Wittigs a.k.a. Steak & Sundae

This article was posted exactly one year ago. Do we understand any better now the monetary and quality-of-life impact that design and development, good or bad, have on our neighborhood?  It’s time we got very clear about what we want and do not want in Eastwood.

Word on the street has it that in a meeting last night of the Common Council, the idea of demolishing the old Steak & Sundae building at the corner of James and Midler was brought up. Please correct me if I’m wrong (go ahead! down below, in the comments section), but I thought the owner of this property already asked for this and it was turned down because he had no plan for building something else there.

[Editor’s note: corrections will be found in comment section.]

Why is this week any different from that week?  And why would anyone want to reward this person with what he asked for back then? The owner of this property has allowed his building to blight our neighborhood and owes back taxes on it (what happens to you when you owe thousands in back taxes?). He’s been approached a number of times by Stephen Skinner, owner of the Eastwood Plaza, with offers to buy and fix up.

Stephen has spent over $1000 in inspections and drawings, both of which he has shared with me. He has made very serious offers, including the same price that the current owner paid for it when it was still in condition to be rented. Stephen wants to keep the building, rehab it and get a diversity of businesses into it.  He has read the James St. Overlay District Guidelines and has figured out how to follow them and make a profit. So please, don’t anyone tell us it can’t be done.

I have used one of the drawings Stephen supplied to give you an idea of what can be done. Plus an old picture of the same building to do the same thing. Any comments, ideas, suggestions? Please write them in the comment box!

When it was Wittigs - do you remember?
When it was Wittigs - do you remember?
March, 2009
March, 2009
Rough idea of what this might look like
A once-lovely building allowed to decay
A once-beloved spot allowed to decay
Just one possibility for using our built history
Stephen Skinner could make this happen for us (shop selections my own)

There already is adequate parking behind this building.  What would you like to see in this building? What are your thoughts about how to develop the intersection of James and Midler?

11 thoughts on “Wittigs a.k.a. Steak & Sundae”

  1. Given how badly the building’s been vandalized (I believe it was indicated in the P-S that the copper’s all been stolen) I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come down.

    If it were, I would propose that a new building of similar form (perhaps a bit taller) be constructed there, but yielding some of the corner space for the state DOT to properly realign and redo the James/Midler (598/290) interchange. It’s in deplorable condition, and redone the two sides of Midler could actually align and proper turn lanes could be installed.

    You could do such a thing without yielding very much – but such a plan would require demolition of the existing building to make room.

  2. Word on the street is wrong. There was NOT a meeting of the Common Council. There was NOT a meeting to discuss demolition of the Steak & Sunday building. There WAS a meeting between Councilors Denno, Joy and Heagerty, President Gonzalez & with two city officials to discuss the entire corner;Steak & Sunday, Byrne Dairy and “Bowling Alley”. Discussion points were: what do the owners plan for their sites, how can we incorporate the neighbhorhood into the planning process, the importance of complying with the design guidelines, any appetite to come up with a solution that could work for everyone. Mr. Heagerty offered to speak with Mike Muraco, the owner of the Steak & Sunday. I offered to speak with Tino Marcoccia, owner of the bowling alley lot. City administraiton receintly met with Byrne dairy and they have no plans for the site other than to have temporary parking on the site of the burned building. Ms. Gonzalez was to meet with Mary Kay Greeley of the MP&P neighborhood watch group. Kathleen Joy

  3. Thanks so much for the update, Kathleen. All that you do for Eastwood and especially your continued communication with the residents is very much appreciated.

  4. I remember Wittigs – the only place you could get a pistachio flavoured cone – not just the ice cream on the cone but the cone itself – great memories of good ice cream…

    Why are Americans so fixated on bigger is better … faster is better … shopping and taking time strolling and eating and shopping and going home, full of good food and good shopping … that is what life should be all about. Eastwood in my memory is full of slow moving, kid-friendly moments … and neighbourhood. I applaud your efforts and urge you never to give up … and don’t get discouraged. Remember you win some and you lose some, but you never ever stop fighting. Syracuse University is not the only place where you can go six overtimes for a victory!

  5. I truly hope something similar to what Mr. Skinner proposes could be on that site. I also agree with Aaron on the need to have proper turning lanes at that corner. There is adequate parking behind the building, please do not allow parking in front of the building. We want to keep Eastwood walkable.

  6. I am Doug’s wife, the one who submitted the James/Midler intersection to the Post Standard as a part of their “Clean Sweep” program. I want to set the record straight.

    1- It was my initial recommendation to make the entire intersection the focus of the article. The reporter and his intern decided to pare it down to only the Steak and Sundae site. I believe that, because each corner impacts the others, all parties should be brought together to discuss a workable solution.

    2- It was my intention to attempt to start fresh – no more finger pointing, no more blame. We have to have a unified, honest and civil dialogue to one purpose – cleaning up the intersection and develop a plan – both short and long term – that everyone can live with.

    3- If there are any parties who would like to join the effort to revitalize the corner, please let me know. We need people who are willing to work toward a solution. My email address is mksg54@aol.com. When the time comes, we’ll all get together. Right now, there is the pressing issue of the Walgreens signage. One thing at a time.

    I have been unable to attend any meetings regarding this issue as I have recently spend much of my time caring for my older brother. The day I was supposed to meet with Bea Gonzalez was the day of his funeral. If anyone out there is claiming I met with anyone regarding this, they’re mistaken.

    Finally, there is no permit, there is no plan, there is no agreement in place or even contemplated at this time. I have sent emails to a handful of city, county and federal officials in an attempt to start a dialogue. It appears to have worked, because people are talking to each other in an effort to move forward with improving our community.

    Please do not put words in my mouth. This is the very thing that can short circuit any efforts to accomplish anything. Words are powerful. They can do a lot of damage. Everything is negotiable at this point. Any rumors could stop us cold. Please think about what you’re saying before you put it out there. Please don’t destroy it before it gets started.

  7. Thank you for writing in, Mary Kay. It’s refreshing to know that someone has gone to such extraordinary measures to get something done about that corner. I sincerely hope your efforts have some effect on the owners of the properties.

    I have to admit to some confusion because I see no reference in the post nor in the comments to the “Clean Sweep” article. So I’m not sure where anyone is putting words in your mouth. The only reference to you is Kathleen Joy’s in which she acknowledges that you were going to meet with Bea Gonzalez.

    As for meetings with officials, you’ll have to forgive me and others who live in this city if we’re just a tad touchy about being left out of meetings where decisions are made about our neighborhoods. It’s long been known that City Hall historically has made sure that the folks in the neighborhoods don’t get entry to the rooms where the real decisions are made. If this were not the case, you wouldn’t have knowledgeable people like Sean Kirst making reference to “…jittery and reactive officials (who) go into a backroom to let another drug store or fast-food restaurant developer blow away the fabric of some well-loved corner…” Backroom deals have a long and venerable history in the way cities work in this country. Why would Syracuse be any different?

    Do we want it to be different? Of course. Do we want to work together to make it happen? This would not be a public forum if we didn’t. Seeing millions of dollars in tax exemptions for this and special codes concessions for that over and over has, indeed, made me a bit of a cynic. If “starting fresh” means not learning from the mistakes we made in trusting certain people to be transparent about their dealings, then I’ll stick with keeping history in mind. But I can’t be that much of a cynic, having put entire weeks of work into opening up the avenues for communication. Because you’re right – all those corners do impact each other and a lot of dialogue is needed.

  8. Lonnie,
    I heard a rumor that I said the project was ready to go. Since this is a public forum, and rumors can grow faster than crabgrass in my lawn, I wanted to let people know that I said no such thing. The next thing you know, someone will say we have the Eiffel Tower being erected and asking me where’s the crepes?

    All kidding aside, I just wanted to let people know that I don’t know any more. I said my peace in the paper, wished it included the whole corner so we could get the owners of all 3 sites involved, and I called Mike Muraco to see if he had any intention of doing something about his property. He told me his side. I wanted to get people moving about the corner and it worked. It wasn’t my attempt to get my picture in the paper. We have enough of that kind of foolishness. Too many people looking for press and not enough people willing to get their hands dirty.
    Our city officials are talking about it. That’s all I was looking for.

    I told Kathleen the other night that, when she is ready to talk about getting some people together to talk about how we’d like this to look once we have the owner’s agreement to raze the building to call me.

    The reality is, the public can’t be at every meeting where policy and planning is discussed. That’s why we elected our officials. If our elected representatives aren’t acting in our best interests, it is incumbent on us to elect somwoen who will. I truly believe that an ongoing dialogue with the officials we elect keeps them in tune with our feelings regarding our community. This website is a wonderful place to do that. Thank you for all of your hard work to keep this a viable forum.

    Meetings are going to happen without us. Public input is critical and there is a mechanism set up to provide our voice is heard. TNT is part of that mechanism. I have been disappointed in TNT because it has become a place to conceptualize our segments of Eastwood as a whole. While this is an important exercize, I feel too much of our limited monthly time is spent on nailing down the identity of each segment. Real work on more pressing issues – lik eht James/Midler intersection, needs to be done. I didn’t see it happening, so I used our Neighborhood Watch meeting to voice my opinion.

    The meeting on March 16 included Tim Carroll, Dave Michel, Lance Denno, Kathleen Joy and Bea Gonzalez. The idea of greening up a space temporarily was discussed and, out of this meeting, hopefully, will come a proposal to allow the demolition of a blighted building without a building plan as long as a plan is in place to improve the lot with grass/plants, etc. This will keep the fiasco with the former bowling alley site from reoccuring. That helps the whole city and not just Eastwood. I think that’s a good thing.

    The truth is, there are not a lot of people who care enough to actually do something. People have lots to say. But when it comes to doing more than complain, there are actually only a handful of people who are passionate enough to do something about it….and even fewer who don’t care if they get the credit.

    I willl not let this issue drop. We have to get this cleaned up or we’ll be looking at another Butternut Stret.
    mk

  9. Who is footing the bill for the demolition? Though the building is derelict, do we want to sanction demolition as a short-term solution at the taxpayer expense? I am always suspect when someone says “Green Space.” What exactly does that mean? An island of asphalt with a patch of grass? An urban Park? A few shrubs in a grassy area that is filled with gravel?

    Consider looking into a long-term feasible strategy using “infill” as a solution for this site as well as the others and produce a small master plan. If you don’t know what infill development is, consider the following:

    http://www.nemw.org/infillbook.htm

    Finally, I would like to add that the NYSDOT has been recommending roundabouts for troublesome intersections…this would obviously require more land area in terms of eminent domain, but we don’t want to scare people right away, do we? The gateway into the Eastwood Business District should be a “destination” rather than an area to avoid…however, the steady erosion of the of the neighborhood pretty much started with the bowling alley site and the dunkin donuts site (a repeat of the disinvestment that began with the erection of similar single purpose structures on Butternut Street). Unfortunately, you have folks with public adimistration backgrounds doing urban design. This is a rather sad take on an urban neighborhood with so much potential. One last comment, four people in a room does not transparency make nor a successful public involvement program. TNT is simply a huge public gripe session and is not utilized for the purpose and intent it was created for. Again, that is because you have people with public administration…..trying to do urban…..

  10. I had the opportunity to visit Syracuse and particularly Eastwood last summer (June ’08). I grew up in Eastwood, graduated EHS in ’61 and my younger brother, Marty, in ’63. I left the Syracuse area in ’77, so it had been quite a while since I had seen the neighborhood.
    While in HS, I had the opportunity to work at Wittig’s – and to hang out there after school with my friends. The cherry and vanilla cokes, milk shakes to die for, etc. I delivered pizzas for Franks’ Pizza on North Street for a while, too. That was a time when parents felt they could let their kids walk around without worry. And kids got into mischief – they’re kids after all – and I was one of them – but it didn’t involve drugs, alcohol, gangs and drugs – because the parents would not stand for it – so take responsibility for your neighborhood, your kids and all of it if you want a nicer neighborhood – if everyone does that it will happen.
    I must say that I enjoyed seeing most of the residential areas just as they were 30 to 40 years ago. I congratulate the residents for keeping their homes in good repair.
    I can’t say the same for some of the other changes, however. I found the condition of the commercial strip along James Street to be appalling. Obviously those property owners do not share the pride in their neighborhood as the residential owners do – and then they wonder why their values and businesses go into the toilet. I do understand how difficult it is for a small business owner to compete with the “big boys”, but I have found that in most cases it has been the small businessman throwing in the towel rather than hunker down and make their business work.
    Typically they don’t hunker down because they are not making huge mid 6 figure profits – duh !! That’s way too much of an expectation, and their predecessors earned a “good living”, but were content to keep it at a “good living”, lived in the neighborhood (not out in Manlius or some other high-end community), drove common cars (Chevys, Fords, etc) rather than BMW’s & Mercedes, and were involved in community affairs constantly and this involvement was not always self-serving.
    Making it easier to get through the community via round-abouts will accomplish just that – people will go through the community rather than shop, eat and relax there. Look at what happened to the many towns that were by-passed by freeways – that is if they are still there. Crossing a normal street is challenging enough – ever try to cross a round-about ??!!
    You may be thinking “What does this guy care, he doesn’t live here any more?” Well, I do care – I have a lot of good memories of the old neighborhood – and I have lived in places where some of the “inovations” for traffic control, etc. have occurred and seen the disastrous results to the community. Many times these “innovtions” or “improvements” are made with no regard for the people who live, work and try to enjoy their neighborhood.
    I encourage each and every one of you to think long and hard about ALL the ramifications of such things to your (our) neighborhood. Anyone who would like to discuss this and other alternatives further with me may do so by sending me an email at frank@frankcoon.com. I truly do still care about good old Eastwood – its people – its businesses – its reputation – its positive impact on so many who grew up there – like me.
    Frank Coon

  11. I remember the Wittigs that was on Westcott St. Terrific pistachio
    ice cream. And the place had a wonderful aroma that I’ve never experienced since. Went there as a kid around 1955. Great Memories !!

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