York Weston Community Centre’s swan song

The Globe and Mail has an article covering the closing of a community hub in Weston. The York Weston Community Services Centre provides settlement services primarily to Sudanese newcomers. Cuts to its funding are forcing it to close.

Sudan is having a referendum to determine whether the south of the country will separate. Interestingly, the community centre in Weston is one of only two places in all of Canada where Sudanese expatriates can vote.

According to the article, after the referendum, the York Weston Community Services Centre will close because it is underperforming and because fewer immigrants are settling here.

As far back as 2008, CIC had identified critical weaknesses in York Weston’s governance structure. It claimed the centre had failed to meet benchmarks in service delivery as well as its obligations under the terms and conditions of its contribution agreement with CIC.

In 2009, a new, reform-minded board of directors was elected and began to work on addressing CIC’s concerns. It submitted its first progress report to CIC that December. The board also fired its executive director last summer and replaced him with John Doughty, a specialist in crisis management and turnaround in non-profits.

Maple Leaf bus to be trimmed

The Maple Leaf bus route, which runs through Weston, will have reduced nighttime service under the new city budget.

The new budget includes several proposed changes to the TTC. Token fares and Metropasses will be more expensive, and some less-used routes will be cut.

The TTC recommends eliminating service on the 59 Maple Leaf route after 7 pm on weekends and after 10 pm on weeknights. Presently, the bus runs every half-an-hour until 1 am. If the recommendations are enacted, 14 buses will be eliminated on weekday nights and 13 will be eliminated on Saturdays and Sundays.

Route 59 runs from Lawrence West Station on the Spadina Line to Weston Road. It goes through Weston on Church and Gary/Oak streets. During the morning rush hour, it runs every 11 minutes; during the evening rush hour, it runs every 20. After 7 pm and on weekends, service is reduced to every half an hour.

Car break in reported

An unlucky reader reports that the Weston-area car burglar(s) have been paroled, bailed, released, or returned. Her car was broken into, again.

The burglars are a constant annoyance in Weston. Your humble reporter has had his car broken into many times. The good-for-nothings have never forced a lock or broken a window (although the reader reports that they do pop the lock of her older-model car). They steal whatever is close at hand, valuable or not–I once lost an iPod and a wallet, but have also lost loose change, CDs for toddlers, and nine cans of baked beans.

12 Division arrested four people in September for car break-ins, though it was never clear, of course, that they were the same good-for-nothings involved. At any rate, Westonians, lock your doors and take your valuables (and not-so-valuables) inside. The looters are on the loose.

Weston Treasures: Weston Public Library

The original library entrance; not enhanced by Toronto Hydro, Bell and Rogers!

Just a little to the north of Shoppers Drug Mart at Weston and King is a gem of a building that sits quietly in its own regal splendour. This Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau style building is almost 100 years old.

In 1911, the Weston Library Board applied to the Carnegie Foundation in New York for a $10,000 grant for construction costs. The Board had changed from a subscription library to a public one in preparation for the grant. The Foundation approved the board’s plans and the village of Weston purchased a 140 x 60 foot site for $1950, agreeing to pay for books and library staff from tax revenues to the tune of $1000 annually (quite a burden for taxpayers). The librarian’s annual salary was $300 while the custodian was paid $60.

Original hours of operation: Daily 3 – 5 pm, evenings 7 – 9 pm except Wednesdays.

The Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau style was popular at the time and Toronto architects, Lindsay and Brydon were selected to design the building. Their previous collaboration in designing small churches seems to have carried over to the library design as it has a chapel-like appearance with stained glass windows. The design was approved by the community and, common to all Ontario Carnegie libraries, incorporates mosaic lettering over the doorway.

Detail of the original entrance showing the porch archway and mosaic.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish-American steel baron who became a philanthropist in his later years (think rich like Bill Gates). His story is a true rags to riches one and he credited some of his success to the availability of a library when he was a young man working twelve-hour days, six days a week as a telegraph clerk. He donated money through one of his foundations for 125 libraries in Canada, and about 2400 in the U.S. the U.K. and other English-speaking countries. The Weston Library is testament to his belief that libraries are a benefit to all of society and are a great tool to help people better themselves. He is famous for stating that the first third of a person’s life should be spent acquiring an education, the next third acquiring wealth and the last third giving away that wealth.

Carnegie Libraries pioneered the idea of browsing and selection of books directly by patrons rather than by requesting a book from the librarian. Remember when the LCBO was like that?

Weston Public Library is one of seven remaining Carnegie libraries still functioning in Toronto. It was declared a heritage building in 1979 after an attempt to have it replaced in 1975 (sound familiar?) and an addition, which tripled the floor space, was completed in 1982. Incidentally the attempt to demolish the library sparked the founding of the Weston Historical Society.

Other (now in) Toronto Carnegie Libraries:

  • Yorkville – 22 Yorkville Avenue – still in use; opened in 1907
  • Queen and Lisgar – now used by Toronto Public Health opened in 1909
  • Central Library – 214 College – now used by U of T., opened in 1909
  • Riverdale Branch – 370 Broadview; opened in 1910
  • Birge-Carnegie Library 73 Queens Park Crescent East; 1910 – 1961 now used by United Church of Canada
  • Wychwood Branch – 1431 Bathurst Street; opened in1916
  • High Park Branch – 228 Roncesvalles Avenue; opened in1916
  • Beaches Branch – 2161 Queen Street East; opened in1916
  • Mimico Public Library 1915 – 1966 (demolished)

Next time you go to the Weston branch, be sure to check out the original stained glass windows. They are beautiful.

Do you have a suggestion for coverage of another Weston treasure? Let us know through the comments section.

Final call for electric trains

The Clean Train Coalition is making one last push to make the Air Rail Link electric, according to Inside Toronto.

Metrolinx recently announced it is entering into negotiations to purchase Japanese-built diesel powered vehicles for the Air Rail Link by Feb. 6 – instead of waiting for the completion of the electrification study, as had been previously indicated by the Ontario Minister Kathleen Wynne….

“All our efforts will be for nought if this decision gets made,” he said at the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre, Thursday evening. “Once they buy something it’ll be difficult for us to change that decision.”

“That’s why Dorsey and fellow CTC member Lisa Kiss put their heads together to determine how the CTC could mobilize people to take action. Their approach: an “all-hands-on-deck,” “go-for-broke” campaign to stop the signature and purchase of these trains on Feb. 6.

Read the article here. Get involved by calling your representatives and Metrolinx.

  • Metrolinx: (416) 869-3600
  • Laura Albanese: (416) 243-7984
  • Alan Tonks: : (416) 656-2526
  • Frances Nunziata: (416) 392-4091

Nunziata dresses down Chief

Lefty pinko cyclists (like me) worried that Rob Ford’s promise to hire 100 more cops showed that he was unwilling to rein in the big budget of the Toronto Police. (It’s nearly a billion dollars.)

But this lefty pinko cyclist, at least, is not above admitting that he was wrong.

The new board, on which our councillor, Frances Nunziata sits, wasted no time before turning up the heat on Chief Bill Blair. On the same day that she was sworn in, Nunziata took the Chief to task for not making the 5% cuts he had been asked to. The board was not pleased, and The Star says,

Councillor Frances Nunziata put forward a motion asking the chief to provide a report with a line-by-line breakdown of the increase, as well as information on contracting-out cleaning at the police stations.

Blair said the previous board had advised against that, to which Nunziata responded: “Well, we have a new board and a new council.”

Rob Ford has, as many media have reported, already backed away from the promise to hire 100 new police officers. Given the crime in Weston, this was one of the few pledges your humble LPC could praise at the time.

Ford backtracks on tracks to Weston

Rob Ford has had a change of heart about building only subways.

According to news reports, Metrolinx is negotiating with the mayor’s office to ensure that the Eglinton light rail line will be built. Toronto Life says “The line is too important to Metrolinx’s plans for the region to let die”.

The Eglinton LRT would benefit the neighbourhood in several ways. First, the TTC wanted to build a carhouse on the grounds of the old Kodak plant, which has been closed for several years. Second, the track would serve Mt Dennis at two stops: at the intersections of Eglinton with Jane and with Weston Rd. The LRT would also likely interface with the Georgetown GO line.

Mt Dennis residents have pushed for an underground station, and were supported in their action by Frances Nunziata, who said

“I think tunnelling is the best option. I know it’s going to cost more but if you’re going to do it, do it right….  We support the Eglinton line but why should everything be dumped in our community?”

Transit pundit Steve Munro concurs. He said “The section through Mt. Dennis, as currently designed, is quite intrusive.  Considering the amount we will spend on the tunnel from Black Creek to Leaside, saying that an underground route at Weston Road is “too expensive” is hard to swallow.”

The TTC had refused to build underground, but with Ford’s stated goals of building subways, and Nunziata’s new influence at City Hall, there may be new momentum.