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Atwood, Jacobs sound battle cry

"Atwood, Jacobs Sound Battle Cry Over Yorkville Condo Tower: 150 Meet to Organize Fight"
Peter Kuitenbrouwer
National Post

About 150 people braved heavy snow in Yorkville last night to hear author Margaret Atwood and Jane Jacobs, the urban visionary, denounce an 18-storey condominium tower proposed for the tony neighbourhood.

"There's so much phony lip service in this thing," Ms. Jacobs told the crowd, referring to the development proposal.

"They say it will reduce dependence on cars, but they're putting all kinds of parking underneath. It's meant to obfuscate. It's meant to deceive people."

She won loud applause from the assembled, who packed Heliconian Hall, an 1876 church around the corner from the proposed development.

City council last spring approved developer Barclay-Grayson's plan to tear down the original Mount Sinai Hospital, at 100 Yorkville Ave., and build the tower.

The city-owned Toronto Parking Authority is a partner in the project, having advanced money to Barclay-Grayson in exchange for a future 125 parking spaces under the tower.

Those fighting the plan have appealed council's vote to the Ontario Municipal Board. A hearing is set for Feb. 16.

Save Yorkville, as the group calls itself, has raised $20,000 and seeks another $40,000 for the board fight.

"What's his past?" Ms. Jacobs asked of Barclay-Grayson last night. "Is he an honourable person?

"I propose we demand that the OMB defer any consideration on this actual project until they have allowed this mysterious Barclay-Grayson to materialize so that Margaret and I can cross-examine him."

She later added, "I've never known a fight to be lost unless the people give it up themselves."

Diane Francis, the Financial Post columnist who lives in Yorkville, told the meeting, "I don't think we're talking about bad developers. I think we're talking about bad City Hall."

David Miller, the Mayor of Toronto, repeatedly invoked Ms. Jacobs' vision of neighbourhoods during the recent election. He also won backing from Ms. Atwood.

Neither he nor local councillor Kyle Rae, who supports the project, attended the meeting.

One student denounced the gathering as a privileged group who feels its area is more special than others, while ignoring other fights, such as saving the Oak Ridges Moraine.

John Caliendo, a merchant banker, responded, "There are people right now in City Hall who feel we are elitist troublemakers. We should be banding together."

Neville Kirchmann, who lives on Hazelton Avenue, appealed to those at the meeting to give generously.

"We've got one kick at the can," Mr. Kirchmann said.