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2005 12 06
Waiting for Godot in T.O: Alienation and Absurdity on Toronto’s Waterfront
Letter to the Editor, Toronto Star.
Re: It has taken time, but waterfront comes of age with urban beach, Christopher Hume. Toronto Star, Monday, December 5, 2005.
By Mario Godlewski


It may be too late to go swimming in Lake Ontario, but it's too early to celebrate a properly and fully completed 21st century, world-class, waterfront on Toronto's downtown shore-line.

Over two decades ago, Torontonians were promised that their decayed and neglected industrial port of Toronto would be revitalized and transformed into an unobstructed and easily accessible public waterfront consisting of public parks, public squares and a grand 3 km long, tree-lined, waterfront boulevard stretching from Bathurst Street to Parliament St.

What happened to that promise?

The narrow and disconnected kilometer-long pedestrian pathway and the tree-less, crooked, and equally narrow sidewalk and arid Queen's Quay with its poorly designed TTC Right of Way, are an absurd representation of that long-forgotten promise.

Toronto's uninspiring Queen's Quay is no match for the stimulating cafe' and tree-lined pedestrian promenades of either Phnom Penh's Sisowath Quay, Nice's Promenade des Anglais, or Barcelona's Passeig de Colom, nor does Toronto's financial commitment towards the 1.86 hectare HtO "urban beach" project even come close to the more than $7 billion of private and public money that has been projected for the redevelopment of the docklands in Melbourne, Australia, of which over $1.8 billion worth of public works has already been completed.

While some Torontonians may be prepared to keep on waiting for Godot, Toronto's so-called "cynics" have given up on the absurd and futile waiting-game. They want to see the goods delivered on time and up front before they even begin to contemplate uncorking the champagne.

Given the chaotic state of the current waterfront, it's hard to find any rational minded and clear-sighted person, who would argue that the promise of public accessibility to Lake Ontario's waterfront has been delivered to the people of Toronto in the grand manner that it was originally promised.

Or is the wall of monotonous cement and glass high-rise condos blocking access to the water's edge and the dreary temporary box-like structures and paved parking-lots despoiling the downtown shoreline, the kind of "revitalization" Toronto's citizens are expected to accept?

Words, such as "redevelopment," "revitalization," "rejuvenation" and "urban," have been so twisted in translation by this city's politicians and bureaucrats that these words have lost their true meaning and have assumed a Waiting for Godot absurdity in their implementation.

Whether its on Toronto's waterfront or on the higher elevations of Downsview, the word "urban," when connected to "revitalization" has come to mean private parking-lots, private big-box malls and monotonous cement and glass private high-rise condos. Forget the thought of funding public parks, grand boulevards and pedestrian promenades in this city -- they're not part of the political lexicon of this city's politicians who prefer the "cheap and easy" way to do things.

No wonder so many Torontonians are cynical when it comes to waterfront redevelopment in this city.

Christopher Hume rightly points out that waterfront redevelopment on Toronto's waterfront is years, even decades away from completion. While that's the "better late than never" state of affairs with which most Torontonians have become familiar, not all Torontonians are satisfied with this protracted waiting time.

They'd like the promised goods delivered in their lifetimes.

Having blinked too often and having had the wool pulled over their eyes too many times, many Torontonians have come to the conclusion that's its best to be cynical and keep their eyes wide open, than naively believe in the false-promises of their elected officials.

Having come of age before their city, some Torontonians have come to expect more from a 21st century city than a five meter sliver of cement and a few yellow umbrellas on its messed-up waterfront.

Torontonians cynical? No wonder.

Mario Godlewski
Spokesperson: Davenport-Shaw Residents' Association
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 12/06 at 08:34 AM

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