Halloween a cracking success

Halloween was another howling success this year—more than 700 kids terrorized Queens Drive and a few zillion others tore up the rest of the neighbourhood.

Today, 44 spooky pumpkins were whisked off to the great pumpkin patch in the sky after a rather wet pumpkin parade last night.

Great times!

 

This is what gentrification really is

Gentrification is a big, confusing, theoretical word for most of us – I’ve always heard at least two different definitions of it.

I’ve seen gentrification be described as the act of revitalization – breathing new “life” into a “run-down” neighbourhood through new restaurants, condos and other infrastructure projects. And I’ve seen it be described as the act of forcefully pushing longtime residents out of a neighbourhood in order to populate it with more affluence.

Quite simply, gentrification is the displacement of longtime residents of a neighbourhood that are most often low income, people of colour, and/or from other marginalized communities like women and people living with disabilities.

I’ve heard people say that gentrification is just what York South-Weston needs. I’ve heard people say that York South-Weston needs just a little bit of gentrification. And I’ve heard people say that gentrification is the next struggle that will plague York South-Weston.

This is the dictionary definition of gentrification:

the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods byupper- or middle-income families or individuals, raising property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.”

So, is it a problem? Is York South-Weston experiencing it? The answer is yes and yes.

So what does gentrification look like then? While some York South-Westonites don’t live the effects of gentrification every day or even notice it, the reality is that the majority does. It’s already happening.

We have our fair share of systemic issues created by years of policy failure and neglect. People don’t have access to healthy and affordable food – we are in a food desert. The cost of childcare is through the roof – we are also in a childcare desert. Youth workers have told us that it’s easier for our young people to get a gun than it is for them to get affordable housing or a job.

The reality is that right here in our community, renters are being handed unfair and unjustifiable rent increases every day. York South-Weston is supposed to be one of the last affordable havens in the city but it’s getting more and more unaffordable for those of us who already live here. And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t hold developers and our elected officials accountable for the unaffordability of our neighbourhood.

What gentrification looks like is asking for a Starbucks at Weston and Lawrence when we already have Perfect Blend, Mati’s Coffee and God Bless Canada all around the corner. It’s going to a development meeting for a new “affordable” housing project and hearing the developer’s lawyer say that “they would like to attract a certain kind of person” to rent here and then hearing from the tenants in the room that the rents are in fact not actually affordable. It’s the fact that when a Loblaws or Sobeys replaces Greenland Farms, the majority of residents within a 200m radius will not be able to afford to shop at either of those grocery stores. And it’s TTC riders in Weston not being able to afford to ride the UP Express even though it’s being made a selling-point for new development in the area.

The gentrification of York South-Weston is happening and we need to think about how we will respond to it. Will we work to address the root causes of poverty and inequality that exist in our community or will we actively allow low-income and other marginalized communities to be pushed even farther away from the downtown core, out of York South-Weston?

Nunziata wins

Frances Nunziata has won the 2018 municipal election for Ward 5, with about 32% of the votes cast. She had a comfortable lead over her challengers:

  • Frank Di Giorgio received about 22%
  • Chiara Padovani received about 20%
  • Lekan Olawoye received about 15%.

While she loped to an easy win, in the past, Nunziata has received Turkmenestani-proportioned mandates, so this election represents a startling rebuke.

The challengers also clearly gained a lot of ground over the past month. Early polls showed them having only slivers of support. Padovani, in particular, went from 4% to 20% support. Olawoye’s share doubled in that time.

TTC? Yes, Please! (and Thank You)

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the TTC is giving Weston something to be thankful for. As transit goers may have noticed, the TTC has been rolling out a few changes in the past month to make service more accessible and reliable, and will be continuing this Thanksgiving long week-end. In September, they implemented the new numbering for express routes, changing the existing numbers (like the 195 Jane Rocket and the 54E Sheppard Express) to 900 numbering, to make it easier to identify these routes and to add consistency. They have also added green badges on express bus stops for this same purpose.

Rolling out this weekend is the addition of three new routes: the 952 Lawrence West Express, the 989 Weston Express and the 929 Dufferin Express. Though no bus stop lists for either of the routes that run through Weston have been released yet, one can, based on other express routes, make the assumption that these busses will stop at all major intersections. The 952 will run between Lawrence station and Pearson airport. The 989 will operate only during morning and afternoon rush hours. Both routes will have updated schedules as well to make the routes more consistent and accommodate for the new express busses.

These express routes not only help residents in the area get to work faster and easier, it will also hopefully stop the bunching of the 52 busses and bring more people into the neighbourhood. This also allows for an easier commute for students who take TTC, in particular, Weston Collegiate students who commute from Rexdale for the IB and SHSM programs offered. Though this will not ease congestion on the road, it will ease congestion on busses, allowing for a more comfortable commute. There are plans for future upgrades to the system, but already we are seeing big steps forward for our little part of the city. Further information can be found on the TTC website.

A Tour of St. Phillip’s Anglican Church and Cemetery

On a lovely autumn day last Sunday, a few dozen Westonians gathered on the grounds of St. Phillip’s Anglican Church to learn more about it and the people who lived in Weston.  The event was organized by the Weston Historical Society.

Founded in 1828, the church is located at Dixon Road and St. Phillips Road, on the west side of the Humber River. Built in the modern gothic design, the church has a large white cross on its roof, several stunning glass windows (that date back to the eighteen hundreds) and a cemetery.

 

 

The original church was built largely out of wood and was sadly destroyed by a fire in 1888. While many of the original fixtures were lost, an organ was saved. A small circle of red stained glass (seen below) was also saved and was incorporated in this one of the new windows when the church was rebuilt 1894.
By 1930, 50 families attended the church and the numbers soon grew. By 1936, the church had electricity.

After our brief tour of the interior of the church, we went outside to tour the cemetery and to learn more about the people who lived and died in Weston.

The stories are fascinating. We were told about the lives of politicians, business people, blacksmiths, doctors, and farmers. We learned about people who lived well into their 80’s and some who sadly died far too young.

The first tombstone we stopped at was of John Conron. Mr. Conron was one of Weston’s earliest councillors, a member of the Conservative party and was one of Weston’s oldest residents (he was 91 years old when he died).

We also learned about the Eagle family (a name familiar to many Westonians) who moved to Weston in 1883 from Brantford. When the family opened the Eagle House so many years ago they could not have known that only a few years later a railroad station would be built close by, helping their business prosper.

There are so many interesting people who rest in St. Phillip’s Anglican cemetery, including dreamers and risk takers like Joseph Griffith, who in the eighteen hundreds left his home in Ireland with his 19-year-old wife, crossed the ocean and found a lovely piece of land close to the Humber River. Mr. Griffith made money as a farmer and lived at Weston Road and Jane Street.

The tombstones are in all shapes and sizes. Some are large and still very much intact; others are faded and almost completely covered by grass. These are the lives I am the most curious about.  One can’t help but wonder who these people were., and why they chose to live in Weston.

Perhaps the most unique grave (pictured below) is that of Reverend W.A. Johnson. While we were not told why Reverend Johnson was buried by this elm tree, we did learn that this mighty elm likely was felled because of Dutch elm disease.

The tour lasted roughly an hour and a half. It was well organized and those who attended were left with a wealth of knowledge about Weston’s past. Thank you to Cherri Hurst, Mary Louise Ashbourne, Randle Reid and the rest of the team at the Weston Historical Society for organizing such a great event!

If you like sushi, you need to try this place!

If you are like me, you love sushi!

Now I am no sushi expert, but I have certainly eaten my share of California rolls, cucumber maki and tempura. In fact, truth be told, I am one of those people who, if I could, I would eat sushi all day long, every day.

For many years my career found me in the heart of Toronto, the downtown core, which in my humble opinion has some of the best sushi that can be found anywhere in the city. Restaurants like Sushi on Bloor, or Sushi on Queen, were ones that my friends and I visited often. But, as life would have it, I no longer find myself in that part of the city as often as I used to. Sill craving those unique flavors that can only be found in a sushi restaurant, I found myself at Wakame Sushi located in the Crossroads Plaza.

I had passed by this restaurant for many years but for one reason or another, I never went inside of it.

Tucked beside the Dollar Tree in the far corner of the plaza, one could be forgiven to have missed it altogether. When you go inside, the restaurant is a lot bigger than you might think it would be. It is rather dark (despite the large window at the front of the restaurant), but it is spacious.

I have eaten there with friends in the past and there were several large groups of people enjoying their meals at the restaurant when I visited.

The restaurant is clean and has a beautiful mural of a koi fish on one of its walls. Mirrors stretch along the length of another side of the restaurant making it feel spacious and reflecting the natural light that was streaming through.

The food was delicious! I ordered the Vegetarian Bento Box which for a very reasonable price ($10.50 before tax) consisted of salad, Miso Soup or Hot and Sour Soup, Vegetarian Tempura, Deep Fried Tofu, 6 pieces of Avocado & Cucumber Rolls and Edamame. I also tried their General Tao’s chicken dish and Spicy Salmon Rolls, both of which did not disappoint!

Other items on the menu include various types of Sashimi, Pad Thai, soups and rice dishes.

Overall I believe Wakame Sushi restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Weston. It offers a variety of Asian cuisine to suit any palates. The restaurant is clean and the staff is incredibly nice.