A neighborhood in west Toronto is up in arms right now after city officials removed a structure that the community was in full support of.
It all started when residents of the neighborhood learned that they were getting a community garden, and they could not have been more excited about it. The garden was to be placed in Tom Riley Park, which is a popular place to take walks, especially for senior citizens.
Once the garden was put in place, however, residents were surprised to find that there was no staircase leading down to it, making it dangerous for citizens to get to the garden.
“People were falling down. One person broke their hands. So it is not a good situation for anybody,” explained local senior Adi Astl.
When Adi reached out to a city council member about installing a staircase, he was told that it would cost between $65,000 and $150,000 to construct a set of stairs. This surprised Adi, a former mechanic who spent decades constructing staircases for a fraction of what the proposal was.
Since he was still quite good with his hands, Adi decided that he would construct a staircase for the garden himself. It ended up costing only $550 and 14 hours of work to build it, and everyone was overjoyed when they saw the sturdy staircase he created!
Unfortunately, after the stairs were built, the city council informed locals that it did not meet code and would need to be torn down. This infuriated members of the community.
“At the end of the day, the city has a liability issue,” the city council said. “We have to make sure that assets in our public spaces are to code and meets certain safety standards. The stairs that Adi built were well-intentioned. They worked well. They would have worked well for the short-term. They wouldn’t have worked for the long-term.”
Once the stairs were gone, Adi was surprised to receive a call from Toronto Mayor John Tory, who thanked him for all that he did building the staircase. The mayor then stunned Adi by letting him know that they were able to get an estimate for a set of city-coded stairs for a much more reasonable price of $10,000.
Adi was overjoyed that the mayor was committed to finding a solution.
“Everything is a negotiation in life, so long as you reach the meaning and the end,” he said. “The meaning and the end was to have steps for people to go down safely. Who installs it, doesn’t matter anymore. We’ve proved our point.”
Mayor Tory then released a statement expressing his anger at the way Adi was treated when he proposed the initial staircase:
“I want to thank Mr. Astl for taking a stand on this issue. His homemade steps have sent a message that I know city staff has heard loud and clear. The city always needs to be looking for simple, cost-effective solutions to problems no matter how big or small they are … I’m not happy that these kinds of outrageous project cost estimates are even possible. I’ll be working to identify what changes we can put in place to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen.”
The permanent staircase is set to be build in the coming weeks. We’re glad that this story had a happy ending!