Toronto agrees to move forward with its version of Central Park

Rail Deck Park is on like Donkey Kong!… Or a little bit closer to it, at least.

Toronto city council has voted to move forward with the planning phase of an ambitious, 21-acre green space that will blanket the CN rail corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way.

A total of 35 councillors voted in favour of advancing “the Stage Two Work Plan for Rail Deck Park in 2018 and 2019” during yesterday’s meeting, while four voted against the motion, including Giorgio Mammoliti.

Critics of the move are raising concerns about how the city will pay for the park, which is already estimated to cost more than $ 1.6 billion.

According to yesterday’s meeting agenda, city officials will further develop a “growth-focused financial strategy” to offset the expense.

Advocates like Councillor Joe Cressy say that enough money can be raised for the park through federal, provincial and commercial contributions, among other revenue sources.

There was some debate during yesterday’s meeting over how those funds could otherwise be spent, but, as acting chief planner Gregg Lintern pointed out, large swaths of land are increasingly rare downtown.

It’s now or never, basically, and the vote reflected how most councillors seem to feel about building a “legacy park” downtown.

“The Rail Deck Park is one of the most visionary ideas to come out of City Hall in our lifetimes,” wrote Alex Josephson and Nicola Spunt of PARTISANS after Mayor John Tory announced the project last year.

“This isn’t an opportunity to build Toronto’s Central Park,” wrote the architecture experts. “It’s an opportunity to harness the kind of audacious thinking that led to Central Park.”

Mammoliti does not agree with this sentiment. He moved a (failed) motion yesterday asking the city to stop all spending towards Rail Deck Park until a full review of all city parks had been completed. 

He argued that the park’s cost would far exceed current estimates, and even went so far as to promise his own resignation should the project’s final price tag come in at less than $ 3 billion.

“This is my guarantee to hardworking Toronto taxpayers,” he later wrote on Twitter

Mammoliti also decried Rail Deck Park as a “$ 3 billion poodle park” – which to me sounds kind of delightful, but who knows? Maybe he’s more of a cat person.

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