Park or Planes?

Imagine New Yorkers being asked if they want a city airport instead of Central Park. The answer would surely be no. Recently citizens in Chicago, Berlin, Edmonton and Santa Monica were facing that question – a small airport or a big park – and they all favoured parks over airports.

Now Toronto is facing the same question. We are critically short of parks and recreation, especially downtown. Losing the Rail Deck Park would make it worse. The Island Airport is stagnant and looking for investors, hoping to resume commercial flights. Its lease to use this publicly-owned land runs out in 12 years.

It is time to review Port Toronto’s industrial use of 215 acres of valuable land on our Waterfront. Does a city airport fit into Toronto, the fastest growing city in North America? Is it even needed, now that we have a 25-minute ride with UP Express from Union Station to Pearson Airport? Will a great recreational space by the lake serve future generations best and become an urban treasure like Central Park?

YQNA wanted to learn more about the options and invited Brian Iler of CommunityAir as our guest speaker. Feel free to share his illustrated presentation from our May meeting.

New GO Bus Station is Open

An attractive new GO bus station has opened inside the first phase of the CIBC Square on Bay St. across from Union Station. This ambitious development will have two office towers with a distinctive glass diamond pattern, rising 49 and 50 storeys. Connecting the two will be an elevated park across the railroad tracks, which is bound to become a popular meeting place.

The GO bus station replaces the sketchy old bus station just south of Front St. It used to send buses rumbling through city streets and had people lined up outside. Now, the buses enter from the Gardiner Expressway via Lakeshore Boulevard and no longer clog city streets. Passengers use the well-marked entrance on the north side of Lakeshore between Bay St. and Yonge St. When CIBC Square is completed in 2024 there will be more entrances added.

Arriving buses drop their passengers at ground level, then take the ramp upstairs to the departure level. Passengers can find their platform on travel screens in the comfortable hall, while waiting to hop onboard their GO bus. Clear signage makes it easy to navigate the levels via escalators, find washrooms and even a vending machine offering masks.

This is an excellent example of how a public facility can be completely integrated into an office tower. International developers Ivanhoe Cambridge and Hines deserve high praise for their vision, not only for the bus station, but also the elevated park, retail and other public amenities in CIBC Square. They are adding vibrancy to both their buildings and the city.

The work of three international architectural firms—WilkinsonEyre, Adamson Associates and EVOQ Architecture—will make CIBC Square a Toronto landmark. The first tower is near completion at 81 Bay St. The second tower began recently with the excavation north of the tracks. Urban Toronto offers more information.

Twitter News for Us

Do you ever read the Twitter postings that appear on the lower right hand side of our YQNA webpage? They began when various social media were first gaining popularity as ways to share information among large numbers of people. A group of YQNA members formed a committee to decide how best to take advantage of the opportunities Twitter might offer. Our webmaster at the time designed a Twitter account, Leah Lambert agreed to manage it and continues doing so today.

Our tweets do not take political positions, but do share timely information that could impact our neighbourhood. We retweet interesting news from community groups, organizations, and elected representatives or levels of government. It can be news on proposed projects, upcoming meetings, and a range of developing issues concerning the waterfront, such as public health, transit, the environment, housing, recreation, business, etc.

Our Executive encourages members who would like to be more connected via Twitter to follow us at York Quay NA. Our tweets will then appear on your Twitter feed, and you can like, retweet, or comment on them. If you want to suggest content for our feed, please email a link and Leah Lambert will post any material that’s timely and appropriate.

Our Neighbourhood in Winter

Our neighbourhood by the lake is beautiful year round, and no less during the winter months. People flock to the boardwalks to take in the scenery and fresh air. These stunning photos were taken by photographer and lawyer Jack Gilbert from his 32nd-floor condo in Harbour Square.

The ice on the lagoon and near the Islands is attracting skaters from near and far. Jack’s sharpest lens caught this idyllic scene across the bay. Visiting skaters are warned about thin ice in places. For safety, follow the locals who know the surface.

Supporting People Experiencing Homelessness

Sa’ad Talia told his moving life story that included a homeless stretch. He is now a spokesperson for homeless people and lives comfortably in an apartment.

It is winter and Toronto’s 8,000 homeless citizens are seeking shelter indoors, almost all wanting housing. None of them chose to be homeless. YQNA learned about this shameful situation at a recent well-attended Zoom meeting from two experts — Shafeeq Armstrong from Toronto Shelter Network’s Welcome Home Project, and Sa’ad Talia who was formerly homeless and is now a team member of the Persons with Lived Experience caucus.

Shafeeq heads a one-year initiative to provide information about the benefits of housing people experiencing homelessness. It is easy to understand that a home is essential for holding down a job, going to school, cooking meals and keeping physically and mentally healthy. Without an address, it is almost impossible to restart a life gone awry for whatever reason. We are talking about homeless people who are most visible in streets and parks, but also the less visible families, including children and single parents. Even less visible are thousands of people who borrow a sofa or a room in a friend’s home.

Shelters are not a solution to homelessness, but they provide valuable services, such as mental health supports, connections to social services, to housing and help with the rent.

There are solutions. Last month alone, 56 supportive housing units opened in Toronto, at 11 Macey Street, taking eight months from conception to completion. Contrary to common assumption, assisted housing does not lower property values nearby.

The Waterfront attracts many homeless people in the summer, so YQNA is aware of their plight. We know that not all citizens feel compassion for them and think that “it’s their own fault” and especially that we must not “give them money for free.” For these sceptics there is good news, if tax dollars spent on the homeless is a main concern. An analysis by Homes First Society found that chronic homelessness can cost up to $161,000 per person per year. That includes preventable hospital and medical costs, shelter costs, legal and policing issues and social assistance. This staggering amount is a much bigger drain on government coffers than providing permanent homes and giving people a hand up. The bottom line — for those who find that most important — is that it is cost-effective to provide people with housing. Housing is essential for helping everybody reach their potential.

How can we help? By learning about the homeless and welcoming them in permanent homes in the neighbourhood; fundraising and donating to local shelter organizations; asking our elected politicians to support the homeless. Shafeeq’s Welcome Home presentation was a high point at YQNA’s meeting. He offers to give the same to other resident associations, BIAs and condo boards via shafeeqarmstrong.tsn@gmail.com.

The Community Care Program is still accepting winter clothing donations on Sundays from 12-1:30pm at 163 Portland Street. The entrance is located at the back gate off the alley. Clothes must be laundered winter clothing in good condition. Or donate to the Homes First site at 545 Lake Shore Blvd. W. and contact Ryan Evershed at (647) 455-1552 for details.