Danforth needs help, council candidates say

Council candidate Jane Pitfield says the Danforth business owners need the help of the city.

The candidate for Ward 29 said parts of the Danforth, between Coxwell and Victoria Park avenues, have been falling into decay.

“I’ve made the revitalization of the Danforth a hot button issue for the ward,” Pitfield said. “Small business owners and the backbone of our community and they are really key to the revitalization of this neighbourhood.”

Originally a thriving business and gentrified community, the Danforth has turned seedier with prostitution moving out openly into the streets and rampant graffiti in alleyways, Pitfield said. Once backroom drug deals now happen in broad daylight.

In an effort to promote the beautification of the Danforth, Pitfield met with 12 members of the Toronto Police Foundation as well as residents and business owners in the area, to clean up graffiti on Oct. 23.

The group was engaged in a clean-up effort in the alleyway just north of Danforth Avenue near Greenwood Avenue.

Matthew Neeson, a 17-year-old resident of the Danforth and volunteer for Pitfield’s campaign, said he has to see graffiti everyday – because it is on his home.

“Probably just delinquents around my age who think it would be fun to spray paint the garage,” Neeson said. “Why don’t we give them a creative space where they can actually create graffiti art? I think that would channel these kids to do something positive.”

Abdul Ahmad, a student training at the Toronto Police Foundation, agreed.

“It doesn’t make me want to come down here when I see this graffiti, so we should try and change that,” he said, scrubbing off spray paint from a garage door.

At the corner of the Danforth and Greenwood avenues, an empty lonesome store front was covered window-to-window with newspaper with a closed sign hanging lopsided. Beer bottles were strewn outside a bar next door.

Pitfield says she has spoken with the Danforth Business Improvement Association (BIA) and intends contact all the businesses with “closed” signs to find out why that’s the case and convince new business owners to set up shop. If elected, she hopes to lower the commercial tax rate among others, which she says is hurting businesses.

“If business is flourishing, that will deter some of this inappropriate behaviour,” Pitfield said.

As for the graffiti peppering store fronts, Pitfield said that should be the responsibility of the city. Pitfield said she would like to work with the city to find an alternative to the methadone clinic near Danforth Avenue and Linsmore Crescent.

“I know it provides a vital service for people who need it, but this is a family neighbourhood and there is a possibility it attracts drug dealers as well,” she added. “I’d like to see these clinics distributed around the city instead of being localized on the Danforth. It will remove the stigma for people who have to use it, and would prevent people descending into this neighbourhood every day.”

Jennifer Wood, another Ward 29 candidate, agreed that small business is the key to the Danforth’s renewal.  She also that communication with the public and business owners is vital.

“They’re our eyes and ears on the street. They really know what’s going on,” Wood said. “We need to pay attention to their concerns of community safety.”

But the revitalization efforts extend to Ward 31 where incumbent Janet Davis is seeking re-election.

“I’ve been working hard to revitalize with the area with the two BIAs, Toronto police and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission,” she said. “We need to get residents shopping locally and the only way to do that is working with the businesses here.”