Residents at risk of losing homes

Italian couple fret over TTC Greenwood extension plan

By Elena Serra

“The Better Way.” If they lived by their own motto, Toronto Transit Commission authorities would avoid major problems. The organization has in fact all too often found itself at the centre of controversies in the past few months, and after an ‘emergency’ campaign in an attempt to gain back the faith of Torontonians, we’re back at square one. This time, however, it’s not about sexual indiscretion, or employees who catch a few winks on the box office chair, or thoughtless drivers who park a bus to grab a snack as dozens of riders impatiently wait. This time at the centre of the storm is the TTC expropriation to clear space for the construction of a second exit on the Bloor-Danforth line’s Greenwood subway station.

To better understand the situation, imagine an Italian newlywed couple – Grazia and Domenico Calia – who came to Canada after the war, and after years of sacrifice finally purchase a home on 247 Strathmore Blvd. It was 51 years ago, and there wasn’t even a subway line in the area – which arrived about seven years later. They lived in that house for over half a century –she was a homemaker and he worked for the TTC. They have five children and eight grandchildren. Then, last June 17, a letter changed everything. “When I read it, I though there was some mistake,” said Bruna Amabile – the couple’s daughter who lives at 243 Strathmore Blvd told Corriere Canadese/Tandem. “It wasn’t possible that they wanted to expropriate my parents’ home.”

Only at a meeting days later attended by over 200 community residents did the information begin to leak out: the TTC Second Exit Plan is a project that calls for second exits to be built at 14 subway stations for safety reasons, at a cost of $8 million per station. It is a project dated from 2002 that no Greenwood station area resident had heard about until last month – even the information listed on the TTC Internet site magically disappeared days ago – that calls for total expropriation of two properties as well as 10 others that will be partially expropriated or affected by the construction. One of the homes to be expropriated belongs to the Calias who are almost 80 years old, require daily nursing visits, and receive assistance from daughter Bruna Amabile who fortunately lives two doors away.

“No one is questioning TTC’s safety standards,” explains Amabile. “I use public transit myself and want safety as well, but we’re questioning the manner and lack of transparency with which the TTC is behaving. The Woodbine residents have known about the TTC expropriation for over a year, but we haven’t been contacted by anyone over the past eight years, neither personally nor as a community. No one came to explain what was going on and to consult with us.” The problem is that many families could soon find themselves in the same position – the TTC Second Exit Plan involved 14 stations and is still in the preliminary phase. “Anyone can wake up tomorrow and receive a letter saying the TTC is taking your home away,” said Bruna Amabile. “My parents have lived here for 51 years and they pay their taxes. The TTC wasn’t even there when they moved here. People don’t know, but these things can happen and you lose everything in an instant.” The amount of ‘compensation’ the couple would receive from the expropriation, based on market value, would not even allow them to purchase another house. “If they wanted to buy, they’d have to take on a mortgage at 80 years of age,” the daughter continues, “without taking into account the trauma of a move and the fact that I would no longer be two doors away to assist them.”

Monday evening at a second public meeting with TTC, the organization accepted a solution by residents proposing to locate the new subway exit at a house on Linsmore that has been abandoned for years. Notwithstanding this, the expropriation proposition is still on the table and remains the final solution in case further inspection discovers logistical problems. A decision is expected within a month. “They’re in a hurry because they want to finalize everything before August and get financing before the election,” explains Amabile. “I don’t want there to be any chance my parents lose the house. And if the TTC should encounter obstacles with the Linsmore project, it’s their duty to do research and come up with alternative options that don’t require the expropriation of citizens.” “I ask myself how many other solutions are there. This demonstrates to everyone that the TTC didn’t properly do their research on what the best solution was.” And while those in white-collar positions decide, the Calias still have a month of questioning and praying before they find out if, at almost 80 years of age, they’ll have to abandon their home, and lose something much more precious.

Publication Date: 2010-07-18
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