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Despite Campaign, Fort York Bridge proclaimed Dead

The Fort York Pedestrian and Cyclist Bridge is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Some background, in case you haven’t been following along:

You may remember our post from a couple weeks ago when the Public Works Committee decided that a beautiful pedestrian and cyclist bridge that would link historic Fort York (and waterfront neighbourhoods) to the park system and neighbourhoods north of the railway tracks along the waterfront) cost too much money and it would be better to scrap it, ignoring the attractions of such a bridge to area residents (north and south of the tracks), condominium developers, and Toronto in general.

The bridge (and it’s supporters) are not going quietly into the night however.

A Save the Fort York Pedestrian Bridge website has been set up (with online petition) and many prominent City Councillors and former mayoral (and premier) candidates (John Tory) are lining themselves up to save the bridge.

 

Despite the best efforts of Councillor Mike Layton and almost half of City Council, 2/3 of Council did not support Layton’s motion to move the matter from Committee (Public Works) to Council (in order to have a proper discussion and debate about it).

This wasn’t just a cycling infrastructure project – this was a project for cyclists, pedestrians, 2 neighbourhoods (north and south of the railway tracks) and condo developers.  This was a city building project.

It wasn’t cheap, but who said building a quality city is cheap?  Do we really want to build a cheap city?  23 of the 45 people on Council do – and this is who they are (the NO votes):

[thanks to BlogTO from grabbing the above image from the motion documents]

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  • Antony

    It’s been said elsewhere, so I’ll just repeat it: This wasn’t about the cost of the bridge.

    It’s more about the city selling off the land that was to be the start and end points of the bridge to condo developers.

  • John

    Layton worked hard, but I am not sure his efforts were the best possible. For one thing, he sent out an email alert asking supporters to contact 18 councillors (including, for some reason, Raymond Cho, who supported the bridge). This suggested that he had the support of 26 councillors, which obviously was not the case.

    Also, this issue was framed in pinko terms, “thrift vs. vision.” A child could predict that this was not a winning argument in 2011. Why is the left wing so determined to keep losing the last election?

    And as Antony points out above, this was never about the additional cost of the bridge anyway. David Shiner made it very clear that his real concern (and presumably Mayor Ford’s) was the opportunity costs of allowing zoned parklands around the bridge to become unavailable for development.

    And so the question for council was never, “Can we afford this bridge?” (of course we can, and we almost certainly will be paying more for the promised “cheaper” design years down the road). The real question was, “Should we develop this parkland?”

    There are already few amenities and precious little public space in the Fort York area, parkland or not. Fort York condo residents should be greatly alarmed to hear that the City wants to pave over what little remains. The residents should ask exactly why they are paying property taxes to a City that refuses to invest in their neighbourhood.

    This issue is about real estate sales, not a fancy bridge. The fact that this has been successfully framed around the phony question of “thrift vs. vision” represents another strategic failure of council’s left wing.

    I am not a City Hall expert, but it seems to me that any decision to rezone Ward 19 parkland must come from the TEYCC. Perhaps Layton could make a motion there that would remove the possibility of developing the properties as condos. This would take away Shiner’s argument that real cost of the bridge is tens of millions in lost development opportunities. And then we would be left only with the $4 million in estimated additional costs of bridge construction. Since this number will certainly rise if the bridge is delayed, and since this number is lower than the amount Doug Ford is prepared to piss away on paid duty policing, there will be less support for delaying this bridge.

    I am not convinced Layton has yet done everything he can to save the bridge. And it is discouraging to hear him pronounce the bridge “dead” already. At the very least, he should make Ford and his allies pay a political cost for this betrayal of the Fort York community. But right now, I’m afraid Layton is coming across like an inexperienced, whiny pinko who doesn’t understand the budget problem; and the Fort York condo residents are not even aware of what they are about to lose, despite the fact that their property taxes have already been collected to pay for it.

  • On what John said, Wow! Nice. Well formed many vectored take – kick-save and a beauty.

    I think this bridge would have become a landmark – an icon like the tower and the dome – that would have brought in tourist dollars and at the same time greatly increased land values for as far as the eye can see from it’s deck.

    A sad day in the history of reaction – as John said, both by the knee-jerks in power and the ‘angry ones’ on the outside looking in. I have found that adrenaline limits thinking – we could do better.

    mh

  • John

    There’s more. In an email response to a pro-bridge supporter, Budget Chief Mike Del Grande echoed David Shiner’s view that the parkland should be developed. His reasoning was that on a recent rainy Saturday, he saw only a handful of people in the park. Layton should have dared Del Grande to offer up his own ward’s parkland if any of those parks failed the “Del Grande Test” on a cold, rainy day.

    But more than that, Del Grande actually said, “What I am more open to is how about a special levy on all those properties to pay for the overage?” That’s right: Del grande proposed a property tax increase on condo residents who are already being ripped off by a City that refuses to provide these residents with the same public amenities they deserve and have paid for. Layton should have jumped all over this statement, and demanded that the City either invest tax money in this neighbourhood or stop collecting it.

  • Gui/Liberty Village

    Sad reality check and confirmation that elected candidates to work for the city and its people as ADMINISTRATORS do absolutly nothing unless there is something for them to win.
    Good way for Mr. Ford to start connencting this part of the city with the Forth York & the bike path and the lake….., that, of course, if you enjoy the non stop noise and fuel smell coming from the island airport. I agree with the fellow above: IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY FOR THE CITY.
    In the area I live in (LV) there is no room for a decent park and the exsisting streets do not have a bike lane. IT IS ALL ABOUT BUILDING CONDOS AND GETTING REVENUE FOR THE CITY.
    When this flow of money is enough ?
    Gui.

  • Gul/LV: To answer your question “When this flow of money is enough ?”… Answer: When the city no longer runs a deficit. We cannot continue to borrow. Eventually you have to pay interest and principle back.

    The left just doesn’t understand. Property tax dollars does not go to pay for FUTURE improvements. Those condo dwellers’ taxes hasn’t ALREADY paid for the bridge. The taxes go to pay for police, fire, ambulance, welfare, TTC, garbage collection, The EX, roads, sewers, schools, public buildings, Fort York, Casa Loma, etc. All the things we already have in the city that we can’t afford.

    Before the left wants more public funds spent, please come up with a plan to not have a deficit and pay for the things you want.

    More taxes is NOT the answer.


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