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Dufferin Grove Is In Trouble

posted March 1st, 2010

In February 2010, Dufferin Grove got in trouble

Working in public space, with the people who use it, is the job of Parks and Recreation Division. But at Dufferin Grove Park, the recreation supervisor who matched local initiatives with the needed support was moved away from contact with citizens completely, on February 19. We believe this is meant to send a warning to his colleagues across the city: don’t collaborate with local projects unless specifically directed from downtown. The current administration's top-down approach, mostly speaking with very little listening, is a very bad thing for our parks and community centres. It should be the other way around. February 1: News that Brenda Patterson, GM of parks and rec, has directed that all recreation supervisors will be moved out of their current wards to elsewhere. newsletter

February 17 and 18: A community e-mail campaign to ask for help from the ombudsman. Community Comments. A Facebook group quickly got over a thousand members. Dufferin Grove Park Needs Your Help!

February 18: Ombudsman's response: "We note that PFR management is entitled and has the responsibility to redeploy their supervisors as it sees fit." read more >>

February 19: The Ward 18 recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro is removed and reasssigned to a job with no citizen contact. He supported the Dufferin Grove project in the day-to-day. The new Ward 18 supervisor is Dave Hains, whose previous work is also brought to a halt.

February 19: Brenda Patterson, GM of Parks and Rec, sends a form letter saying all supervisors have to be moved around to ensure "core competencies, training and skills development, performance, and succession management." read more >>

February 20: media on the subject: Catherine Porter in the Star

February 22: more media. The Torontoist quotes general manager Brenda Patterson: "The change in supervisors is in no way intended to change those programs." Several bloggers suggest the real problem is the friends, not the city. Are park friends engaged in illegal activities? FAQ's

February 23: meeting with Recreation manager Kelvin Seow: what staff activities count as "conflict of interest"? Background

February 25: more media Eye Weekly Quotes Recreation director Malcolm Bromley: "moving supervisors around isn’t in the interest of spreading the Dufferin Grove model." The Star: Bromley again, saying "his aim was to build more programs, not destroy existing ones. But he also said programs need to be regularized."

February 26: Ombudsman Fiona Crean's legal counsel, Marie Chen, agrees to meet to discuss the mandate of the ombudsman in a situation like this one. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday March 2.

March 1: response from Councillor Janet Davis, chair of the Recreation Committee, to letters sent in: "from time to time it is necessary to make changes as staff....are moved around in order to provide excellent service to residents throughout the City."read more >>

April 2010: The City takes notice: Malcolm Bromley, the City of Toronto's Director of Recreation, asked Recreation manager Costanza Allevato to work on a new "community engagement framework." She asked us: "what happens at Dufferin Grove Park?" On Sunday May 16, we did this partial census of activities. And we sent her a description of on-site staff work too.

But now Mr.Bromley has taken a year's leave of absence to try running Parks and Recreation in Vancouver. It's unclear whether the "community engagement" meetings will continue.

Letters to and from the Ombudsman,

Letters to and from Brenda Patterson General Manager Parks, Forestry and Recreation, read more >>.

Letters to the Councillors:

"Conflict of interest" follow-up:

In the Media

posted on April 08, 2010

Finding their Grove

Thorncliffe goes Duffer in Grove — can the city handle a local -control epidemic?

By: Andrew Cash
Published: April 7, 2010
Source: Now Toronto

Some marketing taglines would be laughable if they weren’t so insulting: “You’re richer than you think” comes to mind.

But here’s one that’s spot on: “Today’s Thorncliffe Is Tomorrow’s Canada.” The slogan is used by community activists to describe the horseshoe of postwar utilitarian low-and high-rise buildings backing on to the Don Valley in East York.

Thorncliffe Park isn’t really a place you stumble upon – you have to intend to get there, and these days people really do. Originally built for 10,000, the area is a magnet for immigrants, mostly from India and Pakistan, and latterly Afghanistan, and that has swelled the numbers in this 1-kilometre square to about 30,000 people.


posted on March 04, 2010

Trouble in the Grove

By: Andrew Cash
Published: March 3, 2010
Source: NOW Magazine, Volume: 29, Number: 27

Future of community-based park experiment hangs in the balance On a brilliantly sunny saturday afternoon, on my way into the Dufferin Grove clubhouse, I stop to watch some little kids pushing chairs around the park’s ice rink as they learn to skate.

I’m overwhelmed by an odd feeling. This place reminds me of a time before every public encounter had to be run through a risk assessment and given a lawyer’s approval before it could begin, when mutual respect and trust were the currency that kept communal spaces thriving. That’s the promise of Dufferin Grove. And the challenge.


posted on February 25, 2010

Porter: City crackdown hits park pizza nights

By: Catherine Porter
Published: February 25, 2010
Source: The Star

Down the path north into Christie Pits Park, you stumble upon a little gnome's house.

It has wooden sides, a shingled, peaked roof, a little chimney and a window shuttered in black metal and locked tight with a padlock. It's a community bake oven.

It was built 10 years ago by park staff and volunteers. The staff did the building; the volunteers brought the architectural drawings, construction supplies and refreshments. It was an ideal collaboration – community fundraising and spirit, city land and sweat. A win for everyone. That spirit is captured by the words on the commemorative plaque that celebrates the parks worker who built the oven. It reads: "This bake oven is dedicated in loving memory of Luis Antonio Andrade."


This Star article had 91 comments posted before they shut down the postings.

General mailout from Councillor Janet Davis, Thursday, March 04, 2010 12:12 PM

Thank you for your e-mail about Christie Pits Park and the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings that may have arisen about the situation.

First, I want to assure you that the City welcomes all residents to enjoy our parks, green spaces and recreation facilities. We encourage communities to become involved in local park activities. We value the role that many volunteer groups play in making our parks vibrant and animated spaces for the community to enjoy together.

posted on March 08, 2010

The defriending of Dufferin Grove Park

Toronto’s most people-powered park is still struggling to make nice with the city 

By: Chris Bilton
Published: February 24, 2010

Pretty soon, someone is going to have to start an activist group called Parks Are For People — after all, there’s already a group called Streets Are For People. Admittedly, this sounds like a bizarre idea, considering that parks are, by definition, for people. After nearly a decade of Torontopian discourse — where public spaces are seen as both symbolic and vital to city living — you might assume that parks would be the most obvious places for cooperation between the city as an institution and its citizens. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Dufferin Grove Park, where the city parks and recreation department’s move towards a stricter, more centralized bureaucracy is threatening to destroy a long-established tradition of citizen participation.


posted on February 23, 2010

City's Moves May Threaten Dufferin Grove Park

By: Suzannah Showler
Published: February 22, 2010

Dufferin Grove Park is home to a bonfire pit, wood-burning ovens where residents can bake pizza and bread, an adobe courtyard, a weekly farmers' market, dozens of year-round art festivals, two skating rinks, a cheap and healthy cafe, and regular pay-what-you-can community meals.

It’s a chaotic, eclectic, and fairly idyllic public space, but what makes Dufferin Grove Park truly unique is not what they do but how they do it.

Members of the community are more-than-usually involved in working to maintain the park, while city staff are more-than-usually integrated into the community. According to community leader Jutta Mason, this simpatico relationship is about to change, and with it all of the features of the park that neighbourhood residents have come to cherish.


posted on February 20, 2010

Porter: Bureaucratic meddling puts park's magic at risk

By: Catherine Porter
Published: Feb 20 2010
Source: The Star

A battle is brewing at Dufferin Grove Park. It's not the first thing you notice stepping into the rink house near Dufferin and Bloor Sts. There are too many other distractions: The teenage girls balancing on figure skates buying freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies from the Zamboni Café; the pregnant woman in the back kitchen cooking potato and kale enchiladas for Friday's community supper; the boys playing checkers near the wood-burning stove. It's a lot to take in, when you are used to the wet, hollow bunkers slumped beside most city rinks.


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