This is our Queensway

New residents’ group is intent on revitalizing the area

Standing on the street, freezing in the bright, early morning sun, Janine Rechsteiner and Mary Markoulis point out some of the nicer businesses that have sprung up along The Queensway in recent years.

“MoMo’s is good,” Markoulis says, pointing to a bistro.

Rechsteiner agrees.

“Down the street is also one of the best sushi places in the entire city,” she adds.

To some Torontonians, The Queensway has been a throughway, an alternative route to the oft-jammed Gardiner Expressway. Of course locals have always known there’s more to the neighbourhood, but now residents like Rechsteiner and Markoulis are making it official.

Following up on a suggestion made by a candidate during the October election and aided by councillor Peter Milczyn’s office, the two, along with several other like-minded residents, have taken it upon themselves to form the fledgling Queensway Residents Association.

“I think there are a lot of us in the neighbourhood interested in seeing the Queensway revitalized,” says Rechsteiner, a five-year resident of the area and interim chair of the new group. “Right now it’s a nice neighbourhood, but I wouldn’t say it’s a community.”

Although The Queensway was a bustling post-war neighbourhood, the area languished for a number years as grown children moved away and left empty-nester parents behind. As schools shut down, less desirable establishments — such as illicit massage parlours and gambling houses — opened up. But lured by the prospect of more affordable homes, young families have started to move back to the neighbourhood. And they’ve brought new expectations with them.

“What was before a very quiet, blue-collar immigrant community which over time had aged to a lot of seniors, slowly has been transforming into an area with lots more kids, young families, young professionals — people who simply have become more vocal about their neighbourhood and their community and their aspirations for it,” area councillor Peter Milczyn explains.

Change was already afoot in the area this past summer when Rechsteiner led a successful effort to rejuvenate Woodford Park. Turning to the city, the local community and to Kraft Foods, which has a facility nearby, she managed to raise $100,000 to install new playground equipment, plant new trees and install rock benches.

Following the election in October, Milczyn’s office facilitated a meeting of a dozen or so like-minded residents who had voiced interest in forming a residents association. After establishing interim positions at the meeting in mid-November, the group set about creating a flyer to spread the word to get more people involved.

Unless anyone else vies for board spots at the initial meeting in late January, the interim board will become the de facto board then. After that, Rechsteiner says the group will focus on broadening interest and membership in the community.

Though not yet incorporated, Rechsteiner says with nominal community interest, the association should have no problem scrounging up the $350 it would take to register the group formally.

As they grow, the group would like to see events like street festivals and neighbourhood barbeques.

And though members say they realize their residents association won’t magically vanquish seedy shops, they are hopeful it will serve as a stronger voice for the community to make itself heard.

“I think those places flourish where they feel they’re anonymous, no one’s paying attention and people can come and go as they please,” Milczyn says. “Having a vocal residents group puts the spotlight on the issue for the police and the city as well.”

At the end of the day, group members say their efforts will be worthwhile if they can get people to see their neighbourhood as a destination rather than an alternative highway.

“There’s such a huge opportunity in this area for this community to be beautiful,” Markoulis says. “You don’t really know until you live here how great the neighbourhood is.”

For information on the proposed Queensway BIA see our story here.

About this article:

By: Joshua Freeman
Posted: Jan 31 2011 11:31 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto