Grand views look into Lincoln Park's future
October 17, 2002
By Dick Case
The park and St. Vincent de Paul Church, which also dates to the 1890s, are landmarks that define a neighborhood that has recently been given the name Lincoln Hill. It takes in about 1,000 households between James Street and Burnet Avenue, east of Teall Avenue.
The neighborhood's one of several to get attention from Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative. Abandoned houses have been demolished - including one next door to Jamie's - and home improvement loans and grants made available. Money also was set aside to build a gazebo in the park near the swimming pool.
There's been a pool in Lincoln since the early years of the 20th century. The modern softball field used to be a ''lakelet'' with a ''recreation house'' next to it that resembled a Japanese pagoda.
Jamie Carmer's been a park neighbor 10 years. Two years ago, he got involved in the Lincoln Hill project as a director of the sector group. He's also chairman of the subcommittee on Lincoln Park, which he'd like to use as a foundation for a park support group.
He's working with Canopy, a new organization of established park friends and leaders of community gardens in the city. Several have reached out to Lincoln, including Miranda Hine, one of the founders of the Thornden Park group, and Melleny Hale, of Friends of Burnet's Promenade in Burnet Park.
''That's what Canopy's about, building support,'' Melleny explains. She led neighbors to clean brush and debris from the 1930s stone and brick walkways and walls on the park's southern side, along Grand Avenue. The Burnets pitched in with Jamie for similar work in Lincoln, which also has walls and walkways constructed by WPA craftsmen.
We took to the Lincoln summit, where the rooftops of the 1900s homes made a picturesque profile along Robinson Street. The park's laced with interesting paths, some of them hidden by brush and weeds.
At the Mather Street overlook, Jamie shows me the hillside neighbors have cleared so far. ''It's labor-intense,'' he says, ''but I enjoy physical work.''
As he sees it, the labor has two outcomes: The park looks much better, inviting visitors to walk, and the safety is notched up. Jamie says security's not a big issue for him in the park, but he knows it is for some.
''I think we can change that,'' he explains. ''But people need to come into the park and help.''
By his measure, Lincoln's underused, both for casual and organized recreation.
''It should be held in high regard. Personally, my goal is to make it a contemplative space but we need to get together and discuss everyone's ideas for the park,'' he said.
We take another path to the top, with St. Vincent's landmark spire almost close enough to touch. Along the south drive, Jamie shows me a section of barrier the city's been fixing for a year.
Aside from the gazebo, Lincoln's not on the list for more work, which Jamie sees as an incentive to organize and ''create a blueprint so the city can see what the neighborhood wants the park to look like.''
He believes it's important for this park and its neighbors to join with others in the city ''to integrate the greenspace we have available to us.''
Marsha Cornell is another park neighbor who's working with Jamie. Two years ago, Marsha - who's here 20 years - got mad about street-corner gangs that wouldn't go away. She helped organize the Transfiguration Church Neighborhood Watch Group that's regarded as the city's largest and most influential.
Sure, crime's been an issue, Marsha explains, but there's more to the watch group: ''It's about getting to know your neighbors. I've made some great friends I didn't have before. We have fun.''
Like Jamie, she sees Lincoln as an asset to the neighborhood. ''It's a beautiful park,'' Marsha says.
She also likes the idea of partnering with other groups and is pleased by how other park activists reached out to help hers.
''I like to think we can all work together,'' Marsha says. ''We are one city.''
Dick Case writes about neighborhoods every Thursday. Reach him at 470-2254, or by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2002 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.