Chris Hume: It’s Critical that Toronto Now says 'No' to Porter
Toronto Star Columnist and Waterfront Champion Urges City Council to Reject Jet Proposals TORONTO - Like the Spadina Expressway, expanding Billy Bishop for jets is one of those projects that for some make a city feel richer, better connected and forward-looking. But like Spadina, the price is too high.
True, we rely on the airport as we do the expressway, though both are incomplete, unintended and bottomless pits of congestion, pollution and disappearing quality of life.
But as badly as things turned out, they could have been a whole lot worse. Imagine a highway running through downtown, cutting into neighbourhoods and slicing the city in half.
Today, it is obvious that this would have been utterly wrong, hugely destructive. This didn’t stop people at the time from extolling its (non-existent) virtues.
And so it is with jets at Billy Bishop. The dazzle of convenience overpowers the annual reality of two-million-plus passengers, thousands of cabs, fuel-storage tanks and the whole panoply of goods and services that come with a major airport. At the same time, there’s the park across the road, a primary school and community centre down the street and a fast-growing residential component that extends everywhere but into Lake Ontario.
Let’s not forget Queens Quay, now being transformed into a tree-lined boulevard along which visitors will wander over to Spadina and beyond. A water’s-edge promenade will hug the shore line, where it can.
An infrastructure of pleasure — the Music Garden, HTO urban beach, Little Norway Park, the WaveDecks, Sugar Beach, Sherbourne Common, Corktown Common — hints at where the waterfront is headed. Upwards of $3 billion has been invested and much more will follow. Revitalization, more than a decade in its genesis, is well underway.
To ignore that would be folly. The waterfront is the best thing to happen to Toronto since the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood in the 1970s. It is where much of Toronto’s future will play out and indications so far are that the original vision of smart, sustainable, multi-use communities organized around transit and strong public amenities has survived mostly intact.
Key to the Waterfront Toronto approach has been a balance of uses and an understanding that redevelopment must be as public as possible. That’s why spaces between buildings are a priority. That’s why the waterfront has so many facilities. The rest is filling in — residential, commercial, institutional . . .
The Island Airport is already a significant problem; local air quality has suffered and schoolkids must dodge traffic. It threatens to overwhelm a major stretch of the waterfront and compromise much more.
In the heat of debate, which will focus on technical issues such as marine exclusion zones, noise management and endless federal aviation requirements, many will lose sight of the big picture. The city, with few details of Porter’s plans, is being asked to say yes today and discover what it said yes to tomorrow.
That doesn’t make sense. Neither does the fact Toronto’s duelling mayors, Rob Ford and Norm Kelly, are Porter supporters. When empty, two heads, it seems, aren’t better than one.