We have just completed another eventful year in the City of Côte Saint-Luc and I am proud to be entering my 10th year as the councillor for District 2. Looking back on 2014, I am pleased with my accomplishments within the constituency and for the city at large.
One of the things I continue to appreciate most about this job is interacting with constituents, be it by telephone, in person or by email. I also continue to hold my annual District meeting on the first Monday in June, take regular walkabouts and post information updates on my personal website, via Twitter and Facebook.
Last summer brought the long awaited opening of refurbished tennis courts at Rembrandt Park, something I worked long and hard for. We allocated $167,000 to fine tune the courts and install new lighting. Pétanque courts also made their debut at the park. This is a simple game, just like horseshoes, where there is a target, and you have to get as close to it as possible. We invite players of all ages to gather for games of pick-up pétanque. You must bring your own balls and jack. If you are interested in participating in a league next spring, contact François Marechal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 514-996-8709 or 514-996-8709.
LES COURS MARC CHAGALL
When discussing Les Cours Marc Chagall, the 21 unit town house complex on Marc Chagall Avenue in Côte Saint-Luc, one must go back a number of years ago when the land was zoned commercial. The original bidder for the privately owned property attempted to have a zoning change adopted, something as the councillor for the district I fully supported. Initially this was not successful so plans moved ahead by the developer to build a strip shopping centre. Nearby residents were up in arms. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and a majority of council agreed to rezone.
Owners began moving into Les Cours Marc Chagall two years ago. A second set of developers had stepped in. During the construction they asked the city for permission to use the neighbouring land we own to house their sales trailer and to leave materials. Long after construction concluded, that patch of land was in pretty poor shape from the debris left over and the vehicles which had driven over it. The height of the land also resulted in a drainage problem affecting the new town house development. It took a lot of time and money, but we concluded work over the summer which has resulted in a beautiful piece of green space complete with a lovely floral arrangement and a small pathway leading to some comfortable benches. We levelled off the property, put in fresh soil and hydroseeded the entire area.
I like to tell the story of my first election campaign more than eight years ago, when I was the candidate for Côte Saint-Luc City Council in District 2. There were a number of objectives on my agenda, but chief among them was the introduction of District meetings, whereby very local issues would be discussed. These meetings, held once a year (or more often if need be), have been very well received.
On June 2, 2014, the most recent such gathering dealt with a number of issues. Mayor Anthony Housefather joined me at the podium along with our point man on traffic, Eric Ibey, and Police Station 9 Sergeant Bryan Cunningham. For the second year in a row, I handed out a special Award of Merit. It went to 16 year old Mathew Stein, who is completing Grade 11 at Bialik High School. Mathew was recognized for stepping up on his own and cleaning up the neighbourhood – specifically the streets and sidewalks of District 2.
There is no official name for the housing development on the land which previously housed about 40 percent of the Cavendish Mall. Perhaps we can simply refer to it for now as "The Quartier," since the shopping centre is now officially known as Quartier Cavendish. The developers called it Centrepoint, a name that might stick as well.
The new homes on Kildare Road, Cavendish, Park Place and Jubilee are all part of District 2 while those on the extended version of Kellert fall under Councillor Glenn J. Nashen's District 6. It has been gratifying to watch this development take shape and I take my hats off to our Urban Development team headed by Charles Senekal for seeing all the work through. It is not yet complete. The land on The Avenue - the main road leading into the project - facing Yeh! Yogurt is zoned for a future condo building with mixed use on the ground floor, and I expect that we will see something occur there in the not too distant future. It is in the hands of developer Joe Levine.
There are presently two future park spaces in the development: at Cavendish and Kildare and Park Place and Kildare. Ruth Kovac Park, situated behind Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation stands to be revamped.
Last summer we levelled the land, brought in new topsoil and then had the spaces seeded. A small park at Cavendish and Kildare could materialize as early as next summer. The other will be done within the next five years.
We are hoping that while the high rise remains simply a future project, that the land will be grassed by the developer.
We are more optimistic than ever that Cavendish Boulevard will be extended to St. Laurent, with an indirect route via Royalmount in TMR. The project has been placed in the City of Montreal’s Capital Works Program. With Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre in favor of the work and a provincial Liberal government in power, we might just see this “dream” realized. One of the goals of our city, since Bernard Lang left office as mayor in 1998, has been to see Cavendish extended.
CAVENDISH AND KILDARE
We all agree that the corner of Cavendish and Kildare is problematic. Pedestrians complain that there is not enough time to cross the street; motorists insist that the light turns colours too quickly. We have undertaken a number of measures over the years: introducing double left turns on Kildare heading to Cavendish and on Cavendish to Fleet; synchronizing the traffic lights along Cavendish; maintaining a crossing guard there year-round. Can we undertake any additional action? There are some possible solutions, which we have discussed. Not only would they be very costly, but given the changing dynamics of that corner it would only serve as a stop-gap measure and frankly not a good investment at all. Both Mayor Housefather and Eric Ibey note that no significant changes are being considered at the present time given the new reality of a Cavendish extension, as well as the developments at Quartier Cavendish and Parkhaven. The mayor adds that there is actually less traffic at that corner today than during the glory days of the Cavendish Mall. When work does begin on an extension, the mayor said, the Cavendish-Kildare intersection will be an important component of the changes made to traffic patterns. At that point something elaborate will occur. Some people do have suggestions as to how to make some improvements now. We are looking at introducing some type of pedestrian refuge for people crossing the street.
Manoire Montefiore welcomed a new executive director in 2015. Cindy Hershon is now at the helm of this beautiful seniors residence at the corner of Cavendish Boulevard and Mackle Road
Cindy holds two Master degrees (Social Work and Jewish Studies). She has worked for a number different community organizations, including the Jewish General Hospital Foundation, B’nai Brith Canada and Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation. When I stopped by to see her recently, she was busy having a speed bump installed in the building's sloped entrance way. Bravo Cindy! For years I have been getting complaints from Cindy's predecessors that cars were using this entrance as a shortcut to turn around. Since this is private property, I can only "advise." When Cindy called me soon after her appointment she raised the matter with me and in no time at all the speed bump was order and installed.
BIALIK HIGH SCHOOL
I continue to stay in close touch with the administration of Bialik High School at the corner of Kildare Road and Marc Chagall. Most recently I sat down with new Principal Avi Satov and JPPS Bialik Head of School Maureen Baron to discuss a variety of issues. The subject of traffic violations by Bialik parents was big problem early on in my mandate. But I must credit past administrations for not turning a blind eye to this. Avi, of course, is by no means a newcomer here. He has been part of the Bialik furniture since coming aboard as a teacher in 2002. Most recently he was the Senior Vice-Principal. I know I can count on him and Maureen to be attentive to parents not blocking driveways or stopping in no parking zones.
BETH CHABAD AND THE RASKINS
Of course I am proud to have Beth Chabad Côte Saint Luc in District 2, right across the street from Bialik High School. I stay in close touch with Rabbi Mendel Raskin and his wife Sara, who continue to serve as outstanding ambassadors for our community.
The absence of a gas station at the corner of Cavendish Boulevard and Mackle Road has really been felt by many Côte Saint-Luc residents. Well there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A Shell station, with a car wash and a mini-IGA convenience store, should be ready by next summer.
SIR WALTER SCOTT
Last summer I commissioned an in-house traffic study on Sir Walter Scott Avenue, following some concerns raised over speeding by both residents of this street and Ilan Ramon Crescent.
Are traffic calming devices such as speed bumps or humps needed? The study showed that the average number of cars per day was around 700, which means a lot of people are coming and going as we knew. We usually use 10 km/h over the 85th percentile as our rough indicator of whether traffic calming is warranted or not. In our case, the 85th percentile was around 48 km/h, so not overly fast, but very near the mark. People seem to be driving faster in the south direction on average. I will discuss this with council and senior staff over the winter to see what kind of action we will take in the spring. Eric Ibey has provided major support on this dossier. Eric has enacted some interim measures, taking away the two or three parking spots that were between Ilan Ramon and the stop sign on Kildare Road, on the west side Sir Walter Scott. We believe this will improve visibility for people turning out of Ilan Ramon and create more room for people exiting and entering from Kildare.
Over the summer we had allowed parking on both sides of the street on Sir Walter Scott. We made it clear this was being done strictly to accommodate the residents of the building at 6600 Kildare Road as their garage was being repaired. Work on that project is now complete so we restored the no parking rules as they were before.
I was pleased to co-chair with Councillor Allan J. Levine this year’s Maisons Fleuries Contest, which recognizes the superb floral arrangements at homes, condominiums, apartments and business complexes. Whereas pre-registration was required in the past to qualify for an award, this year everyone who planted something was eligible as our judges fanned across the city to evaluate.
On November 3, the Mayor and Council hosted the annual Awards ceremony at the Aquatic and Community Centre. In order to jazz things up, we welcomed the Gravy on the Side Variety Hour with Anisa Cameron, Kevin Shustack and Brandon Schwartz. ”
Former Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Bernard Lang passed away at the age of 88. Lang was the mayor of Côte Saint-Luc for 22 years. Prior to that he was a city councillor for 13 year. He attempted a comeback in the 2005 election and ran against Anthony Housefather. I had a long history with “Mayor” Lang. No, he was not the present-day mayor. But just as they refer to President Clinton, President Bush and President Carter in the United States, it was difficult to address someone as “Mr.” Lang when he held the mayoral post for so long.
I go back many years with Lang, notably to my years as the Côte Saint-Luc beat reporter for The Suburban, The Monitor and briefly The Weekly Herald. We never lost contact.
The arrival of Lang's first and only grandchild Dylan some 13 years ago rejuvenated him. He was the youngest and most fit looking 87 year old I know. Soon after his crushing defeat in 2005, Lang began calling me at least once a week as that election coincided with my debut as a city councillor. He was not bitter. It was clear that he chose to run again because of his undying love for the city. He questioned me on various decisions of the city, but out of general interest and concern that the right thing be done. As time went on I sensed a genuine support for the current council. He and Mayor Housefather began to speak. At a VE Day ceremony in the year following that election, Mayor Housefather acknowledged Lang in a very positive way. Afterwards, Lang thanked him warmly.
When we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Côte Saint-Luc Eleanor London Public Library, Lang was profiled prominently in the special edition of our Courier newspaper. He was also brought on stage and saluted by Mayor Housefather at our ceremony. It was on that night it became clear to me that we needed to find a place for him at the committee level. He agreed to sit on our library committee. He and his devoted wife Miriam were cat lovers. And so they joined my Cats Committee.
Bernard Lang was a full-time mayor, spending virtually every weekday at City Hall. He had a successful business which he had his sons run. Lang was an articulate spokesman who brought credibility to the city. He stood up against any wrongs coming to the city and was noted for taking on the City of Montreal and winning after then Mayor Jean Doré reneged on a pledge to extended Kildare Road into CSL. Lang went all the way to Quebec City and came back with a multi-million dollar ruling in favor of our city and the awarding of the North of Hampstead area and Decarie Square to our tax coffers.
Lang bitterly opposed any talk to extend Cavendish Boulevard. "We don't need it, we don't want it, we can't afford it," he would always say.
Under his watch the present-day City Hall and Library Complex was built. When he retired, it was named the Bernard Lang Civic Centre - a fitting honour.
Côte Saint-Luc has lost another one of our builders following the passing of former city councillor Henry Marcovitz. I last saw Henry just over two weeks before he passed away dining with family members at a popular Montreal restaurant. He was wheelchair bound, but seemed to be in good spirits and very involved in conversation around the table.
I was proud in recent years to serve as Henry’s city councillor. He and his wife of 60 years Shirley had left their long time home on Randall Avenue and bought a condominium on Rembrandt Avenue. I immediately came into regular contact with them: Shirley via email and Henry by telephone, on the street and at the grocery store. They attended my District information meetings and provided feedback on discussions I held regarding possible changes to Rembrandt Park.
Two and a half years ago, on March 12, 2012, Shirley lost a battle with cancer. I found this remarkable given the fact I ran into her often during what had clearly been a horrible period in her life and she never brought it up or sought sympathy. Henry was naturally devastated and told me how lost he felt. His family, though, stepped in and provided extraordinary support. I remember standing at the front door of our Aquatic and Community Centre when it opened for the first time three years ago. My late father Larry, who went way back with Henry, was standing with me. In walked Henry with his daughter. He wanted to be there and see for himself our state of the art facility.
LIBRARY AND CULTURE
The Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library is a jewel in our midst. There are not too many libraries in Quebec, perhaps even Canada, which can rival our size, collection and the wide array of activities we offer. I am proud to be the city councillor responsible for Library and Culture. We presently have almost 12,000 members – only 352 of which are non-residents and our goal is to increase those numbers. During the year we adopted a new strategy related to our program free schedule. For the first time we are distinguishing between members and non-members rather than residents and non-resident for courses and workshops presented by the library. For all courses and workshops, there is one price for library members and another for non-members. For programs that have limitations on how many people can attend, we have started to implement a policy of either free for library members and a cost for non-members, or a cost for library members and a higher cost for non-members. Book clubs, which limit attendance to 12, will be for library members only.
Why did we make these changes? Well first of all to encourage membership. We also wish to ensure that the budget and staff time are allocated to library programs to serve CSL residents, and in particular members. If non-residents attend, they are paying for the privilege. We wish to ensure that where programs have limited capacity they are filled with library members and places are not taken up by non-members. Not all programs will be affected. Ticketed events such as concerts or play readings will have one ticket price for all for the time being. This will be a gradual implementation.
Over the last decade, residents of CSL have paid a one-time fee of $5 to become a member of our library. We have now eliminated that fee. In addition, non-resident students attending schools in our community will be granted membership for a nominal fee.
We also introduced a fundraising program to help purchase a grand piano for the Harold Greenspon Auditorium. There are 88 keys on a standard piano. As a result the “88 Keys to Music” campaign will enable people to sponsor a key for $88. In recognition, the names of donors will be placed on a plaque in the shape of a piano keyboard which will be permanently mounted outside the entrance to the Auditorium, which is overseen by the library, In addition, the City of Cote Saint-Luc is seeking corporate sponsorships of $500 each. Corporate donors will be recognized on the plaque as well.
Well before I became a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc more than nine years ago I was involved with the annual golf tournament. I believe my association as the emcee of their awards luncheon goes back at least 25 years. Originally, it was a Seniors Golf Outing and the event always attracted good numbers. When I was elected, I began co-chairing the program with Councillor Sam Goldbloom. Over the years we saw attendance begin to drop.
In 2013, we had only 42 golfers register. We knew it was time to either cancel the event or recharge the batteries. Sam and I opted for the latter and thanks to the spectacular assistance of Harold Cammy and Alvin Fishman at our Parks and Recreation Department the revival began. We renamed the event the Côte Saint-Luc Golf Classic and made it available to people of all ages. Work on the 2014 event began during a cold winter day when we sat down with Harold and Alvin and drew up a plan to attract foursomes. Together we obtained a title sponsors in Gravel Auto Group, which has a successful dealership on Decarie. Harold and Alvin signed up a few other sponsors, including Casey Cameron from Techsport Inc.
"Why not have a celebrity honourary chairman?" I asked, thinking out loud that legendary jazz pianist and CSL resident Oliver Jones would be a good choice. Thanks to our Chief Librarian Janine West and her husband Jim, Jones agreed. He was part of a foursome with the West's and one of their close friends. When all was said and done, a total of 83 golfers registered. It rained the day before, but as I awoke on Tuesday, July 8 the weather was gorgeous and precipitation was only called for later in the day.
This was also a day, once again, to showcase Meadowbrook Golf Course and how beautiful this large green space is. For the first time a foursome from Les Amis de Meadowbrook took part and that was wonderful. They lobby and hold meetings throughout the year, but what better thing to do than spend time on the very land they wish to preserve. We all golfed on the back nine. I was part of a foursome with Goldbloom, Police Station 9 Commander Marc Cournoyer and Officer Martin Bourgeois. Louis-Philippe Gravel, director of sales at Gravel Auto Decarie, was on hand as well.
The golf game is only half the fun. Afterwards everyone convened at our Aquatic and Community Centre for a very enjoyable luncheon coordinated by the team of Cammy and Fishman and their devoted committee. Mayor Anthony Housefather provided opening remarks and then helped hand out the trophies.
ANIMAL PROTECTION AND THE CATS COMMITTEE
I was pleased when Mayor Housefather handed me the brand new portfolio of Animal Protection. In 2011 I launched the Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee and through a devoted volunteer committee we have been quite successful in implementing a Trap, Neuter, Release and Adopt Program. We have rescued kittens and found them homes, undertaken educational programs and held fundraising activities. I was very proud to successfully sponsor a new bylaw requiring owners of outdoor cats to buy a licence for their cat, which includes a tag worn around the neck that can be used to help reunite lost cats to their owners.
I still implore cat owners to license their outdoor cats. We have had some recent success stories about outdoor cats who got lost but were found and reunited with their owners thanks to the tags. In late August, Lydia Ghazal, a member of the committee trapped a cat that had been hanging around her house for some time. The cat was terrified, starving but had a collar and tag around its neck. Diane Liebling, who oversees the CSLCC’s fostering program, took the cat in while Shelley Schecter from Educhat spoke with the city who was able to provide the contact information of the cat owner and they were reunited
A few days later, the CSLCC was alerted that someone’s Siamese cat had left the home and not returned. Because the owner had purchased a license, it was easier for the CSLCC to assist in the search. Fortunately, the cat came back on its own.
Personally, I have always had concerns about people who have outdoor cats. Personally I have seen the pain and anguish experienced by some of my own neighbours, whose cats went out at night and never returned. The fact is, if you do insist upon having an outdoor cat then please purchase a license and make sure they are micro chipped by the local veterinarian. It is a small price to pay to significantly increase the odds if your cat goes missing.”
Outdoor cats in the City of Côte Saint-Luc need a cat licence following By-law 2394 that came into effect on November 1, 2012. Owners of outdoor cats must have them registered at City Hall (5801 Cavendish Blvd.) and obtain a cat identification tag, provide relevant information required to process the registration of the cat, and produce a certificate from their veterinarian stipulating that the cat has been spayed or neutered, provided the cat is six months or older.
The annual registration fee is $10 for an outdoor cat that is spayed or neutered and that bears a microchip or a tattoo, $15 for an outdoor cat that is spayed or neutered, but does not bear a microchip or tattoo, and $20 for an outdoor cat that is not spayed or neutered as a result of a medical exemption. The latter alludes to a feline 10 calendar years or older or one that has a medical exemption from the veterinarian attesting to the fact that it cannot be spayed or neutered. Fines will be issued to cat owners not complying with the by-law. They range from a minimum of $40 to a maximum of $1,200.
When I assumed the portfolios of Library and Culture and Animal Protection, I knew there was a way to marry the two. For starters, our Director of Library Services Janine West is an animal lover and so are many of her staff. This includes Manager of Children’s Services Valerie Medzalabanleth and Children’s Outreach and School Services Coordinator Bronwen Cathey from the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library. I was very excited to be part of a new program they launched on May 5 aimed at raising awareness with young Côte Saint-Lucers about cats. Also implicated in the initiative are members of the library’s Teen Advisory Group. More than 20 adorable children, aged two to seven, came to the library with their parents for a cat-themed story time, interspersed with interesting cat facts (including cat health and safety information), given by Valerie and Bronwen. This was followed by a cat craft and ended with the children decorating and signing a pledge to be kind to cats. I told the kids about our Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee, asked which one of them owned a cat at home (several hands went up) and how many wanted to adopt (several hands went up).\
I have heard a lot from dog owners. District 2 resident Steve Stein has been advising me on this subject. I did hold an Animal Protection Forum and had requests for a second dog run near Richard Schwartz Park. I have been working with the councillor for that area to see if this can become a reality. Many people have contacted me about being permitted to walk their dogs responsibly in city parks. One of my goals for 2015 is to have a trial program that we will kick off allowing dogs in some parks under certain conditions.
Right now we have one dog run in Côte Saint-Luc, on Mackle Road near Caldwell. The city has already received a petition to see a new dog run built at Richard Schwartz Park, located on Westluke and Côte Saint-Luc Road near Meadowbrook Golf Course. We are studying this request seriously to determine whether we can find a suitable section of land at that park or anywhere in the vicinity to suit that purpose. Dog owners near Decarie Square have a similar request.
We need to promote responsible dog ownership. That means keeping your canine on a leash and most importantly picking up after him or her. Never leave the house without a plastic bag to dispose of the dog’s dirty business. We have been working towards a project which would have more bag dispensers available, with a trash can at the same location.
During the year I visited our dog run often and spoke to owners about their concerns. I did what I could to encourage people to pick up after their dogs. I met a few times with officials from the SPCA to discuss our mutual objectives.
Bram Eisenthal, the publisher of Precious Pets Newspaper, announced a new partnership with our Animal Protection initiative. We are co-sponsoring some of his Grief Counselling meetings for people whose beloved pets have died. They have been very therapeutic for those in attendance. I have personally lost three cats in my lifetime. Only a pet owner can understand what this is like. Absolutely devastating! Bram is giving people a chance to share their feelings with others who have gone through the same thing.
On the occasion of his remarkable 100th birthday, Côte Saint-Luc city council honoured long time District 2 resident Hyman Avrum Fishman at our September 9 meeting. Hy is by no means your average centenarian. He still lives in his own apartment on Sir Walter Scott Avenue, in no need for someone to cook, clean or shop for him. Despite bad knees, he does his best to get around. His longevity may have something to do with him dragging his exercise bike into the hallway right outside his door and riding like the wind for half an hour at least several times a week, if not daily. A number of years ago Hy dedicated two city benches on Kildare Road in honour of his late wife Fay. He can be seen sitting there often during the spring, summer and fall months.
Hy has become something of a defacto grandfather to his two young neighbours, Alexia and David, children of Gina and Nicu. Hy's mind is sharp as a tack and his collecting of pins from around the world may have something to do with his continuing zest for life, something exceeded only by his passion for his beloved Habs.
I encourage residents to subscribe to my website at www.mikecohen.ca. By doing so you will receive my regular updates on District and city at large activities.
Mayor Anthony Housefather handily won the Federal Liberal nomination for the riding of Mount Royal. He will therefore be the candidate in the next federal election, scheduled to take place on October 19, 2015. If he wins, he would step down as mayor and a by-election for that post will occur. And to the many people who have asked, I have no intention of seeking the job.
CANADA DAY 2015
I am proud to have been chosen as the co-chair, with Councillor Glenn J. Nashen, for the 2015 Canada Day Celebrations. This will mark my second time co-chairing this prestigious event. Can I place my order now for good weather?