With the beautiful weather upon us, thousands of new residents to the neighbourhood are flocking to Little Norway Park and the Music Garden. Soon, the Bathurst Quay Streetscape and Public realm site will host more visitors to the community. Everyone overlooks potential new parkland that could be made available. This article is by community leader Brian Iler who has founded Parks not Planes with a mission to release publicly owned property for the purpose of providing more green space on our waterfront.
The City of Toronto had placed a lot of its hopes for dealing with the extreme parkland shortage in downtown Toronto on its proposed 20-acre Rail Deck Park.
With the decision of the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal decision this week to permit development of a significant portion of the air rights necessary for the Park, those hopes have been dashed: acquiring those air rights would now be prohibitively expensive and in addition to the $1.6 billion estimate cost of constructing the Park.
This leaves the 215-acre Island Airport lands as the only alternative to address the extreme parks shortage.
That land is certainly available for parkland when the Tripartite Agreement expires on June 30, 2033. The City need only not decide to renew its current $1.00 a year lease of airport lands to Ports Toronto.
Could that happen a lot earlier? We think it can and doing so would be a massive win for everyone. What has to happen is this: The federal government makes any COVID support to Porter conditional on its move to Pearson and commits to converting the Island Airport lands to parkland.
A Win for Our City
The Island Airport is a waterfront anomaly – it is the only remaining vestige of noxious industry. Its noise and pollution interfere with today’s recreational and residential uses.
Adding its lands to the Island Park creates a park larger than Central Park. Easy access through the pedestrian tunnel relieves the enormous pressure for more access to the Islands. The Island Park will change fundamentally as a result.
Without an airport on the waterfront, the significant building height constraints it imposes evaporate, making room for more affordable housing to be built.
A Win for Safety
The Island Airport has operated with inadequate runway end safety areas, and to continue operating it must spend, we found out last week, between $50M and $130M to build adequate safety areas.
Far too many tall buildings make approaches and takeoffs dangerous.
Deep water just off the ends of the runway make rescues in the event of a runway overshoot extremely challenging.
Even if the money could be found, there are far better places to spend that money on then an airport which has, at best, 12 years left.
Experts insisted that a bridge to the Island Airport was essential for emergency vehicles to reach a crash at the Island Airport. When the bridge was cancelled, the experts were ignored. It is only good fortune that a crash has not occurred to date.
A Win for the Federal Government
Tell Transport Minister Omar Alghabra that Toronto is desperate for more parkland, and the Island Airport lands are the obvious solution. This could be as significant a contribution to Toronto as the federal government’s creation of Harbourfront, and its support of Waterfront Toronto.
Copy the Prime Minister: firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister of Transport
c/o House of Commons
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street