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How a small group could beat city hall

How do you protect your (very small) street when you have little to fight with?

I learned how when I moved back to Mallory Cres. in March 1989 and found the valley was under attack for the third time.

The local paper informed the residents that our Mallory Green park would be sold and houses would be built along the valley rim. An official letter filled with slippery language stated that if the developer wanted even more profit he could just build something else.

I called the Governor’s Bridge group that was then fighting for its valley edge. Their advice? Get all the city documents you need immediately before they magically disappear. The truth of this was made clear when East York told us emphatically that we had no proof that there had ever been a park.

But I remembered all the meetings with lawyers in the ’50s to have the park established.

I called a builder I knew and asked if houses would be profitable on a landfill cliff. He drove to Mallory, walked the cliff, and said apartment towers would be built.

Park for Sale flyers outlining our fate were delivered by hand. Within hours elderly women tenants of the small apartments came to my door, many in tears, knowing that if the valley went their homes of 30 or 40 years would soon follow.

Councillor Donedeal met with residents. The elderly were honoured. I told them that he worked for us – honour did not enter into it. The councillor told us that we would not hire a lawyer and we would ”behave ourselves” at the council meeting. When asked why sell a park, he said that they overspent on the civic centre so parks had to go!

The park committee, formed the next day, had three types of members, the grimly determined, the tearful and frightened of authority, and my father telling one and all that you can’t fight city hall.

My father, as owner of two Mallory properties, had more than others to lose, but when asked for $50 for the war chest he refused. My mother slipped their share into my hand.

We had a hotline featuring the aggressive growl of Churchill informing you that we will fight on the land…we will never surrender!  It got a lot of traffic. A friend, neighbour of the mayor, casually mentioned to him our talk with Toronto’s top law firm. It was true. We had talked and when given the rates we ran away.

We had a rally in the park for the media. An article mentioned that elderly resident Ken Crothers found in his files the original legal documents creating the park.

Outside the May council meeting Councillor Donedeal pulled me aside and pointed out that I stood to make more money than anyone. I told him I did not care, the valley was not going to be filled with cement. He denied that they were entering the valley and then changed that to they were not going in that far.

Mr. Developer in the front row apparently thought some of the councillors worked for him. We presented our case. They voted. The park survived! The legal park survived. As we filed out Councillor Donedeal, all smiles, shook my hand and said he was behind us all the way.

At our wrap-up meeting a council representative breathlessly told us there was a budget for the park. We could have anything we wanted. I asked for a domed stadium and enjoyed his small panic.

Heeding more sage advice we asked for signs in the park.

At the celebration that followed we shared a park-shaped cake complete with running children, dogs, robins, people sitting under the trees and even the trash bins.

At one point I asked my mother if she would lie in front of a bulldozer if it came to that. She said no because she would not be able to get up.

I asked if she would sit if I carried her chair. She said definitely. That attitude and teamwork is all you need to fight back if densification comes to a street near you.