A controversial set of wooden stairs built by a Toronto senior for $550 to access a community park, and sparked a debate on city spending, has been removed and will be replaced by a new structure.
City workers swooped in early Friday morning and tore down the homemade staircase after officials deemed it unsafe.
“At the end of the day, the city has a liability issue. We have to make sure that assets in our public spaces are to code and meets certain safety standards,” Coun. Justin Di Ciano told Global News.
Adi Astl said he contacted Di Ciano to ask for a set of stairs to Tom Riley Park in west-end Toronto in order to safely access the community garden but was shocked to hear of the astronomical price tag of between $65,000 to $150,000.
Astl, a former mechanic, then took action and built it himself for a total cost of $550.
“People were falling down. One person broke their hands. So it is not a good situation for anybody,” Astl said.
He told Global News this week that he was asked by city staff to remove the stairs, which were deemed a safety hazard.
Astl said it took him just 14 hours to build the stairs, which he says were sorely needed as seniors living at a nearby apartment building kept stumbling down the embankment.
“The stairs that Adi built were well-intentioned,” Di Ciano said. “They worked well. They would have worked well for the short-term. They wouldn’t have worked for the long-term.”
VIDEO: Toronto senior builds stairs in park after city pegs cost at over $65K
The Toronto senior was contacted by Mayor John Tory Thursday night and was advised that the new staircase will go up at a cost of $10,000.
“He thanked me for the way I addressed this situation and he’s aware now how the department shouldn’t work,” Astl said.
“Everything is negotiation in life, so long as you reach the meaning and the end. The meaning and the end was to have steps for people to go down safely. Who installs it, doesn’t matter anymore. We’ve proved our point.”
City staff said the estimate to build a brand new staircase was based on what was installed at another park. They also pointed out the stairs may not require the same amount of work.
Tory issued a statement on Friday calling the original cost to build the stairs “absolutely ridiculous and out of whack with reality.”
“I want to thank Mr. Astl for taking a stand on this issue. His homemade steps have sent a message that I know city staff have heard loud and clear,” Tory said.
“The city always needs to be looking for simple, cost-effective solutions to problems no matter how big or small they are.”
Tory said construction of the new steps will begin immediately and will be complete in “a matter of days.”
“Anything the city builds has to be absolutely safe and has to be able to stand the test of time – these new stairs will do just that. The new stairs will be safe, durable and reasonably priced,” he said.
“I’m not happy that these kinds of outrageous project cost estimates are even possible. I’ll be working to identify what changes we can put in place to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen.”
-With files from Nick Westoll and Caryn Lieberman