Grey Is The New Beige, Part Four: Everything Else
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Grey Is The New Beige, Part Four: Everything Else

On Monday morning, Astral Media unveiled prototypes of its new line of “street furniture” at City Hall. On Wednesday, we took a look at the garbage bins. On Thursday, the advertising pillars. Yesterday, the transit shelters. Today, everything else. (Also check out Karen von Hahn’s disparagement of the street furniture in the Globe.)
2008_6_15NewspaperBox.jpg
2008_6_15NewspaperBoxBack.jpg
A lot of people who otherwise hate what the Coordinated Street Furniture Program has wrought like the idea of the multi-publication structures (above and here). We can see how the concept is appealing: instead of a mess of unregulated, multi-hued hunks of metal at a given corner, we can instead have a single monochromatic hunk of metal. Except newspaper boxes are currently regulated, albeit in the same way that billboards are; there are strict bylaws (and even a permitting process) governing where and how they may be placed [PDF], but City staff take a passive, complaint-driven approach to enforcement. Rather than do their job by bringing newspaper boxes into compliance so that they don’t clutter the sidewalk, Transportation Services staff instead chose to, as Rami Tabello put it, “mandate the intermediation of a [national] advertising company between journalists and public space.” And once the compartments on a multi-publication structure are filled (they can have up to twelve of them), it will be more difficult for new publications to break into the market, especially if they want to do it legally but can’t afford the licensing fees to have a box outside of the structures.
Oh, and yes, there’s an advertising panel on the back. In theory, these are supposed to be used solely for public art and City PSAs, and while this will likely be true for several years, it is inevitable that there will come a time when it will not be true. Even the SilverBoxes (the current garbage bins) carried messages of affirmation rather than ads when they were first introduced a decade ago.
The last handful of items are explored after the jump.


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These look enough like the current ring-and-posts, but as Torontoist brought with us to City Hall neither a bicycle nor a two-by-four, we can’t tell you how functional they are. But it’s not like there will be that many, anyway: the installation of the 2000 will be spaced evenly over the 20-year duration of the contract, such that 50 will be put out each year. Of course, 100% of the ad pillars will be on the streets by 2009.
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The City’s new postering bylaw, approved by Council a couple of years ago, will finally be put into effect with the installation of these kiosks. The bylaw restricts commercial postering to such monoliths but allows community posters to continue to be erected on utility poles (so long as they adhere to a number of rules). These kiosks, therefore, will likely come to be dominated by commercial messaging.
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We found the bench reasonably comfortable, but not everyone did. From the Star:

Among [the critics] was Roland Hill, a retired judge, who tried out the new benches and issued a harsh verdict.
“It’s hard on your back, and there’s no arm rest,” said Hill, 85. There are, in fact, arm rests, but Hill said they’re far too low to support his arms when he sits in a normal position. He much prefers the benches at Queen’s Park.

Torontoist was there when Hill was trying out the bench, and we can tell you that the remarks the Star chose to quote were by far his most polite. (He said something along the lines of it being the worst bench he’d ever sat on and, we were told, got into a bit of a tiff with Astral’s infamously irritable Luc Beaulieu.)
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Astral didn’t bother schlepping to City Hall the prototype of its Urinetown-esque pay-to-pee monstrosity, so we can only offer an opinion based on what we’ve been told and what we’ve seen in photos. Suffice it to say that there are very few sidewalks in Toronto that could possibly accommodate these, and as with everything else in the street furniture program, they can only be placed on sidewalks. (The sole location in the core that we’ve heard tossed out as a potential site is Queen and Soho.) It doesn’t really matter where they go, though, as those most in need of public washrooms will be unable or unwilling to fork over the $1 necessary to use them; Astral does have a scheme to offer “Free Homeless Access,” but that is an idea that seems unworkable in practise.
“Once upon a time, sure, we weren’t pretty, even then, but we were at least clean and just,” writes Karen von Hahn in the Globe. “Now, the real street furniture (aside from the giant recycling bins overwhelming the sidewalks) is the swelling ranks of the homeless we’ve become used to stepping over like garbage.”
We’d be cheeky and suggest that it’s only a matter of time before the people who live in public space are put in the care of advertisers, but Toronto’s clever commercialists have already been there and done that.
Jonathan Goldsbie, with the TPSC, took all of the above photos, except the last one, which is courtesy of the City.

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