A year in review: Kew Gardens, coyotes, and a great Olympian make 2016 headlines

Penny Oleksiak riding in convertable during the Parade of Olympians up the Danforth Ave. to Woodbine Sunday morning with Olympic athletes to thousands of well wishers. PHOTO: Peter C. McCusker

As we look ahead to 2017, let’s take look back at the news that shaped our community in 2016. Welcome to Beach Metro News’ 2016 Year in Review. For more, including Top 10 lists and photo galleries, visit www.beachmetro.com.

JANUARY 

Early 2016 brought news that the budget for the Kew Gardens

Upwards of 100 people turned out on a rainy Sunday for Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erksine-Smith's town hall on Syrian refugees January 10 at the Branch 11 legion. Attendees heard from a number of local groups, like Farzana Yusuf from the East End Community Health Centre, on the programs in place to support refugees.
Upwards of 100 people turned out on a rainy Sunday for Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erksine-Smith’s town hall on Syrian refugees at the Branch 11 legion.

renovation upgrades had nearly doubled, causing some members of the community to feel the integrity of the project had been soiled.

The project itself was initiated by the Beach Village BIA and aimed to draw more traffic to Queen Street from the beach.

Plans included a revamped plaza around the cenotaph, a wheelchair-accessible path, more trees and benches, and expanded flower beds.

On January 10, nearly 100 East End citizens gathered at a town hall to discuss the logistics of welcoming Syrian refugees to the community. Many of the attendees had already signed up to sponsor a Syrian family, while others were looking for information on sponsorship or hoping to donate goods or time to make the transition easier for the families moving into the community. 

Building on efforts which began in 2015, members of the Canadian TV industry met to walk 8km in support of Syrian refugees and Save the Children. The walk, One Step Closer, ultimately raised more than $8,000 for the cause.

Tragedy struck mid-month when a Wheel-Trans bus veered off the road on Kingston Road and Main Street striking a hydro pole and shearing it off while simultaneously crashing into a pedestrian walking two of his dogs.  The pedestrian and driver were sent to hospital shortly after the incident with non-life threatening injuries and while one dog was expected to recover, the other was pronounced dead at the scene.

FEBRUARY

Neighbours of the Hunt Club were disappointed when they lost a fight to save 41 healthy oak trees on the Hunt Club golf course from being cut down. Mark Denington, who led the effort to stop the city from cutting down the trees had said that he was not only concerned with how it would affect the wildlife on their property, but was also disturbed by the fact that the city appeared to be more stringent with applications from private citizens to remove trees than with entities like a golf course. Denington had received correspondence from Ward 36 councillor Gary Crawford, who stated that initially the club wanted to remove 200 trees. The trees that were ultimately removed were a “combination of healthy and diseased trees as well as trees significantly damaged by the ice storm of 2013.”

Rumball tackle
Lucas Rumbell tackles an opponent during a fierce Rugby match.

The Ted Reeve Thunder AA Peewee’s had reason to celebrate after winning the Silver Stick championship. “This is perhaps the most difficult tournament to win…and that is a huge accomplishment,” said Mike Saini following the win. Twenty teams across North America had competed in the minor hockey competition, which was held in Port Huron, Michigan.

Dan Moor and Lucas Rumbell made the Beaches proud when they were called to represent Team Canada in the Americas Rugby Championships which saw the six highest ranked teams from the Americas – Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, United States and Uruguay – compete through February and March.

Both players remained humble and appreciative of the support shown by the Beach throughout their journey with Moor saying, “the Balmy Beach Club has been incredibly supportive.The guys there are very tight like a family and there’s a real culture of supporting each other.”

MARCH

March began with a fond farewell when Ken and Pat Hymas bid adieu to their home on 250 Glen Manor West after nearly 50 years.

The couple took with them many years of fond memories of the area however, and happily passed the legacy of their home to a young family relocating from Europe.

“We’ve been very happy in this house for 49 years,” Pat had said. “I wish we could have made it 50.”

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Liam Marriage, 5, shows Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk how to make moves on Variety Village’s new volt hockey chairs. 

Further west, organizers of Afrofest were putting pressure on city officials after receiving word in mid-March that the annual festival would be cut short. Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon later held a meeting with the affected parties to discuss the decision after the city decided to issue a one-day permit rather than the usual two-day permit, citing noise and time violations in previous years.

Following a meeting between McMahon, the City of Toronto, and Music Africa Inc., the groups were able to resolve the permit issues at play in order to continue with the standard two-day festival format.

Lucky kids and members of the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to test out a set of brand new volt chairs during Variety Village’s March Break volt hockey camp. The joystick-operated machines allow people with limited to almost no mobility to enjoy the game, building confidence and providing an exciting experience.

APRIL

Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon held a community consultation after discovering that a 30-year bylaw governing how restaurants operate along Queen Street East had never been updated. Residents and business owners were asked to join in on an open house to review the restaurant study which dated back to 1985 and left the Beach with the smallest restaurant size restrictions in the city at only 165 square metres.

“We want to open up our empty storefronts to our businesses to have a more viable area, so if this is one of the hindrances, I would be happy to revisit that,” said McMahon.

Niki Papaioannou and Caitlin Tizzard, marketers for St. Louis Grill spearheaded an initiative to turn Queen Street into a Distillery-style Christmas market in December.

The pair hosted a community brainstorming session to gather public input and ideas, as well as determine the overall feasibility of the idea which included having carolers, lights, outdoor winter huts and general Christmas charm. “We want to help drive the charm of the Beach to outsiders, and bring everyone back to the Beach,” said Papaioannou.

Unfortunately, like other Christmas markets that had been pitched in the past, this idea failed to stick.

20-year-old Abdullah Farah was found dead after an alleged drive-by shooting outside the former Cloud 9 Café located in East Danforth.

This was the third in a series of murders that had taken place at the café. 21-year-old Abdiweli Mohamed Yusuf was shot and killed in May 2014, while Beach resident and firefighter Dominic Parker was fatally stabbed in 2013.

The incident resulted in a group of residents as well as Ward 29 councillor Mary Fragedakis, Ward 30 councillor Paula Fletcher, and Ward 31 councillor Janet Davis calling for the café to be shut down. The owner later had his business license permanently revoked. A daycare is set to open in the former space early 2017.

Competitive swimmer Javier Acevedo earned an Olympic nomination during the Team

Neil McNeil student Javier Acevedo will be swimming for Team Canada at the Rio Olympics this summer.
Neil McNeil student Javier Acevedo will be swimming for Team Canada at the Rio Olympics this summer.

Canada trials and in April, discovered that he would be living out his dream of going to the Olympics in Rio this past summer.

 

His winning time during the trials – held at the Toronto Pan-AmSports Centre – was 53.67, coming in well under the Olympic qualifying time of 54.36.

The Olympics may be finished for the time being but Acevedo said he thinks has two more in him – in 2020 and 2024. In the meantime, he’s currently attending and swimming with the University of Georgia swim team.

MAY

After 21 years guiding the growth of Pegasus, the East End program for adults with special needs, founder Marie Perrotta announced her retirement and handed over the reins to new director, Paula Murphy.

Marie Perotta, right, with Pegasus Phoenix participant Sarah at the Beaches Rec Centre April 26. Perotta is retiring after over 20 years with Pegasus, the community service group she helped found.
Marie Perotta, right, with Pegasus Phoenix participant Sarah at the Beaches Rec Centre April 26. Perotta is retiring after over 20 years with Pegasus, the community service group she helped found.

Perrotta originally came up with the idea for Pegasus in 1993 when she and other parents of children with special needs found that programs for adult kids no longer in school tended to be lacking. Instead of getting down about it, she decided to fill the need herself.

The program has now grown to include a number of centres and partnerships, as well as a social enterprise store.

“We were so lucky,” said Perrotta. “Everybody embraced it. People that you knew and people that you didn’t know. This whole agency is really about a community response, it really is.”

East End residents in the Coxwell and Gerrard area were shocked to find that the Rocca’s No Frills had been closed for renovations – indefinitely.

The only explanation was a sign taped to the front door of the store notifying the public of the closure.

In an email statement, Kevin Groh, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communication at Loblaw Companies Limited – parent company of No Frills – said that the closure was temporary.

“Rocca’s No Frills has served the community for decades and plans to serve it for decades more. To do that, significant building improvements and renovations are required,” he said.

Two tales of heroism were honoured during the annual Toronto Police awards ceremony in May, each one having taken place at the Beach.

Bob and Karen Hutton were recognized by 55 Division for saving the life of a young woman

Bob and Karen Hutton, with pup Haida, at their home near the Beach boardwalk May 9, 2016.
Bob and Karen Hutton, with pup Haida, at their home near the Beach boardwalk May 9, 2016.

who had fallen into the lake and nearly drowned at the beginning of January while Andrey Korikov was recognized for his bravery in de-escalating an unprovoked attack that took place at Ashbridge’s Bay.

All of the honourees were humble about the award with Korikov stating “I don’t need any thanks, I don’t need any gratitude, I’m just doing what I feel everybody is supposed to do.”

A $2-million dollar FIFA-grade upgrade planned for the St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School soccer field was thrown out following public opposition.

Ryerson University had planned to renovate the East End soccer field as part of a partnership between the university and TCDSB but after receiving significant amounts of negative feedback, Ryerson decided to find another location for the project.

A local veterinarian was found guilty of professional misconduct and serious neglect in a case involving a 13-year-old German shepherd cross.

Dr. Jonathan Mitelman, owner of VetsToronto and Kingston Road Animal Hospital, had his license suspended for three months and was required to remit payment of $85,000 to the College of Veterinarians.

JUNE

The bright lights of the CN Tower shone purple, black and white in early June, marking the beginning of ALS Awareness Month, but to those in the Beach it commemorated something much more personal – the passing of beloved coach, Bob Acton who had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) two years ago. Tributes to Acton poured in online and in person at his celebration of life at Ted Reeve Arena, where he began and continued his hockey career, and where the flag hung at half-mast for the week.

A pop-up Lemonade Stand-themed shop on Queen East was outed as a marketing campaign by Yellow Pages. Beachers boosted the store on social media throughout the month of May, sharing positive reviews of their experience at the trendy bakery – or should we say, fakery? 

Woodbine Park was filled with music during Bestival.
Woodbine Park was filled with music during Bestival.

Woodbine Park was transformed into a peace and love-filled paradise for Bestival, an eclectic music festival that attracted upwards of 15,000 people to the East End over the June 11 and 12 weekend. Headlined by the Cure, residents near the park appeared to feel the mellow vibes the organizers were giving out – praise from nearby neighbours seemed to outweigh complaints.

A family dealing with mental health and addiction issues turned their struggles into a groundbreaking peer-led substance recovery support program for LGBTQ youth.

Claire McConnell started Pieces to Pathways along with her son, Tim McConnell and his friend Geoff Wilson after they learned about a major gap in safe services available in the community to queer and trans youth seeking treatment. The program is now sponsored by Breakaway Addiction Services with funding by the Toronto Central LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) and a private donor.

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Dean Will outside of his home June 21. He attached thorny rose branches to his Pride flag to detract people from stealing it.

The community rallies around Stephenson Park neighbourhood resident Dean Will after he has his pride flags repeatedly stolen, his house vandalized, and slurs yelled at his window. “Now is the time to be brave,” he said to supporters at a rally at East Lynn Park in his honour. The reaction to the shocking incidents against Will was swift, with many in the neighbourhood purchasing flags to fly from their homes and an outpouring of support towards Will.

Keeping it in the neighbourhood, Stephenson Park booster Peter Woodcock receives Community Centre 55’s inaugural Clean, Green, and Beautiful Award for his efforts to clean up his local park.

Nearly 160 people turned out to Hope United Church June 27 for the first official Danforth Avenue planning study public meeting, the latest step in a years-long process that will establish guidelines for development along the Danforth. “The community is very engaged,” said city planner Daniel Woolfson. Aided by DECA, the community hopes to help shape and get ahead planned development.

JULY

Two East York Collegiate students are named Toronto District School Board’s top scholars. Kenneth Wong and Sailesh Nankani graduated with the two highest marks in the school district — 99.8 and 99.7 averages, respectively.

Local contractor Scott Mifflin restored and reinforced the Woodbine Beach community

Carpenter Scott Mifflin of Toronto Green Builders along with Mike Rousseau replace and reinforce the Beach Community Fireplace June 29. Vandals destroyed the structure, which is a piece of art designed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal.
Carpenter Scott Mifflin of Toronto Green Builders along with Mike Rousseau replace and reinforce the Beach Community Fireplace.

fireplace with the help of a Rotary grant. The piece of public art, created by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal and unveiled during Winter Stations, had been repeatedly vandalized throughout the year – and, unfortunately, continued to be vandalized after the restoration.

AUGUST

In what might be the story of the year, local resident and Monarch Park Collegiate student Penny Oleksiak captivates the nation at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. At her first Olympics, the swimmer became Canada’s youngest Olympic champion winning four medals – one gold, one silver, and two bronze – and was the flag bearer in the closing ceremonies. The community celebrated their girl with an East End parade and rally to welcome her home.

SEPTEMBER

Tuggs Incorporated, the former Boardwalk Café, and Tuggs’ exclusive lease is back in the news – and will stay there throughout the fall – as council considers its application to rework its lease and assign a portion of that lease to Cara Operations Limited, the company which runs Carter’s Landing, the restaurant which opened at the Lakeshore Boulevard Café earlier this summer.

Members of the community, including a group called “Free the Beaches”, would spend the next several weeks pushing back against the lease reassignment, saying the city should use this as an opportunity to scrap the lease with Tuggs altogether and reclaim the Beach.

John Ellis was honoured as Citizen of the Year.
John Ellis was honoured as Citizen of the Year.

Ultimately, the city voted to reassign the lease to Cara, which would then sublease portions of the property to Tuggs. Tuggs’ exclusive rights to food, beverage, sales and sponsorship rights to the Eastern Beach properties would remain – although ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon passed a motion calling for the city to re-enter negotiations with the company in the first quarter of 2017.

John Ellis, a long-time Beach resident known for his work in the Beach Triangle community and the Beach and East Toronto Historical Society, among other notable efforts, is named 2016 Beach Citizen of the Year.

Toronto’s Ward Boundary Review cuts close to home when it is revealed that one of the proposed changes to Toronto’s ward system splits Ward 32 (Beaches-East York) in half. Over the next several weeks a petition would be launched, surveys would be filled out, and comments from a few Beachers would draw city-wide attention for noting their preference to not become part of Scarborough.

In the end, the city would vote to make minimal changes to the ward boundaries – although Ward 32 lost one of its brightest neighbourhoods, Little India, in the redrawing of the lines.

OCTOBER

The community remembers the “best barber in the Beach”, Roma, who closed his Queen Street shop doors in the summer. Claudio Gesummaria often kept his shop open six days a week, 12 hours a day, and gained a loyal clientele that spanned generations. Gesummaria retired after suffering a stroke, but the barber chairs remain – and last we checked, signs indicate a new barber is getting ready to open up shop at Roma’s location.

Beach residents and local animal experts react to an influx of coyote encounters in the Beach. Heartbreaking stories about missing and attacked pets lead some to call for a coyote cull – but the city and animal advocacy groups say that coyotes are a normal part of the environment and launch an education and reporting campaign to raise neighbourhood awareness.

Roma Barbershop on Queen Street East sat deserted for months.
Roma Barbershop on Queen Street East was left vacant after owner, Claudio Gesummaria suffered a stroke.

City council approves separated bike lanes on Woodbine Avenue following a series of community consultations and recommendations by staff. The lanes will run northbound and southbound on Woodbine Avenue from O’Connor Drive to Queen Street East, in addition to an eastbound contraflow lane on Corley Avenue from Woodbine Avenue to Brookside Drive. Reader reaction to this story is mixed, with many in support of the move which would further connect the East End cycling network, but some saying that Woodbine is too busy for bikes.

A Liberal-hosted electoral reform town hall takes place at St. Brigid’s School, part of a series of Canada-wide consultations about the country’s voting system, a system that the Liberal government vowed to reform before the next federal election in 2019. Ajax MP Mark Holland, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of democratic reform, was on the panel, telling audience members that it is the Liberal party’s “objective to change the voting system (before 2019)”, noting that a delay would take away “urgency and attention” on an issue that’s been on and off the table for decades.

NOVEMBER

Six months after the sudden closure of the Rocca’s No Frills in the Coxwell and Gerrard

No Frills on Coxwell and Gerrard has been closed for more than six months.
No Frills on Coxwell and Gerrard has been closed for more than six months.

Neighbourhood, the building remains shuttered with a shuttle bus ferrying shoppers to the No Frills on Carlaw. Calls to Loblaw, the parent company of No Frills, yielded a commitment that the company intended to begin demolition on parts of the building in the new year and have been waiting on permits. The company also repeated its intention to reopen the franchise at the same location.

 

The former Licks’ restaurant site – now a nearly finished six-storey condo development – could soon be home to a restaurant again. The city, at the urging of councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, area politicians, and a letter writing campaign by residents, agreed to allow two restaurants – one larger than current restaurant bylaws allow – to operate out of the space. The Queen Street restaurants rules have not been updated in 30 years and McMahon would like to see that change.

DECEMBER

A six-storey co-operative housing unit is proposed for a lot on Coxwell Avenue at Gerrard Street East. The developer, East End co-operative housing provider Innstead, wants to provide 33 units of affordable, accessible housing for its members. A meeting scheduled for December 7 is postponed until the new year when the city can sort out an accessible meeting venue.

Laneway housing is a hot topic in the East End after a city-led community consultation asks

Steve Watson and Pete Conroy at Woodbine Beach, the new site of the Beaches Lions Tree Lot.
Steve Watson and Pete Conroy at Woodbine Beach, the new site of the Beaches Lions Tree Lot.

residents what they think laneway houses – and regulations – should look like. The city is looking at ways to increase density and address community concerns over housing.

The community bristles at the news that the Beaches Lions’ Christmas Tree Lot – long a fixture on Queen East during the holiday season – would be moving from Kew Gardens to Woodbine Beach on account of the park’s recent renovations and the city’s intention to not allow commercial activities in the park. Reader reaction was swift and somber, with many commenters lamenting the loss of something unique to the Beach community. The tree lot opened at Woodbine Beach at the end of the month, and by December there was a sign at Kew alerting passers-by to the change.


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