downtown kids

letters to Toronto City Councillor Doug Holyday

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How can you govern our city?

Dear Doug,

I was saddened to read transcripts of your comments both in council and to the press. I have had friendly debates on this issue with a number of my out-of-town friends. I can understand when someone who is not “of the city” cannot grasp the idea of living “in the city”: It is dense and loud and busy.

However, you are the deputy mayor of the largest urban centre in the nation. To hear this misinformed rhetoric from you leads me to draw only two possible conclusions; first, you are completely out of touch with your city-wide constituency; and/or second, you are compromising your office at the behest of the developers regarding the 10% rule.

Either way, you are failing in your civic mandate. For the record, I am both pro-city and pro-development.

Andrew Gallifent

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Dear Councillor Holyday,

My almost three-year-old daughter was born downtown (at St Michael’s
Hospital, where I couldn’t have asked for better care; they literally
saved my life). This was not by chance but rather by choice. My
husband and I want her to be a downtown kid.

Our daughter is now being raised in a wonderful neighbourhood near
Dupont & Shaw. The people around us span multiple generations; they
boast a wide array of heritage and ethnicity. Some live in big houses
while others live in apartments. Yet we all share the same space.

It’s a space with parks and trees; it’s a space with a variety of
small, local businesses; it’s a space where we can walk to a number of
quality grocery stores in as little as four minutes. It’s a space with
good schools and good friends who have no trouble finding a place to
play with my daughter. This is our neighbourhood, but the same values
are found all over downtown Toronto.

We’re lucky to live in a city where we don’t need to drive to reach
our destination. We take buses and subways and streetcars. Most of the
time we walk, enjoying the fresh air, the vibrant scenery, the
different people we meet and the time we spend together.

We love the diversity and balance offered to us by city life. We
understand that being a downtown family is not ideal for everyone, but
seeing our daughter grow happier and healthier each day makes us
certain it’s ideal for us.

Sincerely,
Nirmala Basnayake
with Patrick Fleming
and Margo Fleming

Attached photos: 1. Taking in the architecture at the Art Gallery of Ontario 2. Hanging around in Christie Pits playground (one of five parks within walking distance of our house) 3. Admiring the clover in Withrow Park.

(sent today to Councillor Doug Holyday)

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Dear Councillor Holyday,

My husband and I live at Queen and McCaul with our one-year-old son.

That’s about a 10 minute leisurely stroll from King and John. We have considered moving, because we need more space, but every time we see a place we can afford, it’s so far from the downtown core.

So we decide our location wins out over our space. We would much rather live in this vibrant downtown community than move away for a few hundred feet more room. We spend our days going across the street to Grange Park, which is at the top of John street. The park is full of families. There’s a nice little playground, where I have met lots of moms and dads of kids ranging from infant to 9 and 10. We talk about how great it is to live downtown and all the kid-friendly activities there are. We love to participate in the “Growing Up Healthy Downtown" programs at the University Settlement Community Centre, also located in Grange Park. We have music class every Tuesday and parent-tot swim class every Wednesday. They are packed with parents and kids.

As members of the Art Gallery of Ontario, we have free access to their hands-on learning centre, as well as visits to the gallery any time we want to. There are 3 great libraries within a few kilometres that hold storytimes in the mornings (including the City Hall library and the Lillian H. Smith Library, which houses the largest collection of Children’s literature in Canada). 

In the afternoons, we stroll along Queen Street, sometimes going to the Eaton Centre, sometimes going west. There are great coffee shops and kid-friendly restaurants and stores. We take a trip down to King and John for the Farmer’s market at Metro Hall on Thursdays, where we can play in David Pecault Square, pick up some fresh produce and enjoy a locally baked cookie. We also visit the Nathan Phillip’s Square farmer’s market on Wednesdays and go up the ramp to the roof-top garden. My son loves to wave hello to all the people we meet. We took him to Riverdale Farm for his first birthday. The chickens were a big hit.

I’m a short walk from my job at the University of Toronto, which means that I can spend more time with my family because I don’t have to commute.

We love living downtown, and make full use of the programs, parks and markets. Judging by the other happy children we meet every day, many other families feel the same. I hope you will reconsider your remarks and spend some time exploring the diverse resources that downtown actually has to offer before you make sweeping generalizations about families in your city.

Regards,
Amber Gertzbein

p.s. the pictures here include: our son learning to walk on the grass at Grange park, at Riverdale park with dad and looking at the chickens at Riverdale Farm.


(sent to Councillor Doug Holyday)

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Dear Doug,

Hi, we haven’t met but I’m your neighbour.  

I live in the west end of the city - a little further north than the downtown elites - but well within the boundaries of what has always been Toronto.

I am the mother of one extremely social and outgoing toddler. Before my son was born I struggled with my feelings about this city. I was frequently overwhelmed and used to feeling out of my element.

Since my son has been born I have had the pleasure of seeing this city transform.  

Every little crack seems to have sprouted a flower. Now I know the women who run the local grocery store — in fact, they are my girlfriends. The people at the drug store remember us and chit-chat about the news of the day. At the park, the girls who guard the splash pad greet us by name and make us feel like we are famous. We visit the Early Years centres several times a week, and I am blown away by the wonderful and diverse women who run these programs. I am proud to know them.

I grew up in a much smaller city - far more dangerous than this one - where I had half the sense of community in my neighbourhood.  We are very lucky here to have the parks that we do, the neighbours that we do, the resources that we do.

I am so grateful for my son, who has opened my eyes to the community that is all around me. In fact, I didn’t really live in Toronto until I had a child here.

Your neighbour,
Carla Mundwiler

(sent today to Councillor Doug Holyday and cc’ed to Councillor Ana Bailao)

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To the uncelebrated “Holyday”

I grew up downtown and I can tell you that every memory of my childhood is filled with wonder, excitement, inquisitiveness, love and compassion. I know you had some concerns about where children would play, as that is, without a doubt any parent’s greatest concern in raising a child. </endsarcasm>

Rest assured, I did not play King St. traffic. (Also, your conclusion triggers further concern over the brainpower of the individuals working for our great city.) 

A vibrant downtown core works to feed and encourage child curiosity, offer exposure to magnificence, encourage acceptance of all that is not mediocre and drive ambition.

Quite frankly, Mr. Holyday, yours is an example of a closed-minded attitude that children raised in the suburbs are at risk of developing.

 

Yours Truly, 

Stevana — A Downtown Gal