The Forgotten

The Hancock Housing area, located near Syracuse's Hancock Airport, has been abandoned for years.

The Hancock Air base in Syracuse, NY used to be the hub of the North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD) northeast operations. The military installation housed thousands of soldiers, and their families, but as time wore on, the need for a NORAD base in Syracuse diminished, and in 1984, the base was shut down.

Although the government has provided tax incentives to increase business activity in the area, only some small industries seem to be calling part of the old air base home. The housing area where the soldiers and their families used to live has been left to rot.

Photo: Jon Davenport
Many of the houses near Hancock Airport are suffering from severe decomposition.

Small businesses, like Mr. C's Hair Styling salon, established in 1978, were dramatically affected when the base was closed. Much of his business came from the families of the soldiers on the base.

Today, he still operates his business in the same location on East Taft Road, but his staff has shrunk. He deals with the eyesore, but said he is disappointed the government never put the abandoned structures to good use.

A chain forbids the entry of vehicles into the old housing complex, but pedestrians can still get in unnoticed. Many neighbors use the quiet area to walk their dogs or exercise.

For those old enough to remember life before the air base closed in 1984, the asbestos-filled houses are a reminder of what used to be a care-free neighborhood. Younger generations, however, know the area as a place where they can escape from the world, evident by the walls covered in graffiti and the empty bottles of beer left behind.

Everyone else seems to have forgotten the place. A spokesperson for the City of Syracuse said they would like to tear down the structures, but do not have the money.

Until the city finds the funding, the buildings will be left to rot away on the other side of the chain link fence.


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