Concerns about the exterior safety are being raised at a Toronto Community Housing (TCH) apartment building months after an air conditioner fell from an apartment building and fatally struck a two-year-old girl.
Global News was copied on correspondence sent to officials on Wednesday by a resident who provided examples of items mounted and kept outside of the apartment building on Lawrence Avenue East near Susan Street, east of Scarborough Golf Club Road.
Included in the resident’s email asking for action were pictures showing a window-mounted air conditioner partially over open ground, a dangling cable, and a satellite dish that was installed on the exterior apartment wall. The resident also highlighted concerns about some units having extra items kept on balconies.
“Please address these safety issues to avoid anyone else being hurt,” the resident wrote.
The concerns raised by the resident come more than seven months after emergency crews were called to the high-rise. Crystal Mirogho’s mother was returning home with her three young children after picking two of them up from school when the air conditioning unit fell from an eighth-floor apartment and hit Crystal as she was in her stroller.
She was rushed to the Hospital for Sick Children where she later died.
In December, TCH president and CEO Kevin Marshman announced the agency would be prohibiting the installation of window air conditioners that weren’t surrounded by a balcony.
“We are taking steps to protect the safety of tenants, staff and visitors to our buildings and are asking for the cooperation of tenants as we implement these measures,” Marshman said in a statement at the time.
“Sadly, we have seen how the risk of a window air conditioner becoming dislodged can have tragic consequences.”
Issues with air conditioners at TCH properties aren’t new. A window air conditioner replacement program study, submitted in 2007, found, “for the most part, the air conditioners inspected were not properly installed.”
“There is a safety issue as the air conditioners could potentially fall out of windows,” the report said.
Mirogho’s family subsequently began litigation against TCH. Slavko Ristich, a lawyer representing the family, said it has been a “tough go” for the family since the November incident. He said he wasn’t surprised by the current situation at the apartment building.
“They had from 2007 until 2019 to do something. They didn’t do something then, so we’re not surprised that in the seven-and-a-half months since her passing these issues are still around,” he said, adding he’s talked to several other tenants about issues across the housing system.
“We would like to see improved safety across the board in all of Toronto Community Housing, not just this one particular building.”
TCH said in December that before the start of the 2020 “cooling season” every air conditioner removed will be replaced with a new floor-model unit at no charge to the tenant and that eventually all air conditioners will be replaced with floor-model units.
When asked on Thursday for an update on the situation at the Lawrence Avenue East apartment, TCH spokesperson Bruce Malloch said staff have since removed the window air conditioner and replaced it with a portable floor model. He said a technician was called back to the building to fix the cable that was installed “improperly.”
Malloch also said TCH is “taking steps” to have the satellite antenna removed, adding it was installed without permission.
As for the program to replace window air conditioners, TCH said phase one of its removal program began in November to replace units not contained within a balcony for units three storeys and higher. Phase two of the program, which is set to begin in 2021, will see units removed from windows in buildings lower than three storey and units contained within balconies.
The agency said more than 8,500 window units have been replaced with floor model units at no cost to tenants.