Kodak Building move is temporary

Lots of people made standing room only bus trips this morning to witness the Kodak building’s big move of about 200 feet. Built in 1939, Building 9 as it is known, contained a gym and cinema / theatre among other things. It is the last of the buildings to survive and the community pressed hard for its preservation in some meaningful form. The stars aligned, politicians and Metrolinx listened and plans are under way to make Building 9 (now basically an empty shell thanks to vandalism) a key feature of an LRT station and mobility hub planned for Mount Dennis.

Buses were chartered from the TTC by Metrolinx in response to the anticipated demand to see this famous local landmark being prepared for a starring role once more.

It's standing room only in the shuttle bus.
It’s standing room only on the 8:30 am shuttle bus.

A large crowd filed onto the bleachers that had been set up for the occasion. On this warm and steamy morning, there was an added promise of lunch after the move.

Councillor Frank DiGiorgio, MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frances Nunziata watch the move from the bleachers.
Councillor Frank DiGiorgio, MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frances Nunziata (front row L to R) watch the move from the bleachers.

One thing not made clear by recent articles and certainly not clear to me until today (is it me?) is that the Kodak Building will return  to its original location.

The building moving along the path to its temporary location.
The building inching towards us along rails to its temporary location.

The idea is that the building’s current basement is inadequate for its future role as the main access point for the Eglinton LRT, UP Express and a bus terminal. The building is being moved off to one side while the old basement is demolished and a new one built from scratch. Once the work is done, the Kodak building will return to its old location on the new foundation.

The reason for the move today is to build
The reason for the move today is to build transportation infrastructure into a brand new basement. Click to enlarge. From thecrosstown.ca

Today, many former Kodak employees were in attendance along with Weston and Mount Dennis residents and the mood was one of celebration. A large contingent from Metrolinx helped with making sure everything went smoothly.

Metrolinx workers pose to mark the occasion.
Metrolinx workers pose to mark the occasion as the building moves along slowly.
The building inching along its rails.
The building inches along its rails.

There are many more fascinating details of the plans for Building 9 and how it will be part of an exciting transportation future. Read all about it here.

The preservation of part of Mount Dennis history is a mark of respect for an alert and politically active community. No doubt we’ll be doing the whole thing in reverse in about a year when the basement is completed.

Well done to Metrolinx for organizing a great day and allowing the community to celebrate the occasion.

Pop-up shops. Still a good idea for Weston / Mount Dennis.

From
From: http://www.startup-hub.co.uk/popup-shops/

Here at WestonWeb, we often think we know better than anyone else. After all it’s easy to second guess from the sidelines. Sometimes though an idea seems so right for an area that it should be given a closer look.

Pop-up shops are an idea that originated in Australia and the idea is that empty stores are cleaned up by volunteers and then opened by businesses for a short period of time. Landlords charge little or no rent but benefit because successful pop-up businesses sometimes end up as paying tenants. The whole street benefits because more spill over sales traffic is generated. Even Kanye West uses them!

There is quite a wealth of experience out there in the successful implementation of pop-up shops and it is likely an endeavour best undertaken by Mount Dennis BIA or Weston’s BIA. We wrote about the idea in 2012 but sadly, nothing happened.

We still think it’s a great idea.

Over to you Bob Caplan and Masum Hossein.

Have your say about rental apartment licensing

When I was a young lad in some dim and distant past, rental apartment buildings were glamorous creatures. They were modern, had great views, lots of room and everything was included in the rent. Most had a sauna and outdoor pool. For gosh sakes they even had laundry facilities in the basement!

Then in the 1970s, the practice of subsidizing tenants in rental apartments was a cheaper alternative to building public housing. Poor people flooded apartment buildings and with rising incomes, middle-income earners began to abandon rental housing. For the most part, rental apartments became the domain of the poor and were synonymous with shabby conditions and health issues. Conditions steadily deteriorated and ten years ago, in Weston, the two towers at 1765 and 1775 Weston Road were in atrocious condition and the subject of bitter complaints. The federal government stepped in with forgivable loans and millions were spent upgrading rental buildings.

1765 Weston Road in 2012 (file).
1765 Weston Road pictured in 2012 (file).

Nowadays, renting is the only option for many people in the current real-estate market. While conditions have improved, many buildings are poorly maintained and it is felt that legislation concerning these buildings needs an overhaul.

The City of Toronto wants to hear from its citizens about licensing rental apartment buildings. According to the City,

The intended goal of the licensing framework is to build on the current Multi-Residential Apartment Building Audit Program by promoting best practices in building maintenance, strengthening enforcement of property standards violations, and improving tenant engagement and access to information.

The public and stakeholders will have an opportunity to:
• contribute to establishing goals and objectives for a licensing framework
• create recommendations related to current challenges and/or gaps in regulation; rules governing the operations of rental apartment buildings such as maintenance and cleaning plans; enhancement of the current building audit program, including enforcement of property standards; and improved public access to information about rental buildings, and
• submit their own recommendations for improving tenant living conditions.

The meeting for our area will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, August 24: Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, Meeting Room 1/2/3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Fantasy, meet reality

After Adam and I wrote articles about having to be careful when interpreting data, this Toronto Police graph came to my attention. It’s part of their ‘Way Forward’ initiative, already covered, that seeks input from Toronto residents about the future of policing.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 11.22.43 PM
Click to enlarge.

The chart is breathtaking in its deceptiveness and misrepresents the true levels of crime in these cities. The authors seem to want people to interpret the graph to the effect that New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago have lower crime levels than Toronto. The fine print at the bottom basically informs readers that the statistics are meaningless but who cares, the bars have probably done their job.

For those interested, and again, murder being the best indicator of violent crime levels since there’s no ambiguity about a murder – they are almost always reported, here are the same cities’ murder rates in 2013, the middle year used in the police chart, so we can compare apples to apples.

20160818043023Let’s resolve that ‘The Way Forward’ should not be to mislead, or indeed to believe that Torontonians are stupid.

Perception, meet reality

There is an perception common to residents of large cities that crime is rampant. Our area has an undeservedly bad reputation for crime. Here in Weston / Mount Dennis, many people react to reports of crime by moving away, staying home more often or avoiding areas concerned.

from legacyproperties.ca
from legacyproperties.ca

We live next to a country that does indeed have high levels of crime. Not only that but our favourite TV shows are largely American and reflect the culture of crime that exists down there. In addition, the old adage, if it bleeds it leads governs many news outlets and so violent crime often receives the bulk of attention by the media. This gives people a perception that crime levels are roughly comparable to those  of our neighbour to the south.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Generally speaking, murder is a good indicator of overall crime levels. It’s a terrible and devastating crime; seemingly unavoidable in large cities. Last year, in Chicago, a city slightly smaller than Toronto, a total of 490 people were murdered. Compare that to the 604 murdered in all of Canada in 2015 and suddenly some perspective comes into play. That same year, 55 people were murdered in Toronto, which for a city of this size, is remarkably a rare and shocking event. Toronto by many measures, is one of the safest cities in North America, yes, even compared to the rest of Canada or for that matter, Ontario it’s safe. Not only that, looking at figures from ten years ago when 79 people were murdered in the city, Toronto is safer than ever.

From immigroup.com
2014 figures. From immigroup.com. Click to enlarge.

Looking at the raw numbers without sensational headlines, it’s possible to see a downward trend although shooting occurrences remain stubbornly high.

Toronto homicides by year.
Toronto homicides by year. From Wikipedia.

Anyone involved in statistics knows that numbers change year over year. Trends establish themselves, anomalies, (better known as blips) can occur too. When police forces and news outlets (as they have this year) proclaim things like “gun homicides are up 200%“, it’s often a short-term blip rather than a long-term trend. It does get peoples’ attention though which is the whole point if you’re trying to maintain a police budget or gather online clicks.

From Business2Community.
From Business2Community.

As the old saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics. Next time alarming crime statistics are presented in the media or by government agencies, be sure to consider the sources and their motivations before being frightened into thinking that we live in a dangerous city or community.

Police want your feedback.

As part of the community consultation process, Toronto Police would like to hear from citizens about changes to policing and the modernizing process. Here is their request:

Have Your Say

Community Consultation poster with meeting datesThe Transformational Task Force was created by Chief of Police Mark Saunders and the Chair of the Police Services Board Andrew Pringle to modernize policing in our City. The Task Force’s Interim Report, released on June 16, 2016, incorporates the views and experiences of a number of community members.

Both Chief Saunders and Chair Pringle have made it clear though, that a wider engagement strategy is needed in order to hear the voices of the residents of Toronto. Your views and experiences are valuable not only to help shape the future of your police service, but also to help create the common ground that is vital to community safety.

Accordingly, we invite your input on the work of the Transformation Task Force, and more broadly, on the future of policing in Toronto.

Based on the Goals set out in the Interim Report, the following questions are offered as a guide for your input:

  1. Where do you feel the Police are needed most?
  2. How can the Police better partner with citizens, community organizations, and others to create a safer community?
  3. What are the complex safety needs currently facing the City of Toronto?

We encourage you to record your comments in a form of a video, and upload it using the form below as .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .mpg or .mpeg file.

Please limit your video to 1 min. (60 sec.) in length, at 720p or 1080p resolution.

Alternatively, you may send us your written comments via email to: [email protected]

Thank-you!

 With that in mind and more than a minute’s worth of bitching in me (and having a face for radio) I have sent in the following via email and encourage all readers to send in their own so that the needs of Weston / Mount Dennis can be represented. Readers may feel free to adapt or re-use any of this content.

1. Where do you feel the Police are needed most?

With the people. The current reactive model is inefficient and leads to isolation. There is a need for police to be visible and to mingle with all members of the community. Areas of high crime should be foot-patrolled by pairs of officers (not large groups). Establish storefront locations in the city’s high priority areas such as Weston.
Do we really need dozens of police and their cars at a crime scene? Is everyone there performing a role or is this a police version of rubbernecking? Surely there is a better way than everyone showing up to that one location?

2. How can the Police better partner with citizens, community organizations, and others to create a safer community?

Get out of the cruisers, get off the bikes and stop hanging around in gangs. Be visible and interact with the people – not with each other. Police also need to lose the siege mentality where they feel unappreciated and that everyone opposes them.
Barbecues are one-off events – large public housing complexes should be assigned an officer who will be the first line of contact for non-emergencies.
Stop seeing people as ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’. Most people are neither.
Hold more and smaller neighbourhood ‘town hall’ meetings. We don’t need the Chief to be there all the time.
Improve those cruddy summer uniforms – they look totally unprofessional.
Police need to be in closer contact with the people so that interactions are not considered unusual.
Most people don’t belong to community organizations – focus on contacting ordinary people rather than pandering to needy affinity groups.
Have regular weapon amnesties so that guns and knives can be taken out of circulation. Offer a reward for weapons that are turned in. The private sector (banks etc.) may wish to throw in some additional rewards.

3. What are the complex safety needs currently facing the City of Toronto?

People are generally very safe in this city. There is a need to emphasize that fact so that people don’t feel they are prisoners in their own homes and neighbourhoods. There is an expectation that police officers will have the courage to step in and protect ordinary citizens when needed. Police officers should understand this and either act accordingly or seek a safer role.
People should never be stopped because of racial profiling. They also need to feel that the police can be trusted to keep the peace and not escalate situations. Every society has people who are mentally ill. Police should be trained to deal with such people so that shooting them isn’t the first option when they use threatening behaviour. De-escalation of conflict situations requires skill, intelligence and sensitivity. Officers should be rigorously trained in conflict de-escalation and resolution.
There is a feeling that police have no time to deal with seemingly minor crimes. Bike and phone thefts for example are not trivial and should be taken seriously. We need creative approaches like bait bikes to send the message that police consider theft to be a serious issue.

Make your opinion count.

Developers, start your engines.

Toronto’s new(ish) Police Chief Mark Saunders came to Weston / Mount Dennis on Tuesday with Mayor Tory to gauge community response to the re-alignment of police division boundaries along with the possible closure of 12 Division’s headquarters scheduled for 2018. (according to CP24)

In fact, according to the Interim Report approved at July’s Police Board meeting, 12 Division (along with several others) will disappear as it becomes amalgamated. How that process will work is rather vague.

The boundaries of 12 Division.
The current boundaries of Toronto Police’s 12 Division.

Here’s a look (below) at the affected Toronto police divisions according to CP24.

A look at the future of Toronto's police divisions.
Original map adapted by Roy Murray.

Saunders was no doubt hired with the understanding that the billion dollar police budget had to be trimmed, but like his predecessors has dragged his heels. John Tory, mayor of one of the lowest taxed cities in the country is currently asking for a 2.6% across the board budget cut to every city department so he can bring in ‘an at or below inflation’ tax increase.

It’s well known that when City budget cuts come, they disproportionally affect the poor along with areas where large numbers of poor people live. User fees go up, services get slashed and the TTC is ordered to cut back on crowded suburban routes. Mayor Tory is simply another slash and burn, subway loving member of Ford nation albeit with a better grip on P.R. (Ignore the bazillion acre park across the rail lands; it’s a distraction). The Mayor and his rich friends don’t like paying property taxes on their mansions and so the poor must bear the burden.

A satellite view of 12 Division HQ.
A satellite view of 12 Division HQ.

What’s a police chief to do? Learn from the fine example set by politicians and look for savings from people who don’t make as much of a fuss. The police station currently occupied by 12 Division is on a large piece of real estate with excellent highway connections. Wouldn’t it be a great place for a high rise apartment building or two? It even has enough room for parking. Dress the sale up as a ‘modernization of police services’ and police ‘becoming more accessible’ and you have the makings of a fine sales job.

Developers must be salivating at prospect of owning the site. Toronto City Council would smooth all hurdles out of the way and the sale of police assets would trim the Chief’s bloated budget for now while being framed as greater contact with the community. Win Win Win!

Some key words come in the Chief’s Interim Report executive summary.

In the months leading up to our final report, we will continue to look for responsible measures that can yield additional reductions, savings, and real estate returns.

and more tellingly, The full interim report says this:

Through the redesign of boundaries and facilities, we have identified up to $72 million in real estate that could be returned to the City of Toronto.

As we conduct the next phase of our work we will look for other similar opportunities.

A close-up of the property. Lots of room for a high rise and it even has parking. Photo from Google Earth.
A close-up of the property. Lots of room for a high rise, great road connections and it even has ample parking. Photo from Google Earth.

Given past knowledge of previous public asset sales, developers are no doubt lining up with proposals and part of the deal will have to include a crumb or two for the community.

Make no mistake, without a strong community response, 12 Division Headquarters will be sold.

It may already be too late.

Will this be a bad thing? Who knows. Tim Hortons across the street from the station will certainly suffer. (My bad. Tim’s has already moved – see comments section.)

If the goal truly is to provide more contact with the community, then it may not be the end of the world although we don’t know how that will be achieved. Several storefront locations (if implemented) might be a better alternative than a large fortress of a building, but local residents will have to fight long and hard for these and we don’t even know what exactly is planned since the report is merely ‘interim’. There’s certainly no shortage of empty storefronts in Weston / Mount Dennis. A police presence might revitalize our communities. (Where will all those cruisers go?)

It might be a good idea for Chief Saunders and the Mayor to clarify how the consolidation process will take place and what steps will be taken to ensure that community assets are not being turned over to the private sector simply to protect property owners from a long needed tax increase.

People also need to feel confident that this is not a back of the napkin job like the Mayor’s fatuous SmartTrack plans and that we aren’t blundering into a chaotic future.