Dateline: Toronto: ISLAND AIRPORT REDESIGNED; Jane Jacobs Dies PART III

[Part three you say? Part THREE? What the hell is going on here? Who has time for this crap? –ed.]

Fact is, we want to know too. We want to know what the relationship between a long discourse on a fantasy design process (a.k.a. a charrette) for excising the Toronto island airport has to do with the call to abolish automobile advertising in all its many guises.

If the reason behind the ALLDERBLOB is to convince our government to ban car advertising, why are we spending all this time writing about a bunch of people who had nothing more pressing than to spend three days talking and drawing an alternative future for some land on the Toronto Harbour?

And, what does Jane Jacobs have to do with anything?

Ay-yah, as they say in Cantonese. This is a complicated matter [Do everyone a favour then. Make a long story short. –ed.].

Here goes:

The Toronto Islands are one of a handful of carfree residential communities in the western, automobilious world

[ the adjective “automobilious,” means “car-sickened.” Not “car-sickness,” that’s the effect the car has on its passengers. “Car-sickened” is the effect cars have on those outside, not those inside the car. It refers to the degradation of society as a whole that the car induces. –ed.].

Elsewhere on this site we present our ideas about the nature of carfree places. Read it if you dare, and consider the following: to be carfree is not necessarily to be without cars. A “thickened” commercial street where by necessity cars just inch along, Danforth Avenue, Toronto, West of Pape Ave, midday, midweek, midwinter. Can you see the three jaywalkers? Sure you can. allowing a pedestrian to cross the street virtually anywhere, can be argued to be “carfree.”

And the same street, now “thinned” and empty of cars, Danforth Avenue, Toronto, East of Pape Ave: same day, same time. No Cars? Watch out, you\'re about to be hit by one! can be the most dangerous place imaginable for a cyclist or pedestrian.

We won’t get into the reasons for this here [please! –ed.]. Suffice it to say that Murphy’s Blobby’s law states “Cars rush to fill up the space available to them.”

Everyone knows this law.

So everyone who considers the future of the Toronto island airport hits their head on the same dull reality: if you build a bridge, cars will rush in.

That’s why the Port Authority wanted to build a bridge: to allow onto the island “urban traffic.”

And that’s why the single resounding point of consensus among members of the public who showed up for the Thursday evening session where we set the parameters for the charrette was “Build no fixed link to the island: keep the islands carfree” [um, that’s two points. –ed.].

We described the Thursday night sessions in part I of this series. We ended part I with the suggestion that a description of the facilitation technique of one Janet Rosenberg was in order. Tantalizing, to be sure, but in part II we got sidetracked. We devoted part II to a discussion of Jane Jacobs’s analysis of the car in urban settings. We called Ms. Jacobs “someone who really spoke truth to power about the dangers automobile dependency presents to urban life.” [My god, does it get any worse? That phrase went out with the Monkees. –ed.]

Okay. Let’s get down to business.

If we accept that the Toronto Island residential community is a place removed from automobilious culture, and we accept the proposition with Lord Acton Historian Lord Acton (1834-1902): \"Absolute power corrupts absolutely\" that “Advertising corrupts; automobile advertising corrupts automobiliously,” we have among the many souls who accept the island residential community as a good thing the possibility of an immunity to, or at least a resistance to, automobile advertising and its gospel message.

That said, we imagined we would find, among the professional designers and members of the public who filled the halls during the charrette, an embrace of the notion of a residential community in a carfree setting. We imagined that the group, which included the likes of Bill Freeman, Barry Lipton, and other Toronto Island residents, would be eager to include others in their warm, carfree embrace. We imagined that the likes of Julie Beddoes, and others who live on or near the harbourfront, dedicated pedestrian advocates who pay homage to the principles of carfree urban life, would be eager to see developed on the island airport site more of the existing residential form of Ward’s and Algonquin Islands.

We could not conceive of anyone looking at the island, especially anyone with the slightest knowledge of its historic battle to prove “People and Parks Belong Together,” not choosing to ensure a residential component to any scheme to replace the airport.

But at our table at the Saturday design charrette, facilitated by Janet Rosenberg, we were in for a surprise.


[augh! –ed.]

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