Hurricane Hazel – Iconic Art Memorial Fades

Back in 2002, local artist Mario Noviello was commissioned to decorate the Eastern abutment of the old Humber footbridge. Mario’s concept was brilliant—to illustrate the old bridge and neighbourhood and replicate the front pages of several newspapers reporting on the disaster. All this was using remnants of the old bridge as a ‘canvas’. This is one of the many bridges swept away during Hurricane Hazel. Mario’s beautifully executed and extensive set of murals covered the abutment telling the story of that fateful night in 1954. Many more photographs of the mural are here.

Sadly, the mural has not withstood the elements well and has almost faded to the point of oblivion.

The main mural showing the old footbridge - photo taken in 2002

When I spoke with Mario in 2004 after the mural and plaques were unveiled, he told me that an anti-graffiti coating placed over the murals was already leading to a deterioration of the underlying paint.

Cutting the ribbon at the official opening, October 16, 2004; from left Rob Draper, Alan Tonks, Mario Noviello, Julian Fantino, Elaine Heaton and Frances Nunziata.

 

 

The mural as it looks today.

This corner of Lions Park is the nearest thing we have to a shrine commemorating the victims of the hurricane and, along with plaques describing the event, draws many a school group, walking tour, pedestrian and cyclist on their way through the park system. Thieves took about 5 minutes to remove the original cast metal plaques on either side of the new bridge—now replaced with plastic ones.  It’s truly a shame that the mural is in such poor shape. Hopefully, one day it can be restored to its former glory.

 

Swanek Park Meeting

It has been about a year since the Pelmo/Swanek community members were abuzz with talk about the proposal to relocate St. John the Evangelist Catholic School to Swanek Park. This would have resulted in many of the residents surrounding the park losing their homes. Since then, things have been very quiet around the park. The playground remains in desperate need of a facelift.

Today, the Pelmo Swanek Community Association (PSCA) announced that Councillor Nunziata will be hosting a Community Meeting to discuss proposed upgrades and improvements to the park. City staff will be in attendance to gather community feedback and discuss the plans.

Date: Thursday, June 23, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Pelmo Park Community Centre, 171 Pellatt Avenue

For further information, please contact Councillor Nunziata’s office:

416.392.4091 or [email protected]

Hope to see you there!

Another Licence Application Challenged

Councillor Frances Nunziata is seeking to protect us from another licensed restaurant, this time at 1784 Jane Street. According to our councillor, complaints were received regarding ‘drug activity, late night noise, and late-night construction’ at this address.

It seems that the previous tenant is in rent arrears and so is probably not behind the application to open a licensed restaurant.

With the public not having access to the complaints in question, the councillor may be treading on shaky ground. Are the complaints legitimate? If so, why visit upon the new tenants the sins of the old ones? Is this unnecessarily impeding the birth of fledgling businesses? Certainly, our police are capable of enforcing laws and responding to noise complaints, yet this is the second straight month that the councillor has opposed a licence application in York South Weston. If a licensed restaurant is not in compliance with the law, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) can fine them up to $5000, suspend or revoke their license. A restaurant could continue to operate but would not be allowed to serve alcohol.

There are some important issues here that need to be addressed:

  1. When politicians oppose liquor licence applications, the process should be transparent so that business owners (and the public) know that allegations are genuine (and not someone else’s fault) while protecting the identity of the complainants.
  2. A few vocal residents should not be allowed to impede the improvement of our community.
  3. Jane Street and Weston Road are commercially zoned and desperately in need of vibrant thriving businesses. Perhaps councillor Nunziata could share her vision for these streets and what she is doing to attract businesses that meet her approval.

Nunziata’s War of 1812

As WestonWeb has mentioned in previous articles, Frances Nunziata is our vocal and dynamic councillor. She has been involved politically for decades and overall her contribution has been outstanding. Years of opposition made her an outspoken maverick ready to fight for her constituents.

One of the problems apparent in the Weston community is the illegal use of premises to hold large parties to which admission is charged. Parties go long into the night and attract some dangerous individuals. These unlicensed premises are a threat to safety and because their whereabouts are unknown, often in basements and side-alleys, they are hard to detect and shut down. When establishments are licensed, police officers and inspectors can enforce operating hours, room capacities and reasonable levels of noise.

Femi’s Place, an existing restaurant at 1812 Weston Road has applied for a licence to serve alcohol. For some reason, Ms. Nunziata recently steered through this emergency council decision to block the application. In her motion, Ms Nunziata claims that ‘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.’

As a result of complaints she sent inspectors to visit the restaurant, but they found that the restaurant was serving alcohol legally and without problems (the restaurant had applied for and obtained special permits). There was no evidence of wrongdoing other than hearsay.

There are few licensed establishments in the immediate area south of Lawrence. There is one nearby at 1828 Weston, Michelle’s Place, whose owner claims that they have never had problems.

In Ms. Nunziata’s zeal to clean up Weston, she may have forgotten that a nuanced approach is best rather than ‘Kitty bar the door’. Successful businesses and neighbourhoods have to start somewhere. Legal businesses pay taxes, enrich the local community and are subject to inspection and control.

The statement by Ms Nunziata that there are Weston establishments frequently in violation of their licenses implies that we are being failed by the inspection and enforcement process. Perhaps this is where she should focus rather than victimizing fledgling businesses.

 

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.

Sow and Ye Shall Reap

The latest in a string of shootings is no surprise to most people in Weston. It is however a source of mild puzzlement to police and politicians. They simply don’t understand why Weston is seemingly plagued by such events. Let’s look at the facts of the situation we find ourselves in.

An exquisite combination of political bungling, poor planning and corruption permitted the building of large numbers of low income housing several decades ago. This low income housing became a magnet for immigrants seeking a new life in Canada. The village of Weston as part of the City of York was given a major challenge; how to assimilate large numbers of new Canadians and help them to become productive citizens. Unfortunately, Weston has been largely left on its own to achieve this while dealing with problems that have arisen.

The Federal Government is in charge of immigration and knows exactly the stresses placed on Weston by immigration. We need more resources, not fewer and Alan Tonks should be shouting this from the rooftops every day, instead of being satisfied with the occasional photo op and voting with his Tory friends. Lord knows, Alan Tonks is well paid for his work and will receive a pension better than most would dream of as a salary. Is he worth the money? Not in my books. One of his latest efforts is a poorly-written private member’s bill supporting electrification of urban commuter rail operations. Dear old Alan couldn’t even be bothered to check for grammatical errors in the bill! Private members’ bills rarely become law.

The surest way to help first-generation children of immigrants is through education. Schools need extra resources and the very best teachers. Perhaps Alan Tonks’ son Chris could help here. He is our public school trustee.

Laura Albanese is a Liberal MPP in the McGuinty government. As an immigrant herself she should know that Weston needs more resources. She has been an MPP since October of 2007 and seems to have achieved little in that time. Her activity in the provincial legislature comprises mainly of softball questions to Liberal ministers. She has submitted a private member’s bill in favour of electrifying the GO Train system with priority for the Georgetown corridor.

Frances Nunziata has in the past been a fighter for Weston and was instrumental in exposing corruption in the City of York. She has spearheaded some important initiatives such as moving Metrolinx towards serving the people of Weston rather than not stopping in the community. Now, she seems to be lost in the details rather than the bigger picture. Where are we in the planning of a community centre for the area? Is Weston getting value for money from its police services?

Police seem to regard Weston as a dangerous place. When a major crime has been committed we see lots of police. Between crimes we see nothing. When was the last time any of us saw a police officer on foot patrol? According to a recent John Sewell article on police in Toronto, the average police officer averages one dispatched call every 20 hours of duty. Driving around waiting for problems to happen might not be the best approach any more.

The TAVIS initiative supposedly assigns extra police officers to areas ‘experiencing an increase in violent activity’. I wonder if Weston sees any of these officers.

This latest attempted murder seems to have happened at a party or an after-hours club. These are notoriously hard to keep track of as they spring up spontaneously. That said, Weston Road is a fairly obvious place for patrols – would a large number of cars parked in an area at 4 a.m. be worth investigating? Admittedly, that would require courage and initiative but isn’t that what we pay our officers for?

Last for censure is the criminal element in Weston which seems to feel the need to carry weapons and use them when their delicate egos are threatened by an accidental brush or an ill-timed comment. Real men don’t carry guns, they find work and lose the fantasy that they are part of a gang. Real men try to better themselves in the face of adversity—they don’t choose to be a plague on society.

Politicians, What Have You Done For Weston Lately?

Weston has had a raw deal in the past few decades. Our ‘village’ has lost nearly all of its industry, historic properties have been demolished to make way for unattractive developments, and the area has become depressed. The once attractive main street has been infiltrated by payday loan/cheque cashing companies, dollar stores, and other detritus of hard times.

Weston gets no respect. The airport link as originally proposed was never intended to stop in Weston. When the TTC wants to save money, Weston services are cut. When Metrolinx needed to expropriate properties as part of the airport link, the way they dealt with homeowners was reprehensible and high handed. Drug related gangs of criminals seem to operate freely without much fear of capture. There is apprehension on the part of many people about being a victim of crime. While there are many beautiful homes in Weston, there is a large amount of ugly low-income housing both public and private.

Throughout all of this process, federal, provincial and municipal politicians have collected their generous salaries and tut-tutted about the sad state of affairs: “What a shame and we’re doing all we can; by the way, don’t forget to re-elect me as I’m really concerned about unemployment—mine.”

With one election under our belts and two more on the way, perhaps it’s time that the citizens of Weston asked our politicians: what have you done for Weston lately? Sitting on committees and attending conferences in glamorous places doesn’t count. What really counts are results bringing prosperity and hope back to Weston and eliminating the conditions that encourage crime, namely unemployment and lack of opportunity.

Here are some of the things that Weston could benefit from:

  • Improved education and workforce training
  • Decent housing
  • Help for struggling retailers and small businesses
  • Doing something about empty commercial properties
  • Police on the ground, not in cars
  • Politicians actively working on our behalf.
  • Encouragement and support for local initiatives such as the Farmers’ Market
  • Community facilities such as an indoor pool
  • Better communication by politicians about what they are doing for the community

There is no desire to malign individual politicians by lumping them together as a group. Perhaps everyone is doing the best they can. It would certainly be appreciated if our individual representatives would take the time to outline plans for Weston to their employers, the people.

You may wish to contact them individually, here are their contact details:

Federal MP Alan Tonks,
2534 Keele St
Toronto ON  M6L 2N8
Phone: (416) 656-2526
Fax: (416) 656-9908
Email: [email protected]

Provincial MPP Laura Albanese
Unit 102
2301 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M6M 3Z9
Tel: (416) 243-7984
Fax: (416) 243-0327
Email: [email protected]

Councillor Frances Nunziata
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West, Suite C49
Toronto, ON  M5H 2N2
Phone: (416) 392-4091
Fax: (416) 392-4118
Email: [email protected]