Former city councillor Kay Gardner is lending her name to help fight the city’s decision to evict a local senior’s group from their meeting space in the Forest Hill Library.
Gardner, along with current Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc and a handful of bridge club members, met with representatives from the city’s real estate department in December to recommend the bridge club, evicted in July, be allowed to reoccupy the space.
“We’re hopeful that the ladies will get the key back,” Gardner told the Town Crier, adding donations would be sought if an agreement with the city can’t be reached.
“Councillor Mihevc said that he would be making sure that money would be found. It’s sort of in his hands now.”
Since 1968, The Forest Hill Bridge Club has met rent-free twice a week at the library. But a policy, enacted in 2007, requires community groups to pay rent to use meeting rooms in city-owned spaces.
Members say they were not forewarned of the city’s plans and were shocked to find themselves locked out of the room located at the back of the library. They were told if they couldn’t pay $15,000 plus tax a year to use the no-frills room, they would have to find somewhere else to play.
“The rent part was a little strange to me because the room isn’t easy to rent. It wasn’t designed as separate offices, it was designed for what it is,” said Gardner. “It’s a community space. It’s really a community building used by the community and not a rental property to be making money from.”
The fact the eviction was carried out in an abrupt and impersonal way added insult to injury, says Gardner, who has personal ties to the library. Before being elected to council in 1985, Gardner was a librarian at the Forest Hill branch and was in charge of coordinating activities for seniors. When the bridge club approached her to help make the appeal at city hall, she didn’t hesitate to throw her support behind it.
“You know, it’s hard when there’s big political changes and a bunch of old ladies aren’t in the loop and are surprised with this kind of news,” she said. “None of them are really in a position to do anything, either. All of us old ladies are living on modest incomes, so having these community groups makes a big difference.
“I don’t support cutting for community projects because that’s what makes the city healthy,” she added. “If you cut things for old people and children, I don’t think you’re going to have a very healthy, happy city.”
Member Lea Gorvin said the city suggested they try the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, but obstacles such as poor health and lack of transportation prevent them from doing so.
“We have no bridge club at the moment,” she said. “We don’t have any way of meeting.”