Subway to York is 10 years off, says TTC chair

Toronto politicians are optimistic that after years of promises and false starts, a subway link to York University will finally be built, reported March 24. But completion of the project is perhaps as long as a decade away, said Toronto Transit Commission Chairman Howard Moscoe. “It’s because we have to secure the land, plan the services, line up the contractors and the equipment,” the Ward 15 city councillor told CBC News Online. “It’s a complex undertaking. It’s not like boiling hotdogs.” A substantial funding commitment from the province, along with indications of federal support, gives the long-awaited subway expansion, from Downsview station on the Spadina line, up to York University and then north to Highway 7, a real chance of going ahead, Moscoe said. “The good news is the province has made a commitment,” Moscoe said, adding there is some indication the federal government is “prepared to come on board.” And that leaves the municipal share, which would be split in some fashion between York Region and Toronto. Moscoe, who doesn’t see coming to an agreement as a problem, said the most likely way would be through percentage of track mileage. “Everything is kind of happening at breakneck speed,” he said. “You have to be prepared to respond quickly.”

Bud Purves, president of the York University Development Corporation, said he has a “sneaking belief” the line can be finished a little quicker than projected, but his school is prepared to handle student transit needs until then, said. York University has become a hub of transit activity over the past decades, with 1,500 buses from York Region, Toronto and the GO service using the campus. A separate busway that would go up Allen Road and then across the Finch Hydro right-of-way and into the campus has been in the planning stages for a few years and is almost ready for approval, said Purves. Right now, the 50,000 students and 7,500 staff at the school split about 50-50 between using cars and transit. University planners believe a subway link bringing passengers from both north and south would increase the proportion of transit users to about 70 per cent.

“We’ve always believed that the melding of the two regions, with the fabulous growth that is going on in the 905, its great access to York University and, we think, the social infrastructure that will come into place once you start breaking down the barriers between the two regions, will benefit everyone,” Purves said. Moscoe shares the excitement. “Once the commitment by governments has been made, once the decision to finance the project has been made, there is nothing that is going to stop us.”

  • Four York students were interviewed about the extension of the Spadina subway on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” March 24: Danielle Edwards, a second-year psychology student in York’s Faculty of Arts, Nedra Rodrigo, an English student in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Eric Newstadt, president of the York Graduate Students Union, and Shamini Selvaratnam, vice-president of the York Federation of Students and a fourth-year sociology student in York’s Faculty of Arts.

More opinions on the subway to York

  • Toronto Sun columnist John Downing wrote March 27 that the big news about the provincial budget is the new subway to nowhere – an extension, surprise, surprise, of a subway to nowhere. It seems to be forgotten that the criticism at stretching the Spadina subway to York University was first aimed at the Spadina line itself. It was Toronto’s first subway construction not to make much sense, and I suspect there was truth to the rumours that it was built only to please the developers who wanted Yorkdale plaza to succeed. The Spadina subway didn’t work well. And now, to add insult to the injury to the public purse, the line is supposed to run further to transport students eight months of the year.

  • A columnist opined about the subway funding announcement in the Windsor Star March 25 by asking, What are we here in Windsor? Chopped liver? I’m happy for those students whose travel times will be cut in half because they’ll no longer have to ride the bus or take their cars to a congested campus. And I’m happy for a Toronto economy that will witness rapid growth, closer ties with adjacent municipalities and dramatic new investments along the extended line. But it begs the question. Which is more important, the ravaged lungs of Windsor-area residents or the annoying amount of time a Toronto student spends getting to campus? If you answered lungs, go sit in the corner and put on this dunce cap. If going underground on a massive scale is the right thing to do for students and faculty at a booming university, it’s the right thing to do for Windsor residents who face massive disruption and continuing damage to our health and quality of life if the Detroit River International Crossing team insists on a bargain fix for the border mess.

  • In a letter to the Toronto Star March 25, Environment Canada scientist and York graduate Tom McElroy (PhD ‘85) asked, Does it really help much to build a subway from Downsview Station to York University? I work at Environment Canada on Dufferin Street between Finch and Steeles avenues. There is a lot of traffic on Dufferin up there and no bus lanes. There is a housing development north of Steeles and a lot of new industrial and retail development along Steeles between York and Dufferin. Wouldn’t it make more sense to install almost the same mileage of track north to Steeles on Dufferin, and then begin the first segment of a new east-west line along Steeles over to York? The subway would also intersect the GO line between Dufferin and Keele streets. and better serve this large industrial area.

Accolade’s proscenium stage is handsomely done up

Most new theatres, especially academic ones, go for the platform look, reported the National Post March 25, but York University has just opened a new house, the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre, in traditional proscenium formation – handsomely done up, what’s more, in traditional plush red. It’s part of York’s new Accolade Project, which officially opened last Monday. The project is an arts centre, spread over two buildings, that people have been hoping and planning for through most of the 30 years that York’s Fine Arts Faculty has been in existence. It also contains performance, rehearsal and exhibition spaces for music, dance, film and visual arts. Phillip Silver, York’s dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and a distinguished stage designer in his own right, has done much to bring the Accolade Project to fruition. For him, the single most important thing about it is that it will give students in all disciplines the opportunity to work in facilities of the highest professional standard so that they’ll be prepared for similar environments in the real world. If they’re lucky, that is.

  • The opening of York’s Accolade, and an interview with York alumnus Ivan Fecan, president and CEO of Bell Globemedia, made “e!Talk Daily” CTV’s national entertainment program on March 24.

  • Karen Burke, professor in York’s Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, was interviewed on CFRB radio (Toronto) March 24 about York’s gospel and jazz vocals music program and the opening of Accolade.

Universities give notice of serious artistic intentions

Gone are the days when the university gallery was an old boys’ club, with borrowed portraits on the wall and the once-a-year graduating class show, reported the Toronto Star March 25. The university gallery wants to be a player on a bigger stage. Phillip Monk, curator of the Art Gallery of York University in the just-opened Accolade arts complex, is even more blunt. “It’s our intention to be the best contemporary art gallery in Toronto,” he says. “We are not a student art gallery.” Monk arrived at AGYU with international art stars in tow. His 2003 debut show had pop sex diva Peaches in a video loop duet with Iggy Pop. In 2004 he programmed Jeremy Blake’s haunting haunted-house caper, Century 21, the final segment of the artist’s Winchester Trilogy. The exhibition by acclaimed Dutch artist Fiona Tan wraps up tomorrow. Next up is an installation by Stan Douglas, the internationally recognized, Vancouver-based video maker, starting April 20. For Monk, “the virtue of the new [Accolade] building is to bring all of the [art] departments, music and dance, together. We will bring in artists who will be able to take advantage of the theatre department, for instance.”

  • The Star also noted the University MFA Exhibitions underway at York’s Glendon campus with Lise Beaudry’s work being shown until April 8. Art from Alison Judd will be at the Accolade West Gallery on the main York campus from April 3 to April 8 followed through April by other students’ work at the same gallery. Also throughout April more York grads will be showing at downtown sites including the Drabinsky Gallery, Lennox Contemporary Art, Peak Gallery, and at 273 Augusta Ave.

College professor who died from picket line injury was York graduate

York alumnus and Centennial College professor John Stammers (MBA ’79) was a quiet, gentle man – “honest to a fault” – and the last person you’d imagine getting involved in a picket line altercation, said friends and colleagues shocked by his death, reported the Toronto Sun March 26. The 62-year-old accounting instructor died in hospital early March 25 from injuries he suffered March 20 while picketing outside Centennial’s Progress campus in Scarborough. He is survived by his wife, Janet, and sons Ryan and David.

“It’s such a tragedy,” said Becky Pembry-Spratley, who first published Stammers’ textbook on accounting software in 1991. “John would do anything for anybody. He was such a nice guy.” “He was a really nice man,” said colleague Harvey Freedman, a professor of accounting at Humber College, where Stammers taught part-time. “He was honest to a fault. He always helped everybody. He was a super guy…I don’t think anybody out here had a bad word about John.” Eileen Burrows, president of the faculty union local at Centennial, said Stammers’ gentle nature appealed to students. “He was very popular with students. He was sort of a quiet, gentle man, and sometimes students learning accounting need that kind of support from teachers,” she said.

Stammers was taken to Sunnybrook hospital in critical condition Monday morning after getting into an argument with a motorist who was trying to drive to the campus. Witnesses said Stammers climbed on the vehicle as it tried to pass, fell off the hood and hit his head on the pavement. “Everyone said it can’t be John. That’s not the John I know,” said Freedman. Before teaching, Stammers was director of finance and administration for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind library and other non-profit organizations. He also spent much of the early 1970s in theatre working as a lighting designer and technical director, including for shows at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre.

York math professor was blacklisted from US colleges

The early human rights efforts of Lee Lorch, professor emeritus in York’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Arts, were featured in a story in The New York Times March 26. Screenwriter Amy Fox, who is writing a treatment of the effort to integrate the Stuyvesant Town housing project where her grandparents and Lorch lived in the early 1950s, interviewed him in 2003.

In August 1949, Fox wrote, the town house committee invited a black family, the Hendrixes, to live in the home of Lorch, a vice-chairman of the committee and a mathematics professor who was leaving the city to accept a teaching position at Pennsylvania State College. The previous April, Lorch had been abruptly dismissed, without explanation, from his job at City College of New York, and many colleagues, neighbours and journalists believed that the firing was linked to his leadership on the tenants committee. In an agreement with property owner MetLife, several families who were regarded as especially problematic, including Lorch’s, agreed to leave “voluntarily.” In return, MetLife rented an apartment to the Hendrixes.

I first contacted Lorch, now 90 and on the faculty of York University in Toronto, three years ago, Fox wrote. Oh, yes, he assured me, he remembered my grandparents. When I asked what had happened to him after he left and accepted the position at Penn State, he referred me to the front page of The New York Times of April 10, 1950, which reported that the college’s officials had declined to renew his appointment, explaining that his decision to let the Hendrixes live in his apartment was “extreme, illegal and immoral and damaging to the public relations of the college.” Lorch also told me that Albert Einstein, whom he did not know personally, had written to Penn State, “supporting the position I had taken and calling upon them to reinstate me.” Lorch’s political activism continued to hurt his career, he said. After being repeatedly blacklisted by universities and having dynamite placed in his garage, he moved to Canada.

During our conversation, he recalled that one Penn State official asked him directly if he was a Communist. It was not an unexpected question. Many members of the tenants committee were, in fact, Communists. The Cold War was brewing during the Stuyvesant Town controversy and tenants faced more anti-Communist sentiment than blatant racism. Linking the protesting tenants to Communism was a way to discredit them. Or, as Lorch remembered an NAACP official commenting wryly, “It’s bad enough being black without being Red.”

Being vice-principal at Jane-Finch’s Westview Collegiate is a dream job for York alumna

York alumna Icilda Elliston (BA ‘98, BEd ‘93) was an 8-year-old elementary school student in Jamaica when she had her first taste of what would be her lifelong work, reported the Toronto Sun March 27. She was staying after school one day when a teacher asked her to pretend to be a teacher. “So I went up to the front of the class and started teaching the older students and adults who were there,” Elliston recalls. “Then something clicked in my head and I said, ‘This is a great feeling.’ I felt I could make a difference standing in the front of the class. Since that moment I knew I wanted to be an educator.”

Elliston and her family moved to England shortly after her debut at the head of the class. After graduating from high school and going to teacher’s college, she moved to Toronto, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in sociology and education at York. She then did a master’s of education at the University of Toronto. Now Elliston is vice-principal of Westview Centennial Secondary School near Jane and Finch. She says it’s her dream job. “When my husband and I moved to Toronto, the first place we settled was in Jane and Finch at 10 San Romanoway,” Elliston says. “I always had this passion in me to reach out to young people and help them. There’s no better place to do that than a community I know intimately and love to the core.”

Osgoode property law expert weighs in on prize coffee cup controversy

In a story about a legal dispute over who was entitled to a prize-winning Tim Horton’s coffee cup worth $28,700, Stepan Wood, a property law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, was asked about another case cited as a precedent. In that case, someone argued they were entitled to a bag of money they had found, reported the Toronto Star March 26. “No one would abandon a bag of money,” said Wood. The owner who lost the money didn’t step forward because the cash was likely connected to a crime, he said. That’s different from a coffee cup thrown in the trash. “You toss it in the garbage because you don’t want it anymore,” Wood said. “You’re relinquishing any claim you had on it.” If you abandon something and later learn it’s valuable, that shouldn’t change anything. “What’s relevant is your intention at the time,” he says. So if the person who bought the cup doesn’t get it, which of two girls who found it is entitled to it, the 10-year-old who found it in the garbage or her friend who helped roll up the rim? The 10-year-old has a stronger claim because she took possession of the cup first, agreed Wood and McGill University professor David Lametti.

York-led math modellers aid public health

York University’s Jianhong Wu leads a national group of mathematical modellers researching infectious diseases, reported The Globe and Mail March 25 in a story about the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Modelling Meeting in Toronto. His group, a network of academic, industrial and public members, has a broad mandate to “harness the power of the mathematical sciences to address the inherent complexity of modern industrial and societal problems for the benefit of all Canadians.” It has more than 40 active projects. The second day of the meeting will allow a total of 26 modellers and public-policy managers to mingle and share information, such as the impact that administering anti-viral prophylaxis to health-care workers has on containing pandemic influenza. “And the Public Health Agency will give us their priority list.” Wu said. “This will make sure mathematical modelling deals with issues important for public health. And public-health officials will know what kind of help they can get from modellers.”

How do we know exactly when Spring arrives?

Spring arrived last Monday at 1:26pm. But how can the time be so exact? According to Paul Delaney, an astronomer at York University, astronomers have a precise way of figuring out when Spring arrives, reported the Toronto Star March 26 in the children’s section Star Ship.

Palm’s man in Canada is a York graduate

The world loves York alumnus Michael Moskowitz‘s product, but to expand its reach he needs help from companies who don’t always share his goals, reported The Globe and Mail March 25. The 35-year-old executive is in charge of Palm Inc.’s operations in Canada and Latin America, and the hottest product in his portfolio is the portable Treo device, which wirelessly connects customers to e-mail and the Internet. Moskowitz, general manager and vice-president, Canada and Latin America, Palm Inc. received an honours BA in urban studies and political science at York in 1993.

Muslim women raise voices worldwide

During the height of the Danish cartoon controversy, Canadian media interviewed male Muslim leaders exclusively, without bothering to seek out leaders among Muslim women, reported the Toronto Star March 25. It’s a given that Muslim leaders are men, preferably with beards. Haideh Moghissi, a sociology professor at York University, says that rigid, unforgiving and sexist voices are considered valid voices by Western media. When a Muslim woman speaks out or assumes a leadership role, she’s called militant. Yet the struggle for sexual equality and leadership among Muslim women is gaining strength around the world.

Of maiden names and man-haters

In a story about whether women should change their surname after marriage in the Guelph Mercury March 25, Andrea O’Reilly, director of York University’s Centre for Research on Mothering, said she doesn’t see a name-changing trend either way. “Most women change their name but many don’t,” she said. “Why? Because it is the normative. In Quebec where women by law keep their name, guess what? Most women keep their names. People do what is normalized in their culture. I think the more women do it, the more normal it will become.”

A sound investment for guitar-strumming lawyer from York

York alumnus Garry Wise (LLB ‘84, BA ‘81) measures his words with care, reported the National Post March 25. Whether making his case before a judge or making music, strumming his vintage Martin M-36 guitar behind the mic in his home recording studio, his statements are meant to resonate. Specializing in family law and employment law, Wise sees parallels between his vocation and avocation. “Both require mental discipline to strike a chord with people,” he says. “When advocating on behalf of a client, I’m telling the story of their life. My songs are personal, but in all cases I try to convey a recognition of deep human experiences, describing a journey of life.” At the beginning of his 46-year journey, Wise says his first instrument was his sister’s ukulele. Later, he bought a $200 guitar and taught himself to play. After graduating from Osgoode Hall Law School, Wise continued composing, jamming with studio musicians and joining Ronnie Hawkins for summer concert gigs criss-crossing Ontario. “A great experience, because Hawkins has performed with the musical legends,” Wise said.

Middleton knows why we like junk food – it tastes so good

The president of the Canadian Medical Association thinks a fat tax on junk food could help fight obesity, reported the Calgary Sun March 27. There’s just one problem. We like sinful snacks better than celery sticks. “People know what’s better for them and what’s not so good for them,” points out Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “The problem is people like what’s not so good for them because, by and large, it tastes better,” he said. “So we try to eat healthy, but what we really like is the other stuff.”

On air

  • Tax expert Neil Brooks, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, was interviewed on CBC Radio (Fredericton) March 24 prior to a speech at the University of New Brunswick.