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Toronto Through the Eyes of Paul Nguyen

Posted by Crystal Luxmore / June 17, 2009

Paul NguyenPoliticians both inspire and cheese off Paul Nguyen. He likes government buildings because "that's where change can happen," but City Hall politicians "gotta come on down" and visit his Jane and Finch neighborhood before they try to better things.

Born in Toronto after his parents fled Vietnam as part of the wave of boat people leaving the country in the 1970s and 1980s, 29-year-old Nguyen's love for his city is firmly rooted at Jane and Finch. His fascination with the history and culture of the Jane-Finch area, and his beef with nothing but negative press about the place, drove him to create, a neighborhood website that features local news, homegrown music videos and live coverage of local events.

Questions for Paul:

What was it like growing up in Toronto?

All I remember about living downtown was going to the CNE every summer. When I was five or six we moved to Jane and Finch and I've been here ever since.

When you think of Toronto, what three words come to mind?

Multicultural. Big. Hockey.

What's your favourite place to eat?

There's a strip mall on Highway 7 called First Markham Place. They have a really good food court. It's mostly Asian, they have really good variety and the prices are really low.

If you could tell City Hall to do one thing right now, what would it be?

They have to pay more attention to the so-called "priority neighborhoods," not just label the area, they have to come here, visit.

What neighborhoods are you talking about?

Regent Park, Jane & Finch, other neighborhoods with high levels of poverty.

How do you get around the city?

I drive.

What do you do in the city after dark?

I like hanging out in the Markham area because they have a lot of Bubble Tea joints and you can just sit and chill and relax. When I was younger I used to hang out at those computer cafes and just play video games with my friends all night.

Describe how you would spend an ideal Sunday afternoon in Toronto?

Usually I hang out at Pacific Mall in Markham. There's a lot of cool things to do there, there's lot of cool gadgets to buy. It's always busy and full and it's open later than usual.

Where do you go to find nature?

In Jane and Finch, there's the creek. A lot of kids go there, they either go cray-fishing or just hang out, or jog and chill out. Some kids go there to smoke a joint. I don't do that.

jane and finch team

If you were describing Toronto to someone who's never been here what would you say?

It's what the future will look like. We're the best example of multiculturalism where everybody's from a different background, where we're all getting along and everything's worked out pretty good so far.

What's the one place people should know about?

Torontonians should be aware that Jane and Finch is a part of Toronto. They should come and visit. I mean, you just go to the strip mall and there's like so many different cultures at that mall - a pho place, a Jamaican place, an Indian place - all in one little strip mall.

Where do you for inspiration?

City Hall and other government buildings - it's where things happen, where change can happen, where people make decisions. It makes me want to get some ideas from the politicians who work there and hopefully I can create some change in Jane and Finch, back at home.

See Paul Ngyuen on June 18th as he debates what Jane-Finch will look like in ten years in a live broadcast at 7:00 p.m. from Jane & Finch for Goldhawk Live. Host Dan Goldhawk talks to Ngyuen, Councillor Anthony Perruzza, reporter Sabrina Gopaul and CityTV news anchor Dwight Drummond.

Photo: Dave Chang.



apetimberlake / June 17, 2009 at 10:08 am
This guy is a class act and has done alot for the area.

My wife was born and spent most of her early childhood in the Jane and Finch area and you can tell that this guy really respects and loves the area he grew up in.

I did however expect more in depth responses then "i like to go to Pacific mall and hang out in the food courts"

Oh well.
Greg Smith replying to a comment from apetimberlake / June 17, 2009 at 10:55 am
Yeah, a bit disappointing that his favourite place to eat in Toronto isn't actually in Toronto, and same goes for his favourite after dark/Sunday hangout. I guess being a driver is behind that?

I don't mean to be a hater, but this conflicts with his Jane-Finch boosterism. It's one thing to say that people from other parts of the city should come vist Jane and Finch -- I agree -- but if the area's up-and-comers are so hot to hop in a car and bolt to York Region then I guess there's more than a little extra persuading to be done.
Yan / June 17, 2009 at 11:08 am
"Torontonians should be aware that Jane and Finch is a part of Toronto. They should come and visit."

Oh, well... This is the last thing I'll do.
jack / June 17, 2009 at 12:44 pm
I love this question:
If you were describing Toronto to someone who's never been here what would you say?

It's a city where there isn't any efficient transit from the airport to anywhere.. the cost for a round trip cab ride to downtown costs more than flying down to nyc...
gadfly / June 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Yeah, it seems to me that this guy's version of 'multi-culturalism' perhaps needs a bit of expansion: 'bubble tea' operations, Pacific Mall, First Markham Place? This is his version of what Toronto has to offer?
And I remember the first wave of Vietnamese families that descended upon St. Jamestown in 1979/80. I lived there and quickly moved out. Ten people to an an apartment, people who wouldn't turn the showers off in the underground gym (yes, there used to be an underground pool and YMCA in St. Jamestown long ago), the long waits for elevators. That complex was never designed for the high occupancy it soon saw. I lived in 280 Wellesley and saw first-hand its sudden an precipitous crash, from a great place to live to the World Tallest Free Standing Slum.
As with Jane-Finch (my father's best friend rented an apartment in a nice building there in '75), Crescent Town (beautiful in the early '80s - had many friends living there once upon a time) and Thorncliffe Park (also a great place to live, 25 years ago.)
That has all changed, of course.
Jack / June 17, 2009 at 02:06 pm
"How do you get around the city?
I drive."

as if there is any other way...oh yea, walk maybe... i would add, try to avoid the ttc as much as possible, coz round trip now costs almost 6 bucks..that's more than what i pay for my meal... might as well get a car
ayl / June 17, 2009 at 04:15 pm
Was hoping his answers were more passionate. Oh well.

But you can't deny the First Markham food court. Oooh, tasty house drinks are delicious.
April / June 17, 2009 at 04:34 pm
The words that come to mind when I read this article/interview are 'shallow' and 'lazy'. I don't mean in reference to Paul, but I do mean in reference to the

1)quality of his answers (along with everyone elses comments above re: bubble tea and strip malls, one of his top 3 words to describe Toronto is BIG??? You could have gotten more thought out and intelligent responses from a 15 year old. I don't mean to rip on this guy too much, it seems like he has good intentions and is drawing attention to important issues, but if he wants to be in politics, he is going to have to present himself a lot better than this!!!)

2)the quality of the questions, (the questions did not do an effective job of communicating information about Paul himself or the issues he and the interview mention)

3)the quality of the intro information for Paul: (other than making a website, who is he, what does he do, why do I care who this person is and what he has to say. After reading the whole thing I still don't really care or get why I am supposed to care.)

I am not saying that the issues discussed (politics involving neighborhoods with higher poverty levels) are not important, but this was....well shallow and lazy.

I feel like this article was thought out, planned for, conducted, and written up in about 10 minutes while half asleep.
DJKeltic / June 17, 2009 at 08:59 pm
Huh, an interesting view on Toronto. How often do I get to here what someone intent on making a difference in the city THINKS about the city? He makes a good point, the more politicians (and not just the local MP, but ALL the politicians who vote to disburse funds to one project or another) actually check in with the neighbourhood the better quality of policy we'll have in this city.

Is this an ongoing series? Or the only one? I'd like to see more.
Elizabeth / June 17, 2009 at 10:14 pm
I think ppl should read things more carefully become they jump to critique.

First of all, Paul never said that Jane Finch is a great place to visit ... seems like he's saying that politicians should understand the place they direct funds to/create policies for. Jane Finch is definately diverse, as Paul pointed out. But as a resident of Jane Finch myself, I know that one of the problems there is that there aren't many good places to hang out ... this is partly the reason that kids get into trouble. There aren't even patios or many outdoor benches! If politicians came to visit the place, maybe they would notice that and make some changes.

Second, I don't see where Paul said he wanted to get into politics.

Third, the interview questions were pretty casual, leading to his sometimes casual answers. He's being asked about what he likes to do for fun ... what do other ppl do, work on their manifesto??

I'm disappointed that ppl are so quick to criticize someone who's taking his personal time (unpaid, if I'm understanding the website correctly) to help his community.
Greg Smith replying to a comment from Elizabeth / June 17, 2009 at 10:26 pm
"Paul never said that Jane Finch is a great place to visit ... seems like he's saying that politicians should understand the place they direct funds to/create policies for."

I understand what you're trying to say, Elizabeth, but here's a direct quote from one of his answers: "Torontonians should be aware that Jane and Finch is a part of Toronto. They should come and visit. I mean, you just go to the strip mall and there's like so many different cultures at that mall - a pho place, a Jamaican place, an Indian place - all in one little strip mall."

This does not refer to politicians, it refers to regular Torontonians, and it is an attempt to portray Jane-Finch as a place worth visiting. Any yet from his other answers, it sound like he leaves that area (and the city) whenever possible.
Daniel Reeders / June 17, 2009 at 10:48 pm
I'm reading this from Australia. Are commenters on this site always so NEGATIVE?
Zach replying to a comment from Daniel Reeders / June 17, 2009 at 11:36 pm
Torontonians aren't always as nice behind their computer screens as in person...
Tom / April 6, 2011 at 08:04 am
Paul is a fake! He doesn't really care for Jane and Finch...He only wants attention!
Yuko U. Orte / September 22, 2014 at 10:07 pm
Why viewers still make use of to read news papers when in this technological globe everything is available on web?
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