Is Brookfield responsible for clearing the sidewalk of bikes?
Watch above: Mark McAllister explains that the law surrounding Brookfield’s seizure of bikes is up for interpretation.
TORONTO – Brookfield may have removed bikes from the corner of Yonge Street and Bloor Street under an interpretation of the bylaw that requires them to shovel the snow.
But they won’t explain.
Global News contacted Brookfield Properties Monday in an attempt to figure out if they had authority to seize bikes from outside of The Bay on Bloor Street.
But Andrew Willis, the senior vice president of communications and media for Brookfield Properties, instead chose to “decline further comment” after saying they had decided to stop seizing bikes. He suggested it would be “inappropriate” to comment ahead of a Tuesday meeting with city officials.
Larissa Katz, an associate professor of law at the University of Toronto, suggested the company may have been treating the bikes the same way they treat snow in the winter.
“Now city bylaws hold private owners responsible for maintaining public spaces adjacent to their property,” Katz said. “This includes familiar things like shovelling snow, but it also includes responsibility for removing encumbrances to pedestrian traffic on public sidewalks adjacent to private property.”
But what’s not clear, Katz said, is whether or not the bike was actually an encumbrance to pedestrian traffic.
Brookfield Properties, one of the largest property owners in the city, was accused last week of seizing bikes locked to a TTC pole outside of the Bloor Street Bay location they deemed an encumbrance to pedestrian traffic.
WATCH: (Aug. 14) Brookfield accused of taking bikes from outside of The Bay
(Brookfield Properties did return Lisa Ferguson’s bike and has bought her a new lock)
After some controversy, they agreed to stop seizing bikes.
The company suggested they were required to clear the public property adjacent to their property.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam doesn’t think so: she suggested Monday neither her nor city staff could find an appropriate bylaw that would let Brookfield control what happens on the adjacent sidewalk.
“We cannot find this byblaw in the city of Toronto that says property owners have the right to maintain, or necessarily to control the public right of way, so I don’t believe it exists,” she said. “I’m very keen to hear what Brookfield hears is their jurisdiction.”
And it’s not just bikes. Global News reported Sunday the property management company had recently forced a singer off the sidewalk outside of the building at Yonge Street and Bloor Street.
The 18-year-old busker had the proper permit but was asked by Brookfield security to move closer to the road and away from the building.
Brookfield representatives are meeting with Wong-Tam and city officials Tuesday to discuss the expulsions and clarify what they can and can’t do under city bylaws.
The company has said it will no longer seize bikes from outside of The Bay: still, Wong-Tam says she wants to work with the company.
“I want to get a sense from them: now that you’ve agreed to stop cutting the bicycles off the post, what do you need in order for us to facilitate more bicycle parking?” she said. “If they have any issues with how people are using the space that’s on public property, that they believe it’s a nuisance or creating unsafe conditions, then all they have to do is pick up the phone and call 311, call Toronto police or call my office. There’s many different channels, they don’t have to do it alone.”
– With files from Mark McAllister