Businesses along Dundas Street West are channelling the visual language of the American president for a local protest poster campaign.
Organized by the Dundas West Business Improvement Area, the posters oppose the proposed removal of rush-hour parking along the street. Emblazoned with an image of Adam Giambrone, councillor for the area and chair of the TTC, they state that “Our neighbourhoods are destinations, not highways!”
The posters were noticed by the National Post‘s Peter Kuitenbrouwer yesterday, who missed the appropriation of the iconic Obama Hope poster made by street artist Shepard Fairey, instead interpreting the look as Soviet-era propaganda. Given Fairey’s influences, that’s not altogether wrong, but the references to the more recent source couldn’t be more clear; the red and blue, the high contrast reduction of the portrait, the upward glance, and the simple switch from Hope to Nope.
While the adaptation of this particular artwork—now so deeply entrenched in the public consciousness as an embodiment of positivity and potential—for a protest campaign feels awkward and a little heavy-handed, the issues at stake are deeply rooted and locally relevant.
The posters claim that “Adam Giambrone wants to remove rush hour parking on both sides of the street—CITYWIDE! April 29 City Council will vote on taking it away from Dundas W. Queen Street might be next. This will turn our streets into dangerous highways, hurting pedestrians, cyclists and small businesses.” (This isn’t the first time that Giambrone has been the subject of a street-level postering campaign: during the controversial discussions about the narrowing of Lansdowne Avenue, that neighbourhood was emblazoned with signs against the proposal.)
Dundas West has enjoyed parking on one side of the street during rush hour since September 2007, when City Council voted in favour of a recommendation made by a councillor for a one-year trial period. The Dundas West BIA believes that this parking is integral to the economic vitality of the neighbourhood and cites that the commercial vacancy rate has dropped from 19% to 12% during this trial.
According to an open letter from the BIA to City Council, the reason for the move to rescind the street parking stems from a negative report released in October of 2008 by City Transportation that cites substantial “TTC delays.” Interestingly, the councillor who originally recommended the on-street, rush-hour parking back in September of 2006 was Adam Giambrone. Two months after this recommendation, Giambrone was re-elected and, shortly thereafter, was also elected to the position of TTC chair.
Giambrone’s office says that the signs “are clever, but they’re also misleading and inaccurate.” According to Kevin Beaulieu, Giambrone’s Executive Assistant, the TTC and the Dundas West BIA Chairs met just two days ago, and, says Beaulieu, are in the midst of working on a model that will include limited parking spaces while not sacrificing streetcar service. The parking on the street, Beaulieu says, was always on a “trial basis”; there was always a “sunset clause.” But they’re expecting a good new model that should work for everyone in about a day, and the intention is absolutely “not to create a highway”—not on Dundas West nor anywhere else.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.