For the past 12 plus years since I became the Côte Saint-Luc City Councillor for District 2 I have held annual Town Hall meetings, the most recent of which occurred on June 4. While there was a good showing, I must make an important point.
I have always been a very involved councillor. My blog provides regular updates as to what is happening in my District and the city at large. Every time a constituent calls or e-mails me they get an immediate response. I take walks and drives to every section of District 2. And since the last election, there is a new reality with citizens expressing themselves through a variety of new Facebook pages: CSL Ideas, Let’s Chat and Citizens for an Open Government just to name a few.
While elections are held once every four years, I conceived the Town Hall meetings as a way for voters to meet me face to face with all of their questions at least once a year. Monday I had a set agenda of safety and security, the Equinoxe apartment complex on Marc Chagall and other updates. This was a “dialogue” session with an open mic. Yet leading up to the meeting I am not exaggerating that at least three dozen people either called, but primarily e-mailed me to say they could not make it but wanted to express their concern about something. In some cases, there was a fear that these points had to make before the Town Hall started. I either called or e-mailed back each person and days later the communication is still ongoing.
I am all for this, but it just goes to show you how things have changed. In this mandate, our city has embarked upon a program of citizenship engagement. That means being readily available via e-mail or social media, webcasting and providing audio feeds for our public council meetings, enhancing our in-house publications and soon hiring a full-time webmaster.
I told everybody who contacted me that they need not wait for a Town Hall meeting. These calls and e-mails can come every time. The requests I received prior to the session have been added to the exact same “to do” list.
Safety and Security: Our Police
So here is what happened at the meeting.
I invited Montreal Police Station 9 Socio-Community Officer Marie Christine Nobert to speak about safety matters. One of the reasons for having her was to underline the fact that even though Station 9 ( which serves CSL, Hampstead and Montreal West) has relocated from its long-time District 2 location at Cavendish and Kildare to the strip mall on Westminster and CSL Road, they remain very close to our constituents. Marie Christine has been working in our community for 21 years and she was joined at the meeting by two young Cadets, Lia and Lisanne, who will spend their summer training working on bike patrols.
Officer Nobert is an excellent presenter and she shared some very valuable information. She called Côte Saint-Luc one of the safest communities in Canada and lauded the work of our Public Security, VCOPS (Volunteer Citizens on Patrol) and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Phil Mayman, the supervisor for Logistics and Operations with the VCOPS, also joined us at the head table and provided a good perspective on some issues.
Officer Nobert said that there will be six people on bike patrol in the Station 9 territory this summer focusing on pedestrian safety. She reminded everyone that there is one officer whose responsibility is traffic. Cars will patrol or stake out specific areas where traffic violations are occurring and give out tickets. “If you have a specific street corner you are concerned about let us know,” said Officer Nobert.
On the subject of Breaking and Entering, Officer Nobert said that such incidents do occur and homeowners must be vigilante. “Make sure you do not put all of your valuables in the master bedroom,” she said. “That is the first place these criminals will go to take jewellery, money and laptops. If someone rings your bell, I suggest you look through the window and ask who is there? If you are concerned call 9-1-1. Also, when you go away on holiday, tell your neighbour to keep an eye on your place.”
Phil Mayman confirmed that the VCOPS will also perform vacation checks if asked.
Other tips from Officer Nobert:
- If you keep your snow tires in a common garage, lock them with a chain. A criminal will not want to spend the time necessary to get them loose.
- Beware of pickpockets. Men should put elastics around their wallets
- Do not be fooled by prank calls asking personal questions and trying to steal your identity.
- While incidents of Elder Abuse are low in our community, they do occur and we should be vigilante. On June 15 there will be a kiosk at Quartier Cavendish from 11 am to 1 pm on this subject.
There were a number of questions, all of which Officer Nobert, myself and Phil Mayman took note of. They included concerns about drug dealers hanging out near the exit to the library, parking violations and speeding. Resident Alice Kern, who resides in the new apartment building on The Avenue, wrote me in advance of the meeting and showed up (we need more Alice Kerns’). Not only was I able to share her concern with Officer Nobert, but she got to follow up with her.
“The other day I was walking along Cavendish between The Avenue and Mackle and there was a new black Mercedes literally flying" up Cavendish to make the light and turn left onto Mackle,” Alice explained. “On my way back via Kellert, some of the cars just rolled (not slowly) through the Stop sign at the corner of The Avenue. They do the same heading East and West along The Avenue, in all directions. I do a lot of walking and am aware of my surroundings. For a big part, the residents in this area are affluent, by the cars they drive, and have absolutely no respect for the law. I was crossing The Avenue between the beautiful new concrete flower pots - which do have very visible Pedestrian signs - and I actually had to put my hand out to get a car to slow down - and she gave me a dirty look as she gunned her big white SUV after I got across the street. Cavendish Blvd, Mackle, Kellert, Marc Chagall, The Avenue are not respected speedways despite stop signs and/or traffic lights. The only time I've seen police patrol in this area, were two officers on bikes leaving the City Hall/Library parking lot last Friday along Sir Walter Scott. They are well known to be on Westminster/Guelph or Westminster/Kildare with the radar, but nowhere else. We need more police presence. There are not only the school children on their way to and from JPPS/Bialik but also all the senior residents up and down Cavendish Blvd/Mackle/Marc Chagall (who walk through the Leonard Cohen walkway to come to the Mall).”
We had a few others who want something down about the crosswalk from the apartment building to the entrance at the Quartier. There are also cars literally driving on the sidewalk. This has been forwarded to the Traffic Committee.
Catheline Nemeth is another citizen who wrote to me before the meeting and attended. “Speed limits were reduced to 40/km on Fleet,” she stated. “This makes no sense on a not really residential street. Nobody exits from their house onto Fleet between Cavendish and Queen Mary. Few people, even buses do not keep it and use 50/km 90 percent of the time On Kildare, from Marc Chagall to Merrimac, it is 30/km, but from Merrimac onward it is 50/km. This also makes no since, since it is a well-travelled road by children, school bus drop and more. This area should be 40/km or even 30/km.”
I told Catheline that Hampstead determined the speed on Fleet and our council decided not to confuse people by changing it on our side. As for Kildare and Merrimac, that is up for discussion with our Traffic Committee.
A few people who could not make it very much want stop signs installed on Kildare Road and Rembrandt. They reside on the latter street and literally cannot make a left turn during morning rush hour due to the JPPS-Bialik parents. I explained to them a stop sign installation is not as simple as it stands. For one, it could cause more significant problems along Kildare and even spread to Cavendish. Our Traffic Committee has agreed to give this another look.
While the construction of the Equinoxe Apartment Condo buildings are of the greatest interest to residents of Marc Chagall, the whole idea of new construction is an important subject. This was the first opportunity since work began on Phase One for some residents to meet Alex Bouhadana and ask him questions. I did form a committee with reps from the five condominium associations on the street before construction began and we have convened several times. An open line of communication exists and we try to work through our problems.
The fact is that land was zoned for two residential high rises 30 years ago. Our council had no way to stop the project. We have, however, agreed upon a number of measures such as no more outdoor work on weekends, more parking spaces than required by law and the responsibility to keep the street clean. Has it been perfect? Hardly! Phase One, Mr. Bouhadana reported, is almost complete and a huge success commercially: it is 85 percent rented and new residents will start moving there in July (virtually all of these people come from Côte Saint-Luc, many from the neighbouring Marc Chagall condos).
Excavation for Phase Two will start in August. “Trust me,” Mr. Bouhadana said, “we want to finish this as quickly as possible.”
The two buildings were originally called to have 300 units. That number has been reduced by 25 due to some tenants asking for larger units. The number of parking spots will remain the same as originally agreed upon.
We all realize how many parking spots the workers take on Marc Chagall, Mackle and some other streets. The Equinoxe leased the empty field across from the Marquise for parking and that worked in the winter. Once temperatures warmed up cars started to sink. When the snow dump is cleared, we hope by early July, we will consider making spots available there until the winter. We have also added a dozen new spots on Marc Chagall and once Phase One is complete some workers can perhaps park in the indoor garage.
Residents had a chance to talk to Mr. Bouhadana about issues such as noise, especially before 7 am and after 9 pm. The city is doing its best to monitor the situation. We have only one Public Security patrol car overnight so it cannot be stationed there. Residents are encouraged to call dispatch at 514-485-6960 when they see an infraction. Mr. Bouhadana explained that first off, the workers are generally sub-contractors of sub-contractors so there is an issue of chain of command. Furthermore, be it Videotron or a plumber, service calls arrive off hours without having even checked with the developers.
Many residents like Bobby Gordon sounded off by how dirty the streets are from the construction. Mr. Bouhadana said the developers are paying for street cleaning three days a week, but residents complained that the area is filthier than ever. Sidney Margles expressed his concern about safety on the street and nobody properly directing the trucks going back and forth. “Your foreman needs to have a flagman there,” he recommended. “If you want a blockade on the street, you will have one.” Michael Litvack is upset that trucks working on the project keep knocking out the lights on Lismer, the small street off of Marc Chagall where the garages are for Le Rothchild II and the Bellagio.
I continue to respond to complaints daily. I do thank Mr. Bouhadana for making himself available.
GOOD AND WELFARE
The final portion of the meeting was an open mic on any issue. Shirley Rosen wants the sidewalks on Merrimac repaired and for there to be proper signage to warn motorists not to park too closely to garage entrances. Bev Yaffy said that the green light coming out of the Quartier Cavendish on Kellert and Cavendish is not illuminated long enough and should be adjusted. Rhoda Albert, one of my truly engaged residents, said that the lighting on the pathway leading from the rear of the parking lot to Marc Chagall is not illuminated at night and missing a lamp-post). Phil Mayman went right outside after the meeting and filed this report: “All of the lamp-posts were illuminated and provided a safe and sufficient level of light. One lamp-post was indeed missing and a cone is covering the base where it will be installed. I assume it is on backorder. However the next lamp-post provides sufficient lighting for the pathway. In my opinion there is no unsafe situation here.”
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein joined the meeting at one point to provide an update on city matters.
Thank you fill and everyone else for attending.