Toronto police are (once again) using a downtown public plaza as a station parking lot

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After a protracted battle over access to a small public square outside the Downtown Toronto Police Division, the 2012 Star Headline declared justice was, finally, done: “Public Plaza finally out of police custody.”

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It seems that independence was short-lived.

Concerns were raised for the first time two decades later about a police cruiser entangled in what is believed to be a public space outside Toronto Police’s 52 Division – a building about 20 meters from the street, a city square – at 255 Dundas St. W. It’s a plaza. Once again partially converted into a private lot for the police.

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The cruiser’s return is documented online in the last year, most recently by Globe and Mail architecture critic Alex Bozikovic, who Tweeted a series of photos “Someone else will be ticketed immediately,” he wrote – a line cruiser and officers’ private cars at the station later this week.

Google Street View archives earliest capture of metal fencing around cars till september 2020, closing off more than half the plaza and creating a narrow passage for pedestrians. Earlier images showed pedestrians using the plaza and now sitting on planters in the fenced area As recently as September 2019.

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Amid public complaints about unscrupulous use of civic space and movements demanding change, police and municipal officials have in the past justified ongoing work on underground parking for a temporary site.

This time around, police cars are being parked in the plaza due to “significant traffic concerns,” according to Toronto Police Cons. David Hopkinson.

Hopkinson said this week that the division’s unit commander considered the space a plaza, but allowed the use of “a small portion” as a parking lot in an effort to reduce gridlock. Patrick Street to the west of the division, but when they park there, “it causes a major backup in traffic”, with local residents and construction workers having access to the nearby condo project. are, Hopkinson said.

Toronto Police spokeswoman Meghan Gray said the unit commander “has tried to take the least intrusive response to the unfortunate situation, who said the 52 Division had not received any complaints about the cars because of recent concerns.” have appeared again.

On Tuesday, Toronto Police cruisers were mainly filling temporary parking lots, a change from the weekend when many vehicles appeared to be officers’ personal cars.

When asked whether officers were allowed to park private cars in the plaza, Hopkinson said only Toronto police vehicles are allowed, adding that private cars were allowed to park over the weekend due to construction in the underground lot below the station. was parked.

New complaints about the plaza’s status as a parking lot have prompted Joe Cressey, Spadina-Fort York councilor, to become the latest local representative to remove police cars and restore public space. In a statement, Cressy said he would bring a resolution to “raise” the issue at a committee meeting this month.

“The current occupancy of the space by parked police vehicles limits its access, and does not serve the best interests of our city or our community,” said Cressey, adding that he is working with the city’s 52 division. We encourage you to work “as soon as possible” to restore this public space.

A Toronto City spokesperson told the Star that city staff are “reviewing the history of this location” and liaising with Toronto Police to “improve the use of the space as well as its current condition and other potential parking considerations.” with the intention of understanding properly.”

Beginning in 2010, urban designer Paul Kulig was part of a review of the area that includes the plaza in front of the 52 Division.

The hope was that the plaza would be opened to greater public use, Kulig told the Star this week — to become a stop for people traveling from the nearby subway and heading west toward the Art Gallery of Ontario. , or a welcoming place for people. An area to eat lunch, or to host farmers markets.

“Instead of taking the police cars in place, they send a message that says: “You’re not welcome here, move on,” Kulig said.

After ten years working on the project, Kulig says she is disappointed that police cars remain in the plaza, but hopes people are raising their concerns. “I think this can only be solved by that constant pressure, and ultimately it needs to come from our political leaders who need to demonstrate what a fair use of public space is,” he said.

“I don’t think people can attest that private parking for cars is the best use of that space anywhere.”

A Timeline of Police Use of Dundas Street Plaza

2001: Then-Councillor Olivia Chow requested a report to Toronto East York Community Council on “a comprehensive plan” for the redesign of the streets to “prevent vehicular parking in front of Division 52.” Instead, there is a request, in consultation with the 52 Division and local residents, to “green” the corner of the area, as requested. a 2001 city council document.

2004: Toronto Star columnist Christopher Hume lamented how, “for many years,” Toronto’s finest have been using the plaza to park their vehicles – “the public area is no longer public.” Chow says that although the city sent a letter to the police and passed a resolution requesting action, there was no response from the force. “It is city-owned land and the police are violating a bye-law that prohibits parking in front of a building. It’s just a dead zone,” Chow says, “every time I walk or ride past 52 Division, I see that parking lot.”

2009: archived street view images Show plazas open to public use with no parked cruisers.

2010: In his Star column “The Fixer”, Jack Leckie said that it “might be time for police to start ticketing police vehicles parked in the pedestrian square in front of Division 52.” Superintendent Hugh Ferguson, who was in charge of the station at the time, blamed construction on the underground parking garage, adding that when it was completed, “vehicles would go downhill and the public plaza would become an open area again.”

2011: Leckie provides an update on the parking situation outside the 52 Division, stating that after at least 18 months, “it’s been so long since the cruiser moved to the square that it’s starting to look permanent. ” A city spokesman says work on the underground parking garage continues into the summer of 2012, “but police vehicles should be able to return to the garage by the end of 2011.” street view plaza shows closed for police use.

2012: Leckie reports that “the occupation of the public plaza in front of Division 52 by police vehicles is finally over” as the underground garage has been fixed. street view shows Removal of fence outside the station.

2015: The City Council approved a proposal put forward by Cressi to convert the area for public use, including a possible expansion of the local social enterprise market, but no changes have been made. “Councilor Crecy firmly believes that there remains a need to maintain this area as a public and accessible space,” a spokesman said.

2020: Street View images show that the plaza is siege once again For police parking.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter who covers crime and policing for Star. Reach him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @wendygillis



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