Downtown Concerned Citizens Organization

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With City Council set to meet Monday to approve two more hastily and poorly planned modular housing projects in Willowdale and East York, a volunteer group called East York Cares penned an email to councillors pleading with them to hold off on the vote.

The carefully crafted email from the group — whose members are worried about the fallout of a modular project planned for a parking lot adjacent to Stan Wadlow park — articulated concerns with a rise in crime in the communities housing the first two projects,

The letter asked that city officials better engage with host communities and that effective supports be in place before the residents are placed in the modular projects.

The email cited the experience so far with the first site at 11 Macey Ave., where 56 units opened last December. That project is located in budget chief Gary Crawford’s ward.

“Police and other emergency services have been called to the site virtually every day and often multiple times per day for conflicts, people in crisis, substance abuse and other problems,” the email said.

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It also noted that communities surrounding 11 Macey Ave. and the site at 150 Harrison Ave. have experienced break-ins, witnessed drug deals and have found drug paraphernalia as well as condoms and feces in public areas.

The email was sent to all councillors around 8:40 a.m. on June 2.

Exactly 90 minutes later, East York Cares received a rude and patronizing reply from Crawford’s office.

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Signed by Kirstin Campbell, Crawford’s manager of communications and constituency, it tells the citizens’ group that it is “clear” from their email they are “sadly misinformed and biased.”

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Campbell recommends that East York Cares do “more research” before seeking support for its own purposes.

“If in fact you do care and want to be an effective contributor to your community, again, do more research, open your hearts and learn from those who have gone before you,” Campbell states, noting that her boss’s ward was the “first” (along with Ana Bailao) to “welcome” the modular housing initiative.

She closes by advising the group not to send Crawford’s office “any more emails of this nature.”

Reached this week, Crawford told me he fully supports the email — proof, in my view, of the tone deafness now being exhibited by most councillors to the fallout of various hotel shelters and modular projects rammed into unsuspecting communities.

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Crawford reiterated that the group’s email is “misinformed and biased” particularly with respect to contentions that police and other emergency services have been called to 11 Macey “virtually every day” since it opened.

He said the police are at 11 Macey everyday “as part of their ongoing community work.”

And he insisted the crime mentioned is not from the modular building but rather “other issues in the area.”

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But Eric Stark, a member of the West Oakridge neighbourhood, which takes in the Macey Ave. project, wrote in a May 29 report (provided to the Toronto Sun)  that attendees at a May 26 meeting heard the police were being called in “multiple times a day assisting with settling disputes, mental health, medical issues, fire alarms and substance abuse.”

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Attendees were also told of reported break-ins at a nearby garage and discarded needles and feces being collected at a nearby parkette.

“The reported challenges from the Macey CLC (community liaison committee) are in stark contrast to the messaging we are consistently receiving by city staff,” Stark’s report said.

To back up concerns, Stark included a report of major crime indicators in the area surrounding 11 Macey Ave. — right from the Toronto Police Service data portal —  comparing January to April 24 of 2020 to the same period this year.

It showed a 16.9% increase in break-and-enters, a 26% increase in auto thefts and a 160% increase in sexual violations.

Crawford did not respond to follow-up questions on whether he was suggesting the police statistics and the CLC report were inaccurate or biased.

But Stark said he was “disappointed” with Crawford’s response and that East York Cares and all other neighbourhoods where modular projects have been/are being located deserve to be “treated with respect.”

SLevy@postmedia.com

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