Nunziata wants to dry out south Weston


Femi's Place, 1812 Weston.

In a town plagued by illegal after-hours bars, is legal liquor a problem or a solution? That’s the question at the heart of a brewing conflict in Weston. Frances Nunziata would like a restaurant in a troubled part of town to stay dry, but being dry would hurt the struggling establishment.

Femi’s Place, at 1812 Weston Rd, is quiet, spacious, and attractive. There is a piano and a stage, and the tables and bar (there are no bottles behind it) are clean. In the back, there are newspaper articles about the owner, Femi Abosede. He is an accomplished saxophone player and, according to the Harbourfront Centre, “the King of Afrobeat in North America”.

Abosede applied for a liquor license earlier this year, but Nunziata wants the license application rejected. Her report to City Council says that she received several complaints about noise and illegal sales of alcohol, which she directed staff to investigate. According to Nunziata’s report, when “inspectors visited Femis [sic] Place… violations of the Liquor Licence Act were observed.”

Residents of Weston Village, within which this establishment is located, are already troubled by the number of licenced establishments in the area which frequently violate the conditions of their liquor licences but still remain in operation. The noise and disruptive behavior caused by the clientele that frequent these establishments has been an ongoing cause for concern; if this establishment obtained a liquor licence the existing problems would only become worse.

But Terri Thompson, the manager, said “It’s not a bar. It’s not a nightclub. It’s a family place. It’s not the kind of clientele who’s going to sit there and spend their last dime drinking.”

While we visited, there were no other customers, but Thompson was upbeat. She said, “business is OK. It’s decent. I can see it booming with a liquor license. In a day, I turn away three of four couples; they want to have a beer, but because we don’t have a liquor license, they don’t want to come in.”

The stakes are high. If Frances Nunziata has misjudged the establishment, and if she gets her way, the business will suffer, perhaps close. And that neighbourhood, just south of Lawrence, needs all the help it can get. Two young men, Courthney Facey and Mike James, were shot to death near Femi’s Place late last year. Some early reports and rumours placed the men in an illegal bar before their murders, though Facey was not old enough to drink. Another young man, Jahmelle Grant, 26, was shot to death in 2009 while trying to break up a fight outside an illegal bar just down the street, at 1764 Weston Rd.

Thompson said that she had never heard from Nunziata about the application. She said, “I never got a phone call from her. I would like the opponents to show how it would be [against] the best interests of the community . I would never allow any trouble. This is my place of work.”

Electrification Still Has Legs

Up for consideration at City Council today is a motion to find out whether the Air Rail Link between Pearson Airport and Union Station can be electrified in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015. If experts say it can’t be done (Metrolinx says it can’t), the motion calls for alternative transport arrangements for the games rather than beginning with diesel trains and later electrifying the line. This is in spite of the fact that diesel trains have already been purchased. Apparently the plan is to convert them to electric in 2017.

Who is behind this motion? None other than our own Councillor Frances Nunziata and Mayor Ford’s brother Doug. With backing like that, you can be sure the motion will pass handily and that in this election year, the Provincial Liberals will be torn between stonewalling and keeping the Ford boys happy.

You have to hand it to the Clean Train Coalition for keeping this issue alive and getting representatives at all levels actively involved.

Alan Tonks is a Top Dissenter

The Globe and Mail has a story today on MPs and their parliamentary activities. While our Federal MP Alan Tonks is not among the absentee or silent members, he and Mississauga MP Paul Szabo hold the record for voting with the Tories against the Liberal Party mainstream.

As noted previously, he opposed a bill to add ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ to the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code’s hate crimes section. He also voted with the Tories to oppose Gerard Kennedy’s bill amending the refugee act to include conscientious objectors to seek refuge in Canada.

You can get the rest of Mr. Tonks’ voting record here.

It seems that when you vote Liberal, to quote the Rolling Stones, you don’t always get what you want.

Humber River Flood Update

A rainfall warning from Environment Canada has prompted fears that the Humber will flood again today, especially around the Lions Park footbridge where an ice jam is damming the river. Check back to this article for updates and images throughout the day.

8am: the river is rising steadily but below levels reached last week when the Weston access to the bridge was submerged. The ice jam is still in place.

10:30am: a steady rise in the water but no sign of ice movement.

1:00pm: water still rising; ice jam holding.

3:30pm: starting to break up

5:30 Not much to report. Ice is holding in spite of a few false starts.

March 6

The ice moved about 100m past the bridge overnight without incident and water levels are subsiding. It’s amazing (and annoying) how rarely the ice moves during daylight hours. The ice jam now occupies the river at the curve in Raymore Park and continues to flood the land there.

Police ask residents to leave lights on

31 Division police say, unsurprisingly, that there has been a rash of vehicle break and enters. Cars in Weston are certainly broken into often; the burglars try the handles in the middle of the night and take anything of value—and frequently anything not of value.

The police are now asking residents to leave their homes’ outside lights on to deter thefts. They say “a neighbourhood that has plenty of lighting is more secure for you and your neighbours. ”

The police are also asking residents to report “strangers loitering or sitting in parked cars near homes or knocking on doors.”

Profile of Weston TCHC housing: Dangerous, dirty, deserving

As Rob Ford cleans house at the TCHC, it is worth reflecting on what Toronto Community Housing does—and doesn’t do—for its residents in Weston.

There are two public housing projects in town, one at 1901 Weston Rd, just north of Lawrence, and one at 5 Bellevue, just south of it. Both are high-rise apartments, and both, according to a recent report by the United Way, are likely fraught with problems. Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty says that the non-profit housing in Toronto is quite bad, and worse in many ways than for-profit housing.

It says that income inequality has grown in Toronto, and that the poor have become much poorer over the past 20 years. The City of York, which includes Weston, is the poorest borough in Toronto. In York, the average renting household makes only $28,000 a year, down from $34,500 25 years ago.

Children suffer, too: since “2005, more than one out of every four City of Toronto families with children under the age of eighteen was low-income, up from one-in-six in 1990”.

While the poor live in high-rise housing, the poorest of the poor live in non-profit high-rises. Two-thirds of non-profit tenants make less than $20,000 a year, and 43% are on social assistance. A quarter have a disability, and one in ten has a serious mental health problem.

Non-profit renters do pay very little for their homes. On average, they pay only only $373 a month for rent. For that, though, they get a lot of problems:

  • 21% say that they had been attacked in the past year on the grounds of the building
  • 71% say they have roaches or mice.
  • 40% say that drugs or drug dealing are a problem

In addition to the social and sanitation problems, the physical condition of the buildings is worse than in the private sector. The elevators break down more often, and the common areas are in worse repair.

Your humble correspondent may be the only person in Toronto who does not begrudge the employees of TCHC their Christmas party or spa trips. That stuff is small potatoes in a budget of $300 million. Trips and chocolates make for good headlines, but he worries much more about the millions misspent on competition-free contracts. Those contracts could have put as much as $60 in the pockets of each of the tenants in Toronto Community Housing—money they could certainly spend better than the members of the board.