The Star identified several “Wards to Watch” in a 47-ward election. Now that new legislation has made it a 25-ward election, we have determined all of the wards are worth watching. This is one in a series of articles. The election is Oct. 22. Advance voting begins Oct. 10.
Spadina—Fort York candidate Kevin Vuong believes he has a fresh perspective to bring to city hall — a vertical one.
“There are unique challenges that come with living vertically. I think that perspective is missing on city council,” said Vuong, who spent more than seven years as president of the condo board of 33 Bay St., part of the Pinnacle Centre condo complex.
Elevator service. Flooding. How to live safely and comfortably as a highrise is built next door.
“Sidewalks. That is not a sexy thing. But when you’re trying to walk downtown and construction hoarding is cutting narrow sidewalks in half, it’s a problem,” said Vuong, who began his career as a Bay St. banker and is now a lecturer at the University of Toronto and serves part time in the Royal Canadian Navy.
The ward includes the Toronto Islands, Harbourfront, the Entertainment District, the Financial District, Liberty Village and CityPlace. The constituency is relatively youthful and affluent — the average age is 36.3, the average household size is 1.7 and the median total income is $76,270.
“We ran at a sprint for four years,” said Cressy, of his first term in office.
Cressy said his proudest accomplishments include: bike lanes on Bloor St.; helping save the arts building at 401 Richmond St. W.; the King St. transit pilot that gave streetcars priority over cars; getting schools into CityPlace; the new YMCA on the waterfront, and setting up harm reduction facilities, including safe injection sites.
Cressy said he wants to continue making the ward more livable for families, which includes more land for parks, including the proposed Rail Deck Park, increasing affordable housing, and redesigning streets to make them safer.
Candidate April Engelberg believes transit is the number one priority.
“It’s the fastest growing ward in the city and the transit plans in place are not remotely adequate,” said Engelberg, who, as a resident of the ward, has met with her own share of grief trying to get to work on the overflowing streetcars that creep along Queen and King Sts. during rush hour.
Engelberg is pushing to add a stop on the Union-Pearson Express at Liberty Village, which would get residents to Union Station in five minutes.
She is also pushing for a downtown subway relief line to continue west of University Ave.
She said she would work hard to secure the infrastructure repairs and development needed to solve the problem of flooding in the ward’s south end, along Lake Ontario.
Since July, when she registered as a candidate in the former Ward 20, Engelberg has been talking to residents on King St. during rush hour, and outside grocery stores after work and on weekends. A litigation lawyer working in investments regulation, she is taking a leave to run for office.
“I’m a lawyer. I am used to advocating. I advocate for others every day and I would make it a point to stand up for the residents of Spadina—Fort York and make sure they get the infrastructure they deserve,” said Engelberg.
Al Carbone, owner of the Kit Kat Italian Bar and Grill on King St. W., is running on a pro-business platform.
“There is no representation for small business and small businesses are the key to the city,” said Carbone, who erected an ice sculpture of a middle finger in front of his restaurant this winter to protest the King St. transit pilot project, which he said reduced business by 50 per cent.
“When they have a pet project and they ram it down our throat, it’s not very democratic. They don’t understand democracy for small business.”
Carbone said that while the pilot is being touted as a success, the improvements for transit users have been small and the negative impact on businesses in the corridor substantial, because it reduced vehicular traffic and parking.
He said condos are pushing out the small business venues that made the neighbourhood attractive in the first place.
“I want to reclaim our downtown street. I want to make King St. vibrant like it used to be. I want to improve parks. We have to make this area livable again, a place to live, work and play.”
Candidate Dean Maher founded the CityPlace Residents’ Association, representing residents of CityPlace, near Front and Spadina, and the Fort York Neighbourhood Association, and is the entrepreneur behind the websites the416magazine.com and sogay.ca.
If elected, Maher said he would help establish inclusive “neighbourhood action committees” (NACs) throughout the ward, made up of local stakeholders, including homeowners, tenants and residents of Toronto Community Housing; members of neighbourhood associations, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), condo boards, and representatives from schools and community centres.
Maher would give the NACs decision-making powers, including the power to decide how to spend so-called Section 37 funds. Section 37 of the Planning Act makes it possible for developers to secure zoning exceptions in exchange for payments earmarked for making improvements in the ward where the development is located.
“These NACs are going to have teeth,” said Maher.
Ward 10 candidates: Michael Barcelos; Al Carbone; Joe Cressy (councillor); Ahdam Dour; April Engelberg; Dean Maher; Andrew Massey; Rick Myers; Karlene Nation; John Nguyen; Kevin Vuong; Edris Zalmai; Andrei Zodian and Sabrina Zuniga.
Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering business. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF