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April 2020

Thanks to constituent Kelly Epstein for stepping up and giving many seniors a lift

As an occupational therapist at the Royal Victoria Hospital, District 2 resident Kelly Epstein was working with a patient recently who ended up being tested positive for the coronavirus. Subsequently Kelly was forced into quarantine for 14 days.

Without anything meaningful to do and missing her daily dose of the geriatric population whom she normally works with,  Kelly reached out to me as her city councillor and asked if she could assist with calling the elderly in Côte Saint Luc to offer any helpful resources that may get them through this difficult time.

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Kelly Epstein

 

I was very pleased to take Kelly up on her offer and I made a list of residents from two buildings, mainly older adults, to contact. “I asked them if they had access to groceries, whether they have concerns or questions for the city during this time, and whether or not they were familiar with the internet,” Kelly explained.  “The majority of the residents have been getting their groceries from their children or grandchildren, while many were very pleased to be offered the volunteer grocery delivery service organized through IGA CSL and their team of volunteers.  Interestingly, while my own grandparents are very tech-savvy with their iPhones and Facetime, about 40 percent of the older adults that I spoke to did not have cell phones, nor did they have a computer- for varying reasons: no interest in learning, limited eyesight making it difficult to read screens, or no availability of people to teach them. Many people discussed their wishes that stores will soon re-open, as it has been very lonely to stay at home, day after day, when they had been used to gathering with friends at the Cavendish Mall.”

Let me give a shout out to our library staff. They are already making over 400 care calls a day to people whom they know are isolated and lonely.

Overall, Kelly says this experience was very positive. “Each person expressed how much they appreciated my call, and how wonderful and unique our city is for checking on their elderly,” she said. “I am thankful for this opportunity and I encourage the youth in our community to continue with this initiative as I return to work at the hospital, as a few minutes of your day can make a world of a difference to those quarantining alone. Dawson College student Helen Shimansky, also a constituent, has also stepped  up to assist me. If anyone else  is interested, send me an email at mcohen@cotesaintluc.org.


CSL Men's Club holds general meeting via Zoom: Tom Mulcair speaks

Just over a month ago Charles Eklove says he did not know the first thing about Zoom video conferencing.  But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced seniors to self-isolate, the chairman of media and public relations for the Côte Saint-Luc Men's Club became an expert in no time at all.  Ditto for the hundreds of members.

"The Cote Saint Luc Men’s Club is on the front lines to reach out to its members in these challenging times of social distancing and self-isolation'" said Charles.

Last Thursday over 200 members benefitted from the first general meeting to be held through video conferencing.  It  was a great success.

Opening remarks from event host Mike Barkai  were followed by a welcoming presentation by  President Mannie Young. He showed a video of a special act of kindness which highlighted the important actions that people are taking during this time.

An update of the situation in the city of Côte Saint Luc was then presented by Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. He spoke of the many services offered by the city . Entertainment and diversions have become very important to help combat the feelings of isolation brought on by the required social distancing in these unprecedented times. The Côte Saint Luc Dramatic Society has plans to release a video, to be available through the internet, of some of their performances. They also intend to  present live entertainment to seniors who are shut in by performing outside the front of their residences so that the residents can enjoy the excitement through their windows or from their balconies.

The mayor also spoke of the importance of wearing face masks when going out. Not only do they offer an element of physical protection but they also serve as a reminder to others to be extra prudent in these times.

As for the featured speaker, it was former NDP leader and present day political pundit on radio and TV  Tom Mulcair. He was informative, interesting and generous with his time,  commenting on the actions of our governments and on the possible future ramifications to our economy and health systems. After his presentation he answered many questions that had been submitted from members during the meeting. "The reactions and feedback of our participants confirmed that this presentation was very well received and appreciated," said Charles, noting that  Second Vice-Presiden Kenny Bessner expressed words of thanks.

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Charles Eklove enjoys breakfast and watches Tom Mulcair's presentation via Zoom. (Sheila Eklove, Photo)

 

The Cote Men’s Club continues to expand the services it offers to its members over the internet. Special interest groups now offered tinclude: Bridge, Coffee Compassion and Coping, Discussion group, Drones, Pastel Art, Photography and Writers Workshop. Members are encouraged to join activities of their choice by contacting the chairmen of the activity.

 Kudos to the Cote Saint Luc Men’s Club and its wonderful team of volunteer for the invaluable work that they do.

 

 


Volunteers step up to ensure that our seniors can get their groceries

One of the greatest concerns for isolated seniors during this COVID-19 pandemic has been  the need for groceries. There are many individuals who do not have any family or friends to help them get the basic necessities to fill their fridge.

That is where some extraordinary volunteers stepped in.

Councillor Mitchell  Kujavsky, whose  wife Jordana just recently gave birth to their third child, has been one of the leaders of this  initiative with The Nellie Philanthropy Foundation, headed by noted community activist David Lisbona.  They have been going to IGA at the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre on a daily basis between 6:30 am  to 8 am (prior to the store opening) and in the evening from 8 pm to  10 pm (after closing) to shop for local seniors. “We use the evening time to pack dry goods and non-perishables in preparation for the next morning's completion of the day's orders,” he said. “To be clear, this initiative is only for CSL seniors who do not have any help from family or friends in and around Montreal!”

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Melissa Margles, David Lisbona, Mitch Kujavsky and Pam Kujavsky.

ujavsky’s sister Pam and Melissa Margles have been coordinating the volunteers who were originally sent to them from Nellie Philanthropy (and the Kujavskys’ own outreach), as well as working with Peter Lipari, the owner of the CSL IGA.

Since IGA's online and phone ordering systems have been overwhelmed, the Kujavsky team and Nellie Philanthropy worked with the store to develop a system as follows:

  • Seniors call the special grocery line at 514-532-1277 and are instructed to leave their name, phone number and address;
  • Pam triages those messages to her "caller" volunteers;
  • Volunteers call seniors back the same day (or following day depending on timing) to take their grocery orders;
  • Every evening, orders are printed and delivered to IGA in preparation for the "packer" volunteers to shop;
  • Every morning, orders are finalized and checked out, then organized by district to dispatch to the "delivery" volunteers;
  • Once an order is delivered and they have amounts in hand, seniors are called by specific volunteers (¨Pam and Mitch primarily) to collect credit card information so that they may be charged back by the city since Côte Saint-Luc is now fronting the money for the groceries directly to IGA on a weekly basis.
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    The team fills their baskets.

For B'nai Brith House, Château B'nai Brith and Saint Patrick Square, the orders are collected directly by building management so the only steps required by the team are the packing/shopping and delivery steps. Cheques are collected by building management as well, payable to the City of Côte Saint-Luc. 

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Quite a load of groceries for volunteers to deliver.

 “Peter Lipari  has been an incredible partner in our initiative and should really be recognized for adapting to our needs and going out of his way to make sure our isolated seniors have been looked out for,” said Kujavsky.

So what do others do for groceries?

Click  on grocery and food stores with delivery on the city’s COVID-19 web link here.

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The Quartier Cavendish IGA.

The Quartier Cavendish IGA has been opening and closing like a garage door in recent weeks.  There was a legitimate concern from staff of catching COVID-19, especially when they saw snowbirds with dark tans at the cash register. In recent days they  reopened. Some constituents advised  me  that the protocol is  quite strict, but that in fact is gaining good marks.

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Qualitifruits has a lot more than just fruits.

Qualitifruits  has a good system in place. You call in advance and make your order. Let them know of your arrival and  they will bring the food to you. Delivery is also  available.  Next door at Nosherz, owner Robert Vineberg tells me he is even doing deliveries of bread products, prepared meals and other products on his own. At Caldwell Provisions call in your order (be prepared to press redial a lot) and they will deliver. Ditto for Fruiti Maruti.

The Depot, formerly the NDG Food Depot, also  serves Côte Saint-Luc and we do have residents sadly who are unable  to  put food  on their tables. This  is  where  the Depot steps in. Our Library Services  has been working as liaisons.

On their website they provide the following message:We have greatly expanded our Emergency Food Basket program while suspending other programming to allow people to stay home and respect social distancing protocols. Since March 20, 2020, we have been providing extra-large baskets of staples and fresh foods to families in financial difficulty across our territory. We have moved to a home delivery model, reaching 250-400 households weekly. Before this crisis, one in every three children in our community  lived below the poverty line. With many more people facing economic precarity, we’re seeing hundreds of new registrations for our emergency services. To meet this increased demand we are using 3-4 times as much food as normal — in our first two weeks we have sourced, portioned and distributed over 23,000 lbs of food!

Federation CJA has stepped up as they always do with a community crisis response fund in support of the vulnerable. As of this writing they have raised $942,748 towards a goal of $1 million. This includes food vouchers and kosher meals, for families and individuals in need. They took care of  Passover as well.

MADA Community Services has continued to supply its  monthly food baskets. Pickups are generally arranged, but goods are delivered for those who are isolated or quarantined. The baskets include some basic necessities like diapers. “We will be starting cooking and delivering home cooked meals, several at a time,” says  Stuart Miller, their head of finance. Contact Jessica at  514-342-4969 ext. 770


Construction to resume Monday at the Equinoxe and Le Montefiore

The Quebec government announced last week that it will allow some residential construction to resume as an essential service. Premier François Legault said the government is allowing the building of new homes so a housing crisis is not added on top of the current public health crisis. Construction and renovation work on housing units that had been slated for completion by July 31 will be allowed to resume on Monday. Building inspections and land surveying for residential construction will also be permitted, and the necessary supply chains will be reopened.

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The Equinoxe Phase 2 under construction.

 

While it is the Quebec government that oversees these situations, Côte Saint-Luc nonetheless sought guidance from the province as to whether The Equinoxe qualifies. Our records show that   the original building permit issued has occupancy listed as “July 1.”  The developers insist that their plan remains to open part of the building for tenants before July 31, with the project being fully completed by next fall –or at this point early winter.  We have been advised that the Equinoxes does indeed qualify. In addition, Le Montefiore is expected to be ready for occupancy in about six weeks, so the continuation of work therefore is an automatic.

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Le Montefiore.

 

On Thursday work crews visited both sites to install washing stations. Social distancing will not be simple on construction sites, but I spoke to the developers of these two buildings and they insist that they will follow the rules.

It was three years ago that we first learned that the Equinoxe rental buildings would be constructed on a vacant lot on Marc Chagall Avenue. Three decades earlier the then city council had approved the zoning for two 19 storey buildings. It was a clear lack of vision on their part.  Soon after I was elected I asked if that zoning could be reversed. Legally, our only option turned out to be lowering the levels to 12 storeys each.

As for Le Montefiore, work to transform the former Manoire Montefiore seniors residence on Mackle Road is near completion. This will be a rental as well.

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The Zoom participants.

 

Earlier this week I held a Zoom video call with representatives from the five condos on Marc Chagall and Mackle, with one resident as well from the Equinoxe. On the table for discussion was to get some feedback before development resumes. This will include work on Saturdays, which under our by-laws is permitted if it is interior-based. They can only begin work at 9 am. Some tolerances (special permission) will be given for exterior work via our Urban Planning Department. These privileges will be revoked if they abuse this option. Most of the reps agreed that if it speeds up work and gets this project finished sooner, then the answer would be yes with some strict guidelines. Others were not so enthusiastic.

Our noise by-law reads as follows:

Article 12.1 ( Construction hours) It shall be unlawful to create or allow any noise related to the construction, demolition, renovation, alteration or repair of a Property, building, structure, vehicle, engine or machine, before 7 AM or after 7 PM, from Monday to Friday.

On Saturday, Sunday or statutory holidays, the restrictions of the first paragraph are applicable before 9 AM or after 7 PM.    This is only for interior work. A special permission would have to be given for exterior work. See article 12.3.

Article 12.3  - Exterior work related to the construction, demolition, renovation, alteration or repair of a Building or structure is prohibited before 7 AM or after 7 PM from Monday to Friday and is not permitted on Saturday, Sunday or statutory holidays.  The provisions of the previous paragraph shall not apply to an accessory building or structure, as defined in the zoning by-laws of the City, such as a shed, car shelter or similar. 

Public Security will be omnipresent to ensure there are infractions for starting earlier than permitted.  We have also asked the developers to clean up the piles of stones they left on the street before work was stopped a few weeks ago.

The Montreal Gazette published a featured article about Le Montefiore:  Download Montreal Gazette Story April 192020


Introducing my new podcast: please tune in

For many years now I have thought about starting my own podcast. 

Now it is a reality at : 

https://soundcloud.com/themikecohenpodcast. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-mike-cohen-podcast/id1508770681

On your iPhone or iPad go to  the Podcasts folder and in the search engine type in "Mike Cohen Podcast" and subscribe.

 

TheMikeCohenPodcast-500x500px-V2

I graduated from Concordia University's Broadcast Journalism Program in 1985 and a future in radio or TV was definitely on my radar screen. Yes, I was able to get some freelance assignments. Mitch Melnick,  then  with CJAD, gave me my first taste in the business when he arranged for me to do some post game reports at Montreal Expos games. A number of years later, I served as the Montreal correspondent for The FAN all-sports radio in Toronto and for two  years co-hosted the Expos pre  and post game shows on the old CIQC Radio 600 (a successor to the old CFCF Radio). It  was a blast. Meanwhile, as the then national director  of communications for Canadian Jewish Congress I became an official spokesperson and did countless interviews. That continued  in 1999 when I joined the English Montreal School Board as communications and marketing specialist, a position I still hold today. Responding to media inquiries is a huge component of this job. From time to time I also get to  do a sports radio bit on TSN 690 with the likes  of Tony Marinaro and Matthew Ross.

In 2005 I was elected to city council in Côte Saint-Luc. I started this blog as a way to regularly communicate with my constituents. Last September my colleague, Councillor Oren Sebag, started his own podcast. I think that was the wakeup call I needed to launch mine. My intent is to draw from the people I interact with via my three main jobs: the EMSB, city council and as a writer for a number of publications, notably The Suburban. During the present COVID-19 pandemic,  interviews will be done by phone. As such the podcasts will not have a lot of bells and whistles attached, but I do hope to  chat with different players in the field under the three hats I wear. I greatly look forward to the day when I can go on location.

My first interview is with the Liberal MNA for D'Arcy McGee David Birnbaum. David and  I go back decades. We first met when he was  the communications officer for the former Protestant  School Board of Greater Montreal and I was a reporter for The Suburban.It was David,  in fact, who recommended me for my job at the EMSB.  I thought it would be interesting to get his take  on the COVID-19 pandemic. How does it impact local MNAs? Is the CAQ government doing a good job? Where does the Liberal leadership race stand? Will Bill 40, the school board reforms, be enacted on time? Please give it a listen and stay tuned for more.

You can click on this direct link: https://soundcloud.com/themikecohenpodcast/an-interview-with-darcy-mcgee-liberal-mna-david-birnbaum.

and this one  for my interview with Anthony Housefather: https://soundcloud.com/themikecohenpodcast/anthony-housefather-interview  

 

 

 

 

 


Cavendish COVID-19 Testing Centre to close on Thursday

A new COVID-19 Assessment Clinic will open at the Jewish General Hospital on Wednesday. From what I have been told, trailers will be set in one  of the parking lots so nobody needs to enter the hospital. Consequently, the Quartier Cavendish Clinic will close at the end of the day on Thursday. The latter was not that well utilized. You had to make an appointment and  be tested in your car. However,  a Designated COVID-19 Assessment Clinic has been launched at Quartier Cavendish, with another to follow at the Jewish General. Their mandate will be to offer medical assessments, by appointment only, to those who need a medical consultation and are experiencing flu-like or gastro-like symptoms.

Covid test1

As CIUSSS West Central Montreal  officials maintain, the JGH location has the advantage of being centrally located and easily accessible for most of the people in the catchment area. It also offers distinct advantages in terms of continuity of care, especially for patients who need to be hospitalized.

The Cavendish location was deemed necessary earlier on in the pandemic, particularly with the return of the snowbirds. Officials believe that it is less necessary now and wish to point out that in recent days very few people have taken advantage of the service. In any event, anyone who could have used the Cavendish service will be invited to go to the assessment clinic, which will offer a more comprehensive medical evaluation and treatment.

The Mayor and members of council took part in a zoom conference call last week with CIUSSS West Central Montreal President and CEO  Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, who advised  us  this change was coming.

Right now our biggest  concern must be our seniors at locales such as  the King David Residence and Maimonides Hospital, where there are seven and three confirmed cases respectively of COVID-19 respectively. We can only hope  and pray this does not spread  further in these institutions. It underlines the need  for staff to be tested. Thus far other senior homes in our neighbourhood appear  to be virus free.


CSL Men's Club adapts during COVID-19 pandemic

Even during the current Covid-19 pandemic with everyone told to stay at home, the Cote Saint Luc Men’s Club continues to provide services and support to its members. This club of 870 members is now adapting as necessary to reach out to its members, all of whom are in the senior age group.

"We provide daily updates with our newsletter by email," says Media Relations Chief Charles Eklove. "These updates include practical information as to what is open and closed, also as to what kind of assistance is available for our members and where to get this assistance. Our updates include what programs are available from our three levels of government."

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Charles Eklove, Instructor, leading the Photography Class  (Photo credit: Sheila Eklove)

 Many of the club functions now take place using the video conferencing tools available over the internet. Zoom software has become the means of choice to hold  activities for  members. The Bridge Club and Photography Class, as well as   Executive meetings, are now video conferenced using Zoom.

The first Photography Class, which took place on April 6 and instructed by Eklove, had 20 eager participants including one member who is just out of rehab with limited mobility and two members who are still in Florida. Their Discussion Group with 76 enthusiastic members took place this same Monday afternoon and was a great success. In the works are more activities to be offered by video conferencing including our general meetings scheduled to start later this month.

 "Some of our members do not have email and steps are being taken to reach out to them by other means," Eklove says. "Over many years our members have built up relationships and a sense of camaraderie together. Although meetings by videoconference is not the same as meetings in person, our club is striving to maintain our special sense of camaraderie to fight the sense of isolation that can now be even more prevalent in these challenging times."

The Cote Saint Luc Men’s Club continues to be there for its members. Bravo to this magnificent group of gentlemen who never cease to amaze me!

 


Councillor Tordjman and I will cover vacant District 8 for now

The by-election  to replace the  late Ruth Kovac for City Council District 8 was supposed to take place on April 5. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been delayed indefinitely. A date will only be set when social distancing lets up and sadly that looks like a long way off.

Our mayor and seven members of council are being inundated with phone calls, emails  and Facebook messages from constituents.  We are also meeting via zoom conference as often as twice a day. This is what  we were elected for.

Over the  last few weeks, residents of District 8 who are without a councillor have started  to contact myself and Councillor David Tordjman directly. Our districts  (2 for  me and 6 for David) border District 8. Until further notice we have divided up the territory. I will cover the streets of East of Cavendish. This includes Cavendish Club and Chateau Collins; David will oversee the streets West of Cavendish, including Mackle Manor, the Ritz and other buildings on that side.

We miss Ruth Kovac. As someone's whose forte was emergency preparedness, she would have been front and center in this fight!

Residents should first call City Hall at 514-485-6800. Frontline staff will triage the calls. We can also be contacted  directly by email or social media. See then map below, courtesy of Councillor Tordjman's handy work. 

Screenshot 2020-04-06 at 7.43.58 PM


COVID-19: Building owners and administrators must implement these

The City of Côte Saint-Luc has received numerous complaints by residents in buildings across the city of (1) visitors being allowed into buildings, and (2) people who should be in isolation walking freely in common areas, such as lobbies and mail rooms.

We are strongly requesting that buildings immediately implement control measures to limit access with a doorman, security, or concierge. We also strongly request that posters be put up around your building, such as the ones included in this message below. When  these two measures have been adopted, we are asking people to e-mail us back with confirmation as we are tracking this information and will share it with the public health authority. Everyone's cooperation is required for the safety and security of the residents living in each building and for the community at large. 

COVID-19_CDC

Mesures visant à réduire la propagation de la maladie à coronavirus (COVID-19) 

La ville de Côte Saint-Luc a reçu de nombreuses plaintes de résidants d'immeubles à travers la ville concernant (1) les visiteurs autorisés à entrer dans les immeubles et (2) les personnes qui devraient être isolées mais qui se promènent librement dans les aires communes, telles que les halls d'entrée et les salles du courrier.

Nous nous recommandons fortement que votre immeuble mette en place immédiatement des mesures de contrôle pour limiter l'accès à votre immeuble avec un portier, un agent de sécurité ou un concierge. Nous vous demandons aussi vivement d'afficher des affiches autour de votre bâtiment, comme celle incluse dans ce courriel.

Lorsque vous aurez appliqué ces deux mesures, veuillez nous envoyer un courriel de confirmation car faisons le suivi de ces informations et les partagerons avec la direction de la santé publique.

Votre coopération est requise pour la sécurité des résidants de votre immeuble et de la communauté en général. 

Please keep on the links below.

Download Coronavirus-Factsheet-SELF-ISOLATION-QUARANTINE

Download COMMENT SE PLACER EN QUARANTAINE

Download For the sick person under self-isolation

Download Pour la personne malade en isolement à la maison

Download MANDATORY QUARANTINE

Download QUARANTAINE OBLIGATOIRE

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Closure of city parks was sadly necessary

Sadly one of the many tough decisions we had to make during this COVID-19 pandemic crisis was the closure of  all city parks.

RembrandtSIgn

Initially our teams blocked the entrance with tape, but many people did not get the message and broke through. We did not make this decision to be mean to anyone.  People need to say six feet apart and not gather in groups. We want to avoid the spread of this disease. If you bring some young kids to play on the swings, the particularly young ones will not understand the need to avoid playing with others their age.

RembrandtFenced2Bravo to Beatrice Newman and her Public Works teams who spent the past week installing steel fences around the actual playground areas. In my district that covers two parks - Rembrandt and Isadore Goldberg.

Difficult decisions must be made. The city has cancelled its large garage sale and the ceremonial opening of Wiffle Ball Field for the end of May. Soon we will have to look at summer camp, Canada Day, the Golf Classic and other scheduled events. It is not looking promising that life will return to normal anytime soon. We could be sequestered to our homes for several months. If someone told me today that we would be able to loosen social distancing on July 1 I would probably accept that.

We just must wait and see.

Be safe!