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June 2009

New waterplay area to be checked

The new waterplay area at Rembrandt Park opened amid much excitement last weekend, we determined very quickly that the surface was a little bit too slippery. I wish to thank District 2 resident Heather Leckner for alerting me personally about the problem. Public Works was notified immediately. Because we did not want to close the facility down on St.  Jean Baptiste Day, a lifeguard from Parkhaven Pool was assigned to oversee activities. Subsequently we called  back the contractor to do corrective measures.


Kids delighted as new waterplay area opens at Rembrandt Park

Due to the poor weather conditions we experienced in May and June, the beautiful new waterplay area in Rembrandt Park finally opened this weekend. Time was required for installation and painting. There is a large sprinkler in the shape of a flower that spins as it emits water and a number of other spots where water sprouts from.WaterplayA  Councillor Cohen greets Megan, Daniel and Juliana to the new waterplay area at Rembrandt Park.

Local residents, many of whom have young children or grandchildren, really wanted something like this at Rembrandt. The initial response was superb. I spent some time talking to parents and kids. It was a big thumbs up.

Five year old Daniel quickly figured out which buttons to push to get the water flowing. His mom,  Nathalie, sat on a picnic bench smiling. "He loves it," she said. Another mom soon arrived with her two little girls, aged four and five. The kids could not get sprayed on quick enough. I would like to thank the departments of Public Works and Parks and Recreation for making this a reality. I hope we have wonderful weather the rest of the summer so all can enjoy.

Waterplayspray2 Another view of the waterplay apparatus with Krishan and Daniel.

Côte des Neiges-N.D.G. Mayor Responds to Tour de l'Île Concerns


In response to a letter I sent Montreal borough of Côte des Neiges-N.D.G. Mayor Michael Applebaum to consult with neighbouring municipalities concerning the local routes being planned for future  Tour de l'Île events, I have received some encouraging news. Mayor Applebaum called to discuss the matter with me a few days ago. He is a personal fan of the Tour and appreciates the opportunity for 35,000 cyclists to pass through Côte des Neiges, Snowdon and N.D.G. "Many of these people may never have seen our borough before," he stated.

As I noted in my letter, I am not a fan of the Tour. Never have been and never will be. It always seems to fall on a day when I must get somewhere and avoiding one of the Tour routes is impossible. A case in point is this year when a normal 20 minute drive to Westmount turned out to be a one hour obstacle course. I felt like I was in the Amazing Race.

The mayor told me that next year he would be happy to provide municipalities like Côte Saint-Luc with a copy of the West End route as soon as it is approved by his borough. This way we could at least advise our residents well in advance which streets to avoid. I think this would indeed be a positive step forward.

Ilan Ramon Crescent Traffic Concerns Given Special Look

Ilan Ramon Crescent in District 2 is a pleasure to represent. It was named after the late Israeli Astronaut Ilan Ramon in 2003 and winds around Sir Walter Scott Avenue like a "U."

This is a street of predominantly young families. In the spring, summer and fall it is so nice to see them out pushing strollers, accompanying their youngsters on bicycle or playing some kind of sports. For some residents, traffic concerns have been high on their agenda. In fact, even before I was elected some residents contacted me for my assistance in arranging a meeting with the local police commander.

IlanRamonwalk1 Left to right: Jason Levine, Councillor Cohen, Charles Senekal,  Boris Myschkowski , Elyse Rosen and Heather Leckner with two of her children.

I speak to my friends on Ilan Ramon frequently. Most of them are active members of our community. They are all pleased to learn that Sir Walter Scott Avenue (the street and sidewalks) will be completely repaved this summer while the piping will be repaired on Kildare Road so we do not have a repeat of any breaks, as was the case last winter.

Boris Myschkowski is one of the residents I communicate with very regularly. The father of five has a good eye for keeping Ilan Ramon safe. A few years ago, upon his request, I got signs installed at the corners warning motorists to be careful of Children at Pay. Boris has attended council and district meetings and written letters. He, like many others, has also spoken to Charles Senekal. Charles is the city's traffic engineer, a fabulous gentleman with patience to burn.

On June 15 I invited Boris and any other residents who were available to join Charles and I for the first ever formal "walkabout" of Ilan Ramon. We began as five, Charles, myself, Boris, Elyse Rosen and Jason Levine. Soon Heather Leckner and children and Rob Kovari with his young son joined in. This was a splendid exercise as we spent almost an hour walking every inch of Ilan Ramon. The residents had the unique opportunity of asking Charles questions right on the spot and making suggestions. They were pleased to learn about the planned repaving. What about the crossing at Sir Walter Scott and Kildare Road? For years there have been calls from Ilan Ramon residents for us to install a stop sign there. But the city is adverse to adding more stop signs. A recommendation will be coming to council from the traffic committee shortly which should improve the situation. How do we slow cars down as they go around the curb on Ilan Ramon? Are flexi bollards the answer? Should we eliminate some parking spots, look into speed bumps or paint a yellow line on the curb? All food for thought, While the residents appreciate the Children at Play signs, they feel a more visible version would be an improvement. This will be looked into.

Charles will be reviewing all of the suggestions, including some he received that day by email, and report back to me. Stay tuned to this blog!

IlanRamonwalk2 Completing the walkabout.

Frustrated over the Tour de l'Île de Montréal


At the most recent meeting of Côte Saint-Luc City Council, on June 8, 2009, I expressed my deep concern over the traffic problems and difficult access out of certain parts of NDG (Notre-Dame-de Grâce) and Snowdon that the Tour de l'Île de Montréal caused this year.

I have personally been inconvenienced by this event for many years. On this particular Sunday, my family and I were on our way to Westmount. What should have taken 20 minutes turned out to be a 60 minute ordeal. Most streets in NDG and Snowdon were blocked. At one point, I turned down a side street from Côte Saint-Luc Road only to find out that other motorists had the same idea. As I looked into the windows of others, I could see the same collective anger and frustration.

While I would personally like to request that the Borough of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de Grâce no longer permit the Tour de l'Île de Montréal to pass through its territory nor cost the taxpayers anymore money with the heavy police presence, members of Côte Saint-Luc City Council are respectfully requesting that neighbouring communities - Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead, Montreal West, Westmount and Town of Mount Royal – be consulted on the agreed upon West End route. Perhaps something can be arranged that does not inconvenience so many people. While I certainly cannot speak for members of the aforementioned councils, I do know many people residing in these municipalities. Their Sundays each June are disrupted as well.

I recognize the 25 year history of the Tour de l'Île de Montréal and its significant following among cyclists. Nonetheless, perhaps it is time that this event be removed from the streets and be moved to a location such as Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where it will no longer interfere with the majority of us who just want to make our way around the city without being stuck in traffic.

I have sent a letter to Borough Mayor Michael Applebaum and I await his response.

In Memoriam: A Constituent Looks Back at the Life of Sheila Finestone

During her years as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, I got to know the late Sheila Finestone quite well.


Sheila passed away this week at the age of 82, following a battle with cancer. She stepped down as MP in 1999, succeeded by Irwin Cotler, and served as a Senator for three years before formally retiring from politics.

 Born Sheila Abbey, she was prominent in women’s and Jewish community affairs before being elected as the successor to Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the Liberal stronghold of Mount Royal . That first election, however, was no easy task as it coincided with Brian Mulroney’s Conservative Party sweep of Quebec. She defeated her opponent, Sharon Wolfe, by a slim margin and went on to re-election three subsequent times before stepping down in 1999 and accepting the Senate post.

The highlight of Finestone’s Parliamentary career came in 1993 when, after nine years in opposition, she was elevated to the Privy Council and appointed secretary of state for multiculturalism and the status of women. Ironically, in her maiden Commons speech on November 15, 1984, she criticized the Mulroney government for not including the portfolio in the cabinet's own priorities and planning committee. "The government risks the charge that its attention to the significant concerns of Canadian women is little more than tokenism, for it excludes them from the heart of policy-making," she said at the time.

Finestone was a 1947 graduate of McGill University ( bachelor of science degree) Prior to entering politics she was an active member of the community, working for organizations such as Jewish Family Services, the Jewish General Hospital, the National Association of Women and the YM-YWHA. She was a founder of Project Genesis, which offered storefront legal services to seniors of limited means, and elected president of the Féderation des Femmes du Québec in 1977. Her parents, Monroe and Minnie Abbey, were active pillars of Montreal's Jewish community. She grew up with two sisters and a brother in a progressive liberal household where equality was the rule and intellectual integrity the ideal

Merle Margles, a District 2 constituent of mine, served as Finestone's executive assistant for many years. She provided me with these thoughts:

Sheila Abbey was born into a milieu that would have afforded her a life of ease, but she saw injustices in the world, particularly relative to womencand sought to change them. As far as I am concerned, they threw away the mold when she was born.

She never backed down from a challenge in the fifteen years that I worked for her. For example she accepted to become communications critic in the Turner opposition when women's issues were more her thing. She functioned in both the English and the French communities. She was the first anglophone president of the Federation des femmes du Quebec. She had energy to burn - I remember sitting in a restaurant with her, going over some constituency issues, when the owner started to shut the lights. I had to point out to her that I thought he wanted us out of there. It was eleven o'clock in the evening. If that doesn't tell you how hard she worked, I recall being in Ottawa for some meeting or other - I was staying at her apartment and went to bed towards midnight. I awoke at about 2 a.m. because the light was still on, to find her asleep, a briefing book in her hands, and yellow highlighter all over the place.

She was sympathetic to a fault when it came to the people in the riding. Constituency days which started in the morning always went into the evenin because she would become fascinated or outraged by what a constituent was telling her and would refuse to end the appointment within the allocate time. This would result in a waiting room full of people of varying backgrounds, each with their own story to tell. From the president of a large corporation who might have issues with the federal government, to aperson from outside Canada who was having a tough time with immigration,all were treated with respect. In terms of her work on the status of women, it seems to me that the young career women of today might not realize the extraordinary effort that went into achieving equality in the workplace for them. In her role as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, Mrs. Finestone was in her element. The workplace for women today would not be what it is were it not for people like her.

She was extremely devoted to her family - nuclear and extended. Notwithstanding her duties and obligations in Parliament, she spent as much time as she could with them, cherishing her times in the Laurentians and Jewish holidays with them. She will be sorely missed.

District Meeting of June 1, 2009 With Police Commander Bissonnette

MONDAY, JUNE 1, 2009

1. Introductions

Councillor Cohen introduced Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette, Sergeant France Denault, Director of Public Works David Tordjman, Traffic Engineer Charles Senekal and Councillor Glenn J. Nashen (responsible for Public Safety). Councillor Cohen thanked the more than 30 people in attendance for coming out to discuss issues specifically as they pertain to District 2.

Left to right: Councillor Glenn J. Nashen, Sergeant France Denault, Police Commander Sylvain Bissonette, Councillor Cohen, David Tordjman and Charles Senekal.

2. Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette

Commander  Bissonnette was introduced by Councillor Cohen as a most approachable individual who has developed such a wonderful working relationship with Côte Saint-Luc during his time in office. He spoke about issues related to traffic violations,   speeding, breaking and entering and summer cadets.  Just two weeks ago, Station 9 sponsored a soccer day at the Wagar Field in order to encourage youth about the model of fair play and teamwork. The station also has a new program called “Bounce.” Patrol cars have soccer and basketball balls in their trunks. When they see young people congregating they stop and give the group one of the balls, encouraging them to go off to a soccer field or basketball court. “It is important to keep the kids busy,” he remarked.

In regard to traffic, the Commander promised some major operations in the coming weeks to catch speeding vehicles, those going through stop signs and motorists using cellular phones without hands free devices.

Crime in Côte Saint-Luc is quite low, said the Commander. Last fall there were a series of breaking and entering incidents in the community, particularly in Hampstead. The perpetrators were caught and put in jail. “If you ever see something suspicious call us,” he said.

Recently, Police Station 9 held an emergency simulation day at Bialik High School.  The Côte Saint-Luc  Volunteer Citizens  on Patrol (VCOPs), Public Security and Emergency Medical Services were all involved. The day was a big success and a necessary activity to ensure the police are prepared to act with all of its partners in the case of an emergency.

The Commander said that he soon expects to welcome two to four summer cadets. These are usually young people training to become police officers who are assigned different tasks.

As for traffic, Sergeant Alain St. Marseille is responsible and he has overseen many operations in trouble spots. This has included looking for motorists going through the stop sign at Merrimac and Kildare and vehicles going to and from Bialik and incurring different traffic infractions. There have been several “blitzs” in the last couple of years.

Councillor Nashen spoke about the various traffic slowing methods employed by the city, such as the new middle of the road crosswalk signs and the planters on Marc Chagall.  He announced that on some streets, new speed cushions will be installed. Councillor Nashen spoke about the success of the VCOPs. There are presently some 65 members, most of whom are retirees.

Commander Bissonnette praised the presence of the VCOPs. He said that just a week ago a nine year old child went missing. He was immediately able to call upon 10 VCOPs to assist in the search. Within 90 minutes the child was found.

The Commander was asked some questions:

-What can be done about kids who drive their bicycles on the sidewalks? Jerry Weiss said he recently encountered youngsters doing so. When he told them they should be on the street, the kids swore and gave him the finger. The Commander said his station does it best to appeal to these children via visits by the community officer to schools.  If police catch kids driving on sidewalks they are stopped.  Councillor Nashen said that Public Security and VCOPs issue warnings.

-Can Police Station 9 enforce the fact that cars are not supposed to rest on the large yellow painted area in front of their parking lot on Kildare? During the Bialik High School drop off and pickup, it is extremely difficult for a motorist from Rembrandt to actually get onto Kildare. The Commander agreed that the yellow painted line is there for a reason, specifically for police to exit quickly in the event of an emergency. When school resumes in September (it is now exam time) he will consider having some operations to try and enforce this area.

-Sidney Margles requested that the cadets be assigned to work on foot at the Cavendish/Kildare intersection where cars are often crossing over too many lines to turn from Kildare on to Cavendish.

-Another complaint was registered about cars illegally using the 5790 Rembrandt condo driveway simply to turn around and get back on to Kildare.

3. Traffic 

Charles Senekal explained that the final phase of the Cavendish/Fleet construction is underway. The completed phases involved a double left turn from Cavendish to Fleet and some other modifications. This is working extremely well. Work is now focusing on beautification. Regarding all traffic issues, he encouraged residents not to hesitate to contact him with any concerns they might have.

David Tordjman said that in light of the major water main breaks on Kildare near Rembrandt last winter, an entire new piping system will be installed in the coming months and repaving will follow.

Bernice Shapiro complained about the limited time available at the crosswalk at Mackle and Cavendish. Mr. Tordjman said that there is 35 seconds from the time the green signal comes on. He noted that a lot of people are not aware that  you are really only supposed to cross when this countdown begins, not while it is in progress.

Eric Betito requested barriers be installed in the middle of streets, as in St. Laurent. It was explained that our streets are simply not big enough to accommodate this type of installation. If the Cavendish extension were ever to occur, then it is possible.

4. Rembrandt Park

David Tordjman gave an update on the park. There have been some equipment updates for children aged two to five. Some bushes were removed. A new water play area will soon be ready. Some painting needs to be done on the concrete and we must wait for the weather to get warmer and the rain to stop. There are plans to add more tennis courts, perhaps as early as 2010 and construct as many as 10 parking spots. The basketball courts will likely disappear. Eric Betito asked that a volleyball court be considered.

5. Sir Walter Scott  

This summer Sir Walter Scott Avenue will be repaved and have its sidewalks redone. Public Works and Engineering is now studying the feasibility of installing a crosswalk at either Sir Walter Scott and Kildare or Rembrandt and Kildare. This is to make the street safer for young families from Sir Walter Scott and Ilan Ramon going to Rembrandt Park.

David Smajovits of JPPS-Bialik speaks as his colleague Florian Gaudreault looks on.

6. Marc Chagall Update 

The Beth Chabad Community Centre will begin operating at its yet-to-be finished building on Marc Chagall and Kildare on July 1. They have no choice since the Cavendish Mall can no longer accommodate them.  It is their hope to have a more complete facility in time for the high holidays.

Sales at the Marc Chagall Town Houses are not going as well as the developer hoped. But the land has been rezoned from commercial to residential. Therefore we needn’t worry about any strip mall appearing in that spot.

Florian Gaudreault and David Smajovits were on hand from JPPS-Bialik. Florian noted that with 700 staff and students, naturally there is a  lot of traffic during drop off and pickup hours.  Just recently, Bialik assigned two staff people to work on traffic duty during these timeslots. This is a major step forward and a way to ensure more safety.   Furthermore efforts will be made to establish a new Student Traffic Committee this fall. David spoke about the multi-million dollar facelift the facility has received in recent years. He said work will soon begin on making repairs to the sports field, including a new paved track. Bialik is also proud of its green initiatives.

7.   Mike Cohen’s blog/email correspondence

Councillor Cohen  encouraged everyone to review his website and blog at  and feel free to correspond with him at

8. City at large 

New street signs are finally going up throughout the city. Talks between the city and the Cavendish Mall continue. The Mall wishes to demolish half of its present facility and replace it with a housing development.  Residents wishing to  engage in any naming rights opportunities (as simple as a bench dedication) need only call 514-485-8905

9. Comments/Concerns from residents

What is the law regarding barbeques on high-rise balconies? Councillor Nashen  went through the bylaw.  For apartments and condos use of an ‘open flame’ barbecue on a balcony is generally not permitted given that the smoke coming from the barbecue may create a nuisance to your neighbours. Also, you cannot transport a propane tank in an elevator and you are obligated to have a minimum of seven feet (7’) between the barbecue and any openings such as a door or window. 

What is being done about gardeners leaving grass cuttings on the street? Are gardeners being licensed? Public Security and VCOPs are  keeping their eyes open for such infractions. Work continues on a method by which to license gardeners.

Will there be public consultations when the Cavendish Mall project is approved by council? Yes, at least two such meetings will be held.

Can the streets be kept cleaner between fall and spring? Rembrandt Avenue was cited  as having not been properly cleaned before the first snow fall, as many leaves were still there. Residents were reminded to  call their city councillor if they notice such problems and not wait many months to report this.