Class Warfare, they say….

broke out in Leslieville last week. Some of you may have seen the news reports.

Signs, looking much like the “No Big Box” posters which sprouted in front windows around the neighbourhood all summer long, were plastered to telephone poles and mail boxes, saying “No Yuppies in Leslieville.”  Official reaction was swift. The signs were scraped off wherever they were found because, although they reflected tension in the neighbourhood, they also, unfortunately, crossed the line of free speech with an incitement to violence, in the small print, invited readers to smash windows.

Almost all who saw the posters had a strong reaction to them – either positive or, in politer company, more negative. It was after all all evocative act, one which had also sprung up in graffitti on condo bill boards or in murmurs on street corners.

The neighbourhood is in flux. According to the the South Riverdale demographic profile on the City of Toronto website, from 1996 to 2001, median household incomes grew by nearly $11,000 and the number of people who fall below the low income cut-off fell by 29%. See The 2006 numbers are still being crunched but will no doubt show the trend continues.

It is, as the local city councillor Paula Fletcher, says, a mixed neighbourhood. But it is, more accurately a neighbourhood, in transition. And that is a time when tensions, rightly or wrongly will surface.

The Toronto Sun, former bastion of the working class, rose quickly to the defense of “Yuppies” and those who like “venti pumpkin-spiced lattes.” Ignored were the complaints of rising rents and new, too-expensive stores.

The Toronto Star obfuscated, explaining that because the process wasn’t complete, because the neighbourhood still had rough edges, this wasn’t gentrification – and so, presumably, no one should be up in arms about the neighbourhood newcomers who were driving up housing prices (and therefore realty taxes). People are arriving, we are told, because they like the grittiness of the neighbourhood; no worries about what happened similarly on Queen St. West.

Even Garth Turner, (yes former Conservative M.P.), describes a process of gentrification in Leslieville (or South Riverdale if you have lived there longer) where “Greedy developers are trying to turn it into a yuppie park, which will displace those who have lived there affordably.” Turner says that the neighbourhood will never switch to upper class enclave, though, like nearby Riverdale or the Beach. He explains, in his blog advising a woman to sell and move away, that Leslieville is “iffy” and “a dump” hemmed in by highways and hosting a “smelly” waste treatment plant.

Still, whether Leslieville/South Riverdale becomes so trendy that it reaches some magic gentrification tipping point, some people are feeling angry about the changes in their neighbourhood.

At a minimum, a space for community dialogue is needed.

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3 Responses to “Class Warfare, they say….”

  1. The “Leslieville Elite”? If you mean a bunch of young families trying to create futures in modest homes while struggling with ridiculous student loan debts, and rejecting participation in the GTA suburban commuter pollution throng, then I propose that the author of this quotation has got a screw loose in his/her understanding of elitism.

    I suppose that there are some of Boomer age out there who have the money to gut their new homes and focus on material acquisition, but they’re sure as hell not the most typical face of the neighbourhood. Besides, they’re not deserving of derision simply because they have more money than others.

    All this talk of empowerment and self-importance rings pretty false. At the very least, it seems misplaced and childishly pouty.

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