Toronto neighbourhood upset after Metrolinx backtracks on promise for community space
It was widely reported yesterday that Metrolinx is backing out of its promise to donate a portion of land for a community centre in the Jane-Finch area, and community members as well as many local politicians are outraged.
City councillor for Humber River—Black Creek, Anthony Perruzza, told Toronto Star reporter Ben Spurr that a plan had been in the works for years in which Metrolinx agreed to donate part of the land at Finch Avenue West and York Gate Boulevard — where a maintenance and storage facility is being built for the $1.2-billion Finch West LRT — for an arts and culture centre.
But last week, Metrolinx abruptly pulled out of the agreement and said they would instead be selling the land to the highest bidder.
I am truly hurt by this metrolinx news. The gentrification of my community hurts more than it should but it’s like Jane-Finch lives are so ain’t shit that we don’t even deserve a community centre in exchange from eventually being torn from the community— tiina tarantina 🌱 (@sydanieee) July 23, 2020
The choice to sell the land is in line with the Ontario government's realty directive due to its high value, but many are now putting pressure on the Ford government to direct Metrolinx to reverse the decision.
NDP MPP for Humber River-Black Creek, Tom Rakocevic, wrote to the transportation minister today urging the Ford government to change its course, as did Perruzza.
@RakocevicT and I have both written letters because our community deserves better. @Metrolinx needs to keep their commitment, as does our provincial government.— Anthony Perruzza (@PerruzzaTO) July 23, 2020
The #janefinch area was promised a #community #hub and it is needed in this part of the @cityoftoronto.#Ward7 https://t.co/PRuvzVQFGY
"Jane and Finch families are counting on this community hub, and the decision to abruptly change course on this visionary project is a devastating blow. It's cruel, it's unacceptable, and I am urging Doug Ford to do the right thing and tell Metrolinx to reverse this decision so we get this community hub built," Rakocevic said in a statement.
"The Jane and Finch community is sick and tired of Doug Ford, and provincial governments before his, giving families in this community fewer resources, less help, and leaving them to feel disproportionate pain from the cuts."
. @fordnation, do the right thing and reverse this callous decision so we get this community hub built.— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) July 23, 2020
Metrolinx needs to keep their promise to Jane and Finch families, and make sure the neighbourhood gets the community hub they deserve. https://t.co/KmjwehJOyN
Residents of the Jane and Finch neighbourhood have also taken to Twitter over the past 24 hours to express just how devastating this news is for the community, which is mostly made up of low-income, racialized residents.
I was recently involved in some work related to the Jane-Finch area, and, as usual, maps were involved. I’d like to share a couple.— Gil Meslin (@g_meslin) July 23, 2020
I’ve added an arrow and marker to each to indicate the proposed @Metrolinx site for a hub/community centre. I hope the community sees it built. pic.twitter.com/6HXCN7xyKQ
The area has also been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19, and has a consistent issue with youth violence.
"I need to explain why this @Metrolinx blow is so heartbreaking. For years, the Jane Finch community wanted a central community hub space to unite our youth. Why? Because there are small spaces in different sections of the area, that are considered separate 'turfs,'" tweeted Tiffany Ford, a former TDSB trustee for the area.
"The kids rep sections because there was NEVER a space for them to all be connected. Some kids never cross Finch in both directions because it brings fear and anxiety. I was one of those kids that didn't go north of Finch," she continued.
"All we wanted was a community hub that was central and truly could unite the community and break those geographical barriers that brought so much bloodshed. It's not just a community hub. It's a game-changer."
oh no, this will not stand. i guess the veneer and shine of #BlackLivesMatter has worn off and austerity attacks have already started. if @Metrolinx thinks we're just gonna let this slide, y'all don't know us in Jane & Finch. don't worry, like others before, you'll learn #TOpoli https://t.co/92NGB5fmN6— Sam (@SamTecle) July 23, 2020
Following the backlash, Metrolinx released a statement Thursday morning indicating that they are committed to working with the City of Toronto in order to get the community hub built.
"We have been working proactively with the City of Toronto for several months to explore a variety of innovative options to find the best solution possible to support this important community hub project," the statement reads.
"For example, this could be made possible through our Transit Oriented Communities Program."
The provincial agency also said they "recognize the importance of this project to the Jane Finch neighbourhood."
Tired of seeing these big business enterprises or organizations coming into communities such as Jane Finch, mobilizing ppl for a proposed change that never comes to fruition.Shame on you .@Metrolinx Your media report this morning offered no assurances either jus more speaky-spoke— ✨Audre Lord said BeDeliberate&Unafraid✨ (@MsAudreyDee) July 23, 2020
Shortly after Metrolinx's response, Toronto Mayor John Tory also released a statement of his own.
He said he confirmed with city staff today that discussions are ongoing with Metrolinx about this provincial land, and that he will make sure to hold Metrolinx to their commitment of getting the hub built.
"I join Councillor Anthony Perruzza and the Jane-Finch community in raising concerns about the fate of the Jane-Finch community hub. We all want this community hub to happen and I am confident there are many ways for Metrolinx and the provincial government to work with the City of Toronto to make this important project for the Jane-Finch community a reality," Tory said.
"I will work with everyone, including Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, Premier Doug Ford, Councillor Perruzza and Metrolinx, to make sure Metrolinx finds a way forward that helps the Jane-Finch community."
But many Torontonians say they're sick of unfulfilled promises and will simply believe it when they see it.
The statement below by @Metrolinx is not acceptable to our community. A joint community statement, along with our demands and the next steps, will be issued before 6 pm today. #Toronto #JaneFinch https://t.co/qqe1Nc1XAp— JFAAP (@JFAAP) July 23, 2020
"When you say one thing and do another your words are meaningless," wrote another. "Action matters."
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