Second Term In Office
In November 2009 I was acclaimed for my second term in office. The electorate, in fact, returned Mayor Anthony Housefather and the same eight councillors who were voted in after the demergers with Montreal in 2005. I think we make a good team. One of Mayor Housefather’s first acts was to assign portfolios to each councillor. This is a system that works well as we are all responsible for different aspects of how the city functions. In my case I handle communications, corporate identity, intercommunity relations, sponsorship and now the Trap, Neuter Release (TNR) program for cats.
Here is my look back at some 2010 highlights.
There was a lot of discussion and activity related to Rembrandt Park. I am very proud of the fact we have made a number of improvements here over the last few years. The former soccer pit was filled, new play equipment added and a water spray area, which the young children enjoy immensely, introduced in 2009. The park presently has two tennis courts and a lighting system which needs to be updated. Last June I hosted one of my District 2 information meetings, at which time I presented some of the options that were being considered. This included adding three or four more tennis courts and relocating the basketball court to the side closer to Merrimac. In fact, a half court was being proposed. There was a great deal of feedback after the meeting and I brought that all back to council. Some residents even met with the staff from Parks and Recreation to bring their points home. We went out for tenders at the end of the summer.
The quotations we received were far above what was budgeted. While we will seek bidders again in 2011, due to the cost of the $18 million Aquatic and Community Centre going up on Parkhaven Avenue, we may have to hold back on this work a bit longer. Our new city manager, Tanya Abramovitch, has also come forward with a new proposal for Rembrandt Park which I believe merits our attention. Stay tuned on that one.
Snow Dump Parking Lot
Last summer the garage at 6555 Kildare Road was being fixed. The owner approached me to see what could be done for his many residents in terms of parking. Thanks to the assistance of Director of Public Safety Jordy Reichson, arrangements were made to convert the snow dump into a special parking lot. Some residents with specific medical conditions were given permission to park on the street. Fortunately the work was completed just before our first snow fall.
Piping on Kildare Road and New Stop Signs
Work was carried out on Kildare Road during the month of July and completed in early August to change the underground pipes in order to avoid the type of water main breaks we experienced in 2009. I gained the city council’s support to have this job moved up in the schedule at a cost of $426,000. Now that the work is completed the pipes shouldn't need to be repaired or replaced for approximately 50 years. There were some bonuses added to this project. An additional $26,000 was secured to finally fix the stretch of pavement from Rembrandt to Cavendish. And, following a lot of feedback from residents of Rembrandt, Merrimac, Sir Walter Scott and most notably Ilan Ramon Crescent, new stop signs were installed at the corner of Sir Walter Scott and Kildare Road. I have spoken to Police Commander Sylvain Bissonnette for his patrols to observe the spot closely as many motorists are not abiding by the rules there.
In 2010 digital signage finally arrived in the city of Côte Saint-Luc. This was an initiative I had been pushing since first being elected. An attractive four by seven full colour and weatherproof LED display now stands at the corner of Cavendish Boulevard and Kildare Road. Kazoo Digital, which already provides digital signage solutions for retailers, medical and dental clinics, and corporate offices with the use of in house digital display systems, is our partner in this endeavor. Messages appearing on the sign represent a combination of city announcements and advisories and paid advertisements. We hope to see a few more surface in 2011.
New Town Houses
A lot of people have asked me what is happening with the 21 unit town house complex on Marc Chagall. Many will recall that the land was originally zoned for a strip mall. Following several consultations with my constituents in that area, it was clear that a strip mall was not desirable. We changed the zoning and allowed a developer to start selling units. He an option to buy the land. Because such a transaction has not yet occurred, no construction has been allowed to take place.
New Zoning for Highrises
Meanwhile, when the city adopted a new master plan earlier in the year we rezoned the parcel of land that sits between the Le Rothchild I building and the Marquise to accommodate a highrise of a maximum 12 storeys, compared to the original 17. A previous Council had given approval a number of years ago for two twin tower buildings. That never took off. The land is vacant and while we have no indication that someone else might be interested, residents of the condos there now appear very pleased with the turn of events.
District 2 stands to grow as a result of the development of the Cavendish Mall property. After many years of negotiation, council came to an agreement with the owners of the Mall for them to demolish 40 percent of the facility. The father and son team of Joe and Jason Levine of Dubelle Investments now plan to construct an attractive housing development. Work should commence in March. Right now the demolition is complete and debris must be carted away.
I have heard from many residents of Kildare Towers, located on Honore de Balzac, regarding the construction. Recently we created a small walking path to make their route into the remaining part of the Mall easier. I believe that as a result of this development their building will become more desirable as well. The owner of the property is Howard Szalavetz, who also has the Manoir Camelia next to City Hall under his auspices. Howard is a pleasure to deal with.
Aquatic and Community Centre
In the city at large, I was excited to be at both the initial announcement and the groundbreaking for our Aquatic and Community Centre. I hope to be doing laps in the new indoor pool in the fall.
New Public High School
We may also have a new public high school in the city in September. Our mayor has made it a priority to lobby the English Montreal School Board (where I work by day) to bring back a high school to the old Wagar building. The city hosted a public meeting on the issue with the EMSB in October and it was standing room only. We will watch and see what happens if the EMSB Council approves a new three year plan in February, which would include the Côte Saint-Luc high school option. If that occurs, registration would begin soon after for the launch of a Grade 7 only school with sports concentration and heritage language options.
Canada Day and Human Rights
During Canada Day festivities I co-chaired with Councillor Glenn J. Nashen the Human Rights Walkway Ceremony. Based on our respective histories with the Canadian Jewish Congress we chose to honour those who spoke out and fought for Jews oppressed in the former Soviet Union, Syria, and Ethiopia. It was an emotional experience, particularly as we saluted Rabbi Martin Penn. He was not able to be there with us due to illness. I am proud to announce that on Friday, July 1, 2011 I will co-chair Canada Day festivities with Councillor Allan J. Levine.
Councillor Sam Goldbloom and I co-chaired the Seniors Golf Outing Outing at Meadowbrook. I also emceed the awards banquet. This is an event I always enjoy. The same goes for the Senior Men’s Club Gala Dance. District 2 resident Sidney Margles is now the president of the Club and is working with us on the new Aquatic and Community Centre, which will also become the headquarters for our seniors groups.
Trap, Neuter and Release
As a self confessed cat lover, I asked for and received a mandate from the mayor to look into the feasibility of implementing a Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) program for cats. In August I hosted an unprecedented public information meeting at City Hall about what residents can do to help control our cat population. It exceeded my expectations in terms of interest. A standing room only crowd of more than 100 people stretched into the hallway. Media coverage in advance of the meeting and on this night was exceptional. Alanna Devine, the director of animal welfare at the local Canadian Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA) and Dr. Marlene Kalin, the director of the Côte Saint-Luc Hospital for animals, were special guest speakers.
Focus was placed on the Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) program, cat overpopulation, and responsible pet ownership. The TNR program humanely traps, sterilizes, then releases feral cats back into their original territory. Experts say that removing feral cats doesn't work because new cats simply move into the area. If the cat is adoptable, efforts are made to place it with a family. A cat can reproduce four times a year, beginning from six months old, and can give birth to from one to eight kittens each time. We now have a committee in place and in the 2011 Côte Saint-Luc budget, a total of $5,000 has been allocated. Our Director of Legal Services and City Clerk Jonathan Shecter got in touch with the head office of Canadian Pacific Railway, advising him that many of the feral cats are in the local CP Yards. The back and forth correspondence was very fruitful and CP has agreed to contribute $2,000 to the fund. Some committee members will assist me with fundraising and an education component. I am extremely pleased with these turn of events as our city is taking a leadership role which others should follow.
When I was first elected and received the Intercommunity Relations portfolio I decided to develop a data base of every community organization operating within the confines of Côte Saint-Luc. Once that was in place I began holding meetings, where representatives from these organizations would come together and report on their activities. This turned out to be an excellent networking opportunity to begin with. In between meetings, we started to email them information about activities we thought they should know about. Each meeting is, in fact, hosted by a different organization. In the fall we convened at Bialik High School where we were introduced to their new principal Shireen Butman. The dialogue was fruitful and I look forward to future gatherings. I continue to work with the Bialik administration in an effort to have the parent motorists abide by the rules of the road. During the year I brought some students from Bialik to City Hall where our engineering manager Charles Senekal and Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson spoke about ways in which they could make the area around the school safer.
New City Management
In 2010 the city council made an important move by promoting Director of Library Services Tanya Abramovitch and Director of Human Resources Nadia DiFurria to the posts of city manager and associate city manager. Tanya had impressed the entire council early on in this mandate when we chose her to head the library. She moved up even further on our list when she took charge of our strategic plan, a very exciting look into the future of our city which citizens will learn a lot more about in 2011.
Finally, on December 20 council adopted the 2011 budget. We were faced with many challenges, starting with a seven percent increase in agglomeration expenses. Montreal has been taking advantage of the demerged suburbs from day one. Regrettably, the provincial government has not done enough to stop this injustice. I hate to think about what will occur in two years when the Parti Québecois is voted into office. That will happen, unless Premier Jean Charest resigns soon and is succeeded by a charismatic new leader. We adopted a $59 million budget, with an average tax increase of 2.98 percent.
In the city itself I would like to salute some businesses:
Kosher Self Service and Côte St. Luc Kosher and the Famous Delly Boys, both operating in the same plaza on Westminster Avenue. Heading home from work, anxious for a good home cooked meal, but hoping someone will do the chore for you? Go see Mrs. Roth, Avi Brook and their team at Kosher Self Service/Cote St. Luc Kosher on Westminster for a ready to eat chicken schnitzel meal with amazing roasted potatoes. The place has great Chinese food and a whole lot more. Avi, the kosher butcher extraordinaire, has specials on minced meat, flanken steaks, rib roast, short ribs and beef stew to name a few. In 2010, the Famous Delly Boys got new owners - Tahir and Kharson Lifanov, with their mom Fatima. Tahir and Kharson have rejuvenated the place and brought back original owner Sonny Broccoli to lend his steady hand behind the counter. There are new additions to the menu, a website and great customer service.
George at Caldwell Provisions has a kitchen of his own on the premises. Here too you can stop by anytime and get good home cooked meals. On Westminster, Infusion Catering makes some of the best burgers I have tasted. Owner and chef Derek Curzi will cater your meal with Italian dishes, schnitzel and a whole lot more.
Hats off to Raffi Abikian, who always stays calm at his Shell Service Station on Westminster despite a very demanding clientele. In addition to his body shop in N.D.G., he has now opened a second automobile repair shop in that area and put ace mechanic Zack in charge.
At the Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre, Constantine the Tailor is probably the most reliable person in the community with needle and thread.
The best bagels in the city? CSL Bagel on Caldwell wins hands down. In 2010 the place went kosher. Next door is the Pharmaprix with the best customer service thanks to ace technicians Thomas Virta and Sheila Cohen and seasoned pharmacists like Saul Singer.
There are a lot of good things going on in Côte Saint-Luc. It is why I chose to live here for most of my life!