As the year 2011 draws to a close, I would like to take a look back in my capacity as the Côte Saint-Luc city councillor for District 2.
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 2011 highlights.
Plans to construct new tennis courts at Rembrandt Park and move the basketball courts to another section were put on hold after the city came to an agreement with the English Montreal School Board for a long term lease of the tennis courts at the Giovanni Palatucci Facility (former Wagar High School). They had not been operational for the previous two years and could only be brought back to life with a total makeover. Council decided to allocate funds to rebuild those courts since they are centrally located. That will be completed next May.
I am very pleased to say that since my election, there have been many positive developments at Rembrandt Park. We flattened the former soccer pit there. For years we had problems with youth rolling benches down the hill and using the area as a kind of hideout. Incidents of people throwing rocks late at night under the cover of dark were plentiful.
We have added new park equipment and introduced a much appreciated water spray system. This winter we are introducing something completely new: a synthetic ice surface. It will be enclosed within the gates of one of the tennis courts. Synthetic ice is a solid polymer material designed for skating using normal metal-bladed ice skates. Rinks are constructed by interlocking panels. District 2 resident Steve Stein is the man behind the concept and we will have a formal opening of the facility in early 2012.
Rembrandt Park will be back on the agenda for some changes in 2012. I know that we must deal with the lighting system there and we will determine if there is sufficient funding to do something. I will be consulting with residents before that happens. At the Tennis Committee we came up with some new proposals regarding Rembrandt. My hope is to have a special placemaking session, whereby some area residents will be invited to be part of the process. Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover their needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place. The vision can evolve quickly into an implementation strategy, beginning with small-scale, do-able improvements that can immediately bring benefits to public spaces and the people who use them. Stay tuned for more information.
Residents of Les Villas Merrimac, a small town house development located at the corner of Merrimac and Rembrandt (with some units fronting on Cavendish), contacted me regarding a rash of graffiti appearing on their property. I arranged a meeting with the residents and had three officers from Police Station 9 and Councillor Glenn J. Nashen (responsible for the public safety portfolio) join me. We surveyed the area and gave them tips on how to help us identify the perpetrators. Some residents believe they actually caught the culprit, a young teen, but when he was apprehended no spray paint could be found. The main message here is that we hope the perpetrators know that people are on the lookout.
I held my annual June District 2 Information Meeting. This is a concept I campaigned on whereby residents can sit down with their elected official with the focus on specific concerns in the immediate neighbourhood. Representatives from Public Works and Engineering joined me. We engaged in discussion and dialogue regarding the Cavendish/Kildare intersection, traffic issues, construction at the Cavendish Mall and Marc Chagall and the municipal snow dump.
Beth Chabad finally moved into its new community centre on Kildare Road and Marc Chagall. The facility is not completely ready. While much work needs to be done over the winter months, when Rabbi Mendel Raskin (pictured with me here) gave me a personal tour of the sprawling facility I was incredibly impressed. This facility was almost two decades in the making. Beth Chabad operated out of the Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre, the Cavendish Mall, Bialik High School and trailers in their parking lot. Our Building Inspection Division devoted a lot of time and energy to ensure the facility was up to code and all safety measures were adhered to, enabling them to move in for the high holidays. Rabbi Raskin remains a golden ambassador to our community. He remains active year-round, with his wonderful wife Sarah, organizing high profile events and inviting the community at large to take part. It is this type of attitude which will no doubt contribute to a healthy membership at his shul.
New Town Houses
Les Cours Marc Chagall, the 21 unit town house complex on Marc Chagall Avenue, began to take shape. New developers Gerald Issenman (pictured) and David Brown enlisted real estate dynamo Anita Benabou Rozenblat and most of the units are already sold, with occupancy expected for next summer.
The Cavendish Mall was renamed Quartier Cavendish. Developer Joe Levine moved forward with his new development, Centrepoint Homes, http://centrepointehomes.com/go/ which when completed will be a thing of beauty. A number of the homes will be in District 2. It has been very exciting to see the progress made since half of the Mall was demolished. New roads were constructed in recent months and we will introduce new street names – The Avenue, Jubilee and Park Place.
Bialik High School
I continue to work with Bialik High School, specifically in regard to ensuring that parents dropping off their kids abide by traffic bylaws and not block local driveways. When I welcomed new principal Ken Scott to the community last summer, that is the first subject we addressed.
Aquatic and Community Centre
In the city at large our gorgeous $18 million Aquatic and Community Centre (ACC) opened in September, only 10 months after construction began. Two thirds of the funding came from the provincial and federal governments. We had an exciting opening ceremony and a few months later Minister of Municipal Affairs Laurent Lessard came for a tour. There is an indoor competition pool, an indoor recreation pool, a fitness room, a teen lounge, a games rooms, a kids room and babysitting service, a large rentable space for parties and conferences (something which community organizations were particularly interested in), a dance and aerobic studio, senior lounges, a library branch, an art studio and more. We are also now open for business in regard to naming rights. If a family or company wishes to have their name associated with any part of the complex, they should approach me.
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. This past fall we convened at the ACC, recognizing that many groups will probably want to use/rent this facility.
I co-chaired 2011 Canada Day festivities with Councillor Allan J Levine. It was a perfect day in terms of the weather and by the time the fireworks display began there were thousands of people in Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park. During the evening we had a citizenship ceremony, a human rights walkway installation, music and dancing from Fresh Entertainment and The Directors Showband, games for kids and much more. The fireworks were dedicated to our Canadian troops overseas and a member of the Canadian Forces joined us as a special guest. At the left we handed out Canada Day cupcakes.
Councillor Sam Goldbloom and I co-chaired the annual Seniors Golf Open at Meadowbrook. I also emceed the event’sd awards banquet. This is an event I always enjoy. The same goes for the Senior Men’s Club Gala Dance, which took place in November in the ACC’s new multipurpose room. Dynamic Men’s Club president Sidney Margles, with an assist from D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman, arranged for Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand to come address the group. (Bergman also brought Premier Jean Charest to CSL for the annual Yom Hashoah commemoration at the Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation).
The city’s Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) program for cats officially got started. City council provided $5,000 in funding and Canadian Pacific Railway added another $2,000. I decided to establish an actual Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee (CSLCC). We have a small, but dedicated, committee which had a busy year of trapping. Our mandate will expand to a lot of education in the community. I represented the city at a major animal welfare conference in November. We need more people to work with us so please give us a call. The provincial government and the City of Montreal finally appear to be taking some important initiatives where animal welfare is concerned and we will follow this closely.
Côte Saint-Luc’s Gymnasium was chosen as the venue for a major provincial Dance Championship. It was an absolutely fabulous event to attend. Celebrity television judge Jean-Marc Genereux was on hand to watch. His son was among the competitors.
Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko of Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation walked down the aisle with prominent makeup artist Mindy Shear…The Israeli Consul General of Israel, Joel Lion, moved to Côte Saint-Luc with his family…Star singer Ranee Lee came to our annual Blood Donor Clinic in May as a special celebrity guest….Côte Saint-Luc remained a leader in social media, via our CSL TV and Facebook pages and a new app for smart phones. We produced a monthly calendar of events, mailed to each home, produced a special e-newsletter and our Côte Saint-Luc Courier tabloid newspaper twice during the year….The annual Maisons Fleuries contest showcased the wonderful work our residents do with their gardens. An awards ceremony was held at City Hall in November…Finally, in December we adopted our 2012 budget, with an average 2.87 percent
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! Please subscribe to my blog at www.mikecohen.ca. Read me in The Suburban Newspaper, The Jewish Tribune, The Montrealer, The Montreal Jewish Magazine, Sandboxworld.com and others