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Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter November 2019

rink scheduled to open Nov.30 this year

This newsletter is put out by CELOS, the Centre for Local Research into Public Space. Since 2000, when this little organization began at Dufferin Grove Park, we’ve been doing what we call “theoretical and practical research” into what makes public spaces – like parks – more hospitable and more lively. We’ve been researching what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve documented a lot of what we’ve seen and done, in this newsletter and on our four websites.

Campfires in the park

breakfast campfire at the Duffer Grove "sleep-in"

These began in 1994, when park friends wanted to make food in the park, over a campfire, with children. Park staff said, there’s got to be a bylaw against that. Happily, they were mistaken. The bylaw says, no campfires without permission. When we went to the Fire captain, he said – sure, try it. We’re not against campfires, we like them. It’s house-fires we don’t like. Mario Zanetti, the recreation director of the time, gave permission. Staff and park friends put their heads together to establish a sensible safety protocol, and in the 25 years since then there have been thousands of campfires at Dufferin Grove. They keep the park cheery and safe at night, and they bring together people for a dozen different reasons, from rinkside birthday parties to newcomer potlucks to storytelling sessions to “just celebrating fall.” And so on. Booking a campfire is easy and inexpensive: email the local staff at

Clay and Paper Theatre in the park: 20th anniversary.

This year was the 20th anniversary of Clay and Paper Theatre’s Night of Dread parade. Afterwards a park friend, who was trying some anise-flavored Bread of the Dead from a tray decorated with skulls, said “I had dinner guests from the burbs and I took them to the parade afterwards, and blew their minds.” Someone joked – “because we’re so sophisticated here?” He said, “no, because we’re so simple.”

There was rain, just like at the first Night of Dread. This time, twenty years later, the rain held off until just before 8, and then the band moved inside the rink house along with the people who wanted to dance. Outside in the park, two campfires continued burning brightly in the rain. A kid at one of the fires said that people from the parade had crashed their campfire and eaten some of his birthday cake. But his parents said – “that’s what campfires are for, to share our food and our fire.” (He looked unsure.)

The park petition against demolishing the rink surfaces

In October, longtime park friend and volunteer gardener Skylar Hill-Jackson got some other park friends together and they collected over a thousand signatures on a petition against changing the rink’s orientation (which will require the demolition of the existing rink pads for landfill and the use of all new cement). Skylar presented the petition at the last community rink reno meeting. A week later she got a letter from Peter Didiano, the city’s main Capital Projects staffer for this change. He wrote:
We acknowledge the concerns outlined in the petition, but also note the geography represented by the signatories extends well beyond the local community. For the past 2.5 years, we have been working very closely with the local community, including the park's users and other stakeholders. While these consultations have touched on all of the issues noted in the petition, participants in our process are generally not currently expressing the same objections outlined in your petition. The current recommended option is an outcome of this local process.

The letter suggests that the petition was padded with signatures from other parts of the city – not local.

So we went over Skylar’s petition and sorted the addresses. There were
- 728 from within 10 blocks of the park
- 121 from slightly further away but still in the west (e.g. Euclid, West Lodge, Sorauren, the Junction, etc.)
- 133 from other parts of the city (Etobicoke, East Toronto from the other side of Yonge, North York, Scarborough), who apparently travel across the city to come to Dufferin Grove
- 80 illegible or visiting from other cities (incl Mississauga, Brampton, Oshawa) or other countries
Total: 1062.

Mr.Didiano has a copy of the same petition. It seems that maybe he didn’t do his homework.

Beyond that, it may not work out in the long run for city staff to use “local” as an undefined measure of who gets to say what park users want. If rink users add their names to the petition in even larger numbers during the final pre-construction rink season, will city staff and City Councillor Ana Bailao still continue to discredit the petition on the grounds that the consultant’s (LURA) 21-member “community resource group” is more local and therefore more legitimate? Or that the people who responded to the LURA online surveys – who are not identified – are the more reliable index of public opinion?

red herring

Time will tell. But for now, we have to declare Peter Didiano’s reason for ignoring the petition – that it’s not as local as the city’s community consultation – a red herring. From wikipedia: A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question.

Dufferin Rink season posted to open on Saturday November 30 at 9 a.m.

Last season's delayed rink opening was due to minor refrigeration machinery repairs that had not been done in good time because the rink mechanics (the CIMCO company) were not hired until a week before the rink was due to open. The request for quotes was issued on June 18 this year, and as usual, CIMCO was the only bidder. The contract was approved on Sept.11, so hopefully the city’s rink maintenance program will begin in time this year.

world cspital of mechanically-cooled outdoor rinks

Toronto is the world capital of outdoor mechanically-cooled ice rinks – we have 52, far more than any other city. CELOS runs an outdoor rinks website called, now in its 16th year. When the city’s 2019/2020 rink schedule was published, the main rink list said that the city’s first 40 rinks would open on Nov.30, but the individual rink schedules show 8 rinks, including Dufferin Grove, opening on Nov.23. We’ve listed all those rinks on Opening a week earlier is a very good idea, since the low sun in November makes it easy to make and keep good ice – but probably this was a posting mistake.

The mystery of the rink cracks

Park friend Andrea Holtslander wrote to our local city councillor, Ana Bailao, asking why the rinks will be demolished and replaced.

Andrea got this response: "In regards to the ice rink, as the City and the Architectural Firm mentioned in the last public meeting, there are cracks in the cement slab that need to be addressed if we want to be able to use the ice for the next 20 or so years.”

Andrea responded: “I was at that meeting. I was also at nearly all of the Community Resource Group and public meetings since Oct. 2018. The issue of cracks in the rink only came up at this most recent meeting. Prior to that, the City's reasons for replacing the rink were that:- the rink had to be a standard size (disputed among community rink users )- the rink shape needed to be changed so the zamboni could clear it better (disputed among community rink users). Nor do cracks come up in the internal city emails regarding the rink replacement, in the Freedom of Information response to questions about the rink renovation. I dug around on the net and found that cracks in the rink were investigated in 2004 and that the concrete expert from CIMCO stated that the cracks were not a problem.

another red herring

The engineering firm which assessed the rinks for the architectural firm doing the reno did not state the rinks needed to be demolished and replaced, and did not mention anything about cracks. I am curious to know what expert was consulted about the cracks, and why this concern is being brought up so late in the process.”

Another red herring? (see p. 2 for the definition)

Living in the park: month 4

Antonietta (Toni) Corrado says that in her experience the city's current shelter system is too dangerous for a 71-year-old woman in a wheelchair (e.g. the Sistering 24-hour drop-in at Bloor and Dovercourt). So in August she began her housing strike, moving into the park. She has now been promised a rent-geared-to-income apartment by the city’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration but it’s not ready. Meantime, she’s into her fourth month of living in what she calls her “Bedouin tent” – some tarps and shower curtains attached to the cob café wall by the playground. Her companions are her two little dogs. She’s had to add two chairs to her settlement, to be more hospitable – she gets so many visits from various new park friends.

Here are some of Toni’s recent notes about her day-to-day: - There was some rain leaking through the worn part of the tarp but the shower curtain took care of it....the two tarps held together but were too small to cover both umbrellas...l will have many notes about the do's and don'ts of outdoor living.
- l had to take the dogs out even though it was raining...we looked like drowned muskrats..
- Fernando from City Park Services was checking my tent while l was walking the dogs and l was able to stop him before he wrote about me in his little black book.....l explained about Sistering and the city knowing about me and the community knowing about me AND helping makes a difference if you are not alone out here.
- l went to the mall to get more cat litter to use as sandbags against the rain and also to give me traction for the wheelchair if it starts to slide in the mud. When I got back l had to put up the new tarp across the top of the other tarps so it would surround both sides at the top. l had help from some women trying to have a campfire in the rain and this worked brilliantly. l was soaked and exhausted. But the great news is the new tarp rain came in.
- Arie came by earlier today and he was of course worried about the cold and me. He just came back and brought me gloves, scarf, blanket, sweater, long johns, socks, a big umbrella and the buggy he used to bring everything.
- We didn't have the deluge that was in the forecast and when the wind was very strong all the tarps held. it was quite warm in here and l didn't realize how cold it was outside until Judy and then Jackie came by and I opened the flap.
- It's fine here just crispy....and we are warm. My “camping-out book” that I’ll write once I get into the apartment will have wisdom acquired through trial and much error with a sense of accomplishment.
- Buzzing, roaring, earth shaking: nothing like the city’s mulching mower six feet away to rouse you from a deep sleep. They’re mulching the leaves again ....l was having a war dream and realized it was the city workers.
- l feel like l am planting roots here like a tree.

Toni's wet blankets drying on the playground fence

Getting to the farmers’ market this winter when the sidewalks aren’t cleared

Last winter, and for many winters before, farmers’ market shoppers lamented the difficulty of getting to the market during the many Thursdays when the sidewalks were a mess. Skaters joked that they had to put on their skates at home so that they could skate to the rink. But it wasn’t funny. There was lots of talk about how to change that wintertime trapped-in-the-house feeling that’s not uncommon for people living in central Toronto, and there were said to be over 2000 letters to the mayor on the subject, from all over the city. Most of the letters said that the central city should get the same sidewalk plowing that’s done in Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough.

In March, Mayor Tory asked Transportation Services management for a report on the problem. Management hired two consulting companies to look at the problem – HDR Inc., an Omaha (Nebraska) international engineering firm, and IPSOS, a market research firm based in Paris (France, not the Paris that’s in Ontario) – to investigate. (Yes, really.)

On October 17, their findings were presented to a committee of council.

The HDR engineering report summary begins by saying that service standards for Toronto “generally exceed other municipalities’ levels of service on the lower volume roadways such as local and residential streets, and sidewalks.” The IPSOS survey found that “a majority (57 percent) of residents are satisfied with the winter maintenance services provided by the City of Toronto.”

A few week earlier, we had tracked down Michael Black, a member of Walk Toronto (, founded in 2013), a grassroots pedestrian advocacy group. We asked Michael what was planned for the sidewalk clearing this winter. He put us in touch with Transportation Services’ program manager of Emergency and Winter Services, Dominic Guthrie to find the answer.

Mr. Guthrie had good news and bad news. Good: the official snow amount for sidewalk snow plowing has been reduced to 2 cm from 8 cm. Bad: the downtown plowing is only for seniors. Good: the city has purchased 8 smaller sidewalk plows. Bad: they’ll only be used in front of the seniors’ houses (those who apply). Good: the sidewalk staff will test out what obstacles they run into on the sidewalks (hydro poles, street signs, fences etc.) -- practical testing. Bad: back to the consultant, for mapping every downtown fence and hydro pole on a central map. Idea: why not just ask residents to submit reports block by block, and then get down to clearing the sidewalks! Post script: the Ipsos market research report, saying that 57% of Torontonians are satisfied with the sidewalk service in winter, was just a random survey of people in any part of the city, all lumped together. The winter services manager admitted that the study gives no breakdown for areas where there’s no plowing. Our educated guess for unplowed sidewalks: 100% dissatisfied.

Sidewalk plowing comments from the dufferingrovefriends listserv

the city already clears sidewalks beside downtown parks

Erin George: I encourage everyone to visit to send a message to Mayor Tory that we will no longer stand for the discriminatory practice of failing to clear ice and snow from residential streets in the downtown core. It would cost $7.6 million dollars to provide this service annually. Slip and fall claims pay-outs alone are $6.7 million annually and are concentrated in the downtown core (coincidence? I think not.)
….City staff try to blame the discrepancy on the narrow width of the sidewalks and the placement of hydro poles, but the sidewalks are literally no different south of the Danforth versus two blocks north of the Danforth and yet the former East York residential streets get their sidewalks cleared of snow and ice and the former City of Toronto does not. The argument is flawed and they know it. Someone needs to take this to the Human Rights Tribunal.

Judy Archer: For 35 yrs, I worked as a Public Health Nurse in all of the former municipalities except for the Cities of York & North York. I remember commenting on the lovely cleared sidewalks in Etobicoke & Scarborough…The former City of Toronto’s side streets often were like skating rinks. My concerns have exponentially increased since I’ve retired and had orthopedic surgery. It’s over 20 yrs since amalgamation, this disparity between the former municipalities has got to end.
Tracy Frances: My children are grown up now, but when they were small there were days when it was virtually impossible to push their stroller on sidewalks that had not been shovelled. I had just moved from Ottawa where the sidewalks are cleared and everyone can move around on foot in the winter.
Marte Misiek: It is past time to address this issue…I rely on walking and the TTC as my primary means of getting around the city. I broke my wrist 5 years ago because I fell on an uncleared sidewalk in our neighbourhood. I never thought to approach the city for compensation; I was too busy trying to heal and get by day-to-day. Now I fear walking outside [in winter]; it can be dangerous just to get to the TTC. Luckily I am otherwise in good health; I am not person with small children in a stroller or a person using a mobility device.

Skateboarding news:

From skateboarding activist Migs Bartula: “Local skateboarders have been participating in the revitalization project to make sure that the new rink will accommodate the skateboard ramps. In the meantime, there is a new community skatepark at the rink at Christie Pits which will be a good home for all the local skaters during the construction at Dufferin Grove….Some of the ramps will be put to use at the Christie Pits rink next year.”

Tall towers news

From (BBBD): “On October 2, BBBD met with representatives from Bloor-Dufferin Development Limited Partnership and the City’s Planning, Affordable Housing, and Social Development and Finance divisions, in a formal mediation process with land-use planning mediator James McKenzie. The issues discussed in mediation must remain confidential, but we can tell you that it was a very long day, with much intense discussion, and many calculators.

Dufferin and Bloor

Bloor-Dufferin residents and BBBD Steering Committee members Maggie Hutcheson, Sean Fitzpatrick, Lynn Cepin, and Sean Meagher acted as BBBD’s mediation team. We also had the benefit of some expert advisors from the neighbourhood: Andrea Adams of St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society, Maureen Fair of West Neighbourhood House, Jacquie Thomas of Theatre Gargantua, Joshua Benard of Habitat for Humanity, and urban studies professor Emily Paradis.

The mediation didn’t lead to a plan that works for the neighborhood, but it “moved the conversation forward significantly.” Still, as it stands, the proposed park is tiny: 0.6 acres. Only 2.6% (56 units of the proposed 2,124 condo units) are affordable housing. The community “hub” space is very small and has no artist and cultural spaces at all. The public gathering spaces will be lost too -- BCI auditorium, the outdoor basketball courts and the playing fields. While the school board stands to make $121 million from the sale, some estimates suggest a clear profit of $750 million for the developers.

From Emily Paradis: “The Planning decision about this site will be brought to Community Council on Dec 3 - that will be the community’s last chance to have their say about the project before the City gives final permission.”

From BBBD: “we are still working to get a better plan in place ahead of the upcoming November 25 pre-hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board. Failing that, BBBD will exercise its right to a full hearing – a process that could take up to a year.
"We know the developer and the City are eager to settle on November 25 – especially given the recent revelation that the purchase agreement with Toronto Lands Corporation expires December 31, 2019 (check out Joe McAllister’s opinion piece on the expiry). Let’s hope this motivates them to consider the community, not just their calculators.”

Editor: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Webnsites: www.,,,

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