By Avleen K Mokha
This story was published on May 15 in the print issue for Park Extension News. Some information may not be current.
The Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough council on May 4 saw important announcements and debate for citizens of Park Extension. The borough mayor announced measures to aid the borough, which has been hit hard with COVID-19. Park Extension councillor addressed residents who lost loved ones. During the question period, councillors answered pertinent questions about socio-economic disparities and neighbourhood cleanliness.
Park Extension councillor Mary Deros opened her statement by addressing parents getting ready for schools to reopen.
“Dear Park Ex residents, if the situation allows, do not forget to remind your children of all the rules to respect for their safety,” Deros said. “They will have to have new habits with their friends and teachers.”
Deros acknowledged as well that many infected people in the district are elderly.
“I offer my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the deceased,” Park Ex councillor MAry Deros said.
“Unfortunately, there have been several deaths of this vulnerable population, which is why I offer my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the deceased.”
Deros extended her wishes for a happy Eid to the Muslim community, which began celebrating Ramadan remotely. Last, Deros thanked community organizations fighting with an “iron-clad fist” to provide services to the vulnerable.
During the question and answer period, borough mayor Fumagalli answered citizens’ concerns on the following matters:
Vanessa Tremblay asked, “The crisis linked to the pandemic has magnified certain problems existing in Saint-Michel, which certain organizations have denounced for a long time. The lack of affordable housing for families and the overcrowding that results from it, the digital divide are two examples among many.
“In the very short term, is it possible to support families and citizens, with low-cost tablets and more WIFI terminals in the neighborhood in order to reduce the digital divide?”
“is it possible to support families and citizenS to reduce the digital divide?”
Fumagalli said that she understands the need for technological resources to help families break from the isolation of confinement and home.
Home of Haiti, an organization in Saint Michel, has obtained 500 tablets with internet connection. These tablets will be given to families in need for three months.
“I will also follow up with the city center about having more technological resources,” Fumagalli said. “In addition, a working committee is looking at gradually reopening libraries to allow access to computer stations.”
However, Fumagalli stressed that reopening library spaces depends on the DRSP, the Montreal Directory of Public Health.
Multiple residents questioned the borough council about the installation of sanitary corridors. Sanitary corridors are a way to increase the space available to pedestrians.
The city of Montreal first installed a sanitary corridor in neighbouring Plateau Mont-Royal during the Easter weekend, using metal fences to widen the sidewalk. The city has expanded the initiative to eight boroughs.
Louis-Philippe Codère said, “Given the success of the sanitary corridor on Jarry and its appreciation and given the current situation in the borough and certain hot spots, do you plan to set up this kind of initiative? I believe that each district [of VSP] deserves to have its health corridors, especially because we are one the most densely populated boroughs in the city.”
Fumagalli responded that the borough has great concern for Saint-Michel, one of the districts hit hardest by COVID-19.
“The borough is studying different scenarios in our three districts,” Fumagalli said. “Our teams are working on a plan that we want to introduce to you as soon as possible.”
Till the day of the council meeting, only one sanitary corridor has been installed in the borough, along Jarry street in Villeray. VSP resident Samiha Hossain was concerned about Park Extension.
“There are the Parc-Ex streets being used for essential services (markets, pharmacies, etc.) which have been left out of the discussion,” Hossain said. “Are plans under discussion for health corridors on Parc-Extension streets like Jean-Talon West?”
Fumagalli assured Hossain that there is no question of forgetting Parc-Extension or Villeray, but that the borough must proceed in stages.
“The borough wishes to set up a second phase of the Jarry Street sanitary corridor, between Saint-Laurent and Saint-Denis before the end of the week [of May 4],” Fumagalli said.
Another resident asked about concrete actions the borough is taking to make streets pedestrian-friendly.
“The SPVM [City of Montreal Police] reported that incidents of excessive speeding by motorists have increased and this is very visible on the streets of the borough,” Jonathan De Luca said. “What additional and concrete steps is the borough taking to make the streets healthier and safer for residents?
“What additional and concrete steps is the borough taking to make the streets healthier and safer for residents?”
Fumagalli responded that the borough is working with the city on this matter.
“The borough coordinates with the City of Montreal, which has mandated a large mobility plan in the context of Covid-19,” Fumagalli said, adding that such a plan will be for all boroughs in the city of Montreal.
Last August, the city council voted to extend its network of bicycle paths. In December, the borough council discussed what the vote means for VSP. The council proposed the extension of a new bicycle path on avenue De Chateaubriand in Rosemont-Petite-Patrie, the use of Lajeunesse street as part of the city’s express bicycle network (REV), and the construction of a new cycle path on Villeray.
Gerald Greco asked, “Given the current context and that we are seeing more cyclists this year, what is the borough doing to accelerate these plans?”
Fumagalli confirmed that the borough is facing budget cuts, which means councillors will have limited ability to prioritize certain projects. However, developing a cycling path on Villeray and the express bicycle network are still on the council agenda.
“Sanitary corridors will be a temporary solution to give space for cyclists during the summer,” Fumagalli added.
Deconfinement refers to the protocols determined by the government to safely loosen social distancing rules used in a public health emergency. Director of Carrefour Populaire Simon Ambeault was concerned about the lack of space for community organizations.
He wanted to know measures the borough can take other than suggesting working from home, which is not possible for community workers that need to visit citizens.
“What concrete actions can the borough take […] to guarantee that Community organizations can fulfill their mission under favorable conditions and meet the needs of Saint-Michel?” he asked.
Fumagalli explained that community organizations will experience gradual and progressive deconfinement.
“There could therefore possibly be space loans between organizations to maintain social distancing while meeting everyone’s needs,” Fumagalli said. “I invite you to communicate your premises needs to the district crisis cells.”
Fumagalli reminded Ambeault that deconfinement will happen with instructions from the public health.
Green lane projects convert small alleys into green spaces. The main goal of green lanes is to lessen air pollution.
Claude Duval was concerned if the borough could financially support his green lane development projects on Jarry street, Gounod street, and at the intersection of Saint-Hubert / Saint-André, given budget cuts announced by Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante.
“The borough is indeed facing budget cuts,” Fumagalli acknowledged. “But the green lane projects in question are maintained.”
Another resident, Fanny Lemay, inquired about enforcing appropriate disposal of trash.
“The alleys are filled with garbage at any time of the week,” Lemay said.
Fumagalli responded that the COVID-19 health emergency has delayed cleaning operations. However, “spring cleaning will resume very soon.”
Fumagalli recommended calling 311 at any time to report garbage disposed incorrectly on the street.
This story was published in print for Park Extension News May 15 issue. Click here to read the full issue.
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