The Comité d’action de Parc-Extension were at what they do best in front of Parc Metro on Hutchison this past Saturday, protesting the demolition and subsequent building of high end condos at 700 Jarry West … CAPE demanding that the site be used instead for social housing—many local community members and governmental representatives showed up to support the cause
The building of luxury condos in Park Extension (as well as other boroughs) seems to have become a theme in recent decades. But there are certainly those that are against such modes of city planning, preferring the neighborhoods stay as they were, holding the character they originally had, doing away with plans for such condos and allowing buildings for social housing instead.
This is certainly the case here in Park Ex, especially with the CAPE watching the streets very closely and watching out for the integrity of the borough’s history and its future.
A new week, a new action
As I stated, the CAPE have been battling many plans and at many locations in recent weeks, and as Amy Darwish of CAPE tells me, they’ll never stop … even if they have to battle well into the chilling winter months to come.
This past week, the site in question was a building at 700 Jarry Street West that was destined, or rather is destined for demolition and yes, plans are in order to turn the site into yet another cropping of luxury condos. The site was the location of Coopérative du Monde-Uni a few years back, but the organization ran out of support. Now the plan was or rather is, to make 55 condo apartments on 4 floors and have the first floor designated for local businesses.
Now, there is certainly a school of thought that the businesses can indeed be good for the community, thus generating business and having the economy do a little bit better in the borough, but the same can’t be said of the 55 apartments, and at the same time, the worry of the CAPE and others like them is that there are very few affordable places left to rent in the borough and if buildings like the one planned keep cropping up everywhere, the renters in the neighborhood will have nowhere to go and will subsequently leave, and what then of the culture, the community that was once Park Extension?
Taking to the streets
So of course, they once again took to the streets, this time on Hutchison Street, a location that is known well to those that have feared the clutching hands of gentrification in the borough in recent months and years. The old Johnny Brown building was once considered and owned by a private owner and the plan was to build high-end condos. Well, the city stepped in after the community put some pressure on them and the plan as it stands now, is to have some social housing for the community and this is thanks to the work the CAPE is doing and of course the decision-makers who are willing to allow for change. Amy Darwish and the CAPE want to certainly see more of this and they haven’t let up one bit, as was seen on Saturday and at other actions in the neighborhood. We also reported on two other actions a few weeks back, so they are certainly hard at work for the community.
The gathering wasn’t all that large on Saturday. When I arrived, perhaps a few dozen, but that number grew slightly as the demonstration got under way. But in the end, their message was certainly delivered … loud and clear and yes, quite a few friends and supporters showed up to lend a hand.
A Police presence
Many police cruisers were nestled in a corner on Ogilvy near the old Canadian pacific rear entrance when I arrived; they were waiting for the demonstration to begin and when I was interviewing Amy, two officers approached us wanting to speak to someone in charge. In essence, I wanted to address their presence in this piece and as it seemed to me, an observer, and to say that the officers in charge and on-site were cordial, kind, caring and a represented an overall presence of peace would be an understatement. The officers that approached me and Amy wanted only to be sure of safety precautions taken and when Amy assured them of this, they gave her a kind thumbs-up, their eyes smiling above their masks, and they went back to their cruiser with a friendly nod in my direction as well. Honestly, their presence was refreshing to say the least and it was clear that they were there to keep order should anything have arisen in terms of a ruckus, but of course nothing happened. CAPE knows how to demonstrate and protest, all the while avoiding issues.
A few of those in attendance
National Assembly of Quebec representative Andres Fontecilla was in attendance, but did not speak at the mic. His presence was known, however and many stopped to speak to him. The fact that he was there spoke volumes.
Many members of the community spoke at the mic and among them were Sasha M. Dyck and Abdul Waheed.
In the few words he spoke, Waheed told a simple story but an appropriate one while he held the mic and the attention of the gathered few: “Before I left, my (child) was watching a cartoon. In this cartoon, a bunch of ants were working together to get rid of a snake that had entered their home underground …”
And as he said at the end of his tale, perhaps the story was indeed quite fitting for the protest on Saturday.