It started out like any other night for 19-year-old Shawn Miller. He woke up from his nap, slid into his favorite baggy grey hoodie, and rode his stolen low rider bike to the University Hill. But just as he had started creeping behind an unsuspecting college student, he saw it: a blue bench, beckoning him to “sit back and enjoy the University Neighborhood.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Miller sat on that blue bench and realized he was not living the life he wanted to live, and that he needed to make some changes.
“You know, every day I would just walk down the street, living in my own shell, just looking for the next iPhone to steal or unattended laptop to take. Those benches changed the way I looked at everything. I never thought before to just sit down and relax and, you know, enjoy the neighborhood. Now, I can never go back to my old ways,” he said.
Miller is now enrolled at Onondaga Community College and is studying to become an electrical engineer.
But his life isn’t the only who’s been changed for the better. Recent reports indicate that since the installment of the benches, crime rates have shrunk 87 percent. Students have been throwing solo cups and trash into University Hill trashcans. City-wide employment is on the rise.
“I knew this would work,” said Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud.
The city plans to install 500 new benches by the end of the year.