One word can cover Sabina Ali’s plans for the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee: expansion.
Since Thorncliffe Park was included on the city’s updated list of priority neighbourhoods released on March 10, Ali is now hoping her group, made up entirely of volunteers, can cash in on some of the extra funding that comes as a result of the designation.
She says she hopes to expand on the work they’ve been doing, which has largely focused on R.V. Burgess Park, where most attractions — including the playground, tandoor oven, and the bazaar, which runs on Fridays in the summers — are a direct result of the work of her group.
“This summer we are doing (the bazaar) in Flemingdon as well,” she said, adding that expanding programming is in keeping with the core idea of her group. “The women’s committee is about empowering women. So we are empowering ourselves, the volunteers, and expansion is also empowerment.”
Priority neighbourhoods were first identified by the city in 2005 as a reaction to the “summer of the gun”, so dubbed because of a record 52 gun-related homicides, the majority of them occurring in at-risk neighbourhoods.
The initial list contained 13 areas, comprising 23 neighbourhoods. The new list, coming at the end of a six-month study, contains 31 and they are now identified as “neighbourhood improvement areas”.
Designated communities are eligible for an influx of funding from both public and private sectors to go toward services and skills building.
Chris Brillinger, executive director of the city’s social development department, said Thorncliffe’s new designation is not an indication that the neighbourhood is worse off than it once was. In fact, he said, the city has been doing work there the last several years, even without the designation.
“We’d always been working with Thorncliffe because it’s right next door to Flemingdon, so there’d been some crossover between the two,” he said, adding that Thorncliffe now has potential access to some $12 million in capital funding over the next four years. “We’ll continue to build that crossover.”
Ali also wants to install signs along the trails in the ravine system that backs onto Thorncliffe, in hopes of making it more attractive to people who live in the neighbourhood.
“They come from different countries and aren’t familiar with these kinds of ravines, forest life and wildlife,” she said, adding that some even dump garbage there. “We really want to create awareness regarding how garbage affects the flora and fauna there.”
Ward 26 councillor John Parker, who represents both neighbourhoods, said he welcomes the designation, which he’d always thought Thorncliffe should have had.
“We would all wish that neither community was a community with needs, but I’m glad to see their needs were recognized and those communities can now expect to get the attention that the taxpayers would wish such communities to receive,” he said.
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