Thursday, February 2, 2012

Business owner fears for future of Kensington Market

Ossie Pavao’s family has been operating their cafe and bulk food store in Kensington Market for nearly 50 years.

The 54-year-old grandfather of eight says he can still remember when Jewish, Portuguese and Italian vendors all worked alongside each other and got along famously — and how his dad and brother turned the fixture at the corner of Baldwin and Augusta Aves. into what it is today.

“I feel very I’m sitting watching it all fall apart,” he told me as we sat over a full-bodied latte, a speciality of Cafe Acoreana. “It hurts to see it crumbling the way it is.”

Pavao, rough around the edges but passionate about his neighbourhood, gets very emotional about the demise of Kensington Market.

“What hurts the most is you have a federal government that appreciates the heritage and history of this site,” he said. “But you get a city council that just ignores it.”

He minces no words about his councillor, Adam Vaughan, who he feels has his own agenda.

“It (Vaughan’s agenda) has nothing to do with the market,” Pavao says.

He strongly believes Vaughan only caters to special interest groups — select business owners, activists and cyclists — within the community because they seem to get whatever they want.

His concerns are lengthy,

The market is difficult to access by car and there’s not enough parking.

He was forced to hire a private contractor to pick up his garbage two years ago when the city stopped twice-weekly pickup in the Market. Not surprisingly, his taxes did not go down as a result.

Grafitti is a “joke,” he says, because everytime his store is tagged, the city fines him, not the perpetrator.

Pavao would like to see graffiti better “enforced” and those who do it, required to come back and clean it up.

The drug pushers are a constant problem in Bellevue Square Park down the street.

Which brings Pavao to his biggest sore spot — Vaughan’s vanity project for Bellevue Square park.

He says Vaughan’s newest goal is to spend $1-million to redo the whole park. Pavao thinks that is an outrageous amount when you consider all it really needs is to be cleaned up, new grass and flowers planted, the washroom redone and a privately-operated concession stand added. He thinks all that — plus some repairs to get the wading pool running again — could be done for $60,000.

Getting rid of the pushers there just requires better “enforcement” by the bike cops — tickets, for example, that “make it very uncomfortable” for the pushers to trespass.

“I think he (Vaughan) wants to turn this area into Yorkville 2,” Pavao says. “There’s no need to spend money on a park that doesn’t need to be spent.”

Vaughan says $500,000 will be spent on the actual rehabilitation — money taken from the parks levy which is collected from development in the city and the ward.

He said a new playground alone will cost $200,000 on top of soil remediation, new tree plantings, rehabilitating the wading pool and reconfiguring the washroom.

He added that all of the electrical also has to be redone because there are two lines currently serving the park — for a cost yet to be determined.

A “huge community consultation” on the park started about 1 1/2 years ago and a firm has just been selected through a city tender to “create designs and workshop them” with area residents, he told me Thursday.

Once the designs are narrowed down, a tender will be issued for the project.

Now I’m all for consultation but this sounds like the Second Coming of Christ.

No wonder Pavao is frustrated by the lack of action on so many fronts.

Vaughan calls the Cafe Acoreana owner a “great character” in a neighbourhood of “lot of strong opinions” and says he walks through Kensington on almost a daily basis.

But Pavao — who last saw his councillor in the Market three weeks ago --thinks if Vaughan has any notion of running for mayor, he’d better learn to represent the entire community.

“He won’t talk to me because I’m not in his inner circle ... I’m just a taxpayer,” he said, noting at least Rob Ford, Vaughan’s nemesis, is trying to clean up the mess left because the last council pandered far too much to the special interests.

“Vaughan’s a man with two faces and I don’t trust either one right now.”

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