Friday, July 03, 2015

Shed living 1913!

Griffintown - the William Lunn School

this is the William Lunn School shot in 1941 when it was a very busy place

Montreal killer fires from the past

On Tuesday May 14, 1946 Mr. Henry Costello, 30, and her son Henry Jr. 6 and Margaret Rose 3, died in the blaze at 274 Dalhousie in Griffintown, a block that has since been demolished.
Seven people were killed at this building on January 1, 1986. 
   Haitian immigrant Wilson Francois, 27, who worked at the Van Horne Bagel Bakery was killed, along with his wife, Josette Lafortune, 30, their son Stanley 22 months and Katia 22 days. Also killed was Michael Tobin, 64 and two other victims who names remained unknown. It was the worst first since the Waikiki Tourist Rooms fire four years earlier on La Gauchetiere, which killed 8.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Convicted cocaine tax defrauder still has a big job at the city of Montreal

   The head of the city of Montreal's public consultation department spent over four years defrauding taxpayer dollars to buy cocaine.
   Luc Doray - a lifelong, well-connected ardent separatist and government fonctionnaire - falsified $33,000 in receipts while working for the Parti Quebecois provincial government between 1994 and 1998.
   Doray, now 60, was reimbursed by our tax dollars for his cocaine purchases by submitting over 150 invoices including one bill for a $374 meal from a place that doesn't serve food. He also purportedly spent $5,800 for 34 meals at a bistro but it was really for white powder that went up his nose.
   He even submitted a fake lease for $540 a month, all very good news for some coke dealer but not such good news for taxpayers.
   Doray who was already in his mid-40s at the time, was eventually caught and tried and hit with an eight month suspended sentence and ordered to repay $29,000, do community service and pay a $4,000 fine. His payments were to be $500 a month, but we don't know if that included interest.
  Doray had two other charges against him dropped in return for his guilty plea.
   He was able to repay the bills with our tax dollars, as he kept his job at the city of Montreal. 
   You see, Doray was nailed while working for the province but that was only a loan. He returned to his old job in Montreal after being canned in Quebec City in 1998.
  Doray started at the city of Montreal and rose fast under Mayor Jean Dore.
   When he returned from Quebec City to push pencils back in Montreal he was earning about $77,000 so his annual taxpayer-paid salary is surely much higher now.
   Doray blamed bulimia and his sexual orientation for his cocaine cash fraud scheme.
   While in Quebec City Doray worked under Louise Harel and Andre Boisclair, who was also gay and also saw his career damaged by cocaine disclosures.
   I have filed an access to information request to look through Doray's expense accounts at the city of Montreal since 2002.

Vacant old buildings starting to pile up in Montreal

Some notable vacant buildings in Montreal.

Royal Victoria Hospital; About 700,000 square feet of unused space was recently
abandoned with the moving of health facilities to the West End. It's perched in a perfect location just north of downtown. Plans? None. McGill wants to be given the land but that plan comes with a hefty price tag and does not appear imminent.
Children's Hospital: Same as above. Health care facilities were recently shut down and the building vacated with the move to the West End superhospital. No plans have been discussed for this imposing building right square downtown near the Atwater metro.
Planetarium Building at the old Chaboillez square was abandoned almost four years ago
when a new planetarium was built near the Olympic
Stadium. Various pitches have been nixed. According to a little-discussed deed stipulation, Dow required the building to remain a planetarium but that could technically be nullified with some creative lawmaking.

Snowdon Theatre: CDN/NDG borough has owned this landmark building on Decarie but appears unable or unwilling to do basic
repairs on the building, forcing a valued gymnastics centre out and leaving the building to rot. City Councillor Marvin Rotrand and borough mayor Russell Copeman have not stated any plans for the property.

Empress Theatre: Years of rountables, studies, and discussion forums
have proven completely futile as nobody seems willing to invest in fixing up this Sherbrooke street landmark.

Railroad offices on Bridge  Lovely old abandoned
building in front of Costco sits empty to give passersby that vintage rustbelt feel.

St Sulpice Library 35,000 square feet of prime real estate on St. Denis has long sat empty in this heritage site. An outcry resulted in a recent plan to possibly do something with it.
ning out.

  Dome theatre Onetime theatre used by Dawson drama school has been abandoned on Notre Dame in St. Henri for many years. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The top 5 weird things about Henri Richard

   The great little Habs forward Henri Richard long lived in the shadow of his older and larger brother Maurice "The Rocket" Richard but it's now time for us to fully embrace this guy to the point of obsession as a national treasure not only because he was good at sports but more importantly because he brings the weird.

  The top 5 reasons:

His age Henri Richard played 20 years in the NHL and won a ridiculous 11 Stanley Cups but he's only 20! As in: he has celebrated 20 birthdays since being born on the leap year special day of Feb. 29, 1936. It was a leap year, you see and those happen only once every four years. You know who else was born on that day? Neither do I and who cares anyway!? Henri was definitely short changed on birthday presents with his one-birthday-every-four-years scam. So we've got to heap on the love to make up for it.
His nickname Henri Richard's nickname was "The Pocket Rocket." If that doesn't sound like a an obscene nickname then your imagination is truly lacking.
His famous brother never invited him over Henri once told reporters that his famous brother Maurice of Ahuntsic never invited him to his house ever, not even once!
His lousy season Richard was a small but steady player who played in 11 All Star games but in 1967-68 he was just terrible and told journalists that it was probably because he was spending way too much time worrying about a car repair business that he owned.
He's shy Henri lived a larger-than-life existence after his retirement, posing for photos with fans at his Park Ave. tavern, driving around town in a giant Lincoln Continental, and carrying a big fat wad of bills in his pocket. But meanwhile he was painfully shy and you couldn't barely get two words out of him. Awwwwkward!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why American tourists snub Montreal

   American tourists have simply stopped visiting Montreal and la belle province.
   Under six percent of all tourism in the province comes from the United States, 88 percent of Quebec tourists are from Quebec. 
   Quebec welcomed 4.2 million tourists a decade ago. We now struggle to get two million.  
   This is particularly hard to swallow as Americans are spending more than ever on leisure travel and the 80 cent Canadian dollar makes it a cheap place to visit. (Anywhere is cheap with the strong greenback these days however.) 
No I'm not planning to visit Montreal
   Americans have only been required to present a passport to enter Canada since 2009, a switch that hurts, as over half of all Americans do not even own passports. 
  The tourism drought isn't about our hurt vanity: Quebec now has a staggering tourism deficit of over $3 billion per year, according to stats from 2012. 
   Want more? Quebec received 900,000 fewer American tourists than it did a decade ago. 
   The more we spend on tourism bureaucrats and plans, the more tourists stay away. The head of Tourisme Montreal earns - brace yourself now - $400,000 a year. Refund please.
   AirBnB listings, which offered a promise of revival by offering lodgings of as little as $15 a night, have been targeted in a misguided attack by authorities. 
   The decline is ongoing. Our recent Formula One Canadian Grand Prix attracted fewer out-of-towners and the raunchy hallmark excesses have been replaced by tame family-oriented amusements for locals. 
   The jazz festival barely has any big names, suggesting that the organizers have tossed in the trombone.
   So what did we have in Montreal 10, 12 years ago that we don't have today?  You might not like the answer. 
   Back then tourist buses filled with 19-year-old Americans from Boston would roll into town as kids saw us as a spot to get hammered legally and stagger into local strip joints.  
   Montreal was a boozier bawdier, more lawless place, a city known for biker shoot-ups, brazen jaywalkers, sexy serveuse restaurants, cocaine in bars, underaged youth easily being served anywhere.
   We had le danger and le desperation and le unpredictability. 
   We were an open city of the north, with mayhem on tap, not unlike during the days of prohibition. But then we got safe and boring. 
  And yes, we had our beloved Expos. The Expos left in 2004, thus taking us off the American map. 
  According to one study, 11 percent of all fans at Montreal Expos games were from out of the province. The city was mentioned one billion times per year in various publications thanks to the Expos, which had a value of $22 million in free advertising.  
   And while we are aware that correlation does not imply causation, one would have to be blind not to notice that American tourism here flatlined after the Great American Pastime left town.
   So the solutions seem pretty simple: let the booze flow, pension some cops off and get the Expos back. 

Jacques Cartier Square timeline

Chateau Vaudreuil
15 Dec. 1660 Land between Notre Dame and St. Paul was granted to Joseph Charles d'Aileboust des Musseux, who served as president of the Montreal seigneurs.
1672  The property was purchased by Philippe de Riguad, Marquis de Vaudreuil. He sought to build a chateau similar to the Chateau de Ramezay nearby on Notre Dame, but facing south.
1723 Work begins on Chateau Vaudreuil, which had large gardens in behind.
1725 Vaudreuil dies in Quebec City.
1726 Vaudreuil's family lives in the house for a few years but allow it to be used as a home for governors of New France.
Aug 9. 1763 Francois Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil sells the property to Michel Chartier de Lotbiniere.
Sept. 12, 1771 Lotbiniere sells it to Joseph Fleury Deschambault, a merchant and bureaucrat born in Quebec City.
1773 The Fabrique de Notre Dame purchase the property and install the Saint Raphael College in the Chateau Vaudreuil.
June 6, 1803 A major fire claims 41 homes including the Chateau Vaudreuil. The blaze started in a nearby home belonging to someone named Chevalier. A prison and two chapels were also leveled.
Aug. 21, 1803 A half dozen local notables form a committee to sell the property.
Dec. 14, 1804. Durocher and Perreault, fur merchants, purchase the property for 300 guineas. They were also on the committee to organize the sale, a conflict of interest that went overlooked, likely because the new owners donated one third of the property to the city to use as a market. The New Market as it was called, complimented the dirty, overcrowded market nearby at what is now Place Royale. The deed donation stipulated that the property be used in perpetuity as a public square and a market, which is why you will always see flower salespeople and a few other assorted veggie salespeople on the land. A new street sprouting west was opened called Fabrique but before the name could be made official, it was called Marche Neuf (anglos called it Market St). Temporary stables were put up but they stayed 40 years. Pilloried prisoners were stuck at the top of the land and visitors would sometimes toss things at them.
1808-1809 The square was extended south from St. Paul to de la Commune (aka Common, aka Commissionners) in three separate land purchases, one from the Proux Succession and another from the John Pickell succession.
Aug 17, 1809 An eight foot high likeness of Admiral Nelson on a 50 foot stand was unveiled at the top of the square. It is the city's oldest standing monument.* In 1847 a visitor noted that it's a shame that Nelson has his back to the city but in fact he does not, which has led to some speculation as to whether it was turned around at some point. Various objections have been made over the years to the monument, seen to represent British supremacy. The Vauquelin statue across the street built in the 1930s was installed to counter the Nelson monument.

Jan 2, 1847  The market was closed and activity was relocated to the nearby Bonsecours Market. Some farmers were still permitted to sell their goods at the spot and did so until 1960. In 1847 the square was officially named Place Jacques Cartier but city council passed another decree to the same effect in 1865, suggesting that locals were calling it something else, perhaps Nelson Square.
Feb. 7, 1887 A large wooden toboggan route was installed. It proved extremely popular.
-Most of the buildings around the square are from the earliest times, although the Hotel Nelson dates from 1866. There's another ugly larger building on the west side built in the 1980s.
1989 An international contest was held to reorganize the square for the city's 375th birthday. All 117 projects from 28 countries were rejected.
*The Nelson Column is sometimes called the city's oldest monument but in fact there was one to George III from 1773 in Place d'Armes that was decapitated by invading Americans on May 1, 1775. The head was recovered from a nearby well and preserved by McGill.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Kids exiled from playground, $140k volunteer effort wasted as authorities deem park unsafe

  My first kid adored visiting the local playground so intensely that I leaped at the chance to purchase a rundown triplex about 25 yards from a pair of playgrounds in 1998.  
  I was daily visitor with my kids for about 12 years and still hear joyous "Whee!" "Ahhh!" as I sit in my office. It's sonic sunshine usual urban din of disc brakes and industrial hums.
   But a playground comes with perils. My then four-year-old son spent a summer in a clunky cast after breaking a wing attempting to climb the underside of a set of steps (I was compensated $300 by after noting the inadequate layer of wood chips below the structure.)
   I once moved a kid away from a rocking horse swinging back perilously close to his temple. However only once have I seen emergency staff at the playground, and that was to dislodge an oversized kid from a baby swing.
Jessie Maxwell Park 2007
   But the value the playground has provided is inestimable. For families playgrounds are an urban Costner cornfield.
   Family bonding accompanies the play. One of my favourite memories: my youngest daughter displayed incredible perseverance as a toddler making it all the way to the end of the monkey bars.
    However no parent and child can relive that same magic moment: those monkey bars have since been removed, surely for safety purposes. (She went on to become a champion gymnast until forced into childhood retirement by the closure of the Snowdon Theatre, yet another unfortunately local political decision)
   So where to draw the line for safety in playgrounds?
   Logically we should eradicate all potential health perils, but with that logic motorists would wear helmets and our clothes made of kevlar and bubble wrap.
   This all brings me to the bizarre case of Jessie Maxwell Park which was rebuilt with a donation of $140,000 and some great work by a couple of hundreds of volunteers in September 2012. After the fix, organized by a U.S.-based park charity group called KaBoom and Foresters International, inner city kids could suddenly once again play in the abandoned park just west of Guy and St. Antoine.
Jessie Maxwell Park 2014
   But hold the phone: the borough - which presumably oversaw and gave permits for the volunteer work - then came in and ordered all of the work redone for safety reasons.
   The playground? Closed for two years.
   The volunteer effort? Wasted.
   The cash? Down the drain.
   To their credit the borough distracted reporters from this story by turning it into a feelgood tale of renaming a park for a popular local figure. Fine PR spinning, I admit.
   I will repeat: the second playground remake forced the playground closed for 22 months.
   And who suffered? The small children who enjoy running about and playing in playgrounds.
   I'd love to help you son, but you're too young to vote.
   Why would a borough greenlight a playground rebuild only to order it unsafe?
  My attempts to get the report detailing the supposed safety violations have yet to bear fruit but hopefully I'll get to the bottom of this.

The Playground / Michael Rosen

In the playground

At the back of our house

There have been some changes.

They said the climbing frame was


So they drained it dry.

They said the paddling pool was


So they drained it dry.

They said the see-saw was


So they took it away.

They said the sandpit was


So they fenced it in.

They said the playground was


So they locked it up.

Sawn down

Drained dry

Taken away

Locked up

How do you feel?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Death House dies, another punk club bites the dust

     "Somebody always asks: 'Hey! Were you at the club last night? Everybody was there!' If you tell them that, no in fact you were at home sleeping, they will insist that you missed the biggest event ever. But how could it be such a big deal when there were what, 60 or 70 people there?" - Pierre Fortin, 1984.
   The Death House nightclub in the Fattal Lofts in St. Henri has closed and looks unlikely to ever open again.
   Here's why that's more important to some than you might imagine.
   Your typical nightclub offers a place to meet up with your friends, have a drink, listen to loud music and do some people watching.
   But sometimes a nightclub is part of a crucial statement of identity, psychologically necessary to a young person's human emotional advancement.
    I came of age during the punk-mod-new wave-new romantic era or the early 80s and the city was knee-deep in stylish subcultures.
   Blues, a basement nightclub with an illuminated glass floor on Crescent just north of Dorchester, offered a fuse for my developing young mind that helped me connect with the world.
  I've long since lost contact with most of my fellow travelers from that time* but the memories remain crystal clear, such as the explosion of energy that would unite distrusting punks and mods when DJ Will Baird would play Antmusic or Public Image.
   Certain people still become attached to subversive youth subcultures and create families of friends that wear the same clothing and listen to similar music. Punk is still happening in Montreal and there are no shortage of young people attracted to the movement but venues are hard to sustain.
   The reason the Death House closed isn't clear but it's always money, ain't it?
*Paloma Boiles, Johnny Prince, Blake Gopnik etc.