Chronicling community action, revolutionary and revealing thought

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The New Parkdale

By Robin Nieto

I was interviewing people at last Saturday's
Parkdale Farmers Market outside the Parkdale
Library about the proposed weekend closure
of the Masaryk-Cowan Rec Centre. This was after
interviewing folks using the rec centre earlier in the

A Parkdale woman selling her art said to me,
"You are the New Parkdale," referring to a breed of
Parkdalians who care enough about the neighbourhood
to attend the Famer's Market and to rally around
local issues like the weekend closure of the
Masaryk-Cowan Recreation Centre.

"The Old Parkdale wouldn't come to this
(the Farmer's Market) even if you drove them here,"
the woman said.

The day before the Famer's Market,
I went to our local city councillor's office to speak
with Parkdale's new representative, Sylvia Watson,
about the weekend closure of our rec centre.

The councillor's response spoke volumes of her
attitude towards the "New Parkdale."

When I informed Watson that the Parkdale Action
Coalition (PAC) had organized a public meeting
so that the community could discuss the weekend
closure of the rec centre, she became defensive.

"Do you use the rec centre yourself during the
weekends?" Watson asked. "No." I answered
truthfully. To that she judged firmly, "then I don't think
you or the members of your organization can speak
to the issue since you don't use the rec centre."

To that I replied that if it were only my own
personal interests as an individual I was talking
about, then that wouldn't make me much of a community
member (much less a community activist).

As to her judgement about Parkdale neighbours
who participate with PAC, I told her that I did not
speak for everyone in the organization about using
the rec centre and that neither her nor I knows how
much our members use the rec centre.

As for her comment about speaking
about the weekend closure of the rec centre,
I said that that PAC does not speak for the entire
neighbourhood of Parkdale and that's exactly why
we are calling the public meeting, to hear what the
people of Parkdale have to say about the issue.

Despite Councillor Watson's condescension,
I invited her to PAC's meeting this Tuesday, July 6,
since I had information that she was making decisions
about the weekend closures at City Hall.
Again she became defensive.

"Where did you get that information and who
told you that?," she asked. To that I responded
someone from the rec centre told me and that I
wouldn't tell her who because I did not want
to threaten their job.

"You're getting tid bits of information from
here and there," Watson said dismissively.
To that I replied finally that I wouldn't need to be
getting these tid bits of information from here
and there if she would clarify what exactly is
happening at PAC's community meeting
this Tuesday in order to avoid

Watson said she could not make it and
that she would send a representative.
She then went back into the tiny office
she rented on Queen St. W, not far from
the rec centre.

PAC has distributed hundreds of flyers
throughout Parkdale inviting our neighbours
to attend a public meeting which will hopefully
become a monthly public forum for the
neighbourhood to get involved in the
decision-making process of Parkdale.

For too many years, the people of
Parkdale have allowed councillors like
Watson to exclude us from the
decision-making process in our own
neighbourhood. Watson is particularly
offensive since she doesn't even live in

Watson lives in Toronto's most affluent
neighbourhood, Rosedale, yet she has
been given the public trust to represent
one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the

Councillor Watson should start getting
used to the "New Parkdale" as more and
more young, educated, socially conscious
people move into the neighbourhood and
begin asking questions about Parkdale and
how they can get involved.

Rather than get defensive, Watson should
be getting proactive with the people of
Parkdale, the people she is supposed to
be representing at City Hall.