Dave Bennett, co-chair of the St. John the Evangelist Catholic School Advisory Council, answered my questions about moving the school to Swanek Park. Bennett stated emphatically that the board will not be expropriating the houses surrounding the park. “That is untrue,” he said, “There are 32 homes that go around Swanek. We need four. That’s quite a difference.” The four homes would be to create an opening to the park and would be sold voluntarily, he said.
Bennett also claimed, though, that the city will want to keep the total amount of green space the same as it is now. “If the city were to ask for [the same acreage of] Swanek Park to be there, it would be an additional 13 homes. That’s only if the city asks for that. Nothing is in stone. It’s all about the site”, he said. The city could also replace the green space lost at Swanek by creating parks elsewhere, he claims.
According to Bennett, the board is considering four locations in addition to Swanek:
The former Beer Store lot on Weston Rd.
The grounds of HJ Alexander School
The Visioneering land on Oak St.
The TCDSB prefers Swanek Park because it “is .8 km from the current site [and] almost in the middle of the catchment area for the school.” Further, he said, “the park size is more than what’s required for a school and our community would still have their park.” The other locations are all small and either close to the train tracks or the 401.
When asked what the board would do if they were unable to buy four contiguous homes around Swanek Park, Bennett replied, “That’s a good question.” Expropriation “is a process that is a last resort. They want to be good neighbours.”
Frances Nunziata, the councillor for Weston, has released a letter expressing her opposition to moving St John the Evangelist elementary school to Swanek Park.
Nunziata says she supports building a new school, but not at Swanek. The letter says that she has twice in blunt language told the school board and representatives that she opposes that location, saying their “proposed location of Wallace C. Swanek Park was unacceptable”.
In particular, Nunziata mentions her opposition to acquiring and demolishing “many, if not all of the houses surrounding the park.” She also opposes plans to undo the work of the community to upgrade and improve the park.
The school is in for a struggle if they press forward with this location. Nunziata says that she “will fight for the best interests of the community and will formally oppose any application to build a school on the park and/or reliquish City control”. Nunziata sits on the City Parks and Environment Committee, so it seems likely that she will get her way.
Last night, more than 700 burgers and hotdogs were served up to residents of Weston by volunteers for Neighbour’s Night Out. According to Dave McBride, an organizer, Weston usually has the largest turn-out of any Neighbour’s Night Out in the city, and this year it showed. Elm Park was packed with kids having a blast, and the line-ups for the food were enormous. That should have been no surprise: hamburgers were only $2 with a drink! They were good, too: President’s Choice low-fat Angus beef.
Your humble correspondent never ceases to be amazed by how cheap desserts are in Weston. Frontlines community drop-in centre was selling cookies and treats at bargain prices. He and his daughter binged on several delicious chocolate chip cookies.
While your reporter faced threats to his waistline, the dangers were nothing compared to those of the chefs fending off hundreds of hungry visitors while labouring over a smoking grill. The community owes thanks to them and the other volunteers, organizers, and supporters.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board would like to relocate St John the Evangelist from its location on George Street to Swanek Park. The proposed move has many local residents upset because, among other impositions, the TCDSB would like to expropriate all houses [see note 1] surrounding the park.
The administration at St John has been planning to move the school since at least 2005. A study then found that there were 472 students in a school designed for only 282. As a result, there are many portables crowding a small site. There is little green space, and the school is located next to busy train tracks. A moving letter submitted to the school board by a child at the time expressed her regrets at having to practice sports on foam mats because “portables have overtaken our playground and the grass has been replaced by asphalt”.
Swanek Park is certainly bigger and greener than the current location, and it could easily accomodate a much larger school. However, according to Ross Parry, a member of the Swanek Park Improvement Committee, the local community is not embracing the move.
The Catholic board wants to expropriate and demolish many or all of the homes that surround the park (the board prefers to say they will “acquire” homes, forcefully if necessary). Residents are upset, of course—according to Parry, “Most are shocked. Some are angry.”
Parry noted that the board seemed to reject Pelmo Park, which has much more space, no houses, and an existing elementary school, so bus infrastructure and construction could be minimized.
The Pelmo Swanek Community Association will be having its first neighbours’ night out on June 24 at 7 pm at the Queenslea entrance to Swanek Park. City staff will be there to share their ideas for park improvements.
[Note 1: A reader has informed me that the TCDSB may not wish to expropriate all homes around the park. I have attempted to contact the TCDSB for clarification. I have not heard back. I will post more when I find out.]
Note 2: This post has been updated to correct an error I made. Parry did not say that Pelmo Park had never been considered. I regret the error.
In an interview with the Hill Times, York-South Weston MP Alan Tonks was rather dismissive of the NDP’s chances in the next federal election. That’s quite odd, especially since his own riding has been vulnerable to the NDP in the past.
In an article about the Liberal leadership, Tonks said he isn’t concerned about the NDP gaining ground.
“My feeling is that the NDP have held around 16 per cent, always have, when it comes to an election,” says Toronto Liberal MP Alan Tonks (York South-Weston, Ont.). “There’s a window at this time, but when it comes to an actual election call and the issues are out, I don’t think that [traditional] percentage is going to change.”
Tonks may not have the right to be so cocky; while Weston has been consistently Liberal for decades, in the last election his own share of the vote slipped dramatically from 57% to 47%. In fact, his popularity has been declining since 2004, when he received 60% of the vote.
All parties benefitted at Tonks’ expense, but none more than the party he criticizes most. In the last election, the NDP took 28% of the vote here—much more than the 16% he says they “always have”.
Despite the light rain, it couldn’t have been a better weekend in Weston..
The market was jumping, and not just in the two bouncy castles. At least four different entertainers worked the crowd with everything from accordions to Elvis. Business looked brisk for the vendors too, as one would expect in strawberry and asparagus season.
The Queens Drive 23rd annual yard sale packed both sides of the street with visitors. There were odds and ends and antiques for sale, and several young entrepreneurs were raising money for charity—at one stand, lemonade was 25¢ and cookies were 10¢, and the proceeds went to juvenile diabetes.
Elizabeth Laregina, Cher Dawson, and Gemma were also raising money for a cause. They were selling flowers in support of Weston Memorial Public School. Laregina said that they had raised over $500 from the sale of donated flowers.
Cher Dawson dug many of the plants for sale from her own garden. She has been selling them for “going on 10 years”, and said “I just love gardening, and I love nature… I like to help out the school”.
Gemma told my daughter, “It’s a great school. You’ll love it.”