The City of Toronto has asked an Etobicoke senior who built stairs to a community park for a fraction of an estimate provided by municipal officials to remove the new access point.
Adi Astl said he contacted his councillor, Justin Di Ciano, to ask for another set of stairs at Tom Riley Park in order to safely access the community garden. He said he was shocked when he was told the estimate to build the stairs was $65,000-150,000.
“I thought maybe they put escalators in here,” he joked.
Astl, a former mechanic, then took action and constructed a wooden set of stairs – for a total cost of $550. Before the new access, he said there was nothing but an embankment with rocks and a yellow rope.
“It took us all together 14 hours. It took us eight hours before they got in and then we had to modify it, and the railings and all that stuff,” Astl said.
He said he has been asked by City staff to remove the stairs and tape was placed across the top. Astl could potentially be charged under a city bylaw.
“We don’t need a great big, huge cement staircase. We just need this,” Gail Rutherford, Astl’s wife, said.
“It’s much safer than what was there before.”
Di Ciano called the estimate provided by staff frustrating, saying “with $150,000 you can put up half a house.”
“You really have to question something like this when the private sector can do something like this for $5,000, maybe $10,000, now we’re 15 times more,” he said.
“This should be an eye-opener to everyone, especially those in government.”
City staff said the estimate was based on what was installed at another park. They said the stairs may not require the same amount of work. The matter is under review, but park users hope the access remains.
“I think the stairs are very convenient to come down because here a lot of aging people … they need those steps,” resident Elna Goulak said.