The DLCVA, the Councillor and the Downsview Library
For the last few summers the City has run a Youth Hub at Downsview Library, as they do in about a dozen other Metro libraries. The program is aimed at providing "at risk" teens with something constructive to do in the absence of school programs in the vacation downtime.
By way of background, it should be noted that the City has recently had a troubling spike in gang violence and shootings involving young people, and public officials have been continually pressed to do something about it.
Downsview is no stranger to this trend. It has long had a serious crime problem, 31 Division being one of the busiest police stations in the city. In February a shot was fired inside the Downsview Library. Adding to the problem is that local police enforcement has frequently been the target of criticism for the way it deals with with youth and visible minorities.
Thus it would seem that the Youth Hub program is a much needed remedy to a real problem.
In the library's own words:
- "Youth Hubs provide a safe, welcoming space for youth during after-school hours. They are open after school and during summer months, and are staffed by librarians, other library staff and volunteers. The Hubs provide homework assistance, access to technology programs and nutritious snacks that help develop digital literacy and social and leadership skills under the guidance of caring adults. They respond to the needs and interests of youth, supporting personal development and relevant learning opportunities."
It should be noted that Downsview Library is not a small or ill-equipped facility. Composed of distinct and comfortable spaces, it has washrooms and meeting rooms on two floors, with considerable natural light. Usually 4-6 staff are on hand at any one time. A large investment has been made in two state-of-the-art computer rooms and recently upgraded moms-and-tots play area. Despite being located at a busy intersection, it is not hard to find a parking spot. In fact the library is a real jewel, one that many cities could only dream of.
Despite the huge problem of at-risk teens in the Downsview area and despite the noble intentions of the Youth Hub program, the DLCVA is of the opinion that this program is ill-conceived and poorly run. Due to its involvement with this initiative, the library runs a serious risk to its image and reputation. For the following reasons:
- Normally 40 to 60 teens attend daily, from late afternoon to 8:00pm. While there is a variety of activities available (homework assistance, technological instruction, board and video games) the students do not seem actively involved.
- Activities are usually led by librarians who do not seem to be comfortable in the role, possibly because they have not been trained for it.
- Often in their own world, the youth do not mix readily with library regulars.
- Despite attempts to restrict teen activity to the quieter spaces, it readily overflows into public and general-use areas.
- Frequently programs have the vibe of a free-for-all lacking structure.
- Strange things turn up in strange places (food and food containers, toys, small scooters, basketballs, etc.)
- Despite a doubling of (uniformed) security, they appear to have difficulty communicating with the young and seem overwhelmed. Their presence seems to have the effect of underscoring the tension.
- While there is an understandable increase in horseplay, running around, confidential side transactions, verbal altercations, raised voices, etc., these negatives do not seem to be balanced off by many positives. Clearly, the program is not achieving the goals it is supposed to.
NOTE #1: For the above reasons, the DLCVA called for a meeting with Councillor James Pasternak and library officials on August 19. Police Division 31 was invited but declined at the last minute. Although grievances were aired by all parties, the meeting was otherwise inconclusive:
NOTE #2: If any readers wish to share their library experience, positive or negative, the DLCVA will try to publish in subsequent e-newsletters
- The library's official position is that the Youth Hub is a success
- Despite its deficiencies, Councillor Pasternak is a supporter of the program. However he will look into relocating it to a high school, dropout centre or community centre.
- While sympathetic to the plight of at-risk youth in Downsview and the 'good intentions' of Youth Hub, the DLCVA is of the opinion the program is not a success. It has the feeling that the library is 'going downhill' and developing a "bad rep" due to its involvement with the program. It already knows of parents who have forbidden their children to go unaccompanied to the library because of the dangers it presents.
NOTE #3: Downsview Library is closed for the next couple of months -- for physical repairs to large entry ramp and remediation of water penetration in the lower level.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop
on the William Baker District Plan
and its 3500 condos
In his September mailout to York Centre households, sitting MP Michael Levitt is asking voters what features they want to see in the District Plan.
It turns out that public officials have been discussing the possibility of a seniors' aftercare centre ("health community") on Wm Baker lands for over a year.
Responses can be emailed to Michael.Levitt@parl.gc.ca
Exploratory talks only.
The DLCVA has asked for a seat at the table at these discussions.
The development of this City-owned property is moving closer to a done deal
The Park's new
Sesquicentennial Trail has recently mounted this stylized replica of the Beaver bushplane.
It can be found between the first and second stops on what is becoming a 'must-see' experience for first-time visitors
Historically the DHC-2 is important for its contribution to the development of Canada's north.
Between 1947 and 1967, De Havilland Aircraft manufactured 1600 of these planes in their Downsview plant.
An interested reader saw this sign in Leaside and wondered if it could be amended for (federally-owned) Downsview Park ???
Housing vs. Parking at Wilson subway:
Second community consultation for 50 Wilson Heights Blvd
Residents are invited to attend.
For details on the project: HERE
The old subway parking lot on the NE side (855 spaces) is to be replaced by what the City calls "Affordable Housing" (1150 condos)
The Star "Some residents are not happy" HERE