As 2018 draws to a close, I bring you my year in review as it applies top my role as the city councillor for District 2 and the individual on council responsible for the portfolios of Communications, Animal Protection and Sponsorship.
In November 2017 I was elected to serve a fourth mandate on council. The past year I must say has been the most active in my political career. With a lot of things happening in my district and via my portfolios and the increase in citizen engagement, there have been no dull moments.
Let’s begin with District 2
Three and a half years after the Manoire Montefiore closed as a seniors residence, the highrise at the corner of Cavendish and Mackle, will be transformed into a residential apartment building. Jadco, the company behind the Équinoxe project on Marc Chagall, purchased the property from Réseau Selection. They were granted a permit to proceed with renovations since there are no zoning changes requested nor is the façade being altered. The timing, of course, is not ideal. Excavation work will begin soon followed by as much as an 18-month construction period for the second Equinoxe building. There are presently 130 units in the Montefiore building. Jadco has proposed 94 units for their rejigged project – 43 one bedroom and and 51 two bedrooms. The area of these units are conforming to the city by-law. There will be about 90 interior parking spaces, including 14 new ones to be constructed in what is now a dining area. In addition, an outdoor lot will accommodate 23 more vehicles.
The past two years have not been easy for anyone residing on or near Marc Chagall Avenue with construction of The Equinoxe. When the project was announced I formed a committee of representatives from the local condo associations and the developers. We have met several times and line of communication is open. We have made progress on many issues, but the reality is nobody will be completely happy until the second facility is completed. Interestingly enough there are many former Marc Chagall Avenue condo residents who have sold their units and moved to The Equinoxe.
The developers of The Equinoxe still have a lease for the rental of the green space across from the Marquise. They have used that as a parking lot for their workers. When work concludes in 2020 the developers will return the green space the way they found it. An allocation has been placed in our Capital Expenditures plan for 2021 for a parkette and possibly a community garden, something all of the former homeowners on Marc Chagall have asked for.
Excavation work for the second tower is expected to begin in January.
Work was 100 percent completed on the apartment rental on The Avenue. The bottom floor is zoned commercial, but no tenants have moved in.
Meanwhile the land next to the Beth Chabad parking lot was zoned for a two storey commercial establishment many years ago. I met with Gary Azimov, the owner of the property, and at the present time he has no plans to build anything there.
A few years ago the central topic for one of my District 2 Town Hall meetings was Rembrandt Park. There were concerns raised about the lack of lighting at the tennis courts, the basketball area, play equipment and the skateboard area. Ruby Goodman, who has served as a park attendant for more than 20 years at Rembrandt, was asked to get a feel from the users. I also set up a small committee and we conducted surveys from people of all ages. The consensus was to fix the lights, maintain the basketball area as is and replace the skateboard space with greenery.
Last spring the Public Spaces Committee of the city, composed of senior staff and some councillors, highlighted the skateboard area for demolition at some point this year. While some parents came forward and stated their kids enjoy the area, inspections done warned of serious danger due to cracks in the asphalt, as well as heaving areas in the asphalt. Our Public Works Department told me that this area is not conducive to skateboarding. Potential accidents would result in costly litigation. Some youngsters use their scooters there, something which is also highly dangerous. As a result, filling in the bowl met with the new required safety measures.
The earth came from excavation projects throughout the city. It was therefore, an environmentally friendly project. We installed sod and topsoil to create an area in the shade for picnic tables and benches, providing residents with the opportunity to enjoy summer fun in the shade. Ruby Goodman said that he has seen very few skateboarders there in recent years. In fact Public Works was constantly tasked to clean the bowl as it was becoming a garbage dump.
Only a few weeks after Herzliah High School inaugurated its new campus in Snowdon, JPPS-Bialik in Côte Saint-Luc’s District 2 formally unveiled a new regulation-sized, state- of- the -art artificial turf sports field, basketball court and healthy living curriculum under its Project Fit banner. Officials noted that Project Fit will benefit the entire JPPS-Bialik Community through Mind, Body, and Spirit. This will include ensuring that their rigorous International Baccalaureate Programme is balanced with physical activity to promote a healthy mind and body; building on strong academic programs with an enriched and accelerated curriculum; and backing up sport science studies which show that participation in sports activities improves school performance and builds self-esteem, especially in schools.
Leonard Cohen Lane
It was about a year ago that as the city councillor for District 2 in Cote Saint-Luc I shared with my colleagues a desire to finally give a name to the laneway that leads from Marc Chagall Avenue to the Library/Bernard Lang Civic Centre parking lot. It is a beautiful area that we dressed up substantially with a newly paved path and more benches. Initially my thought was to name it simply Library Lane. Community activist Tamar Hertz private messaged me with the idea to honour the memory of Leonard Cohen. I promised her that I would bring this up after the November elections. Soon after the newly constituted council took office, Leonard Cohen Lane was approved. I then worked with our Chief Librarian Janine West and Public Affairs and Communications Director Darryl Levine to set the wheels in motion. We scheduled the unveiling ceremony for the end of August, hoping for a nice summer night. It was precisely that and everyone on hand experienced a very meaningful ceremony. Here is the video from the ceremony.
Our New Parking Lot
The City Hall/Library Parking lot reconstruction was completed in 2018 and met with rave reviews from users. The work included the reconstruction of the sidewalks and curbs, the replacement of the lighting, the installation of security cameras, the asphalt paving, the installation of new park benches, bike racks and recycling and garbage containers. The activation of the electric vehicle charging station was done in early February.
Traffic safety continues to be among paramount importance for me as the city councillor for District 2. I am pleased with the changes that have occurred at the back entrance/exit for the City Hall/Library complex. The speed bump and the signs notifying motorists to go around the circle has brought forward the positive results we expected. However, some of my constituents wisely asked for another speed bump in the parking lot as vehicles approach the turn to make their exit and this measure was taken.
A few years ago I was able to get stop signs installed at the corner of Sir Walter Scott and Kildare Road. As I take my regular walks, I still see too many vehicles making short stops or going right through. We took increased traffic calming measures with the addition of some bollards and signs urging vehicles to slow down. These bollards (not used in the winter) are part of 10 intersections in the city which will have high visibility traffic calming. The intersections include flexible bollards, flexible signs, more pedestrian crossing signs, silhouettes for school and park areas and extra line painting.
For years residents of Rembrandt Avenue have justifiably complained about being stuck at the corner of Kildare Road, unable to turn left to get to Cavendish. After last year’s election I asked our Traffic Committee to study what kind of relief was possible for the hundreds of motorists on Rembrandt. At the end of August we placed a new stop sign at the corner of Kildare and Rembrandt for vehicles headed towards Cavendish. Thus far this has brought some relief for motorists from Rembrandt during morning and afternoon rush hour having to cope with the traffic from JPPS/Bialik. While I know some residents wanted a stop sign on the other side, our Traffic Committee studied this closely and determined that it would cause serious backups from vehicles turning on to Kildare from Cavendish. We will continue to study this area. A new sign will soon be installed underlining the importance of motorists looking to their left before turning and I will form a focus group to discuss the issue further. I have also scheduled a focus group meeting with some residents to get their feedback.
Another request by Rembrandt Avenue residents was to curtail speeding and we did so by installing a (seasonal) speed bump.
Park Place resident Corey Frenkiel provided some good feedback about vehicles entering the Quartier Cavendish via The Avenue and then making U-turns on his street. These drivers were too lazy to turn into the actual lot. A No U-Turn sign was installed and the problem seemed to be resolved. We are now concentrating on the crosswalk from the apartment building on The Avenue leading to the Quartier Cavendish entrance next to the café. Some vehicles are driving much too quickly in that section as well. We installed flower pots to slow them down. We continue to monitor the situation to see if any more corrective measures are necessary
Our search for a crossing guard at the corner of Cavendish and Kildare continues. We have conducted some interviews, but finding an appropriate candidate has not been easy. Here is the posting. Please share it with possible candidates,
For those who may have missed it, last summer the Public Works Department of Côte Saint-Luc put together a beautiful piece of green space between Beth Chabad and JPPS-Bialik at the corner of Kildare Road and Marc Chagall in District 2. Beth Chabad had used the space, which is city-owned land, for wedding ceremonies for years but it was hardly attractive. That is when Public Works Director Beatrice Newman and her team stepped in. Working with Rabbi Mendel Raskin and caterer Ray Petrovic of Blossom by the Plaza, the area was beautified with a lovely pathway running through it. As a thank you, Petrovic invited Director Newman, her senior management team and the hard working blue collar employees for a classy barbeque lunch. Part of the parking lot next to Chabad is zoned for two storey office building. Thus far no formal proposal for a project has come our away, but I do believe something may be coming our way.
Breaking Down The Ice
The snowfall in 2018 was significant and that meant a very full snow dump on Marc Chagall. Once the temperature warmed up in the spring we had two mechanical shovels break down the ice, returning the area to normal. Public Works staff then went inside the dump to clean. Each year I advocate for this work to be done.
When I first moved into my present home after getting married 23 years ago, I realized we were very close to the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks. But it was only a few days into residing here that I found myself rudely awoken by some unspeakable noises from the trains. This did not happen every night, but often enough that I followed the advice of some family members and purchased a white noise machine. For my household it masked the disturbance. Over the past two decades train noises have come and gone. In the 13 years I have served as the city councillor for District 2, it has never been more of an issue than the past year, especially for those homeowners closer to the tracks. I met with officials from CP Rail and via our Co-City Manager Jonathan Shecter we maintained very close touch with them, seeking a response on all complaints. This is not an easy dossier to manage, but I will say that the officials from CP take these complaints seriously.
For a number of years I brought the possibly of webcasting our regular monthly public council meetings to the table for discussion. When Mayor Mitchell Brownstein gave me the Communications portfolio after last November's election, there was already some momentum to provide our citizens with the opportunity to view our meetings online. Initially, we looked into live webcasts. The cost to video record (and live stream) the council meetings with a professional company would have been $1,230 (plus tax) per meeting. This price only included one camera. For the 12 regular monthly meetings, this would have translated into a $15,000 cost (plus tax) and an additional $1,230 for each special meeting that we would recorded as well, such as December budget meeting, for instance. We are fortunate to have someone as resourceful as Director of Communications and Public Affairs Darryl Levine on our team. When we mandated him to come up with another option he was quick to respond. His department began video recording council meetings in January 2018 and posting the video recording on YouTube within two days. It also began uploading the audio to SoundCloud. There was no added capital cost to the city to introduce this service as the department had previously invested over the past seven years in a camcorder, wireless audio transmitter, a mirrorless camera (used as a second video camera), digital sound recorder, and video editing software. There was no added labour cost either. Our inhouse production uses two cameras during question period to make the video more interesting to watch. This example highlights the strength of our Communications and Public Affairs Department. They are able to do a lot of work in-house that other cities our size send out. It also fulfills a key goal of our new "open city" process.
Along with Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, other members of council, Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather and D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum, I was so pleased to be at the Gelber Centre for the 2018 Men’s Club Gala. More than 400 people enjoyed sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, music and dancing, a full course meal, speeches, awards and door prizes. It was a classy affair from beginning to end, co-chaired by District 2 resident Joe Presser and Kenny Bessner. District 2 resident David Haltrecht, who is one talented individual, was recognized as the Man of The Year. Volunteer Awards were handed out to Peter Sternberg, Peter Atkin and District 2’s Marvin Hayman. Haltrecht, the Men’s Club First Vice-President, earned a Bachelor of Engineering and an MBA. An active member of the club, he works on several committees. Professionally he designed, developed and implemented computer based systems in retail, manufacturing and restaurant environments. Using this experience, he has implemented an operation system with a web site for the Men’s Club. For many years he was an avid sailor and also worked with model trains. Today, he has the Men’s club members working with drones.
Volunteers of the Year
The city saluted our volunteers at the Cineplex Theatre at Quartier Cavendish. All volunteers were invited to see a movie, with a free soft drink, popcorn and some candy included. A pre-recorded video of the Mayor presenting the awards was shown on the big screen. Afterwards everyone was invited to a dessert reception. Several District 2 residents won awards: David Haltrecht, Hazel Lipes Award; Syd Kronish, named Ambassador of the Year, completed a four-year term as president of the Côte Saint-Luc Men’s Club; Charles Guerin took home the Special Recognition Award; the VCOP (Volunteer Citizens On Patrol) Award went to Marty Croitoru, whose wife Mindy just retired as a teacher from JPPS after nearly four decades of service.
Maxine Bloom, a long time constituent of mine in District 2, is a wonderfully talented artist who lives and paints in two places. Here in Côte Saint-Luc spring, summer and fall and Deerfield Beach, Florida in the winter. Maxine’s style is mixed media and her eclectic subjects reflect her love of color and movement. She combines watercolor, acrylic and ink with collage. As she and her husband Victor told me at the opening of an exhibit of her work at the CSL Public Library, many of the paintings are from holiday destinations of theirs.
Felling of Trees
During the year I organized two public information sessions in the Council Chamber to provide background into plans for the necessary felling of trees in Ashkelon Gardens. Hundreds of trees are infested with the Ash Borer and the Dutch Elm disease. These trees are dangerous for people who were walking in the area (from the possibility of falling branches or trees) and may even constitute a fire hazard. The city requested our xpert contractor, Nadeau Foresterie Urbaine, to prepare an inventory of the affected trees. On February 16, 2017 (based on this inventory), the city issued a public call for tender for the felling of 255 trees under tender number C-16-17. On June 12, 2017, Council approved the awarding of the contract for the felling of infested trees to Services d’Arbres Tessier. In total, we are looking towards felling approximately 300 trees and clearing approximately 21,000 buckthorn plants and bushes, a species that interferes with healthy tree growth in Ashkelon Forest
Smart Cities Challenge
District 2 resident Marc Chriqui is playing a key role in the development of our city's plan to win the Smart Cities Challenge. We were selected as one of 10 finalists in our category (and one of 20 overall) by the selection committee of the Smart Cities Challenge, a contest created by the Government of Canada. Each finalist community received a $250,000 grant to help develop its final proposal that outline all design, planning, privacy, data protection and project management components of their plans. The grant can be used for activities such as staffing, professional services, feasibility assessments, capacity building, pilot projects, community engagement and communications, data, and relevant training. The grand prize is $10 million to implement this proposal.
CSL Cats Committee
Eight years ago I helped establish the first-ever Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee. We began with a small group of volunteers, spearheaded by Shelly Schecter of Educhat and a small allocation from the city. The most recent annual concert took place on October 9 at Wagar, a change from all our previous late August dates. We made the switch to ensure that we avoided a hot and stuffy evening. Well, October began on the cool side, but wouldn’t you know it on the day of our event a 60 year record for high temperatures was set. A day later it was cold outside again. That being said we sold more than 300 tickets. Singers Alexandra Cohen (also our emcee) and Nicole Arrage were superb. The Musicians of the World were their usual delight and the Gideon Vigderhous Quartet brought the crowd to its feet. We especially appreciated it when Gideon integrated the word “Meow” into one of his numbers and had the audience repeatedly shout it out. Diane Liebling, a retired nurse, continues to lead the committee of volunteers which does excellent work. We have saved the lives of so many cats, found them good homes while developing a network of people who feed feral cats near their homes year-round.
I honoured a campaign commitment and established our first ever Dog Owners Committee and moved changes to our bylaws which now allow dogs on leashes in most parks. Jonathan Goldman has stepped forward as our first chairman. He has established an executive committee, introduced a Facebook page (CSL Central Bark) and developed a procedure to communicate with dog owners. Two years ago, with the help of people like Abe Haim and Jason Balinsky, we created a Côte Saint-Luc Dog Run Advisory Committee. Abe chiefly served as my main liaison and as a result of his good work a number of improvements have been made to the Mackle Road facility. A second dog run on Côte Saint-Luc Road, between Richard Schwartz Park and Meadowbrook Golf Course, is now in operation.
The city was proud to host the Autism Speaks Canada Dog Walk on Sunday, October 21 (9 at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park on Mackle Road. This was the first time ASC held an ASC-branded Dog Walk time has indeed come for a Côte Saint-Luc Dog Owners Committee to be formally established.
As a massive heatwave hit our province, we reluctantly decided to take the prudent approach to postpone our 39th annual Côte Saint-Luc Golf Classic. It was rescheduled for a week later While the golf is a lot of fun, the luncheon became the real big draw. So when we had to put off the golf portion on July 5, the show very much went on. Councillor Dida Berku was my co-chair this year and how appropriate given the decades of work she had put in to keep Meadowbrook free from development. Our honouree was long-time community leader and volunteer Joe Presser, a man I consider a good friend and a true supporter of mine in District 2 from day one of my time on council. Joe has been active at programming in Côte Saint-Luc for most of his life, notably at Beth Zion Congregation, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Cummings Centre Sports Celebrity Breakfast and the Côte Saint-Luc Men’s Club. But he was often the man behind the scenes, not getting his deserving day in the sun.
The Golf Classic also played a role in the creation of the Pierre Brunet McDonald’s Parks and Recreation Bursary Fund. Brunet operates 19 McDonald’s franchise on the Island of Montreal, including one in Côte Saint-Luc. He was honoured in 2016 at the Golf Classic for his continued generosity to community events over the past 30 years. One day he asked me if I could come up with a local charitable endeavor that would benefit kids in our community for McHappy Day. I came up with the Bursary Fund idea, working with Harold Cammy on making it a reality. It has been a huge success, making much needed funds available to families who ordinarily could not afford to register their children for some of our programs.
New Police Commander
I was pleased to sit down and get to know the new commander for Police Station 9, Luis Oliveira. He is a devoted member of the force with a tremendous back story. I know he will be a huge asset for our community. Here is my story on him.
Good Luck Harold Cammy
I conclude this year in review with a salute to a gentleman I have known since childhood. After more than 40 years of service to our Parks and Recreation Department, Harold Cammy will retire in January. Mere words cannot describe how much I will miss this man. Cote Saint-Luc is part of his DNA. Here is a detailed piece, including Harold's remarkable memoirs.