‘NIMBY-ism at its worst’ turfs plan for East End soccer field upgrade

St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School on Felstead Ave.

What was to be $2 million dollar FIFA-grade upgrade to the St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School soccer field has been turfed, following public opposition that a spokesperson for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) calls “NIMBY-ism at its worst.”

Ryerson University planned to renovate the ailing East End soccer field as part of a partnership between the university and the TCDSB that would see the field shared between St. Patrick students, Ryerson students, and the public. Plans called for state-of-the-art lights, FIFA-grade turf, and removable bleachers. Unlike the nearby Monarch Park soccer dome, this field would not be domed, nor would it be a commercial for-profit enterprise – it would have been open and accessible for the community.

“What would have been a jewel in terms of improved open space for the community is not going to happen, and that’s unfortunate,” said TCDSB spokesperson John Yan. “It’s an example of NIMBY-ism at its worst.”

That’s because earlier this month Ryerson decided to find another location for the project after hearing “significant” negative feedback from numerous residents – a Ryerson spokesperson said they recently heard from about 70 people. This was a shift from initial meetings in March that revealed support for the proposed project among the school community and local residents.

“We believe this was a sensible proposal that would have benefitted the community around St. Patrick,” said Ryerson in a statement. “While some community members were in favour, it became increasingly apparent that this project, and the unique set of circumstances at this location, meant we could not meet the needs of the end users while addressing the concerns of the community.”

The area’s city councillor, Ward 30 representative Paula Fletcher, rallied against the project, citing community concerns over increased traffic and impact on the surrounding neighbourhood.

“Unfortunately, the city councillor representing the ward, Ms. Paula Fletcher, had declared her strong opposition to the project, citing the current negative impact of the nearby Monarch Park domed sports facility,” reads a letter from St. Patrick’s principal Sandra Mudryj to the school community expressing her “deep disappointment” that the project would not proceed.

Fletcher, in a letter to her constituents dated April 28, wrote “many residents have contacted my office with concerns about the Ryerson University and Toronto Catholic School Board proposal to build an artificial field and club house at St. Patrick’s Secondary School. The concerns have ranged from traffic, safety and parking to lighting and noise – but the underlying message is that this new field and club house would pose an unreasonable burden on the local community.

“I have looked closely at the project and determined that it is not viable to have two large-scale recreational fields … in a small land-locked neighourhood,” she wrote.

Fletcher urged residents to contact Ryerson and the school board and school trustee. “I always remain open-minded about better uses of our community facilities and carefully consider proposals that come forward. However, the merit of each proposal must be balanced with the needs of the local community. This one does not pass the test.”

But TCDSB spokesperson Yan said there were misconceptions in the community about the proposal, and that Fletcher did not meet directly with the school board to hear them out.

“She just refused to meet with us … A lot of the residents thought that it would be on the same scale as the Monarch Park facility, which is adjacent,” said Yan, noting the project had the support of the local BIA and was not the same scale, nor was it a commercial venture, like Monarch Park.

“It would have been left wide open, there weren’t going to be gates around it … the public could use it any time it was not in use.

“The project didn’t require site plan approval, that’s how innocuous it was. It’s just simply a field improvement,” he said. “And Ryerson was investing in not only a top notch turf, FIFA-grade turf, but the lights that were going to put in place were state-of-the-art, hooded tech lights, which only shine light where pointed. So even the residents that would be right along the fence line, they wouldn’t see the light.”

In terms of increased traffic concerns, Yan points to a study commissioned by the project which said there would be “virtually no impact on the community in terms of traffic” and noted that the majority of field users would be taking transit. One of the reasons St. Patrick was tapped for the field was because of its proximity to the subway line, he said.

“Ryerson is a city university, it’s not a university where people drive. All of the facilities are on subway lines,” he said. Besides, “university soccer doesn’t attract thousands of people, it’s basically the boyfriends and girlfriends of the people on the team. You’re talking under a hundred people watching games. I think maybe the community thought it was going to be like Toronto FC coming to play, but that’s not exactly the case. It was a field for students.”

Now, after working together on the proposal for a year, Ryerson is looking for another location for their field and St. Patrick is looking to see what kinds of improvements they can make to their field with their budget.

“We are now going to take a look at what we had already had planned for the field to upgrade. It won’t be to the extent of the Ryerson renovation, which would have been close to $2 million. Ours will be significantly less, it will be in the thousands of dollars,” said Yan, noting the grass field is unusable for the wet months and is almost a safety hazard.

“At the end of the day, it’s not being done,” said Yan. “It’s all water under the bridge, it’s unfortunate, but from our point of view the people who lost out were students. Not only St. Pat’s students, but Ryerson students who would be coming from all over the city on the TTC.”

He is hopeful that a new partnership could be forged – the city has indicated it needs dozens more soccer fields in the coming years to keep up with demand.

“Anything is possible. Soccer is the fastest growing sport in Canada. There are not enough soccer fields for kids to use,” he said. “The people around the field, they basically decided for a great majority of other people who would have found it nice to have a usable field.”

For her part, councillor Fletcher said in a letter to residents of the Monarch Park neighbourhood about the university’s decision not to proceed with the soccer field, that she has told Ryerson she “would be happy to help them find a more appropriate location.”


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20 comments

The entrance to the parking area of that school is a very narrow driveway off of what is effectively a cul-de-sac part of Felstead Avenue which is a narrow street. I don’t know if the proposal included a plan for additional parking but the lot next to the existing track/field is small.

Even as it is now, that area is congested whenever there is an event at Felstead Park. Cars already have a hard time turning around. The only way to get to that area by car is from the East which would have meant increased traffic along Hanson/Felstead which is already stressed with cars trying to get to Monarch Park Stadium and, in the summer, to Monarch Park Pool.

The study cited does not seem very specific as to what “virtually no impact on the community in terms of traffic” means. It’s oversimplification to say that it would be OK because not many people watch the games and that most would come by public transit. The fact is that there would be an increase in traffic.

If you look at a map, you’ll also notice that there are houses much closer to the proposed facility than the houses near Monarch Park Stadium. Those residents would have to deal with the noise from an open field. We all know that university students watching sports are ALWAYS quiet and considerate but it is possible that some sounds may disturb some of the residents.

It seems to me that this project was either not very well planned or well communicated to the community or both.

On the flip side, it…

If you put an entrance off Greenwood and a small parking lot, no one would access via St. Pat’s front door.

And it’s ‘effectively a cul-de-sac’ because it’s been MADE INTO a cul-de-sac, when it should be a through street. Cars wouldn’t have to turn around if the street wasn’t blocked. And all this despite the fact that the biggest congestion will be the sidewalk down from Greenwood station.

“Worst kind of NIMBYism” does not sound like a very mature reaction to a decision that didn’t go your way.

Ya. It went YOUR way. And calling it a immature seems rather immature on YOUR part. Anything ‘constructive’ to suggest? Or do people like you just trade in insults? Because YOU got your way.

If you know the area, this field is literally in the backyard of the townhouses in the area. Those residents may not have wanted university sports games being played in an open air field right next to their backyards.

Hin Tang: “residents may not have wanted university sports games being played in an open air field right next to their backyard” is the definition of NIMBY-ism. What did those residents expected when they purchased a house RIGHT BESIDE AN OPEN SPORTS FIELD? That no one would use the field and just sit empty?

Bottom line is that this would have been a brand new state-of-the-art sports field, open to everyone in the community and at no cost to the taxpayer. Other neighbourhoods would beg for such improved facilities and this community says ‘no’ because of pre-made notions on noise, light, and traffic. Sounds like NIMBY-ism to me.

St Patrick uses the Felstead Avenue playground for soccer now. It’s intended for soccer. You can see the soccer field marked out on the Google map of Toronto. Residents in the neighbourhood know this is a playground. It’s clearly marked playground, it’s not marked private park or private gardens. I have a hard time buying into denying a current use. This improvement was in compliance with existing uses and bylaws. It was legal. Here’s a google map showing the houses, laneways, streets etc. :
https://goo.gl/maps/u1eBu2TARcu

@Jan N – I think the project was planned for the field to the south of the school on the school property, not Felstead Park. If you look at the track behind the school you can see the row of townhouses that border it. Yes, the people bought those homes knowing they were next to a field, but most schoolyard fields are used during the day. Varsity use of a facility is dramatically different than little tyke activities. I live close to the Monarch Park Dome and I can confirm that not only is there a dramatic increase in traffic in the whole neighbourhood as a result, but also an increase in the number of drivers that do not stop at stop signs, do not obey prohibited turn signs and park on neighbourhood streets where residents need the space. Monarch Park Stadium has over 100 parking spaces and it’s still not enough, and there aren’t huge crowds that show up to watch anything there. It’s almost all participants. It would be interesting to do a survey to find out exactly what percentage of the users take public transit to the dome. I suspect it is much lower than was originally anticipated. I totally support urban intensification, and am not opposed to change, but as Hin Tang said, the Ryerson project was either not communicated very well or poorly planned.

So, Monarch Park Dome works as it should — providing a place for people of the community to play sports.

“state of the art field” : It’s not a field. It’s a very large concrete pad similar to what would be built for a tennis court, just correspondingly bigger, also with artificial surface. A deep and massive excavation contains the stormwater retention tank. Stormwater is sent to sewage treatment slowly and later, not during the storm. Neighbours can redo waterproofing at their own expense, when underground rivers are redirected into their basements, as was the case with Monarch Park Stadium. Groundwater changes throughout the neighbourhood. Do not call it a field. It isn’t.

I can’t even justify reading the jibber jabber of this News? Article after seeing FIFA as a founding reference point.
Corruption begats Corruption and the roots of this stink of it.

The word “Nimby” (well the acronym, not a word) should be banned from the Beach Metro, and any government official (elected or staff) who uses it should be fired for insulting the people who pay their salaries… it is a slander to the people who live nearby who often have legitimate concerns that get ignored.

I guess Arthur Dent in “The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy” is a NIMBY for not wanting the earth destroyed by Vogons for an interstellar space by-pass

fletcher didn’t meet with the board and look at the plans up close? To busy screaming at constituents “come on down baby!” City representation at its worst! How many votes does she get from this boneheaded move??

Paula Fletcher is one of the City Representatives who truly listen to their constituents and works closely with them to try to resolve issues they face, sometimes when no-one else will pay any attention because they are “too small” to bother with! She never asks if you belong to her party or if you voted for her, so trying to illicit votes is the least of her concerns. Please save your disgust for those who deserve it.

One main reason for the increase in traffic at Monarch Park Stadium is because it is a commercial venture. A few evenings a week, there are upwards of 5-6 youth soccer games going on at the same time.
If the St. Pat’s field was not to be used for commercial endeavours, where is the proposed added traffic coming from? This field would have allowed students and residents in the area to play on a first class field at no cost to the tax payer. This is a shame.

There is a shortage of playing fields for children and adults throughout Toronto and
I would have supported this playing field in my neighbourhood.
Artificial fields hold up very well in rainy weather and busy schedules.
As one who lives facing on to Trinity Bellwoods Park, I witness traffic congestion
and overcrowding often. Steps can be taken to improve parking and field usage regulations for
local residents.
I personally don’t mind being called a NIMBY if it’s something I believe in.
There were a lot of valid arguments for and against this project.

Should the adverse responses of “70” people be sufficient to cancel a no cost to taxpayer multimillion dollar project that would benefit thousands for years to come and keep local youth engaged and out of trouble? The answer should be obvious. I grew up a Catholic in the Beaches in the 60’s & 70″s when “Orangeism” was alive and well there and in East York. The counselor’s actions and comments bear undertones of this still prevalent mindset since the reasons cited for her opposition can all be compellingly refuted. If Danforth Tech or Riverdale had been the site chosen would there have been such an “outcry”? East York Collegiate and Monarch Park in areas akin to St. Patrick both have upgraded facilities and are thriving. Surprisingly the sky has not yet fallen on their respective communities.

I am sorry that people who do not live in the area find it perfectly acceptable to comment on a situation that does not affect them, except to perhaps use the facility as they wish. Yes the idea was wonderful, but the actual mechanics of the situation are not presented fairly. The field in question is south of the school, completely land-locked and only accessible by car from the West on a dead-ended part of Felstead Avenue. The building directly beside the parking area and driveway is a seniors apartment building. It would also be greatly impacted by the traffic generated. It is already an issue for them with cars not obeying the speed limit or traffic laws. More cars would be taking up parking spaces on the tiny street that is needed for the houses on Felstead and the handicapped seniors from the building (not everyone can afford underground parking). The light and noise pollution are only the tip of the iceberg. The residents of the building are already working with the police and Paula Fletcher on the traffic issues but also addressing the crime that this area generates. The 70 people quoted do not include the 300+ residents of the building that worked closely with Paula Fletcher to ask Ryerson to find a more appropriate venue.

The “worst kind of NIMBY-ism” is if residents want to keep out people due to race, sexual orientation or disability – things based on prejudice and intolerance.

Ryerson is miles away and no doubt dozens of other venues exist. Take the Waterfront and Leslie street Spit – we need to spend million on those areas, and if Ryerson wanted to kick it off, that would be great. It sounds like this school yard is perfectly ok as it is for the school and residents.

And as for taxpayers, Ryerson is also publicly funded, so this is not “free”.

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