New park, Kildare-Cavendish corner, JPPS Bialik merger and other matters discussed at District 2 Round Table
When I was first elected more than 10 years ago to Côte Saint-Luc city council, I pledged to stay in close contact with my constituents of District 2. Besides my regular walkabouts, daily email and telephone interaction and attendance at community and city organized events, I introduced District information meetings. At least once a year I invite residents to a Town Hall style meeting where we focus on issues specifically related to the district, with special guests on hand to help answer questions. I am pleased to say this has met with success.
On June 8, I organized what I called a District 2 Round Table. There was no “table” per se, but the City Hall Council Chamber was arranged with a very large circle of chairs. My guests were Mayor Anthony Housefather, Councillor Glenn J. Nashen, Director of Urban Development Charles Senekal, Station 9 Police Lieutenant Bryan Cunningham and JPPS-Bialk Head of School Maureen Baron and Bialik Principal Avi Satov.
I was pleased to see some 50 residents in attendance. Over the course of close two hours, information flowed both ways.
Mayor Housefather, whom many wished good luck to in his bid next October to become the next Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, provided some insight into the city’s court case with the owners of Meadowbrook Golf Course. Our wish remains to keep this property green. The owners had sued the city a number of years ago when we rezoned the property as greenspace.
LAND ON MARC CHAGALL AND MACKLE
More than a decade ago, a sales office was setup at the Quartier Cavendish and units for two 17 storey towers to be located on Marc Chagall Avenue and Mackle Road were put up for sale. The buildings would never come to be, with the project cancelled and the owners seemingly disinterested in making anything happen. When their model home was demolished seven years ago, it was clearly case closed. The subject of this land came up often at past District 2 meetings, with residents of the two buildings in between – Le Rothschild and Le Marquise – not particularly pleased with the prospect of one day having two large facilities towering over them. Well, in the interim as part of a new master plan for the area we brought down the number of storeys buildings on that lot could be. Last week, news broke that the land is officially for sale. Submissions are being requested by July 14. This 115,843 square foot parcel of land has the potential to build high-rise condominiums, apartments and senior housing that can be constructed in multiple phases. The city zoning permits a residential usage, a density of 3.90 and a height between nine and 12 floors. Will there be a buyer? I guess we will have to wait and see.
NEW PARKETTE AT CAVENDISH AND KILDARE
As part of the original plans for the still relatively new housing development at Quartier Cavendish, there is a large stretch of vacant greenspace at the corner of Cavendish and Kildare. We zoned this for a parkette, an area intended to have some nice benches, pathways, trees, flowers, shrubs and a fence or two. We will be announcing the name and theme for the park soon. A number of residents from Park Place were in attendance at the meeting to reiterate concerns they have about the non-stop influx of people crossing over the greenspace and through their private parking lot and past their homes as a short cut to the Quartier. I have been there on a number of occasions to see this for myself. Council has discussed this problem and there is now consensus to place attractive fencing across most of the stretch. I also favor a gate, something the residents on hand would like to see locked at all times so that people going to the Quartier after getting off the bus will have to walk along Kildare Road and then the Avenue. We are very cognizant of the concerns. Final plans for the makeup of the parkette will be made very soon, with construction set to begin towards the end of September.
THE CAVENDISH BOULEVARD EXTENSION
Is there a subject that has been discussed more in Côte Saint-Luc than the extension of Cavendish Boulevard towards St. Laurent? While the late Mayor Bernard Lang was adamantly against this (“We don’t need it, we don’t want, we can’t afford it,” he would always say), our council very much wants to see an indirect route from Cavendish to Royalmount in TMR and then to St. Laurent. Mr. Senekal is part of a technical committee which meets about twice a year to discuss this very issue. Mayor Housefather made it clear that the only thing stopping this project from happening is money. The Agglomeration Council of the Island of Montreal has set aside $44 million, which is hardly enough. There are some plans which suggest work could begin as early as 2017, but the mayor made it clear this will only occur if the Quebec government comes through with the necessary funding. The Federal government will need to play a role as well, so having our mayor in Ottawa won’t hurt this dossier.
CITY HALL PARKING LOT
The parking lot at City Hall will be given a total facelift this summer. Mr. Senekal explained that a few options are being presented to Council for final approval. A new configuration, we hope, will allow for additional parking spaces (something we know is needed for patrons of the library. We want to ensure maximum safety as well. One of the other objectives is to have a double passing lane in the drop-off zone.
ISADORE GOLDBERG PARK
Isadore Goldberg Park is located in between the apartment buildings on Kildare Road and Sir Walter Scott. A lot of young families bring their children there to play. It has been the goal of City Council for some time to relocate the park to the open area on Marc Chagall near the walkway to City Hall. However, due to certain safety standards we learned that was not possibly to simply move all of the existing equipment. Therefore, to construct a brand new park is a far more costly endeavor. With the mayor’s support, I would like to see this put into our 2016 budget. In the meantime, our Public Works Department has been mandated to spruce up the existing park. Although we had started weeding and replacing the sand last year, we are going to finish up that task in the park this summer. We will also be repairing the swings and replacing them once the sanding is done. Director of Public Works Beatrice Newman has already done a small tour of the park with her foremen to assess the equipment and benches that remained. We removed equipment deemed unsafe.
Lt. Bryan Cunningham from Police Station 9 shared some important information. At Quartier Cavendish, he said that many elderly people are being targeted by shoplifters. He explained the common scenario. One person strikes up a conversation while another will come from behind and conduct the theft. He stressed that people should be careful in the food court, where pickpockets are rampant. Turning to thefts in cars, he warned people not to leave their garage doors open. Thieves enter, take the garage opener from the car and have access to the home. In some cases, cars and bikes in the garage have been stolen. The police and their summer cadets are on the lookout for these thieves. Mayor Housefather wished to emphasize that out of all of the police districts in Montreal, Station 9 has the lowest crime rate. Residents shared various concerns with Lt. Cunningham where they’d like to see police issue more tickets. This includes the crosswalk on Marc Chagall neat the Bellagio highrise condominium and Kildare and Cavendish. I commended the police for cracking down on cars that run the stop signs on Kildare Road and Merrimac and further along at Sir Walter Scott.
KILDARE AND CAVENDISH INTERSECTION
The corner of Kildare and Cavendish remains the busiest intersection in the city. Over the years we have made many efforts to resolve different problems and kept a crossing guard there at certain hours. Traffic for cars and pedestrians is often a catch-22 situation. Motorists think the wait for a green light is too long; pedestrians feel there is not enough time to cross the street. We always listen to recommendations and on this night there were a few that Mr. Senekal took note of. At the Council table, we have recently brought the topic back for discussion and one of our thoughts is to eventually close off the ability of people to cross Cavendish from the Kildare coming from Rembrandt, instead forcing them to only do so from the side nearest the police station. We will continue to explore different options. There were also requests for us to lower the size of the fence on the south side of Kildare Road as this can inhibit a motorist seeing somebody crossing the street. Steve Acre suggested we cut the height of the fence from five to three feet in order to giv a motorist who is in the middle lane of Kildare making a left turn on Cavendish to go South to be able to see if any car is coming from the opposite direction. "I am afraid if we don't do something soon, and I mean soon, we are putting ourselves in the hands of the almighty not to have a head on collision," he said. As Albert Aaron pointed out, both motorists and pedestrians need to be better educated.
Maureen Baron and Avi Satov shared the news that they are currently completing a feasibility sale to sell the JPPS building on Van Horne and merge the elementary school with Bialik. I have already sat down with Maureen and Avi, in the company of Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, to discuss the particulars. Such a move could take place as early as next January. Bialik presently has about 350 students, about half the number it did a decade ago. The arrival of JPPS would mean an influx of about 200 more pupils plus staff. There would be a staggered opening and closings each day for the two schools to facilitate drop offs and pickup traffic. A number of years ago I encouraged Bialik to launch a student traffic committee. Not only did they create such a body, but it continues today. As Ms. Baron pointed out, it is the students who educate the parents on proper etiquette when it comes to driving safely, not blocking driveways etc. There was a complaint about parents illegally parking in the Meadows condominium lot. I stated that if someone witnesses such a thing, the make, model and license number should be written down and reported to Ms. Baron.
Councillor Nashen, who like Mayor Housefather actually resides in District 2, spoke about the Volunteer Citizens on Patrol (VCOPs). He created this service nine years ago and it has now grown to 80 volunteers – the majority of the average age of 65. They patrol the city, keep an eye out for open garage doors and anything else they may deem alarming. There is a crew out on the streets now inspecting smoke alarms. Councillor Nashen also touched upon the city’s Emergency Preparedness Plan, noting that we are probably the best prepared in the region for any type of disaster. Such was the case in 1998 when the city stepped up to the challenge during the Ice Storm.