2021 Year in Review: October

Municipal campaign kicks off

With the federal election now in the rearview mirror, Montrealers saw the municipal election campaign kickoff in earnest. Set for Nov. 7, October was the month that the various parties vying for power pitched citizens on their platforms and jockeyed for support.

Ex-mayor Denis Coderre and his party Ensemble Montréal promised at the end of September that if elected, his administration would rebuild de l’Acadie Boul. and erase what he called a “symbol of social inequities.” He added that he would see to have the fence that has separated Park Extension and the Town of Mount Royal removed, even though he had not consulted either of the mayoral candidates in the neighbouring municipality. 

Roughly one week later, Valérie Plante and the ruling Projet Montréal party made several electoral promises from the steps of the William-Hingston Centre. Among others, she promised that if re-elected she would work closely with the provincial government to ensure more CPEs be built in Park Extension, even though it remains of provincial jurisdiction. 

“We’re in Park Extension and there aren’t a lot of CPEs here,” said Plante, adding that “it’s not sufficient.” She also announced she would halve the price of public transit passes for teens as of Oct. 1, bringing the monthly STM pass for 12 to 17 year-olds from $54 down to $27 per month.

MIL Université de Montréal draws ire of borough mayor

On Oct. 19, then borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli authored and presented a 12-page report outlining issues related to the campus along with her recommendations to the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), an independent organization with the mission of carrying out public consultation mandates regarding urbanization and development projects.

The report outlined the negative effects the new campus has had on Park Extension, namely by acting as a vector for gentrification on the neighbourhood and pushing low-income, immigrant populations out of the area. The report also put forward several recommendations for the university and city to better address the issues.

“One of the main consequences of the phenomenon is an increase in forced residential displacements due to the rise in the cost of rent, discrimination in access to housing and the rise in evictions,” wrote Fumagalli, adding that investment interest in the neighbourhood caused in part by the university campus was causing property prices to soar.

Although the report was in no way binding, it outlined several recommendations. “One of the first steps that the University of Montreal could take would be to explicitly acknowledge its role in the ongoing gentrification of Park Extension and to act quickly to try to mitigate the negative consequences for community organizations and residents,” read the report. 

“Intolerable” living conditions at 1040 Ball

The same week the report on gentrification was published, some Park Extension residents gathered in front of 1040 Ball to protest what they saw as unhealthy and unsafe living conditions they were forced to live in. 

Cockroaches, mice and harassment were some of the things being brought up by residents of the small residential building, who held placards and banners demanding safer and healthier living conditions.

“Tenants in the building have been waiting for years for their housing conditions to improve, and the fact that they have been forced to live during all this time in apartments with mould, rodents, cockroaches and bedbugs, because of the landlord’s neglect, is an infringement of their rights and of human dignity,” stated Rizwan Khan, a community organizer at CAPE.

The poor situation in the building came to light at the start of October when the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL) ordered the building owner Richard Liu to pay $12,000 in compensation to 75-year old tenant Smaro Tzanetoulakos, who had been living with an infestation of cockroaches, bedbugs and mice. 

Centennial Park

At the end of the month, Park Extension inaugurated its newest park on Oct. 21 at the corner of Saint-Roch and Stuart. Attended by volunteers, city employees and local elected officials, the ceremony introduced the newly renovated park, which showcases a photo wall displaying historical images of Park Extension along with an art piece that also serves as a playground for children.

Terre en vue was created by visual artist Karine Payette and depicts a panda on the shoulders of a polar bear on a boat out at sea, accompanied by a swimming dolphin. 

“Payette’s work contributes to the dynamism of the park and encourages people to take a moment out of their day or evening to enjoy this island of freshness,” said the mayor at the time.

“Artist Karine Payette wanted to pay tribute to the immigrants who shaped the identity of this neighbourhood,” said Magda Popeanu. The boat itself represents the displacement of communities and the instability and loss of reference points that many immigrants experience.

At the very back of the park, a wire-frame wall covered in vines acts as an open-air photo gallery, displaying historical images of Park Extension from a century ago. Provided by the Park Extension Historical Society, it offers park-goers a look into the past.