A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for April 2013

[URBAN NOTE] On Percy Street in Toronto, a private street

Chris Bateman’s blogTO post “What’s it like to live on a private street in Toronto?” takes a look at Toronto’s Percy Street, a private street south of Cabbagetown, by the Don and not too far from the waterfront.

Percy Street isn’t like your street. This small stretch of Toronto road that runs south in a dog-legged kink from King Street to the Richmond Street ramp is one of the city’s some 250 private streets and laneways. There’s no gate, but the 35 residents here are just about as separate as it’s possible to be in the city, and they like it like that.

“We call it the ‘Republic of Percy,’ it’s kind of a joke,” says Kali Hewitt-Blackie, co-owner of The Percy Bed & Breakfast at No. 6. “When you walk down the street it’s like you’re living in another land. It’s not like Toronto, it’s like something in England or someplace.”

What really sets Percy apart is its lack of access to regular city services. There are no gates, barriers, or glaring warning signs, but snow, leaf, and garbage management are all arranged privately and paid for out of the resident’s pockets. Even sewer maintenance costs are part of the experience shared by other private community residents like the home owners of Wychwood Park near St. Clair and Bathurst.

“We nominate people to do things,” explains Hewitt-Blackie. We have a guy that’s in charge of the bank account … we have a little street signage committee, a street lighting committee, and we have one dealing with the rest of the things to do with Streetcar [the new condo that backs onto Percy.]”

Bateman has some interesting notes about the history of the street and its denizens.

See also this 2009 post at the Toronto Realty Blog and a 2011 National Post article

Written by Randy McDonald

April 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why Brian Burke Deserves Credit for Getting the Maple Leafs to the Playoffs”

I’ve blogged a fair bit over the years about the seemingly futile Toronto Maple Leafs. I posted in January a link to a Torontoist opinion piece by Corbin Smith arguing that Brian Burke shouldn’t have been fired as general manager. In a much more recent post, Smith argues Burke should be given credit for the team’s playoff success.

Many of us have felt it coming for a few weeks, but now it’s finally official. After a game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched their first playoff berth in nearly a decade.

It’s been a long, long time since this city has seen playoff hockey. Ours is the only team in the NHL not to have made it to the postseason since the 2004-2005 lockout.

Toronto fans have had a tough time these past several years. Single-player roster moves and staff or management changes were too often touted as silver bullets that would somehow lead the team to salvation. For instance, now-former general manager Brian Burke arrived in 2008 with much fanfare. The media considered him to be the saviour of the Maple Leafs (he was certainly, at any rate, being paid a saviour’s salary). Sure enough, Burke landed some big names in his first year as GM. It practically made us forget that he was inheriting arguably the worst NHL team in the league.

No reasonable person should have expected major success from the Maple Leafs in the first few years of Burke’s tenure. It takes time to build up an NHL team from worse-than-nothing to a perennial playoff contender. Even so, both fans and sports writers became increasingly impatient with the Leafs’ failures year after year. Then, before this year’s lockout ended, Burke was shown the door, leaving assistant GM Dave Nonis at the helm.

Though Nonis is officially the GM as the Leafs head to the playoffs, there should be no doubt that this is the team Brian Burke built. The Leafs are winning on the backs of the players that Burke went after, all playing in a style Burke had championed since game one—a style characterized by, to use Burke’s thesaurus-abusing phrase, plenty of “pugnacity, testosterone, truculence, and belligerence.”

Written by Randy McDonald

April 24, 2013 at 7:06 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • At Centauri Dreams, Paul Gilster considers the finer details of the possible habitability of extrasolar worlds, not only the recently discovered ones of Kepler-62.
  • Crooked Timber’s Niamh Hardiman writes about how illegal immigration in Greece is becoming a major problem for that country and for the illegal immigrants, mainly because Greece is a cul-de-sac in the middle of an economic meltdown.
  • Daniel Drezner offers advice to novice Twitterers.
  • Eastern Approaches considers conflicts over interpretations of history and Communism in the Czech Republic and media freedom in Bulgaria.
  • Geocurrents notes that Uighur-majority districts in Xinjiang are among the poorest in China.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Folsom Street East, New York City’s leather festival of note, has been cancelled.
  • Language Hat notes another’s ongoing blog series that criticizes the idea that all human language descends from a single ancestral language, Proto-World.
  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Erik Loomis wonders why the explosions in Texas, product of industrial-strength negligence, got so much less press than the Boston Marathon bombings. (The commenters suggest that the ongoing intentional threat in Boston was key.)
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that although Spain’s population is dropping via emigration, but that the emigration isn’t that much and is concentrated among recent immigrants.

[PHOTO] Early morning, Dupont TTC station, upper level

Early morning, Dupont TTC station, upper level

Written by Randy McDonald

April 24, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , , , ,

[LINK] “Father of VIA terror suspect came forward with concerns, imam says”

Stewart Bell’s National Post article describing how word of one of the two people arrested yesterday on terrorism charges came from the community is typical of the coverage given today. The police and media seem to have taken care to emphasize that not only is terrorism something Canadian Muslims as a whole don’t tolerate, but that terrorism is cause for even intimates of suspects to make reports to the police. Trying to avoid a conflagration is a good thing.

A Toronto Muslim leader said Tuesday the father of one of the suspects arrested over an alleged plot to attack a VIA Rail train had approached him with concerns about his son’s hardening views of Islam.

Mohammed Robert Heft said the father had asked repeatedly for help with his son, Raed Jaser, 35. The discussions took place between 2009 and 2011, while the father was living in the basement of Mr. Heft’s home in Markham, Ont.

“He never mentioned anything to me about violence, he only mentioned to me about being rigid in his understanding of Islam, and it was concerning him because it was becoming intolerable in terms of having discussions about religion with his son.”

Mr. Heft was one of many imams and Muslim community leaders who were briefed by the RCMP on Monday about the arrests of Mr. Jaser and his co-accused Chiheb Esseghaier of Montreal. They have been charged with taking part in an al-Qaeda-linked plot to derail a passenger train on the New York to Toronto route.

But Mr. Heft said he did not realize his personal connection to the case until he saw photos of the Jaser family on Tuesday. The head of the non-profit group Paradise Forever, Mr. Heft said he was not the imam who had tipped off police about Mr. Jaser, triggering the investigation that lead to his arrest.

[. . .]

The imam who first brought forward concerns about Mr. Jaser wants to remain anonymous, his lawyer said Tuesday. Naseer Syed said the imam came to him more than a year ago about the suspect’s conduct. “It was enough of a concern and it passed a certain threshold than the imam felt comfortable with,” he said.

The lawyer said he then notified the appropriate authorities. On Monday, the RCMP credited the imam’s tip with helping bring terrorism-related charges against Mr. Jaser and Mr. Esseghaier.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 24, 2013 at 12:52 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Downtown Indigo closing”

Peter Hendra at the venerable Kingston Whig-Standard has more on the closure of the Indigo bookstore in the downtown of the eastern Ontario city of Kingston.

While it’s nice that the suburban Chapters is still going to be open, I’m still taken aback at the occurrence. Kingston is the regional centre for eastern Ontario, the natural hub for the spaces between Toronto and Montréal and Ottawa and a noteworthy centre for educational institutions. I can only imagine what the numbers were like to make this perfectly serviceable centre no longer viable. I’m also concerned by the parenthetical mention of other stores, often of longer standing, closing down in the neighbourhood.

Indigo Books and Music first opened its current Princess Street location in late 1997. The new store, housed in the refurbished Abramsky building at 259 Princess, featured 20,000 square feet of space and 100,000 titles.

The next year, a large-format Chapters bookstore opened in the city’s west end.

When the two big-box booksellers opened their local stores, they were run by separate, and competing, companies.

However, those two chains — Indigo and Chapters — merged in 2001.

“Some markets, you put down a store and 15 years later the real estate isn’t the right real estate,” explained Drew McGowen, vice-president, real estate, for Indigo.

“It’s 15-years old and, as well, you find yourself in a market with two large-format bookstores in a small market.”

Written by Randy McDonald

April 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On the closing of the Indigo bookstore in Kingston, Ontario

I was saddened to learn on my Facebook friends list from Andrew that the Indigo bookstore of Kingston, Ontario, located in the middle of the downtown on 259 Princess Street, is set to close. CKWS TV had a brief report about the closing of this store come the 29th of June, ending its 16 years of operation.

The company says two’s a crowd…. when it comes to running both its Indigo and Chapters stores in Kingston.

Drew McGowen/Indigo:

“We are in Kingston, it’s a smaller market and there is two large format stores, there’s the chapters and there’s the Indigo- and I don’t think two well offs could be sustained in the market, I think two are pretty excessive.”

[. . .]

Downtown Kingston has faced its share of high-profile closures in recent months…. from other big chains like Empire Theatre, to small but popular retail fixtures like Olden Green and Turk’s antiques and furniture.

Indigo says winter foot traffic cut into its sales.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “ByWard Market food stalls in danger, report finds”

Can Ottawans tell me if this CBC report about the Canadian capital’s iconic ByWard Market is accurate?

A U.S. consulting firm says farmer stalls at the ByWard Market could disappear unless significant changes are made to the way they’re managed.

The New York-based Project for Public Spaces said in a report presented to the city last month that the market’s traditional purpose — a destination for fresh, locally-grown produce — has been lost.

Instead, bars, restaurants and other businesses put the needs of tourists ahead of the needs of residents, the report finds.

Creating a private, non-profit corporation to run the market, as Montreal and London have done, is just one of the firm’s recommendations.

Other ideas include free parking for shoppers who buy a certain amount of fresh food, as well as subsidized rent for local food sellers.

In the long-term, the report suggests creating a new central plaza.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 23, 2013 at 6:56 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On same-sex marriage rights in France and China

The French National Assembly just voted in favour of legalizing same-sex marriage, despite a fervent opposition from French conservatives, a few of whom resorted to violence and threats of violence.

France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate and protests that flooded the streets of Paris. Legions of officers and water cannon stood ready near France’s National Assembly ahead of the final vote, bracing for possible violence on an issue that galvanized the country’s faltering conservative movement.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just minutes after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the colour adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.

“Only those who love democracy are here,” Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, said angrily.

In recent weeks, violent attacks against gay couples have spiked and some legislators have received threats — including Bartelone, who got a gunpowder-filled envelope on Monday.

[. . .]

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told lawmakers that the first weddings could be as soon as June.

“We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful and that they’ll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families,” she said.

Moving on from Europe, Andrew Stokels writing at PolicyMic makes a compelling argument that China could be on the verge of making substantial progress in gay rights, including marriage. (Judging by developments in adjacent Vietnam and Taiwan, he might be right.)

China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, even before the U.S. removed all anti-sodomy laws in certain states. But today, there are no formal laws to prevent discrimination against LGBT Chinese, especially in the workplace. Since China’s ministry removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 2001, government policy and public opinion has also gradually shifted. Public health ministries have been targeting gay bars with public awareness campaigns advocating safe-sex and HIV-testing. But generally, LGBT Chinese now fall into an uncomfortably grey area: no longer directly harassed, but also ignored.

Perhaps the largest barrier to LGBT rights is the family culture that emphasizes having children as a filial duty. And China’s one-child policy exacerbates the pressure only-sons face to extend the family line. But widespread atheism also means there is little of the moral stigma that characterizes the religious right’s opposition to gay marriage in the U.S. Homosexuality has been documented in Chinese history and literature since at least the Han dynasty. A euphemism for homosexuality in Chinese, “cut sleeve,” refers to a legend of an emperor who cut his own sleeve, which his male lover was sleeping upon, as not to wake him.

[. . .]

Gay life in China follows geographic and economic divisions, as it does in the U.S. Large cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and southwestern Chengdu are home to large gay populations, with nightlife scenes increasingly open in the last decade. The popular gay club Destination in Beijing has remained in business for many years, leading many to suspect the owners have some unusually good relationship with local authorities.

Across the Taiwan strait, China’s “renegade province” is already host to Asia’s largest gay pride parade, in which Taipei’s mayor has participated in. The legislature even held its first hearings on the issue last year, leading some to wonder whether Taiwan will be the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage. Since China still regards Taiwan as a province, gay marriage could theoretically become legal in “greater China,” serving as both an inspiration and model to activists and policymakers in the mainland.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

[PHOTO] Cracked tile, Dupont station

Cracked tile, Dupont station

Written by Randy McDonald

April 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , , , ,