You might be surprised to learn that it is. It is a Privately Owned Public Space – POPS for short – which means that although it is private property and maintained by a private owner it is meant to be a space which is accessible and used by the public.
But more and more owners of these spaces are going to great lengths to discourage the public from using these spaces. Designs that incorporate walls along the street, constructing gates and fences, and displaying signs that gives the impression that the space is for private use only.
Jennifer Keesmaat’s love and passion for urbanism cannot be doubted. Through her speeches she demonstrated a breadth of knowledge and experience that few possess. That she has made herself into a hero to urbanists, progressives, and the media cannot be denied. But as the Chief City Planner, a civil servant, I am glad to see her go.
Keesmaat viewed herself and her role not as being a Director in the Toronto Civil Service but as a Commissioner in an American style strong mayor administration, along with the publicity and prestige that such a public office holds; think Janette Sadik-Khan. However, because of the way that she ran her office, real damage has been done to the trust and integrity of the planning department and to Toronto’s transit system.
“I think in an ideal world, a lot of these projects would have been advanced a long time ago,” said Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief planner. “We’ve approved the growth. In many instances we’ve already built it, but the transit has been lagging … Suffice it to say, we need to catch up. We desperately need to catch up.”
She’s right. But stopping and going back to square one is an odd way of catching up, particularly when you’re already behind. That’s what’s happening this fall as Toronto City staff have outlined a two-steps back proposal to “reset” the long-awaited Waterfront LRT project.
A drain feature. “I cannot justify spending … $1.96 million for a ‘drain feature’ in the St. Lawrence Market redevelopment,” John Tory announced, never mind the actual cost that is up for debate is pegged at $1.64 million.
Toronto is a young city built on land with a rich heritage. Around the time that colonists started arriving the land on which Toronto is now built was home to the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. In 1786 land was purchased by the colonial government from the Mississaugas to establish a new settlement which would eventually be named York.
After the war of 1812 with the Americans, York grew quickly attracting workers and merchants. It grew too quickly though, faster than the infrastructure needed to support residents, and the town earned the nickname “Muddy York.” This lead to the incorporation of Toronto in 1834 and lead to its first democratically elected mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie.
I love the idea of the Rail Deck Park, a plan to deck over the railway corridor from Blue Jays Way to Bathurst and build a park on it. At 21 acres it would be the largest new park to open in Toronto since Downsview Park in 1999 and a vital infusion of green space in the already under-parked and ever intensifying Downtown Toronto. But when you look into it’s impact on other parks, how to pay for it, and how the idea originated, the lustre on the Rail Deck Park starts to fade.
The moment of inception for capital projects is usually not hard to trace; a report identifying a need, a milestone reached and the need to make a decision, etc. Not so with Rail Deck. One day it was nothing, the next day John Tory announced it; a fait accompli. But before work started on the park proposal there was the condo proposal.
A fine, as a means of dissuading anti-social behaviour, is a pretty blunt instrument. It is hamstrung by one overarching factor that renders it useless to a large proportion of the population: marginal ability to pay.
In short, if you are rich the impact of a $150 fine for parking in a bike lane may be minimal, whereas if you are poor it could mean very real sacrifices in order to pay the fine. What is needed is a way to factor the fine by ones ability to pay in order to equally dissuade anti-social behaviour.
The title of this post needs to become the mantra of all those that value civilization and all that it brings us.
An alarming majority of people use services that are provided for by means of taxes and don’t even realize it. They are often small government, fiscal conservative types. A 2008 Cornell study found that 57% of Americans claimed they never used services funded by taxes but when asked if they had availed themselves of 21 programs 94% had made use of at least one with the average being four.