York Quay Neighbourhood Association covers Toronto’s iconic Central Waterfront, with members in every building. YQNA is actively engaged in what shapes our neighbourhood – traffic, transit, planning, cultural and social events, policing, environment, noise, businesses, and the great urban renewal transforming Queens Quay. YQNA welcomes all residents to participate, share their ideas and enjoy our events.
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 email@example.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.
Major changes are planned to continue streetcars along Queens Quay east of Yonge Street all the way to the Port Lands. YQNA, a stakeholder in the planning process, was recently invited to participate in a virtual meeting hosted by City Planning, Waterfront Toronto and TTC staff. A presentation of the proposed plans was followed by a Q&A. YQNA will announce an information session for the wider public to follow later this year.
Expecting a large population growth in the Waterfront area, City Council approved the upgrading of the tunnel from Union Station to Queens Quay last year. The plans will also include a larger platform at Union Station, enhancement of the Queens Quay station, and a new tunnel heading east under Queens Quay. TTC is in charge of the underground work and has awarded a design contract to Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions.
The surface tracks on Queens Quay East will be designed by the City and Waterfront Toronto. The previous 2010 Environmental Assessment (EA) study dealt with a shorter streetcar line ending at Parliament Street. The EA must now be updated for a longer transit service ending at Cherry Street.
A key issue in this multi-year construction project is the location of the tunnel portal. In 2010, it was recommended to bring the line to the surface around Freeland Street. A large sewer outfall at the foot of Yonge Street has since been identified, and to run the tunnel beneath it would add many millions of dollars. The cheaper solution would be to build a shorter tunnel with the portal just west of Yonge Street.
The streetcar track and the proposed portal would be located on the south side of Queens Quay, which would block the access driveways to the ferry docks and the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, and also remove the existing taxi and bus parking areas. The suggested solution is to fill in part of the Yonge Street Slip and create a new link to the ferry laneway and the hotel driveway. The new landfill could also hold the taxis and some tour buses (see illustration).
The new streetscape would build on the design of Queens Quay West, with improvements to the cycle path and the tree planting beds. Wave decks or other features may be added to the slips along the way at Jarvis and Parliament, for example.
Key concerns about the portal location and design were raised by YQNA and others, particularly representatives of 10 Queens Quay West, who questioned their access to drop-off and theparking garage in their buildings. YQNA felt that the portal would create a dead zone on the street between Bay and Yonge, as well as adding another unsightly feature to Queens Quay like the portal between York and Bay streets.
Several people asked about co-ordination with other work in the area, such as the future redevelopment of 11 Bay (the Westin conference centre), the Toronto Star site and the Ferry Docks.
Other questions showed worries about closing the streetcar and bus service and road closures during a lengthy construction period that is so far unknown. TTC did not pinpoint the method of building the tunnel, but an open cut is most likely and would be most disruptive.
The line along QQE could be built first, along with the portal and an east-west tunnel. That would enable through service on Queens Quay while the rest of the tunnel to Union is completed.
So far there is only partial funding for this phase of the project. Land owners along the route such as Redpath Sugar still have to be consulted. Staff are looking at a report to Council at the end of 2020 to seek approval of the design so far, and further funding to 100% design, which would take 12 to 18 months. Actual construction of the on-street section could take 3 years, and the underground works perhaps longer.
Conclusion: we are a long way from streetcar service on Queens Quay East.
The lake is still a magnet that draws people from the GTA, even if COVID-19 has cut back on most public events and attractions. Tour boats are busy again, and just sitting in a Waterfront park or sauntering on the boardwalks is a treat during hot summer weather. Through it all, YQNA continues to keep an eye on new developments. Our July Zoom meeting had over 100 participants (see the Draft Minutes), and here are some issues we discussed.
✔ Guest speakers Steve Diamond and Lauri Payne spoke about the proposed redevelopment of the parking garage at 200 Queens Quay W at Lower Simcoe (actually facing Harbour Street). The site was sold by the federal crown corporation Canada Lands, allowing for two towers of 45 and 55 storeys, to Diamondcorp and Lifetime Developments. Mr. Diamond presented the plans by Wallman Architects for towers that are 41 and 71 storeys. He justified the significant added density by pointing to the similar height of other buildings in the area. The developers claimed that the height would minimize impacts on the neighbourhood in regard to parks and flight paths, which was received with some scepticism. The current unsightly garage that fills the entire site would be replaced by two buildings with increased setbacks from the property line, which would allow for ample sidewalks, parking and lanes for biking, and a small parkette on Lower Simcoe Street. Requests for connecting this building to the PATH system would be considered, said Diamond.
The Waterfront BIA is concerned about the loss of this large parking facility on the Waterfront. The new project offers 441 parking spots, with half of them commercial spaces. The towers — if built in 3-4 years as proposed — would have 1482 condos, including 10% affordable units. The main concern for the neighbouring Waterclub condo residents is crowding. The 71-storey tower would be overwhelmingly tall and block the views from many condos. An additional 3,000 residents would greatly increase traffic and services, and make the car access to Queens Quay a real bottleneck because it leads to a mere two-lane street. Mr. Diamond listened to residents and intends to keep meeting as the project evolves.
✔ Work on Love Park at Queens Quay and York St. will begin in November, first by cleaning up the site by removing the bents (concrete pillars), then by cutting down most of the mature trees. Only five will remain, and 38 new trees will be planted. The heart-shaped pond will be home to an old Catalpa tree, and above it will be an illuminated pink heart. To the delight of dog owners: the dog corner will be enclosed and become an off-leash area.
✔ A large military Hercules 4-engined turboprop passed very low by the Harbourfront high-rises on July 8 in an extremely close and hazardous maneuver. It was completely unprecedented, and many residents and passers-by wrote to YQNA that they expected a crash. A formal YQNA request to the commander of the Canadian Forces Base Trenton for an explanation has so far met with “it’s business as usual”. The investigation continues.
✔ The prospect of e-scooters on our already busy sidewalks has been postponed until next year, pending reports from cities that have experience with health and uncertain insurance related to injuries. The Waterfront is largely pedestrian and may not be suitable for motorized scooters.
Enwave’s pipe system, which delivers cold water from Lake Ontario to cool Toronto’s high-rises, is in need of repair. The 112-year-old Cross Harbour Tunnel that runs from Muggs Island to the John St. Pumping Station will be reinforced, starting in August and finished in June next year. An important part of this project happens in our neighourhood under the City-owned parking lot at Rees Street and Queens Quay.
Work will take place in a hoarded construction site, from 7 am to 7 pm during the week and during extended hours as needed, says Mae Lee, public consultant for the City. Vehicle beepers will be removed and replaced with white noise technology, and overnight work will be restricted to below ground to minimize noise. Enwave’s access to the site will be from Lake Shore Boulevard. During construction, the parking lot will shrink by 40%, and Queens Quay will apparently not be affected.
The much larger project of constructing a new shaft for the Central Waterfront Wet Weather Flow System will eventually fit underground on the same site, but that won’t hinder the beautiful new park from being built, designed by Waterfront Toronto.
YQNA answered an urgent need to meet with Waterfront residents in a Zoom meeting on May 12 (see the draft minutes here). Co-chairs Angelo Bertolas and Carolyn Johnson managed a packed agenda and large crowd in our first cyberspace adventure. No need to remind anybody how much our lives have changed with the pandemic. A number of speakers told us about the restraints we face this summer, with the Waterfront reduced to a nature retreat from the usual cultural centre with millions of visitors. This will last until we recover. Still City Councillor Joe Cressy was concerned about too many people flocking here too close together. Both he and MPP Chris Glover and MP Adam Vaughan worried about people who are affected by the weakened economy. They hope to move the homeless from tents along the Waterfront into permanent housing with government help. They pointed out other needs for government funding for food and income security, small businesses, childcare centres, affordable housing, TTC, the airline industry and so many more.
Harbourfront Centre has cancelled all events. Tour boats might resume sailing in July, reported Mariposa. Meanwhile, kayaks, canoes and private boats are plying the lake. Some uplifting news came from Bryan Bowen of the Waterfront Secretariat. He explained elaborate plans for the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood, now under construction. Lynn Robinson of the Toronto Island Community Association reported that water levels in Lake Ontario have peaked, so flooding is probably avoided this year, but efforts continue to find permanent safety for our vibrant waterfront communities. Also good news from Enbridge Gas, which needs to install pipelines here from east to west: it will not be on Queens Quay, but on Lake Shore Boulevard. We thank everybody who reacted to YQNA’s request to keep Queens Quay intact.
This meeting attracted a good crowd and a prominent line of speakers, so we are planning another Zoom event in the middle of July. Look for the invitation!