role in developing Hawley-Green’s identity as a LGBTQ neighborhood — even though he never saw it as such and pushes back against what he calls “gay gentrification.” Driving through Hawley Green, a newcomer sees rainbow flags that pepper houses, windows, and porches. The owners of Laci’s, Soapworks, and The Bear Garden all identify as gay or lesbian. DeSalvo says gays and lesbians began moving into the area between around 1992 and 1997, and the calls for it to be a gay neighborhood began at that time. “But early on, it was weird, because people didn’t feel like being called ‘the gay neighborhood,’” he says. Since he had lived there for his whole life, he knew the residents of color, the interracial couples, and the diversity of the community, and he had witnessed what happened when gay people came into and gentrified neighborhoods, pushing out people of color and poor people. “I did not want to see that. It was going to be gay gentrification,” he says. And, as Michael points out, the neighborhood could never truly gentrify because of the multiple services and programs such as subsidized housing in the immediate area.

That’s why, when the Syracuse Post Standard published an article that dubbed Hawley Green the “gay neighborhood,” DeSalvo felt frustration and confusion. “They were coming in with the sense of ‘we own this neighborhood now,’” he says. DeSalvo wrote an editorial for the Post Standard countering the idea of labeling the neighborhood, saying that LGBTQ people belong anywhere they want to be, and that Hawley Green wasn’t a gay neighborhood, rather a diverse neighborhood. “If you want to promote the neighborhood, then promote it on the dog-groomer and the dry cleaner, and that it’s close to the university, close to the hospitals. Promote it on that stuff,” he says. He remembers going to a block party during the “gayborhood movement” and being shocked at how white it was. “Where are the people of color? Since when is it only white people,” he asked the neighbors in attendance.

DeSalvo knew that the neighborhood’s strength resided in its diversity. He agreed that the neighborhood struggled with crime and that the people of color and the poor faced considerable challenges, but he thought the new residents were mishandling these issues. “It would just be the white people just bitching at the people,” he says. “Build a relationship with them! The very people you were struggling with are the very people you should be inviting to your party because they’d know you as something other than not being kinder to them.” He says there are still people in the neighborhood who don’t talk to him because of his outspokenness on this issue. He and his husband were not invited to the next block party. “People wouldn’t invite us to things, so I just went to things whether I was invited or not,” he says. “I didn’t give a shit. This is my neighborhood, our neighborhood, and the idea that certain people have power or ownership of it isn’t good.”

And that wasn’t the only time in his history with the neighborhood that he waded into controversy in an effort to strengthen the community. In 2013, the Samaritan Center of Syracuse, which serves meals to those in need, tried to move its operation to the corner of James and Catherine streets, just two blocks north of his salon. “I hated the model,” he says. “It’s like the big-box Walmart-style of soup kitchen, and I think smaller is better.” His wanted the organization to break up their services, add satellite locations, and utilize churches and kitchens on each side of town to make it more accessible. Spreading the outreach seemd key to DeSalvo, who pointed out that those in charge of the decision resided far from the proposed location. “No one on their board lived in the city,” he says. “They were all wealthy, living in the suburbs.” When Michael called their offices, he asked the man on the other end of the line, “Could you put something like this in Dewitt without any dialogue in the neighborhood?” The board member replied, “We don’t look at you as a neighborhood because most people rent.” Then DeSalvo recognized the board member was — they had knew each other as kids — and prodded, “You grew up on the North Side. Why’d you leave? Too tough? Not white enough? Wanted a better school district for you kids?” He asked the board member, “Why are your kids more important than the kids in this neighborhood?”

Other business owners and Hawley-Green residents organized against the the proposed new kitchen. The owners of Laci’s even hired a lawyer and hosted a town-hall meeting that attracted about 40 neighbors who gathered to voice concerns to Samaritan Center board members. “They never expected us to be able to organize the way they did,” DeSalvo says. “And we did organize, and they didn’t come. They were very bitter.” At the meeting, DeSalvo argued that there wasn’t going to be a balance between services in the neighborhood such as federal halfway houses, subsidized housing, and the Syracuse Behavioral Center. He also pointed out that dumping more services into a neighborhood saturated with programs for the poor, addicts, and mentally ill would cause businesses and other community anchors to leave. “The kids in our neighborhood need something other than more poverty,” he says. “They need to see people working, they need to see people picking up litter, painting their building and going to work.”

DeSalvo is critical of organizations that put the neighborhood in jeopardy, but he also takes on individuals — particularly absentee landlords. A few years after opening his salon, DeSalvo began having problems with the people living and hanging around the apartments across from him on Catherine Street. He worried the building was evolving into a drug-dealing and prostitution hub and about the violence and high arrest-rates that followed. DeSalvo blamed slumlords (not tenants) who bought cheap property, ran it into the ground, and then demonstrated no concern for the property or the community. He threatened to take the landlord to court if he didn’t remedy the situation by putting up wiring in front of the building. “What would happen is people would be hanging out up front, then they’d be selling drugs, then they’d be fighting, and then prostitutes would come along,” he says. DeSalvo reached his breaking point when he witnessed one prostitute stab two men in front of the building, and then saw the two men retaliate by hitting her with a brick. “This is where little kids are around,” he adds. When DeSalvo knew there were enough arrests in the building to prompt a nuisance abatement, which forces the property owner to address the problem. WIth that, DeSalvo successfully pressured the landlord to reduce the crime in front of his building.

Although DeSalvo demonstrates a determination and passion in his protection and support of the neighborhood, he arrived here by happenstance. He bought his home, what became the Friends of Dorothy House, from an older Italian woman he knew from the block. “She kept asking me to buy her house,” he remembers. When DeSalvo divorced from his first spouse, he was looking to move. So he called and asked the woman if she still was looking for a buyer. The woman had signed a purchase offer to her grandson, but reversed course and sold it to DeSalvo instead. “She really wanted me to buy the house. And it was weird — her husband’s name was Giuseppe Joseph — and she would say, ‘Oh, I prayed to St. Joseph every day that you would buy my house.’” As DeSalvo points out, St. Joseph is also patron saint of the Catholic worker. “I just think it had nothing to do with me. The house picked me. The universe picked me. It was just going to happen.”


Painted Ladies

By Jackie Frere

The “Painted Ladies” row-house complex was built in 1879 in response to a trolley service running down Howard Street in the Hawley-Green neighborhood. The bright green and blue colors of the Victorian complexes represent the colorist movement during the 1960s in San Francisco and take inspiration from the famous row of California homes with the same name.

Building Profile

A House Divided

By Jackie Frere

This century-old Green Street structure once served as the home of two mayoral rivals and now represents this neighborhood’s revitalization efforts.

A Romanesque Revival duplex home styled with bold, half-round arches and rough, stone walls, stands between the intersection of Howard and Green streets. A historic house in the Hawley-Green neighborhood, it features multiple porches, an oversized dome resting on the roof, and a mixture of small and large half-moon windows that allow natural light to pour into its dining area.

The building at 201-203 Green St. looks like two separate houses thanks to its diverse architectural details and styling, but its vaulted tower joins the two duplexes visually and structurally, connecting the two homes inside. On the right side, 203 features a roomy second-story porch and larger, juniper-green deck leading to the front door. On the left, grey stone encloses 201’s porch. The split identity of the two homes also signals a bit of the building’s place in Syracuse’s political history. In 1895, two rivals in the Syracuse mayoral race — Republican Charles Baldwin and Democrat James McGuire — occupied these two homes at the same time. McGuire won the heated race, and at 27, he became known as the “boy mayor” of Syracuse. He completed his time in office in 1901 and is remembered for paving South Salina Street and pushing for building 38 schools in the city.

That history drew local artist Joan Farrenkopf to the house. In 1975, Farrenkopf, a slender gray-haired, yoga-loving artist, decided to move to Green Street after graduating from Syracuse University with a bachelor of fine arts. She had a mission: revitalize the rundown Hawley-Green community by renovating one home at a time. The young 22-year-old lacked money, help, and experience. “This was a time when Syracuse was in a transition. I saw this neighborhood being restored as a National Historic District, to which everyone said, ‘she’s out of her mind,’” Farrenkopf says. “I said I’m Joan of Ark, I have a name, I have a vision. I believe in the vision.”

Before her work on 201-203 Green St., she bought her house at 209 Green St. She then reached out to the city for tax breaks and funding, third-party donors for resources, and the architectural firm Crawford and Stearns for assistance on each of her projects. “She was out beating the bushes trying to find funding for this because she had none of her own,” says Randy Crawford, founder of Crawford and Stearns. She bought 201 Green St. in 1979 and started her renovation plans soon after. Michael La Flair, director of the Northeast Hawley Development Association (NEHDA), says Farrenkopf, just like her neighbors, inspires change around the small community and plays any role she can in making it better. “It’s everybody lifting up all the ships to whatever extent that they are able to — whether it’s as complex as Joan completing an in-depth rehab [on a house] or somebody sitting on their stoop and when they see suspicious activity, they call the police,” La Flair says.

Farrenkopf renovated 201 Green St. She restored the high wood-beamed ceilings, the pocket doors leading into the three bedrooms, and cleaning the servants’ quarters on the third floor, which still contains the wooden toilet tank and a cistern from more than 50 years ago. Farrenkopf says the two-story stained glass windows, which are the original windows from when the home was first built, are her favorite part. She says that the mortgage that came with 201 Green St. stated if any of the original pieces of stained glass were removed, the house’s payments in their entirety would be due immediately. In fact, the stained glass windows are worth more than the entire home.

Farrenkopf still maintains the property today, and she completed six more renovation projects in the Hawley-Green neighborhood after finishing up 201 Green St. in 1982. The artist is careful and picky about who she allows to lease 201’s two apartments because she spent over a year, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and personal care restoring the home. “We tried extra hard to retain character and historic features of the house,” Crawford says. “At that point it was a pioneering spirit. We’re making progress day by day. Now, I think many people take the neighborhood for granted. At this point it’s an improved neighborhood that has its ups and downs periodically.”



By Jackie Frere

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A Neighborhood Born from Three Villages

The Walton Tract establishes the Village of Syracuse, which is now known as Clinton Square. The success and expansion of the Erie Canal soon after the Tract leads to the development of the Hawley-Green neighborhood. The triangular grid of roads connects three villages, including Lodi and Salina, to create the Hawley-Green area encased by Lodi Street, Burnet Avenue, and James Street.

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Enter the Irish

Almost 2,000 Irish immigrants come to Syracuse from 1848 to 1855 due to the Irish Potato Famine. They make up the first wave of settlers along with German immigrants and native-born white Americans. The common trades among the first homeowners include silversmithing, wagon making, and carpentry as well as music, sculpting, and painting.

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A Wealthy Enclave Emerges

After a heavy turnover in resident occupation, the population of the area, especially north of Green Street, grows wealthier. These new residents include politicians, doctors, and lawyers. South of Green Street live many who work for the wealthier residents in either their businesses or homes. During this shift, much of the original architecture is replaced by more luxurious, victorian styles such as Second Empire and Queen Anne.

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An Association Seeks to Enhance the Community

Monsignor Robert Davern, the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church, creates the Northeast Hawley Development Association Inc. NEHDA continues today with the same goal — enhance the community by encouraging a tight-knit neighborhood with activities, quality housing, and advocacy/support for all areas of life.

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Architecture Earns Recognition

Hawley-Green Street Historic District is placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its mix of mid-to-late 19th-century-style houses built between 1860-1910.

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Cuomo Adds 107 Buildings to National Register

Governor Cuomo adds 107 buildings in the Hawley-Green neighborhood built between 1824 to 1930 to the historic district. This expanded area better represents the diverse neighborhood, with “a variety of economic classes, ethnic heritages, and functions in close proximity,” according to a nomination draft on the New York State Parks website.

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  • 1824
  • 1840
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Soap Opera

By Jackie Frere

Syracuse Soapworks’ creations use organic ingredients, take weeks to make, and come in lavender, sweet grass, and ginger.

Rick Reina, 55, began making soap in the basement of his house in the Syracuse University area more than 10 years ago. The current small business owner made small 25-bar batches of soap with scents like sweet basil, lemon thyme, and cinnamon and sold them for about $3 each. As his wholesale business grew and customers began asking for more and different things such as dog shampoo bars, Reina and his husband Jeremy moved the production process into his parents’ garage for more space to accommodate the increased demand for products. But two years ago, after Syracuse Soapworks’ business increased outside of local Saturday markets, the Reinas decided to move operations to a storefront.

The pair credits longtime customer Michael DeSalvo, who owns Hairanoia salon across the street, with the real-estate tip that led them to the Hawley-Green neighborhood. DeSalvo hinted to the Reinas that the camera store at 226 Hawley Ave. was about to close. So the owners moved Syracuse Soapworks to the new location. The new store offered a short commute and a nice work-life balance — Reina and his husband could live upstairs and run their boutique downstairs.

Soap is Reina’s passion. But he also enjoys running his own company and offering all-natural products to his customers as alternatives to their commercial competitors. His natural recipes use only organic ingredients such as coconut oils, olive oil, and lavender. Reina now makes 50-bar batches, and each batch takes two to three weeks to be mixed, cured, cut, and then placed on the store’s shelves. He says his favorite soap right now is orange lavender, but it changes often, as does the store’s inventory. They switch out scents frequently, depending on the time of year, what sells, and how expensive the ingredients are. Each bar now costs $3.99.

The scents of lavender, sweet grass, and ginger fill the small showroom, which is about the size of a large family room. Syracuse Soapworks’ line of soaps and homemade lotions sit in the left-hand corner of the store, but colorful silk scarves, hand-sculpted mugs and plates, and glass necklaces from other small businesses in Central New York line the walls and overflow the wooden tables in the center of the room. Those items reflect the small-business support shared by shops in the neighborhood. “It’s definitely a welcoming community,” Reina says.

The number of soap bars Syracuse Soapworks sells in a week can range from a couple hundred to a couple thousand depending on their wholesale customers such as the Erie Canal Soap Co. and Thanos Import Market and events in the area. When a wedding party comes in for bridesmaid favors, Reina says he can make up to one hundred bars for a single customer.

But if one scent isn’t in stock at the shop, customers can walk across the street to the Import Market, which sells a small selection of Reina’s soap near the cash register. Thanos Import Market owner Soula Carni says she and her son moved to their 105 Green St. location less than a year ago, and she loves the supportive, small-business community of the neighborhood. “Of course we sell the soap, even though they’re right across the street,” Carni says. “Just like how we sell these Italian cookies made by a woman who brings them in every week. The business community here is so willing to help each other out, which is part of why we moved.”

Three Questions

Chief Growth Officer

By Eric King

As the executive director of the North East Hawley Development Association (NEHDA), Michael LaFlair helps new businesses and underserved homeowners succeed in Hawley-Green.

How would you describe this block?

It’s kind of like a nice little hidden community. We're really close to downtown Syracuse. We're really close to Syracuse University. We're close to the highway access points. We've got restaurants here, grocery stores, and a lot of free activities. We're a 10-minute walk from downtown and a 10-minute walk from Syracuse University. But the great thing, besides the walkability, are two other aspects. One is the diversity. We've got an eclectic mix of young and old, Black and white, gay and straight, owner-occupants, long-time residents, investors, businesses, not-for-profits. People are very involved in the immediate neighborhood and also the surrounding community. And it also has great architecture. It was the first historic district in the city. It’s got well over 50 properties that have been identified as either significantly historic or architecturally significant and eligible for historic status.

What’s your favorite memory here?

It was a couple years ago. One of the things that Laci's does every August is they have a giveback, a moment where I believe they celebrate the anniversary of when they first opened up. They have a big event in their parking lot where all the proceeds will go to a non-profit that is chosen by the community based on a number of Facebook likes. They've got food and wine and some vendors selling their wares. It's always in August so it's a nice summer night, and the sun doesn't set until probably 7:30 or 8 p.m. And I was leaving that event a couple years ago to walk down to my office, which is a block away. The street was just very lively, and that's kind of what I always envisioned a neighborhood city should be like. There were a ton of people out on the streets, and it wasn’t just people wearing suits, it was local residents, it was kids. It's that eclectic mix of people we have down here. And that was when I really saw it coming together and really saw the future that I really wanted to see down here.

What future do you see for this block?

I think it's still growing. We've got a lot of potential. We still have some areas with some challenges that are just starting to be resolved. I tell people — and this can be any neighborhood across the city — the neighborhood didn't have a lot of negative issues overnight. It took many months, many years for things to kind of get to the state they are in now. So, you cannot realistically expect that to change for the better overnight. But, they not only will change, they are changing. We’ve kind of seen that here over the last four years that I've been involved. We've seen the quality of life improve, we've seen a better presence of the police, we've seen more people engage with their community, more volunteers. We've seen businesses not only start up, but stay here and thrive. So, I see nothing but positive momentum for the community going forward.


Northeast Hawley Development Association’s Monthly Town Hall

By Eric King

Listen in on the monthly neighborhood meeting hosted by the Northeast Hawley Development Association (NEHDA). Tonight’s agenda: the rezoning of Syracuse, which could help develop more businesses in the residential-heavy Hawley-Green.


Small Plates, Big Tastes

By Jackie Frere

Laci’s Tapas Bar treats every customer like a regular and offers a homey feel, friendly service, and charming small plates.

With its seal, dark shutters and looming fire-engine-red door, the brick home at 304 Hawley Ave. appears foreboding. But the passersby who take a step inside find Laci’s Tapas Bar, a restaurant fueled by an embracive attitude, welcoming vibe, and delicious food, created to be shared, passed around, and enjoyed at a table of friends.

On a Tuesday evening, the restaurant and bar is fairly empty. A large party of older women sits in the back room laughing throughout their meal. An older man drinks a bottle of white wine — half-priced bottles are the Tuesday special — while rolling his own cigarette at the long wooden bar in the center of the home on the first floor. Jen, a dedicated Laci’s server of more than seven years, leads us through the first floor to a high-top table nestled in the corner of the middle room, with a direct view of the bar. The restaurant is dimly lit with sparkling chandeliers and lamps, and a variety of decorations fill the walls with wooden forks and spoons, humorous quotes about wine, and a large “How to Build Community” poster. These little trinkets look like they could be found a thrift store or Pier One Imports, and it adds to the charm.

Owners and life partners Laura Serway and Cindy Seymour opened Laci’s Tapas in June 2010, earning attention as Syracuse’s first tapas restaurant. Tapas, created in Spain, are small plates filled with delicious finger food. These plates reflect Spanish food culture, which mandates that meals are to be friendly, shared experiences. Laci’s takes this approach and encourages diners to order many bite-sized meals, and share them around the table.

My friend and I ordered Laci’s Chicken Riggies ($8), Baked Sole with Crabmeat and Scallops ($10), the Garlic Chicken Flatbread ($9), and Mac ‘n Cheese Eggrolls ($10). Jen told us that the menu changes seasonally, but favorites like the riggies and egg rolls are permanent fixtures and their bestsellers.

The chicken riggies and garlic flatbread appeared at our table in less than 10 minutes. A perfect amount of Laci’s Luscious Sauce, which is a light, creamy sauce with a spicy kick, covered the rigatoni. The Luscious Sauce is so popular that in November 2015 they started selling $6.99 bottles at local Wegmans stores in Syracuse and online. The riggies dish arrived warm, but as we worked on the rest of our dishes, the pasta turned cold in a matter of minutes. The garlic flatbread was larger than expected for a tapas plate; however, its generous portion failed to compensate for its lack of flavor. The tasteless chicken perched on top of the bread was as dry as cardboard, and the whole dish cried out for some type of sauce to offer a flavor intervention. Even tasting the garlic in the bread proved a challenge to my tastebuds.

But as soon as we started digging into the flatbread, the best dish of the night arrived: the Mac ‘n Cheese Eggrolls. Six perfectly toasted egg rolls stuffed with cheesy mac ‘n cheese filled the dish, which also featured a smoked paprika aioli sauce. The sauce brought a slightly spicy taste to the rolls, and with each stab of my fork, mac ‘n’ cheese poured out onto my plate.

The seafood dish came out last. The sole stuffed with crabmeat and scallops was a little too mushy and overcooked, but the sweet orange sauce helped mask the fish’s texture. Although it was a little overpowering, the sweetness of the sauce helped bring out the flavor of the scallops.

Even though we barely had room left, we ordered a dessert while munching on our sole. A light, fluffy lemon cake finished off a heavy meal filled with different spices and foods. The lemon drizzle on the cake delivered a puckering, sour punch, but the whipped cream and sweet cake created a great balance.

Overall, the friendly atmosphere won our hearts more than the tapas plates themselves. Half of the dishes were delicious, while the other half were lackluster. As we finished our dessert, two regulars walked in and our server immediately sat them at a high-top table, updating them on the latest additions to the menu — two new dishes were added since the duo stopped in last week. The bartender immediately whipped up a White Russian to bring to their table. She didn’t prepare it to one of the older gentleman’s liking, so the salt and pepper haired main walked up to the bar to teach the young women how to “properly” make the drink.

When I come back, I know I’ll be treated like a regular. I just hope Laci’s will be ready with a plate of chicken riggies and a White Russian at my table settled in the back corner.

Block in Stats


Population Density


% Male


% Female


Average Age


Average Household Income ($)


% of Residents BPL
All data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, broken down according to the census tract in which the block is located.