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The Informer

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#TorontoIsFailingMe: I ran against Rob Ford and suffered the consequences

Toronto’s inner suburbs have become shorthand for crumbling postwar apartment blocks, underfunded schools or gang warfare. They’re among the neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the city, the longest trek to a TTC stop, and the highest concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. This month, we’re sharing stories from Torontonians who live in the inner suburbs, told in their own words. Some are shocking, some tragic, some hopeful. Together, they convey an urgent truth: Toronto is failing too many of its citizens. Have a story of your own? Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #TorontoIsFailingMe to tell us.
#TorontoIsFailingMe: I ran against Rob Ford and suffered the consequences

Munira Abukar at her Rexdale townhouse complex. (Image: Eamon Mac Mahon)

Munira Abukar, 22
Rexdale

My parents came to Toronto from Somalia during the civil war. I’m the fourth of nine children: eight girls and one boy. I still live with my parents, in the same five-bedroom townhouse where I grew up. My dad has always supported us on a taxi-driver’s income; my mom stayed home and took care of us kids. My brother joined the Canadian military six years ago and helps with the bills. It’s been a challenge, but my parents are strong-willed and determined.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Sale of the Week: the $2.6-million new-build that proves contemporary homes can have lively interiors

Address: 14 Windham Drive
Neighbourhood: Bayview Village
Agent: Nora Akhbari, Re/Max Realtron Realty Inc., Brokerage

The Property: This custom build sets itself apart from other modern homes with its use of wood materials, which warm up the interior colour palette. Also unusual: an open-concept design that splits the main floor into multiple tiers. A winding staircase leads to the bedrooms, each with its own en suite washroom.

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The Informer

Features

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#TorontoIsFailingMe: My brother was killed outside a bar, and everyone assumed he was in a gang

Toronto’s inner suburbs have become shorthand for crumbling postwar apartment blocks, underfunded schools or gang warfare. They’re among the neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the city, the longest trek to a TTC stop, and the highest concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. This month, we’re sharing stories from Torontonians who live in the inner suburbs, told in their own words. Some are shocking, some tragic, some hopeful. Together, they convey an urgent truth: Toronto is failing too many of its citizens. Have a story of your own? Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #TorontoIsFailingMe to tell us.
#TorontoIsFailingMe: My brother was killed outside a bar, and everyone assumed he was in a gang

Arsema (in the blue scarf) with her father, Tsehaie, her mother, Mebrat, her sister, Salem, and her brother, Filmon, in their East York home (Image: Eamon Mac Mahon)

Arsema Berhane, 32
East York

My father, Tsehaie Berhane, fled Asmara, Eritrea, in the ’80s during the war with Ethiopia. He was a professor, and the Ethiopians were targeting professionals. It took seven years for him to be able to sponsor my mother, Mebrat, myself, and my three siblings, Filmon, Nahom and Salem. We all arrived in Toronto in 1990. It was March 14, the day before Nahom’s 10th birthday. For four months we lived in a one-bedroom in a high-rise near Lawrence Avenue and Black Creek Drive. The four kids shared the bedroom and my parents slept on a pullout couch. We’d never been in an apartment building before, and it felt like a prison compared to Asmara, where there were other children to play with and green space all around us. That July, we moved into a community housing townhouse in ­Victoria Village. There was a big yard, fields, a school across the street and children from many different cultures. It felt like we had finally arrived at the place we’d envisioned for so long. That was an epic moment for us kids.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Condo of the Week: $750,000 for a College Street condo with a park view

toronto-condo-of-the-week-799-college-street-intro

Address: 799 College Street, Unit 301
Neighbourhood: Trinity-Bellwoods
Agent: Tim Bosworth, Brad J. Lamb Realty Inc.
Price: $749,000

The Place: A two-bedroom pad with a large balcony and lots of luxurious touches, including kitchen cabinetry and a double-sink master vanity by Scavolini.

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The Informer

Features

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#TorontoIsFailingMe: I tried to improve my neighbourhood and got arrested

Toronto’s inner suburbs have become shorthand for crumbling postwar apartment blocks, underfunded schools or gang warfare. They’re among the neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the city, the longest trek to a TTC stop, and the highest concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. This month, we’re sharing stories from Torontonians who live in the inner suburbs, told in their own words. Some are shocking, some tragic, some hopeful. Together, they convey an urgent truth: Toronto is failing too many of its citizens. Have a story of your own? Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #TorontoIsFailingMe to tell us.
#TLifeLOGOpurple

Mohamed Farah, 34
Dixon Road

In 1989, when I was nine, my parents fled the escalating civil war in Somalia, moving me and my two siblings to Windsor. I fit in quickly at school, where I made friends from Lebanon, ­Czechoslovakia and Cambodia. I loved it there: we would roam around the neighborhood, trade cards and comics, catch frogs. Then one day a friend of my mother’s told us about a neighbourhood in Toronto called Dixon with a growing Somali population.

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The Informer

Columns

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Memoir: I was friends with my dad—until I found out he was secretly dating my mom

Memoir: A Family Affair

I grew up the product of a no-strings arrangement: in 1986, my mom found herself single, in her mid-30s and wanting to have a baby. She decided she’d raise a child on her own, and asked a co-worker if he’d help her conceive; they did it the old-fashioned way. He visited often at first, though I don’t remember any of it. Within a few years, our contact tapered off, and by the time I was five, we’d lost touch completely. I remember kids interrogating me in the schoolyard at recess. “What do you mean you don’t have a dad?” they’d ask. “It’s just my mom and me,” I’d tell them.

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The Informer

People

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Ten things Patrick J. Adams can’t live without

The boyish wonder stars in the hit legal drama Suits, set in Manhattan, shot in Toronto, and back on the box this month

Ten things Patrick J. Adams can’t live without

(Bus courtesy Patrick J. Adams)

01
My camera
I’m an avid photographer and have about 30 cameras at this point, but my Rolleiflex doesn’t leave my side.

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The Informer

Features

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#TorontoIsFailingMe: My students are terrified of getting shot

Toronto’s inner suburbs have become shorthand for crumbling postwar apartment blocks, underfunded schools or gang warfare. They’re among the neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the city, the longest trek to a TTC stop, and the highest concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. This month, we’re sharing stories from Torontonians who live in the inner suburbs, told in their own words. Some are shocking, some tragic, some hopeful. Together, they convey an urgent truth: Toronto is failing too many of its citizens. Have a story of your own? Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #TorontoIsFailingMe to tell us.
#TorontoIsFailingMe: My students are terrified of getting shot

David deBelle, 55
Lawrence Heights

I took over as principal at Lawrence Heights Middle School in September 2009. I wanted to work in a challenging neighbourhood, where there is more opportunity to make a real difference. There are one or two major shootings in this area every year, and the impact on the students is enormous. In April 2013, our lunchroom supervisor’s 15-year-old son was shot in the back while walking home from a tutoring session—he survived, but his mother never returned to work, and she moved her family away.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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House of the Week: $2.5 million to live in a massive former bottling plant on the Danforth

House of the Week: Upper Beaches

Address: 23A Morton Road
Neighbourhood: East End-Danforth
Agent: Damiris Moro and Sacha Singh, Re/Max West Realty Inc., Brokerage
Price: $2,499,000

The Place: A contemporary home that used to be a milk bottling plant.

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The Informer

Columns

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Smoother traffic is only the beginning: John Tory’s parking crackdown will change the way Toronto works

(Images: left: Daniel Neuhaus; right: courtesy of TPS Traffic Services)

(Images: left and upper right: Daniel Neuhaus; lower right: courtesy of TPS Traffic Services)

Attention Toronto drivers: your heaping helping of schadenfreude is ready. For all the times you’ve ever been stuck behind an illegally parked vehicle, asking aloud why doesn’t someone fine that jerk and tow him away?, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for: the moment when misfortune befalls them all, all at once, for the benefit of your drive home.

Mayor John Tory’s tag-and-tow offensive against illegally parked cars in the downtown core is now into its second week, ticketing and impounding any vehicle that parks illegally and blocks traffic during peak hours. The first week was a social media delight, as dozens of people, notably including Toronto Police Constable Clint Stibbe, snapped and posted photos of the towaways, many of them delivery trucks. Stibbe’s Twitter feed in particular—@TrafficServices—was a rousing perp parade of company logos winched to the boom, including FedEx, Coca-Cola, Canada Post, Canadian Linen and Uniform Service, and every shredding service under the sun: Iron Mountain, Recall Document Solutions, and AMJ Shredding. The traffic sting has ensnared a surprisingly broad variety of businesses, including Joe Warmington favourite Drain City, whose work consists of sucking up and hauling away used deep-fryer grease from downtown restaurants.

Some media outlets have been calling the mayor’s initiative a “blitz,” but Tory doesn’t want anyone to think this is a temporary measure that will disappear as quickly as it arrived. “The new normal” is how the mayor’s staff likes to describe the situation, and it’s about more than traffic. It’s a long overdue shift in the city’s metabolism, and so far Tory and his staff seem to be the only ones who’ve grasped just how far-reaching it will prove to be.

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The Informer

Features

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#TorontoIsFailingMe: My apartment tower is infested with cockroaches and bugs

Toronto’s inner suburbs have become shorthand for crumbling postwar apartment blocks, underfunded schools or gang warfare. They’re among the neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the city, the longest trek to a TTC stop, and the highest concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. This month, we’re sharing stories from Torontonians who live in the inner suburbs, told in their own words. Some are shocking, some tragic, some hopeful. Together, they convey an urgent truth: Toronto is failing too many of its citizens. Have a story of your own? Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #TorontoIsFailingMe to tell us.
#TorontoIsFailingMe: My apartment tower is infested with cockroaches and bugs

Abbas Kolia in Thorncliffe Park. (Image: Eamon Mac Mahon)

Abbas Kolia, 51
Thorncliffe Park

When I first came to Toronto in 1980, I was 24. I remember thinking, What a beautiful city. I came from a very small village in Gujarat, India, and had no idea how to live in a western country, but I learned quickly. I got a good job at a factory on Kipling that made the foam for mattresses and pillows. I worked 12-hour shifts seven days a week to pay for a ­Thorncliffe Park apartment I rented with my two brothers and sister. I eventually married and raised three children here.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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The Sell: a humble little Mimico house gets a sweet mini-makeover

The Sell: a humble little Mimico house  gets a sweet mini-makeover

The Sell: a humble little Mimico house gets a sweet mini-makeoverThe seller: David Young, a 45-year-old manager at Bombardier.

The property: A 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom off Royal York Road, where the recently divorced David and his five-year-old son, Andrew, had lived for just nine months.

The story: Young bought the house to give his son a backyard and himself a chance to use some of his handyman skills. It was perfect for the two of them. Then things between Young and a new girlfriend started getting serious, and they were talking about living together. Since he had Andrew and she had a seven-year-old son, they needed a ­bigger house.

The prep: They found a place in Mississauga—three bedrooms, twice the square ­footage—but with finances stretched to the limit, Young needed to sell the old house fast. His agent priced it at market value, and they got only one serious offer in three weeks. Frustrated, Young went back to the agent he bought his first house with, Andrea Bock. She dropped the list price by $30,000, painted the kitchen wainscoting white, switched the dining room ­furniture with the living room ­furniture for better flow, upgraded some light fixtures, threw down some area rugs, and washed the windows. “It was staged so nicely,” says Young, “we almost didn’t want to move.”

The offers: Bock held two open houses on a weekend in September, baking apples to infuse the place with a homey scent. By the following Tuesday, they had three offers, the highest $40,000 over asking (and $10,000 more than the previous agent’s list price). After some haggling on the closing date—Young wanted it snappy—the deal was done the same day.

The Informer

Features

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#TorontoIsFailingMe: My kid’s school is a disgrace

Toronto’s inner suburbs have become shorthand for crumbling postwar apartment blocks, underfunded schools or gang warfare. They’re among the neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the city, the longest trek to a TTC stop, and the highest concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. This month, we’re sharing stories from Torontonians who live in the inner suburbs, told in their own words. Some are shocking, some tragic, some hopeful. Together, they convey an urgent truth: Toronto is failing too many of its citizens. Have a story of your own? Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #TorontoIsFailingMe to tell us.
#TorontoIsFailingMe: My kid's school is a disgrace

Nayamath and Amal Syed at Secord Elementary (Image: Eamon Mac Mahon)

Nayamath Syed, 38
East York

My wife and I are originally from India, but spent more than a decade living in Abu Dhabi, where I worked as a computer analyst. Three years ago, when our daughter, Amal, was four, we decided we wanted to give her a first-class education. I quit my job and we moved to Canada in May 2011.

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Why Toronto needs to talk about the inner suburbs

#TorontoIsFailingMe: Editor's Note

(Image: Derek Shapton)

The seven-year-old girl above, Amal Syed, came to Canada three years ago from Abu Dhabi. Her father is a computer analyst who left everything behind to give his daughter a first-rate Ontario education. Like many new immigrants, they settled in the inner suburbs, and he enrolled his daughter at the local public school. He was bitterly disappointed to discover what long-time residents of Toronto have known for years—that many of the buildings where we send our kids to learn are old, overcrowded and in desperate need of repair. Amal’s school is an extreme case. Her Grade 2 class is held in a portable—one of 14 at her school that were meant to be temporary but have been there for two decades and are falling apart. Parents complained to the school administration and the TDSB, but to no avail.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: what can I do about the never-ending porn shoot next door?

Dear Urban Diplomat: what can I do about the never-ending porn shoot next door?

(Image: Joe Lillibridge/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
It seems the unit down the hall at my condo has become the world’s busiest porno set. There’s a steady stream of sketchy characters loading in camera and lighting gear, and lots of very obvious on-screen “talent” hanging around. Unbelievably, they keep the noise down, but it’s easy to guess what’s going on. I have two kids. What are my options?

—Girls Next Door, Liberty Village

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