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Fear and loathing in the concrete jungle

Toronto Star,
Letters to the editor,
May 23 2016

Re: Safeguarding our future, Editorial May 14

Concrete jungles do not make “walkable” communities. Wind tunnels, cold concrete that never sees daylight, and a sterile streetscape that is as bland and predictable as the pension funds that control many of Toronto’s towers do not make pedestrian-friendly streets.

It’s ironic that David Crombie, who, as mayor of Toronto, implemented a 45-foot height restriction to preserve the character of neighbourhoods such as Queen Street West, now wants to see these same neighbourhoods razed to make way for towers that can never be appreciated from the pedestrian’s perspective.

We learned nothing from St. James Town – a rezoning for intensification that almost wiped out the 19th-century homes and ambiance of the Cabbagetown neighbourhood.

The only thing that is “out-of-control” is our provincial government. It neither understands urban design nor has any inkling of how to balance urban and rural requirements or the needs of people at each life-stage. It swings from one extreme to the other in a vain attempt to manage growth.

“Smart growth targets” – as unsustainable as urban sprawl – will require massive investments in infrastructure improvements and municipal expenditures. The impact on quality of life will be negative.

Trees cannot compete with concrete towers and pavement. People cannot find tranquility in the shadows of high-rise buildings. Families are seldom at peace from the wrath of neighbours when crying infants and rambunctious toddlers are heard through tunnels and partitions. The only things that grow in concrete jungles are tension, crime, and pollution.

Today, dog owners are playing fetch with their pets in the carpeted corridors of condominiums. Tomorrow, children will take the elevator to school and spend recess in the playroom.

Those who can afford a car and a cottage can find nature elsewhere. For those who can’t afford either – tough luck.

Stella Kargiannakis, Toronto

Wow! Finally! Thank you David Crombie and Charles Sousa.

We returned from our six months in Florida to our Pickering condo. It took us 3.5 hours to go from Fort Erie via QEW, Hwy. 427 and Hwy. 401. The traffic just crawled along with one driver per car, although we made a brief sprint (lol) in the HOV lanes on QEW.

Then we watched from our 14th floor balcony the continuing nightmare east along Hwy. 2 and 401.

How can we possibly contemplate more condos and townhouses rising up on every possible tiny piece of vacant land? How can we even think of 3.5 million more people in the GTA and Hamilton area over the next 25 years?

So glad we are retired!

Madeleine Bacon, Pickering

We all know the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

In this article, fear mongers from the development community would have us believe that increases in density requirements will see everyone in the GTA living in a high-rise condos. This sentiment is preposterous and distracts from the larger issue – what steps are we taking today to ensure we are leaving a livable landscape for future generations?

We must look at the forest not the trees. The Greenbelt protects forests and farms, which sustain life in the region. With more than 100,000 people coming to this region every year, we will need to fit more homes in our build-up areas not pave over green space with sprawling subdivisions.

Our forests and natural areas are what make this region livable.

Joshua Wise, Ontario Nature, Toronto

I smiled to myself as I read your piece extolling the virtues of preserving greenery for the future enjoyment of Ontario residents. Would that some of that very same concern was to be extended to the preservation of trees and natural foliage for our enjoyment, today.

Specifically cited in this regard is the corridor on either side of Highway 401 between Bowmanville and Oshawa: as any commuter who has had the distinct displeasure of travelling along this route in the past month or so has witnessed, any and all trees with the misfortune of being over two feet in height have been systematically felled and reduced to a neat pile of wood chips along the roadway.

Why such a blatant “scorched earth policy” on the part of authorities? A letter to our local MPP elicited lengths of names of various government bodies that all “approved” this action, for benefit – in one way, or another – of the Highway 407 extension into the area.

But to wipe the entire slate so clean defies any and all logic, and appreciation of the so-called “Greenbelt” of Ontario – unless, of course, the colour “green” refers to the monies to be realized by the developers and fans of rampant and unbridled continued “development” of this province.

Edward P. Swynar, Newcastle