Toronto cops have been illegally parking on this downtown plaza for decades
The Toronto Police Service has been under fire throughout the year for its handling of anti-vax protests and its internal vaccination policies, but residents and businesses around 52 Division have been frustrated with cops for a very different reason stretching back over 20 years now.
For at least two decades and possibly even longer, police have been intermittently using the Dundas Street plaza out front of 52 Division as their own personal parking lot, despite the station having its own dedicated underground parking.
20 years ago it was a parking lot for police cruisers & the private vehicles of police officers. It was illegal to park there but they did. There were signs, etc., ignored. Area residents were upset, cops did not care, kept parking. Enter then City Councillor Olivia Chow.— Three Geese Radius (@shawnmicallef) May 30, 2020
Every time the issue seems resolved, the cars gradually return to the plaza outside of 255 Dundas St. West near University Ave., and the complaints inevitably follow.
The fight to get cars off this plaza has been well-documented, with the issue brought to City Council as far back as spring of 2001, when then-councillor Olivia Chow sought a redesign of the plaza to prevent police from parking their cars there illegally in response to community complaints.
Anyone else would be ticketed instantly 3/ pic.twitter.com/JvK7hnzuDS— Alex Bozikovic (@alexbozikovic) October 3, 2021
It would be another three years before those cars finally vacated the makeshift lot, though it would not be for good.
In the intense media firestorm following the events of the G20 fiasco in Toronto, the police and the parking situation once again came into the spotlight in 2010.
Cops told the Toronto Star at the time that the square was being used for parking while repairs were being done to the parking garage, and that the outdoor parking situation would stop when the repairs were complete.
Of course, the garage repairs are long complete, and cops' personal vehicles still litter what should be a space for public use. Making matters worse, ugly temporary dividers were added to the mix last year, making the space even less inviting.
Instead: pic.twitter.com/J2cYFmIgLd— Alex Bozikovic (@alexbozikovic) October 3, 2021
David Hopkinson, Media Relations Officer for the Toronto Police Service, initially told blogTO that "52 Division's parking garage is undergoing some construction today. The cars parked out front will be moved for tomorrow."
Google captures, Sept. 2019 and June 2021 pic.twitter.com/yflVhf0rSo— Alex Bozikovic (@alexbozikovic) October 4, 2021
This first explanation didn't come close to explaining why this has been a recurring issue predating today's problems by decades.
update: parking is back, they even added a fence 😘 pic.twitter.com/OU2q8bIhfX— anton lodder (@antonlodder) September 3, 2020
When pressed for further comment, Hopkinson stated that "parking anywhere in the downtown core is difficult," explaining that "52 Division doesn't have enough spots to house the police cars, so the city gave us a number of designated spots on St. Patrick Street."
"There's currently a condominium project under construction on St. Patrick Street, and construction trucks were having trouble turning onto the street with police cars using those dedicated spots. As a lesser of two evils, the unit commander decided that excess police cars would be parked on the plaza so we could deal with traffic problems on the street."
This response left many unanswered questions, including the barriers and the issue of prioritizing parking for personal vehicles — literally steps from St. Patrick subway station — over much-needed outdoor public space.
Councillor Joe Cressy of Spadina-Fort York , the ward that 52 Divison is located within, tells blogTO that "the publicly-owned space in front of 52 Division at 255 Dundas Street West should be accessible to all."
"In 2015, Council approved my motion to animate this area for public use, including a potential expansion of the Market 707 social enterprise container market at Scadding Court Community Centre. The current occupation of the space by parked police vehicles limits its accessibility and does not serve the best interests of our city or our community."
Cressy hopes that City staff can work with 52 Division to once again make this space part of the public realm, saying, "I will be bringing a motion to Committee this month to escalate the issue, and to ensure that we move forward in such a way that this area can be enjoyed by all Torontonians."
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