CSL digs out from biggest snowfall in years

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In Côte Saint-Luc we are very proud about how we handled snow clearing

by: Cllr. Mike Cohen

Posted: 18 Mar 2017 02:59 PM PDT

As we continue to dig out from the biggest snow storm the Montreal area has seen in years, I would like to applaud the work done by the City of Côte Saint-Luc`s Public Works Department.

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I have received a great deal of kind comments from residents in regards to how well  we  handled the snow clearing.  In fact, most of the Montreal media praised the work we did on the main roads. Please understand that this is a very difficult task and I was among the motorists on the Thursday morning stuck trying to get past the underpass on Cavendish. It was unavoidable and inconvenient, but later in the day all cleared up

“It was an emotional day for many residents,”  Public Works Director Beatrice Newman reported to city council. “Please help us help your residents understand why things appear to be a certain way while in the background, the city is working fervently to provide safe passage-ways in the city.”

The light on Guelph Road broke Thursday morning and stayed green. This meant that Westminster stayed on a red light. Traffic began to build up, employees rushed to help traffic. Public Security  directed traffic and electricians worked on determining and fixing the light. “Things like this happens when there are drastic changes in weather,” Ms. Newman said.

Cavendish Boulevard was congested, southbound. Our snow removal operations provided clear roads for our residents, but unfortunately once they hit CSL Road and Cavendish, they were faced with congestion. NDG kept their side of Cavendish at one lane. Therefore, our three lanes had to squeeze into their one lane. “Et voilà, major traffic accumulation on Cavendish and  CSL,”  Ms. Newman explained.

Fleet was at one lane from our city right through Hampstead. The objective at first is to clear the road with one lane for access. Then approximately 24 hours later, the blowing began. “We cannot start our operations earlier in the morning or traffic issues would be inevitable,” said Ms. Newman. “Only one lane would still be available in this case. We must consider the safety concerns first. This was not a regular snow storm. This was a blizzard with white out conditions, dangerous road conditions and more. We must have patience. Close to 40 centimeters fell and the process to remove it all will not be quick, we must work efficientlyand safely.”

We had five  teams working all day Thursday, five sidewalk cleaners, five loader/blowers, five 10 wheelers, five walkers and two salt trucks remained to follow the contractors as they salted the roads once the contractor blew the snow. Once snow falls on the asphalt  we secure it with abrasives.

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Our snow dump after the storm.

 

Two teams worked at the municipal buildings and one  worked on our special calls such as  snow blown accidentally on personal walkways, emptying public garbage, etc. One  employee was stationed at the snow dump on Marc Chagall in District 2, which now looks like an Olympic ski hill.

The balance of the areas around Yavne, Merton and Maimonides schools were done on Friday.

We are working hard to do our best in operations and customer service.

“In Public Security, our agents have seen their call volume go up by a factor of 2.5,” explained Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson. “Our agents have responded with professionalism and tact despite trying circumstances, horrible road conditions and lots and lots of snow. They have always kept the safety of our residents at the forefront and I have been impressed by their ingenuity and dedication.

“Our Dispatch Centre has been flooded with calls and complaints about everything from traffic to snow removal to cars blocking driveways. Despite being screamed and sworn at, they have maintained their composure and professionalism.”

Mr. Reichson noted that while  we did not activate our emergency plan, we kept it close at hand. We ensured that our evacuation routes remained as accessible as possible and were prepared to activate elements of the plan as required. “Despite what some residents have posted online, our response has been as strong and efficient as it can be,” he said. “ This was not just another storm, but rather an opportunity for our employees to shine and from what I have seen, all have risen to the occasion.

Which century is Cuba in?

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LOOKING FOR AN EXPERIENCE
I took my family on a vacation to Cuba two weeks ago. Looking for more than just the pool and beach I wanted the kids to have a higher level experience, something educational and memorable. Experiential. My solution?  A side trip to Havana.
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Classic 1950s American cars are everywhere in Cuba

Barely two hours from the paradise of Varadero, a trip to Havana is a trip back through time. Locked in the 20th century, the capital city of Cuba is a glimpse into the grandeur and opulence of its rich colonial past. The vibrancy of its heyday in the 1920s through the 1950s is everywhere, from the impressive architecture to the grand American classic automobiles. Latin rhythms waft from balconies and at touristy street corner bodegas. You can feel the wealth of culture and society of a bygone era.
Close your eyes and imagine the rich and famous strolling down the narrow streets during the Jazz Age , Ernest Hemingway at his favourite watering hole, the Bodeguita del Medio in the ’30s, Fidel Castro addressing his people in the ’50s, and Russian everywhere in the ’60s.
With the blink of an eye you switch back and forth between the centuries: 2017 Havana is a juxtaposition between dilapidated buildings and broken cobblestone roads mixed with charming cafes and floral displays on decorated balconies. The Old City is slowly being restored with private funding inching its way into the Communist economy and significant UNESCO investment in buildings rich in heritage and history.
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Streets in Old Havana are narrow with very few cars. Life flows out into the street with local smells and sounds – a photographer’s paradise, as it was for me.

WHERE ARE THE AMERICANS?
Tourists abound from Europe, South America, Russia and mostly Canada. Nary an American is to be found with the 55 year old US embargo still in place restricting US travel (save for those who qualify for a visa based upon family reunification, non-governmental work or religious travel).
Surprisingly, tourism is only the second largest source of revenue for the tiny island nation. The first industry is actually exportation of trained workers. Doctors, engineers and a host of professionals are permitted to leave for up to 8 years and to earn real world wages while sending back sizable amounts as tax to the government.
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Old Havana’s public spaces are wide open and generally car free. Many surrounding buildings offer impressive architectural facades, extraordinary balconies and beautiful colours.

Until recently doctors earned a paltry $30 per month, but with changes in the economic grip of Castro’s regime this amount has gone up tenfold now enabling the professionals to bring in an incredible $300 each month. Of course, those working abroad can earn many times more, and they do.
EQUAL AND RESPECTFUL
While 10% of Cubans are black, owing to the slave labour imported centuries earlier from Africa, 65% are white descendants of Europeans who arrived with Christopher Columbus in 1492. What’s more 1% are Chinese and the remaining 24% are mixed. Amazingly, there is no racial divide on the island. All Cubans are considered equal and respect one other. Perhaps this stems from the symbols emblematic in their flag, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, a civic philosophy borrowed from the French.
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I love to capture the expressions of the locals when I travel. Some will extend an arm and ask for a handout. Kids are inquisitive and engaging and generally will smile as did this beautiful little Havana resident.

TRYING TO GET AHEAD
Our guide Luis, 50 years old, was a teacher and voracious learner. While guiding several days each week in impeccable English and German, he supplements his earnings by privately teaching the English language to locals. He describes his fourth language, Italian, as a little rusty. Not being connected to the Internet his studying comes from books that he is able to come by locally. Luis has never driven a car and has no permit to do so, similar to most Cubans. Owning a car is cost prohibitive for most here.
Our guide Luis (right) and driver Julien (left) were outstanding. You can find them for your next side trip from Varadero to Havana at Cuban Trip Compass, the top rated tour company on TripAdvisor.

Our guide Luis (right) and driver Julien (left) were outstanding. You can find them for your next side trip from Varadero to Havana at Cuban Trip Compass, the top rated tour company on TripAdvisor.

The whole system works very slowly. No one goes hungry (anymore). Luis recounted how he and his wife would share a hard-boiled egg for lunch every day in the mid 90s when lengthy power outages were the norm. But, everyone has a home (even the homeless are housed in yesteryear’s mansions) and the government provides monthly rations of sugar, flour, soap, tooth paste, chicken and so on but North American standards are light years away despite its distance of barely 90 miles to the Florida keys.

LOOK AT THOSE CARS
Speaking of cars, the island is known worldwide for its pristine typical 1950s American classics. Anywhere you turn you’re guaranteed to see a brightly painted, shiny chrome vehicle with whitewall tires reminiscent of the Hollywood set of Happy Days. These beauties have been maintained for more than half a century and now sport modern horn sounds, LED lights and are used as taxis, rental cars or private vehicles.
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The yellow iconic Coco taxis, essentially motorbike with a rickshaw seat for two, are everywhere, however the US State department warns these are dangerous vehicles, prone to accident.
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Coco taxis are popular with the tourists but may not be as safe as you think

Smoking was everywhere! Yuck. There are no smoke-free zones. I thought we left these behind in the 20th century, but not in Cuba. There is smoking in restaurants, in stores, in the airport, in and around hotels. Everywhere. Between the cigarettes and famous Cuban cigars it’s no wonder that lung cancer is prevalent among Cubans.
LOOKING AHEAD
It was fascinating to learn how locals live and go about their lives through the eyes of Luis and his hopes and aspirations for his 19 year old  daughter now studying tourism at Matanzas University. He expressed concern about the work ethic of the next generation entering the labour market. He was hopeful that his daughter would have a better life and have more opportunity and experiences.  Seems like Cuban parents have very similar concerns to Canadian parents.
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Old Havana is a mix of bright colours of renovated buildings next to dilapidated ones. Amazingly this old cars has stood the test of time (and dodged a few falling bricks).

A SYSTEM WE’RE NOT USED TO
Everything, almost, is government-owned and controlled. While Luis carefully describes this setup as socialism rather than communism the omnipotence of the Castro regime is everywhere. And Soviet influences are fading very slowly, even 27 years after the fall of USSR.
Nonetheless, Luis is a very happy person and he describes Cubans, in general, as having a high degree of happiness. It would also seem that most Cubans have never left their country, internet is not widely available and news outlets and television programming are state controlled. Censorship is the norm.
Hotels chains are owned 51% by the government and the buildings will revert to full government ownership after a number of years. Hotel staff are employed by the state. It would seem that there is no incentive for improvement or quality. This helped us to understand why we had to call and visit the front desk multiple times to resolve basic requests such as to receive extra towels or to fix an air conditioning problem.
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Beautiful balconies on every street. Imagine how many different people opened these shutters through the centuries to look out upon those scurrying about below?

To be sure, hotel staff are very obliging and friendly. Many were outgoing and remembered our names and our nationality. However, lagging basic renovations, be it for plumbing, electrical or other issues, would wait for another day. Sadly, this malaise would turn an otherwise 5-star modern and luxurious Iberostar resort into a 3.5 star under-achiever. Don’t get me wrong, I’d stay here again and again. And I’ll definitely be back for a visit. The people are friendly, happy and engaging.
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Content, proud and secure, at home, in Old Havana

TWO HOURS IN A ’53 CHEVY
For 50 Cuban tourist dollars (CUC) our driver, Unido, was happy to tour us around Varadero city in a ’53 Chevy, taking us to see the two “shopping malls”, the Dupont mansion overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and the biggest of several flea markets, on 15th street at the corner of Main Street. There are 64 streets intersecting Main Street in the town centre which only runs two or three blocks wide on the 22 kilometre peninsula beach resort.
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My next post on Cuba will feature our visit to the Jewish community.

Ernest Hemingway’s regular hangout

I spotted this photo of our PM, Jean Chretien, with Fidel Castro, hanging in the bar at the Hotel Nacional in Havana

 

Music everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CSL population grows, a bit

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The 2016 census figures are in and Cote Saint-Luc registered a mini population growth spurt of just 127 residents more than in 2011.

CSL now has 32,448 residents, a growth of just 0.4%.

It’s interesting to note that the census metropolitan area of Vancouver has the highest population density in Canada, with 5,492.6 people per square kilometre, followed by the Montreal suburbs of Westmount and… you guessed it, Cote Saint-Luc with 4,662.5 people per square kilometre.  Toronto ranks 8th on the list at 4,334.4 people per square kilometre.

While our population remains relatively unchanged in CSL, Quebec’s overall growth has slowed significantly to 3.3% since 2011. This places us in 8th position out of the 13 provinces and territories. Wonder why?

Previous census figures show our average age is decreasing in CSL. When more data is released later this year we’ll see if this trend is continuing.

These numbers also help our city in planning for services to meet the needs of our demographics. Also worth noting, is that several new buildings are either in construction (such as on The Avenue and on Parkhaven) or pre-construction (on Marc-Chagall) that will bring in several hundred new residents in the next year or two. This will add to our density as well as our demand on infrastructure (roads, sewers, utility) and services (recreation, library, EMS, etc…).

See more information on the Census Canada web page for CSL as well as at CTV News.

For more info on how CSL fared in the 2011 census use the search window on the top right of this page (search: Census 2011).

What do you think about these numbers? Are we better or worse off by our growing population?

 

 

Happy New Year | Bonne Année

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2017-new-year

Wishing you health, happiness and peace in the new year.

Je vous souhaite une très bonne année, pleine de joie, de bonne santé et de belles surprises.

Year End Roundup: Inside City Hall with Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

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Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has done a magnificent job in rallying all those around him since becoming mayor nine months ago. Mitch has brilliantly achieved consensus among members of council, has strengthened the city administration and brought our unions onside.  He is building upon a magnificent legacy created over a decade by former Mayor Anthony Housefather.

As an outgoing, effervescent and engaging full-time mayor. He created this wonderful recap of Cote Saint-Luc activities and accomplishments in 2016.

“We are a very special family,” the mayor said. Enjoy this video, these beautiful holidays, and take the time to count your blessings and appreciate all we have and the good times we share.”

New dog-friendly parks in Côte Saint-Luc

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Child Dog Snow

 The City of Côte Saint-Luc recently launched a pilot project  to allow dogs on leashes in six parks and several green spaces.

 

“Dog owners have told us they appreciate being able to bring their pets to city parks and green spaces,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said. “We found a good balance by selecting certain parks and ensuring a safe distance from playgrounds and splash pads for the pilot project.”

 

When in public, dog owners must always keep their dog on a leash, have up-to-date dog tags issued by Côte Saint-Luc or any other municipality, and scoop up after their dog.

 

The parks or green spaces that now allow leashed dogs include Aaron Hart Park along David Lewis St., Harold Greenspon Park on Borden Ave., the green space between Marc Chagall Ave. and the parking lot of the Bernard Lang Civic Centre, the green space on Baily Rd. between Northluc and Cavendish, the green space on Baily Rd. between Lyndale and Glencrest, and a section of Kirwan Park between Blossom and Wentworth.

 

“We’ve achieved our goal of having dog-friendly parks that serve all parts of the city,” Mayor Brownstein said. “We will continue to monitor how the parks or green spaces are being used, to decide whether we should expand dog-friendly parks to more areas.”

 

The city’s exclusive dog park is located on Mackle Rd, between Caldwell and Parkhaven.
We wish all our Côte Saint-Luc dogs and their owners a happy, tail-wagging holiday season.

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Baron Byng Class of ’39 meets for the 77th time

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By George Nashen:

Baron Byng Class of '39. Left side: Classmates Eddie Wolkove, Nina Cass, George Nashen and his wife. Right side: Mildred Leiter, Samuel Levy and his wife.

Baron Byng Class of ’39. Left side: Classmates Eddie Wolkove, Nina Cass, George Nashen and his wife. Right side: Mildred Leiter, Samuel Levy and his wife.

 

Once again, as we’ve done year after year, the notable Baron Byng high school graduation class of 1939 met recently for our annual reunion, this one being the 77th anniversary.

The sad news is that our numbers are dwindling, as we reach the age of 93. However, six graduates met recently at a West End breakfast place and we hope to continue to meet as long as possible, even if only two of us are remaining.

Mamie Trager had this to say: “It’s a miracle that we are still here.”

Sam Levy said, “We produced many medal winners in various fields.”

From Nina Cass, “I am happy to be here.”

Eddie Wolkove, who has been the reunion organizer for more than fifty years, stated, “We are truly blessed.”

Mildred Leiter added, “Although our numbers are dwindling it is still a pleasure to be here.”

George Nashen, Class of '39

George Nashen, Class of ’39

As for me (George Nashen), “What a wonderful feeling it is to meet with classmates from 80+  years ago. Although there are a few more classmates still around, the inability of them meeting with us varies from distance in other parts of the world whereas other ones are closer but unable to attend because of illness, either physical or emotional.”

Baron Byng High School. Established in 1921 by the Protestant School Board of Greater Montréal, Baron Byng High School taught mostly Jewish students and has several well-known graduates including Irving Layton and Mordecai Richler. Circa 1970. Source : Jewish Public Library. Historical Photographs Collection, 88-107.

Baron Byng High School.
Established in 1921 by the Protestant School Board of Greater Montréal, Baron Byng High School taught mostly Jewish students and has several well-known graduates including Irving Layton and Mordecai Richler.
Circa 1970.
Source : Jewish Public Library. Historical Photographs Collection, 88-107.

The Baron Byng class of 39 included:

  • Mortimor “Michael” Fainstadt, a Montreal City Councillor from the Drapeau era
  • Mel Dobrin of the Seinberg empire
  • Sollie Goldfarb, who hosted many reunions at his country estate in Plantagenet, Ontario
  • Jacob Singer, George’s closest friend, who went MIA laying mines in the North Sea in 1944
  • Sylvia Bercovitch, noted Montreal artist

I recall some other interesting tidbits from way back then:

  • Favourite teacher: Mr. RA Patterson, the nicest person
  • Favourite schoolyard activity: chasing girls
  • We all lived close by and walked to school
  • Baron Byng was made even more famous by Mordechai Richler
  • Who was Baron Byng? He was Governor General in 1923, the year I, and most of my classmates were born. He was a WWI hero.

CJN Article about 65th Class reunion

Baron Byng High School Museum

 

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