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My name is Bob Ramussen and I live near the island airport. Why am I against its proposed expansion? When the large jets start flying, whether louder or quieter, the increased traffic congestion will make the waterfront a dead zone.
It is simply not possible to squeeze the same number of passengers who now fly through Ottawa’s airport through Billy Bishop. The island airport is located smack dab in the middle of an area that the city of Toronto has zoned as a residential, park and cultural community.
Let me say it again: Why am I against the proposed expansion of the island airport? Because it will only make the quality of downtown life worse. Recently, the island airport has expanded to over two million passengers a year, and that makes our quality of life bad enough. But the proposed expansion to well over four million will degrade our once beautiful waterfront even more.
Here’s some background on me: When my wife and I purchased our harbourfront condominium in 1996, we lived in Hong Kong. But we had decided to retire to Canada, and we wanted to live in a waterfront environment close to city amenities. We chose downtown Toronto over Victoria and Vancouver so we could enjoy the cultural excitement of this city and, in particular, Toronto Island, Harbourfront Centre and the Music Garden.
We knew there was a small airport serving mainly small planes. We also knew the city’s Tripartite Agreement protected our investment because the agreement forbid the use of jet planes. But we really never worried about airport expansion because no city would ever consider destroying its greatest asset. Or so we thought.
Our building has a beautiful garden plaza. It was a spot where, for many years, we could lounge, eat, visit with friends and enjoy the greenery and lake view. It has now become a noisy, unpleasant place to be. During the busy late afternoon flight period, eating and talking with friends is no longer the joy we used to experience. In the past, we also kept our windows open to let the lake breezes blow through our home in the summer. Rarely did we use air conditioning. Now the island airport makes it necessary to always keep windows closed when watching television, listening to music or talking.
Many years ago we lived in Mississauga underneath a flight path to Pearson. We looked up, way up, to see the planes fly overhead. Now we look down to see the planes pass by our windows. Hong Kong had an airport like the one being proposed for our waterfront. Hong Kong closed it. Toronto wants to build one.
Toronto’s Department of Health voted against expansion last November. So here’s my last question: Why are city councillors still debating this irresponsible expansion?
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Photo by Llima Orosa
I’ve made it my job (since the papers aren’t doing it) to find out about the sticky black stuff on the windows of downtown residences along with the impact of jets on our air and water quality. So check out my blog next week for missing information about Toronto’s air and water quality. On Dec 9, 2013, Toronto’s board of health voted against the expansion of the island airport because it is a threat to Torontonians’ health.
In a city map based on the board’s report, NOW magazine demonstrated that serious pollution from the airport goes as high as Queen street and reaches as far as Queen’s Park. More pollution brings more lung and heart disease, the Toronto Board of Health says. So don’t assume you’re safe from the impact of the airport just because you don’t live on the harbour.
In the meantime, here’s my interview with Rick Persich who will move out of his home on Bathurst Quay if the airport expansion is approved. By the way, Rick Persich is still waiting to hear what the city’s health officials have to say about the black sticky substance on his window sills:
I live in Windward Co-op at 34 Little Norway Crescent. Looking out my window, I can almost count the distance on my fingers from my town house to the airport hangars. It feels about three hundred meters. (The quotes are different depending where you’re counting from.) So if the airport expansion is approved I will move after living here twenty-five years. Ideally, I’d like to stay close to the city but I’m an actor and a recently certified teacher and I will go where the work is.
The particulate matter on my window sill used to be a brownish colour but it’s turned blacker. In February, some city inspectors took a sample of the sticky black residue and put it in a petri dish. They haven’t got back to me yet. Inspector Barbara La Chapelle was here in her fur coat. She said while standing on my balcony, “You sure do live close.” Or something like that. She said the city’s health study would not be biased. That was one of my concerns because the Toronto Port Authority paid for the city’s study.
Last Monday, perhaps because of stormy weather, the airport activity was almost nil. I couldn’t put my finger on what was different until I realized how quiet it was. My whole being felt calm and peaceful. It was a profound feeling, and I realized how the ubiquitous din from the airport helps create a kind of inner tension in my personal being. One seems to get used to it and not realize what an assault constant noise is.
When I moved to the Bathurst Quay neighborhood I expected to live a fairly peaceful life, slightly separated from the inner city core and near the fresh air of Lake Ontario. At the time, BBTCA was a small and acceptable regional airport. But that changed when Porter expanded its flights in 2006 and the proposed expansion would pretty much finish off our wonderful neighborhood by the water.
By the way, an increase in cancer has been recorded in my area, especially in Arcadia Co-op which has a high concentration of people with cancers on the 6th and 7th floors of their building. I mention this because a dear friend of ours, who lives in Arcadia, has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. One cannot conclusively say that this cancer was caused by air pollution emanating from jet fuel but a connection could be drawn. The turboprops now in use at the airpot have jet engines with propellers and they run on the same highly toxic fuel as jets.
Read more on this topic at Now Magazine’s: The Island airport: hazardous to Toronto’s health
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Photography by Abdallahh, and elPadawan (adapted work).
I said I’d talk more about how an expansion of the island airport would change our lives. Not only would it bring in more passengers (a jump from well over two million to a possible 4.8 million). Our waterfront has been marked as parkland for mixed use by Toronto citizens. The proposed expansion would tip the balance even more to planes. Here’s how a sailor, Ron Jenkins sees the impact of the proposed Porter expansion.
1. How would an island airport expansion affect you?
I’m a member of the National Yacht Club, which is adjacent to the airport. The NYC and Alexandra Yacht Club both contend with significant aircraft noise and exhaust fumes. Our balconies are sometimes unusable and we often move our outdoor activities indoors or to the north of the building to get away from the noise. The NYC has been on the waterfront since 1894, and I think this inappropriate and unnecessary airport expansion would destroy a Toronto waterfront legacy for my children and others.
2. What were your expectations when you started living near the airport?
I’ve never lived near the airport but have sailed from the National Yacht Club all my life.
2. How has the landscape changed?
I started sailing at the National Yacht Club on my grandfather’s 25 foot wooden sailboat boat when I was three months old — in the late 1950s. The area has vastly changed. The area between Stadium Road and Bathurst was an empty dirt field. Now it’s populated with many residences. It’s also the staging point for over two million passengers a year at the airport. Commercial use of the airport has increased one thousand fold.
3. Can you tell me a personal story that demonstrates the impact of the airport?
Back in the 1960s, my grandfather had no motor on his boat, and when there was no wind and we were hurrying to get to races that started off Hanlan’s beach, we’d paddle across the Western Gap. Then, in the style of Volga boatmen, we were able to pull the boat along the seawall and across the end of the airport runway.
In the last ten years the expanse of lake at the end of the runway has changed dramatically. Marks now encircle the so-called “Marine Exclusion Zone” (MEZ) — the area all boats must stay out of to keep a safe separation between boats and aircraft. This makes sense, and yet we boaters have seen the area marked out by the MEZ grow season over season. It’s pretty intimidating to have a Q400 pass overhead when you’re in a sailboat.
My involvement with the summer sailing school also makes me concerned about the health of the young sailors coming from around Toronto to use our water and breathe our air. The recent Board of Health report shows there are health hazards because of the scale of airport operations. Our young people are at ground zero in this mess.