Lawrence Heights revamp given the go

North York Community Council votes unanimously June 22 to pass the first phase of Lawrence Heights redevelopment plan

It was a heated scene at North York Community Council on June 22 as community members, leaders and politicians from all levels of government weighed in on the Lawrence Heights redevelopment plan.

Over 70 people made deputations at the meeting, calling for the nine voting councillors to scrap the plan, which includes the $350-million redevelopment of the existing 1,200 units of social housing and the addition of roughly 4,000 market value units.

“A lot of people started taking it emotionally. People personalize things, but you’re supposed to personalize them because your residence is your home,” said Jack Goldhar, a resident of the area and a co-chair of Save our Streets, an organization fighting the project.

Goldhar spoke at the meeting, reiterating what he says are the community’s biggest concerns. Residents in neighbourhoods just west of the Allen Expressway are worried that the 20,000 to 25,000 new people the redevelopment will add to the community may cause major traffic and infrastructure problems, potentially endangering pedestrians, stressing the water and drainage system and de-valuing their homes.

But Ward 15 councillor Howard Moscoe, a huge supporter of the redevelopment plan, repeatedly refuted the assertions that there are major problems with the blueprints.

“The infrastructure concerns are bogus,” said Moscoe in a phone interview with the Town Crier. “We’ve done extensive engineering studies. The new infrastructure that we’ll do for Lawrence Heights will improve the drainage and water problems in the rest of the community.”

Moscoe admitted that traffic is a major concern, but insisted that measures have been taken in the plan to protect the community. Goldhar hasn’t bought it.

“They didn’t give specific answers, they gave generalizations,” he said.

Following the hours of deputations and discussion, council unanimously passed the first phase of the redevelopment plans, which includes the replacement of 233 rental units, and the addition of over 1000 units of market housing.

Several amendments passed at the community council call for culturally sensitive additions to public facilities that will cater to the religiously devout communities here.

Moscoe’s best defense of the plan seemed to be that the city has been engaging the community for years and that most major concerns have been ironed out by now.

“After two years of dialogue and discussion and public meetings we’ve built the plan together with the community,” Moscoe said, calling this project the most consultative process he’s been a part of as the local rep.

“My sense is that most people are pretty accepting of it.”

But Moscoe wasn’t at a rally on June 20 in Lawrence Heights that saw some 300 residents protesting the current plans. Local MP Joe Volpe and several council candidates spoke to the boisterous crowd, denouncing the now-approved plan.

Volpe, an outspoken redevelopment opponent, told the crowd he presented a petition in the House of Commons on June 10 calling for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which once owned the land here, to investigate whether the plans are in keeping with the original conditions placed in writing when the land was transferred to the city.

The plans at Lawrence Heights call for the existing public housing—which has become so plagued by crime it is taken the name “The Jungle”—to be rebuilt and mixed with market-priced condominiums and homes.

About this article:

By: Christopher Reynolds
Posted: Jun 28 2010 2:04 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto