You don't own the boardwalk, Beach locals. Let the people paddleboard: Teitel
Some Beach residents are taking a very NIMBY stance against a paddleboard rental kiosk. But a Toronto's attractions should be open to all of its inhabitants, not just a lucky few.
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Toronto’s east end “Beach” neighbourhood is home to more than a few yoga studios, but this doesn’t mean its residents are particularly flexible.
For proof, look no further than the paddleboard-kiosk dispute plaguing the boardwalk at Balsam Ave. and Hubbard Blvd.
It’s here that a small group of residents who live directly across from the lake are upset about the present location of iPaddle Adventures, a new business that rents paddleboards and kayaks to beachgoers, a business the residents say is obstructing their view of the water.
“Paddleboard kiosk dispute” may sound like the lowest stakes event in human history, but I assure you, it’s of great consequence to anyone who believes a city’s main attractions should serve all of its inhabitants, as opposed to a lucky few.
Among those who hold this view is Brian Quinn, the CEO of iPaddle Adventures. The city recently granted Quinn permission to park his kiosk on the grass behind the boardwalk. Today, that business is thriving. He says he rents paddleboard and kayak equipment to a minimum of 40 people everyday, beachgoers from all over the city and several tourists as well. (I looked at the binder in his office and it was jam-packed with rental slips.)
But, says Quinn, some residents continue to complain that their view of the lake has suffered as a result of his being there. One resident in particular, a woman named Viola Bracegirdle, a beach resident with a formerly unobstructed view, described the situation to the CBC like this: “It’s terrible. He (Quinn) should have been down someplace else. They can go down further. Why are they picking on us? We are the most expensive houses here and the taxes are the highest here. I’m fed up.”
Quinn alleges that some residents are so fed up they’ve “screamed profanities” at him and frightened his customers; he even called the non-emergency police service, and told the complaining residents to expect a letter from his lawyer if they continue to interfere with his business.
I took the streetcar to the Beach this week, so I could see for myself the alleged blight that is iPaddle Adventures, but here’s what I saw instead: Quinn sitting on a bench eating a sandwich, a Bluetooth radio of some kind humming quietly beside him. And behind him, the kiosk itself, modestly sized, decorated with Canadian flags and upright kayak paddles. It was hard to believe this was the blemish on the horizon that beach residents are so incensed about.
But then I remembered I was in Toronto, possibly the NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) capital of the world. “(Residents) came out with a sign saying they wanted us removed from the beach and that I was an eyesore,” Quinn told me.
An eyesore! God forbid anyone should have to abide an eyesore from his or her porch, so that families from all over the city and, presumably, all over the world can enjoy a boat ride on a public beach. NIMBYism of this order makes me think Torontonians are so averse to so-called “eyesores” we’d probably reject a city proposal for a giant ray gun if an asteroid were hurtling toward the downtown core, because the thing might obstruct somebody’s view of the CN Tower.
In other words, in Toronto, we seem to love nothing more than cutting off our nose to spite our face.
It doesn’t help that in addition to NIMBYism we have an obsession with so-called “villages.” In his book Frontier City, urbanist and Toronto Star columnist Shawn Micallef writes, “Toronto has what might be called a village fetish, where neighbourhoods insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that they are indeed a village.”
You could argue that one of Toronto’s most attractive features — its network of distinct neighbourhoods — is also the very thing that stalls its progress. If you have a village mentality in a big city, as some residents in the picturesque Beach evidently do, you forget that your “village” belongs to a sprawling metropolis and the populace at large is entitled to the attractions and resources therein.
You forget that your view of the lake is not in fact, your view. It’s everybody’s view. The Beach is a neighbourhood in Toronto, it’s not Muskoka.
“They don’t own this boardwalk,” Quinn says about the residents who want him to move his kiosk out of their line of sight. “The city owns this boardwalk. This is for people. This is to get people out doing things.”
Amen. Let the people paddleboard.
Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist for the Toronto Star.