June 29, 2010
It’s the home they’ve lived in for 51 years, where they raised five children and hope to spend the rest of their lives.
But the Toronto Transit Commission has other plans for Danny and Grace Calia’s tidy, semi-detached house on Strathmore Blvd.
Two weeks ago, the couple received a notice and map in the mail showing their property is right at the spot where the TTC proposes to build a second exit for the Greenwood subway station, around the corner on Danforth Ave. It means their house would be torn down.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Danny Calia, 77, worked for the TTC for 35 years as a subway operator and vehicle repairman.
“I feel very bad and I feel cheated,” he said. “After all this, I don’t think I deserve to be kicked out this house.”
The proposal is part of an 11-year, multi-million-dollar program to build second exits for health and safety reasons in subway stations that only have one. Fourteen stations are affected and are at various stages in the program, which began in 2002.
Donlands, Greenwood and Woodbine are among those on the Bloor-Danforth line yet to be constructed. In the case of Donlands and Greenwood, initial plans show four houses in total would have to be expropriated.
While it’s a “fait accompli” that the second exits will go in, the exact locations won’t be finalized until a “meaningful conversation” with residents takes place at public meetings this week, said TTC chair Adam Giambrone.
“The TTC has presented design proposals but there is no detailed design yet. If there are reasonable alternatives, we could look at those,” he said, adding some property will be required. “Whenever you take someone’s home, you have to be careful about that. Everyone’s home is equally important.”
He said the need for additional exits arose from a subway fire 15 years ago in which riders had only one means of escape.
For the Calias, who have health and mobility problems, the thought of leaving the only home they’ve known since emigrating from Italy in 1958, is heartbreaking.
“I can’t sleep. I can’t think about it. Where will I go?” said Grace Calia, 72.
They rely on their daughter, Bruna Amabile, who lives two doors down, and other neighbours to help with daily chores and personal care.
“We all understand the need for safety but this can’t be the only option,” Amabile said. “And it’s upsetting the way we were notified with just a notice of the meeting (Tuesday evening) and a map of the proposal.”
Once all options are reviewed, a decision will be made in the next month or two, Giambrone said, adding no one would have to move for a couple of years.
But homeowners object to what they call a lack of consultation during the planning process. Tuesday’s meeting with the TTC “is nothing more than lip service,” said spokesman Steven Martin, who thinks final decisions have already been made. “I would like a sober look at the plan. And one session, for an hour, won’t cut it.”