New campaign to ‘Set Downsview Free’ from feds

Watch: Mark McAllister reports on the fight for Downsview park between the city and the feds.

TORONTO – Residents surrounding Downsview Park and the local councillor have set up a new website – including a petition – urging Canada Lands Co. to give up control of 231-hectare property to the City of Toronto.

The campaign is based on a number of issues that have been raised since the Crown corporation took over the land at Keele St. and Sheppard Ave. in November 2012.

The most recent involves a “secret memo” obtained by the Toronto Star that expressed concerns about the transition and the intent for the future of the park.

Ward 9 Coun. Maria Augimeri says she has obtained leaked information that indicates further construction in Downsview Park and is calling for the federal government to give control to the city and the community.

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“It seems that the federal government, all it sees here is dollar signs. Downsview Park is home to a surrounding community that has virtually been ignored by the federal government and betrayed by short cited Ontario Municipal Board who help them sell this land,” said Augimeri.

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Augimeri says the people living in the area want parkland enhanced, but without further development.

“Real people are left living in Downsview now and they deserve a place of recreation for their children and their children’s children.”

Local residents attending the press conference sided with Soknacki and Augimeri, voicing their concern that more development would be a negative in the community.

“Before we couldn’t go near it, but now it’s open. So, why do we have to build there now when we could enjoy it,” said Francesca Cimaicate.

44-year resident Caterina Sinopoli received a letter from Canada Lands Corporation last week. The crown company claims that the fence at the back of her property on Cuffley Cresent N. encroaches on what will soon be the new Stanley Greene Neighbourhood.

“This my old, small house and (I’ve) worked so hard to have this house,” she said. “I fight for the tree(s) and nobody listens to me! Now they want to take my land too. That’s no fair!”

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Sinipoli and most of her elderly, non-english speaking neighbours have been told that up to one metre of their properties will be taken over and new fences will be built where gardens and trees now stand.

The Stanley Greene Neighbourhood will be made up of more than 1000 residential units including single family homes, townhomes and mid-rise apartments. Urbancorp had been the original real estate developer but Mattamy Homes has now partnered with them on the project.

Mayoral candidate and former Downsview Park chair David Soknacki says the federal government sees the park as an opportunity for income, whereas local residents view it as a place for reprieve.

“The mandate of Park Downsview park has always been more than a real estate transaction. We have been here to deliver a park in perpetuity,” Soknacki said. “(We want) to make sure that the seniors who are surrounding us here have places where they can actually enjoy the park. ”

A public meeting is scheduled to take place on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss future plans.

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