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Syracuse pitches an "international village" to Bloomberg competition

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Hoping to better support its growing immigrant population, Syracuse has put forward a plan to create an "international village" in its north side neighborhood.

Syracuse's idea has been named a finalist in the Mayors Challenge competition, which is run by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's charity organization Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The challenge hopes to pinpoint innovative ideas in urban planning that can be replicated by other cities. The competition was open to any city with a population above 30,000 and organizers say 305 cities put in bids. Syracuse is the only city in New York chosen as one of the 20 finalists. It's competing with the likes of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco for a $5 million grand prize. There will be four $1 million runners-up.

The "international village" will work to bring together non-profits already working with the immigrant and refugee population on the north side, says Syracuse Director of Planning and Sustainability Andrew Maxwell, and also create some new infrastructure, like a small business incubator.

"It’s something that we see as an area of great potential for our city in the short term and the long term," Maxwell says. And at the same time, we want to try to bring more horse power to the things that are already going on."

Immigrants have the potential to boost populations in urban centers struggling to maintain city dwellers. Making sure they succeed can mean more revenue and stronger neighborhoods.

"That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing for the entire community," Maxwell says. "We want to help crystallize that around things that going to provide better opportunities for those individuals, but also new opportunities for the community as a whole and try to improve that neighborhood."

Over the next few weeks Syracuse will put together a more detailed proposal. Winners will be announced in the spring.

Here is a summary of the 20 proposals, from Bloomberg Philanthropies:

Boston, MA: Accelerating student achievement by empowering parents to manage and share information more easily with educators and entrepreneurs, spurring the creation of the next generation of educational tools

Chicago, IL: Building the first open-source analytics platform that identifies real-time patterns for city agencies—allowing decision makers to anticipate problems and craft solutions

Cincinnati, OH: Reducing infant deaths through an intervention that reaches 100% of new mothers

Durham, NC: Creating entrepreneurship hubs in three distressed neighborhoods to generate new solutions and partnerships to strengthen communities

High Point, NC: Adapting evidence-based CeaseFire approach to gang violence to domestic violence reduction

Hillsboro, OR: Integrating public and private suburban transportation options to provide greater choice and access and create a more sustainable community

Houston, TX: Tapping game-changing technology for new “one bin for all” plan that makes recycling easier and captures 75% of all waste

Indianapolis, IN: Ensuring access to a research-based, top-tier education for every child in the city, by creating 30,000 high-quality seats through charter and district partnerships

Knoxville, TN: Eliminating food deserts through a comprehensive local food system that addresses land, farming jobs, processing, transit, sale, and composting

Lafayette, LA: Encouraging community-wide gaming for social good

Lexington, KY: Building a new citizen engagement platform focused on civic problem solving

Milwaukee, WI: Transforming foreclosed properties into community assets that improve public health and spark economic opportunity

Philadelphia, PA: Reimagining the RFP process to better enable civic entrepreneurs to solve city problems

Phoenix, AZ: Customizing smart-energy districts in 15 urban neighborhoods in Phoenix to become “smartest energy city in the world”

Providence, RI: Closing word deficit of children born into low-income households through home visitations and increased vocabulary exposure

Saint Paul, MN: Streamlining online permitting process for residents, developers, and businesses inspired by personal tax preparation software

San Francisco, CA: Promoting workforce development and experience-based training through opportunities to volunteer on city projects

Santa Monica, CA: Becoming first U.S. city to establish a wellbeing index to spur improvements for the entire city

Springfield, OR: Revolutionizing EMS through mobile primary care delivery units

Syracuse, NY: Creating “international village” to attract immigrant (especially refugee) populations and promote development of micro-enterprises

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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