DIG IN: Neighbourhood Concerns


• History and Description
• The City of Toronto’s Social Indicators and Priority Areas
• Toronto Star Sunday November 19, 2006. Dark side of TO

• TORONTO STAR August 31, 2005, Second Shooting at Wallace Emerson this season
• TORONTO SUN August 31, 2005, Shooting at Wallace Emerson this season
• CBC Update, March, 2005, Police shooting: Lansdowne and Dupont
• TORONTO STAR Feb. 9, 2005, Building under city watch
• Toronto Sun February 8, 2005, High Anxiety Over Junkie Invasion
• Globe and Mail February 8, 2005,Squatter's den squalid world of sex, drugs
• Toronto Life Magazine, May issue 2004, Track Marks
• Collection of news stories regarding Bloor Lansdowne, House of Lancaster strip Nov 1988 - 2005
• National Post, Feb 8, 2003, Not the Village, yet: The strip of Bloor West from Christie to Dundas West is gaining a reputation as a family community.


The neighborhood is located in the northwest corner of downtown Toronto, intersected by east-west and north-south rail lines. Once an outlying industrial area populated by residents that worked in the factories, it marked the city limits. As times changed after World War II and Toronto expanded, the area has come to face serious entrenched social issues arising from its lost industrial base. The patchy makeup of the area has ensured little progress over the years. The result is a neighbourhood with a distinct lack of enhancing features, a fact that abets the depressed atmosphere arising from its urban troubles. Despite this, the area is primarily a family neighbourhood with a vibrant mix of nationalities, professions, and aspirations

Dupont to Bloor, Dufferin to the CN/CP rail lines area of Toronto is densely populated, yet, to date, it is under-supported with the means to face its multiple, entrenched neighbourhood issues. As a result, there are pressures and stress with which the neighbourhood has long-standing concerns. .

Description
• A distinct lack of enhancing, positive physical features to the neighbourhood amidst a pronounced abundance of trouble spots.
• Large, entrenched pockets of dysfunctional residents crowded into low-rent apartment buildings.
• An illicit drug and sex trade is pronounced
• No real recreational walking routes or desirable end destinations for walks
• A recently established homeless shelter is further expanding to offer additional transitional housing with resistance from some of the community
• Laneways and streets misused and littered with rubbish
• Vehicle congestion, safety and traffic pattern issues
• With 50% more children than average Toronto neighborhoods, families also have issues about safety, especially since children have been hit by cars.
• Few and poorly maintained neighbourhood parks
• The area also has little usable green space and few residential trees
• Its physical layout is not favorable to building a sense of community (two railway lines, for example, divide the neighborhood)
• Affordable housing for Individuals of all cultures and backgrounds
• A widely varying housing stock, that includes poorly maintained high-rise apartments, which are not conducive to community building
• A concentration of individuals living in poverty or who are among the working poor
• Families of new Canadians of widely diverse nationalities
• For a many household adults, English is a second language
• Underused industrial buildings offer affordable rent and are beginning to attract individuals and small companies in the arts.
• Land contaminated with toxic chemicals
• Available tracts of land have attracted development and development offers for higher density units with questionable benefit or integration into the neighbourhood.


The City of Toronto’s Social Indicators and Priority Areas study prepared in connection with the new City of Toronto Plan focuses on indicators of risk, or social vulnerability. The study identified this portion of the City as being in the second highest quartile of socio-economic vulnerability. Having regard to indicators such as low income, unemployment, social assistance, tenant households, lone-parent families, education less than grade 9 and tenant households spending 50% or more income on shelter costs


Sunday November 19, 2006

This article was in today's Sunday Sun. Det. Howie Page will be familiar to
some of us from the 14 Division townhall at Central Tech and from a DIG IN
meeting a few months back.

Michael Monastyrskyj

http://tinyurl.com/ydprdp

The dark side of T.O.
The dirty job of narcotic policing
By ROB LAMBERTI

Shirley Gillis stands on the road beside the police cruiser with head bowed
and hands cuffed behind her back.

And she cries.

There's no "get out of jail" card for the street sex worker who says she
relapsed to her heroin habit about a month ago.

She's working and using again, she tells Det. Howie Page, because she can't
deal with the pressure of having a teen daughter she says is dying.

Gillis wants Page to give her a form ordering her to court for communicating
to an undercover cop, and then walk away.

But the police computer spits out two arrest warrants. She denies the
warrants are for her. She doesn't have ID and Page can't challenge her
claim.

But the machine knows everything. It says she has a "FTW" tattoo on her
right wrist.

She was spotted by an undercover officer walking on Lansdowne Ave. and
picked up as part of the ongoing Project Zero Tolerance, a campaign to take
back the streets.

The contents of her purse, her meagre possessions, are spread on the trunk
of the cruiser: A tube of toothpaste and a brush, shampoo, underarm
deodorant, makeup, a brush, a broken music box and a drug kit consisting of
a needle, a swab and a rubber tourniquet.

"Have you used heroin at all today?" Page asks.

"No," Gillis says, claiming she's started showing up at a methadone clinic.
Page figures she's just saying what he wants to hear.

"Shirley, we got warrants for you, there's nothing we can do," he says.

In between the sobs, Gillis mentions her 16-year-old daughter who lives with
grandparents.

"She's dying," she says. "She has a heart and lung condition and they put
her on this new medication and it's going to make her liver and everything
fail. Crazy."

She says she relapsed "about a month or so ago. I can't deal with the fact
my daughter is going to die."

From her back pocket, there's more trouble for Gillis as a cop pulls out a
flick knife, a prohibited weapon. Gillis says it's to make a peanut butter
sandwich.

Within a week she's back on the street after pleading out to her charges.

"The thing is it still gets to me, some of these stories," says Page, a
veteran of the west-end streets.

"I'm not calling her a bullsh--ter. I believe her," he says. "She probably
does have a daughter that's dying. Sometimes, when you do this long enough,
you can tell crocodile tears from real ones. That was genuine.

"Somehow, I'm not buying the story she was spreading peanut butter with
that," he says.

"I feel for her," he says. "That's our job, to not have her pull the wool
over our eyes, but she does have that addiction," Page says. "That's what
drives them to be out in the streets.

"There's no girl that comes out of Parkdale, Bloor and Lansdowne or anywhere
in Toronto and decides one day 'I'm going to have sex with men in cars in
parking lots for $30.'"

"I mean, something in their lives has done this," he says.

---

Page heads the 14 Division major crime unit vice squad, which targets street
drug dealers, complementing the work of the Toronto drug squad, which aims
for mid-level or higher level dealers.

Page's unit is joined by others from 14 Division for Project Zero Tolerance,
which was devised to reclaim neighbourhoods from dealers and users,
prostitutes, thugs and speakeasies.

While the focus is Bathurst and Queen Sts., where the Entertainment District
sprawl has spread, the whole division is the hunting ground.

It's an ethnically diverse area bounded by the lake to the south, the CP
line by Dupont St. to the north, Spadina Ave. to the east and Landsdowne
Ave. to the west

Within a nine-week period, the project has caught 93 crack dealers and filed
342 charges.

The area also has more than 700 licensed establishments, probably the
highest concentration of booze dealers in the country.

---

"Here's one of our crack buyers," Page says as he pulls his unmarked cruiser
from St. Clarens St. on to Bloor St.

"What he'll do is walk back and forth, back and forth until he finds himself
a deal," he says. "He's a pretty violent guy."

The man makes a deal with a street trafficker in a flash of four hands that
within seconds has cash exchanged for rock with no one seeming the wiser.

Residents have been complaining about drug trafficking and it's related
demons: The thefts, the muggings, and the prostitution in parks that should
be reserved for kids.

"This is a nice community in and around here," Page says as he drives north
on Lansdowne towards Dupont. "What's happened, this one corner right up here
where the crosswalk is, this is Lappin (Ave.), it is one of our number one
problem corners for prostitutes."

The sex workers take their clients into backyards, parks, including a
portable toilet in a park next to a playground.

"There's needles, condoms in the same place where kids are playing soccer,"
Page says.

---

Undercover narc Izzy Bernardo is trying to get Tony to assume the position
against a Bloor St. building.

Tony says he can't spread his legs any wider, something Bernardo doesn't
believe, having seen the man use his feet adroitly in street fights in the
past.

Page presses Tony to surrender any drugs he has.

Bernardo had moments earlier watched Tony make three transactions from a
park bench near Dufferin St.

Page cringes as he holds out a hand and a small rock of crack dribbles out
of Tony's mouth. But the officers feel there's more that isn't being coughed
up.

It's Bernardo's turn to cringe as Tony pulls his pants down and spreads his
buttocks.

Nothing there, Tony insists, including dignity and truth. Giving in to the
search, he spreads his legs wider allowing police to dislodge a baggy
containing a stash of "ball crack": An ounce of crack, some powder cocaine
and nine Ecstasy pills stuffed in a plastic baggy in his underwear tucked
neatly by his testicles.

DEAD MAN WALKING

While waiting to be processed at 14 Division, Tony sits handcuffed, but the
cops' attention is on another man sitting at the table, handcuffed and
waiting to be booked.

He's known as Stoppa on the streets, but among cops he's Dead Man Walking.

He was shot in the neck June 25 in the College St.-Spadina Ave. area.

On Aug. 20 in Parkdale a gunman opened fire on him with some of the bullets
going into a passing van carrying a family. It could have easily been
another Jane Creba type shooting, Page says. "They'll kill each other for a
$50 debt."

Someone is gunning for him and police fear that one day a bullet will catch
up to Dead Man Walking.

But on this night, he's safe. He's in police custody.

"I live for today," he told a cop after the second incident, just like his
hero Scarface.

He's keeping warm with an embroidered leather jacket, stitched on the back
with Al Pacino in the Scarface role.

"Every drug dealer, any search warrant we do that has something to do with
drugs, there's always something to do with Scarface," Bernardo says.
"There's always a monument to Pacino. It's hilarious."

---

Chuck Thomson flashes a disarming smile that reveals perfect teeth, showing
he once lived the middle-class dream.

Now, the streets are his home.

Thomson, 31, is a study in downward mobility.

"Many of these people, they don't have any idea why a lot of us are where we
are. They think that we were like this our whole lives," Thomson says. "This
is all new to me.

"They look at me like a piece of sh--," Thomson says. "I used to be where
you are a year ago. I'm having a rough time. It won't be like this forever.

"I was doing really well," the St. Catharines native says, having moved his
family, including his 8-year-old daughter, to Alberta. "I had two jobs,
(including) a supervisor at a grocery store. I was making four grand a
month."

But then one day, sometime after his marriage fell apart, he walked into a
bathroom at a house party and saw a woman smoking.

Crack, she told him, offering a hit.

"I was drunk," Thomson says, but that drag sealed his fate.

"Somebody offered it to me, and I tried it, and once you try it once, that's
it," says the former roofer. "I would never give anybody their first one
because that's the worst you can wish on anybody.

"People that give 15-, 16-year-old girls their first ones, I think they're
the lowest form of scum there is," he says. "It's harder for a girl to get
off of it because, no offence, but she has a 24-hour bank account between
her legs and she uses it. She can have it anytime she wants."

Thomson wants his middle-class dream back, but he knows he can't strive for
it yet.

"Eventually, I'm going to say, 'I've had enough,' and I'll be ready and I'll
do it," he says. "I'll go back to work, good job, good girl and everything
will fall into place.

"It's hard to roof when you're sleeping outside, when you're not eating,
when drugs are taking all the calcium and vitamins out of your body. You
don't want to work."

The addiction makes its demand on Thomson's body "every hour, hour and a
half.

"I don't steal. That's why I panhandle. I never have to do anything I don't
want to do because panhandling gives me enough," he says.

"People in Toronto are unbelievably great. They treat us the best they can.
I understand they look down at us, obviously. But I feel guilty most of all,
I feel we're taking advantage of the poor people.

"They're paying for our drug habit, and I think they know it," Thomson says.

"But a lot of them tell me they'd rather give it to us than have us steal.

"Would you mention me, because my mom is probably worried sick," Thomson
says.

"I just want my mom to know I'm okay. She's in Alberta. Red Deer."
Aug. 31, 2005. 01:00 AM - Toronto Star

Shots kill one, injure another
Same car may have sped away from both incidents

Last night's shootings are among four within 24 hours


HENRY STANCU
STAFF REPORTER

One man was killed and another seriously injured in two shootings within 90 minutes in Toronto last night.

Police were looking for a small, black car, possibly a Toyota Camry, with a cracked windshield that may have sped away from both incidents.

Around 6 p.m., a man in his early 20s was shot several times in the chest as he stood by his Acura outside a townhouse complex on Magellan Dr., near Jane St. and Sheppard Ave. W.

He collapsed on the pavement beside his car as three suspects fled north and a black compact car sped away.

Joanne Amatuzio, a supervisor at the Rudd Clinic on Edward St., had just arrived home nearby and ran to help. "He was breathing very shallow. I lifted his shirt and noticed a chest wound so I applied pressure.

"Then he stopped breathing and he had no pulse," said Amatuzio, whose hands were covered in blood. A paramedic arrived and took over.

The victim was taken to Sunnybrook hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He did not live in the area, Toronto police Insp. Brian O'Connor said.

This is the 16th fatal shooting in Toronto this summer. Only one arrest has been made in those cases.

Children playing soccer and elderly men playing bocce were just steps away from where the second shooting took place, outside the Galleria Mall at Dufferin and Dupont Sts.

A 29-year-old man known in the area as Joe was shot in the neck about 7:15 p.m. as he sat in his black Volkswagen Golf in the mall's parking lot. He was taken to St. Michael's Hospital, where he is recovering.

A witness said she heard shouting just before a single gunshot.

"I saw three guys run down the alley to Emerson Ave. and a black car go fast the other way (north)," said a man who was in the nearby Wallace-Emerson Park when the shot rang out.

A frightened woman whose home backs on to the park called the situation ridiculous. "I'm scared because of what goes on here: drug dealing and fighting sometimes all night long."

Earlier this summer, a 22-year-old man was found dead in the park, shot once in the head.

Last night's shootings were among four such incidents in the city within 24 hours.

In the first, a young man dodged a volley of shots in a downtown housing complex Monday night.

"I'm okay. They only grazed me," the victim, about 18, told police and security guards who arrived at a Vanauley Walk townhouse, near Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave., about 10:45 p.m. A stray bullet shattered a townhouse window.

And a 23-year-old man is recovering in hospital after being shot at an apartment building on Trethewey Dr., near Jane St. and Lawrence Ave. W., around 12:15 a.m. yesterday.

The man was playing basketball when he was approached by two male suspects. Shotgun pellets struck him in the legs and forehead, police said.

With files from Lauren La Rose


ASTRID POEI, TORONTO SUN
August 31, 2005

A 29-YEAR-OLD father was fighting for his life in hospital last
night, after being shot in the neck over what one resident said may
have been a $50 gambling debt involving a friend.

The attack happened at about 7 p.m. in the area of Dufferin and
Dupont Sts., while kids played soccer in a nearby field.

Mario Moris, 49, was taking out his garbage when he heard shots fired
in a laneway leading to the parking lot of the Galleria Mall. He said
he saw two men flee the scene.

When he went to look, he was shocked to see that he knew the man
laying in the parking lot.

Moris said he ran to his side, took off his shirt and applied it to
the wound.

KIDS SAW FIGHT

As he waited for help to arrive, he said he heard neighbourhood kids
say they saw the victim and a friend fighting with other men over a
gambling bet at a nearby sports bar.

"They said, 'You want to fight? You go get your friends and I'll get
mine.' They said, 'I don't need to get my friends.' And they pulled
out a gun," he said. "This was because of $50 and the shot wasn't for
him."

The victim is listed in stable but serious condition in St. Michael's
Hospital. He is expected to live.

Long-time resident Bill, who declined to give his last name, said he
told police a bullet was lodged in the fence of his backyard, where
his daughter was playing at the time of the shooting.

Police say they have made "more than two" arrests in connection with
the shooting.


CBC News
Last Updated Mar 3 2005

14-year prison sentence in police shooting: Lansdowne and Dupont

TORONTO – A man who shot a Toronto police officer three times in the summer of 2004 was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday.

Michael Swift, 24, was being chased by two officers in the Dupont Street and Lansdowne Road area, on a July night.

When the police cornered him in a dead-end street Swift opened fire.

He hit Constable Noel De Guzman three times. Swift said he was ready to kill the policeman.

In an agreed statement of facts Swift said he was preparing to kill the wounded De Guzman. But at that point De Guzman's partner opened fire and wounded Swift.

Constable De Guzman is back in uniform, but still suffering from his injuries



TORONTO STAR

Feb. 9, 2005. 06:27 AM

Lansdowne Ave. building where woman fell from seventh-floor window Sunday night is a haven for squatters and drug abusers.

Building under city watch
Dilapidated units monitored regularly
Owner denies outstanding property violations

MEGAN OGILVIE
STAFF REPORTER

The Lansdowne Ave. apartment building where a squatter fell or jumped from a seventh-floor window during a police sweep for trespassers Sunday night has been under city watch for property standards violations since at least 2001.

The city has two outstanding orders against building owner Vincenzo Barrasso for property standards violations, said Carlos Martins, director of investigations with the municipal licensing and standards division for the City of Toronto.

When contacted by the Star, Barrasso said there are no work orders for 1011 Lansdowne Ave.

"Everything is fine. I have no concerns. The building is in good condition," he said in a brief phone interview yesterday. "I have an administrator there and we work along with the city."

Barrasso had no further comment.

But Barrasso, who owns four other highrises in the city, has a long history with city inspectors.

He was charged by the city at least 18 times between 1997 and 2003 for failing to maintain his buildings, incurring more than $150,000 in fines and a 30-day jail sentence. In a 2003 appeal, Barrasso paid $80,000 in fines and the jail sentence was waived.

The province's Special Investigations Unit is investigating the events surrounding the woman's fall. Police had been trying to arrest her boyfriend and charge him with trespassing. The woman had been squatting in a deserted apartment in the building for several days, neighbours said. St. Michael's Hospital would give no update on her condition last night.

Police maintain a regular presence at 1011 Lansdowne, where a high vacancy rate threatens security in the 23-storey building. Of the roughly 365 units, about 100 remain empty, attracting drug dealers and users who take up residence in the unoccupied units.

To combat the high number of trespassers and to improve security, the neighbouring community and the apartment tenants and management asked for police assistance to eject the squatters from the empty units, and Project Clean Sweep was implemented for the month of January.

Police laid 36 trespassing charges, three drug charges and made 13 related arrests.

Yet, one week after Project Clean Sweep concluded, a routine police sweep to clear transients from the building revealed trespassing was still a problem.

Local councillor Adam Giambrone (Ward 18, Davenport) authored a memo to the planning and transportation committee yesterday, requesting a report to outline what tools the city needs to deal with landlords in violation.

"It could possibly include powers from the province so that we can prevent gross neglect on the part of the landlords," he said.

"City staff are working very hard to enforce property standards, but they don't often have the authority that they need to be effective," he said. "We don't have all the tools we need, not just at 1011 Lansdowne, but at properties across the city."

Martins also agrees that the city needs more legislative authority to clean up dilapidated apartment buildings.

"The city clearly has an obligation to enforce its property standards bylaw, but getting compliance is not that easy," he said. To keep a close watch on 1011 Lansdowne, a city staff member is on site at least once a week to monitor the building, said Martins.

Since 2002, the city has obtained 18 prosecutions and seven convictions against Barrasso. The city has collected $9,250 in fines.

Sharon Rogers, property manager for 1011 Lansdowne Ave., said outstanding violations are left over from the previous property manager and she is now complying with the orders.

"There's been a 150 per cent turnaround since I started in August 2004," she said. "I do everything in my power to work with the city and the police to try and clean up the building."

But the building's high vacancy rate will continue to be a problem, Rogers said. Hundreds of applicants have been refused because Rogers believes they are not stable tenants.

"We've recently rented 13 (units)," said Rogers, who has 26 years experience as a property manager. "But it's hard to get a good tenant."

Toronto Sun
Tue, February 8, 2005:

High Anxiety Over Junkie Invasion
Drug nest freefall

WOMAN TUMBLES SEVEN STOREYS AS COPS SWEEP OUT SQUATTERS

By JONATHAN KINGSTONE, TORONTO SUN


A WOMAN who tumbled from a seventh-floor window was apparently trying to flee a police sweep of a rundown Toronto highrise that's been overrun with drug addicts and squatters. Of the roughly 350 units at 1011 Lansdowne Ave., up to 100 have no tenants -- but are frequently occupied by derelicts looking for a free place to stay, said Alain Naud, one of the building's four cleaners.

At times, Naud said, it seems "there are more people doing that than there are tenants."

The squatters break into the apartments of rent-paying tenants, leave the grounds littered with condoms and trash, and urinate and defecate in stairwells, elevators and the laundry room, Naud said.

"They're like animals," said Naud, who lives on site. "They go to the washroom anywhere but the toilet."

COPS PATROLLING

Several months ago, management went to Toronto Police, who began patrolling the 22-storey highrise north of Dupont St. up to four times a night, looking for trespassers.

They're given a list of the vacant units, which building workers keep unlocked so officers don't have to break down the doors, Naud said.

Four 14 Division cops were on one of those sweeps when they arrived at unit 703 late Sunday night.

The officers were arresting a man in the apartment when a 26-year-old woman fell out the window, said Rose Bliss of the province's Special Investigation Unit, which has taken over the probe.

The woman, who one neighbour said goes by the street name "Precious," landed on thick ice in a concrete courtyard.

She's in critical condition at St. Michael's Hospital with multiple fractures, Bliss said.

Among her numerous shattered bones is a broken neck, one source said.

The man, who'd been handcuffed, escaped as cops raced to the woman's aid, but he was quickly arrested.

SIU INVESTIGATING

The SIU is looking into the circumstances that led up to the woman's plunge, Bliss said. One officer has been designated a subject officer and three as witness officers.

The man and woman had been squatting in the unit -- which has been vacant for months -- for at least a week, said a neighbour.

"She looked strung out," said the neighbour, 36, who wouldn't give his name, adding any time he saw her she looked like someone who used drugs.

He last saw her in the seventh-floor hallway around dinnertime Sunday as he walked his girlfriend to the elevator.

"She was pacing back and forth," he said.

"She was swinging her arms all over the place," added his girlfriend, Carmen, 23. "She looked pissed off."

About five hours later the man heard a struggle in the apartment, he said, and moments after that he saw emergency crews treating the woman, who was lying crumpled on the ground.

Naud, the building's cleaner, said the cops have had success with the sweeps, often arresting dozens of squatters at a time.

"It's like a TV show," he said. "There's a whole line of them" led out of the building in handcuffs.


Globe and Mail
Tuesday, February 8, 2005 - Page A11

Squatter's den squalid world of sex, drugs
Woman's fall from apartment window during police sweep prompts investigation

By JOE FRIESEN

It's a place where maintenance staff have given up trying to replace the door locks that are routinely smashed by squatters, and where the daily cleaning routine includes mopping up piles of human feces and vacuuming an endless stream of used condoms.

The 23-storey apartment building at 1011 Lansdowne Ave., where one in four units is vacant, is haunted by a nocturnal army of drug users and prostitutes who ply their trade in its empty rooms.

The woman who fell from a seventh-floor window during a police sweep Sunday is one of those transients.

Precious, as she is known on the street, is a 26-year-old prostitute and crack addict. Her friends said she was on a two-week crack binge before police showed up at the apartment she was using.

The provincial Special Investigations Unit, which examines all police incidents that result in civilian injury or death, is trying to determine what happened next.

Rose Bliss, an SIU spokeswoman, said four officers were doing "routine trespassing enforcement" in the building around 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

"It's a very old, rundown building frequented by squatters and trespassers and the landlord has some concerns about that, so they'll go in there once in a while and see who's supposed to be there and who's not supposed to be there and ticket those who aren't," she said.

While they tried to arrest a man in the apartment, Precious fell from a window barely half-a-metre wide. She suffered multiple leg fractures and was in critical condition at St. Michael's Hospital last night. One officer has been designated as the subject of the investigation. Three others are being treated as witnesses.

Yesterday, the door to the seventh-floor apartment was left open, revealing a squalid world of sex and drugs.

Condom wrappers littered the floor while stained cushions placed around an old couch formed makeshift beds. A pornographic magazine lay open near a pair of torn underpants. Spent lighters, a tub of baking soda and a charred skillet were also visible.

Green crayon graffiti covered the walls and the interior of the kitchen cabinets, where a long list of names was scrawled under the heading RIP.

Lisa, a prostitute who works in the Lansdowne Avenue and Dupont Street area, said she bought a meal for Precious barely an hour and a half before the police raid.

"I bought her soup and a sandwich at Coffee Time," Lisa said. "She was really messed up. I gave her a hug and told her to take care of herself. It's a real shame. It breaks my heart. These are just young girls."

She said Precious had been on a bender ever since being released from a one-day stay in jail two weeks ago. At the time she was charged with trespassing in the same building.

Lisa said she can't believe Precious would want to throw herself from the window.

She said there wouldn't have been time for her to push herself through the small opening. A discarded oxygen mask and disposable blue medical gowns yesterday marked the patch of ice where Precious fell.

Alain Naud, a tenant who also works as a cleaner and maintenance man on the property, said he didn't see anything last night, but heard the commotion caused by the arrival of police.

Mr. Naud said transients started knocking on his door, as they always do when the police appear. They hope that residents will give them a place to hide while the police, armed with a list of vacant apartments, do their usual rounds.

He said people are arrested for trespassing at the building every night, sometimes marched out in long lines, sometimes just a few at a time.

"It's like a TV show, there are so many sometimes," he said.

"The landlord has requested that some [apartment] doors remain unlocked, so that the police can catch them and arrest them."

He said the transients "come like an army" in search of drugs and prostitutes. The drug users hide where they can, leaving their urine, feces and condoms for him to clean up.

He wishes a new owner would buy the building and make a real commitment to spend the money necessary to fix it.

The building is currently owned by Vincenzo Barrasso, a man identified in a 2003 Toronto Star investigation as one of the landlords whose properties are most frequently scrutinized by the city.

Gary Pedro, who moved into the Lansdowne Avenue apartment building in December, said the place gets a little hectic sometimes, but he's prepared to put up with the conditions because the rent is cheap.

A bachelor apartment rents for $495 a month, heat and utilities included, and a one-bedroom apartment goes for $725 a month.


Toronto Life Magazine,
May issue 2004

Neighbourhoods

Track Marks

For years, residents of this west end area fought for a better community. In the wake of Holly Jones’s murder, they are more determined than ever

Copyright by Andrea Curtis

 n the rigid grid of right-angled streets that is Toronto, Dundas West is an anomaly. Gently, almost imperceptibly easing northwest as it heads past Spadina, the former Dundas Highway then veers sharply northward at Lansdowne, tracing the edge of the CN rail line. But it is when the street intersects with Bloor, its east-west cousin, that all we hold to be true about the predictability of Toronto’s well-considered grid breaks down.

            It seems appropriate, then, that the other central tenet of the city’s self-image—that Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods—is also challenged by the community that takes Dundas West as its boundary. For the area that lies to the east of this meandering street (from Bloor to Dupont and east to Dufferin)—with its derelict industrial buildings lining the railway tracks and small residential streets packed with unreformed semi-detached homes—has never been quite a neighbourhood. At least not in the way that Cabbagetown and the Annex are neighbourhoods, with distinct qualities recognized both by residents and outsiders as indisputably anchored in those places. In contrast, this has long been an area in flux, a stopping place whose edges, habits and qualities are blurred, a wide swath of streets inhabited by both industry and people on the move, young people, and immigrants from Italy, Portugal, Sri Lanka and Brazil. Work, not community, has been the focus. In fact, if the neighbourhood (for we will call it one even though it defies the term) has been defined by anything it is the three working train tracks that slice through it like rusty knives from another era.

            Over a few terrible days last May, however, everything changed. When body parts belonging to schoolgirl Holly Jones were found in two bags off Toronto Island, the Bloor and Dundas West area where she lived and disappeared was no longer mutable and ill defined. It was clearly and horrifically marked.

            Searching for a familiar way to describe the neighbourhood, time-strapped reporters mistakenly called it Parkdale—a term, of course, with its own baggage. They also reminded readers of long-time problems with drugs and prostitution at Bloor and Lansdowne. Hysteria reached its zenith when police revealed that some 200 known sexual predators were believed to live within a three-kilometre radius of Jones’s home. (No matter that those three kilometres would encompass a large portion of the city’s downtown.) In June, when 35-year-old software developer Michael Briere, who lived a block northwest of the family, was arrested for Holly’s murder, the neighbourhood’s infamy was cemented in the public eye.

            In the days and weeks following the murder, residents came together to defend their community. As word of other attempted child abductions made the news, citizens patrolled the streets. Residents met regularly with police, and a group that called itself the Junction Triangle Action Committee organized a march to reclaim the neighbourhood. The emotionally charged actions of these citizens went a long way toward dispelling the notion that the area was riddled with perverts and criminals. And yet, a year later, locals are still sorting through the fallout. Still trying to understand how to transform that outpouring of solidarity into community activism capable of grappling not just with crime but with other pressing issues, such as gentrification, diversity and development. They are still asking themselves how, in the aftermath of a tragedy so unimaginable, does a neighbourhood move forward?

Caught in a narrow wedge forged by the divergence of the two northbound CN railway tracks, Sterling Road is an odd, twisty little street lined on its southern end with factories—a huge Nestlé’s  complex, Moloney Electric and an automotive plant, among others. It turns residential in the block south of Bloor (save for a few auto-body shops and the rambling low-rise Sterling Road lofts, home to artists, production companies and the Borealis recording studio), and it is here that Holly Jones’s family lived in a tract of modest two- and three-storey homes.

            They’d moved into the neighbourhood not long before Holly was abducted, after housing prices in nearby Roncesvalles Village, where they’d been for years, had skyrocketed. There are few trees on Sterling Road, and with most houses nudging up against the sidewalk, front gardens, if they exist at all, are of the postage stamp variety. A nearby aluminum plant reportedly makes the ground shake when it’s in full working mode. But it’s only a short walk to St. Luigi Catholic School, where Holly attended Grade 5, and a quick skip across Bloor Street to the Perth Randolph Neighbourhood Centre, where she sometimes hung out with friends.

            Across the street from her house, behind the live-work lofts and beside the railway tracks, some enterprising real estate developers have recently squeezed a set of pricey townhomes. There are also plans to build two apartment towers facing Bloor Street as part of a complex the developers call Be Bloor. But it’s hard to imagine even these ambitious new buildings making Sterling Road anything other than what it has always been—a gritty sort of place.

            Originally outside the city limits, the neighbourhood was annexed in the 1880s, but for a long time it remained an industrial no-man’s land, caught between West Toronto Junction, the booming railroad town just over the CN tracks, and Toronto proper. As a result, it didn’t develop as part of either municipality. There is no central piazza or street corner, no park or pub where the local wags gather. Even those emblematic rail lines, with their sound barriers and largely impassable fences, tend to divide street from street and neighbour from neighbour.

            City councillor Adam Giambrone grew up near Dufferin and Bloor and knows the community well. He knocked on thousands of doors in the lead-up to last fall’s election and in his previous incarnation as founder and president of the Davenport Municipal Association, but he also spent his formative years playing hockey and baseball in the local parks, and shopping with his family at the Bloor Street groceterias. He now lives on Salem Avenue, a few blocks east of his childhood home, and claims that the area’s identity is very much in the process of evolving.

            Sitting in his freshly painted office with a commanding view of Nathan Phillips Square, a brigade of his 20-something staffers buzzing around, the gangly, boyish-looking councillor pulls out a huge laminated map and a binder stuffed with stats about his ward. First of all, he says, compared with the rest of the city, there is a much greater concentration of 25- to 34-year-olds in the area. And what was once a predominantly Portuguese neighbourhood is now profoundly multicultural.

            “Two years ago, it was easy to be involved in this community because there were so few meetings—maybe one a month,” he laughs. Today, his agenda is bulging as a number of groups—made up of residents, artists and small business owners—have begun to organize.

            One of the sparks to this new civic engagement is the surge of redevelopment of old factory sites. Between 1987 and 1996, 15 firms—employing nearly 1,000 people—left the area. This abundance of land has recently made the community attractive to developers. Plus, it’s relatively cheap, close to downtown and has good access to transit. Today, the huge General Electric complex north of Dupont and Lansdowne, the American Standard factory south of it and the Galleria Mall site at Dufferin and Dupont are all being developed as major residential properties.

            Concerned with both the speed and magnitude of all this change (there are 1,650 new units in the Galleria proposal alone, which will also eliminate one of the few shopping areas), residents and business owners have been lobbying city planners, politicians and developers, and showing up to voice their reservations at OMB hearings. They want to make sure that the distinctly urban character of the neighbourhood is maintained. Which means, among other things, that any new streets need to be public thoroughfares (not gated off as was proposed for the American Standard site) and that developers agree to provide for parkland in a community woefully lacking in green space. There has also been talk about transforming a portion of the four-acre TTC lot on Lansdowne north of Bloor (the soil is contaminated and in the process of remediation) into a museum, community centre or park—a public space that could act as the geographical and emotional heart of the community.

            Recently, these neighbourhood activists have also been trying to give the area a name. Though the small enclave of homes and factories trapped between the railway tracks on the western edge has long been called the Junction Triangle, the rest of the community has never had a common moniker. The Westlands, the Tower District (for the distinctive water tower atop an old factory on Wallace Avenue) and Dupont Village have all been batted around. But respondents seem to agree that nothing proposed so far is quite right.

            Giambrone sweeps his hand over the map. “There are big challenges still,” he says with the relish of an overachiever. (At 27, he’s not only the youngest of the new municipal cadre, he’s also into his second term as president of the federal NDP, and is an archeologist fluent in both French and Arabic.) There are upcoming public hearings on redevelopment. He wants to convince planners to spend money in the area. And there’s the challenge of persuading the community’s many new immigrants to become part of the process.

            “There are so many languages spoken, a lot of housing turnover and residents—labourers, shift workers—not on regular nine to five schedules,” he explains. “This makes it extremely difficult to mobilize people. Still, after the Holly Jones murder, we saw people from all corners of the neighbourhood come together. There’s no question that people became more linked into what’s happening here. The question is, How long can this carry through?”

Bloor and Lansdowne is probably one of the most multicultural crossroads in the city. South Indian Dosa Mahal restaurant and the Buddhist Association of Canada rub shoulders with El Amigo karaoke and the House of Cheung Chinese Food Tavern. During the day, it’s a busy, energetic place as befits a transit hub and local commercial mecca. The eastbound strip of Bloor is packed with high school kids and families—mothers and children headed to the nearby Tamil Co-op loaded down with shopping bags, strollers and Spiderman backpacks.

            At night, however, the corner takes on a sinister tone. A jittery 20-year-old in a red tuque and shiny brown jacket strides purposefully, looking over his shoulder every few paces. A girl in a tight tiger-print skirt and knee-high boots stands just off the main drag, near the old movie theatre turned dollar store, her pose simultaneously defensive and expectant. The street is jammed with cars, but the sidewalks are empty. Orange neon flashes the words  “Indian Cuisine” in one window, but most storefronts have pulled protective gates across their doors and glass fronts.

            Complaints about drug dealing, prostitution and the criminal spinoffs that go along with them, as well as a lack of consistent police presence in the area, have been commonplace for years. Locals say they stay away from Bloor and Lansdowne after dark.

            The one- or two-block radius around the main intersection is seen as the locus of the problem, but there are other trouble spots. The whole strip of Lansdowne running north from Bloor to Dupont is a tightrope of drug activity, the transactions migrating north or south as police apply pressure. And a particularly dilapidated 22-storey apartment just northeast of Lansdowne and Dupont—one of the most notorious buildings in the city—is the site of drug dealing and violence, not to mention more calls to the fire department than the rest of the neighbourhood combined.

            The abduction and murder of a local child, of course, served to heighten everyone’s worries about crime and safety. What was once a slow-simmering problem—not very different from other downtown areas—became a full-blown crisis. For many, it was a galvanizing moment.

            Terry Downey, an investigator for the Human Rights Commission, has lived in a co-op at Bloor and Perth for 13 years. She didn’t get involved in local politics, however, until Holly, who was a friend of her daughter’s, disappeared. At the first meeting of the Junction Triangle Action Committee, Downey realized that while she was friendly with many people in her building, she knew almost no one in the larger community.

            “It became clear that in order to make the neighbourhood feel safe we would have to get to know each other,” she explains. “We all felt that it could have been our child. We formed a bond over it—a bond that continues. I can walk down the street and people still come up to me. We are an incredibly diverse group, but none of us wants our children to live in fear.”

            In the days and months after Holly’s disappearance, watchful parents gripped their children’s hands as they walked them to school. Parks lay vacant. Police held a crash course in streetproofing, and residents called on Chief Fantino (who lived on Perth Avenue when he first came to Canada) to send more police cars and foot patrols into the area. Even deep into last summer, the dead-end streets that back onto the CN railway tracks—the site of fiercely contested street hockey games—were unusually quiet.

            With the passing of a year, some of that initial vigilance has softened. It’s a natural, even positive, step for the grieving neighbourhood, but according to Downey, it also has its downside. “Folks have become a little complacent,” she explains. “It’s not that they’ve forgotten. They’d just rather not think about what happened here. But we have to if we want our community to be strong.”

There’s a large bouquet of coloured balloons caught in the branches of a tree in the centre of the windswept corridor that is Wallace Emerson Park. The balloons have long ago wheezed out their last breath, and the once vibrant hues are dulled by car exhaust and dirt. The deflated scraps flap in the breeze, as if struggling to escape. The park, just south of Dufferin and Dupont, is the length of a long city block and the width of a four-lane highway. It is the area’s largest green space, but its only access points are from the Galleria Mall parking lot immediately to its north and an anonymous entrance off Dufferin Street. It’s frequented mainly by old men, young male basketball players and pit bulls. There is a playground, a bocce court, a skating rink/ basketball court, plus a large hill on the west side to break the monotony, but Wallace Emerson still looks abandoned and forlorn.

            Artist Dyan Marie, founder of a two-year-old community group called DIG IN (Dupont Improvement Group: Improving the Neighbourhood), however, aims to change all that. And she’s starting this spring with a $50,000 grant to create an art-filled walking path through the park.

            Drinking tea in her drafty studio near Dupont and Campbell, paintings for her recent show stacked against the walls, Marie is slight and unpretentious. But the energetic artist’s passion for the community is contagious. The proposed path, she explains, will wind its way toward Emerson Avenue, down to the now almost entirely treeless Lappin Avenue and across the CN rail tracks to Campbell Street Park. She calls it an “art-embedded” walking system, a sort of plein-air gallery with individual works created by local tradespeople and artists. “Our idea is that people can use the park and path as a community centre. It will be a source of pride and indigenous expression.” 

            The notion of a walkway that doubles as public art and community centre is an imaginative starting point for a neighbourhood that is just beginning to define itself, just beginning to sort out what it is if it isn’t all about industry and work. And if it happens at the same time as an intelligent redevelopment of the windowless monolith that is the Galleria Mall (with its dreary Zellers, smoke shop and food court), it could go a long way toward liberating the park from its moribund state.

            “There are so many issues facing this neighbourhood,” says Marie. “All the new development, the lack of services, safety concerns, a long history of being unengaged. But as an artist, I really believe that if you change your environment you can change a mindset.”

            It’s an exciting concept, and if Marie is right, the rejuvenated park could be a catalyst for the community. After all, great parks do have a way of defining the neighbourhood around them (think High Park, Withrow, Dufferin Grove)—and the ability to draw together people from disparate walks of life. If the murder of Holly Jones forced people both inside and outside the community to see the worst of this area, perhaps something that celebrates the best—the skills and talents of its residents—can help build a new sense of engagement and vitality.

            In fact, according to Marie, it’s already begun. Last spring, she initiated a community-based art project that looked specifically at the impact the murder had on the neighbourhood. With the help of photographer Edward Burtynsky, his photo lab Image Works, Kodak Canada and Agfa Inc., Marie handed out 250 disposable cameras to local residents—school kids and seniors, anyone who’d take one—and asked them to use the cameras to express their grief and outrage about the murder.

            What Marie got back surprised and delighted her: images that captured the spirit of a community, of old holding tanks for industrial waste, pictures of the inside of one family’s fridge, friends mugging for the camera and a closeup of the Lord’s Prayer on a classroom wall, among others. She’s showing these and other photographs in an exhibition later this year.

            “In some strange way, the murder, horrible as it was, created a common experience,” she says, leaning in to emphasize her point. “There was a certain kind of jelling around it. Not focused on revenge so much as cleaning up our neighbourhood, getting to know our neighbours.” She pauses, then says quietly, “More people know each other now.”

            Maybe something good came out of something very bad.


Toronto Star
Pubdate: November 9, 1988 Page: A8 Section: NEWS Edition: FIN Length: 81
Tavern dispute ends in beating, robbery
A Mississauga man bumped into another patron going to a strip
joint washroom and ended up being knocked out and robbed of $300
last night.
Micheal Cuthbert, 19, of Bloor St. E. told police he had words
with the man after the incident in the House of Lancaster on
Bloor St. W. and then they went out to fight in the lane behind
the tavern.
Cuthbert was knocked unconscious and was robbed of $300.
Police are looking for a suspect.

Toronto Star
Pubdate: December 04, 2005 Page: A3 Section: News Edition: MET Length: 365
NEWS TICKER
Byline/Source: From Star staff, wire services
Long line to gobble Ed's free turkeys
About 1,200 families will enjoy turkey and fruitcake courtesy of
Honest Ed Mirvish's 17th annual holiday handout.
People were expected to line up and wait for hours at the Bloor
St. W. and Bathurst store for the giveaway, which starts at 10
a.m. today.
"There are some people who say that if Mirvish didn't
do this, they wouldn't have a turkey at Christmas," a
store spokesman said.
Shooting
No leads after man wounded at strip club
A man was wounded in a west-end strip club after an argument
broke out early yesterday morning, police said.
Police say the victim, who is in his mid 20s, was shot in the
leg at about 1 a.m. in the House of Lancaster, near Bloor and
Lansdowne Sts.
He was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Police say the victim is not being co-operative and they have no
leads on suspects.
Etobicoke
Man, 79, killed while crossing Islington
A 79-year-old Toronto man is dead after being hit by a car in
Etobicoke.
The man was crossing Islington Ave. at about 5 p.m. Friday at
the intersection of Highway 401 when he was struck by a car
travelling north on Islington Ave.
He was declared dead at the scene.
The man's name is being withheld at the request of his
next-of-kin.
Earthquake
DART members back in Trenton
Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team has returned
home to Trenton, Ont., after providing relief to the people of
Pakistan.
The DART was deployed on Oct. 12 to help aid the Muzaffarabad
region of Pakistan, which was severely damaged days earlier by an
earthquake
During their mission, the team provided medical treatment to
nearly 12,000 people.

From Star staff, wire services
Keywords/StoryType/Column/Series: digest; shootings traffic accident death Toronto
Toronto Star
Pubdate: September 20, 2003 Page: A10 Section: News Edition: MET Length: 230
NDP criticizes Liberal incumbent for taking donations from strip club
Byline/Source: By Melissa Leong Toronto Star
An Ontario NDP candidate in the riding of Davenport is
calling on the Liberal candidate to explain donations he received
from a local strip club.
NDP candidate Jordan Berger says Elections Ontario's public
documents show Liberal incumbent Tony Ruprecht accepted more than
$4,000 in donations from the House of Lancaster, a Bloor St. W.
strip club.
Ruprecht's riding association received seven contributions
from the strip club from 1988 to 1999, despite Ruprecht's
public fight against strip clubs in the community, Berger said.
An eighth contribution, in 1992, for the amount of $450, was
made by House of Lancaster owner Terry Koumoudouris.
"It's an issue of hypocrisy," Berger told
reporters yesterday.
Ruprecht said he was unaware of the donations.
The donations were brought to Berger's attention by an
article in NOW Magazine that highlighted Ruprecht's
fundraising.
Ruprecht, who's been in office for more than 20 years,
first in the riding of Parkdale, then Davenport, said he
can't keep track of all of his contributors.
"Every year, there's probably about 200 contributors
to the association. How are you going to know everything that
every person does?" he said.
Keywords/StoryType/Column/Series: Ontario election candidate misconduct

Toronto Star
Pubdate: December 23, 2002 Page: B3 Section: News Edition: MET Length: 567
Events bring out little smiles Christmas party at Liberty Grand attracts hundreds Business owner gives out turkeys on Bloor St. W.
Photo Caption: Andrew Stawicki/toronto star Shantel Sam gets Santa Claus all to herself for a few moments at yesterday's Liberty Grand Christmas party. The event was held for some of the families in Toronto's Parkdale area. Andrew Stawicki/toronto star Abigail Planta brandishes her treats at yesterday's Christmas party at the Liberty Grand entertainment complex. Andrew Stawicki/toronto star Weidong Wong enjoys a Christmas party with his 15-month-old son, Dinny, at the Liberty Grand entertainment complex at Exhibition Place yesterday. Around 400 kids from Parkdale were invited. Rick Madonik/toronto star Spiro Koumoudouros, co-owner of the House of Lancaster, offers turkey to people on Margueretta St. and Bloor St. W. yesterday.; Abigail Planta Andrew Stawicki/toronto star Abigail Planta brandishes her treats at yesterday's Christmas party at the Liberty Grand entertainment complex. Andrew Stawicki/toronto star Weidong Wong enjoys a Christmas party with his 15-month-old son, Dinny, at the Liberty Grand entertainment complex at Exhibition Place yesterday. Around 400 kids from Parkdale were invited. [cascadeid]h7jjkiz3 h7jnacz3 h7jnazz3 h7jkkwz3[/cascadeid]
Byline/Source: By Mary Gordon Toronto Star
The Liberty Grand entertainment complex is a place so elegant
you could take a perfect wedding picture at every turn. The
House of Lancaster is an adult entertainment parlour where it's
safe to say you couldn't.
The two have little in common, but yesterday there was no
mistaking the charity at each.
Liberty Entertainment Group runs the Liberty Grand and owns
several big Toronto nightclubs, such as Joker and Left Bank.
In 2001, it spent about $6 million and lavishly renovated the
76-year-old former Province of Ontario building at Exhibition
Place, turning it into rental halls for formal affairs.
Yesterday the place was filled with Parkdale kids and their
parents, invited there for an afternoon Christmas party.
At one end of a ballroom, kids knelt on chairs and stuck
candies on dark gingerbread men. At the other, kids bounced in a
huge, inflatable jumping gym while logos of corporate sponsors -
the Raptors, the Toronto Police Service, Montana's Restaurant -
faded in and out on three film screens lining the wall.
Christmas carols playing from the DJ table boomed too loudly for
the adults to chat, but the kids didn't seem to care.
Next door in the Renaissance Room, staff polished heavy
flatware so that all would be ready when the guests came for
Christmas dinner.
They would soon be sitting on the scarlet-and-gold upholstered
chairs, eating turkey while listening to classical music piping
through the speakers and gazing on to the gray-blue waves of
Lake Ontario through huge, draped windows.
"This building has been here for almost 100 years and it has
always been a part of the public space," said Nick Di Donato,
Liberty's president and CEO. The party was to let the
neighbourhood in and give them an experience that perhaps many
had never had, he said.
City Councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski (Ward 14, Parkdale-High
Park), said it took about six months to plan the day for the
kids. "It's not going to be the greatest Christmas for them. So
today, everybody is giving their time for the kids of the
community."
It was for that same reason that Spiro Koumoudouros, co-owner
of the decades-old House of Lancaster II strip club, was handing
out free turkeys to some 1,200 people. Some had waited five or
six hours for a place and by early afternoon, two huge lines had
formed on Bloor St. W.
One line, for those without vouchers, curled west, while
another, for people with vouchers, stretched east toward
Dufferin St.
Voucher or no, everyone would eat, Koumoudouros said.
He grew up poor in Greece before moving here in 1970, where he
joined his brother, who had opened a 24-hour restaurant near
Dundas St. W. and Kipling Ave. For years they worked 18 hours a
day, seven days a week, Koumoudouros said.
"I'm very proud," he said, handing out the turkeys in white
plastic bags on Margueretta St., which police had closed off for
the event.
"This is our fifth year doing this. This country has been so
nice for myself and my brother. We've worked very hard and we
are supporting our community."
Across the way, a rock band called Blackwell played "Pink
Houses" by John Mellencamp, amended slightly for the crowd:
"Now ain't that Canada, you and me,
Ain't that Canada, it's something to see, baby,
Ain't that Canada, home of the free ...
Little pink houses for you and me."


Toronto Star
Pubdate: February 21, 1998 Page: A24 Section: NEWS Edition: SA2 Length: 350
Lap dance ruling will kill clubs, owner says Court's decision means 200 charges can be prosecuted
Byline/Source: By Jim Rankin TORONTO STAR
Terry Koumoudouros says his chances of surviving in the strip
club business went out the window with the Supreme Court refusal
to hear an appeal of Toronto's bylaw that forbids any contact
between exotic dancers and patrons.
"You have to write us off, I think," said Koumoudouros, a
director of the Ontario Adult Bar Entertainment Association,
which was involved in the legal challenge and has about 60
members.
Koumoudouros, who co-owns The House of Lancaster One and Two
with a brother, has maintained that Toronto's bylaw would open
the doors for the underground sex industry and kill the strip
club industry.
Yesterday, after yet another visit from a Toronto bylaw
enforcement officer, Koumoudouros vowed he would fight
outstanding bylaw infraction charges against his business, but
conceded he's losing hope.
"I don't want, have never wanted, any sexual contact in my
clubs," he said. "They're here looking for little things like
any physical contact? Well, what about looking at what's going
on underground in the massage parlours and escort services?
"It's so hypocritical. They've tried to destroy me and they're
going to destroy the strip club industry."
The Supreme Court refusal, announced Thursday, means about 200
charges against Toronto owners and dancers that have been on
hold will now proceed, with the eager participation of the
Toronto Licencing Commission.
"We will, within the confines of the court schedule, get these
matters back before the court and be very aggressive in
prosecuting them," said Carol Ruddell-Foster, general manager of
the licencing commission.
Steep fines
If found guilty of violating the ban, individual dancers can
be fined up to $25,000, and businesses as much as $50,000, said
licencing prosecution officer Amanda Ross.
While many of Toronto's 60 or so adult entertainment clubs
complied or made efforts to comply with the bylaw, others did
not, said Ruddell-Foster. About half of the clubs are facing
charges.
"But there were two or three clubs who have just ignored it,
completely," Ruddell-Foster said. "So, we've been out charging
them and, I guess, each one thought they were coming home to
roost on this (leave to appeal)."

Keywords/StoryType/Column/Series: Supreme Court of Canada Toronto nudity bylaw
Toronto Star
Pubdate: July 8, 1997 Page: A11 Section: NEWS Edition: MET Length: 292
Strip club manager just a 'foot soldier' But he's fined $1,500 on bawdy house charges
Byline/Source: By Donna Jean MacKinnon TORONTO STAR
A manager of a west Toronto strip joint was found guilty
yesterday of "knowingly permitting a premise to be used as a
common bawdy house."
Peter Sokirakos, 61, night manager of the House of Lancaster
on Bloor St. W., was fined $1,500, which he has six months to
pay.
Judge Bruno Cavion threw out the more serious charge of
keeping a common bawdy house because Sokirakos was a mere
manager and only one of the "foot soldiers" acting on behalf of
the owners.
Three men, including doorman Donny Cilic, 45, and "freelance"
maintenance man Orlando Thorpe, 31, also charged in the police
raid in January, 1996, were acquitted, along with "found-ins"
and 18 "scantily-clad" women. Another man was acquitted earlier
for lack of evidence.
"I have no doubt that acts of indecency and prostitution
regularly occurred there and that customers did touch dancers
and dancers touched them," Cavion said.
The judge also said that Sokirakos knew what was going on
around him.
Metro police testified that the adult entertainment at the
House of Lancaster violated Toronto's "no-touching" bylaw,
passed Aug. 19, 1995.
Four undercover officers, who posed as customers in January,
1996, testified that dancers attempted to put their nipples in
the officers' mouths and ground their bare buttocks into their
groin area.
Crown prosecutor Calvin Barry called for the $1,500 fine.
Outside of court, defence lawyer Brian Greenspan said that the
sentence clearly upheld the no-touching bylaw, but "it does not
criminalize nude dancing."
Barry commented that the conviction sends a message that the
public will not tolerate sex-for-money.
He added that the real deterrent for the owners of the House
of Lancaster will occur when they appear before the Metro
Licensing Commission and the Liquor Licensing Board of Ontario.

Keywords/StoryType/Column/Series: Toronto nudity prostitution verdict
Toronto Star
Pubdate: January 5, 1997 Page: A7 Section: NEWS Edition: SU1 Length: 192
Licence officer charged after club made 'loan'
Byline/Source: Kenny Yum Toronto Star
A Metro licensing officer has been charged with breach of
trust and corruption after a man took a $500 "loan" from a
Toronto strip club, police say.
Metro police say the man used his position to get money from
Spiro Koumouvouros, 51, a co-owner of the House of Lancaster
Tavern. An employee had marked the bills before handing over the
cash, police said.
Terry Koumouvouros, 57, who owns two Lancaster strip clubs
with his brother Spiro, said he received a call early Friday
afternoon from an employee of his Bloor St. club. He was told
that a man was asking Spiro for a loan for his sister.
"I asked (the employee) to mark down the serial numbers," said
Terry Koumouvouros. "I would call the cops."
The man came back to the club by 4 p.m. Terry told Spiro to
stall him while he and two Metro police officers watched.
The man left the club after Spiro gave him $500.
Police then made an arrest.
Reginald Decouteau, 50, of Sherhill Dr. in Mississauga has
been charged with breach of trust by a public officer, municipal
corruption and corruption of a municipal official.

Keywords/StoryType/Column/Series: Toronto police misconduct charge
Toronto Star
Pubdate: December 8, 1989 Page: A3 Section: NEWS Edition: FIN Length: 306
31 face drug charges after raids at strip club, disco in west Toronto
Photo Caption: Star photo (Stancu): police arresting suspect
Byline/Source: By Henry Stancu Toronto Star
A total of 59 charges were laid against 31 people in drug
sweeps at a strip club and a disco in west-end Toronto last
night.
About 100 officers, some brought to the scene in a large Metro
police bus, raided the Kiss To An End disco on Dovercourt Rd.
and The House of Lancaster Tavern on Bloor St. W. at 10.30 p.m.
The suspects arrested were named on warrants and small
quantities of cocaine were seized during the raids, each of
which lasted no more than an hour.
Unlike previous street-level sweeps for cocaine dealers in the
area, last night's raid involved the arrests of people
identified and targetted by undercover investigators, said Staff
Sergeant Ron Tavener of 14 Division.
"Most of the charges are (for) drug trafficking and . . . some
weapons charges," Tavener said.
Those arrested last night were loaded into paddy wagons and
taken to a makeshift detention centre at Metro's police station
in Exhibition Place because there were too many people to be
held at the 14 Division cells.
Undercover probe
They were all expected to appear at old city hall Provincial
Court today.
Last night's raids were part of an undercover drug
investigation that has been going since last summer.
Police vowed to clean up the drug-plagued neighborhood after
local residents complained of addicts dealing and using drugs on
their streets and in restaurants.
The area around Bloor and Lansdowne is the scene of almost
daily raids on crack houses - places where the drug crack
cocaine is used and sold - and street dealers.
Cocaine is the main drug being sold, although police find
small amounts of marijuana and hashish.
A team of undercover police officers has infiltrated the local
drug scene and investigators gave the credit for last night's
arrests to their difficult and often dangerous work.

Keywords/StoryType/Column/Series: Toronto drug charge
Toronto Star
Pubdate: January 15, 2005 Page: A4 Section: News Edition: MET Length: 284
Fitting the pieces together
Photo Caption: BRIAN HUGHES / TORONTO STAR GRAPHIC Judy Sgro; Joe Volpe; House of Lancaster; Harjit Singh; Strip club advertising near Parliament last month.; pizza slice
Byline/Source: Toronto Star files, Research by Star Library
Judy Sgro resigned from her post as immigration
minister yesterday after an allegation surfaced that she has
traded political favours for pizza and campaign help. The
allegation came from Harjit Singh in a court affidavit.
Judy Sgro: Denies accusations she offered a Brampton man asylum
in Canada in return for providing volunteers and food during her
campaign last spring.
Katherine Abbott: Singh claims that Wons said it was Sgro staff
member Katherine Abbott who had spilled the beans about his case
and other.
Harjit Singh: Brampton pizza shop owner who claims Sgro
pressured him to supply the food and volunteers.
Alina Balaican: The 25-year-old refugee claimant, a stripper
from Romania, was granted a minister's permit to stay in
Canada after working in Sgros' election campaign.
Joe Volpe: After heat from "strippergate," the human
resources and skills development minister cancelled the exotic
dancer program which gave women temporary work permits to strip
in Canada. He has been appointed to replace Sgro as immigration
minister.
Terry Koumoudouros : The president of House of Lancaster strip
club met with Wons to ask for help bringing 18 strippers from the
Domincan Republic into the country.
Ihor Wons: Last summer, the senior policy adviser for Sgro met
with the co-owner of a Toronto strip club who wanted help getting
strippers into the country. Wons later told the club owner he
couldn't help. When the matter became public, he took a
month-long leave of absence and has not returned to work.
Keywords/StoryType/Column/Series: resignation government Canada Judy Sgro chronology



Not the Village, yet: The strip of Bloor West from Christie to Dundas West is gaining a reputation as a family community
Lisa Van de Ven
National Post
1003 words
8 February 2003
National Post
Toronto
PH1 / Front
English
(c) National Post 2003. All Rights Reserved.
This is not Bloor West Village. Its shops are not as chic, its residents are more diverse and its history is not quite as crime free.

The strip of Bloor Street West -- stretching from Christie Street to Dundas Street West -- does not have quite the same reputation as its neighbour to the west. But the area is beginning to change: Younger people are moving in -- couples with families and singles -- attracted by lower rents and housing prices, by a diverse community and easy access to the Bloor subway line.

"It's a beautiful area to live in, and I think that's the view of the vast majority of people who live there. But it has its pressures and its challenges," says Mario Silva, city councillor for the Davenport riding. "I think overall there are many positive things the community can celebrate, and I think certainly the area is improving."

With a new official urban plan recently approved by city council for the Lansdowne to Dundas West strip, changes are underway. According to Mr. Silva, the Toronto city planning department will be offering new opportunities for redevelopment in the area, and it has been studying the strip for the past year to determine new zonings.

"There was a lot of industrial land that had been abandoned, and there was a lot of discussion for many years on building condos or apartments," Mr. Silva says.

Some development has already begun in the Lansdowne and Bloor area, but even east of that, things are changing. Younger people are moving in, making their homes in a neighbourhood that was largely transitional and primarily made up of new immigrants.

As they invest in the neighbourhood in which they plan to raise their children, these young families are starting to have an impact on the community.

"I think there's definitely a younger group moving in, and I think these people are fixing up the houses," says Jon Long, co-owner of music store Long & McQuade, on Bloor Street at Ossington Avenue. "I think the house prices are going up."

Toronto Real Estate Board statistics show local housing prices are on the rise. The prices for the general area surrounding that section of Bloor ranged from $269,289 to $330,677 for 2002, up as much as 12% a year earlier in some parts of the community.

The central location, says Mr. Long, is a strong selling point for potential buyers.

Sandra Parris, who has lived in the area for 50 years, agrees. "I think it's due to the fact we're very, very central."

While the neighbourhood's reputation is one of a lower-class area, Ms. Parris says many of the residents do well financially.

What is true is its diversity -- neighbours from a range of income levels and ethnicities live side by side in the areas on either side of Bloor. Community members range from Portuguese, to East and West Indian, to Italian and Korean. "It's a mixed area, which I like," Ms. Parris says.

That diversity is not new. The area has long been the destination of immigrants to Toronto who are attracted by cheaper rents and who leave as soon as they can afford more. "It's a very migrant type of population. A lot of people come here, they rent houses or apartments, then they move on once they get established," says Vito Pasquariello, chairman of the Bloordale Village Business Improvement Area (BIA), which runs between Lansdowne and Dufferin along Bloor. "It's been a lot like that. And it seems like the businesses follow that trend as well."

Mr. Pasquariello's father has owned a business on Bloor for 42 years, and they have seen the area change since then, from predominantly Italian, to Portuguese, to the mixed ethnic community it is now.

Drug and prostitution problems remain the main concerns for residents and local businesses, the younger Mr. Pasquariello says, but the area is starting to see some gentrification.

A Subway sandwich shop recently opened at Dufferin and Bloor, a block away from Dufferin Mall. The local business associations are trying to build on that, setting goals to improve this strip of Bloor and working on beautifying the streetscape to attract more shoppers.

Residents of the area also are working to improve their homes. "Most of them are really keeping their houses up nicely and their lawns and their flowers and their gardens -- it's just a pleasure to walk up and down the streets," says Anna Zapatal, chairman of the Bloorcourt Village BIA, which runs from Montrose Avenue to Dufferin along Bloor. "It's not a high-class district, but it's certainly a nice area, a nice neighbourhood."

Fritz vandenHeuvel, one of the younger homeowners in the area, has renovated his house to make a home for his young family. He moved into the community just west of Dufferin and south of Bloor about five years ago. While they were not looking to buy specifically in the area at the time, the house they bought fit their requirements and was within walking distance from the subway station. "We were looking for a house we could renovate, that was inexpensive," he says. "The prices were reasonable."

He recently joined a new neighbourhood group, The Bloordale Villagers' Association, which is mandated to make the area safer, cleaner and more attractive to residents.

Like many others in the neighbourhood, he sees change ahead as local residents get more involved. "I like the area," he says. "It could use some improvements, but I think it's up and coming."

Ms. Zapatal agrees. "I think it could become very trendy," she says.

Color Photo: Kevin Van Paassen, National Post / MOVING UP: The neighbourhood east of Bloor West Village is growing in popularity because of its central location and diverse residents.

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