David Haas is the executive director of Sarah’s Guest House. Haas is the owner and creator of the popular Instagram account @SyracuseHistory, which focuses on unlocking the mysteries of and evoking pride in the city of Syracuse. He is also the leader of the Syracuse chapter of the National Stuttering Association, a board member for the Historic Oakwood Cemetery Preservation Association, one of the facilitators for the Eastwood Sector of Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT) and a member of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee. He is a resident of Eastwood in the city of Syracuse.
Were you born and raised in CNY?
Yes, I was born and raised in the city of Syracuse — in the Eastwood neighborhood I continue to call home. I was away during college but didn’t go far. I received my BS from SUNY Oswego and my MS from SUNY Cortland.
Why do you choose to stay and make your home here?
At the time, comfort. I was returning home from school looking to start my career. This is where my family, friends, and past resided. I wanted to be close to them before I decided my next move. As the years marched forward, I knew I wouldn’t leave. I fell in love with my community and saw the impact I could have locally. There is an old oath that notes we should “transmit our city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” I truly believe that we are here to make this place (Syracuse in this example) better for the next generation and I feel compelled to answer that calling.
What does your “good life” look like and how does CNY play a role?
My good life is being surrounded by loved ones and living a life with a purpose. CNY is my home and where I’ve found love and purpose. I’m fairly confident I could be elsewhere and find my niche in another community, but I wouldn’t want to. CNY provides a nourishing upbringing that blends old with new and the opportunity to make a life of your choosing. I’ve settled in the neighborhood I was raised, near the church I was brought up in, with the people who know me best. I want to be somewhere that needs me and I need them — that’s an ideal life and I’m making it happen here.
What do you like most about living here?
Being able to make a difference. Our mayor, Ben Walsh, has stated before that Syracuse is a unique place because one person can truly make a difference here. It is very true. We are a mid-sized city where one individual can pick up a cause and lead a charge/change. I’ve seen it done over and over. If you want to make something happen, come to Syracuse and get started.
What makes CNY different from other places you’ve lived?
I can’t answer that. I’ve spent time [in] and traveled to many different cities, though. I always enjoy observing and learning from other communities and seeing what ideas can be brought back to help Syracuse continue to grow and evolve.
How would you spend a day off in the area?
I’d stop at a local coffee shop and head to Oakwood Cemetery to explore.
Go-to place to eat?
Peppino’s, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, or whatever restaurant is currently in Chadwick’s.
First place you take out-of-town friends or family? Can I use Oakwood Cemetery for more than one answer? Oakwood is a 157-acre cemetery that was established in 1859 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s an absolute must-see — an outdoor museum that is rich in natural resources, cultural and historic heritage.
Fall. Nothing tops September and October in CNY.
Favorite way to take advantage of our beautiful outdoors?
Walking the city streets of Syracuse and enjoying our urban forest.
A place or business you think is underrated or under-discovered?
The entire business district of Eastwood. Walkability and urban living are my favorite pastimes, and nowhere is it blended together better than this area. Eastwood is the largest neighborhood in the city and the houses flow outward from James Street north and south, allowing the opportunity for a thriving business district just steps from our residential area. People travel all over the world to partake in a mixed-use, walkable environment which we already have established in Syracuse. You can live, work, and play all in this very area. We have local bookstores, bars, restaurants and many other unique businesses. We need to continue to increase our density, add a lighting district, install bike lanes, improve our overall infrastructure and get people onto the streets supporting our neighbors.
Favorite memory related to living in CNY?
Almost anything related to my mother. She was given one year to live when I was 13 and passed away when I was 19. She battled cancer in hopes [of seeing] me and my two sisters grow into adults. I look back fondly on outings to Syracuse Chiefs games, the NYS Fair, the Apple Fest and visits to ShoppingTown Mall. These are all events that I continue to cherish and love today because it reminds me of our short time together and her own love for Syracuse.
How would you describe CNY in a few words?
A loyal, loving, locality.
What do you think we take for granted here?
Our architecture. Perhaps because I am blessed to see it firsthand so often, but the beauty in our city is often overlooked and forgotten. I always tell people to go for a walk in our different neighborhoods and look up — you’ll love what you see and learn. Basically, become a tourist in your own city.
Best way to get to know the area better?
Follow @SyracuseHistory on Instagram, of course!
Myth about CNY or Upstate you’d like to dispel?
The way some folks can characterize Syracuse and our neighborhoods in internet forums can be pretty disgusting. We have beautiful diverse neighborhoods here. The majority of the time, when you see someone trashing the area, their opinion is outdated, uninformed and hurtful. I would ask readers to experience Syracuse for themselves and not base a belief on something they read in a comment section.
What do you think people outside of Central New York should know about living here?
We have incredible neighborhood parks — in all different areas of Syracuse. Lincoln Park, Sunnycrest Park, Onondaga Park, Kirk Park, Elmwood Park, Thornden Park, Barry Park, Schiller Park, Burnet Park, Leavenworth Park, etc. They are underutilized and underrated!
You can live your best life in Central New York too!
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