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Residents Want a Fair Deal for Fairfield Park

Across Toronto, a three-sided war is raging between the City, the Toronto District School Board, and residents, over the school board’s decision to sell its surplus lands. At stake are the properties that the TDSB has left unused, which, over the years, have been adapted by local residents and transformed into important community hubs. This past Saturday, the WKRA (West Kingsway Ratepayers’ Association) held a rally in Etobicoke at Fairfield Park—one of the TDSB’s surplus lands—to try to save a section of it from being sold to developers.
Torontoist attended the event and talked to the community organizers and city councillors that are working to keep the space green.


20100410fairfieldpark20.jpg
The area within the yellow line is the land owned by the TDSB. Image from Google Maps.


Fairfield is one the nine sites that the TDSB has declared surplus and put up on the market since 2009. The lot is 4.7 acres and is described by the Toronto Lands Corporation—the entity the TDSB created in 2007 to sell off and lease some of its surplus land—as “well suited for a low density infill residential development.” The land is bordered on the east by the City-owned Fairfield Seniors’ Centre, which currently uses the parking lot on the TDSB’s land, and on the south by the part of the park that’s City-owned. At issue is the parcel outlined in yellow in the map above.
In the early 1980s, the former City of Etobicoke acquired the seniors’ centre, which was previously a school, from the Etobicoke Board of Education. “Probably because of the financial constraints, Etobicoke didn’t buy the rest of the site,” explained Councillor Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) to Torontoist. “The seniors’ centre can’t operate without a parking lot, so we know we have to buy the parking lot. And we know in our hearts that we have to buy the rest of the green space to make sure that it stays that way…Once we lose a space like this we’re never going to get it back.”
20100410fairfieldpark9.jpg
At the moment, the TDSB is asking one million dollars for the parking lot and eight million dollars for the whole package, a price tag that Milczyn argues is too high. “We would question whether it’s really worth eight million dollars,” he said. “But obviously, it has a lot of value…The goal is to buy the whole property. It just boils down to a matter of money and timing.”
According to Milczyn, if the City purchases the green space, it will most likely be fitted with nets and added to the inventory of soccer fields; if it’s unable to acquire the property, then the City’s goal is to ensure that intense development doesn’t take place. “The City’s position is if this were to be redeveloped, it would be redeveloped with single-family detached homes,” Milczyn told us. “The school board is talking about four-storey seniors’ housing or a very dense townhouse site. The city planning department has said “no” to these plans.”
For now, Milczyn says that he’s “cautiously optimistic,” and hopes that he’ll reach an agreement with the school board in the next few weeks.
20100410fairfieldpark15.jpg
The event also drew out Joe Pantalone—deputy mayor, councillor (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina), and mayoral candidate. “The school board is selling a piece of property which looked like a park, acted like a park, and felt like a park, so therefore, the local community thought it was a park,” Pantalone told us. The market price the TDSB is asking is “not fair,” he continued. “We as taxpayers already paid for this property, and we shouldn’t be paying for it twice.”

20100410fairfieldpark16.jpg
Peter Milczyn, councillor for Ward 6 Etobicoke Lakeshore (left) and Monique D’Sa, environmental chair of the WKRA (right).

Although Pantalone was the only mayoral candidate physically in attendance, Councillor Rob Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke-North) made his presence felt though a contingent of volunteers sent to help cook hot dogs and hand out “Ford for Mayor” bumper stickers. (Ford had a previous engagement in Scarborough.)
Although issues of Toronto’s green space and the TDSB’s surplus lands will undoubtedly play a role in the upcoming election, citizens were at the heart of this rally, as they have been at similar rallies that have taken place across the city.
“If we don’t protest loud enough, this land is probably going to be sold,” Klass Vangraft, WKRA acting secretary, told Torontoist. “This is about the only flat green space left in this neighbourhood.”
“The WKRA’s stance is to save all of the land,” further explained Monique D’Sa, environmental chair of the WKRA, and the organizer behind the rally. “It’s not just us saying ‘it’s in my backyard, I want it!’ People come to Fairfield Seniors’ Centre from across the city, and people come here to play soccer from everywhere…The land is currently cut up into three pieces, but we don’t want to see anything cut up. We want it all.”
Photos by Stephen Michalowicz/Torontoist.

Comments

  • http://undefined andomano

    The school isn’t on land owned by the TDSB???

  • Robert Ruggiero

    I live in the area, and regularly walk/drive past the land in question.
    I’m torn. These inner suburbs really need added density to maintain vibrancy. Etobicoke Centre decreased its population between the last consensus, and Etobicoke Lakeshore grew a scant 0.6% – likely because of the condo boom by the lake.
    (sources: cbc.ca/news/canadavotes/riding/131/ and cbc.ca/news/canadavotes/riding/130/)
    I’m in support of developing something along the lines of a medium density senior’s residence. Single family homes are the last thing that should be built. I understand the detached homes fit the scale and character of the neighbourhood – but this is right off Islington Ave. The street is a major corridor with transit, onramps to the Gardiner and a diverse mix of uses (single family residential, warehouses, commercial large and small). If there ever was a place to build medium density, it would be along Islington.
    Instead of locals protesting any sort of development, they should work with the future developer and make it a win-win situation.
    Here’s a potential proposal: develop a medium density building on the current parking lot. Do underground parking under the building or the field. Voila, everyone wins.
    Look, I live in the area, and want Etobicoke to thrive. We need to look beyond the status quo and envision a healthy vibrant future.

  • http://undefined Taylor Roberts

    These and similar lands are not ‘surplus’; they are grass for children to run on within the fenced safety of a school yard. The lands are also a public trust, and anyone who arranges their sale surely violates that trust along with the wishes of the majority of residents. Ultimately these sales destroy community areas and thereby help contribute to a sickened society.

  • http://undefined Lindsay Marigold

    I also live in the area, and I agree with Robert on this one. If it is necessary for this area to be developed, single family homes are the last thing needed in the area. A compromise needs to be reached, allowing for medium density housing and green space to coexist.
    Also, contrary to what Klass Vangraft has said, this is not one of the last few flat green spaces available in the neighbourhood. Just north there is Tom Riley Park, to the east there is Laura Hill Park and Spring Garden Park, and to the south there is Norseman Heights Park. All within a 5 minute walk.

  • http://undefined Monique

    The City bought the building about 30 years ago but not the rest of the land.

  • http://undefined Monique

    We will certainly be seeing more homes on Islington. the Premiere Fitness location may one day house 1400 units. Many of the industry on the west of Islington may soon be townhouses. Where will these people go to play and walk their dogs? Already people from the west side must come to these particular lands to use as greenspace because no parks are being created for them. The population will grow, more families are moving in. Where will they play if we take away the grass?

  • http://undefined Monique

    Councillor Peter Milczyn stated that the city was in need of more official soccer fields. This is an ideal location. Lora Hill and Springbrook Gardens cannot offer this and Norseman is only available during off school hours.

  • http://undefined Robert Ruggiero

    Monique,
    I proposed a very serious idea. To only develop the parking lot. We need the density. We need more people living here. We’ll have a safer, stronger community with an appropriately sized medium density development.
    The population is growing very slowly. Yes there is a lot of physical development, but that does not equal population growth. Look at the average size of homes today and compare them to homes a generation ago. The houses have doubled in size, and yet the family size has shrunk. So, even with hundreds of units being built – there wont be a noticeable population increase. That being said, I am 100% opposed to 1400 units on the site of Premier Fitness.
    Also, I would be interested in knowing the exact dimensions of the surplus lands. By my estimation, the current space is too small for an official size soccer field.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    Looking at the overhead map I don’t see how a developer could put anything there with the exception of town houses. As long as it’s not mixed use, low rises, that shit will bring the riff raff flocking to the area.
    I don’t blame the TDSB. At the end of the day they need cash. The only reasonable solution is for the city to buy the land.

  • http://undefined Robert Ruggiero

    View Larger Map
    Something like this could work wonderfully on the parking lot site, perhaps even a storey taller. It’s not unheard of to use the density of the larger site and only apply it to one portion.
    I don’t understand Peter K’s comment. Are you saying low rise mixed use brings in the riff raff? I would argue that the density is independent of riff raff, it’s the execution.

  • http://undefined xcskiermom

    I live a stone’s throw from this park and use it several times a week. Like Peter K, I don’t blame the TDSB- the board is desperate for money. But, as the kids’ signs say…once this green space is gone, it’s gone. I’m still hoping the City will find a way to buy it and use it for a soccer field or related use. One can only hope. Besides, once the City buys up space for parking that it needs for the Seniors Centre, there really isn’t that much space left for development…
    Kudos to Monique for organizing the rally.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    If the units are individually owned I have no problem with it. Public housing or rental units attract an element that would worsen the neighbourhood significantly.

  • http://undefined Robert Ruggiero

    Current public housing in Canada is in need of an overhaul. But public housing and rental does not necessarily worsen the neighbourhood. There is nothing wrong with the idea of public housing or rental, it’s the execution that is important. I have done planning work in Finland, where 50% of the housing stock is public housing. They are often built at such high quality that they are more popular than market housing.
    A mixed income senior’s home would be beneficial to the area. Neighbouring, Etobicoke Centre has the highest number of seniors anywhere in Canada. Baby Boomers, Canada’s largest demographic are entering retirement in droves.
    I understand area residents do not want their property values lowered, neither would I. Instead of assuming all development is bad, the community needs to devise a plan that works for everyone.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    Housing for seniors is a different animal and one I wouldn’t be opposed to should development be the only option.
    The traditional public housing we’ve seen in Toronto though is a magnet for drug dealers and property crime. Public housing on the site would not only eliminate green space that kids play in, but it would make it unsafe for families to life in the neighbourhood. Save that shit for a neighbourhood that’s already in the toilet.

  • http://undefined torontothegreat

    “The traditional public housing we’ve seen in Toronto though is a magnet for drug dealers and property crime. Public housing on the site would not only eliminate green space that kids play in, but it would make it unsafe for families to life in the neighbourhood.”
    Do you have any stats that illustrate this? From what I’ve read, statistically speaking of course, it’s the suburbs that are magnets for Grow Ops, Meth labs and Ecstasy dealers.
    The public housing has in Toronto been poorly planned for sure. We ended up creating ghettos when they should have been mixed use housing, much like what is going on in Regent Park nowadays.
    Poor civic planning creates ghettos, public housing doesn’t.

  • http://undefined Robert Ruggiero

    You’re right, traditional housing projects are horrible. Luckily Toronto is bulldozing those by the acre. In their place are award winning buildings like 60 Richmond East, http://www.torontohousing.ca/investing_buildings/regent_park/60_richmond_street_east .
    But this is way off topic. I never once said that I think public housing should go here. I simply said that a medium development on the parking lot could be a win-win scenario. Community stakeholders need to work with the TDSB, the City, and potential developers and develop a plan that is generated by the community.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    Check out the TPS crime maps and look at any neighbourhood near public housing. You’ll see an unmistakable correlation between public housing and crime:
    http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/statistics/crime_maps.php
    Yes, it’s a low percentage of few people in public housing who are involved in the crime, but any increase in an otherwise quiet neighbourhood is unacceptable. Adding one dope dealer or gangbanger in a family neighbourhood is not an acceptable strategy.
    Public housing should be ghettoized frankly. People shouldn’t want to live there and should be motivated to work their hard to get out of it and stay out of it.
    Jane/Finch, Malvern, and Regent Park are already screwed up. Keep them that way and save the rest of the city.

  • http://undefined Robert Ruggiero

    Creating ghettos is never the appropriate solution – and that’s ghettos for wealthy people and ghettos for poorer people. I’m glad that the city disagrees with you, and is encouraging mixed-use and mixed-income developments.
    Keeping quiet residential neighbourhoods static, is not the best way to preserve them. If you truly cared about your neighbourhood, you’d look in the future, and actively find ways to maintain a thriving community. Exclusion does not create community. Successful neighbourhoods need all age groups, all housing types, and all income brackets. Look, I attended schools in the area. I really wish we had a greater diversity of people represented in the immediate area.
    By the way, I agree with torontothegreat. Suburban kids sell dope too, not just ghetto public housing kids.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    That’s academic theory bullshit. My nice, clean safe neighbourhood does not need ALL housing types or income brackets to thrive in the way I want it to. It doesn’t need panhandlers or hookers or crack dealers on the corners.
    It needs people who care about their community and those around them. Public housing, and to a lesser extent rental units, don’t build a sense of community. They are transient housing that does the exact opposite of what you are arguing. So leave your bullshit theories in the academic world and leave real live people who have to life in these communities to deal with REALITY.
    We should be striving to encourage home ownership and the community pride that goes along with it, not creating more public housing and giving criminals new neighbourhoods to infest and new neighbours to rob from.
    PS There is a HUGE difference between suburban dope smokers and inner city ghetto gangbangers. The suburban kids may vandalize something, the gangbangers will murder you.

  • http://undefined abcde

    Im a university student who lived in the area and still makes many frequent trips back to the area to see friends and family. I have to agree with Robert. Simply taking the view that all development is bad is not a good approach. in fact development is inevitable. The green space is a key component to the neighborhood, and it is known that a thriving community requires this type of space. This can clearly be seen in the development and building of Welwyn Garden City in England. Greenspace is essential for healthy living within any community. I have used these lands in question since I was little and I still visit them every time I am home and of course they are important to me, but I understand the economics of the school boards and the city. It may not be feasible for these lands to be saved by either of these parties. Again I agree with Robert being a student in planning that a mixed use strategy would be the best idea for this land and a development in the parking lot to save the park land would be ideal. To Peter I have to say that having a single minded view on development is not healthy. You must be able to accept change. you may not always be happy with it but understand that change can be good and although you may not see the benefits right away over time new advantages may develop. Also I must say that your view on public housing makes me sick. The fact that you trash talk these other areas which are still part of the city of toronto just shows how central your view point is. you can look at a map and say crime is centralized in these areas but remember when you look at a map of canada those statistics are blurred and become part of the larger picture that includes south Etobicoke. Also your fear of drug dealers and gangbangers I hate to tell you but they exist in your quiet little community. just because you fail to see it doesn’t mean its not there.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    …it just means it’s there to a much lesser extent.
    I am by no means anti-development. But it needs to be the right development. Brownfield developments, in-fills, etc are all very good things.
    I would much prefer to see the greenspace preserved, as someone earlier said once it’s gone we’re not getting it back, but if at the end of the day development is the option that makes the most sense so be it.
    It just needs to be development that has the most positive impact on the community as is possible. Robert’s previous reference to seniors housing may fit that bill.
    However, despite all of your cries of “meany” and thinly veiled attempts at deflecting attention to these notorious “suburban drug dealers”, NONE of you has refuted the undeniable fact that crime INCREASES near public housing.
    The truth may sicken you abdce, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.

  • http://undefined Robert Ruggiero

    Peter, your crime maps don’t relate density. Yes there are more crimes in these public housing areas – but they are located in far denser than suburban Etobicoke. Compare crime on a per capita basis.
    Are you familiar with Scarlett and Dundas? There are public housing projects there, and their crime rate is lower than central Etobicoke.
    http://www.torontolife.com/guide/real-estate/west/rockliffe-smythe/
    http://www.torontolife.com/guide/real-estate/west/stonegate-queensway/

  • http://undefined Peter K

    Per capita crime doesn’t matter, it’s the absolute number of crimes that counts, period.
    No crime is acceptable, but that’s an impossible goal. So ghettoizing it is fine by me. Let me and my family live in peace and you can all have a war zone in your backyards for all I care. As long as it stays in your backyards.
    It doesn’t matter how often you try to use smoke and mirrors obfuscate it, the fact remains there are more crimes committed in and around public housing and low-rent units. One apparent statistical anomaly doesn’t change things. I say apparent because the public housing you Cite is outside the real estate zone of your link provided.

  • http://undefined abcde

    density isn’t important? thats just ignoring information to prove your point and you can’t do that. Tell China that density doesn’t matter and that the one child policy is a ridiculous control of population growth

  • http://undefined Robert Ruggiero

    This argument is going nowhere.
    You win Peter. Build a giant wall around your neighbourhood. Hire a security guard, with guns too.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    No it’s not important at all. If there are 3 murders on one block and 1 on another does it really matter that the first may be hold three times the population? No it doesn’t, especially to those two extra victims.
    This isn’t a classroom and we’re not talking about a stats lesson son. This is real life.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    Well we agree on one thing, the argument IS going nowhere.
    Since the criminals already have guns it seems only fair to give the security guards a fighting chance doesn’t it?

  • http://undefined torontothegreat

    Well said! I hadn’t thought of the flip side (wealthy ghettos).
    We’ll all be laughing at PeterK in 5 years when Regent Park becomes a standard for mixed use housing.
    I don’t think you realize PeterK that it’s the suburban ‘gangstas’ that are the scariest. The REAL ‘gangstas’ don’t generally want heat in their direction (like bikers). It’s the retarded kids from Brampton who (driving their dad’s BMWs) have something to prove. You actually hear of more gang style crime committed by people who live in areas like Oakville than by people from Regent Park.

  • http://undefined EricSmith

    If there are 3 murders on one block and 1 on another does it really matter that the first may be hold three times the population? No it doesn’t, especially to those two extra victims.

    Uh…

    Where do you think those “two extra victims” are drawn from, except from the tripled population? Seriously: you might as well demand that nobody at all be allowed to live in the city, since, clearly, if they live there, some of them will be murdered.

    we’re not talking about a stats lesson son. This is real life.

    As long as you’re doing the talking, you’re half right about that, “son.”

  • http://undefined Scorbutic

    No it’s not important at all. If there are 3 murders on one block and 1 on another does it really matter that the first may be hold three times the population? No it doesn’t, especially to those two extra victims.
    This isn’t a classroom and we’re not talking about a stats lesson son. This is real life.

    It’s embarrassing to even read this, it’s so stupid. Hey Peter K, which place is safer to live in: a city with 500,000 residents and 5 murders per year, or a town with 100 residents and 4 murders per year?

  • http://undefined abcde

    and another thing. the idea of leaving some areas of toronto as “bad areas” isnt a solution. The fact that you would think of promoting inequalities in income in order to preserve nicer areas the problem. and heres my little piece of classroom “bullshit” for you. check out the income inequalities of chinas east and west or urban vs. rural.. and i wont give you a link i wouldnt want to be your teacher. and btw i couldnt be your son. maybe your daughter