Last updated: February 14, 2014 (10 months ago)
Listing created on: January 12, 2013

Bitternut Collective on Otisco St

(Syracuse, New York, United States)

  • Status: Established
  • Formed: 2010  Established: 2013
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Contact Name: Frank Raymond Cetera
  • Phone: 315-308-1372
  • Address:
    717 Otisco St
    Syracuse, New York, 13204
    United States
  • Visitor Process

    Visitors accepted: Yes
    Contact us through or listed contact individuals to arrange for a visit. Walk-ins are welcome, but cannot always be expected to be accommodated if residents are busy with life. Visitors are also encouraged to come to regularly scheduled events for visiting such as our monthly potlucks or Permaculture/Natural Building educational workshops and hands-on work days.

  • Membership Process

    Open to new Members: Yes

Mission Statement:

Ecological Social Justice

Community Description:

The Bitternut Collective (named after the Native American Iroquois word Otisco, or Us-te-ke, meaning “bitter-nut-hickory”) is a 4 bedroom home in Syracuse’s Near West Side (NWS) just off of downtown. Syracuse is a city of 145,000 people, and the NWS is an urban community with high racial, but low economic, diversity – a median income of $25,653 exists in the bottom 3.5% of national zip codes.

The house at 717 Otisco St is a 100-year old renovated Victorian purchased in 2010 for $1 from Home Headquarters (HHQ), a local quasi-governmental/non-profit housing agency. The house had been vacant for 3-4 years at the time of purchase, and required new plumbing, electric, heating, hot water, structural repairs from water and animal damage, and major interior and exterior finish work. For instance, all window glass was broken and would be replaced while preserving the original wooden frames and sills. There was also no front porch, it having rotted away and been demolished by HHQ during holding of the property.

Residents of the Collective live and “act” together, a primary strategy for creating community. Desired shared chores include cooking, shopping, cleaning, trash/recycling, gardening, and other tasks including a spring and fall cleaning day, and a spring and fall gardening day. The grounds are landscaped according to Permaculture principles & design, the original owner Frank Cetera being a local Permaculture educator and designer. The Collective also houses the operations desk/office of The Alchemical Nursery, a non-profit organization working to create “Regenerative Landscapes and Lifestyles” utilizing strategies from the realms of Permaculture, mutual aid, eco-socialism, social justice, & ecovillage philosophies & methodologies.

Natural building & simple living are also strategies being utilized. Heating is currently through electric baseboard heating for instance. Although electric heating is initially more expensive from the supply side, it was chosen because it is less expensive to install, allows zoned control in each room, can be supplied by solar panels in the future, can be secondary/supplementary only when wood burning appliance is installed, and to keep natural gas out of this “Anti-Fracking House”. Other techniques include interior natural clay plastering and homemade paints, hugelkultur garden beds made from downed woody debris, hand finished floors (scraping, sanding, treating with li


  • Adult Members: 4
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Additional Comments: There is one common room that is set aside for spiritual and holistic practices such as yoga, meditation, music/drumming, and chanting.

Social Factors

  • Common Spiritual Practice(s): Eclectic (integrates pieces from many religions)


  • Decision Making: Consensus (everyone agrees)
  • Identified Leader: No
  • Leadership Core Group: Yes
  • Additional Comments: The residents of the Collective are considered the core leadership.

Land and Buildings

  • Housing Provided: Yes, for all or most members.
  • Location: Urban
  • Area: 0.1 acres
  • Land owned by: Individual community member(s)
  • Current number of residences: 1

Labor and Money

  • Shared Income: Members have completely independent finances
  • Shared Expenses: Little or no share of expenses
  • Open to members with existing debt: Yes
  • Required Labor contribution: 0
  • Join Fee: No
  • Regular Fee: No
  • Additional Comments: Shared chores, and quarterly work days.


  • Shared meals: About once a week
  • Current food produced: Up to 25%
  • Dietary Choice or Restrictions: Somewhat important – there are some dietary restrictions or customs.
  • Dietary Practice: Mostly Vegan
  • Alcohol Use: Yes, used often.
  • Tobacco Use: Yes, used seldomly, or ceremoniously.
  • Additional comments: The kitchen is considered to be meat-free. Potluck dishes are encouraged to be vegan.

Photo Gallery

Community Affiliations

Bread and Roses Collective House, Celowy Home, Common Place Land Cooperative, New Environment Association

Fair Housing Laws

Our housing is a single housing unit and requires the sharing of bathroom, kitchen and common space membership/residency may be restricted based on sex/gender in accordance with the law. Our community does not discriminate based on race/color, national origin, religion, family status (i.e. having children, not having children, or being pregnant), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, ancestry, source of income, age, creed, personal appearance, political affiliation, HIV infection, military/veteran status, unfavorable military discharge, gender identity or expression, receiving public assistance, or domestic abuse.

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We happily link to the following organizations, all of whom share our strong commitment to promoting community and a more cooperative world:
Cohousing The Federation of Egalitarian Communities - Communes Coop Community Cooperative Sustainable Intentional North American Students of Cooperation Global Ecovillage Network
Special thanks to the sponsors of our Art of Community Events.