"These people deserve to be treated with dignity!'

Tenants and homeowners concerned about the CSL Road project talk amongst themselves on one of two occasions the demolition committee meeting descended into disarray.

A Hampstead demolition committee — composed of Mayor William Steinberg and councillors Michael Goldwax and Warren Budning— have deferred a decision whether to approve the demolition of 5781-5783 Côte St. Luc Road, which owner Mitchell Abrahams wants to transform into a nine-storey luxury apartment building.

The committee will make that decision 7 pm, Monday, July 15 during a meeting at the Adessky Community Centre at Hampstead Park. This will be followed by a public consultation there at 8 pm.

The deferral followed a raucous demolition committee meeting at the Adessky Community Centre last Wednesday which on occasion degenerated into disarray as a presentation on the project was frequently interrupted and voices were raised.

Numerous tenants of the current apartment buildings, many of them vulnerable including seniors, children and resident Marie Pontini in a wheelchair, were on hand to speak against the demolition of their longtime home.

“It comes down to people not feeling like they’re the trash that’s going in the bin every Tuesday,” said resident Elana Hersh, who explained that many tenants are distressed. “That’s what it comes down to.”

“That’s not what we want to do,” said Mayor William Steinberg.

“But that’s how it feels,” Hersh responded. “I’m going to trust the word of the people here that they’re going to hear us. People want to be treated with dignity!”

“We will,” the Mayor responded.

The July 15 public consultation meeting on the proposed spot zoning project will be followed by a multi-day period in which area residents can sign a petition to call for a register to oppose the spot zoning. Should enough residents sign the register (a number is forthcoming), the town could hold a referendum for people in the affected zones or not approve the project.

Steinberg said the demolition committee was deferring because of the many concerns expressed about tenants possibly having to move.

“That’s the key issue,” he added. “Therefore, an acceptable relocation plan is crucial. We agree with that. I have heard different things from the developers, and it is not clear enough to me what their relocation plan is. I hope they will get, in writing, a very clear relocation plan. Once we get that, we will put a copy in every person’s mailbox in the two buildings. Then, we will make a decision whether to approve the demolition.”

Steinberg emphasized that such a decision “would not be the end of the story.

“It’s only one step. There’s the public consultation on July 15, and the period to sign a petition to request a register. It’s obvious there will be a register. We’re being transparent.”

Also present at the meeting was Jonathan Goldbloom, spokesman for property owner Mitchell Abrahams, who is requesting the demolition.

“It’s not surprising people would be upset about the possibility of having to move,” Goldbloom told The Suburban. “I think we have a detailed relocation plan and we’ll certainly come forward with it before the July 15 meeting. We will do our best to help these people relocate.”

We pointed out that it was brought up that many of the tenants are vulnerable.

“It’s interesting that the building doesn’t have proper handicapped access in its current structure,” Goldbloom said. “Certainly, it’s upsetting for them and we appreciate that, and we’ll do what we can to find comparable housing.”

The tenants of the two buildings on CSL Road were not the only ones at the meeting unhappy with the project. So were some Queen Mary Road homeowners, who live behind where the nine-storey building would be.

“There’s a question about what’s going to happen to our trees from their demolition and the change in the sunlight,” said Queen Mary resident Nancy Sherer. “We have cedars that are taller than the existing building, and I don’t know what’s going to happen to them. And what’s going to happen to our foundations if they’re doing this construction?”

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