On June 6, 2016 I hosted my annual District 2 meeting at City Hall. I am pleased to report that we had a standing room only crowd. Mayor Mitchell Brownstein joined us at the beginning to provide opening remarks. My special guests were newly appointed Urban Development Coordinator Marianne Zalzal and Director of Public Safety Jordy Reichson.
When I first ran for office in 2005 I promised to be a councillor who would not just knock on the doors of constituents every four years at election time. Besides my regular walkabouts, my blog and daily communication with residents, I felt that this type of Town Hall format meeting was necessary.
For instance, no topic garners more of my attention than the intersection of Cavendish and Kildare. There have been a wide variety of concerns expressed by both pedestrians and motorists. The fact remains that this is the busiest intersection in the city. We synchronized the lights, allowed a double left turn coming from Kildare and did the same on Fleet Road. It did make a difference, but was this enough? At previous District meetings, residents have come forward with suggestions. We listened to and evaluated each and every one of them. Last year, for instance, Steve Acre of Rembrandt Avenue brought up the blind spot on Kildare caused by the fence. He proposed that we cut it down in size. We looked into his idea and determined it made sense. As a result, the size of the fence was reduced.
This year there was a new development to report on. The city has formed a Task Group. Preliminary discussions have focused on the safety of the intersection and a proposed action plan. This group is composed of council members, city administration as well as Montreal Police Department representatives. This is something I have been pushing since the day I was first elected. We are presently awaiting data regarding vehicle and pedestrian counts. I am pleased to report that city council has allocated at least $500,000 to improve the intersection. This is from funds we received via the gas tax. We have engaged the services of a traffic consultant who will produce at least two options for us to consider. Council will receive these reports very soon.
The major issues identified by the Task Group are as follows:
-The double left turn from Kildare westbound to Cavendish southbound is unprotected and creates a lot of confusion, delays and blind spots (where the inside vehicle obstructs the view of a pedestrian for the outside vehicle).
-The lack of pedestrian refuges due to narrow medians.
-The fences create blind spots.
-There is inadequate lighting.
-There is too much movement going on at the same time, adding to the confusion and delays.
-The protected pedestrian cycle is too short (as little as 3 second on the south side, crossing Cavendish from west to east).
-The proximity of the bus stops to the intersection cause large, but short waves of pedestrians.
-The existence of underground Hydro-Quebec chambers that are costly to have relocated restrict some of the redevelopment options at surface level.
-There are a lot of pedestrians on Saturday that cannot activate the pedestrian crosswalk buttons due to the Sabbath.
Commander Jean O’Malley of Police Station 9 has confirmed that there have been more than 22 accidents at this intersection in the last three years. The majority of these accidents involved material damage or minor injuries. There is currently more traffic density than any time in the last 20 plus years. JPPS elementary school has moved into the Bialik building, bringing more cars through this intersection. It was noted that very few school children arrive by bus, though some do return home by bus. Other developments, including the Chabad synagogue and potential new building adjacent to it, the Cavendish Mall redevelopment project and the Griffith-McConnell development have all increased traffic through this intersection. The expanded CLSC and CIUSSS have increased pedestrian traffic arriving by bus. Now a new fitness centre will open
I would like to see the creation of channelized right turn lane or “slip lane." This reduces the distance that pedestrians must cross traffic lanes, creates pedestrian refuges and ensures a continuous flow. Perhaps we can start with the southeast corner as a pilot project and ensure that the development of the park on the northwest corner takes into consideration the possibility of adding a channelized right turn lane in its design. These would be medium-term changes as they require infrastructure work.
With regards to the Montreal Transit Commission busses, it has been recommended to re-examine the placement of the bus stops, while keeping in mind that bus stops are usually at the intersection to force people to cross at the crosswalk.
With regards to the double left turn from Kildare onto Cavendish southbound, there are some who feel that this has to be either removed or moved into a protected cycle (i.e. flashing green light). Even with the lines painted on the ground, the configuration slows traffic flow instead of accelerating it fluidly. Because not all motorists use their turn signals, a driver often has to stop in the intersection to wait and see what the oncoming motorist is going to do. However, any changes to the light sequencing in order to protect the double left turn would require modifying the entire light sequence programming. In light of the engineering report that we wish to undertake, it would not be prudent to make changes now and change again in a few months after the engineering analysis and recommendations are received.
I anxiously await the professional firm’s report. Some people at the meeting wanted a time frame. Well we do not have one at this time. The Task Group will look at the firm’s conclusion and determine the next course of action. I do believe that we will see the Cavendish Boulevard extension in the next few years. It is for that reason that I do not believe we will undertake any major civil work at Kildare and Cavendish. But there are plenty of interim measures we can take... Someone suggested we put sensors on the road so that when the corner is not at its maximum capacity more cars can go through. We do, in fact, have sensors but over time they have become less effective and probably need to be replaced.
One person at the meeting asked if we could extend Kildare Road through to Jean Talon. Besides the fact there is no party willing to fund such a project, I would be adamantly against creating a “highway” on a busy residential street with a school and synagogue right at the corner
It has been a few months now since the staff and students from JPPS Elementary School left their long-time home on Van Horne Avenue and relocated to beautifully renovated premises at what is now known as the JPPS-Bialik campus on Kildare Road and Marc Chagall in Côte Saint-Luc. In fact, the slogan they use is “The Campus of Tomorrow.” As the city councillor for District 2, where the campus is situated, I was delighted to accept an invitation to tour the facility in the company of Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. We were warmly greeted at the front door by a team of students who shook our hands and introduced themselves. In fact the same thing occurred at every class we stepped into, even at the Kindergarten level. Work began last summer to renovate the building, which has always housed Bialik High School. It was nicely done, carefully separating the Kindergarten to Grade 6 students with the Grade 7 to 11 level. The fully updated and modernized JPPS Elementary School is now firmly rooted in the Bialik building, complete with a newly renovated library, state-of-the-art classrooms, new furniture including bicycle and standing desks, enhanced technology, a new fenced–in playground area, two gyms, and the Lederman Foundation Synagogue. The elementary and high schools have separate start, finish and recess times. There is an idea paint whiteboard in each class (that means you can write on the walls and it comes off).
NEW APARTMENT ON THE AVENUE
Ron Basal of the BSR Group, a leading Montreal based developer who has been extensively active in Côte Saint Luc in recent years, is ready to proceed with the construction of a brand new six storey apartment building on The Avenue right across from the side entrance to Quartier Cavendish. Excavation has already begun. Mr. Basal was supposed to attend my meeting, but got detained elsewhere. Residents of the neighbouring street expressed a lot of concerns about the facility, expected to be ready for occupancy by July 2017. Mr. Basal is presently waiting for City Council to approve a number of items related to the construction. Most of the Quartier Cavendish development sector falls under my District 2. This includes Park Place, Jubilee and now this new mixed use building, which will consist of 90 dwelling units on six floors (plus penthouse) as well as a main floor for commercial use. Tenants there will be determined.
A two storey underground parking lot is also part of the plans therefore, once excavation begins, there will be a significant amount of large truck traffic and associated nuisances during this time.
Mark Levy, a resident of Park Place, wanted to know if there was a study done on the traffic, and pollution impact of suddenly introducing up to 180 cars (90 units, two cars each) on the Avenue during peak hours as everyone tries to turn right onto Cavendish to head to work/school. Presently, he said, the Avenue is much too narrow to support such an influx of vehicles and thus he suggested that someone at the city study the possibility of reducing the two lane bike path to one lane to accommodate an additional right turning late onto Cavendish and an additional left turning lane from Cavendish to the Avenue (in the afternoons). I will try to arrange an information meeting with Mr. Basal and the residents at the appropriate time. There was also concern expressed about the green space next to where Mr. Basal is excavating and the state of disrepair.
SPEEDING ON PARK PLACE
Complaints were lodged about speeding by residents and others on Park Place. Mr. Levy said that the recycling and the construction trucks are guilty of the same thing. A request was made to place one or even two speed bumps on the street. Ms. Zalzal said that she will order a speed study.
Park Place has become a de facto extension of the Quartier Cavendish parking lot. Residents who leave their homes at 7:30 each morning often find three to five cars parked there. More materialize before 9 am and remain parked there for most of the day. It would appear that these are employees of the businesses at the Quartier. This problem will likely grow exponentially when the new $10/month fitness club opens 100 feet away. This new club is sure to bring hundreds of people per week to CSL and residents fear they too will likely prefer to park on Park Place.
Residents have requested a two hour parking limitation on Park Place (this will not help with gym users but at least will mean that someone will not be able to park all day on our street). Another idea is a restriction to only park on one side of the street each day (this will at least mean that only half of the street will be full). Most residents have garages so the issue of street parking has a lot to do with their ability to enter and exit their driveways more easily.
City Council has awarded a contract for $253,285.28 to Groupe Vespo for the construction of a new park at the corner of Kildare and Cavendish. Work is expected to begin at the end of June and conclude in September. I spent a great deal of time last summer meeting with residents living in the homes in the Quartier Cavendish complex in the immediate area of the park. It seems that most of these homeowners were unaware when they moved in that the large section of greenspace at Cavendish and Kildare was zoned for a planned park. While we could have actually proceeded with construction last year, we revised our plan in order to make it less of a “hangout” and to create the pathways in such a way that pedestrians would not automatically cut through Park Place. The project now includes eight-foot asphalt pedestrian paths, three park lamp standards, 10 illuminated bollards, 10 park benches, three waste containers, six-foot and three-foot decorative fences as well as the planting of 11 trees and various landscaping. Council is expected to choose a name of the new park this summer. Residents are not pleased with people using what is now an unofficial pathway from Kildare as a shortcut to the Quartier via Park Place. We did install a temporary fence, which I believe has improved the situation. The new design should be a step in the right direction. It was suggested that the 161 and 162 bus stops be removed leading to Park Place, meaning that pedestrians would only get on and off at Kellert. At first glance this sounds like a good idea. However, elderly residents of neighbouring apartment buildings would face an additional hardship if this were to occur.
TWO NEW CONDOS ON MARC CHAGALL
A company called Trantor Realty has purchased the land at the corner of Mackle Road and Marc Chagall and plans to build two 12 storey high rise condominiums. Plans have already been reviewed by our Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) and will come to council for approval very soon. This adds to the District 2 building boom, which already includes a new rental apartment facility under construction on the Avenue in the Quartier Cavendish area. About a decade ago there was another plan to construct two buildings at this location. They would have been 18 storeys high. When that ownership group dropped the project, council conducted some rezoning and much to the delight of the neighbouring condo owners at Le Rothchild and Le Marquise we lowered the density to 12 storeys. A temporary sales office will open by next spring. Sidney Margles, who lives next door at the Marquise, expressed great concern about the added number of cars this will bring – from both residents and visitors. He noted that there is already a lack of places to park on the street. If there will be 152 units, he said, then the maximum number of indoor spots should be requested. At the appropriate time, I will look into holding a meeting with the developer and the residents.
NEW CROSSING GUARD
Since the passing of Archie Kwiatt last year, the position of a crossing guard at the corner of Cavendish Boulevard and Kildare Road had been vacant. This was not for a lack of trying on the part of our Public Safety Department. There simply were not people applying for the job. Archie was very special. He did the job for 17 years and like the "King of Kensington," when he walked down the street "everyone knew his name." Archie took great care and making sure that the elderly and young students crossed this very busy intersection carefully. Norman Klein has been on the job for more than a month and is serving us well. I made it very clear at the council table that this was one position which could not remain vacant. We have a school a block away, JPPS-Bialik, and many senior citizen pedestrians. History will note that this was also the site of some tragic accidents in the past.
ISADORE GOLBERG PARK
Isadore Goldberg Park is sandwiched between apartment buildings on Sir Walter Scott Avenue and The Marc Chagall Town Houses. For many years I have been advocating that we relocate the park to the open area closer to City Hall. This would in fact be more convenient to everyone residing in the neighbouring apartment buildings and condos. Efforts will be made to have this considered for 2017.
In conclusion I urged everyone on hand to follow by blog at www.mikecohen.ca.